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Caught the Scent

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When Majima looked up from his work again expecting a week at most to have gone by, he found that it was summer and more than a month had passed without seeing Kiryu. 

He blinked down at the calendar, seeing the explanation for his exhaustion staring him in the face. It was no wonder, now, why he constantly felt pulled through a wringer and beaten to hell. He’d been working nonstop on the Hills project, trying his best to keep everything running smoothly when they were being threatened near-daily. It was a lot harder than he’d reckoned on, running a company that was (mostly) above board. So much paperwork. Keeping his men in line. 

The recruiting…

It was a fucking nightmare.

But the Hills were his baby, especially now that he could see it start to take form right before his eyes, and there was no way he was going to abandon it just because shit was hard.

Still, he knew he probably should have taken a little break around, oh, two weeks ago. There were laws about how long someone could work without a day off, but oh well. Wasn’t like it was the first time he’d broken a teensy tiny little law here or there just to be sure things went well at the site.

Plus, he was the manager; the laws probably didn’t apply to him, right?

Manager? CEO? Owner? President? 

Oh, he liked president. He hadn’t really settled on what to be called yet, but he liked president.

President Goro. President Majima.

President Goro Majima, of Majima Construction née Family. 

...He should probably get some sleep. 

But where? was the billion-yen question. He could easily pass out in his office chair or down in Purgatory—many of the rooms were stuffed full of storage boxes, but he’d slept in worse. Or he could stumble his ass down to his apartment and sleep on that ratty futon that he hadn’t washed in…

Had he ever washed it?

He couldn’t remember.

That was probably a good enough reason to just sleep in his chair. 

Or, his brain sidled up to him with, he could go crash on Kiryu’s couch again. That was always nice. Not the couch itself—it was probably as old as he was, with all kinds of lumps and springs poking out—but the company. Their apartment was nearly as bare as his was, but being around Haruka and Kiryu made it feel like a real home. Like he’d become part of their family. 

The thought of seeing Kiryu again made his tired heart lift its head with eager interest, and so that was decided. He tossed the paperwork he’d been working on aside, leaving a text for Nishida saying he wasn’t coming in the next day unless there were assholes that needed beating. 

He’d never pass up the chance to break a man’s legs.

But he found himself hoping there would be no calls. He was actually getting excited at the thought of hearing Kiryu’s voice again after so long. Seeing the smile that he seemed to keep in reserve just for him. The feeling of him leaning unconsciously into any touch that Majima gave him. 

Majima had missed him.

He hadn’t realised how much he’d missed him; how much it could drain him, not being physically near Kiryu for so long. He craved contact with him like a starving man craved a hot dinner. He was practically giggling with excitement as he bought a pack of beers and some snacks for the three of them, thinking of the look that Kiryu would give him. He’d be so happy to see him. Majima knew that Kiryu would have missed him, too. He was such a soft heart under all that beautifully chiseled stone.

And so by the time that he rounded the corner to Kiryu and Haruka’s apartment, he was whistling merrily, swinging the plastic bag with each hopping step. He could already see Kiryu’s shadow against the wall of the building, and he smiled wide, shoving his head around the fence to sing up to him,

Kiryu-chan ! Guess who—” 

Wait.

That wasn’t Kiryu.

That was some tall, weedy guy who was watering the plants hanging over the side of the railing, looking down at him with something akin to terror. That may or may not have been his fault, considering the frown he was wearing as he looked the guy up and down.

“You’re not Kiryu.”

“Wh—no, sir. I’m not.”

Majima made a face. “Don’t call me sir, ya weirdo. Y’don’t even know me.”

“I—okay. Can—can I help you with something?” the guy asked, looking like he might piss himself any second.

Who the hell was this guy? Was he one of Kiryu’s coworkers or something?

Or was he— 

The possibility hit Majima like a cartoon anvil.

Was he Kiryu’s partner ?

He couldn’t be. Kiryu would never be into someone as gelatinous as this guy was. He liked soft people, sure, but soft and a lanky pile of sweating goo were two different things. 

But he was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, as though he’d gotten dressed for bed before coming out to do some quick gardening. 

Who else but a partner would make themself so comfortable in someone else’s home?

Majima sighed, accepting that he was likely looking at Kiryu’s significant other, and tried to keep the disgust off his face as he said, “Yeah. Couldja tell Kiryu I’m here t’see him? Majima’s here to see him,” he added as an afterthought, ignoring how his gut twisted. No use getting cut up about Kiryu finding someone else; he’d always known he would. Hell, he was happy that he’d finally found someone he could be comfortable enough with to let them in. Kiryu deserved to be happy.

But instead of scooting inside and fetching Kiryu for him, the guy just cleared his throat in a way that let Majima hear just how wet his mouth was, and said, “I’m sorry, but I think you might have the wrong house.”

“Eh?” he grunted, scowling up at the guy, who visibly shrank back. “Y’callin’ me stupid, kid? Y’think I don’t know whose house this is?”

“I—no, sir, I don’t think that,” the guy choked out, wobbling like a fucking jelly mold. “But maybe the person you’re looking for moved out? I only moved in a few weeks ago.”

 Majima blinked. “You—this’s yer house? Y’live here? Alone?”

The guy nodded, wincing as though Majima was going to hurl one of his beer cans at him, but he barely noticed, so slowly was he grasping the truth. 

Kiryu didn’t live here anymore?

But— 

“Why didn’t he tell me?”

The guy’s face did a thing, then, that got Majima’s hackles snapping up. It went from completely understandable fear to fear that was laced with pitying empathy, and Majima really did almost chuck the bag up at him, especially when he said, “It happens to the best of us, man.”

 “Shut yer fuckin’ mouth!” Majima barked, glaring viciously. “He wouldn’t—”

“What’s all this ruckus out here? Dai-chan, do you need me to call the—oh, hello Goro-chan!” the elderly lady—Mrs. Tanaka, his brain provided unhelpfully—called out cheerfully from where her head poked out of her door. “It’s been a while! How are dear Haruka and her father doing?”

Majima stood there, his heart sinking straight to his shoes with those simple words. 

Kiryu really wasn’t there.

He’d left without telling Majima.

Maybe—maybe he’d just forgotten. Kiryu was busy with his job and Haruka and everything, and Majima had also just lost a whole month to work, so maybe it had slipped his mind. No reason to jump to conclusions. He’d just call him. 

And so he did, turning and leaving Kiryu’s old apartment with barely a wave to the old woman. He called him and held the phone to his ear and waited for him to pick up, but he never did. 

Maybe he was busy making dinner. 

A very late dinner. 

Majima would give him some time and call again. 

He didn’t pick up on the second call, either.

Or the third. 

Or the fourth.

But when he scrolled down to Kiryu’s name in his contact list for the fifth time that night, he saw that his fingers were trembling, and wondered if maybe he should just stop.

He pressed the call button.

Kiryu didn’t pick up.

The phone was ringing, but he wasn’t picking up.

He’d never not answered before.

Majima looked around him in a daze, realising that he’d ended up in Kamurocho again, but not really recognising where he was. His heart was hammering against his ribs and his chest was tight. 

