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Dead Bodies, Strawberry Soap and the Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known

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It's a beautiful early morning and there is a body in the back alley behind the bike shop. Inupi only wanted to throw some packaging and go back to opening the store. Really, he didn't leave the delinquent world more than a decade ago to go around and find dubious beaten bodies behind trash bins. If God was a bit more merciful, it would be a passed out drunkard or a homeless person seeking some shelter to sleep peacefully. It's not. From the backdoor where he stands, Inupi can see pale heavily bruised legs, way too naked for the season. A dark liquid is slowly pooling around, emitting the unmistakable metallic scent of blood and overpowering the garbage smell.

A far away voice calls his name several time and finally, Draken's hand on his shoulder jolts him out of his daze. "I think we need to call an ambulance or something..." he manages to whisper as the taller man takes in the morbid sight.


They both freeze at the raspy voice.


The body isn't dead. Good. Inupi has seen enough dead bodies to last a lifetime already. Bad news however, they now have a dying guy that smells big trouble to deal with. Draken finally takes a step toward the body.

"Look dude, either it's the ambulance or it's the hearse."

The not-yet-dead guy utters some kind of choking sound that might have been a poor attempt at laughing.

"Just get me something to patch myself up and I'll be fine."

His voice keeps breaking every three words in a not so fine way. Draken breathes a deep sigh before bending down and carefully picking up the guy who whines a dying whale noise in disapproval. He doesn't try to escape though. Inupi follows them to the shop’s small bathroom, the clacking of his heels on the tiled floor the only thing echoing through the corridor. From behind, he can see a mop of silver hair splattered in dried blood and some other stuffs he rather ignores.

Hajime feels like shit, and that’s still probably not strong enough as a descriptor to cover it all. Everything hurts, his head, his throat, his stomach, his butt, a lot, and even his legs that he barely feels anymore in the cold morning. But worst than the pain, he feels dirty. His own body disgusts him and he wishes he could just part away with it. The phantom feeling of foreign hands everywhere makes him nauseous. He feels dirty and weak and so so dumb.

The ridiculously strong guy who picked him up like nothing has been careful enough to avoid any major injuries or private parts but he can’t help being petrified at his contact, « stop touching me, stop touching me, stop touching me » going round and round in his head. He tries to focus on anything else and settle on the only sound he hears, heels clicking steadily on the floor. They aren’t from the one carrying him, but from a bit behind. He can't see their owner but by the sound of it, they're either a pair of stilettos or of scarpins. Maybe he should be more disturbed by the fact he can identify heels by hear but it's something he's been used to for years now. It’s a soothing sound, familiar, expected. Every clac happens exactly when it should just like clockwork. Hajime could fall asleep to that.

He doesn’t have the time and maybe it’s for the best. The heels stop clicking and he’s being sat on an old unbalanced stool. In one swift movement, strong guy provides a first aid kit and some additional bandages. That's when he hears it. It's a soft and lazy voice, almost emotionless, and even after a decade of not hearing it, he just can't mistake it for any other's. It is as familiar as the clicks of the heels and really, Hajime took way too long to have this epiphany considering all the clues.

"You can take a shower if you want, I'm going to find you a change of clothes." says Inui Seishu, 28, ex-bestfriend of one Kokonoi Hajime.

And then, he leaves followed by the other guy Hajime couldn't care less about.

He is now alone, with his tumultuous thoughts and painful injuries and he needs to have both of them under control before he leaves this room. He removes the few clothes he still has on and checks himself up in the mirror. He looks as bad as he feels. He has bruises all over his body but the most disturbing ones are the two purple hand shapes around his neck. They makes him want to throw up. Between that, the crusty blood and the other dried up bodily fluids, he can't wait to step into the shower and scrub everything off, the dirt, the shame, that disgusting feeling of inhabiting his body right now. Gosh, Inupi saw him looking like that.

