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Black Market Baby

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On Wednesday night Kiryu is stirred out of sleep by the buzzing of his phone.


Kiryu rubs his eyes and squints to make the backlit screen come into focus as he types: what is that?

GOROMI <3: It’s like a regular date but better and in reverse.

But how does it work? 

GOROMI <3: Good thing you’re pretty, ‘cause you’re dumb as a bag of rocks. How does a regular date go?

I don’t know, I don’t have that much experience except with you. I guess drinks followed by dinner, maybe a third activity. Like bowling?

GOROMI <3: The third activity is fucking, Kiryu-chan. Takin your sweetie back to a classy hotel or your swinging bachelor pad and blowing her mind for six to eight minutes.

I can last longer than that! Last time was just–

Kiryu presses ‘send’ before he can even think of an end to the sentence. He scowls and hurriedly types a follow-up message:

Anyway, it’s a compliment. Because you’re very sexy.

GOROMI <3: It was magical, baby – don’t get a complex.

GOROMI <3: Point is, by the time a couple of lovebirds have loaded up on 2-for-1 happy hour specials and complex carbs they’re not exactly on top fucking form.

GOROMI <3: So let’s cut to the chase. Work up an appetite, then head out for dinner and drinks. Sound good?

Yeah. Sounds amazing.

The next message he receives is the address of somewhere called ‘Hotel Fantassie’, a date and time.

GOROMI <3: See you soon, stud ;)

:)  <3  P)

GOROMI <3: ???

It’s me and you!

GOROMI <3: That’s the cutest fuckin thing I’ve ever seen.

GOROMI <3: I hate it.

Kiryu arrives at the hotel a little late due to an unusual density of delinquents on his run across town. He examines the illuminated screen in the lobby that displays available room numbers, but this of course tells him nothing about which of the greyed-out rooms might be hers. He can’t exactly go knocking door to door.

He calls Goromi and the phone goes straight to voicemail. The ‘leave a message’ recording is just swearing and the sound of someone getting beaten up. Kiryu suspects she set it by accident, maybe while hitting someone with the handset.

He approaches the reception desk. “Excuse me, is there…? My girlfriend might have left a key. She’s… tall, a lot of tattoos, blonde hair and an eye patch. Extremely glamorous, wears a lot of pink?”

The reception booth has only a small cut-out showing the attendant’s hands and torso – probably to protect the guests from curious or disapproving stares. It dawns on Kiryu that the attendant might not have seen anything. “Uh. She’s very loud and very Kansai. Laugh like a wicked witch from a fairy tale? You’d definitely remember her if she came in.”

A key card slides across the cheap wood veneer and Kiryu catches a glimpse of blue dress shirt. “Room 609.” The voice is familiar, though somewhat muffled.

“Nishida, is that you?”     

“… No?”

“I don’t know how much your boss pays you, but you should definitely ask for a raise. A lot of this stuff can’t be in your job description.”

A choking sound followed by a high-pitched: “have a nice stay, SIR.”

Kiryu rides a rickety elevator to the sixth floor and walks to the end of the hallway. The door opens with a bleep at the swipe of his card and admits him to a room lit by a soft pink glow.

The room seems to have an ‘Arabian Nights’ theme – the walls are painted red, yellow and blue in a tile pattern and there are tasselled carpets and cushions scattered about. The bed is a four-poster veiled in layers of a sheer pink fabric. The lamp placed on the far side of the bed shines through these draperies, revealing the silhouette of the person lying on the bed – a lean body with long, muscular legs, a knot of hair tied up with a bow. There is a trail of shed clothing leading from the door – tangled fishnets, a twist of something pink and sequinned, black peep-toe shoes – one on its side and the other standing upright – and a pair of pink panties with black lace overlay and frills.

“You’re late, Kiryu-chan,” says Goromi’s voice. The shadow wags a finger.

Kiryu’s blood has already deserted his brain from seeing the undergarments on the floor. He stammers out: “Sorry, uh – there was – I got held up.”

“I was so bored, Kiryu-chan,” she says in a nasal, complaining tone. “I had to get started without you.”

“I’m very sorry.” It’s true – the fact Kiryu wasn’t here in time to help undress her might be the greatest tragedy of his life. “I’ll make it up to you.”

An arm emerges from between the panes of fabric, a finger topped with a wickedly long acrylic nail curling in a beckoning gesture.

Kiryu leaves his shoes by the door and tears off his suit, tossing it over a dusty velvet ottoman. He parts the curtains and finds Goromi lying on her stomach with her hips propped up on a bank of pillows. She is naked – which he already knew, but somehow he is still unprepared for the full expanse of her flexing back and the saturated blacks and reds of the tattoo. Hannya mask bares her golden teeth at him and sakura dance in the static breeze. Goromi has her feet raised and crossed at the ankle, swinging back and forth in a restless rhythm like an angry cat thrashing its tail. The polish on her toes is watermelon pink.

“Goromi,” he says, kissing his way up her spine. He drapes himself over her and shivers at the feeling of being skin to skin. He nuzzles at her neck and tries to catch the corner of her mouth but she turns her face away.

A foot lands in his ribs, the awkward sideways angle robbing the blow of any real power. “Ah-ah, if ya wanted foreplay ya shoulda been on time.”

“Goromi, please. Let me kiss you, let me…” he drops his voice, “let me suck you.”

“Later, maybe. If you’re good. C’mon, don’t keep a lady waiting.”

There’s a condom resting on the pillow like a complimentary chocolate in a classier hotel. Kiryu works it on as she looks back over her shoulder, arms folded like she’s about to settle down for a nap. “Such a good boy – always hard and ready for me when I want ya. Now this is what I call room service.”

Kiryu flushes at the patronising praise. Her hips flex and legs spread where she’s propped up on the pillows and he catches something shining on her inner thighs. He makes a low, helpless sound, thumb slipping into the crease of her ass to confirm what he already knows – she’s wet and slippery with lube.

“Goromi,” he says, the tone of his voice somewhere between thrilled and accusing. He slips a finger into her up to the second knuckle and she looks back at him, glossy lips parted. He wonders when she had time to do it – before she came here? Or did she arrive in the room as Majima, working herself open before applying the manicure? He’s so enthralled by the mystery of her – how and where she blinks into existence.

“Kiryu-chan,” she replies with false sweetness, heavy eyelashes fluttering. He takes hold of himself and slides in. She gasps and her spine curves, hands spreading and then clawing in around the pillow, but she doesn’t move back to meet him – just lies there luxuriating like she’s receiving a massage. Fine, she wants pleasure, she wants satisfaction – that’s what he’s here for.

Kiryu pulls and arranges her so he can fuck her deeper. He watches his own hands flex around her hips, the rippling flesh of her ass, and the pornographic stretch of her body around him. The bed squeaks under them, thudding against the wall as he thrusts. She shouts encouragement like it’s a spectator sport: “that’s it, just like that! Shit, you’re a fuckin’ beast! Wreck me, Kiryu-chan, do it!”

He can’t be sure that he lasts any longer than the first time. The tight clench of her body, her obscene taunts and the flashes of her heated gaze he catches through a curtain of hair – all of it stokes a fire in him, and before he knows it he’s gasping and begging her to be allowed to come.

She laughs, face muffled in the pillow. “Aw baby, askin’ so nicely – like ya can even help yourself.”

“Goromi, please.”

“Yeah, yeah, c’mon champ. You earned it.”

Kiryu bends over her, sweaty chest to back. He buries his face in the back of her neck and pulls her down on him one more time as he comes, thighs trembling. He feels himself spiralling up out of his body, light-headed and breathless.

He pulls out, tries to steady himself on a post and gets briefly tangled in the hangings. Upon freeing himself, Kiryu leans over the bed to dispose of the condom in another discreetly provided waste basket. Goromi lies face-down, limbs sprawled – she looks like a murder victim from a lurid detective show. She is the dearly-departed blonde, legs up to here – a tragedy.

“Flip me over, honey,” she says. “This side’s done.”

He levers her up at the shoulder and hip and she rolls over with a groan. Much of her make-up has rubbed off on the pillow, leaving behind a blurry, impressionistic image of herself, complete with a void where the eyepatch sits. Her earrings are tangled in her hair and her sequinned bow is askew. Her dick is still hard and curving prettily up towards her belly, the tip flushed red and leaking. Kiryu leans down and sucks it, unable to resist, and she shoves him back with a hand on his chest. “Hey, hey, didn’t say ya earned that.”

Kiryu tries to look as pathetic as possible, not much of a stretch in his current state of desperation.

She’s distracted, however, groping his chest thoughtfully. “Anyone ever told you ya got an incredible pair of tits, Kiryu-chan? Truly fuckin’ spectacular.”

“They’re not…” he looks down, hissing as her long nails pinch his nipples. “I mean, they’re pecs.”

“They’re more’n a handful, that’s for sure. Think you can hold ‘em together for me while I get off?”

“You want to…?” Kiryu looks down, trying to work out the mechanics.

“Ya aint never had a titty-job?” she lets out a low whistle. “Missin’ out.”

She leans over the bed among all the rumpled sheets and he hears the click of a bottlecap, then she flops back with a sigh and he flinches as she spreads something cool and slick up the centre of his chest. She props herself up on the bank of pillows like a potentate at a feast, her legs spread, dick hard and expectant. Kiryu crawls between her thighs and lowers himself down, contemplating the positioning of his legs and arms in this advanced yoga move. He leans on his elbows as he pushes his pecs together from the sides. She tilts her hips, pushing back against him and ruffling his hair with smug affection as her dick slides in the wet, slippery crease. It’s faintly humiliating, but he’s too blissed-out and stupid from his own orgasm to care.