He needed to calm down. Kiryu would be fine. Just because he’d left and wasn’t answering his phone didn’t mean anything. It didn’t mean that he and Haruka were hurt. 

Or worse.

It didn’t mean that. 

Maybe he was sleeping. 

Oh, that was probably it! He was probably sleeping off a hard day at work and couldn’t hear the phone. Majima would call him in the morning after he got some sleep, too.

With that thought bouncing around his head and duplicating, Majima pointed himself towards West Park and let his feet take over.

It would be okay. Kiryu was just asleep. 

He dropped the bag on the floor and slumped into his office chair, resting his head on his arms after folding them on the desk. 

It would be okay. Kiryu was just asleep.

He passed out for a couple hours with the thought echoing and echoing and echoing before he snapped awake and checked the time. 

Still nighttime. A little longer. Kiryu would still be asleep.

He slept twenty minutes before jolting awake again.

A little longer. Kiryu would still be asleep.

He couldn’t sleep. He had to sleep. His eye was stiff and burning and watering and he could only take in short breaths. He had to sleep. He needed to rest just in case.

No, no, no, there would be no ‘in case.’

Kiryu was fine. He was just asleep. Majima would call him in the morning and he would answer and tease Majima about how paranoid he was.

He fell asleep to the memory of Kiryu telling Haruka silly stories about Yumi when she was a child and the laughter that rang through their house and settled over Majima like a warm blanket he hadn’t asked for, but needed more than anything. 

He woke up to the sun beating down on him from the open window and Nishida’s worried frown.

“Boss?”

Majima took a deep, rattling breath, moving his stiff body slowly back into the chair and scrubbing at his face. There was a sore, aching line where his patch strap had dug in awkwardly all night. He sighed, scratching at it. 

“Weren’t you going to take today off?”

Take the day off. Take the day off, because he was tired. That sounded good. He could go get some breakfast and maybe go see Kiryu— 

Kiryu .

He snatched at his phone so fast that it almost rocketed off his desk to the floor, and he barely managed to catch it before slamming through the contact list to Kiryu’s number and pressing enter. 

C’mon. C’mon. C’mon

Answer , goddamn you!” Majima growled.

“Boss? Are you okay? Did something happen?”

He ignored Nishida, his leg bouncing as adrenaline jetted through him. Kiryu wasn’t answering. Kiryu wasn’t picking up the phone and it was ringing and ringing and he hadn’t answered last night either. 

Something was wrong.

He didn’t stick around to tell Nishida what had happened or where he going—he just ran from the office and jumped into the nearest taxi and threw money at them on his way out of the car when they stopped at Date’s new workplace. He shoved through the line of people straight to the front and demanded to see him.

His jaw was clenched hard enough to make his teeth creak when the man at the counter opened his mouth and began to argue that he couldn’t cut in line and he certainly couldn’t talk to him with that tone, but before he lost control and got himself in trouble, he heard the man in question say behind him,

“Majima-san? What are you doing here?”

Majima whirled on Date, yanking him by the arm to the nearest empty room.

“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”

“Kiryu’s in trouble.”

Date’s eyes went wide and he put the cup of coffee he’d been holding down on a desk, shaking his head. “What? What happened?”

“I went to go see him last night but he doesn’t live there anymore and he isn’t answerin’ his phone. I know the Florist works for your cop friends again, so I need ya to find out what happened.” Date stared at him for long enough that Majima bit out, “ Before we die of old age.”

But instead of getting the Florist on the phone, Date just pulled out his cell phone, pressed a button, and held it up to his head, staring at Majima with a furrowed brow as he waited for a moment before saying, “Oh, hi, Kiryu. Just checking to make sure everything’s fine. Someone gave an anonymous tip that you were in danger.”

Like an old balloon left in the sun, Majima deflated slowly. 

Kiryu had answered. He was talking. He was alive. Majima could hear his deep voice on the other end when Date pointed the phone at him. It was him.

But— 

But if it was him, then that meant that he’d deliberately ignored Majima’s calls.

Was he... avoiding him?

The thought planted itself in Majima’s head and grew and grew until he could only turn and leave the office despite Date calling after him, his insides being chiseled out and left with nothing but prickling unease. 

Why would Kiryu be avoiding him? He hadn’t done anything to earn that, he thought. Nothing he could remember, at least. Had he gotten drunk and done something stupid? Had he had another blackout? But what could Majima have done that would make Kiryu want to not only avoid his calls, but move and not tell him? Hadn’t he made it clear that he wanted to be there for Kiryu? What could he have done to make him forget that?

He couldn’t think of anything, and that was the most frustrating of all. 

If he’d done something while manic or depressed or whatever , then he wanted to know. He didn’t like not knowing that his body had done something that was apparently so heinous that the man he—the man he cared deeply about would want to cut him out of his life without even giving him the benefit of a goodbye.

“Majima-san!”

Majima blinked and looked back over his shoulder, realising that he’d not only left the building, but was now wandering down the road towards Kamurocho instead of calling a taxi. Date was jogging to catch up, puffing with exertion when he stopped in front of Majima.

“Majima-san,” he huffed, bent over himself as he fought to catch his breath. Majima had no idea how Date had ever managed to catch any bad guys if he couldn’t run down a single road without getting wrecked, but maybe he wasn’t really the running-to-catch-villains sort of cop. “Listen. I don’t really know what’s going on, but do you want a ride to Kiryu’s place? If we leave now, we’ll catch him before he has to be at work.”

Majima’s lip curled at the thought. “No.”

“But—”

“No,” he said again, shaking his head. “He’ll have his reasons.”

“Well, don’t you want to know what they are?” Date asked, standing straight again, his brows raised in concern that needled Majima and made him itchy.

“Why would I? Not gonna crawl after him like some kinda bitch. Kiryu doesn’t wanna talk anymore, then we don’t gotta talk. Simple as that.”

Before Date could do more than frown at him, he turned and continued walking down the road, calling Nishida and telling him to come pick him up.

He had work to do.

And work is what he did, throwing himself into the project with gleeful abandon. 

No time for thinking when there were Hills to be built!

He spent every moment at the site, working even after everyone else had left. He single-handedly beat the hordes of men down that came to steal the plans, ignoring how his body would often refuse to do more than slump to the ground after those fights. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t move; he would be found by Nishida the next morning and carried to his bed or his office to sleep fitfully, just like every other time before.

He refused to think about what day it was in the middle of June, choosing instead to earn himself a concussion in a bar fight that was only started because someone couldn’t handle being called a lumpy bag of trash when that was exactly what they were.

The skeleton of Kamurocho Hills grew, casting a bigger shadow every day.

When he stood at the top, staring down into the city, he imagined that he could see every house, every nook and cranny that hid a million lives inside them. That if he searched hard enough, he’d see one in particular that he pretended he wasn’t actually looking for. But then the wind shifted and brought the scent of sunshine and metal and solder, and when he raised his hands up to his face to block it out, the mixture of the leather and sweat and ozone and the blood from his blisters overwhelmed him, and he had to lean against the girders and just breathe, his skin prickling with physical hunger. His hands had always smelled like that after he’d fought him.

