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a gilded leash

Chapter Text

 

the airport’s always almost empty this time of the year
so let’s go play on a baggage carousel
and set our watches forwards like we’re just arriving here
from a past we left in a place we knew too well

(watermark, the weakerthans)

 

 

Majima’s flight to Okinawa was hell at thirty thousand feet. The guy next to him kept eating and sucking crumbs off his fingers and the stewardess only gave him three gins in the little plastic cup with the little plastic swizzle stick before she cut him off. After he landed, he grabbed his bag from the carousel and pulled on a t-shirt in the airport bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and grimaced. He lifted his chains out from under the shirt, considered them for a moment, then tucked them back in. He was wearing dark sunglasses, no eye patch, in an attempt to blend in. His pants were still black but a light kind of cotton; the forecast called for highs of thirty all week, not that he knew how long he’d be staying.

 

 

He gave the cab driver the address and when they were still driving after thirty minutes, he said, “Christ, where is this place?”

The driver glanced out his window at the glittering ocean. Their road twisted and turned against it in a playful back-and-forth.

“Real far out,” he said.

 

 

Majima leaned on the low wooden fence across from the orphanage with his bag between his feet, and halfway through his second smoke, a fat little boy ran outside with two smaller kids on his heels. All three saw him and stopped dead in a cloud of dust. Then they slowly backed into the house, pretending to be casual about it.

Before he finished his second smoke, Kiryu came out.

On one hand, he was a fucking sight. He looked tan and thick and happy and his hair was glossy, still jet black when Majima’s was starting to run flecks of silver. On the other hand, he was wearing a floral print shirt and khakis. These two thoughts warred for dominance in him as Kiryu stopped at the edge of the porch and squinted into the sun at him, then slowly made his way across the courtyard. He stopped several paces away, nearly across the road.

“I…” Kiryu put a hand up to his eyes to shield them from the sun. “I’ve never seen you wearing a shirt.”

“Pretty good, right?” Majima tapped his sunglasses. “I could be a plain ol’ tourist in this getup.”

Kiryu stared. “I can still see your ink.”

Majima looked down at his chest and could see the faint colours of his tattoo through the t-shirt.

“Alright, I coulda gone a bit bigger, and not white, but gimme some points for effort.”

He watched Kiryu’s eyes wander down his body and land on his shiny snakeskin shoes, which he had refused to compromise on. Kiryu said nothing. A little closer, his age was a little more apparent; he looked tired in a strange and wholesome way that Majima wasn’t used to seeing on him, tired like relaxed and not tired like drop dead. No bruises or cuts, no bandages. He didn’t like it. He looked like someone a little different, like Kiryu’s own imagining of Kiryu. A parallel universe Kiryu.

He told him, “Daigo cracked and gave me your address. I spent an hour tryina convince him that you and I are actually pals and not just… mutual antagonists.”

“I don’t antagonize you.”

“You’re antagonizin' me right now.” Majima picked up his bag and swung it over his shoulder. “Ya gonna invite me in?”

“What do you want?”

“I wanna be invited in.” Majima shrugged. “Not here on business.”

Kiryu looked like he was thinking about it for a moment. He strode the short distance between them with such conviction that for a second, Majima could see who he used to be. His dick twitched.

“No shop talk in front of the kids,” Kiryu said lowly, his voice electric. He smelled faintly of raw onion. He’d been cooking. “I mean it. Whatever’s going on, you’re not going to scar them for kicks. Understand?”

“I’m great with kids.”

“They don’t know anything about yakuza and they’re not going to. They don’t need to, and they’re too young to… I don’t do that anymore.”

“That a yes?”

“Just… be calm. Be normal for once. Can you…” His facade cracked and for a second, he looked amused. “Can you do that?”

Majima grinned. “We’re gonna find out.”

 

 

Kiryu entered the rickety wooden house before him and called out, “Come here! We’ve got a guest!”

Squeals of joy emanated from somewhere, everywhere, followed by the slap of bare feet on the floorboards. A horde of little girls barreled down the hallways and screeched to a stop in front of the two of them, with the boys who had seen Majima in the street reluctantly bringing up the rear.

