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Fall Down, Never Get Back Up Again

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“..and step~ Lift, step, lift..”

“I told you, stop that.”

Kousaku couldn’t say for sure if Kurosaki’s teeth are gritted in protest to the throbbing pain or to grind down and dim the full extent of his frustration, but he obediently falls silent either way.

 As their feet slowly clank shuffle clank up the iron stairs, Kurosaki clearly hears Kousaku continuing to mutter the rhythm under his breath. Begrudging the other man breathing seems rather harsh even by his standards, though, so Kurosaki sucks in a deep breath and focuses instead on the balance of leaning against the solid form beside him and resting tentative weight on his swollen ankle.

Climbing the stairs to Kurosaki’s apartment soon proves to be the most painstaking part of their journey, only emphasised by Kousaku’s painfully tight grip around Kurosaki’s waist and Kurosaki’s intense dislike of the contact.
 Generally Kurosaki is a great one for suffering in silence, but when it becomes apparent that it’s either accept the fingers digging into his ribs or crawl, his remaining scrap of pride wins out, and they slowly, slowly approach the door.

“You should go home now.” Another deep breath, and Kurosaki stumbles from Kousaku’s vice grip to support himself against the wall. “This has been enough. More than enough.”

Kousaku looks uncertain, a deep frown creasing his brow, and he suddenly doesn’t know what to do with his now empty hands. His fingers, knuckles and wrists have all suffered as a result of the situation an hour previous, but Kurosaki’s injured ankle and frequent spells of dizziness are of more immediate concern than a few scrapes - he’s more than used to grazing his hands during training.

Sensing Kousaku’s obvious apprehension to leave, Kurosaki disregards his lack of response and, with a long, low hiss, slowly starts to make his way through the doorframe. In the time it takes him to remove his shoes - stumbling as he tries to toe off one, leaning against the wall with another hiss as he gingerly works the other off of his injured foot - Kousaku has already excused himself, kicked off his sneakers and pushed the door shut behind them.

Standing rigidly at Kurosaki’s side, barefoot and with adrenaline still catching in his breath, Kousaku couldn’t look more eager to be of assistance.
 Kurosaki raises an eyebrow and, predictably, ignores the attention. When he sets out on the arduous task of hobbling to the bedroom, however, Kousaku is quick to follow.

Although often a challenging prospect, Kousaku has always enjoyed spending time with Kurosaki - unsuccessfully interrogating him for details of his well-being, sneaking brief glimpses of the hordes of intriguing items littered throughout the apartment, and, more than anything, feeding their equally as voracious appetites. Maybe Kurosaki will be hungry after all of that expended energy (punches to the face must burn up some calories). Kousaku is hopeful, as the fight - as all fights do - has left his stomach feeling good as empty.

“Ne, Kuro-kun~” Kousaku pouts furiously, one bruised hand pressed to his rumbling stomach and the other clutching Kurosaki’s waist to aid him on his way to the walk-in closet. Kurosaki flinches, quick to shrug off the supportive hold. His ankle gives way at the sudden movement, and after some ungraceful arm flailing, sends him toppling into the nearest bookcase.
 Books thudding to the ground around his awkwardly angled feet, Kurosaki shoots Kousaku a glare - obviously that had been his fault - and wastes no time on trying to compose himself, inching his way into the closet with a white-knuckled grip on the shelves and door frame.

Kousaku had realized during the shower of books that now was most likely not the ideal time to mention his famished state - not that it was anyone’s fault but Kurosaki’s own if he wanted to be stubborn enough to go sailing into things - but to amend his non-mistake (and to provide distraction from the ever more persistent tummy rumbles) Kousaku crouches down and starts to gather the fallen books.

The first two, heavy and with deep green covers, look far too confusing for Kousaku to even consider skimming through, and the third, after checking the centre of the thick wedge of paper for secret compartments, Kousaku finds equally as unenthralling. Slotting them back into what he assumes are the right places, Kousaku’s lower lip starts to curl into a pout at the prospect of Kurosaki’s life not being as eternally fascinating as he had always imagined. The thought of the ever mysterious and closed off man he has befriended owning nothing but legal text books the size of breezeblocks disappoints Kousaku enormously; where were the ones hollowed out to contain keys? The ones that would teach the swindler obscure foreign languages and the art of reading lips?