It was always those times that were the hardest to stay still instead of chasing after him. Hunting him down and—and he didn’t even know, and that was why he never did. He didn’t know what he would do.

And so he worked. 

His hands were scarred and his heart had begun to skip a beat every once in a while and every day he woke up felt like he was dragging himself out of his grave, but there was work to do!

He would show the world what Goro Majima was made of!

When he opened the bottom drawer of his desk in his quest to find one of his boy’s lost pliers, a strip of photos he’d tossed there months ago stared up at him, the smiles on his and Kiryu's and Haruka's faces like white-hot skewers shoved into his gut.

He closed the drawer again. The pliers wouldn’t be in there.

He kept working. A week passed. Another. Another. A month. Another. Every day, the cloud over Nishida’s head grew and he would give him those looks and ask him when he was planning on taking a break until Majima couldn’t take it anymore and shouted at him to cheer up or fuck off. He didn’t have room for sour faces in his company!

But Nishida just nodded and left, taking his stupid fucking cloud and leaving Majima alone. 

All alone.

And maybe it was that last tiny straw, but Majima found he couldn’t breathe in the silence that Nishida had left behind. There was barbed wire tangling tighter and tighter around his heart until he thought he might have finally done himself in, but in the end, he just sat in his chair and choked on nothing, his throat wheezing hilariously with each breath. 

Such a fucking joke. 

Such a…

He woke up the next day with a sour taste in his mouth and clouds covering the sun.

He’d slept for fourteen hours.

He dragged himself out of his chair and stared out the window at the steel giant rising up before him. The skeleton was almost done. He wasn’t sure what he felt about that anymore.

He was proud, definitely. 

But he wasn’t sure what exactly he was proud of.

Building something that was only intended to cater to—and take advantage of, sure—the rich?

Maybe. He’d never been above tailoring his work for a specific audience, and who better to drain funds from than those that had more bills than brain cells?

Maybe it was just the sight of something so huge growing before his eyes where there had only been concrete before. 

And homeless people. That had been displaced by the project. He might not have done it personally, but he sure didn’t do much to stop it.

It was almost like cartoon villainy. 

Maybe he deserved to be alone after doing the shit he’d done. Maybe the pride he felt was the only thing keeping him at it. Maybe he was proud because the alternative was much worse.

Or maybe he was just a jackass who didn’t know when to quit.

Whatever the reason, he had work to do. Couldn’t stand around moping when he’d already lost so much time sleeping. With a sigh, he shrugged on his jacket and looked around for his hat. He couldn’t find it, which was weird, considering he hardly ever took it off these days. After digging around every nook in his office, he threw open the window and looked around for where Nishida usually sat eating his breakfast every morning while reading the newspaper like some kind of old man. He spotted him in an instant, cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting,

“Oi, Nishida! The fuck did my ha—ey!” He cut himself off, his eye catching on the door to the site creeping open as someone’s head poked around the corner. “Hey you! Whattaya think yer doin’! This is a closed site!”

Nishida looked around to where he was shouting, but Majima was already on his way out of his office, waving as he jogged over to the entrance. “Hey, you can’t be in here! You gotta—”

He skidded to a stop just before the door, gaping at who had come through.

Haruka-chan ?”

Haruka looked up at him with a cheeky grin that reminded him so much of his younger self that he felt he only had himself to blame for this. This was karma.

“Hi, Uncle Majima!”

“Hi yourself, kid,” he said sternly, leaning his head around to see behind her. “Why’re ya here all by y’self? How’d ya know where t’find me? Where’s yer dad?”

Haruka’s face fell into a deep scowl like a thunderhead had moved across the sun. Before she could say what was on her mind, though, Nishida slid up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder, handing over two hardhats with a cautious smile.

“Don’t encourage her to stay , dipshit,” Majima grumbled, snatching up the hats and giving him a hard whack on the arm with his. He barely flinched, which meant that either Majima had weakened or Nishida was getting stronger. 

He preferred the latter, strange as it was to think about Nishida being anything more than the noodly minion he’d always been. Maybe the construction work had done him good after all. He was looking beefier than usual, now that Majima was paying attention. 

“Have you been working out?” he asked, bemused at the way the arms of his shirt seemed to be tighter. 

“Uh—no, sir? I haven’t had any time for anything like that, being on the site so much.”

“Huh,” Majima grunted. Before he could continue, though, Haruka smiled and said,

“You do look a lot stronger, Nishida-san! I bet you could take Uncle Majima in a fight now!”

“Oi!” Majima barked, shoving the second hat out to Haruka with a narrowed eye. “Who asked you anyway, huh?” He couldn’t be mad, though, when she just giggled and put the hat on, clipping it underneath her chin and smiling up at him.

“How do I look?”

“Like a girl who shouldn’t be on a construction site ,” Majima said, slapping his own hat on and putting his hands on his hips as he peered down at her. “Now are ya gonna tell me what’s goin’ on or am I gonna hafta putcha t’work?”

“I can work! I don’t mind!” she said eagerly, practically bouncing.

Majima exchanged a bewildered look with Nishida before saying, “Think there might be some laws that mind a little kid workin’ though, Haruka-chan.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I toldja. Y’can’t stay. Gotta getcha back t’your dad before he comes tearin’ the place up lookin’ for ya.”

Out of all the things he expected Haruka to argue about, “He’s not my dad,” was not one of them.

Majima’s frown returned full-force in the face of Haruka’s sudden childish anger. There were a lot of things he wanted to say to her about that, but she wasn’t his kid and he didn’t want to step on Kiryu’s toes, so he just said, “Yes he is.”

“No, he isn’t!” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest and scowling. “He’s not even my real uncle. We aren’t related at all, so I don’t have to go back there with him.”

“Haruka...” Nishida began, sounding just as shocked as Majima was to hear her talk this way. She was normally sweet as an angel.

“I don’t! I can just go back to Sunflower and there’s nothing he can do about it!”

On the outside, at least. She definitely had a gremlin streak in her. 

But still, she’d never talked about Kiryu like this. She loved him. 

But the way that she crossed her arms tighter over her chest and looked away with shining eyes and a tense mouth made Majima wonder if something had happened. 

Aw, fuck. Fuck

He was going to have to ask.

Fuck, he didn’t want to have to ask, but he had to. He would never be able to live with himself if he didn’t.

So with a look over at Nishida and a jerk of his chin to let him know that they needed some privacy that he quickly gave them, Majima steeled himself, glancing around to make sure no one else was close enough to hear. His insides clenched and flopped as he said,

“Haruka. Y’know you can tell me anythin’, yeah? Anythin’ at all.”

She looked up at him out of the corner of her eye, mouth trembling, and Majima’s heart cracked. He looked up to the sky for a second to get his bearings before meeting her eyes again and saying quietly,

“Haruka, if he—if he did anything to you—you don’t have to go back. I won’t make you go back. You don’t have to tell me what it was he did. You can just say that you don’t want to go back.”