Majima recognized Haruka instantly and he’d be lying if he said watching recognition spread over her features didn’t give him some tiny amount of wholesome happiness.

“Majima-san!” she chirped, jostling her way to the front so she could bow theatrically. “You’re in Okinawa!”

“Sure am, princess. How’s this guy been treatin’ ya out here in the sticks?”

Kiryu pinched the back of his arm where the kids couldn’t see.

Haruka said, “Everything’s been amazing! I love it here!” She turned to the other kids. “Guys, this is ojisan’s friend from Tokyo, Majima-san! Majima-san, this is Eri, Izumi, Ayako, Riona, Shiro, Mitsuo, Koji and Taichi.”

“I’m not gonna remember all that.”

Kiryu pinched him again. He smiled. The kids gaped at him. Most of them looked concerned or scared and a couple looked oddly thrilled. He prided himself on having that effect on people.

Kiryu said, “Majima-san will be joining us for dinner. Let’s show him hospitality.”

The kids chorused right and took off in all directions. They reminded Majima of happy, industrious little ants. Kiryu stood stiffly next to him and rubbed the back of his neck, and Majima watched him. After nearly two years away, he couldn’t get enough of looking at him and he felt like a kid at a zoo, crushing his nose against an animal’s glass enclosure.

Kiryu said, “Leave your bag in here.”

He opened a paper door to reveal a small room that was big in proportion to the rest of the small house. There was a low table, a desk with a child’s drawing pinned above it, and a futon folded in the corner. The table had a couple sports magazines on it and an empty glass.

“This your room?”

“Yeah.”

Majima dropped his bag on the floor and nudged it out of the way of the door. “You stay here?”

“I live here.”

“I thought ya went somewhere offsite for like, your downtime. An apartment.”

“I need to be here. I take care of the kids.”

“What, all the time?”

“Yes. They’re kids.”

“Jesus Christ. So, you’re a dad, basically.”

“No.”

“You’re a papa with like ten kids.”

Kiryu turned on his heel. “Dinner, then we’ll talk. If you make anyone cry, I’ll make you eat your teeth. Understand?”

Majima drawled, “Yes, sir,” and Kiryu shot his leg back and kicked him in the knee without turning around.

He spent most of dinner watching Kiryu interact with the kids. He was quiet—that much hadn’t changed—but hearing him ask an eight-year-old about their day wasn’t anything like hearing him bark at cocky punks whose arms he’d just broken. He sat at the head of the table and Majima sat to his right. Haruka sat on Majima’s other side, most likely to provide a buffer between him at the other kids.

During a lull in conversation, Majima caught a little girl in pigtails staring at him. He raised his eyebrows at her and she put her chopsticks down so she could wring her hands.

“Um. Mister. Do you… have an injury?”

She was looking at his left eye. He’d swapped his shades for a white medical eye patch because he thought it would be less threatening if the patch seemed normal and temporary, and because his usual patch got sweaty in that kind of heat.

“Yeah, I got all banged up. Don’t worry, it ain’t contagious.”

Haruka had stopped eating and he was sure that if she was sitting on his good side, he’d have seen her looking up at him. She would have remembered that Majima had his eye patch years ago, too, but she said nothing. Kiryu must have been raising her well, because he’d never met an eleven-year-old who knew when to shut up.

The kids talked among themselves other than that, which suited Majima just fine. Dinner was some oily whitefish, rice and vegetables, and it was plain but good. Country food. After dinner, the kids took their plates to the kitchen—one of them snatching Majima’s—and him and Kiryu were left at the table.

Apprehension radiated off Kiryu in waves, like he expected Majima to pull out a knife. Majima leaned back on his hands.

“Good grub. Thanks, pop.”

“Don’t.”

“Aw, lighten up, I said it was good. I didn’t know ya were much of a cook.”

There was a long pause. “Haruka does most of it.”

Majima’s eyes traced over him. He had his hands on his folded knees and his nail beds were dirty. His skin was a few shades darker than he’d ever been in Kamurocho, enough that a new freckles bloomed in constellations on his forearms. The rich colour made his battle scars stand out like the pockmarked wood of an old ship’s bow.