They must just be hidden, Kousaku determines, and his sore fingers start to brush along the spines as he mutters titles under his breath.
“Law and The Criminal Justice system volume 12.. Volume 13.. Advanced proceedings of The Criminal Justice system.. What is this?” Kousaku whines to the empty room, and almost jumps a foot in the air when a reply of, “None of your damned business” precedes Kurosaki’s limping form.

Kousaku sputters, gesturing to the shelves now restored to order. “I was just..”

“I’m going for a shower.” Kurosaki shows Kousaku a pointed glare, considerably weaker than the one he had shot him from his pool of blood in the corner of that parking lot several hours previously.
 Now out of his layered disguise Kurosaki at least seems more comfortable in the heat contained in his apartment, and without the beads of sweat constantly forming and reforming across his forehead and upper lip, Kousaku isn’t quiet as concerned. The drained blood still has yet to return to his face, and Kousaku doesn’t miss the slight tremble of Kurosaki’s fingers when he sweeps damp hair from his eyes, but he at least looks more alert than previously.

“Do not touch a single thing.” Gesturing to the room as a whole, Kurosaki turns on his still fully functional heel after Kousaku grumbles his promises, slumping in defeat.

More than anything (other than maybe some sukiyaki) Kousaku wants to rummage through the chaos of Kurosaki’s work - specifically, he wants to emerge from the closet a transformed person like he’s seen Kurosaki do so many times before. Kousaku, however, to his disadvantage, is an open book to all who look at him; even if Kurosaki by the nature of his work looks slightly deeper, it’s always plainly apparent when Kousaku is about to launch himself in full enthusiasm at something.
 Kurosaki knows that to Kousaku all of this is a game, and has quickly perfected the art of shooting him down.

Huffing, Kousaku spins on his heel and makes his way to the bed. When he throws himself down onto it the resistance almost bounces him straight back off, and he huffs again. The most uncomfortable bed he’s ever had the displeasure to lay in. Typical.

Really, though, Kousaku expects to be rejected. From the little he knows of Kurosaki, it never comes as a surprise to him when he snubs any attempt at physical contact, let alone affection. Yet Kousaku, who can’t help but be giving by his nature, finds himself constantly frustrated when his persistence never appears to pay off. Had diving into that fight been selfish? Yes, his heart had ached at the sight of Kurosaki’s bloodied form on the verge of unconsciousness, but he’d have willingly helped anyone in that situation. Fighting outside of the ring is always unpleasant, and Kousaku doubts he’d have broken as many bones in sake of it had it not been Kurosaki he was fighting for, but..

Kousaku tires quickly of too much thought on instinctual actions; if adrenaline races through his system he responds. If exceptionally large bowls of udon are (with any luck) placed in front of him, thought isn’t required for him to do the exact right thing. If his heart flutters like a caged butterfly against his chest whenever in the presence of a particular person, Kousaku sees no reason to question it.

“You, off there.”

Eyes flying open, Kousaku scrambles up and hastily smoothes out the sheets, rough and warm from his body, and all of the grazed skin on his palms catches like little pin pricks.

Kurosaki watches on with disapproval as he continues to towel dry his hair, reminding Kousaku with a soft, worn voice that he’d never been invited in, let alone to make himself comfortable. Not that Kousaku has ever had a tendency to take in Kurosaki’s annoyance, but he’s somehow always full of heartfelt apologies and smiles bright enough to light up the shadows of even Kurosaki’s terminally dark world.
“And don’t think I’m feeding you.” Kurosaki adds for good measure, and Kousaku spins to show him a horrified look.

His jaw falls slack. Kurosaki’s towel sits low on his hips, stray droplets still beaded over his tanned skin; thin trails of water glint in the stark square of midday sunlight glaring through the window, mapping out each intricate dip and curve of his toned torso.
 Purely as a boxer Kousaku can admire his figure - has to think back to the fight and wonder why Kurosaki struggled to fend from himself when he could obviously match Kousaku in strength. In a less professional view, Kousaku’s interest is thinly veiled as he stammers in time with his frantic pulse before choking out an intelligent, “But.