Haruka’s face twisted up and Majima’s gut plummeted in despair as she leapt forward in a hug that he quickly returned, holding her tight. But then she said through her tears, “He didn’t do anything like that, Uncle Majima! But Uncle Kaz—Dad, he—” and Majima felt like he could breathe again even though she was still clearly distressed. 

Thank god. Oh, thank god.

It wasn’t the worst case.

He could handle anything else.

“Think y’better tell me what happened, kiddo,” Majima said softly, easing her back so he could brush her hair away from her face and give her an encouraging smile. “Y’feel up to it?”

Haruka sniffled and nodded, clearly trying to stop herself from crying, but the tears just kept coming. Majima gave her a pat on the back, guiding her over to one of the park benches that were still left over from before the site. He hadn’t bothered taking them all out, considering he’d have to provide some kind of place for his men to rest anyway, much as he wanted to keep cracking the whip day and night. He let her choose which side she wanted before sitting next to her, keeping his eye on her as worry lanced through him. 

He’d never seen Haruka this upset before. She’d had a few tears here and there when her friends were mean or when she’d done badly on a test, but never this hiccuping kind of sob that seemed like it was coming from a deeper place. She kept alternating between covering her face with her hands as she cried quietly into them and staring narrow-eyed with a familiar scowl down at a single point on the ground, clearly trying to get herself under control as she took shaky breaths. Majima just waited, letting her get out what she needed to before she could talk, turning away to give her at least a semblance of privacy.

It couldn’t be easy, he knew, being the child of a man like Kazuma Kiryu. Especially since she’d never really had anyone to take care of her properly before, to lay down the foundations of a healthy coping system. Kiryu wasn’t exactly a hard man, but he wasn’t the best at handling overwhelming emotions. 

That had been okay, before, because Majima had been happy to help him open up.

But Kiryu defaulted to stoicism in the face of big emotions and that wasn’t something that a child could or should emulate no matter how admirable he was. Haruka was a strong kid, and that was exactly why she needed someone to tell her plainly that she could be weak sometimes. He remembered what it was like, being that kid that had lost everything and spent every day shoving down the tears until he’d forgotten how to let them out. 

Majima didn’t want Haruka to become that kid.

But he didn’t have a choice. This was all he could do for her. 

She wasn’t his daughter.

And so he sat with her until her tears had finally calmed down enough for her to just slump back against the bench and take slow breaths that sounded more exhausted than any child should be.

“Feelin’ a little better?” he asked finally, keeping his voice low.

Haruka nodded, though she looked ashamed of herself. Instead of bringing attention to it, though, Majima just took a long breath and let it out, saying,

“Good. Sometimes that’s all y’can do before y’can even think about fixin’ the problem. Like drainin’ the water out a sinkin’ boat before patchin’ it up, y’know?”

Haruka looked over at him in surprise, her watery eyes making his own burn empathetically. He smiled, and was happy to see her return it. He gave a pretend-hiss, holding his hand up as if to block himself from a bright light.

“Whoah! Did the clouds just part and let the sun through?” He peeked around his hand to see Haruka smiling wider at his dumb joke. “Oh, no, it’s just Haruka-chan’s smile! No wonder I thought I might go blind!”

She giggled, and he dropped his hand, feeling proud that he could cheer her up with something so stupid. “That’s cheesy, Uncle Majima.”

“Yeah, well I’m a real cheeseball, y’know,” he said, chuckling. “Not as much as your dad—Kazuma “Wears Wraparound Sunglasses to Karaoke Because He Thinks it Makes Him Cooler” Kiryu—but I’ve still got my fair share of cheddar.” 

At the mention of Kiryu, Haruka’s smile fell again and she looked away, face miserable. Instead of letting it discourage him, though, he just nudged her and said quietly,

“C’mon, Haruka. Can’t help ya fix up the boat if y’don’t tell me where the hole is, y’know.”

She shook her head, twisting her hands in her lap. “I don’t think you can help with this, Uncle Majima.”

“Never know ‘til ya try, right?”

Haruka peeked up at him before she looked away again and sighed, clearly giving in. “I ran away because Uncle—because ever since we moved, Dad won’t listen to anything I say about you. I tried to convince him to let us stay because I didn’t want to be so far away from you and my friends, but he wouldn’t listen. And when I tried to run away the first time, he just told me that I had to get used to it because we weren’t going back no matter what I said or did.”

Haruka’s mouth trembled again and Majima wished he could make it better, but he was hurting, too. He didn’t think he could still hurt about it, months later, but hearing that Haruka had wanted to see him reopened the wounds.

“But I thought—I thought that even if he wouldn’t let us stay, that for my birthday, at least—”

Majima froze, doing some quick calendar math and realising that today was, in fact, Haruka’s birthday. Oh, shit . He’d buried himself so deep in his work that he’d completely forgotten. He felt like a swamp of old shit, but there was no time to wallow, as Haruka was still telling him what had happened.

“He invited all my old friends to come over!” she said indignantly, expression fierce as she gestured sharply. “So I just thought...but when I asked if you were coming to the party, too, he just ignored me! I got really mad about that, I guess. We got in a huge fight last night and he told me to stop asking about you because I wasn’t going to see you ever again. So I—I ran away this morning before he woke up.”

“Aw, Haruka…” Majima didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to tell her that there was no sense in missing someone like him. That even though he’d put on a new hat, he was still just yakuza trash. It felt like that would be deflecting what the actual issue was, which seemed to just be growing pains between Kiryu and Haruka that had coincidentally centered on him. And so he just said, “I’m sure your dad has his reasons.”

“I don’t care what reasons he has, though!” Haruka cried, gripping fistfuls of her trousers and clearly trying not to cry again. “He took away one of the only people I care about! I don’t care why! I just—I just missed you, Uncle Majima. Why can’t he just let you come visit? Is that really such a bad thing?” 

Majima floundered, wanting to comfort her but not wanting to make it worse when she had to leave him again. Because she would. Majima would have loved to be able to be a part of Haruka’s life, but Kiryu had clearly made a decision about something and he wasn’t going to be the cause of a rift between them if he could help it. More than anything, he just wanted them to be happy, and if him being around was going to take that away, then he’d gladly give up that chance.

It would hurt like a bitch, but he’d survived worse.

“Haruka, listen t’me,” he said seriously, waiting until she met his eye before continuing. “Your dad loves you, no matter what it prob’ly feels like right now. He might not say it—might not ever say it. But he does. I know him better’n anyone in the world, and if he decided that y’needed to move away ‘n’all that, then it’ll be important. He wouldn’t’a done somethin’ like that fer nothin’.”

“But Uncle Majima—”

“Nah, no buts,” he said, shaking his head. “I know it hurts like hell to hear it, but y’dad’s right. Y’need to get used to how things are now. He’s tryin’ his level best t’give ya a good life and y’can’t just throw that back in his face by runnin’ away when things get tough. Y’gotta stick together, kid.” 