Majima asked, “What’s a guy do for fun around here when he’s got an old buddy in town?”

Kiryu wrinkled his nose at buddy. Majima made a mental note.

“We could have a drink,” Kiryu said finally. Majima perked up.

“I could go for that. Whaddya got?”

“I don’t keep anything in the house. There’s a shop down the street.”

Majima’s laughter barked into the space between them. He hauled himself to his feet.

“How the mighty have fallen, eh?” He put out a hand to help Kiryu up, and he ignored it.

 

 

The night was hot and wet and the air smelled like peat and the sharp, almost acrid scent of flowers in the bushes that lined the dirt road. Kiryu loped along next to him and Majima remembered the motions of his walk like coming home after a long trip. It was pitch black except for the buzzing lamps that studded the street every couple hundred metres.

Kiryu asked, “Is this about Daigo?”

“Hm? Aw, nah, he’s alright. So stressed he’s gettin’ twitchy, but he hides it like a champ.”

“Then where is he?”

Majima glanced over. He could hardly see him in the dark. “I said this ain’t about him. Ya told me to crush his enemies, not babysit him.”

“Is it about the resort deal?”

“What resort deal?”

Kiryu went quiet. They passed a dilapidated home that reeked of fish and had raincoats drying off the balcony. The narrow road took them away from the ocean and the crashing waves were replaced by the roar of a thousand bugs in the foliage. A store appeared at the end of a wooden fence and looked as though it was held together with bent nails and duct tape. A big plastic sign out front glowed blinding yellow in the night. The place was so small they had to walk sideways between the metal shelves stuffed with bags of chips, candy, toilet paper, incense. Grimy glass fridges at the back were stuffed with drinks, and near that, a shelf of liquor. Kiryu grabbed a bottle of middle-range whiskey and Majima took a can of milk tea from one of the fridges. He slapped it down on the counter at the cash register next to Kiryu’s whiskey. Kiryu glanced at him, said nothing and paid for both.

Majima patted him on the back. “Thanks, buddy.”

Kiryu scowled at him. The ancient man behind the counter blinked up at them as he held out Kiryu’s change in his shaking palm.

“You’ve brought someone, Kazuma-kun.”

Kiryu nodded. “A friend from the mainland.”

Majima bowed lightly. “Hullo.”

The old man seemed put off by him. He shook his head.

“Tourists comin’ farther and farther out, now… No peace anywhere.”

 

 

They cracked the whiskey in Kiryu’s room, the flimsy door shut, the kids not asleep but chatting quietly in their rooms. Majima sat with his legs splayed out across the low plastic table from Kiryu, absorbed in just being in the same room as him after so much time. Even at most, he only saw Kiryu in snatches, and always when he needed something. He remembered their last talk on the roof of the Millennium Tower when he’d been so jacked up and pissed off and could have said a lot more. Instead, he got a thorough fight and a final smoke together. It was a real man’s fight, but he could’ve done better.

He said, “The kids don’t know you’re yakuza, eh?”

Kiryu sipped his whiskey from an ugly plastic cup that matched Majima’s own.

“No. Their past caretaker died—or left, or something—and I showed up. I was nice. That’s all they cared about.”

“No questions? With that mug?”

“Not here.”

“But your little girl knows.”

Kiryu filled Majima’s empty cup and used the pause. Majima watched the movement of his bare arms, so often hidden by his suit jacket back in the day. Seeing more of his skin felt unreal, like he was making it up, and the absence of his red silk shirt felt like a mistake in his imagination; he’d seen him with his shirt off but only at times where his body meant threat and power and its movement was more important than its aesthetics. Only marginally.

“I tell Haruka everything.” Kiryu refilled his own glass. “She knows not to tell the others. They’ll find out eventually, but… I don’t want to be that entry point for them.”

“Whaddaya mean?”

“Pop is why I joined up, because he brought it into my life. He opened that door, and it was my choice to walk through it, but... I’m not doing that to these kids. They’re gonna live good, honest lives.”