“But nothing. Get out.” Kurosaki tilts his head towards the door, bringing the bruises blossoming across his jaw into the square of light. Only then does Kousaku notice fresh blood seeping from the wounds, all in a cluster around Kurosaki’s slightly swollen eye, cheek and split lip.  His main adversary had obviously been left handed, and most likely wearing a sovereign ring from the look of some of the more precisely angled strikes. Kousaku hopes it was whoever had done this who’s collarbone he had broken on impact.

His own cuts and bruises (and Kurosaki’s order to leave) again promptly dismissed, Kousaku bounds towards the younger man - or as much as one could bound without treading on something in the small amount of floor space. “I’ve been trained,” he squawks, losing Kurosaki instantly. “No, I mean, do you have gauze or.. A box! Someone of your.. uhmm, profession, must have a medical box, right?”
Especially someone of his profession that, if today was any measure to go by, often took a beating for his efforts.

It’s several minutes of arms crossed over chests and heavy sighs before eventually Kurosaki unwillingly concedes, only agreeing to disclose the box’s location when Kousaku’s ever eager grabby hands threaten to descend on his organized chaos in search of it.

 

Streams of gauze tape later, Kousaku’s wounded knee has finally received the attention it had so far been lacking, and the more tender of his hands was tightly bound; impressively so, Kurosaki had to admit.

“Are there more to take on? I’m ready to go again now!”

Kurosaki watches on as Kousaku jabs his bandaged hand at an invisible form with every bit as much enthusiasm as he had done during the fight. Striking a pose after delivering the finishing move - something Kurosaki could only imagine would behead his opponent - Kousaku’s expression is as open and genuine as it’s ever been when he announces that he has a proposition. Kurosaki shrugs.

“Kuro-kun, let me stay with you.” Kousaku says, excitement and tension brimming at the edge of his words. “Let me help you. Let me work with you.” he continues, earnest and eager and shifting his weight from one foot to the other with little hops.

A moment of silence passes as the proposal sinks in, and then the minute amount of feelings and affection Kurosaki had been starting to feel (blamed on the lethargic warmth of the room and his possibly concussed state) vanishes. The shutters behind his eyes slams closed again; no, no one can be let into his world. Regardless of his feelings, or of Kousaku’s possible uses, there’s nothing but rejection, no matter how imploringly Kousaku looks up at him as he settles on his knees to further unpack the contents of the medical box.

Not ever one to let small setbacks put him down when there are so many other options, Kousaku is entirely undeterred by the ominous lack of response as he rummages for something to clean Kurosaki’s wounds with. “Well, anyway, it’ll only take a few moments to fix you up. I see injuries like this a~ll the time, so I know just what..”

“I’ll do it myself.”

Kurosaki’s split lip twinges. The wetness slowly creeping down his jaw, and his ankle, twice its normal size, should be easy enough to deal with. Admittedly it’s rare for the medical box to feature in Kurosaki’s day regardless of shape or size of injury, and admittedly he’d never had huge amounts of success in neatly, efficiently patching himself up..

“Don’t be silly!” Already brandishing another ream of gauze, Kousaku edges closer on his knees and reaches for Kurosaki’s ankle, fingers spread wide and moving cautiously as though he’s about to pick up a snarling wild animal.
Kurosaki’s frame tenses at the comment, and the feral beast in Kousaku’s mind lengthens it’s bared teeth by a few inches.

Vivid imagery aside, it doesn’t take Kousaku long to have Kurosaki’s ankle tightly bound once he gets hold of it. He pats it gently, “There, all done.” and matches Kurosaki’s grimace at the gesture. Oops.

“I don’t want you to make it better.” Kurosaki glares fiercely, eyes boring into those wide, expressive pools of near black. And then his own coal black eyes widen when he sees the soft expression Kousaku has turned on him, not a hint of fear or anger, or even frustration, like that girl with her down-turned mouth and constant tears had shown him.

“It won’t hurt for long. I’ll be extra super careful.” Kousaku says with a bright smile, either entirely oblivious to Kurosaki’s obvious detest or far more genuinely caring than Kurosaki had initially thought. Living with deep settled wariness and not trusting a single soul is the way Kurosaki’s life has become, and he’s fine with this - quite likes the solitude - but Kousaku’s voice is as gentle as the look in his eyes, and for a long, unsettled moment, Kurosaki has no idea what to make of it.