He smiled, feeling strange for it when his heart was crumbling with each word, turning to dust at the pain in Haruka’s eyes. “I’ll letcha in on a secret about Kazuma Kiryu, too.” He leaned in slightly, conspiratorially. “He needs ya just as much as ya need him, y’know. Prob’ly more.” He sat up again when she smiled sadly, as though she didn’t want to but couldn’t help it. “So y’gotta stick together. ‘M’not tellin’ ya t’let him get away with bein’ a dumbass or nothin’, but y’can’t keep runnin’, Haruka. Y’gotta be strong. Things’ll get better eventually. Promise.”

Haruka stared at him after he finished, her mouth shaking with barely restrained tears, until they finally just spilled over. As if that had been the last straw, Haruka’s face crumpled and she leaned into him, burying her face against his jacket and clinging to him as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and held her as she silently cried. He looked up to the sky to keep his own tears from spilling, wishing he could have told her to raise hell, to fight back against her old man who was just trying to control her life, but he’d never been in the business of lying. 

It would be better this way, for her. She’d eventually forget that she cared about him. That was the silver lining to losing someone as a child. Gave you more time to get over it.

At least he’d gotten the chance to say goodbye. It would do her good, that kind of closure.

It was for the best.

He just kept telling himself that as he watched her leave, climbing into the car with Nishida, who had volunteered to take her back home without Majima even having to ask. 

It was for the best. 

He stared at the space that the car left behind when it turned a corner, taking Haruka’s sad eyes with it. 

It was for the best.

It was for the best, but it had carved out his heart again, as always, and left him with even less of himself than before. 

He was so tired.

He was so tired of saying goodbye.

Majima was tired.

He was tired, and there was work to do, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t bring himself to turn and step back inside those walls and pretend like he hadn’t just lost one of the few good things he’d ever had in his life.

He felt cold and exposed and empty and so he did what he always did when he was out of whack: he headed for the batting center, leaving his helmet abandoned on the ground outside the site. Who gave a shit if someone stole it? He could always replace it. 

He was surrounded by things he could replace. 

He could pick up anything around him as he walked down Shichifuku Street and do whatever he liked with it and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him, technically. There was no fine large enough that he couldn’t pay, no amount of money that someone could demand of him that he wouldn’t be able to just write a check right there.

It didn’t mean shit. 

None of it meant anything. 

The only thing that had ever meant anything to him had just left him again. On the one hand, he couldn’t really believe that he’d let himself be vulnerable again. But on the other, he didn’t think he had a choice. He’d never figured out how to protect himself fully. To stop giving people the key to his heart and then getting surprised when it got smashed.

He deserved what he got, was what his kyoudai would say about it. He hadn’t kept his guard up, so any attacks that got through were his fault alone. Can’t get hurt if you’re always prepared to dodge.

Some good that did either of them, though. One of them rotting in prison and the other dragging his sorry ass down to a place that he clung to out of desperation, the only standing reminder of a life he used to have. It was always like stepping into a haunted house, now. The ghosts of memories thick in the air with each swing, like hands dragging themselves along his skin. Whispers in his ear of a time when he was still good, before he’d been chewed to hell and spat out. 

But he still went, because he didn’t know what else to do. At least he knew the motions to make in the center. He knew what to expect.

At least, he usually did. 

This time, though, as he looked up from his trudging walk to climb the stairs like a man about to be hanged, he was thrown even further off balance by the sight of Kiryu staring back at him. His hair was a little longer. He had stubble along his jaw and neck. His skin was a little darker with sun.

They locked eyes, Majima’s chest compressing with pathetic happiness at seeing his face, scowling or not, after so long. His body was stupid; it didn’t understand that everything had changed. He could feel it reaching for Kiryu, wanting to hold him inside his arms again, wanting to drag in the scent of him just so he could pretend he still had a home. His body needed Kiryu’s like it needed air or water, but Kiryu didn’t need him anymore, and he wasn’t going to beg. He was never going to beg. 

And so he just said, “Nishida’s taking her home now,” in a voice that was hoarse, but steady, and skirted gingerly around Kiryu to push through the door.

He stepped inside one of the cages, grateful that there was no one else there, at least. He’d gotten lucky. Even the clerk on duty had just nodded in understanding when he’d paid, closing down the shutter and giving him some privacy. They knew him in the batting center. He was probably like a mascot to them, an old puppet that kept coming back even though all its stuffing had fallen out and its skin was patchy and faded. 

At least they knew him, he supposed. That was something. Being known was better than disappearing entirely. 

The crack of the first homerun was like working out a crick in his neck. His body knew this therapy well. It never failed him.

Second homerun.

Third. 

Fourth.

Someone was behind him.

Fifth.

It was Kiryu; he could smell him even through the fans blowing the metallic, leathery smell of the center in his face. He smelled like the sun on a hot summer’s day, beating down on long grasses that hid everything from the world.

Sixth.

He said his name, but Majima wasn’t listening. He was watching for the curve and waiting for that telltale shunt of pressurised air.

Seventh.

He got closer, saying his name again. He could almost feel the heat from his body.

Eighth.

Again, anger in his voice. Majima didn’t care. He hadn’t done anything for Kiryu to be angry about. He hadn’t asked him to follow him. He hadn’t asked him for any of this.

Ninth.

But when he lined up for the tenth, getting the ball in his sights and adjusting for the sweet spot that would sink a perfect round, Kiryu’s hand shot out just as he swung and stopped his bat before it could meet the ball.

It sailed past, leaving him with only a near-perfect and a dissatisfaction that flooded his mouth like old, sour blood.

Majima .”

Majima was suddenly burning with the desire to crack his bat across Kiryu’s skull until he stopped saying his name like he had any right to it anymore.

But instead of giving in to that instinct, he just firmly tugged his bat out of Kiryu’s hand, turned, and left the center. 

If Kiryu was going to invade the last space he had left to him, then he’d find another space. He’d build his own fucking batting center in the Hills, exactly the same as this one but only for him. It wouldn’t matter that it wasn’t the same carpet as he’d stepped on in his other life, or the same lights shining into his eyes as he smiled with childish abandon. It would have to be enough, just like all the other things that weren’t the same but had to be enough to keep him upright and moving forward.

But first, he’d have to lose Kiryu, who had followed him out of the center and was walking several paces behind, as though willing to follow him for as long as it took. As though Majima didn’t know he was there. As if he wouldn’t always know he was there.

Kiryu was true north for Majima’s compass.

And so instead of taking the less-populated path that he would normally take, he deliberately walked down the busiest road, pushing through groups and slumping so he stood out less. He peered behind him after doing this several times and was pleased to find Kiryu had gotten delayed more and more each time, unwilling to cut through people like he was. 

His coup de grâce came when he headed for a group of drunken women and quietly whispered the suggestion to them that didn’t Kiryu look a lot like that one pop idol, they knew the one, and simply continued on, listening for the chatter and squeals as they rushed Kiryu. 

He almost felt like smiling as he ducked down a different path, thinking of Kiryu’s frustration at being accosted. But he didn’t have long to taste the sweet satisfaction of outsmarting him before he was shoved hard into a secluded corner of the street that was always dark no matter the time of day, his head knocking against the cladding and bouncing off. He grimaced, but couldn’t touch the busted spot, as his attacker had taken hold of his arms. 