“So are you, apparently.” Majima slurped his whiskey. “The kids seen your back?”

“Yeah, but they don’t know enough about yakuza to ask. To… connect the two.” A half-nervous gulp of whiskey. “They just know that some guys have tattoos.”

“They got families here, though?”

“Some. Two main ones.”

“You talked to ‘em much?”

“Some.”

Majima squinted at him. “So ya really are a civilian. Not even a downgrade, really just… out.”

“Yep.”

“Ya just wake up, take care of these kids, an’ go to sleep. Every day.”

Kiryu shrugged. “I play cards with some guys down the street on weekends. And I spend time with the kids. Baseball, fishing…”

“Ya don’t keep liquor in the house and ya play ball with five-year-olds.”

Kiryu set his cup down and leaned towards Majima across the cheap plastic table, subtle enough to only imply ihreat.

“Why are you here?” he asked again, his voice pointed and hard. “Even you wouldn’t take a three-hour flight just to make fun of me.”

Majima tossed back the rest of his whiskey and smiled. He loved the sound of his own voice, but he knew how to use a silence. Kiryu would get uncomfortable before he did. The concentration on his face would have been funny if it weren’t so sad.

“I’m here to see ya,” Majima said, mocking Kiryu’s posture and conspiratory tone. “Not ‘cause of Daigo or any of the others. You know I’m no good at scheming, I’d’ve told ya as soon as I got here if I were up to something. Makes it more fun.”

Kiryu clearly didn’t believe him.

“Where are you staying?”

Majima spread out his hands. “You’re lookin’ at it.” He paused. “Ideally.”

“How long?”

“Few days. A week. ‘Til whenever I get bored.”

It was Kiryu’s turn to make him wait. He was happy to. His eye kept drifting around the room to take in the unremarkable artifacts of Kiryu’s now-unremarkable life. One black pen on his desk, no paper. A pair of slacks identical to the ones he was wearing thrown over the desk chair. His absurdly modern cell phone sitting closed on the floor next to his hip. He never saw Kiryu at rest, and the thought of him owning objects that weren’t for consumption or murder was mind-boggling.

Finally, Kiryu said, “You’re sleeping in the dining room.”

 

 

Majima woke up on his borrowed futon just before sunrise and strolled through the courtyard, across the street and down to the beach in his bare feet. Other than the crash of the waves and distant bird calls, it was silent—no car horns, shouting, feet slapping in puddles or the buzz of neon. He rolled up his pants and walked into the ice-cold surf, then stood there and smoked a cigarette, looking out at the endless pink and purple sky as it turned gold and blue at the edges. When he got tired of standing, he walked back up the beach and sat in the sand. When he was done his first smoke, he lit a second, tucking the butt of the first back into his pack; he’d never seen such a pristine beach and he wasn’t going to be the first asshole to ruin it.

“Hey.” He looked over his shoulder. He had no idea how long he’d been out there, but it was bright enough that Kiryu shielded his eyes from the sun. He stood up by the road and jabbed a thumb back towards the house. “Breakfast.”

 

 

Once the kids went to school, Majima followed Kiryu around like an anthropologist. He leaned in the laundry room doorway and watched him shove clothes into the washing machine, then sat on a stump in the courtyard and watched him hang it to dry, never offering to help and managing to be menacing without saying much. At eleven, he started carrying around a glass of whiskey. His ice melted instantly in the heat. Kiryu’s shirt was a little less ugly than the day before: gold and orange and patterned with leaves. Every geriatric who ambled down the road outside the house wore something similar and Majima wondered if they handed them out to every man over forty who lived on the island.

In the early afternoon, Kiryu went fishing, which apparently meant whipping a dangerously long fishing line around for a bit, then standing on the beach holding the rod like an idiot. Majima lounged under a beach umbrella on the beach and watched him. He dug a hole in the sand for his whiskey glass in an attempt to keep it cool and traded his eye patch for sunglasses to help with the glare coming off the water.

“What’re ya using for bait?” he called out. He was far enough up the beach that he had to yell. It was the first time either of them had spoken in an hour.

“A worm I found in the yard,” Kiryu called back.