Sunlight dances and flickers on, off, on, off over Kousaku’s hands when Kurosaki retreats further onto the bed and gives a fierce tug at the blinds cord. At this point in the day, though, the sun has already done it’s damage - glared through the glass and heated the apartment up like a greenhouse. It dims the room considerably, and Kurosaki rigidly settles back down while Kousaku fishes for cotton wool in the box.

“It’s nice here at this time of year,” Kousaku pipes up when the silence starts to drag on and the creaks of protest from the mattress under his knees are painfully loud. “You must be so cold during winter. It’s been cold whenever I’ve been here. I mean, it’s cold anyway.. When I’m cold in winter then --”

Kurosaki’s hand shoots out to grip Kousaku’s wrist with a sharp slap. Kousaku blinks, waves the alcohol soaked ball of cotton with his fingertips. “Kuro-kun, it won’t hurt for long. I promise~”

It takes a considerable amount of Kurosaki’s already fraught patience not to just snap. The ache building behind his eye combined with the suffocating humidity and mounting irritation at life as a whole leaves him wanting to yell in Kousaku’s face that he’s missing the entire point, and really, why was he even still here? But when he settles for rejecting the unwanted attention by force alone, it’s to Kurosaki’s angered surprise that Kousaku doesn’t so much as flinch.
 The elder man’s eyes sparkle with playful determination as he continues to disregard the all too serious side of the situation, and he pushes back against Kurosaki’s straining arm with enough force to tear a stunned yelp from him.

Smiling brightly when Kurosaki’s calloused fingers slowly loosen and then drop in defeat, Kousaku takes a deep breath, pauses for the little lurch his stomach gives as he leans in.

“I know it can be difficult to let people help you sometimes, but it’s not all that bad, right?”

 

Things progress considerably faster after Kurosaki unwillingly accepts that in his current state he’s little match for neither Kousaku’s apparent strength nor his eagerness to help. And after almost launching them into a security alert when he called for a takeaway (‘damn it, Kousaku, don’t ever tell anyone my name and address’) Kousaku had wisely opted to leave and collect their meal in preference to thinking up an alias and starting a new life in Hokkaido to safely have a pizza delivered.

 

Kurosaki had been fast asleep when he’d returned, arms stacked high with cardboard boxes and a plastic bag of extras precariously perched on top. Features soft and muscles finally un-tense, Kurosaki looks almost peaceful, Kousaku thought as he wiped his sweat-beaded brow before making a start on unpacking their meal.

 

Fingers greasy and tender from handling the hot food, Kousaku had gently traced the single raised, white scar spanning Kurosaki’s upper arm. He’d knelt before the bed and rested his chin on folded arms, and just watched Kurosaki peacefully existing.
 “I wish I could make everything bad go away.” he’d said at an unintentional volume - thinking out loud - and promptly tripped over and empty pizza box in his hurry to escape Kurosaki’s slowly waking form.

By night, bellies full of warm, greasy food (and Kurosaki’s topped off with painkillers), the previous tension between them has become lost in the airless, humid summer night. Legs stretched out in front of him and a hand patting his heavy stomach, Kousaku is calm for the first time since he leapt out of his futon that morning. Kurosaki is a heavy weight pressed snugly to his side, and vaguely, between thoughts regarding if he could fit in more dessert if he rested for a little longer, Kousaku wonders if his lean shoulder is much use as a pillow.

“Why are you so damned bony when you eat like that?” Kurosaki mutters as if on cue (hypocritically, Kousaku thinks, considering he had generously let Kurosaki have slightly more than his fair share) and lifts his head, just to drop it back down at a slightly differing angle, the more prominent bone pressing into his cheek. “..though if you didn’t eat like that, you probably couldn’t fight, huh.”

“Mm.. not really. Actually, I keep going over my weight category. But aaah!” Kousaku kicks his outstretched legs. “I need energy! How am I supposed to not eat takoyaki? And yakisoba, and..”