Kiryu had taken hold of his arms, keeping him pressed into the corner. 

And for one brief moment, Majima thought that Kiryu might press his lips into his, as well, but then he looked away from his mouth, giving Majima the opportunity to yank himself free from Kiryu’s grip. 

“Don’t follow me again unless you wanna die, Kiryu. I’m done playing with you.”

“Just stop , Majima. I’m trying to talk to you.” Kiryu’s scowl was deep and frustrated and even though Majima wanted to just leave again, he knew he couldn’t. He still cared about Kiryu, no matter what he felt for him, and so he told himself that he would just listen to what Kiryu had to say and then he could leave.

“Fine.”

“Fine?”

“You said you’re tryin’ t’talk to me,” he said, pulling himself to his full height and slinging his bat over his shoulder. “So talk.”

Kiryu just stared at him, looking between his narrowed eye, his bat, and his other hand that swung loose. “You don’t look like you’re willing to listen.”

“And that don’t sound like talkin’. What’s yer point.”

“My point is—” Kiryu cut himself off, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers before spreading his hand wide and shaking his head. “Nevermind. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. I don’t have time for this; I have to get back to Haruka.”

“Sure do, bud,” Majima said, telling himself to stop there as Kiryu turned to leave, but not being able to help himself. “And hey, maybe next time ya tell a ten-year-old girl who’s seen her parents die right in front of her that she can’t see one of the only other adults she cares about ever again, y’check and make sure it ain’t her fuckin’ birthday the day after. Might save ya some trouble next time.”

Kiryu whirled on him, his fists clenched and ready, but not raised. “The day that anyone takes parenting advice from a man like you is the day that it snows in summer.”

“Poetic,” Majima said with a vicious smile. “But I’m not the one that lost my fuckin’ kid on her birthday.”

He could tell he’d struck a nerve when Kiryu’s nostrils flared. They only did that when he was really angry. 

“Truth don’t feel good, does it?”

“The truth?” Kiryu bit out. “The truth is that this is exactly why I told Haruka she couldn’t see you anymore. She was too attached to you and you’re too immature to understand that just by associating with us, you put her in danger. I couldn’t—I can’t let her grow up thinking that yakuza are good men.” 

Majima’s grip on his bat tightened. 

“That’s why you left?”

Kiryu took a breath, clearly working to calm himself. “Yes. A few months ago, someone—sent a message. Through Haruka.” Kiryu’s jaw worked visibly. “Telling me that they were watching us and that they were going to take her because of what I’d done. She hadn’t—she hadn’t thought anything of taking the letter from him because he wore your pin.”

 Majima’s skin prickled. “He couldn’t—”

“Don’t try to convince me it wasn’t one of your men,” Kiryu snapped. “She described it to me. I would recognise it anywhere.”

Majima’s mouth clicked shut audibly. 

Someone was going around wearing his pin after he’d dissolved the family. Threatening Kiryu and Haruka.

Someone was going to die.

“What did he look like?” he asked roughly.

“It doesn’t matter—”

What did he look like .”

Kiryu looked at him with something like disappointment. “It doesn’t matter, because Date already found out who it was and brought him in.”

“Y’think that’s enough? Y’think a few years in the clink’s gonna stop someone that stupid?” Majima asked, barking out a humourless laugh. “Don’t be fuckin’ naïve, Kiryu.”

“Only a yakuza would think that justice is naïve.”

You’re a fuckin’ yakuza, ya prick!” he shouted, wanting to tear at his hair in frustration. “The fuckin’ ex-leader of ‘em! Y’can’t look me in the eye and tell me that prison is enough t’protect Haruka! Ya know more’n anyone how easy it is to make it through and get back out again.”

“Protecting Haruka isn’t your job, Majima,” Kiryu said, his voice hard. “She doesn’t need you to protect her.”

“Clearly she does—”

“I don’t want you to protect her. I don’t want you around her at all.” 

As if Kiryu’s words had dunked him in a bath of ice water, he came to his senses. He remembered what had happened and who he was to them now. He wasn’t Kiryu’s superior or his friend. He wasn’t Haruka’s confidant or her ‘uncle.’ 

He wasn’t anything to them anymore.

He took a few panting breaths, the air he expelled chilling the sweat that had broken out on his skin. He looked away from Kiryu, nodding and mumbling, “Got it. You’re the boss.”

“Majima—”

“Y’should get back home, Kiryu. Don’t wanna miss her party.”

He waited in the thick silence, just watching the clouds race in the sky, until he heard Kiryu’s steps retreating. He took a long breath that caught at the end before shaking it out of him and standing straight again and looking over to the Hills. 

His eye caught on Kiryu standing at the end of the street, instead, his face inscrutable as he watched Majima.

But as much as Majima wanted to go to him, he couldn’t bring himself to. It was as good as begging, in his mind.

And so they stood apart in a standstill until Kiryu finally came forward slowly, his legs stiff as though he didn’t want to come closer. 

“I didn’t want this,” was what he said when they stood close enough that Majima could smell Kiryu’s sweat. It beaded on his chest, sliding down beyond the closed buttons of his shirt. Majima wanted to drag his tongue along that exposed skin. Taste every part of him. Make those memories before he left him again. Wanted to press him against that wall and kiss him until he couldn’t catch his breath. Make him gasp his name as he buried himself inside him so he’d never forget it. 

Beg him on hands and knees to let him stay with him. He didn’t know how to live without him anymore. Please let him stay.

“So go home,” was what he said, instead.

“No,” Kiryu said, sounding exasperated and, as bittersweet as it was for Majima to hear, affectionate. He still cared about him. “I meant, I didn’t want to leave like we did. Even though it was your man who threatened us, I still wanted to tell you. But we couldn’t, at first. We were advised not to tell anyone where we’d gone.” He shook his head, hanging it and sticking his hands in his pockets. “Once we could, though, I just got—angry. Terada told me you’d dissolved the family, but there was no mistaking it, no matter how I wanted to try, and I couldn’t—”

“Y’don’t gotta explain nothin’ to me, Kiryu,” Majima said, looking down as he tapped his bat onto the metal toe of his shoe. “I get it.”

“Do you?” Kiryu asked, anger lacing his words. Majima glanced up again to see him studying him with narrowed eyes. “Because you still talked to her today, didn’t you? You still let your captain drive her back instead of calling me.”

Majima met his scowl with a sudden glower. “Like you woulda fuckin’ answered?”

“Today, I would have.”

“Oh, well, let me just go back an hour or two and whisper in my own fuckin’ ear.” He leaned over with his hand cupping his mouth, keeping his gaze aggressively in Kiryu’s. “‘Hey, Goro, y’know that pisslord that ghosted you? He’ll actually answer his phone today, since his daughter is gonna come t’sob on your shoulder ‘cause she misses ya just as bad as y’missed her and her dad hasn’t figured out how t’just explain to her that yakuza are bad men, so she’s gonna cry even harder when ya hafta tell her that y’can’t argue with her dad. Have fun !’”

“Are you expecting me to feel sorry for you?”