“They any good?”

“We’ll find out.”

“What kinda fish ya tryina get?”

“Would you know it if I told you?”

“No,” he yelled, and then, quieter, “Smartass.”

After about thirty minutes, Kiryu cursed and started to reel in his line.

Majima laughed. “No dice?”

Kiryu didn’t answer and instead stalked up the beach towards the house. He left his ashtray and tackle kit in the sand, so he figured he was coming back, and after a minute he did, holding some big forked spear. He jabbed it in the wet sand down by the shore and started to unbutton his shirt. He tossed it in the sand and Majima felt an unexpected pang of nostalgia at seeing the dragon on his back, and then sour regret, which he pushed down. Kiryu pulled off his pants and he felt something else entirely. His body was changing with age and it was all for the better; his boyish charm was replaced with a grizzled handsomeness, his muscles softened with a healthy layer of fat that made him look bigger and more powerful. Majima couldn’t remember how many of his myriad scars came from his own dagger but he could ballpark it, hungrily and with an unhealthy amount of possessiveness.

When Kiryu grabbed the spear and waded into the water in his briefs, going deeper and deeper until he dove beneath the surface, Majima ducked out from under his umbrella and wandered down to the shore. The sun scorched his back and shoulders and his chains got hot against his neck. His shirt was wet under the arms. He lit a smoke and watched Kiryu appear and disappear below the waves, nothing more than a glint of glossy black hair and a flash of shining skin. The sun on the water was so bright he could hardly see, but he caught the snarl of colour when Kiryu burst above the surface with a flopping fish on his spear.

He waded out of the deep, water pouring off him, and stopped in the shallows. He heaved the spear back and launched it forward to chuck the fish halfway up the beach.

“Hit it for me,” he said to Majima, swishing the spear in the water to get the blood off. “Seems like your forté.”

“With pleasure.”

“Thanks.”

Kiryu stood in the water up to his knees, breathing a little heavy. His nipples were hard, his skin was goose-bumped and he could see the shape of his dick in his wet black briefs. The curve of muscle in his bare thighs was like something on a Greek statue. A hunter draped in leather and furs. He turned around and Majima watched water from his dripping hair pour over the bright ink in the column of his spine.

“Ya look good with a bit more meat on your bones, by the way. Your ass is a fuckin’ vision right now.”

Kiryu didn’t turn around. “Stop it.”

“You’re lookin’ juicy.”

“You’re not funny.”

“Who said I’m tryina be?”

Kiryu still didn’t turn around, so he smiled at the back of his head. He dove back into the water with his spear and Majima grabbed his metal tackle box, locked it, then beat the fish over the head with it until it stopped moving.

 

 

Kiryu caught two more fish and fried one up for lunch. After they ate, he went out in the courtyard and started chopping wood for the stove with the eerie proficiency that came from practice. He took off his shirt. Majima sat in the shade and supervised. Sweat beaded on Kiryu’s shoulders as they turned pink in the sun.

As he set up a new log, he said, “You’ve been quiet, for you.”

Majima shrugged. “This place breeds quiet. Feels like… yellin’ in a library.” He rested his elbow on his drawn-up knee and put his chin in his palm. “Everything’s golden ‘n slow. Makes ya sleepy. How do ya live here?”

“Slowly,” Kiryu said.

CRA-A-ACK, another log split neatly in two. He stacked the two halves with the others and set up another chunk. His palms were red from holding onto the axe and a lock of hair fell over his forehead. CRACK. He set up another, his pile dwindling, and glanced in Majima’s direction.

“You’re just gonna watch me.”

Majima raised his chin. “Got a problem with that?”

Kiryu’s eyes snapped to his and they spent a perfect, electric moment there. His breath caught in his throat. The sun glinted off Kiryu’s axe. They were there.

Kiryu turned, heaved the axe over his head and split the log. He yanked the blade out of the stump and set up another chunk of wood. His biceps swelled and pulled under his skin, his abs tight, his body glimmering with sweat. He let himself be watched. Majima smiled into his palm.

