Kiryu gets a grip around some guy’s neck, slams him nose first into a lamppost and thinks to himself: I should really be home by now .
The grunt rolls around on his back, holding his nose with both hands, his cries growing wetter by the second as blood starts running into his mouth and down his throat. Haruka’s bedtime was 2 hours ago.
With a weak grunt, almost more of a sigh really, he clotheslines the last of the punks that ambushed him on his way out of Kamurocho’s heart, to his rundown apartment. Something creaks and cracks in his elbow.
He walks over to the guy that’s still crying, blubbering as he chokes on blood and his own tongue. As his left leg comes down on the ugly tinted glasses hanging off one ear and his left knee cracks sickeningly, he thinks I’m getting too old for this.
He drags himself the few steps to the Hotel District’s M Store, knee feeling like he thinks a bruised peach might feel, tender and awkwardly tight. There’s a sting under the pressure that he knows means something bad. The clerk presses himself to the wall behind him, trying to put as much distance between himself and Kiryu as he can. “Take what you want,” he squeaks out and Kiryu absentmindedly does as he asks himself if this is an injury most people would see a doctor for. One foot already out the sliding door, he remembers himself; walks back to deposit some cash next to the register, stepping back and facing the clerk again before he steps out, bowing. His left leg quivers and quakes and he can’t keep it straight with his waist bent.
He drags himself up past the batting cages, to where he knows a taxi to his apartment waits. Halfway along the street, he stops and leans on the construction fence, searches his pockets for one last Staminan X, a Toughness Z even, but comes up short. Exhausted, he starts to sit down but the pain in his knee shoots down towards his ankle, up his thigh through some nerve he’s never consciously thought about until now. The rest of the way down is awkward; he has to keep one hand and his back to the fence and make his way down in steps, adjusting his right leg as he keeps his left extended forward, pushing his heel along the gravel. He drops the last bit of distance, flat on his ass.
It’s embarrassing, but gladly the street’s empty, Kiryu thinks at the same time a shrill cackle comes from his left. Ah.
“Nii-san,” Kiryu says, leaning his head back against the fence and closing his eyes. He doesn’t open them as dancing, swaying steps draw closer, and isn’t that weird? How fear has made him so intimately familiar with that gait he can pick it up no matter where he is and how crowded it is, but now he’s not on edge at all. How one year can change things.
The steps come to a stop in front of him. It’s years of fighting, a trained peripheral and spacial awareness that tells him Majima’s feet bracket his left one. “What do we have here?” Majima asks, voice sing-songing along in a lower register than normal. It fits the atmosphere and the tired fog over Kiryu’s mind.
“Shouldn’t ya be at home by now? Look after that little devil o’ yers?” Majima taps the toe of his left shoe onto the pavement. Kiryu opens his eyes but doesn’t lower them from the red smear of pollution thick over the night sky.
“My knee hurts,” he answers before he can think of anything that makes him sound less simple, less childish.
Majima, to his surprise, doesn’t laugh, just makes a quiet drawn-out haaaaw sound. Then, he steps around Kiryu and drops down next to him.
The streetlight over them, slightly to the left, sways a little as a gust of wind blows through Park Boulevard. Construction dust blows up around them and then settles.
The city’s quiet. Majima’s quiet for some time, too, but as always, it doesn’t last long. “Ya bust yer kneecap, grandpa? Anything else giving ya trouble? Need a new hip, maybe?”
How are you such an old man already, bro, you need to take better care of yourself, Nishiki used to say, before launching into an exhaustive list of all his favorite massage parlors.
He really is getting old. Nostalgic about family he won’t ever see again.
“You know how sometimes injuries feel worth it?” Kiryu says. He knows it’s awkward, out of nowhere, the words stilted, but he’s never been much of a talker and he knows Majima knows that. He proves it, too, as Kiryu can feel him bobbing his head in agreement, a low chorus of yeahyeahyeah muttered out between them. Majima’s gotten out his knife, smashes it forcefully into the cracks in the pavement and digs up the dirt.
“I even used to like them,” Kiryu starts and Majima snorts out a laugh.
“‘s this a masochist-type thing or a badge-of-honor thing?” Majima cackles as Kiryu politely coughs. “I’m all with ya either way, don’t ya go worrying that big ol’ head now.”
They’re semi-silent for a while, Majima humming idly before he says: “Fighting’s lost its charm, eh, ‘s that it? And after I invested so much blood, sweat and tears into whipping ya into shape.” He sighs long-suffering and annoyingly loud, almost breaking the little bubble they’re sitting in. Kiryu tries to adjust his seat on the ground because his ass is starting to hurt but his knee gives a throb and he stops bothering.
