Eventually Kai woke back up.
Slowly he blinked, his eyes opening to the cool blue sky above him, taking in the drifting clouds dotted across it. He could immediately tell he was laying down somewhere on his back. Grass instead of concrete though, was he out of that base or something now..? Before confusion could fully take over his senses he turned his head slightly.
Sitting next to him on the ground, his legs crossed looking down at him, was Kei.
He was scowling a little.
Seems like Kai regaining consciousness didn't change that fact much, but he couldn't quite tell just yet anyway. He was distracted by how sore his whole chest and entire body felt. Bits of his memory before he blacked out came flashing back, in and out, he noted that Kei also looked tired. Really, really tired.
Before he could ask it himself, Kei started to explain what had happened. Where they were, a little ways away from the base on a patch of grass in a lonely slightly less torn down park. He was dragged there by Kei and a friend of his whose name Kai didn't recognise, up a ladder and out of a sewer ( a sewer...? Kai wondered ). He explained it was over now, the carnage, the death, how they’d gotten Sato, the aforementioned ‘bad guy’ and that he was finally just. free. to just wander off, but for some reason he’d gone to get Kai first, and then eventually he said-
Kai blinks for a moment at the statement before he turns his head away from Kei to stare back up at the sky. “Oh.” a beat passes “I guess that's why i can taste blood in my mouth” he stays there laid out on the grass thinking, not sure how else to process the information yet, his mind feeling like it was filled with static.
Despite how much it looked like Kei was running on empty at the moment, he still seemed to have enough energy to give Kai a disapproving look over the comment, trying to form a reply "you are just... unbelievable... you know that? that's all you have to say?" He watched his shoulders slump slightly, like he barely had the energy to continue talking about it yet he still stared right at him, into him.
Eventually, Kai turns his head back enough to make eye contact with him again, red meeting gold "...well i already told you right?" -that he's an idiot, that is, his memories of their last conversation resurfacing now in his mind. He feels himself unconsciously clench his hands a little in the grass underneath him "...you know i figured id probably get myself done in doing something without thinking someday... that ended up happening real fast though huh” he pauses before going on “but i don't think i know... any other way to do things"
As soon as he says it aloud he almost immediately regrets it, seeing how it makes his own view of himself seem, his bullheaded selfless instinct for other people, for Kei, bright on display. That gets him a proper scowl from the other boy again.
"You.." Kei breathes in, as if trying to form his thoughts and calm himself at the same time "You know all I've done after dragging you out of that damn sewer with Kou is stare at you for the past 15 minutes wishing you were more selfish. I think Kou thought i was worried you'd actually died after all, the way he was eyeballing me" he watches Kei grit his teeth for a moment, Kai briefly wonders where this Kou is exactly at the moment, but he lets the thought fall to the back of his mind.
Kei continues pushing on with his lecture however "you might not know this but things you do have consequences for you too, you- you only ever did things for my sake when this started, a guy who hadn't even talked to you properly in years” properly ignored, even, Kei thought “but all it took was one phone call and you were right there" he doesn't mention or explain the fact that he still remembered Kai’s number in the back of his mind for no reason, after all those said years, seemingly useless information.
"-its- it was abnormal if i think about it now, how can-could you even do that for me? for anyone even? I thought about it after I left and I still can't wrap my head around how you could just..." Inside himself Kei could slowly feel a deep anger (sadness) building that he couldn't quite reason with, Kai was...stupid sure, but he thought he was well past getting worked up about anything else in life today after all that's already happened.
"-and then i watched you die in front of me. For no damn reason at all" Kei clenched his hands in his pants where he sat, his vision beginning to swim recalling the emotion. Echoes of what he’d felt when he’d sparked that godforsaken flood flickered up inside him, it almost made him feel nauseous.
Kai stared back at him, his face still, but his eyes seemed to be processing the words as they came out. Kei wondered if what he was saying was hurting him, but found himself growing too angry to stop.
"I- do you even care about yourself? Do you have any idea how to even live for yourself, why do you keep doing this for me. Why can't you just look out for your own damn self like anyone else would, we aren't friends! we haven't been for years, so why- why couldn't you.." -why do you care about me? is what goes unsaid. Kei finds himself panting slightly after the outburst, stunned at how strong his own reaction is, before he forces himself to start calming back down, growing self conscious at his own emotions.