 

 

The kids got home from school and Majima made himself scarce so he didn’t have to talk to them or help with dinner. He walked to the corner store for a pack of smokes—they didn’t have his brand, so he bought some cheap, run of the mill shit—and did a lap of the small beachfront community that surrounded the orphanage. The train station was so old it looked abandoned, its cracked and yellowing tile covered in dead leaves and flower petals like a forgotten shrine nestled in the forest. He skipped it, not knowing where he’d go. He could hear the train rattle through the trees every ten minutes no matter how far away from the track he got.

He didn’t know what to call the knot in his gut, but it got worse the longer he walked around. Someone else might have called it anxiety, but whatever it was, it pissed him off. His buzz from earlier was gone and it left him empty and agitated. Okinawa’s faux-quaint atmosphere pissed him off too, and he couldn’t stop imagining what it would be like to crack whoever’s skulls would get him control over the island’s shitty little families, then ruling the whole region with an iron fist. It would be something to do, if nothing else. It was what Kiryu should have been doing. It enraged him to think that Kiryu had been there over a year and hadn’t made a move when he could have been kingpin by now, and by hardly lifting a finger.

He headed back for the house once he was sure he was sure he wouldn’t be any more bored being there than he was being away. He kicked up his heels as he walked down the road to watch the dirt cloud around him. He could clean his shoes later.

He heard Kiryu’s voice before he saw him. It took him a second to realize he was sitting hidden behind the orphanage’s low rock wall.

Kiryu said, “Yeah, I’m sure.”

Majima slowed his walk. There was a boy’s voice, too.

“He looks… scary. Is he a bad guy? Are we in trouble again?”

He stopped walking completely and slid a step to the right, hiding. Obviously, they were talking about him. He couldn’t imagine that anyone else in Okinawa looked scary.

“We’re not in trouble. But you shouldn’t judge people based on how they look.” Kiryu’s voice got unbearably soft when he talked to those kids and Majima didn’t know what to do with it. “Do you think I look like a bad guy?”

“No!” the kid yelped.

“Well, there are people who think I do. But you know me, right? Am I a bad guy?”

“No,” the kid said with conviction, “you’re the best grown-up in the world.”

Kiryu laughed. It was short but real, and almost pretty. “See? So, Majima-san is a good guy, too. He just… looks like that. You have to let people prove to you what kind of person they are before you make those judgements. You know?”

Majima sneered. He considered vaulting over the wall and scaring the shit out of them to prove a point. He wished he had his dagger on him.

“I know, ojisan. Thanks.” The kid sighed with what sounded like relief. “So he’s really your friend?”

“Yes. What did you think he was?”

“I told you, I thought we were in trouble.”

“We’re not. He’s a very good, very old friend of mine.”

“You swear?”

“Yeah. You’re right to be wary of strangers, but I wouldn’t let anyone into the house. You’re safe here.”

Majima rolled his eyes. He took a few big steps backwards up the way he’d came, silent, then started walking forwards normally. He coughed loudly, and in a second, Kiryu’s head appeared over the wall. Next, the kid’s. It was the little nerd with the glasses; Majima forgot his name.

 

 

He disappeared after they ate and paced along the orphanage’s chunk of beach like a caged tiger, pissed off at everything and nothing, or nothing he’d admit. He smoked half a pack and couldn’t calm down, couldn’t find a proper outlet for his anger on that stupid island. It was like coming down off amphetamines, where what had been thrilling and pleasant when it seemed endless—watching Kiryu go about his sad, tiny life as if it were a stage play—had come to an end and left him empty, raw, needing more of what he couldn’t get. Like a child throwing a tantrum, he ran away and wanted to be found, and eventually Kiryu appeared on the road above him.

His eyes searched for Majima in the near-dark and found him. Majima stopped his hurried pacing and stared up at him, seething, daring him to come ask. His heart rate spiked when Kiryu started to amble across the sloped beach to where he stood up by the tangled weeds and long grass that faded into the sand.

Kiryu stood in front of him with his hands shoved into his pockets and asked, “What are you doing?”

There was no concern, all accusation. Everything clicked into place in Majima’s head and the words fell out of his mouth like he’d been planning them for years instead of one tense hour.