“No, Kiryu,” Majima said, twisting his mouth in a mean grin. “Out of all the things I ever expect from you, feelings aren’t one of them.”

Part of him had hoped for the punch that Kiryu threw at him as soon as the words left his mouth, but he was still somehow surprised when it collided, sending him flying into a road divider. Maybe he’d thought they’d never get to do this again. Maybe he’d thought that Kiryu was above it now.

No matter why he’d been surprised by it, though, it didn’t stop him from immediately taking a swing back at Kiryu with his bat, catching him with the length of it in his gut when he tried to dodge. Kiryu bent forward over himself, groaning and stumbling back as Majima gave his bat a cheeky little spin. 

“Toldja already, didn’t I?” he said, smiling at the glare he got. “Done playin’ with ya.”

“I don’t believe it for a second,” Kiryu huffed, leaning on a signpost with one hand held to his stomach. Before Majima could fully realise what was happening, Kiryu gripped the post with both hands and roared as he uprooted it from the concrete.

Majima’s heart skipped a beat and his mouth filled with saliva like a dog looking at a steak. He was pretty sure he made an obscene noise, but his heart was pounding in his ears and he couldn’t hear much else.

“All you’ve ever done is play games with me.”

Majima had been so busy gaping at the swell of Kiryu’s muscles and the hole left behind in the pavement that he almost took the signpost right in the face. He barely managed to jerk his head back at the last second, managing to only get a long, but shallow cut along his neck and collar before Kiryu spun around for another swing. Majima could only react on instinct, bracing his bat against the ground and flipping over it to give him the height needed to leap over the post. He used his momentum on the downswing to slam his bat onto the post near Kiryu’s hands, rattling it hard enough that he bared his teeth. Instead of letting go of it, though, he just scooped it up and into Majima’s back, sending him stumbling forward into a car. 

Kiryu was on him in a second, grabbing a rough fistful of hair and dragging him backwards, bending his back with the force. Majima hissed, his legs going weak as his cock stiffened uncomfortably with arousal. Luckily, he was soon distracted by the blinding pain in his spine as Kiryu slammed him onto a road divider. 

Fuck ,” he gasped, sliding down to the ground limp as a ragdoll, his legs forgetting how to do what legs generally did. He groaned, rolling weakly to free his bat enough to use it to help him stand again, looking up to see Kiryu hadn’t been waiting for him honourably as he might have before. 

Instead, he’d gone to go pick up a fucking moped.

He should probably not let him hit him with that, even if it was like being in heaven, watching Kiryu properly throw his weight around for the first time in a very long time. And so when Kiryu stomped back over to him and wound up to swing the moped, he threw himself into a backwards bend, letting the semicircle of death sail just over him.

Their eyes met in the space left by the footwell as it passed over him, and he smiled.

Kiryu had to dig his feet in to stop the momentum of the bike as it skidded along the ground, the rubber tires squealing on the road before he grunted loudly and hefted it up again. But before he could make another attempt to hit him, Majima jumped onto the hood of the nearest car, used the windshield as a bracing point, and leapt onto the moped. Kiryu let out another grunt with the added weight, but Majima didn’t give him time to adjust before he wedged the length of his bat under his chin and used it as the fulcrum for his legs to prise the two apart until Kiryu had to let go or choke.

He held on for much longer than expected, their eyes locked and Kiryu’s lips parted so temptingly in his gasps for breath that Majima was leaning forward to slip his tongue inside when Kiryu finally let go. Majima yelped as he crashed to the ground with the moped, rolling forward to break the impact and get him away from the weight of it falling onto him.

“Y’call that playing , Kiryu-chan?” he said breathlessly as he got to his feet, giggling. “Whattaya do when ya take things seriously?”

Kiryu didn’t respond, but Majima got the feeling that he was about to find out anyway. He stalked toward him, foregoing any weapons this time despite Majima still having his bat. He almost didn’t want to fight whatever Kiryu was planning, but that would be no fun. Not when he could barely make him pause with each swing of his bat that connected with a meaty thump to Kiryu’s legs and arms and back as he danced around his punches. 

Kiryu was slow with his rage right now, but he could tell that if any of those punches hit, he would be very sorry. 

Which made him wonder why he took so many right after having that thought. Kiryu managed to just clip him on the shoulder with one wide, arcing swing, but even that was enough to throw him back into a car. He tried to roll over the hood, but Kiryu grabbed his leg and slung him like he was made of feathers, sending him skidding along the litter-strewn ground. He could feel blood already welling up on his chest, but he didn’t have time to look, as Kiryu reached him just as he almost got to his feet, grabbing a fistful of his jacket and yanking him into his truck-like punches to his gut. 

Majima could only hold on to Kiryu’s arm and wretch with each one until he finally managed to stop him with a sharp knee to the crotch. And for a single moment as Kiryu choked and bent forward over him and Majima’s legs shook with the weight of him, weak with the gorge of blood rising in his throat, someone might have seen them leaning on each other and thought that they were simply embracing.

But then Majima slung Kiryu away, swaying for a second before cracking his bat across Kiryu’s hip, stomach churning at the cry of pain he let out. He couldn’t stop now, though. He had to take his advantage, and so he kicked Kiryu onto the ground and wound up for a heavy swing that would likely knock him out. That was, if Kiryu hadn’t dodged it at the last second before springing at him when he was distracted by the painful vibrations ringing up his arms. He wrapped his arms around him and locked his hands at his back, effectively pinning Majima's arms to his side.

Kiryu .” Majima panted out a laugh, not having to fake the arousal in his voice one bit as they breathed hard together, the heat from their bodies building a stifling cocoon around them. “If y’wanted to cuddle, ya coulda just—” 

Kiryu’s muscles constricted around him and Majima could only choke out a groan as he crushed him, his back screaming with pain. He crumpled to the ground when Kiryu released him, but before he could figure out how to move again, Kiryu planted his shoe on his face and slammed him down to the pavement, grinding his face into it roughly. 

Majima hadn’t really considered that one of his turn-ons, but apparently, with Kiryu’s shoe doing the stepping, it was.

Before he could let his dick grab the controls, though, he took hold of Kiryu’s ankle and threaded his leg up between Kiryu’s, wrapping his torso around his thigh and wedging his boot against Kiryu’s throat as he twisted him down to the ground as well. He grunted in surprise, falling hard on his ass as Majima coiled around him in a fast, tight pin that got him bent at his mercy. It didn’t stop Kiryu from thrashing and trying to break free, but the firm pressure Majima applied to his joints seemed to convince him that he wasn’t getting away without serious injury. 

“That’s my good Kiryu-chan,” Majima murmured breathlessly against Kiryu’s ear, chuckling when he rumbled ominously with frustration. “Just sit and rest for a sec, hm?”

“Let me go, Majima-no-niisan,” Kiryu growled under his breath.

“Aw, back to that old shit again?” Majima groaned, shaking his head in disappointment. “C’mon, I know ya don’t wanna be buds anymore, but d’ya really gotta demote me back to that ?”