Kai continues staring at him for a few seconds that turn into a minute, before he slowly begins to sit up with a wince. His mouth now pressed into a hard line, he looks down and away from Kei’s face and eyes before speaking, guiltily. Like he already knows what he's about to admit proves Kei right, like he already knows this all in some sad ironic way.
"...i've always thought you have to look out for others, before anything else you have to be there for people, i don't even think about it. It’s like an instinct, i don't think about what comes after” Kei watches him rub the back of his head tiredly as he stares down at the grass and dirt.
"You go out of your way no matter what, you have their back, you stay loyal to them even if they can't. Maybe even because they can't. Strangers or friends, doesn't matter" he drops his hand from his neck, still looking down "...but it's tiring y’know. if you never get it back. Even when you don't expect it back, or hold it against them, even when you understand. I never actually thought about that until now. But it is. and i still just can't stop myself from doing it. Even if they drop me like a light after, even if they don't need me"
Even if ‘you’ don't need me, is what he means, Kei thinks, Kai gives a pitying laugh "i guess i'm pathetic huh… maybe something really is wrong with me".
Kei stares at him, at the top of Kai's bowed head, bleach blonde and still stained slightly with the colour of his own blood he was laying in only an hour ago, and he can only think one word.
He bites his lip to stop whatever feeling is bubbling inside him at the sight of Kai from bursting out. A feeling he doesn't recognize, a desire to make something wrong right, to want to flex and change something so basic about reality with his own two hands.
People are selfish. they should be selfish. Kei is selfish, it's how he's lived and how he can sit here now a victor in the aftermath, with Sato in a box never to be seen again, and him sitting under the open sky. Kai's actions are illogical and destructive, all they seem to do is hurt him over and over again.
Yet Kei also knows it's because of those same actions that he wasn't alone at the start of all this, why he even had a moment of respite to jump off from, how Kai had somehow kept him from losing his mind. Memories of him ping-ponging around in his dreams even after he'd left him, the fantasy of him being there to take him away from it all still somehow being a comfort.
All these feelings combined that had made him so desperate to drag Kai back to the land of the living. Nothing else but one single desire, the pure need to try to pay him back for any of it, swirling around in his mind like a vortex.
Never get it back, huh.
Kei shuts his eyes tight and breathes, the next sentence tumbles out his mouth before he can think better of saying it at all, cringing at the sound of his own words. He’s the idiot now, he thinks, for feeling like this at all, why did he need to pay Kai back for anything, he’d done all of this of his own free will.
"you were…” he almost falters but continues “i don't even know if you fully understand just how much you did for me Kai, what it meant to me then, now".
God, this was easier to get through when he was just yelling at Kai’s lifeless body in the sewer, without him being able to actually listen and acknowledge him. But the image of Kai hunched over in front of him right now was burning a hole into his eyes and he itched. To do what, fix it? Something. Anything.
Kai seems to lift his head slightly at the surprisingly touching admission, and as Kei gets a brief glimpse of his eyes again, he gets a feeling in his gut that tells him Kai understands the weight, at least on some level. He rallies himself somehow against that gaze and continues.
“...back then all I could do to repay you for that was to get you out of it. I couldn't have you die for me, you were too vulnerable. I know it would have happened eventually” the image of him crumpled over in the river flashes again in Kei’s mind “In fact I fully refused to give you the chance. But. Here you are now, couldn't even get that fucking right for you either" he breathes out a huff from his nose, agitated with himself at the perceived failure.
He had intended for this to sound reassuring, but it was just reminding him of how Kai got involved in all this in the first place. Small parts ( the rational parts ) of Kei’s mind continued to argue why he even cares about making Kai feel better anymore. But they were quickly overpowered by the guilt that was starting to eat him alive from the inside out. Funny how for so long he felt like he was beyond this feeling, everything he had done up to this point had required necessary sacrifice and he’d finally learned to make those decisions quickly, no more hesitation left in his bones. Yet here and now after it all he found himself buckling under the weight of it pathetically, all because Kai was sitting in front of him.
Said boy lifted his head fully now, starting to speak as if he wasn't quite sure what his point was yet "...you saved my life" and then his eyes widened a fraction, as if he was realising something "the only reason i'm here now is because of you".