“Look at you, baby,” she coos. “Always so good for me, aint ya? Little tighter now.” She throws her head back, rocks her hips faster with a grunt. Kiryu leans into the uncomfortable stretch, drops his chin so the head of her dick brushes his lips with every thrust. He opens his mouth, flattens his tongue so she’ll rub across it.  He feels a burst of wetness that surprises him and he turns his face on reflex – the rest of her load goes over his cheek, into his sideburn and the hair at his temple. He’s both shocked and thrilled that he made it happen.

She slumps back, reaching out to squeeze his jaw a little meanly. “there you are – ruined just like ya wanted, huh?”

Kiryu swallows and nods. She rubs against his bottom lip with the pad of her thumb – he pushes his tongue up to meet it and he realises what she’s doing – making him lick off her come. He closes his eyes, tongue rasping against the inner curve of her nail.

“Good boy, perfect.”

He pulls off her thumb with a pop and as the feelings of warmth and satisfaction recede, he becomes conscious of how sweaty he is, the loose strands of hair curling and sticking to his brow; he is also streaked with lube and semen. He must look like… he doesn’t want to know. She is flushed and triumphant, but he can’t meet her eye – her smile is as far as he’ll go.

He takes himself off to the bathroom to clean up. She’s curled on her side when he comes back and he climbs back into the bed with her, trying to fit himself into the spaces between her bony elbows and knees, to get as close as he can without jostling her and risking pulling her out of her drowsy and compliant state.

He kisses her, wet and deep at first and then softer and softer until they are just pressing their lips together in a lingering moth-wing brush. He pulls back until her face comes into focus, then reaches out to touch her jaw, sliding his thumb across into the hollow of her cheek and then up over the bow of her lips. Her eye opens, iris as dark and shiny as a new-hatched chestnut. He rubs his thumb at the outer edge, feeling the tracery of lines that become crow’s feet when she smiles, and watches as the light plays across the glittering arc of her eyeshadow. She groans and shifts, a soft laugh in her exhalation. “Oi, don’t give me that dopey, lovestruck look.”

“Why not?”

“You know why not.”

Kiryu feels the danger in pressing this enigmatic comment. He charges on – bull-headed as always: “if you’re telling me not to fall in love with you, it’s too late for that.”

She laughs. “Kiryu-chan, only you could make a confession like that sound like a threat.”

Kiryu wants to press more, but he knows how it goes with her – as with Majima – there won’t be a direct route when it comes to feelings and intentions. A flicker at the edge of your gaze that vanishes when you try to look at it head-on: jokes, double-meanings, innuendos. He presses his forehead to hers, closes his eyes and tries to convey the depth of his feeling without words.

He knows it’s irrational, given who she is and the short time they’ve been dating. It doesn’t matter. She seems essential, a piece that has clicked into place in his life. His heart lifts in joyful recognition when he sees her, like a dog hearing the rattle of its owner’s keys in the front door. Goromi!

“Hey, don’t get too comfortable,” she says. “I’m hungry, ya know.”

“Hmm,” he smiles against her cheek, rubbing her arm. “You want to get dressed and hit the town?”

“Nah, wanna stay right here for a little while. Was hoping some chivalrous guy might volunteer for a supply run.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

She curls against him with a sad little: “Kiryu-chaaaan.”

Manipulative, underhand – extremely effective.


“Honey, I’m home,” Kiryu calls out as he hops to remove his shoes, weighed down on one side by the grocery bags.

“Finally, I’m starving. Get over here.” Goromi stubs out her cigarette where she’s sitting at a low table surrounded by more scattered and bejewelled cushions (Kiryu is trying not to think about the hygiene implications of so many soft furnishings in a love hotel). She has refreshed her make-up (frosted blue eyeshadow, peony pink blusher and lipstick) but made no further progress in getting dressed than putting on her underwear – a fact that makes Kiryu extremely glad to be alive.

Kiryu deposits one of the plastic bags from the convenience store on the table and she grabs it like a racoon getting its paws on some particularly succulent garbage. He watches her face as she uncovers the treasures within, scattering snacks left and right.

“Only three kinds of chips?” she scrunches up her nose. “And I wanted that knockoff brand Pocky – the one with the artificial strawberry so strong it burns your tastebuds.”

“You didn’t ask for it.” Kiryu removes his jacket and, on second thought, his shirt. He feels overdressed for this occasion.

She points an accusing finger. “If ya really loved me you would know.”

“Please forgive me, your majesty, for not adequately anticipating your wishes.”

“Hey, which of these bentos is for me?” Goromi bends down and squints through the plastic lids.

“Whichever you want.”

“Which of ‘em was most expensive?”

“They both cost the same. They’re exactly the same except one has squid, I think, and the other has fried chicken.”

She scrutinizes both boxes this way and that, weighs them in her hands, then selects one, eyeing Kiryu suspiciously when he pulls the other towards him.

Kiryu settles himself cross-legged on the other side of the table and reaches back into the bag he left on the floor. His fingers close around two chilled cans and he pulls them out and hides them behind his back. “Pick a hand,” he says.

“O-ho, what’s this?” she gets the avid, delighted look that it always thrills him to see. “Eeeny-meeny-miney-mo…” she gives his right shoulder a sharp jab.

Kiryu shuffles the cans in his hand and produces the correct one, a peach and passionfruit soda decorated with the brand’s cartoon mascot, Supotto-chan – a black and white dog in a pink miniskirt. She has a hair bow and one of the black patches of her coat is directly over her left eye.

“It’s meee!” Goromi cries triumphantly, snatching it up.

Kiryu hums in agreement. “One of your relatives, anyway.”

Goromi’s eye is shining as she looks at the picture, turning the can in her hands. “Kiryu-chan, I will never criticise your snack choices again!”

“I’m glad you like it.” Kiryu puts his own can of amazake on the table and wipes the condensation from his hands onto his pants.

“Hey, take a picture of us,” Goromi cradles the soda can to her face and fans her fingers out like a model from a vintage advertisement. “Me and my sister from another mister.”

Kiryu pulls his phone out of his pocket and leans close to snap the picture, turning it to show her. “Very beautiful, Goromi.”

“Gonna keep that one for the spank bank, huh?”

“You can’t be romantic for even one second, can you?” He pulls the lid off his bento and breaks his chopsticks apart.

“Wait! Aren’t ya gonna be thankful?” Goromi puts her hands together, thumbs towards her chest, and grins at him – the good-mannered child lording it over a hasty classmate.

Kiryu presses his palms together, mirroring her gesture. “Itadakimasu!” they say in unison, the same sing-song intonation.

Goromi digs in like a starving person, scattering rice grains over the table as she chews and talks at the same time. She makes wasabi, soy sauce and mayonnaise into a repulsive slurry which she refers to as ‘special sauce’. She pouts until Kiryu gives her half his squid, sneakily deposits the radish pickles she doesn’t want on his side. Then she pushes her empty tray aside before Kiryu’s even finished his meal and demands dessert.

He lowers the piece of daikon that was halfway to his mouth. “Better go buy it yourself, then.”

“Kiryu-chan, don’t be mean,” she pouts. “You got me something. You wouldn’t deny me, I know it.”

Kiryu sighs and sets his chopsticks carefully across his tray. He reaches down into the plastic bag and produces a pastry box, which he slides across the table towards her like an engagement ring.

Goromi tears it open and her face lights up when she spies the strawberry éclair. “Long and pink, my two favourite things.” She bites into it suggestively, swiping cream from the corner of her mouth with the point of her tongue.

Kiryu finishes his own meal and sips his amazake. The last time he sat down to eat with another person was in the prison dining hall, so even the store-bought bento feels like luxury compared to that. Between bites, Goromi rambles about Majima Family antics: legendary brawls against those who dare encroach on their turf; all-night drunken adventures; karaoke battles. It’s maybe the best time Kiryu remembers having since he went away – food, light chatter, how beautiful she is.

“Kinda quiet there,” she says, sliding her can of soda towards him.

“Sorry,” Kiryu pops the tab and pushes it back.

She takes a sip and brushes the long tassels of her earring with a flip of her free hand. “Girl might get the idea you’re not interested.”

“I guess I’m just not a big talker since prison. I spent a lot of time avoiding people, keeping my head down.”

“You say that like ya were the life an’ soul of the party before. You’ve always been the strong, silent type.”

“Was I?” That’s not how Kiryu remembers it, but probably everyone seems quiet compared to Majima.

“M-mm,” she tilts her head back. “There’s something about you. This cool quality, ya know? Like ya can always take it or leave it. It’s hard to hold your attention, makes people want to try. Try too hard, maybe.”

“You make me sound kind of arrogant.”

“Nah, it’s not like that. The opposite, maybe. Like ya don’t really want anything, y’know? Other guys they go for what they want – graspin’, climbin’ the greasy pole. You always seemed to be above that.”

Kiryu shrugs. “I’m not a saint, either.”

“Don’t know what you are exactly. Some kind of gifted idiot, maybe. Does what’s right and never what’s smart.”

Kiryu shakes his head, a smile tugging up the corner of his mouth. “For a whole two seconds there, I thought you were saying something sweet.”