“Ice cream sundaes,” Kurosaki contributes, and Kousaku’s head lolls, cheekbone tickled by soft black strands as he mumbles a happy, ‘Ya~y, ice cream sundaes’ against Kurosaki’s hair.

Wearily unalert both from the lethargic heat and the horse tranquilizer of a painkiller Kousaku had managed to convince him into taking (‘no dessert for Kuro-kun unless he takes his medicine~’), Kurosaki’s response to Kousaku’s head resting heavily ontop his own is no more than a grunt.

It had taken many long, cold nights before Kurosaki had truly adjusted to solitude again after she had gone away. The tenant in her place had been a quiet man that Kurosaki rarely caught sight of, but the few occasions he had, often on the stairway laden with shopping, injuries or thick wedges of money, he’d made his irrational dislike known.
 The process had been slow, working over in the back of Kurosaki’s mind as he threw himself into his work with abandon, just like in the beginning. Years of learning, experiencing, had taught him to be calm and cautious. And just like that, loss had erased everything. It was only when the first snow to bring the local train lines to halt had fallen that Kurosaki rediscovered his love of loneliness; snow in his hair, on his raw fingertips, and the dim silence filling him with the same refreshing serenity as the icy air.

Time passed and passed, and Kurosaki slowly started to find his routine becoming appealing again - waking alone, going about his life as and when he pleased; settling his aching limbs on the cold, cold floor and drinking bowl after bowlful of miso so mellow his mouth felt progressively drier with each sip.
 Heavy-laden sakura slowly started to unfurl, and Kurosaki’s heart was tight, tighter still than the unwilling buds yet to bloom. And then he’d met Kousaku. And then they’d met again, and again - fate, as Kousaku with his fervent optimism (and ever-present opportunistic streak) liked to call it, or unfortunate coincidences, as Kurosaki preferred.

 

“..ne, Kuro-kun.”

“Mm?”

At some point they must have both drifted off. Kurosaki suspects he went first. Even through bleary eyes he can see that the time is approaching midnight, yet still the apartment is as stifling as midday.

Through his eyelashes Kousaku sees reds, greens and blues dancing and fading in and out as numerous cell phones spread over Kurosaki’s desk signal missed calls and new messages. The second, third, fourth and fifth secret life played out in each of the phones could just wait for a few more hours, Kousaku decides for him.
 “Maybe.. at the gym they’ll wonder where I’ve gone, or I’ll get yelled at and put on a diet when I get back, but.. do I have to leave?”

“Sleep on the floor,” Kurosaki mutters after a moment of hazy thought. “Or in the closet. Or.. you could, at least, if I didn’t know you’d get your hands on everything the moment my eyes are closed.”

“Your eyes have been closed for ages and my hands have been on their best behaviour.” Kousaku pouts, wiggling his bruised fingers.

“Get off my bed. Sleep on the floor.”
 But Kurosaki feels as though he’s heavy as lead, molten liquid and he would sink straight through the tatami if he moved. Kousaku doesn’t encourage him, just tilts his head, presses his lips to Kurosaki’s hair. “’m never going to leave you,” he tells Kurosaki in the tiniest little voice, “Never going to let you feel alone again.”

And if Kurosaki had put a response into words, it was long lost into the night.

 

Blood red fills Kurosaki’s vision the moment he wakes; the blinds are wide open and a strong ray of sunlight spans his head and torso, lighting up his eyelids. The second thing he registers is pain - an ache deep-set in his cheek and brow bone when he squints in the morning light.
The third is the smell of curry. Sweetness and spice hit the back of his throat along with choking humidity, and Kurosaki’s stomach churns.

“Ah, good morning, Kuro-kun~” Another wave of heat and honey apple curry reaches Kurosaki as his bedroom door is yanked fully open. “You look a lot better today~ Would you like some water? Tea? Green tea, coffee, orange juice, or maybe..”

“No. Thanks, but..” Kurosaki interjects when Kousaku starts to bounce on his heels as he itemizes, “I’ll get ready in my own time.”

The unfaltering enthusiasm Kousaku greets every aspect of life with is almost endearing, in an exasperating sort of way, but within his first waking seconds is too much for Kurosaki’s incorrigibly short temper to comfortably withstand.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to Kousaku when the bedroom door slams in his face; he bites his lip, grins, and cheerfully calls out to Kurosaki that his breakfast is ready as he bounds back to the kitchen.