He tries to stand up and immediately fells back on the stool, little stars in his field of vision and his brain like cotton. Right. He has lost lots of blood. Because of the gashes. The three deep gashes he has around its body, one on his belly, one across his back and one on his left tight. Three deep gashes that, while not life threatening, have bled abundantly and require some stitches. He rummages through the first aid kit and, thank god, finds a box of Steri-Strips. At the very least, he won't have to stitch himself up, he really don't have the energy to do so and the cut in his back would have been a hassle to take care of (it's still a contortionist show to apply the strips).

He goes under the shower. The water is warm like a disembodied hug and it feels good. There is a bottle of cheap soap in the corner, with an extremely artificial scent that is supposed to be strawberry if the half peeled up label is to be believed. Hajime pours it on himself and rubs it everywhere, his feet, his tights, his chest and his face. Not even his scalp is safe from the nauseating perfume that is slowly replacing memories of any other smell he ever scented. He scrubs himself so hard his whole body is strawberry red. He is becoming one with the cheap soap and nothing else matters, especially last night.

Inupi leaves a T-shirt and a pair of shorts in front of the bathroom door. The good thing about doing a job that gets easily filthy, even with the overall to protect you, is that you have a ton of spare clothes hanging around the store. It may also be because neither him nor Draken have the healthiest relationship with their job and keep sleeping there instead of going home but that’s not the point.

Speaking of his colleague, Draken is back in the main room fiddling around a bike. He shoots Inupi a concerned look as he joins him.

"Think we're gonna get in trouble for saving that guy ?"

Inupi sighs. They left the gang wars a decade behind them and here they are meddling with that mess once again.

"We're merely innocent civilians helping a stranger in need. They should have make sure he was dead if that was important to them."

Draken nods.

"I don't think it was your average gang dispute anyway..."

The both look at each other in a silent "He didn't have pants and we both know what that means" agreement before focusing on their respective work.

The main room is only filled by the sound of their tools clicking against machineries and Inupi almost has the mind to go fetch his headphone to listen to some music when not-yet-dead guy appears. He is wearing the T-shirt and shorts Inupi left him and they are way too loose on him. Gosh he's unhealthy skinny. His silver hair drops pitifully in from of his face which seems to be looking everywhere but toward the two mechanics.

"Can I use your phone ?"

His voice is still horribly broken and Inupi tries to burry the familiarity of it beneath the excuse of a distorted voice. He points at the landline on the reception desk. It's weird how the stranger seems so miserable as he passes by him and Inupi feels the strange urge to pick him up, hug him, put him somewhere safe... He doesn't though.

Rule number 1 of working for an underground business that deals with highly illegal stuff is that you don't keep your colleagues numbers in your phone but in your head. You never know what can happened to your phone and who can go through it, even if said phone numbers are rarely kept more than a couple of months.

Hajime lets his fingers flow as they tip Ran's number (most likely to be awake and free at this hour).

"Can you come pick me up ? I'm at..."

His eyes stumble on a little pile of business cards.

"...D&D Motor"

"...The fuck you are ???" comes the reply.

Hajime slips through the five stages of grief in a matter of seconds as he visualize the mortifying ordeal of confirming his identity in front of Inui Seishu, 28, his ex-bestfriend or whatever the fuck they had going on and that is still going apparently.

"Joking, I can hear money when you speak. I'm on my way."

He is too tired to try to make sense of the executive's words but he wishes he wouldn't play with his heart like that.

The fifteen minutes wait in the shop is excruciatingly long, surrounded by an awkward silence, and when Ran arrives, Hajime all but bolts away with a "Thanks ! Bye !".

"You smell weird." says Ran as they drive back.

Hajime doesn't address the strawberry(?) soap scent. Instead, he looks straight in front of him and asks :

"Can you find some guys for me by any chance ?"

"Still needs someone to hitch him a ride uh ?..."

"What did you say ?" asks Draken in the background.

"Nothing !" replies Inupi while looking absently by the window, "Shit ! He left with my clothes !"