“Uncle Kaz, is the bathroom occupied?”
Koji slid through the hallway, hair wild and face flushed with a mix of excitement and exhaustion. The kids had been playing baseball on the beach again and had apparently jumped into the sea afterwards to cool off. Undoubtedly, Koji was only the first of a bunch of sand-caked children in desperate need of a bath.
“Yes, Majima-san is in the shower right now, but he won’t need long.”
“Majima-san? Is he a friend of yours?”
Kiryu hesitated before nodding, which fortunately seemed to be enough for Koji as he stormed off someplace. When Majima had shown up half an hour ago, unannounced and older than Kiryu remembered him being, they had been the only ones in the house.
In theory that would’ve given him the occasion to figure out how to explain Majima’s visit or the man in general. Haruka had been the only one to have seen him before and luckily, they seemed to get along decently despite their rocky start. Maybe the others would follow her easy acceptance.
Majima had been in the bathroom for quite a while now, longer than a usual wash up would take. Kiryu’s mind stopped on the image of the other man in the shower completely unprompted. From what he knew, Majima used to have long hair tied into a high ponytail - at least that was what Nishiki had told him years ago following their brief encounter in the eighties. Kiryu himself had only met Majima after his rather abrupt change in style.
He must’ve been a completely different person back then, before he’d gotten big as the Mad Dog of Shimano. There must be some sort of story behind it, but Kiryu doubted he would ever hear it.
On the other hand, he remembered a little off-hand remark that Majima used to manage Yuki-sans old Cabaret Club, which must’ve been roughly around the same time. Kiryu decided that this meant Majima had never belonged to those badly dressed low-level goons and instead raised the ranks in style.
Slowly, the Majima in Kiryu’s head changed, morphed from the familiar figure into how he must’ve looked like in his youth. With water cascading down Majima’s colourful body, glossing over the hannya and leaving the black hair flowing like expensive silk.
Another stray thought entertained the idea of Kiryu helping to wash the other man's hair, carefully shampooing the strands while stroking them away from Majima’s face. Just the two of them engulfed in the warm stream of water.
Rumor was that back in the eighties, when The Empty Lot business was coming to its ugly head, Majima has had his own mess to attend to until he nearly crossed paths with Kiryu. Part of him really wished he’d been at Serena that day instead of Nishiki, but who knew how different things would've gone down then. It had been quite a fragile time, after all.
Sometime between that night and the day they met on the streets of Kamurocho, something in Majima had changed. Kiryu was curious to know more about it, but he hadn’t asked other than the one time at the get-together of higher ranks in the nineties.
Everyone had their sore spots and Kiryu respected that.
“Ya alright, Kiryu-chan?”
Kiryu was pulled out of his musings. Majima had joined him in the living room by now, suit pants dangerously low on his hips, though he’d forgone the complimenting dress shirt and jacket he seemed to have recently adopted. Funnily enough, right now, half-naked and flushed from the hot water he looked again like the Majima he knew.
“Yeah. Do you want something to drink? Dinner won’t be ready for a while.”
Haruka was still downtown at the market, undoubtedly haggling for the best deals.
“Nah, I’m good.”
Majima plopped down to his right, staying silent. Kiryu’s earlier observation of the other man’s change solidified itself. Majima didn’t just look older, he also looked more serious. The uncharacteristical quietness was uncanny, as if the man’s manic energy had just fallen off of him. Just what had happened in Kamurocho?
“Why did you come here, Majima-san? Is everything alright?”
For a moment, Majima looked as if he was going to answer, but then decided against it. Worry crept up Kiryu’s spine.
“It can wait. If ya don’t mind me stayin’ the night, that is.”
“I won’t send you back to Kamurocho after you’ve just made the trip here, Majima-san. If there’s nothing urgent going on, make yourself a nice time here. I can show you around if you want?”
The man definitely appeared as if he could use a break from whatever was going down in Tokyo with the Family.
Children’s voices drew closer, clearly equally excited and exhausted from a day outside.
“Be careful to wash up before getting sand all over the floors,” Kiryu reminded the bunch calmly, effectively stopping them from even attempting to pile into the room.
“Is your friend finished then?”
It wasn’t Koji who asked, so the news of a their visitor must’ve spread already.
“Yes, you can go ahead. And please take care of your homework before dinner.”
The familiar chorus of “Yes” in varying degrees of annoyance sounded through the tiny house.