Thankfully it transpires that breakfast is no more than a lukewarm bowl of plain rice, not the large pot of curry still simmering away on the stove. Either prospect isn’t particularly welcome to Kurosaki’s offended senses, but eventually hunger outweighs his stubborn pride and he wordlessly drags himself to the kitchen table.

Kousaku finishes off his last mouthful as Kurosaki takes his first, looking mournfully into the ever so empty bowl.
 “Ah, well~ They won’t know I didn’t have breakfast at the gym.” Brightening up considerably at this thought, Kousaku rinses his bowl in the sink, rubs his un-bandaged hand dry on the leg of his sweatpants, and sets about serving up the vat of curry bubbling furiously on the stove.

“It looks good, Kuro-kun~ I’m jealous.” Ladling thick sauce over rice, Kousaku fills two bowls to the brim before Kurosaki even notices the amount in the pot starting to decrease. “Maybe if there’s a little left over I could try some..”

Two bowls quickly multiply to four, and Kousaku soon starts to run out of counter space, at which point Kurosaki demands that he eat some rather than finding it a new home balanced precariously around the kitchen. Kousaku doesn’t complain.

 

“Ah~ So, Kuro-kun, there’s three days worth here, ok?” Kousaku tells Kurosaki sternly as he covers each bowl with film wrap. In reality it’s more like a weeks supply, but Kurosaki says nothing in protest as he watched Kousaku’s stiff bandaged fingers folding in the loose edges of film. “I hope you’ll eat it all. You need to eat for energy, Kuro-kun, and to make yourself big and strong~”

This isn’t the first time that Kurosaki has been reprimanded for his poor eating habits, nor the first time he’s had others well intentions forced on him in the form of home cooking (although it's undoubtedly the first time he‘s been talked to like a five year old). Catching sight of the contents of a bowl on it’s way into the fridge, Kurosaki thinks this may, however, be the first time he hasn’t thrown it out. It doesn’t surprise him in the least that Kousaku cooks meals to his taste, after how often the elder man has joined him for meals uninvited and finished every last bite.

Chasing the last few grains of rice around his bowl, Kurosaki considers the events of yesterday and this morning and finds himself distinctly lacking in any anger. He’d let someone in, and as of yet, nothing bad had happened.
 “Thnkyu.” he grinds out around his chopsticks, head lowered.

Pleasantly surprised, Kousaku turns to him with a wide smile. The tension in Kurosaki’s hunched shoulders is plain to see, and Kousaku can only assume the younger man is rather out of his emotional depth if he’s going as far as to express gratitude in his own.. special way.
 A gentle pat on the back is as little as Kousaku can narrow his response down to, and even so Kurosaki’s frame stiffens with more tension.

 

It’s gone 11am when Kousaku eventually decides that he should probably be getting back. Kurosaki’s and his own dressings are changed, the mess remaining from last night’s meal is cleared away, and Kousaku blinks when he finds himself face to face with Kurosaki as he straightens from pulling on his sneakers.

“Thanks for letting me stay over,” Kousaku’s cheeks flare with heat as he grins, dipping his head in a little bow and sounding to all the world as though the situation had been nothing like the reality. “It’s been fun~ If you come visit me sometime I can let you in to use the gym. We could train together.”

“You’d knock me out.” Kurosaki says dryly.

Kousaku can’t decide if Kurosaki is teasing (unlikely, for someone of Kurosaki’s demeanour) or annoyed by the fact. He isn’t given the opportunity to dwell on it when a tanned arm suddenly extends at his side, palm pressing firmly to the wall and effectively blocking his path to the door.

Thud thud thud goes Kousaku’s heart, hammering against his chest with such intensity he can’t help but break into a grin; experiencing a feeling so strong is always something to smile about. Blinking up at Kurosaki without a hint of trying to conceal excited apprehension, Kousaku isn’t deterred in the least by the scowl his eager expression is met with.

Kurosaki’s gaze flickers to the floor and back, he clears his throat. “Why won’t you leave me alone?”
 And then Kousaku’s intense focus softens as he realizes that Kurosaki isn’t angry with him; he’s putting his emotions on display.