“Ya wanted sweet, ya wouldn’t be datin’ me. I’m keepin’ it real, Kiryu-chan.” She makes a gun cocking motion, pointing with two fingers.

“Sometimes a man likes to be flattered, you know?”

She rolls her eye and groans. “Oh, fine. We’ll play a game. It’s called ‘Nice Girlfriend Goromi’.”

“What are the rules?” Kiryu asks, sitting up at attention. “How do I win?”

“The rules are what I say they are and ya win simply by bein’ allowed to play.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Hey! Any more attitude from ya and we’ll play a round of ‘Mean Girlfriend Goromi’ instead.”

“How is that different from ‘Regular Girlfriend Goromi’?”

“You’re real sassy tonight, huh? You’re lucky I’m still a little loopy from all that good dick ya gave me earlier, ‘cause otherwise I’d be inclined to take offence.”

“I just don’t get why it has to be a game. Couldn’t you just… be nice to me?”

She wrinkles her nose. “Ew, Kiryu-chan – that’s perverted. A little fun in the privacy of a bedroom’s one thing, but I aint about that ‘lifestyle’.” She clears her throat and moves to a kneeling position, clasping her hands together before her chest, fingers interlaced. “Pleased to meet you! I’m your nice girlfriend, Goromi. I like puppies and kittens and cute things. I am modest and virginal, so please do not outrage my sense of decency. Let’s have fun together, ok?”

Kiryu thinks about pointing out that the only thing she’s wearing is a pair of lace briefs. He rests his hands on his knees to look more formal and nods towards her across the table. “Pleased to meet you too, Goromi. I’m Kazuma and I’ve never had a nice girlfriend before.”

“Eh?” she tilts her head, birdlike. “Never? But you’re so strong and handsome, Kazu-chan. How can it be that no nice girls have wanted to date you?”

“Just unlucky, I guess.”

She taps the side of her mouth in a thoughtful attitude. “Hmm, then I guess you’ve never done any nice girlfriend activities, like picnics in the park, cute photobooth sessions, or resting your heavy head in a soft and pillowy lap.”

“I haven’t done any of those things, you’re right.”

“Oh no!” Goromi claps her hands to her cheeks. “This is a tragedy. Hard to imagine how a man goes on living, so deprived.”

Kiryu tries not to laugh as he nods in agreement. “It’s a struggle.”

“You’d better come over here right away so I can soothe your fevered brow.” She pats her thighs, which are lean, taut muscle and in no way soft or pillowy.

Kiryu moves over to her side of the table, displacing pillows so he can lower himself down on his side and fit his head into the cradle of Goromi’s lap. She places one hand in his hair and rubs slowly in circles, the other stroking his shoulder and arm.

“Eh, Kazu-chan, you have a big, scary tattoo – you’re not a bad boy, are you?”

“No,” he says, letting his eyes droop closed. “Not anymore.”

“What shall we do now? Should I sing you a song, or do you want to tell me all your troubles and I’ll make sympathetic noises? Like ‘ahhhhh, that must be difficult?’ and ‘oh no, my poor darling!’”

“I don’t have any troubles when I’m with you, Goromi.”

“Hmm. I could make some for you.”

He turns his head to kiss her knee. “Tell me about the future.”

“Hey, ya want Psychic Girlfriend Goromi, ya have to pay extra.”

“I didn’t even know I was paying for this in the first place.”

“You’ll pay, alright – after this you’re taking me to Shellac for expensive cocktails.”

“I know, I remember – reverse date night.”

She slips back into the artificially sweet and formal voice. “Mmm, Kazu-chan is a good and generous boyfriend,” she leans down and kisses him on the temple, a lock of her hair tickling his cheek. She hums something quietly, a song he vaguely recognises from their trip to karaoke. “The future… let’s see. You and I will get married, obviously, because you have nothing but honourable intentions. The wedding will be in spring, so we can enjoy the cherry blossoms. And then we will move to the suburbs and adopt ten children.”

“Why so many?”

“Because you attract waifs and strays, that’s your nature. Everyone wants to be taken care of by Kazu-chan.”

Kiryu thinks about Haruka, cowering behind a bar in that scene of carnage. Her near-instant, unjustified trust in him. He left her asleep in Reina’s care, telling himself a few hours wouldn’t make a difference, but the sour taste of guilt is in the back of his throat. “That’s a nice picture, your future.”

“I know. I’m pretty good at this game, aint I?”

“Yeah.” Kiryu closes his eyes again, concentrates on the feeling of her fingers in his hair. He greedily hoards his memories of every moment with her. Sometimes it feels like these experiences are already second-hand, already tinged with the bittersweet pleasure of nostalgia. There’s always something on the horizon, closing in fast. Something he has to do, because if not him, who?

She’s humming again, finger and thumb toying with the lobe of his ear.

“What’s your song about, Goromi?”

“Who knows? Just some catchy love song, I guess.”


On Friday Kiryu is hurrying down Pink Alley when he hears an echoing “Kiryu-chaaaaan!”    

He looks left and right, scans the distance and looks back over his shoulder, checking for a flash of obnoxious yellow jacket. Nothing. He glares suspiciously at the nearest sewer grating, taking three steps back and then turning down an even narrower street, realising too late that it’s a dead end. There’s a sudden rush of wind and the unmistakable sound of Majima’s blade singing through the air – Majima appears from above, landing in front of Kiryu in a crouch and leaping up again like he has springs in his heels.

“Where did you even come from?” Kiryu dodges, looks up and sees that the ramen shop he was passing has a piece of low roof jutting out about ten feet off the ground. Majima must have been lying in wait, squatting up there like the world’s tackiest gargoyle. “Why?” Kiryu asks helplessly, aiming a kick at his stomach and looking around for a convenient sign to wield. This alley has nothing – not even room to swing a cat, let alone a specials board. Majima’s blade nicks his side and Kiryu falls back against the wall.

“You know why!” Majima cackles, dancing back with an almost come-hither look in his eye, tantō raised. “You’re like a broken record, Kiryu-chan.”

Kiryu kicks the blade out of his hand and grabs his knee before he can chase after it, pulling Majima’s leg out from under him so he goes down hard. He climbs onto Majima’s chest and gets a few good punches in, arm pumping like a piston. Majima scissor kicks and twists, rolls them over and over into the gutter, where they belong. Kiryu is pissed – he just got this suit dry-cleaned.

The fight goes on like music, increasingly complex variations on a violent theme. Finally, it looks like Majima is tiring. They’re grappling on the ground and Kiryu is gearing up for a finishing move – fingers clenched in Majima’s hair and fist drawn back to release – when Majima surges up and kisses him. Someone’s blood is in his mouth and Kiryu can feel a roll of hips from below, the hard line of Majima’s dick searing into Kiryu’s thigh like a brand.

“What the hell are you doing?” Kiryu demands, scrambling off him.

Majima laughs, spreads his arms. “Come on, Kiryu-chan. Don’t act coy. We can mix a little pleasure with business.” He rolls smoothly to his feet – resilient as rubber – and moves towards Kiryu in a predatory, stalking pose, shoulders rounded and head lowered. Kiryu backs up until he hits a vending machine (always a vending machine), the collision dislodging several cans and sending them rattling into the pickup slot.

One of Majima’s gloved hands plants itself on the worn brick next to Kiryu’s head, the other on his chest and begins sliding down. When it gets to his belt, Kiryu grabs his wrist and squeezes. “Majima, stop.”

Majima leans in, grinning in a cocksure way. “Come on, don’t be a buzzkill. I got the boys back there on bouncer duty just in case some asshole decides to wander by and interrupt.” He jerks his chin towards the mouth of the alley. “There aint gonna be no audience, just you and me.”

Kiryu doesn’t know whether to be impressed or horrified by Majima’s level of forward-planning. His insistence on involving his underlings in his romantic schemes is certainly disturbing.

“Majima-san,” Kiryu says in a surprisingly calm voice. “I’m very flattered by your interest, but I have a girlfriend.”

Majima looks genuinely shocked. He blinks and his mouth opens and then shuts, then he lets out a strange bark of laughter. “Hah?”

“I’m very fond of her and I respect her,” Kiryu continues. “I would never want to betray her trust. So please take your hand away from my crotch.”

“Are ya fuckin’ FOR REAL?” Majima demands, spittle flecking against Kiryu’s cheek in his agitation.


Majima jerks his hand out of Kiryu’s grip and punches him in the balls.

Kiryu crumples to his knees, then curls up onto his side. He breathes in shallow, rasping gasps and tries not to throw up. Not gentlemanly conduct – he’s disappointed in Majima. From his place on the ground all he can see is a pair of steel-capped shoes marching away. Their distinctive click-clacking fades and disappears.

“Fuck,” Kiryu huffs, slowly easing himself into a sitting position against the side of the vending machine. He reaches into the slot and pulls out one of the windfall cans, hoping for a medicinal Staminan X or Toughness Z. It’s barley tea, which is at least refreshing and fortified with vitamins and minerals. Kiryu is trying to keep a positive outlook, even though he has a sinking feeling that Majima’s campaign against him – already at ridiculous heights – is about to kick up another notch.


Kiryu doesn’t hear from Goromi for an entire day and starts to worry that Majima’s anger has seeped across and become hers. Just as he’s about to give in to the adolescent urge to text her ‘baby, are you mad?’ and a string of sad emoticons, he finally receives a message:

GOROMI <3: Got a special date idea for tonight – a surprise! 10PM: meet me back where it all started.