Something inside Kei flips at Kai's expression, how it suddenly seems too soft, tender, staring at him right into his eyes. He finds it suddenly impossible to reply with the quick retort on his tongue that yes, it's probably his fault he died in the first place. Because Kai was right. He was right, Kei had saved him. Somehow he’d brought him back. He had finally done something for the idiot, something as important as what he’d done for him. He let the feeling wash over him for a moment, easing the guilt, not knowing how to respond. He fought the urge to look away from Kai’s eyes, as if the genuine emotion behind them was an acid that was about to start melting him.
Luckily Kai decides to take the initiative in the silence and moves himself across the ground, closer to Kei, sitting in front of him instead of next to him, before slowly and tiredly dropping his head on his right shoulder with a soft bump. Kei finds he suddenly feels like he doesn't know what he's doing anymore, all the anger in him finally sputtering out.
After a moment Kai speaks "you're actually… pretty kind yknow Kei?" and Kei feels he really has lost track of the conversation now, him? kind? the cold selfish calculating prick himself, as Kou would say (well maybe not that harshly anymore). Kei blinks as he feels himself grow self-conscious for some reason, needing to fight the accusation. It felt like an accusation.
"It's...it's not kindness, I'm not kind Kai, it's just common sense" he thinks to tell Kai suddenly about all the people who've died because of him the past few months to prove himself right, but Kei finds a cold fear strangely grips him at the thought of revealing that. Of what Kai would think of him. Suddenly finding himself laying on that operating table again refusing to kill a scientist for no reason. Later. He'll tell him later. Why is he assuming there'll be a later, he has no idea what Kai’s going to do now, why is he even panicking about this. He coughs "-i'm just trying to get it through your thick self-sacrificing skull so you don't just… do something stupid for someone else and get yourself killed for good. You aren’t like me. Just start...thinking shit through"
Kai laughs in response, a little less sadly this time, vibrating against his shoulder, almost amused at Kei’s wording "you can call it what you like but thanks. For worrying about me, anyway"
Ah. Thinks kei, that's what it was, all that anger he was feeling earlier, that's embarrassing. He bites his tongue and turns his head as Kai continues speaking "and i'm… I guess im sorry. in a way too, i think" an instinctive part of Kei's brain nearly has him blurt out that Kai shouldn't apologise to him, but that’d undermine the whole point of his lecture, even if he feels like he doesn't even know what the point of this conversation is anymore.
He settles for awkwardly moving his arms up and around Kai, finally pulling him into a proper hug closer against him. He’d held him earlier, pulling him both down into the sewer and then back out with Kou, but it was different now that he was alive and awake. Some small, still turbulent, part of Kei settles with the contact, comforting him more than he expected. He lets himself sink into it before muttering under his breath “whatever… i dont. care anymore”
He can feel Kai smile into his shoulder for the first time during this whole conversation, lifting his arms to hug him back, tighter than whatever hold Kei had him in. He hums a little, thinking to himself before speaking “so... what’re ya gonna do now?”
Kei feels himself sigh at the question, suddenly feeling the weight of the past few months of his life push him down with exhaustion, further into Kai’s hold “getting back to my peaceful fucking life...” Tosaki had all the stuff for him and others already prepared, documents for new identities. His crowning reward for his effort, aside from never having to see Sato’s face ever again, and the satisfaction of never having to think about him again.
He idly starts to think about what city would be the best place for him to continue his studies for med school, that thought itself almost feels alien in his head now. Kai hums again against him as he thinks “sounds good to me, i might join you on that”
Kei can't do anything but groan in response at the implication behind his words, but he doesn't let go of the hug, almost stubbornly for some reason. Neither does Kai, who simply shakes in silent laughter at the response “honestly i expected you to blow up again just then, you really are a nice guy huh?” he says it almost provokingly, like he's messing with him, but somehow still dripping with sincerity.
Kei clicks his tongue, about to bite back against his claim again, before he gets distracted by the warmth still pressed against him and his protest dies in his throat. There’s no way for him to look like he’s not just in childish denial in this scenario, and he can't stomach the thought ( the embarrassment ) of admitting his bias so openly right now, to himself even, let alone Kai. Or the air.
The words “I don't know why I give a damn about you” are what come out of his mouth instead.
The sentence earns him a snort and a hand pushing through his hair from Kai, it's soothing. He lets himself give into the feeling of it. Idly Kei wonders when Kou will finally get back with some sort of food for the idiot sitting in his arms from the rubble around the place.