“Is this really it?”

“What?”

Majima spread out his arms and gestured at the waves, the beach, the rolling hills behind the orphanage.

“You. This place. All this empty bullshit. This is what ya left Kamurocho for?”

Kiryu shifted his weight back and forth, hands still in his pockets.

“I left Kamurocho for a lot of reasons.”

“That a shot at me?”

“Not everything’s about you.”

“Then what’s it about?”

“Maybe I don’t want to make a living on violence and lies, and some other guy getting rich off me. I want to live a real, honest life.”

“Now that’s a shot at me.”

Kiryu’s eyes narrowed. “Not just you.”

The familiar stabs of anger that ran through Majima felt so much like lust that he always got the two confused; fucking and fighting were both about rush and release and dominance, the same parts of his brain lighting up, the same fingers and fists and faces. The differences were mostly about context. It was more confusing with Kiryu than anyone else.

“It used to be good enough for ya. Ya think you’re better than me now?”

“I think we want different things.” Kiryu’s tone wasn’t even a little angry and it pissed Majima off. It was empty. “I lost enough to make me question why I’d keep playing the game.”

“That was way back when. You’re a somebody now, ya don’t want all this shit.”

“Why can’t I want this? Because you don’t want me to?”

“‘Cause you’re not some fuckin’ softcock, puttering around some bullshit island like an old man!”

“I’m happy here.”

“You don’t know what happy is!”

“I’ve got a better idea than you,” Kiryu snapped, taking a few quick steps closer. “You think I can’t be happy here because you don’t get it, and anything you don’t get isn’t worth understanding.”

“It ain’t worth understanding!” Majima shouted. “I seen you smash a guy’s face into a curb until his own mama wouldn’t recognize him, and you were fucking alive! You were glowing!”

“I didn’t like a second of that shit.”

“Are you kidding me? Ya loved it! Ya made it a fucking art! Ya tell yourself this story where you’re the good guy, but you’re not!”

“I can try to be.”

“At what fucking cost, Kiryu? Ya think I’m gonna let ya waste away here? You’re gonna go from bein’ the most feared yakuza in the country to bein’ some leathery old fuck clackin’ mahjong tiles?”

“I didn’t ask you to save me.”

“Well, someone’s gotta! Ya used to knock a guy’s teeth out for lookin’ at ya funny! Grown men pissed themselves when ya walked into a room! You’re a fucking legend, you could have anything!”

“I don’t want anything!” Kiryu shouted back, both of them shouting now, only a few feet apart. “You’re fucking pathetic, coming here to—”

“Bullshit, you don’t want anything! You’re the fucking Dragon of Dojima!”

“I’m not!”

“You are!” Majima screamed. “Show me some fucking fire, you pussy! What do you want? What do you want?” He shoved him hard in the chest. “You’re a dragon! Fucking take it!”

Kiryu punched him in the face and that first second was so good he swore he almost came.

He would have slowed it down if he could and lived forever in the meaty thwap of knuckles on his cheek, his head snapping back, the sharp pain and then the dull ache that spread through his skull, and most importantly, the adrenaline. Everything in his body switched on all at once, his muscles firing, brain buzzing, synapses kicking into high gear to make him run towards or away from the threat—always towards—and every inch of his being was suddenly a pack of dogs straining at their chains, all of them salivating for a common goal: you get to fight now.

He lunged back at him and Kiryu was too shocked or mad or slow to stop him. He planted a palm in the middle of his face and pushed, felt his nose cartilage bend under the force of it, knocked him over and went with him. Kiryu swung and nailed him in the ribs, got a knee up between them and kicked out hard. The sky spun above him as his back hit the sand and he flipped over and sprung at him again, got a fistful of Kiryu’s hair and held him in place as he punched him once, twice, hard right across the cheek, and pushed his face into the sand. Kiryu grappled blindly for him, grabbed his wrist and squeezed until the bones ground together, until he felt something give a delicious, disgusting pop.