Kiryu texts back with his acceptance and follow-up questions, but she doesn’t reply.

‘Where it all started’ – does she mean that weird French-themed bar where they had their first date? The alley where they had their first kiss? He decides that the message implies something more fundamental: their first meeting.

Having learned his lesson from last time, Kiryu makes sure to arrive early at Club Shine and asks the manager to conduct him to a booth. He explains that he’s waiting for a friend, he won’t need a hostess just yet. He jogs his knee in anxious anticipation, scanning the entrance and the bar area for a flash of gaudy pink.

He flinches when a pair of gloved hands cover his eyes from behind, but then he hears a familiar high and playful voice: “surpriiiise, Kiryu-chan! Guess who?”

“Goromi,” he says, smiling.

The hands pull away and there comes a rush of air as the not-so-mystery guest jumps over the back of the booth.

“Wrong!” comes the sing-song voice.

Kiryu takes in the familiar snakeskin jacket and black leather pants, the shiny-tipped shoes. “Majima-san.”

“Aw, ya don’t look pleased. Were ya expecting someone else?”

“I think you know I was. I was waiting for my girlfriend.”

“Wrong again, dummy. Your girlfriend doesn’t exist. She’s me in a fuckin’ wig. Shocker, I know.”

Kiryu lowers his voice. “It’s not that simple. I think you know that, niisan.”

“Don’t ‘niisan’ me – I know ya only do that when you’re tryin’ to twist my arm and it’s not fuckin’ cute.”

The head waiter comes over and bows with a jerk. “Excuse me, gentlemen. Do you have particular girls you would like to request or–”

“We don’t need no fuckin’ girls, bud!” Majima snaps. “I’m tryin’ to have a serious conversation with this very sad and confused man right here.”

“But sir, this is a hostess club.”

Majima sighs. “Fuck it – who’s on the roster tonight?”

“Well there’s Sachiko, Aoi, Keiko, Mei–”

“Great, they’re all on break for the next thirty minutes. On me, ok?” He pulls a roll of bills out of an inner pocket and places it on the waiter’s empty tray. “That should cover the base fee, plus whatever drinks they want. Go crazy. Champagne for everyone!”

“But…” the waiter looks flustered. “You could just go to a regular bar… this is very unusual.”

“Unusual you don’t know the half of, buddy. Go on, bring us a couple a’ whiskies – Hibiki 17 if you got it.”

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” the waiter bows and walks off in a rapid penguin shuffle.

In the ensuing awkward silence, Majima lights himself a cigarette and sits back, crossing his long legs at the ankle, encroaching on Kiryu’s space. “Awful quiet there, Kiryu-chan. Ya got nothin’ to say?”

“If Goromi didn’t feel like coming out tonight she could have just texted me.”

Majima narrows his eye. “Still don’t get it, do ya? Her name is just mine with the character for ‘beauty’ jammed on the end. It’s a fuckin’ joke of a name – ‘Goro-but-hot’.”

“I don’t think it is a joke.”

“I’m the one who came up with it! Whaddya think, this is some Jekyll and Hyde shit? Your sweet girlfriend goes home and drinks a potion and becomes bad, mean old Majima? Nah, come on with that.”

“I don’t think that.” Kiryu frowns, struggling to articulate his fuzzy ideas. “I know she’s you, I know you’re both Majima – you have the same body, the same memories. But I also don’t think you made her up, not exactly.”

“You a shrink now, Kiryu-chan? Gonna explain my fuckin’ personal identity to me?”

Kiryu shakes his head. “You explain it, if you want me to understand.”

He leans forward, a wild, sadistic glint in his eye – mad dog slipping the leash. “Goromi is a bit. She’s a character I play sometimes, for fun. Like Everyone’s Idol Goro and Officer Majima and the fuckin’ zombie. You’re the one who took it too far. I thought it was just a joke, y’know – like Kiryu-chan finally learned to bat the ball back after all these years! But then I realised, holy shit, he’s in love with a fake girl. Like literally all I had to do to get ya to pay attention to me was put on some lipstick and a short skirt. It’s really that easy and you’re really that dumb. Or just fuckin’ lonely and pathetic.” Majima sniffs, takes another draw of his cigarette. “Anyway, I guess it was funny for a while, but the joke got old.”

Kiryu stares at him coldly. He feels disappointed – not for himself, with Majima. This is petty and unbecoming, like punching him in the balls. It’s tipping over the board rather than admitting defeat. “Why are you doing this?” he asks.

Majima shrugs with affected carelessness. “Because truth’s a bitch and so am I.”

Kiryu folds his arms. “That sounds like something she would say.”

“Yeah, guess what – I wrote all her lines. It was an inside job.”

“So it was all pretend,” Kiryu presses. “Every minute?”

“Yeah – ya got cotton in your ears or somethin’? I just said so.”

“So you painted your toes, which no-one else saw, for a joke?”


“You kissed me and had sex with me, for a joke? And you let me put my head in your lap, and you told me about your kyoudai, about your past, for a joke? And you ate with me and drank with me and danced with me, and you wore all those pretty clothes that fit you so perfectly, also for a joke?”

“Yeah. Ya don’t have to go on about it, I get the picture. I always take things too far, that’s my whole fuckin’ brand!”

Kiryu breathes out slowly, still staring straight ahead. “If I believed that, Majima-san... if I believed even one word of it, I would take you outside and put your head through a window. I would kick you from one end of Kamurocho to the other.”

“Hey yeah, that sounds like a great idea!” Majima slaps his own knee. “Good old Kiryu-chan!” He makes to get up and Kiryu yanks him back down by the tail of his jacket.

“Sit down. I said if I believed it, but I don’t.” Kiryu turns to look at him and sees the malicious smile waver – however Majima imagined this conversation playing out, this isn’t it. “You fooled me once, the first time we met in this club, but you won’t again. I don’t know exactly how it works with you and her. I really do want to listen, so you can explain, and I will try my best to understand. But whatever this is – you trying to make me angry, or upset, or humiliated, I won’t listen to that.”

The waiter picks this moment to return with their drinks, kneeling by their table as he offloads his tray. There is a moment of painful silence as they watch him fussing with napkins and placing the glasses just so. He tells them to enjoy, bows with the empty tray folded to his chest, and departs.

They each lift their drinks and sip moodily, no cheers. The silence stretches on: where to go from here? What is left to say?

Majima surprises him by cracking first: “well, can ya blame a guy for being a little jealous?”

Kiryu turns his head, takes in Majima’s sheepish expression. “Of who – Goromi?”

“Yeah. So she’s out there livin’ her best life, getting truly spectacular dick and generally bein’ treated like a princess. And what am I, chopped liver? Goromi’s phone is blowin’ up with date invitations and what’s Goro getting, more work emails? Quarterly reports from Nishida? Fuck that.”

“I’m sorry you were feeling neglected, niisan.”

“Quit it, I don’t need your pity. I’m just sayin’ how dumb it is that you’re chasin’ her and I’m chasin’ you. I’m literally in a love triangle with myself – that’s some Shakespearian shit.”

“It is pretty complicated, now that you mention it.”

Majima swirls his glass and gives Kiryu a quick glance before staring back down into his drink. “So do ya… I mean do ya genuinely not like men? It has to be her, only her?”

“I’ve never dated a man before, but I wouldn’t rule it out.”

“No offence–” Majima’s eyebrows crease, “well, some offence – but aren’t ya kind of long in the tooth not to have worked that shit out? I mean ya just came back from a decade-long sausage fest. How much more time do you need to figure out if ya like dudes?”

“I wouldn’t want to date anyone in prison, Majima-san. On my block, most of them were violent criminals and terrible people.”

“Violent? Oh no!”

“And also prison is not a very accepting environment for… those kinds of relationships.”

“No, really?” Majima makes an idiotic face of amazement. “Wow, guess we have it good in the enlightened yakuza.”

Kiryu almost complains about the sarcasm and bite of meanness, but then he remembers that Goromi is like that too. Only the knowing purr of her voice makes it charming.

Majima takes a long swallow of his drink. Kiryu doesn’t think he’s ever seen him look so uncertain. “So when you say you wouldn’t rule it out…”

Kiryu stares him down, merciless. “Is there a question there, Majima-san?”

“Stop torturing me, asshole. You know what I’m asking!”

“Do I?”

Majima makes a sound of frustration and puts down his glass with a thump. He points an accusing finger at Kiryu, then abruptly gets up from the booth and stalks outside.

Kiryu sits back, perplexed, and sips his drink. His phone rings and Kiryu answers in a daze. “Hello?”

“Ah, Kiryu-san. It’s Nishida.” There comes a breathless pause. “How are you?”

“I’m ok, I guess. What’s up?”

“I uh… I have a request from someone – do you remember a Goro Majima?”

Kiryu refuses to dignify this with an answer.

“I think you’ve met him a few times,” Nishida persists. “He’s my boss? Patriarch of the Majima Family, a subsidiary of the Tojo Clan? Sometimes known as ‘the Mad Dog of Shimano’? Six feet one inches tall, slim build, goatee beard, black hair shaved at the back, snakeskin jacket? Oh, and an eyepatch! He’s quite memorable, I think you would recall.”

“Yes, Nishida-san, I’m painfully aware of who Goro Majima is.”

“Oh good! He’ll be so happy he made an impression. The boss asked me to make this call because, you see… he’s a little shy.”