Strong slivers of sunlight have crept their way through the apartment since Kousaku first woke Kurosaki, lighting up the dull little space and creating a sharp spike in the temperature. Heat building under the fabric of Kousaku’s tracksuit intensifies as pleasant little shocks of adrenaline ripple through him; sweat trickles down his lower back, tickles the skin, and Kurosaki scowls a second time at Kousaku’s apparent amusement.
 Kousaku shakes his head, starts to bounce on his heels again.

“Because I like you. A lot. Lots, Kuro-kun. I.. ooh~” Bruised hands shoot up to clasp over Kousaku’s mouth as he gasps sharply, eyes ever wider and bright with excitement. “Maybe I love you.”

This newly discovered prospect sends them both reeling; Kousaku promptly starts to hop up and down as he gabbles more to himself than the man in question, while Kurosaki thumps his head against the wall, muffling an exasperated groan with his forearm.
Love. Why love, of all things?

“Wait, wait.” After peeling his face from the wall and stilling Kousaku with a firm grip on each shoulder, Kurosaki’s senses quickly return. “Why only maybe? Shouldn’t you know for sure before you tell someone something like that?”

Considering this, Kousaku frowns deeply. “I want you to be safe. And happy, and not lonely, and healthy.” He then blinks up at Kurosaki for approval. “Isn’t that kind of like love?”

Shuttering when the question turns on him, Kurosaki finds his mouth suddenly dry, words catching in the back of his throat when he attempts a simple ‘no’. And then he’s missed his chance; Kousaku’s face flares with heat as he continues, Kurosaki quickly following suit until his cheeks are almost the same shade as the darkened bruises littering his jaw.

“Falling asleep with you was good. And I’d.. I’d like to hold hands.”

Kurosaki’s brows raise, and his eyes dart to Kousaku’s bandaged hand as though seeing it would serve as some kind of confirmation that he had heard correctly.

“And sometimes. Sometimes, maybe..” A shy grin creeps over Kousaku’s face, nervous excitement betrayed by the slight tremble in his stubby, bruised fingers when they press to Kurosaki’s chest, cautiously gripping and curling into the soft cotton. “Maybe k..iss?”

“Kiss.” Kurosaki repeats flatly, his voice dark and draining all of the magic from the word. Involvement with the lips of others wasn’t something he was overly familiar with, nor did he particularly want it to be.
 Kousaku was in a similar position, having spent the majority of his years eating, training or irritating people. Though his capacity to learn is as great as his appetite, his hands tugging eagerly at Kurosaki’s vest.

Quickly getting the hint, Kurosaki gives Kousaku a long, measured look before heaving a sigh. His chest expands beneath Kousaku’s fingertips, sinking away on the exhale, and then suddenly Kousaku finds his hands trapped between them.

“One.” Kurosaki grumbles under his breath, leaving the ‘for everything you’ve done and maybe I could like you, too’ unspoken and for Kousaku to interpret for himself, which he appears to within seconds as his grin spreads from ear to ear.
 Perhaps making someone’s eyes light up like that isn’t such a bad feeling. Kurosaki muses over this somewhat new experience until the solid lines of their bodies are suddenly pressed at an angle he finds rather overly familiar, but their slight difference in height and the strength behind Kousaku leaves any attempt to change this ineffective.

Kousaku audibly gulps as he moves to lean in, falters, takes a deep breath, and Kurosaki rolls his eyes.
“You’re not getting another one if you don’t take this one.”

If it was an empty threat or not, Kousaku didn’t like to take the risk.

The first time he leans in surprises them both; Kousaku’s lips bump a bruise at the corner of Kurosaki’s mouth, so fast it isn’t until Kurosaki has finished cursing that Kousaku realizes he misaimed.
 “I missed! I missed, it didn’t count.”

“That’s not..” Kurosaki starts, but he never gets to finish; Kousaku’s second attempt is far more successful, if slightly over enthusiastic (but then again, when does Kousaku ever do anything that isn’t slightly over enthusiastic).