It made him let go, and that was all it took. Kiryu spun around and kicked him in the chin almost faster than he could see it. His mouth was full of blood. He spat it out, choking on it, his tongue stinging, and then he was on his back, Kiryu’s knee was digging into his thigh and his elbow was digging hard into the soft spot just inside his arm. The fingers of one of his hands clutched at his face so hard it burned. His body twitched to fight back and Kiryu dug his nails into his face and pushed his elbow down harder. He froze against the searing pain, euphoria, excitement, intimacy, all variations on a theme.

Kiryu’s face hung panting above his. His skin was an ugly mottled red and he had sand in his hair, stuck to the blackish blood just inside his nostril, not enough to drip. It was only a second that they stayed there like that, but it felt like forever. Majima could feel himself aging, shriveling, waiting, going crazy.

He lifted his head and hissed, “Take it.”

Kiryu kissed him.

He shoved their mouths together so hard their teeth hit and all Majima could taste was blood. It was so perfect it hurt, it hurt his brain to think about, it hurt his lips and his bitten tongue. Kiryu’s hand stayed gripping his face, pulling at him like he’d ever try to get away. When he tested the weight on his arms, Kiryu let up, and he used the freedom to dig his hands into his hair. Kiryu kissed messy like Majima knew he would, all passion and balls and no experience to carve technique out of, and it was so deeply, inexplicably good. He kissed like he wasn’t thinking about anything else, like he’d never thought about anything else, as if Majima conjured him out of pure lust and vitriol and black magic, just for him.

Kiryu let his face go and slid a hand down his throat, where he held him, just shy of too hard. Open mouth. Spit. His cautious tongue. Majima curled a foot around his calf and pulled him in. The hand around his throat tightened and his head spun and throbbed where he’d been hit. Later, he’d be mad that he couldn’t remember who dove into whose pants first, only the crystal-clear image of Kiryu straddling his thighs with his head bent down to watch as they jerked each other off, barely visible in the moonlit blackness. He’d remember hearing his rushing breath over the waves, his frantic grip and his own stupid, boyish excitement over a new big dick.

Kiryu bowed over him and breathed hot in his ear, cheek to cheek. Their knuckles brushed as they worked one another in their fists, and he felt Kiryu’s body seize up and his thighs crush his own as he came into his hand, dripping onto his belly. The thought of it alone pushed him over the edge, the situation, ten or twenty years of ardent states culminating in that exact moment, Kiryu-chan. He buried his face in Kiryu’s shoulder as he came and dug his fingers hard into his thigh, his eye squeezed shut.

The seconds that followed stretched. He was so hot he thought he was going to pass out, the night air stinging on his skin. Kiryu’s back heaved before he let him go and sat up. He was flushed all the way down his throat and his cheek had started to bloom a brilliant red where he got hit. Majima wanted to suck his fingers clean but didn’t think he would appreciate it, and he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do most because he wanted to do everything; flip him over and fuck him, propose to him, pledge allegiance, get on his knees, beat him until he never had the gall to look at him with such a surprised and vulnerable expression ever again.

Instead, he laughed. It came out all reedy.

“Thought I was gonna have to spell it out for ya.”

Kiryu shook his head. He didn’t look happy or angry and he wouldn’t look him in the eye. His softening dick still hung out of his khakis, and in all his years, that wasn’t how Majima imagined it would go the first time. He wanted neon and not moonlight, rain and not that sticky summer heat, asphalt, astroglide, maybe guns or some other imminent danger, more blood, more machismo. This was different. Okinawa was romantic and secluded, it was just the two of them and it had a different edge to it, more honest than Majima had ever planned to be.

Kiryu climbed off him. He hiked up his pants and scrubbed his hand through the sand, and then on his slacks.

“Wait five minutes. The kids are up.”

He walked unsteadily down the beach back towards the house.

Once he was gone, Majima starfished in the sand with the low beach scrub brushing prickly weeds against his back. The waves crashed rhythmically against the shore and his body pulsed in time with pleasure that grew more distant every second. His left wrist ached from Kiryu’s grip in a way that promised a doctor’s visit. He replayed his tongue sliding against his and his calloused palm around his dick, and basked in the unparalleled pleasure of being right.