Kiryu considers responding to this by pitching his phone at the wall. “Sure, that’s believable.”

“He is! He might not show it, but boss is actually very sensitive and finds it hard to express himself to people he likes.”

“Ok,” Kiryu says in a defeated tone.

“So, he asked me to ask you if perhaps you would be interested in joining him on a date this evening. He has reason to believe you might be free.”

“Nishida-san, no offense to you – I know you have to go along with whatever ridiculous scheme he comes up with – but I’m hanging up the phone now.”     

“Kiryu-san – should I tell him–”

Kiryu presses the end call button, then calmly finishes the last mouthful of his whisky and gets up to leave. He finds Majima standing in the lobby with his arms folded across his chest, looking supremely amused with himself.

“You’re a chickenshit,” Kiryu says. “Why did you have to drag poor Nishida into this, yet again?”

“Huh?” the mischievous eye widens. “Nishida loves bein’ a go-between.”

“Somehow I doubt that.”

“He does! It lets him feel involved in our epic romance. He’s a real softie, y’know? Can’t count the times I’ve caught him cryin’ on the couch to a good rom-com. Besides, Kiryu-chan, I’m just copying your moves.”

“At least I had the decency to be honest about my feelings for Goromi. You’re just fucking around.”

“So is that a yes or a no?”

“Cut the performance,” Kiryu tells him sternly. “No comedy, no dragging Nishida into it – just tell me what you want.”

“What I want?” Majima steps closer, like he’s squaring up for a fight. “That’s a tough question, Kiryu-chan.”

“Why? Because you can’t admit it, or because you don’t know?”

“Because you make me want a lot of things. Right now, for instance, I wanna take ya outside for a good old-fashioned knock-down, drag-out fight. I wanna go on the tear with ya, drink ‘til I can’t feel my face or find my way home and you gotta carry me. I wanna take ya to dinner and make cow-eyes in the candlelight. I wanna take ya up to a rooftop and look at the stars, tell ya all my dirty secrets. And – not gonna lie – I really wanna take ya back to my place and ride you into the mattress ‘til dawn.” He jerks his chin, gaze still challenging. “So, what’ll it be? Gentleman’s choice.”

“I’m uh…” Kiryu blinks. “Those are all interesting ideas.”

“Interestin’?” Majima laughs and Kiryu feels the ripple of breath across his cheek. “Now who’s chickenshit?”

Kiryu reaches out and touches the lapel of Majima’s jacket, fingers sliding over the texture of the snakeskin. He can see Majima’s face looming close only in the periphery of his vision, softened and out of focus.

There was always something electric between them, something so powerful rolling under the surface that Kiryu was afraid to touch it in case it shocked him dead. Goromi was one degree removed and she let him take out his desires and turn them over, to look at them in the light. What would it be like to be loved by someone like Majima – a dynamo, a demon, a rival and something like a friend? The truest person he knows – unchanging in his wild freaks, his loyalty.

He thinks about doing it right – courting Majima like he did Goromi; allowing himself to be courted in return. He thinks about how time is always getting shorter and the list of missions always growing longer. He thinks about the promise in Majima’s eye ten years ago and how long they’ve both been waiting, wondering. “Is it far, your apartment?”

“Not too far,” Kiryu shivers as he feels lips against the corner of his jaw. “We can take a taxi.”

“Yeah, uh – yes please.”

He expects Majima to laugh at him for this, but instead he just puts his palm to Kiryu’s chest, a fingertip tracing the v of exposed skin at his open collar. His jaw tenses and his eye softens into an expression Kiryu has only glimpsed a few times before, in all the time he has known Majima – tired, a little sad.

“Goddamn,” he mutters. He looks at Kiryu like he’s seeing him for the first time, shaking his head. “If I’da known it was this easy…”

Kiryu takes Majima’s hand and lays it against his own cheek, turning into the warmth of the leather. “But it’s not easy for you – asking for things.”

“Yeah,” Majima rubs his thumb over the slope of Kiryu’s cheekbone and then lets his hand trail down to the edge of his jaw. He makes a noise of frustration: “can I?”

Before Kiryu can answer he’s being swept and turned like a dance move and shoved back into a coat rack. Majima kisses him with a desperation that feels familiar to Kiryu from the other side – when Goromi denies him, when she teases and turns her face away and then it’s so, so sweet when she relents. Majima licks into his mouth, drags his hands up Kiry’s back and down again. Kiryu grabs his hips and yanks him closer, spreading his own thighs so Majima can fit against him just right.

He sees Majima’s eye open wide and responds by sucking on his tongue, one hand in his hair and the other squeezing his ass. This body he knows – it smells the same, tastes the same – the only thing missing is the waxy slide of lipstick.

Majima pulls back with a hiss as Kiryu drags his bottom lip between his teeth. “You are…” he grins, looking thrilled.


Majima licks across Kiryu’s mouth and bites his ear. “In so much fuckin’ trouble when I get ya home.”


The taxi ride is torture. Kiryu doesn’t know where to look or what to say as Majima lies sprawled, knees apart, a look on his face like all hell is about to break loose. They pull up at a high-rise apartment block just beyond the bounds of Kamurocho and take an elevator up to the top floor. Kiryu stays on his side and ignores Majima smirking at him in the mirrored glass.

Majima unlocks a heavily reinforced door and it swings wide to reveal the penthouse apartment. Kiryu wasn’t sure what he was expecting – the fact that Majima sleeps, eats, bathes – or does anything besides cause mayhem – is news to him. If someone told him Majima actually lives in the sewers, or under a traffic cone, or in a back room at the batting cages, he wouldn’t be particularly surprised.

The apartment is – normal? Bland even, like a show home. It has pale wood floors and a big open-plan kitchen that doesn’t look as if it’s ever been used. The only signs of occupation are a collection of bottles on the kitchen island, a games console and a teetering stack of DVDs next to the widescreen TV, cigarette butts in an ashtray that has some kind of bar logo on it – probably stolen.

There is nothing on the rack by the door besides one sad, dusty house slipper, missing its mate. Kiryu wonders if that means Majima only owns the one pair of shoes. They are alike, in that respect.

“Welcome!” Majima announces in a sing-songy voice like a convenience store clerk. “Come in, make yourself at home. Ya want a drink?”

“Yeah,” Kiryu says, awkward and uncertain. He takes off his shoes and puts them on the rack. Majima does not, just striding in heedlessly and making his way to the bar area.

“Ya want a cocktail?” Majima offers. “I’m good at those – world famous.”

“Whatever you’re having,” Kiryu answers. He’s fascinated by this view of Majima’s secret inner world, and how empty it is. There are floor to ceiling windows in the seating area that provide a panoramic view across Kamurocho’s shifting neon lights. Kiryu wonders if Majima often stands there and looks out across his domain, drawing up battle plans.

Majima is talking, a kind of offhand chatter that seems casual but has a kind of manic edge. He’s reminiscing about his days running a cabaret club – crazy customers with outrageous demands; tricks the girls used to upsell the overpriced drinks; special menus he devised, all over the sound of rattling ice and glugs and splashes. Kiryu wanders into the bedroom and has the strangest feeling of déjà vu – he has seen this room before in Goromi’s pictures. There is the king-sized bed with the rumpled white covers, there is the full-length mirror. There are parts of it he hasn’t seen – the dressing table scattered with cosmetics, the walk-in closet with its sliding door open and the light still on.

Kiryu’s curiosity propels him forward. Inside is a veritable museum of Majima: pocket circuit parts; martial arts magazines; UFO-catcher toys; a tuxedo hanging half out of a garment bag; a police hat; tangled heaps of leather clothing; two jackets the double of the one he’s currently wearing. But what draws Kiryu’s eye is the entire side taken up with Goromi’s effects – a bulging rack of dresses, skirts and bustiers. Above that is a shelf of blonde wigs in differing styles sitting atop blank polystyrene mannequin heads; nestled next to them are jewellery trees dripping with bling. Kiryu has to struggle against the urge to bend down and bury his face in the clothes to see if he can catch her scent.

On a top shelf he spies the pink trapezoid purse with the big gold clasp that she brought on their second date. One of its corners is battered and there’s a big black scrape mark across the front like it got dragged across asphalt. An ancient artefact from simpler times – he reaches up to touch it reverently.       

Majima’s voice comes from close behind him, startling him. “Oh, so that’s where ya got to! Behind the magic curtain, huh? Y’know, people love sausage, but they don’t wanna see how it’s made.”

“I want to see,” Kiryu says, turning. “Would she let me watch, do you think?”

“Watch her getting dressed?” Majima’s eye widens. “Kiryu-chan, you really are a pervert. What kind of backwards-ass shit is this?”

“Forget it,” Kiryu flushes angrily.

Majima looks at him, thoughtful. “Ya wanna try on some of those outfits?” he tilts his head to indicate Goromi’s side of the closet. “Have a little fashion show?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why not?”

“I’d look stupid.”

“Who told you that? Hey, you gotta figure God gave you those big bouncin’ titties for a reason.”

“Majima-san, stop,” he says weakly.

“Here, drink your drink and stop lookin’ so goddamn tragic. I made it special for ya.” Majima hands over a tumbler containing a sphere of ice and some amber-coloured liquid. He holds out his own glass and they clink; Kiryu tastes the cocktail and finds it rich and smoky, with a bitter orange note.