For a second, maybe two, Kurosaki can’t find fault in the feel of warm, damp lips pressed to his own. He can almost understand why kissing is so popular, almost tilts his head so their noses don’t meet at such an awkward angle, almost presses against Kousaku’s lean form with more force.

For Kousaku, however, his heart thundering in his chest and throat and drumming in his ears so loud he’s surprised it doesn’t echo around the room proves too much.

Kurosaki wrinkles his nose when Kousaku abruptly pulls back and the action creates an embarrassing little smack sound between them. Kousaku desperately draws for air as though he’s been submerged in water while Kurosaki’s split lip starts to twinge from the contact, and the moment is most definitely over.

For how resistant Kurosaki has always been to the feelings of others, although he’s feigning indifference and scrubbing at his lips to rid them of Kou-germs, watching Kousaku’s dramatic struggle to remember how to breathe is almost oddly endearing. Kousaku himself, the night they’ve spent together, and this morning are almost oddly endearing. And then Kurosaki realizes; Kousaku has cared for him just the way he is, offered to help him rather than try to stop him. And made him enough curry to last a week. Maybe he’s not so bad to have around after all.

Kousaku’s breathing falls uneven all over again when he glances up at Kurosaki to find a hint of a smile on his lips, but Kurosaki just shakes his head. “Get out of here,” He says with a gentle push at Kousaku’s shoulder, not a hint of the previous aggression in his voice.  Kousaku tries to turn and look at him again, bouncing along on the tips of his toes as he’s steered towards the door, but Kurosaki is having none of it.

It’s not until Kousaku is clear of the door, three steps down on the blood specked iron and staring up at Kurosaki with an expression more suited to a kicked puppy, that Kurosaki gives him the chance to speak again.

“Slowly, quietly.” Kurosaki raises a hand and lowers his eyes to meet Kousaku’s in warning when he can see that the elder man is about to launch into an excitable rant he’d far rather the other occupants of the complex didn’t hear. “And then leave.”

“I will leave,” Kousaku whines as quietly as he can manage, “But not until you promise I can come back.”

The younger man rolls his eyes - of course there has to be a bargain - and shrugs a shoulder. He’s not sure if making him crack a smile for the first time in god knows how long is enough to merit Kousaku being given visitors rights (because Kurosaki knows once Kousaku thinks he’s welcome he’ll never see the back of him again), but Kurosaki is fair. Or at least, he’s fair to people that provide him with so much free food.

“I’m working all week,” Kurosaki rests his hands on the sun-warmed metal railing, then rests his chin on his hands as he peers down at the boxer. “But if the temperature stays so high and the humidity doesn’t drop, maybe I’ll need a break.”

Cicadas screech and whir in the background while Kousaku’s eyes search Kurosaki’s expression; that hint of a smile, warm and direct, and somehow Kurosaki has that way of making him know he’s caused it. “I.. ice cream!” Kousaku blurts out when the moment has lasted just long enough for it to verge on being awkward. There‘s sweat beading on his brow and under his clothes again, and ice cream doesn‘t really sound too absurd of a suggestion. “Ice cream will help with that. You should-- we should eat ice cream.”

Leaning further over the railing, Kurosaki raises an eyebrow, shows Kousaku a bored little pout. “Are you inviting me?”

“Am I?” Kousaku gawps, spins to look around himself as though someone will be there to prompt him, then waves frantically to Kurosaki as his head snaps back up to look at him. “I am! Kuro-kun, come eat ice cream with me?”

Today is the first time in too long to remember that Kurosaki has felt anything but sinking weight in his chest; it’s not anything as blunt and direct as happiness, but it bubbles up and almost leaves him dizzy (and this time it’s not concussion).
Shaking his head, Kurosaki curls and points his fingers until they resemble a gun that he then cocks towards Kousaku over the railing. “Bang.” He grins, then lowers his head and gives it another shake before disappearing back inside without another glance back at the man on the stairs.

Kousaku staggers back with a hand clasped to his chest. He ruffles his hair, tugs at his tracksuit, glances back up at the apartment and yells, “I’LL SEE YOU SOON, KURO-KUN” as loud as his humidity clogged lungs will allow. Predictably there’s no response, but Kousaku’s grin just spreads wider as he hops down the stairs and into the street, and he skips all the way back to the gym.