Kiryu froze under him, his muscles going very tense before relaxing bit by bit. Eventually, he was still enough in Majima’s arms that he let himself ease up just a bit. When he did, though, Kiryu didn’t try to break free. He just kept glaring at the ground between his knees until finally he said,

“I didn’t—I didn’t say that I don’t want to be friends.”

Majima blinked, dumbstruck. He wanted to crane his head down to look at Kiryu’s face properly, but he was feeling strangely hesitant. 

“Y’might not’ve said it with yer mouth,” Majima said, instead, “but everythin’ else was clear as crystal.”

 Kiryu’s head bent forward even further, his voice barely audible even to Majima as he said, “That’s not what I wanted.”

And just like that, all the fire and giddy adrenaline trickled out of Majima, leaving him empty and distant once more. He let Kiryu go, looking away from the sorry sight of him slumped on the ground, and picked up his bat, turning back towards the Hills. 

“Ya might not’ve wanted it, but it’s what y’got. Y’can’t crack eggs and cry about the shells left behind, Kiryu. Y’just gotta make the best damn omelette ya can.”

“I didn’t want to ‘crack eggs,’” Kiryu bit out, and Majima looked back to see him getting to his feet, the exhaustion in his body making Majima ache to help him. 

But he’d already felt Kiryu’s touch more than he’d expected to—more than he should have allowed himself, really—and so he just stood there, wiping away a trickle of blood that tried to slip into his mouth.

When Kiryu met his gaze, though, there was a pull there that was almost too much to resist. Gravitational.

“I didn’t want to leave you, Nii-san.”

 Majima exhaled as though Kiryu had punched him in the gut again.

“Already toldja ya don’t gotta explain shit t’me,” Majima grumbled, looking away. “Do whatever ya need t’do t’keep Haruka safe. Or you’ll have me to answer to.”

“I wanted to explain, though,” Kiryu insisted, his shoes clicking softly against the pavement as he approached Majima. “I owed you an explanation, at least. I came here so you didn’t think that I was the sort of man who would leave for nothing.”

“Never thought that,” Majima said, his eye sliding up to meet Kiryu’s again. He stood close. Close enough to reach out and touch. “Like I told Haruka, I know ya better’n anyone else in the world. Knew ya had yer reasons.”

“I don’t know if those reasons were good enough if it meant that I’d lose your respect.”

Majima grinned. “You’d hafta become a whole ass other man for that to happen, Kiryu-chan. Bein’ a workin’ man’s clearly not dulled ya one bit.”

Kiryu’s lips twitched up in a tiny answering smile, though his eyes were still serious. “Your friendship, then, if not your respect.”

Majima shrugged lightly at that. “Anything’s worth keepin’ ya kid safe.” Kiryu’s jaw clenched as he nodded, and Majima sighed. “But I never said you’d lost it, anyway.”

Kiryu blinked, brows turning up in the middle.

Majima ran his gloved hand along the bristles of his undercut, puffing out a breath. “Know I’m always just gonna be a yakuza to ya, but if ya ever have a change of heart, I’ll—I’ll always—” He paused, finding the words sticking in his throat. They were too awkward to push out, too close to his heart. So he just growled, “Aw, fuck, you know what I’m tryin’ t’say. Don’t make me say it.”

 And when Kiryu responded by closing the distance between them and pulling Majima into his arms, it left a bittersweet taste in his mouth. 

The shared warmth of their chests pressing together, the feel of Kiryu’s fingers bunched in his jacket, the tickle of his facial hair against his ear, his breath fanning down across his back as it slipped inside his collar—each one carefully pasted over the cracks in his heart, mending as easily as it had broken. 

But Kiryu wasn’t going to stay, and the knowledge of that made the healing more of a cauterising fire.

Kiryu had so much power over Majima and he was helpless to it. He couldn’t ask him to look at him and see anything more, to see that even though he had the family life carved into his skin, he would die for Kiryu and Haruka. Had lived for them. 

He could only drop his bat to the ground and wrap his arms around Kiryu as well, burying his face into the curve of his neck and breathing him in, desperate for more with each inhale. His chest ached, knowing that this was all he would have for a long time. Only this moment. 

And so he was bold with desperation, pressing his mouth against the swell of muscle at Kiryu’s shoulder and listening for the catch in his breath that came when he was unsure. He trailed his lips along the path of his neck. There was so much heat there, as though Kiryu always held a fire burning within him. Majima knew for a fact that he did. He’d brought that fire out of him more times than he could count. He could tease it out of him better than anyone else. 

It seemed to be a different fire that lit between them, though, when he nudged his cheekbone along his jaw, tracing the path of Kiryu’s facial hair with his nose. And when he trailed it through the longer hairs at his sideburns, nuzzling him slowly, gently, Kiryu’s breath shuddered down his back, his hands gripping Majima tight. 

His hair was so soft. It made him sigh, the contrast between their stubble scratching together and the silkiness of his hair against his nose. He wanted to live in this moment. Soak it up until it sank into his bones. Deeper and deeper until he could never forget the feeling of Kiryu inside his arms. 

He wanted more.

But he’d always want more. He would never be able to have enough of Kiryu. Until the moment that he’d gasped his last breath, he knew he’d be craving his touch.

He loved him.

Majima was in love with him.

And as though Kiryu could hear him confess the words to himself, he shivered. 

But all he said was, “Come back with me.”

Majima indulged in that thought—the thought of nodding and letting Kiryu take him back to his new house where he could spend all day next to the two people he’d come to think of as family in the past year, basking in Kiryu’s attention after so long and teasing Haruka for somehow being a better sleuth than a hard-boiled ex-yakuza, where he could begin to remember what it was like to have more than the drive to succeed, to build, to show that he was strong enough to perform great feats even when he was half-dead, and in that remembering, learn how to slow down again, to just sit and exist beside another person—but he knew he was only letting himself daydream. Even if Kiryu was willing to let him back in, Majima wasn’t willing to take that risk anymore, now that he knew. 

If anything ever happened to them because of him...well.

And even if one single day wouldn’t hurt in the short term, it would hurt worse when he had to say goodbye all over again. He didn’t think he’d be strong enough to walk away from Haruka’s tears a second time.

Better to just say, “I gotta get back t’work. Tell her happy birthday for me, will ya?” and ignore the disappointment on Kiryu’s face at his refusal. Majima knew that Kiryu understood why he’d refused. He’d probably missed their friendship just as much as Majima had.

There wasn’t much he could do about that now, though. He’d just have to make it up to him and Haruka some other way. Some other time.

“If you’re sure.”

“Wouldn’t say it if I wasn’t,” Majima said with a grin, picking up his bat again and giving a salute with it before heading down the street. “Anyway, I’ll catch ya later. Eat an extra piece of cake for me, eh?”

He heard Kiryu quietly say goodbye behind him, and it took every scrap of his willpower to turn the corner away from him instead of run back to him. 

And it was a scrap too far to expect him to do anything other than collapse against the wall there, slumped and wretched. 

“Aw, Kiryu-chan,” he whispered to himself, “What’ve ya done t’me?” He rolled his eye up to the sky as it began spitting rain down on him and winced. “What am I s’posed t’do now?”