“This is good.” Kiryu reflects that Goromi would never make him a drink – she’s queenly and demanding and refuses to do anything that might compromise her manicure – he likes that about her. But this is good, too.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Majima sets his glass on the dressing table next to a scattering of lipstick tubes and walks over to the bed, patting the space next to him as he sits down with a noisy sigh. “Why don’t ya come outta that closet and we’ll have some real fun?”

Kiryu sits next to Majima on the bed. His legs fall open and his left knee bumps against Majima’s right and he flinches back. Majima laughs, that abrupt cackle that seems like a tic. He puts his still-gloved hand on Kiryu’s knee and squeezes. “Jumpy, aint ya?”

“No offence, Majima-san, but every time you and I have been alone together for the past few weeks it’s meant a fight.”

“That aint true and ya know it. Besides, be against the code of hospitality to invite someone into my home and then attack ‘em. Tonight’s all pleasure and no pain… unless you’re into that.”

Kiryu shakes his head and puts his glass to one side on the nightstand. “Not that I know about, anyway.”

Majima makes a low sound and squeezes Kiryu’s thigh higher up. He leans over and kisses Kiryu, deep and lingering this time. Kiryu pushes off Majima’s jacket and rubs his hands over his shoulders, his chest, the well-defined muscles of his abdomen. He hesitates at the thick belt buckle and Majima bites Kiryu’s bottom lip, making a sound of amusement.

“Shy all of a sudden? Ya can’t keep your hands out of Goromi’s pants.”

“Her outfits are a lot more… easy access.”

“I’m offended by what you’re implyin’. Here, lemme help ya out.” Majima gets up and kicks off his shoes, then unbuckles his pants, shoving them down and stepping out of the pooled leather. His underwear is dark red with a lace band.

“That’s…” Kiryu trails off, staring.

“Oh yeah,” Majima grins, rasping his thumb against the lace. “Me and her got tastes in common.”

“So when we’re – when we’re fighting, you have these on?”

“Not always this particular pair, but yeah – always somethin’ pretty.”

Kiryu bites his lip. The thought Majima in lace underwear bounces around the inside of his skull like a screensaver.

“You need a minute there, stud?” Majima comes over to stand between Kiryu’s spread knees. Kiryu reaches up and touches the edge of the lace, then lets his fingers slide down to cup Majima where he’s stretching out the fabric. Feels like thick cotton, but softer. He leans down and rubs his cheek against it, breathing in deep. The musky scent underlying the fabric softener is the same and so is the hot jump of Majima’s cock against his lips.

Majima’s hand is in his hair, gloved fingertips rubbing circles on his scalp. “You know, the difference between me an’ her is she’s a pillow princess. Know what that means?”

Kiryu shakes his head, kisses Majima’s hip just above the waistband.

“Means she likes to lie back and let someone else do all the work. Me, I like to take a more active role. Understand?”

Kiryu sits back, frowning up at him. “Does that mean you want to – you want to be inside me?”

A yelp of laughter. “Nah, that aint what I had in mind. Your face, though, that is priceless.” Majima rubs Kiryu’s bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. “Wait – that somethin’ you’re interested in?”

Kiryu’s brow creases. “I don’t know. I’ve never tried. Seems like it would be uncomfortable.”

Majima grins. “Not gonna lie, it’s a learning curve. Worth it, in my humble opinion… but then I always had a thing for pushing myself. Sinking down on a big dick like yours, that’s an acquired taste – but once ya do get a taste for it – mm-mm – nothin’ compares.”

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

“Sometimes – that aint exactly a turn-off for me. But it’s more like… pressure. Lights me up like nothin’ else.”

Kiryu thinks about it, a lifetime of overheard jokes and insinuations. “Don’t you worry about other people finding out? Thinking you’re… not manly?”

“Fuck, my manly pride days are behind me, Kiryu-chan. I aint got nothin’ to prove, ‘cept maybe how good I am at suckin’ dick – which is very.” Majima sinks to his knees and starts unbuckling and unzipping Kiryu’s pants, sliding his hand inside to give him a fondle through his underwear until he’s fully hard, pulling him out. “Goddamn,” he says softly, then leans in and licks all the way up his shaft in one long stripe, making a sound of enjoyment as he sucks the head and then starts to swallow it down. Kiryu hisses and grabs at his shoulder and Majima makes a humming sound of amusement around him. He pulls back, closing his eye as his face falls slack with pleasure, then drops back down to take more, bobbing his head and building up a rhythm. It’s a proficiency Kiryu’s never seen outside of porn – this is the one thing Majima’s not just bragging about.

He touches the shorn part of Majima’s hair, ticklish and downy-fine against his fingertips, then slides up over the band of his eyepatch into the longer strands, which are thick and silky, still only finely threaded with silver. He never imagined Majima’s hair would be so soft – obviously Kiryu wasn’t paying attention all those times he used it as a savage hand-hold during their fights.   

He hears himself make a quiet, helpless moan, right thigh trembling under Majima’s spread fingers. Majima comes up for air with a slurping sound, opens his mouth wide to show Kiryu how his tongue looks curling over the head of his cock. He ducks down again and Kiryu gasps and reflexively closes his knees around the other man’s shoulders as he feels hot breath and the dancing point of a tongue threatening to send him over the edge. “Ah, Majima-san!”

“You really gonna call me that when I just sucked your dick?” Majima grins, strokes a gloved finger up and down Kiryu’s shaft and tugs it idly, letting go to watch it spring towards his stomach again.

“Majima,” Kiryu corrects, dopey with pleasure and a little embarrassed. 

Majima climbs to his feet with a groan, using Kiryu’s knee for support. He rubs a hand back through Kiryu’s hair, shaking his head as if in disbelief as he looks down at him. “Fuck, there’s something about you. No matter how many times I absolutely ruin ya it’s always like the first time. Get this sweet blush right here,” Majima traces his finger over the bridge of Kiryu’s nose, across his cheek, “like it’s a surprise, like ya can’t believe it’s happening.”

Kiryu can’t think of anything to say to that. He grasps Majima’s hips, stroking the seam between the lace and the cotton and then sliding one hand around to cup his dick, feeling out the shape of him and squeezing, rubbing his thumb over the wet spot. Majima grunts, lets out a low, filthy laugh. “Wanna get your mouth on that pretty bad, don’t ya?”


“Might let ya, if you’re good. If ya hold on for me while I’m gettin’ my fill of that legendary dick. Can ya do that for me, baby?”

Kiryu groans – when Goromi calls him ‘baby’ it’s bad enough – rich and teasing in a way that makes something curl tight in his stomach. When Majima does it, it’s downright obscene.

Majima takes a step back and pushes down his underwear, hard cock bobbing up towards his stomach. The last thing he removes is his gloves, and Kiryu gets a little lost in how hot he finds that, Majima tugging delicately at each fingertip to pull away the tight-fitting leather. Majima catches him staring dumbly and gives a sharp whistle out the side of his mouth. “Hey! Lose the clothes and get on the bed, chop-chop.”  

Kiryu almost trips over himself in his haste to comply – Majima makes him nervous, like Kiryu might lose his attention if he keeps him waiting too long. He leaves his clothes in a pile by the foot of the bed and lies back among the rumpled covers. They smell like Goromi’s perfume and there’s a black smear of eye makeup on one of the pillows. It feels like he’s conducting an affair – like the scorned woman might walk through the door at any moment and catch Kiryu in unspeakable acts with her husband. Is that how it is with them – like a marriage? He wants to ask Majima, but now is definitely not the time.

Majima rifles in a drawer and tosses a condom at Kiryu, placing a bottle of lube on the nightstand with a faintly menacing thunk before crawling over him. “C’mere, big boy. I’m gonna take that other half of your virginity.”

Majima straddles him and when Kiryu reaches for him he grasps Kiry’s wrists and pins them to the bed. “Uh-uh, this is my show. You just lie back and enjoy the wild ride.”

Kiryu pushes up against him, trying the strength of his grip. “Don’t you want me to…?”

“To what?” Majima smiles lazily, rubbing against him before sitting up and releasing his hands. Kiryu keeps them where he put them, clenching his fingers in the covers.

“To… get you ready?”

“Kiryu-chan, I was born ready.” Majima slicks up his fingers and reaches back where Kiryu can’t see –  only imagine how they look disappearing up inside him. Majima rises up on his knees and tilts his head back, letting out a deep moan. Sweat shines on the curve of his throat and he is magnificent. It’s about this time that Kiryu realises that the blinds are wide open and the overhead lights still blazing. If anyone in Kamurocho thinks to look up they might see a rectangle of light high up in the distance, indistinct shadows moving.

Majima wipes his hand off on his own thigh and goes for the condom, spitting the foil corner off among the sheets and unrolling it over Kiryu’s aching dick. Even the coolness of the latex feels good. He reaches behind himself to grasp Kiryu, angling him to sink down. There’s a moment of resistance where they both hang suspended and it seems like it won’t give, then Majima’s body opens up to him and there’s a smooth, tight glide as he sinks down.  

Instinctively, Kiryu reaches up to take hold of his waist and finds his hands grabbed and swiftly returned to the mattress. Majima laces their fingers almost tenderly and then squeezes until it hurts, a very mean smile on his face as he moves. “That’s it, Kiryu-chan. Just lie back and enjoy.”