“Would you disagree, Majima-oniisan?”
Kiryu didn’t receive an answer, but maybe he didn’t need one anyway. Instead, they lit a cigarette in companiable silence.
“It’s a good thing ya’ve got here, Kiryu-chan. Keep it safe, ya hear me?”
Slowly, the sun ran it’s cause, tinting the light of the room in a warm but eerie orange. It was odd to have Majima here with him, Kiryu mused, in the home of his family. But odd in a calming way, as if the other man's presence completed a piece of the picture he hadn’t noticed missing.
“Haruka sure is late. Maybe I should go look for her.”
“Don’t’cha tell me this little town spells trouble too, Kiryu-chan? Ya really attract that, don’t’cha?”
The men exchanged a long glance before they rose to their feet in unison.
“Will the others be okay on their own?”
Kiryu just nodded. Ayako would keep an eye on the younger kids, he really got lucky with them. All of them were so responsible and were looking out for each other.
Fortunately, they didn’t need to go far, Majima spotted Haruka first and froze in his step. A strange emotion flickered over his face and he said: “She’s really gotten big, eh? Wasn’t she nothing more than a lil’ squirt last time I saw her?”
Kiryu could only agree. Haruka had grown so much since their first encounter in the bar, in every meaning of the word. Slowly, the little girl turned into a woman in front of his very eyes. It would still take a few years, of course, but Kiryu could already glimpse at the person she was going to be one day.
As if following a silent command Haruka turned around to them, gaze ripped away from the crashing waves, naked feet buried in the sand freed from her sandals. Her hair fluttlered in the soft breeze, just like the bags from the market in her outstretched arms.
“Uncle Kaz, Majima-san, look!”
The men obediently followed her gaze to the sky, they couldn’t help but comply. A swarm of little birds circled over the beach until suddenly they rushed down, close enough over their heads to feel the wind their wings produced. Haruka let out a loud, carefree laugh, swirling on her toes in a motion she had adopted since they had moved to Okinawa. Like a princess, no, like a truly content little girl. It never failed to make Kiryu smile.
“In the end ya’ve got ya own family after all, ne, Kiryu-chan?”
Kiryu didn’t reply, just kept looking at his daughter, letting the salty wind play with his own hair, taking in the noisy quietness of his home.
“I would like you to be part of it, Majima-san.”
Both of them knew that this was nearly impossible to manage.
“I can fish.”
Now Kiryu did have to avert his gaze from Haruka, uncertain if Majima was joking. But the man just nodded over to the discarded fishing rod, face full of contemplation.
“Well, the kids would like to learn it, I’m afraid I’m not a good teacher.”
Maybe they could entertain the idea for a bit longer, thinking up nights spent around the campfire with the kids, or out in the sea. It was a rather peaceful fantasy.
“I’ve gotta take care of something in Kamurocho. Don’t’cha do something stupid in the meantime, gotcha?”
Majima didn’t move his eyes from the beach, but his voice had suddenly taken on a note of urgency.
“Sure, but Majima-san, what-“
“I’ll take the next flight. But I’ll be back soon.”
“Wait! Majima-san! What did you come here for?”
The man’s figure departed quickly, determined steps through white sand.
“It looks like I’ve came ta figure something out. Thanks for ya help, Kiryu-chan.”
Then Majima was gone again, leaving behind more questions than answers as well as an instilled feel of worry. However, that wasn’t everything. There was some tiny flame in Kiryu’s stomach that wasn’t connected to an upcoming fight - something akin to hope - like yearning for a future that wasn’t determined yet.
The waves crashed against the shore, but no one paid attention to their fruitless endeavor any lionger. Instead, Haruka sauntered over, not bothered enough to put her sandals back on. Her tanned face was equally confused as Kiryu’s.
“Uncle Kaz, why did Majima-san leave? Did something happen?”
The seriousness had returned into her features, immediately making her look older than she should be.
“I don’t know Haruka, but maybe he’ll tell us when he comes back.”
“He will come back then?”
“Yes, and he will stay the next time.”
For some reason Kiryu felt absolutely certain about his answer now.
That seemed to cheer the girl up again. She slipped into her shoes and skipped the short way back to the orphanage, but not without brushing her shoulder against Kiryu’s first.
He should follow her; Haruka could use a hand for the dinner preparations.
Absently Kiryu wondered if Majima could cook.