Kiryu forces himself to sink into the bed, to become a passive recipient of this pleasure. The sensations are like a wet dream – weight, heat, filthy slickness as Majima grinds on top of him. It’s a little unnerving, he keeps thinking he should be doing something – angling, performing – but Majima has him pinned. Sweat is gathering under Kiryu’s back and even that is a strange, torturous pleasure. He wonders if this is why people like being tied up – it’s freeing in a way, the lack of control.

Majima unlaces their fingers and leans back, palms splayed out behind him as he changes the angle of his hips, adding a twist each time he drops down. He is fierce and vital, without a trace of self-consciousness. Goromi is beautiful but she always knows she’s being looked at, her every movement a kind of pin-up girl coy pose. Majima is just getting what he wants and he doesn’t care who knows it – he has a look of bliss on his face that reminds Kiryu of an animal scratching its itch on a fence: just there, oh yeah, that’s the stuff!  

Kiryu can’t help but touch him, clutching at his hip with one hand and his dick with the other.

“Oh – a rebel, huh?” Majima hisses, bouncing faster as Kiryu starts jerking him. “Just can’t keep your greedy hands off me like I told ya. Bad boy – is that what you are?”


“How come you’re good for her, huh? Always on your best behaviour – fuck! Think I’ll let things slide, do ya?”

“No, you know how to handle me,” Kiryu blurts out. “Keep me in line – ah!”

Majima’s eye opens and he grins wider than the hannya. “Yeah, that’s it. Shit, do it harder.”

Kiryu’s wrist is starting to go numb when Majima finally gives one deep thrust and tenses up, thighs shaking. He comes all over Kiryu’s stomach and lets out a gasp like he’s been punched, arms trembling with effort as he makes a valiant attempt to get back in rhythm so Kiryu can finish. Kiryu grips his waist hard and pulls him down as deep as he can, arching his spine as he comes, Majima just rocking on top of him and making a helpless sound like a whimper. They stare at each other in something like wonder, sweaty and limp with exhaustion.

“Holy shit,” Majima says, rising up on his knees so Kiryu’s dick slides out of him. He falls sideways onto the mattress, collapsing like a cowboy in a shoot-out from an old Western with one hand to his heart and eye squeezed shut. When Kiryu asks for directions to the bathroom to clean up he just grumbles and waves an uncoordinated arm.

Kiryu returns with a damp towel to offer Majima, who rubs his face and underarms, then rolls back to get the lube between his thighs. As Majima tosses the towel to land on the floor on the far side of the bed, it occurs to Kiryu that he is an odd mix of glamorous and slobby, just like Goromi. They like the big picture but keeping up the details is too much work. Everything gets bled or sweated away, eventually.

“Pass my cigarettes from the drawer, will ya?” Majima requests, lying back propped up on the pillows.

Kiryu sits down on the other side of the bed and rifles through buttons, condoms, lose change, and MesuKing cards until he finds the requested pack of Hi-Lites, which has a lighter tucked inside. Kiryu shakes out a cigarette for each of them and lights both in his own mouth before lying back and passing one over. Majima responds with a grateful mumble, rubs the side of his foot against Kiryu’s ankle. Kiryu glances down and notes that the polish on his toes is neon pink – they must have been refreshed since the last date.

Kiryu drinks the rest of his half-melted cocktail and finds an ashtray – miraculously clean – among the detritus in the drawer. It’s shaped like a clamshell and says ‘Greetings from Okinawa!’ around the rim. Kiryu pats down the bedclothes and balances it between them.

They smoke in companionable silence until Kiryu screws up his courage to ask: “can I talk about her – about Goromi?”

“Shit, Kiryu-chan,” Majima turns his head and squints resentfully. “I fuck your brains out and ya still want to talk about her?”

“About both of you.”

“Well, ok,” Majima grumbles, rolling his shoulders as he takes another drag. “So long as you’re not playin’ favourites. We’re both real big-time divas – so good luck with that, buddy.”

“Hmm. That’s ok. I like it – being someone’s. Having someone to keep in mind.” Kiryu frowns as he tries to articulate another idea that is only revealing itself to him slowly. “It’s like she said – about me being sort of cold and aloof. Maybe wanting things is good for me.”

“It’s progress, that’s for sure,” Majima scratches the side of his nose with the forefinger of the hand holding his cigarette. “Y’know what I think? Dr Majima’s expert psychological insight?”


“Your shit,” he makes a circle with his fingertips to indicate Kiryu’s head, “is all about Daddy Kazama.”

“What about him?”

“That’s why you joined the circus, right? Get his approval. Aint about what lil’ Kiryu wanted, all about pleasin’ daddy. But Daddy is never pleased – tough love all over. Witholdin’.”

“Shut up niisan, this is nothing to do with him.”

Majima laughs, leans back further into the pillows. 

“Listen,” Kiryu tells him, determined to continue with his personal revelations even if Majima is the worst possible audience. “I’ve always done what other people want or need me to do. I don’t want things for myself, really – or not strongly. Other people’s wants bleed into me, their missions become mine. But it’s not like that with you, or with Goromi.”

“Sure.” For a brief moment Kiryu thinks maybe Majima is agreeing with him but then he announces: “hey, I’m hungry – you want take-out?”

Kiryu grabs his arm before he can pull away. “In a minute. Let me say this.”

Majima rolls his eye. “Ok, but if it gets too sappy I’m jumpin’ out the window.”

Kiryu frowns, ashing his cigarette. “Goromi – she’s so bright, and so beautiful, and so free. I’ve never met anyone like her. I’ve never wanted anyone that way, before. It’s a big thing for me.”

Majima looks displeased, brow furrowing. “Yeah, I get it – ya got the hots for her. That aint news – so what?”

“I think maybe… maybe she’s that way because you let her be. She’s your safety valve – what you need to be sometimes, to get a break from your responsibilities. But you can only be her in snatches, because she burns so hot. No-one could sustain that forever,” he glances at Majima, trying to gauge his reaction. “It’s amazing that she exists at all – that you exist in her, through her, and the other way round, too.”

“Yo, I scramble your brains or somethin’? Fuck ya talkin’ about?”

Kiryu frowns. “I know I’m not an expert in this kind of thing. Maybe not all of that is right, but I think some of it is.”

“Maybe.” Majima sits up, stubs out his cigarette with one last slow exhale. “Who wouldn’t want to be a party girl, huh? If ya could be anything, why wouldn’t ya want to be wild and sexy? Just singin’ and dancin’ all night long, gettin’ your drinks for free.” He glances up at Kiryu. “You make her sad, y’know. That aint even supposed to be possible.”

“Me? Why?”

“‘Cause you make her want to be a real girl.”

“She is a real girl.”

“A full-time girl, I mean. With a backstory and a future. Nice Girlfriend Goromi for real, not just playin’. Instead she goes to sleep and wakes up the patriarch of the Majima Family, forty-year old dude with more’n a few grey hairs and a ton of boring shit to deal with.” He spreads his arms, encompassing himself with a gesture. “Fuckin’ rip-off, right?”

“He deserves to be happy, too. I guess you two have to work it out, like a timeshare.”

Majima gives him a sharp look. “Motherfucker, I keep tellin’ you it aint no Jekyll and Hyde!”

“What is it, then? You haven’t explained.”

“What, you think I fuckin’ know? I don’t know why I do half the shit I do.”

“You said she doesn’t have a backstory or a future, but I don’t think that’s true. She came from somewhere.”

“Oh what, now it’s your turn to play shrink? You want the story about how I’m five years old in my mother’s closet, jammin’ my feet in her too-big high-heels and going ham with the lipstick?”

“Did that happen?”

“That’s not the point!”

Kiryu soothes him with fingertips at the back of his neck, sliding up into his hair and back down again. “What does it feel like, being her? Being him? How do you move between them?”

“Fucked if I know. What’s it like bein’ Kazuma fuckin’ Kiryu? Waking up every morning and thinking ‘ah another good day to be the big-dicked Dragon of Dojima. Sure am feeling manly today, and forever!’”

Kiryu scowls. “Majima.”

“Here. Get this – I’ll tell ya,” Majima sits back with a thoughtful look on his face, slinging his arm companionably around Kiryu’s neck. “Ya ever wake up and you’re just… not in the mood? The things ya usually like seem really fuckin’ boring, they’re not to your tastes?” His fingertips tap restlessly on Kiryu’s collarbone. “Like… like, maybe every day ya have rice and soup for breakfast, right? But every once in a while ya wake up and it’s like ‘I need me some fuckin’ pancakes and a gallon of maple syrup.’ Same feelin’ – some days, somethin’ clicks and I’m like: ‘you know what? just not feelin’ this manly bullshit today. Get fucked boring pants and shoes, and what kind of haircut even is this?’ That’s it – that’s her.”

“Only Goromi could consider the way you dress ‘boring’.”

“Yeah, ‘cause she’s me. She’s me in a mood. That mood is ‘fuck everything, I’m a party girl’.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that particular mood.”

“Yeah, it’s a Majima Exclusive. You could try it out though, I’ll lend it to ya.”

Kiryu hums. “It’s funny. She likes to blame you for stuff, you know. Like: ‘that was him, he’s the asshole that did that’.”

“Oh yeah, real convenient. Like I’m her imaginary friend. Who did that, Goromi? Mr Nobody, I guess.” He pats Kiryu’s shoulder and pulls away, swinging his legs off the bed. “I’m orderin’ pizza. You want some? Gonna get anchovies on it, just so you know. Might put on a movie – got some good kung-fu ones. You like kung-fu?”

Kiryu sees the evening he could have, lying around on the couch with Majima’s bare legs in his lap, ‘hi-yah!’ and ‘aieeee!’ from a flickering screen. They wouldn’t even put on clothes probably – he does a lot of socialising in his underwear, these days. “I wish I could stay.”


“But I have responsibilities.”

“Like the kid, you mean?”

“You know about her?”

“How the fuck do you think I know where to find you every hour of the day? I got my eye on you Kiryu-chan. Got all my eyes on you.”

Kiryu doesn’t know whether to feel comforted or alarmed by this information. “How does your family get any work done?”

“Multitasking! Fuckin’… efficiency!” Majima stretches, ruffles the back of his hair, then coughs and goes searching for his underwear. Kiryu regards Majima sadly as he slips them on, thinking what a glorious sight he’s going to be missing out on. Majima’s toned ass accented in red lace – his all night long if he wants it.

“I keep tellin’ ya to take that tragic fuckin’ look off your face. C’mon – stick around for some pizza, then go do your hero shit.”

“There’s just so much to do,” Kiryu sighs, trying to remember all his tasks in order of priority – the mysteries that need solving, the heads that need cracked. He twists out his cigarette and sets the ashtray out of harm’s way up on the nightstand, stretching and cracking his neck.

“Shit!” Majima throws his hands up. “A granny with an errand, a cat up a tree, or a hostess with a love dilemma and you got all day long to fuck around. Everyone needs ‘me’ time – didn’t she teach you that?”

Kiryu reaches out from the bed and hooks an arm around Majima’s waist, dragging him back down with a squawk. He rolls him over onto his stomach and Majima chuckles and goes pliant. Kiryu kisses down his back, ending at the mouth of the hannya. A mask, two faces: rage and grief. It’s complex, not like him – a dragon is a very blunt metaphor.

“Who are you right now?” he asks. “Good boyfriend Goro?”

Majima chuckles, muffled by the pillow. “Goro aint no-one’s boyfriend. Might promote ya to ‘friend with considerable benefits’ if ya play your cards right.”

Kiryu flexes his hands around Majima’s elbows, leans down to rub his face against the shaven part at at the back of his head, breathing deep against his scalp. “You’re mine. All of it – every corner of you.”

Majima stiffens underneath him and lets out a low, desperate sound.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Kiryu kisses his shoulder and lets him go, rolling up off the bed as Majima lies there, propped on one elbow and blinking in confusion like he just woke up from a nap.

“Hey, that’s not fair,” he whines. “Ya don’t get to use the voice on me.”

“What voice?”

“Don’t act like ya don’t know, fucker.”

“I’m going to take a shower.”

“Oh yeah, make yourself at home, why don’t ya?”

“You invited me,” Kiryu points out, reasonably.

“Yeah, my mistake was thinkin’ you were cool and aloof. I’m startin’ to see that’s all a front. Been waitin’ to get your hooks in me, aint ya, Kiryu-chan? Lettin’ me chase ya was all a game. A trap.”

Kiryu shrugs. “You promised me food and martial arts movies. That’s the way to my heart.”

Majima laughs around the thumb poking at the corner of his mouth, lying there lean and catlike in his sexy underwear. Kiryu doesn’t think of himself as a particularly lucky guy – past ten years are testament to that – but maybe it’s finally turning around.

Kiryu takes his time showering. The bathroom is fancy and modern: acres of tile, big glassed-in shower, like something from a catalogue. The water falls scalding hot from a great height, battering his skull in a soothing rhythm. He wonders who cleans this place – obviously not Majima. He hopes it’s a well-paid maid service and not Nishida on his hands and knees with a toothbrush.

He investigates the bath products – it’s the same married-couple scattering of men and women’s products as the closet. There’s a shower gel that smells menacingly of bubblegum and has tiny flecks of pearlescent glitter.

He dresses and comes out into the living area to find the TV on, already blaring punching sounds and bird-like screeches. Majima is standing by the kitchen island mixing himself a drink, twirling a long glass stick inside a cocktail jug. He has taken off his eyepatch and there is a red, angry semicircle in his socket where it must rub and dig in all day long. The eyelid is intact, even the delicate fan of lashes – nothing to see except darkness where the eyeball should be. He looks like a completely different person, this weirdly symmetrical Majima. He’s humming another karaoke song and a tuft of bed-mussed hair sticks up at the back. Kiryu feels like a voyeur, like a zoologist observing a reclusive species in its natural habitat.

“Stop it, ya creeper,” Majima calls out, as if reading Kiryu’s mind.

Kiryu pushes off the doorframe and comes to stand behind him, kissing his neck, his ear, his cheek where the string of the patch usually sits, marked by a faint tan line. He puts his hands on Majima’s hips and slides his fingertips along the lace waistband.

Majima hums. “Someone’s got a little kink there, huh?”

“Mmm. Such a nice, pretty package,” Kiryu slides one hand down to cup him, fingertips gently cradling the weight of his balls, feeling the curve of the soft dick pressing into his palm.

“Fuck, Kiryu-chan. I’m getting’ old ya know – can’t be sayin’ shit like that or you’ll give me a heart attack.”

Kiryu kisses his neck, sucks against the skin hard enough to bring up a mark. Majima rocks in his grasp like he can’t quite decide whether to push back for more or shrug him off. The door buzzes and Kiryu finally takes his hand away from Majima’s crotch and steps back.

Majima clears his throat. “Get that, will ya? Cash is on the table.”

Kiryu answers the door to a delivery guy in a yellow shirt and red and white baseball cap emblazoned with the ‘PIZZA-LA’ logo. He holds out the takeaway box and then looks past Kiryu to where Majima is leaning his hip against the counter and drinking a highball, a very visible red mark on his neck. Majima flexes his neon pink toes and raises an eyebrow. An amused, challenging gaze: that’s right, it is what it looks like.

Kiryu flushes with a sense of unaccountable pride, like Majima is his achievement, somehow. He takes the box and slides a five thousand yen note into the delivery guy’s shirt pocket. “Keep the change.”

The delivery guy stammers his thanks and turns to flee. As soon as the door closes, Majima bursts out with hysterical laughter. “Must be new in town.”

They retire to the leather couch with classy cocktails to wash down greasy food. The movie looks like a bootleg – snowy around the edges and the subtitles seem like they’ve been through a few other languages before arriving at Japanese. Majima hooks his bare thigh over Kiryu’s knee, personal space a foreign concept to him as he drapes himself across Kiryu’s back with one hand in his hair and his chin digging in a little painfully atop one shoulder. He offers his commentary directly into Kiryu’s left ear like the voice of bad conscience, occasionally squeezing him too tightly in his excitement as he mimics the trajectories of on-screen punches with his free hand. Kiryu loves it.

“Let’s stay in again next time,” he says as Majima slides off him to reach for more food.

“Huh?” Majima rolls up a piece of pizza and sticks it into his mouth sideways, chewing obnoxiously.

“No bars, no clubs, no love hotels. Just like this.” Freed from Majima’s limpet grasp, Kiryu eases back onto the cushions. He touches Majima’s waistband almost tenderly, then frowns when he catches sight of a big greasy handprint on his own shirt.

“That don’t sound like much of a party.”

“It’s not. That’s the idea.”

Majima lies down on top of him with a huff like a dog, back to Kiryu’s chest. Kiryu thinks about cupping his crotch again, a nice warm hand-hold, but that would likely start something he sadly doesn’t have time to finish.

He closes his eyes, luxuriating in these final moments before he really has to drag himself away back to his never-ending quests. He kisses Majima’s parting and rests his chin there; Majima makes a half-protesting, half-pleased sound.

Kiryu thinks about sleepovers at Sunflower – that was what they called them, though of course they all lived in the same building anyway. Some Saturday nights when the TV had turned to a high whine and a flickering test card, and all the makeup had been wiped off and packed away, they would drag their bedding into the room and lie in a rectangle around the coffee table. Kiryu and Yumi were always head to head, every so often she would bonk him affectionately like a cat to check he was still awake. Nishiki was foot to foot with him and they would kick each other and toe wrestle. The conversation would die down, growing drowsier and more nonsensical, still punctuated with occasional giggles. One by one they all went out like lights and Kiryu would try to stay awake the longest so he could have that feeling of perfect security, surrounded by his friends in the warm dark, listening to their quiet mumbles and snores. This is what he has missed, for years – something he has had no equivalent for as an adult. Time spent without purpose, without sense. Animal closeness.

“When?” Majima asks, picking up the dropped thread of their conversation.


“This cheapskate, lame-ass, indoor date you’re proposin’ – when?”

“Don’t know. I’ll text you.” Kiryu frowns. “Wait – do I even have your number?” 

“’Course ya do dumbass. You think Goromi has some kinda special hotline?”

“Oh.” Goromi has a hot pink flip phone with approximately ten clattering charms dangling from it like a medieval flail. That this is also Majima’s phone is not as surprising to Kiryu as it might have been before he saw the underwear.

“Here, gimme that jitterbug of yours.” Majima clicks his fingers and holds out his palm.

Kiryu rummages in his pocket, struggling a little under Majima’s dead weight, and hands him the phone. Majima does something with a brief click-clack, then turns it and presents the screen to Kiryu’s face.

The contact entry now reads: <3GORO(MI)<3.

Kiryu raises his eyebrows. “Huh. What did I do to earn the extra heart?”

“Don’t read too much into it,” Majima advises.