Majima has both feet planted firmly on the ground, knees drawn up and splayed wide, and he slides one foot over the ground to dig the heel of his toe into the side of Kiryu’s knee. It’s mildly uncomfortable, like fiddling with freshly-healed scars feels, sensitive, intrusive. But nothing gives way. His bones don’t rattle and his tendons don’t snap. It’s just a dull ache, low and unchanging.
“I still like it. It just feels different now.” Like something of a different time, a different him. Something that he maybe, possibly, probably should quit but that’s so ingrained in him he doesn’t know how. Can’t even tell if he’s doing it for the thrill or the fun, for defense or for sadistic pleasure anymore. Maybe he’s just going through the motions, now.
“Maybe you’re right,” is what he says out loud. “It’s not the same anymore.”
Majima, again, remains uncharacteristically quiet. Or maybe it is characteristically. He learned a lot about Majima over the last year. He gets the feeling there’s more to learn. Something to look forward to.
“Tell me something, Kiryu-chan,” Majima almost whispers, voice so low it’s all but lost all intonation and is mainly air. “Ya ever loved it? ‘Cause I used to think ya did, because I thought I knew you . But ya keep throwin’ me,” he concludes and they both, somehow, turn their heads at the same time. Majima’s taken off the hard hat, Kiryu notices. His face is harsh with the overhead light casting it in near-black shadows, but his eye is strangely light.
His legs are so heavy. A tight prickling’s starting to spread throughout, bone-dead exhaustion crawling up to keep the sharp-dull ache of his knee company. “I did. I think. But it’s been such a long time, I can’t tell anymore.” He sighs, drags his heel towards himself and in doing so pushes his knee into Majima’s shoe, still resting close. “Maybe it’s time to look forward,” he says. Only a few miles away, Haruka’s probably already in bed, Date just one room over, wondering when Kiryu will relieve him of babysitting duty. He should have been there to tell her goodnight.
“Ah, yer making me all wistful here, Kiryu-chan, almost bringing me to tears.” Majima’s voice is still very quiet and it’s making Kiryu weirdly sad, but also appreciative. It doesn’t suit him, really. Majima should be loud. Maybe he’s growing old too. Or maybe Kiryu just doesn’t know him as well as he thought he did.
“So what, ya gonna become a real Dad now? Hang up the boxing gloves and be a family man?”
“Haruka needs me.” It’s a half-baked plan that he doesn’t actually want to tell anyone, yet, but he can’t stop himself: “We’ll probably move out of Tokyo.”
“Aw fuck.” Majima droops lower and lower against the fence, sole coming to rest at Kiryu’s ankle just as his shoulder hits Kiryu’s. “That means shit’s really coming to an end, haw? Around here, I mean.” He sighs. “We had a good run of it, didn’t we?”
“I can’t imagine you ever growing tired of fighting,” Kiryu says. Majima chuckles lowly, but it’s a non-answer.
Kiryu looks at their legs, so close together, the fabric over his knee pristine and light as always. He lets himself slump further, too, lets his head droop to the side so his cheek’s almost touching Majima’s shoulder. Their hands are very close together in between them, he thinks idly.
The position’s comforting, but even more comforting is the stark clarity in his head, looking at their bodies, touching and almost-touching in so many places: “I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of fighting if it’s you.”
Majima’s fingers twitch on the ground and his breath stutters almost imperceptibly but he doesn’t move and he doesn’t answer for a very long time.
“Alright,” he finally says and slaps his hands on his knees. Kiryu startles, slides a few inches down the fence as Majima dislodges from his side, springs up nimbly to squat with his hands on his knees, bouncing up and down with a twinkle in his eye and an eyebrow twitched so high Kiryu knows it’s - either a joke, a provocation, or just that strange need of Majima’s to make himself as insufferable as possible, all the time.
Kiryu heaves a long sigh and prepares himself for the long way up, but before he can, Majima makes a grab for his hand and pulls . Kiryu just so manages to get his right foot under him and lean all his weight on that one, left foot awkwardly hovering mid-air as he pulls up straight. He comes to a stop nose to nose with Majima.
“I better hope ya don’t get tired of me, I still got plans for ya,” he mutters. Kiryu furrows his brow, but decides after some contemplation that there’s something so honest in Majima’s eye, the words probably aren’t meant as a threat.
“So, where can I drop ya off, old man?” He giggles and forcibly lifts Kiryu’s arm over his shoulder so they’re sided by side, his right hand coming to rest on Kiryu’s lower back. It’s intimate. Kiryu can feel himself growing red, stutters out something that’s supposed to mean I don’t think that’s necessary but it comes out so garbled, Majima just laughs at him.
“A taxi,” Kiryu grumbles out. Majima salutes with his free left hand, barks out an “eye, eye, my foreman!” and they start their slow way down the street. Majima’s hand tightens on his jacket as they walk, so Kiryu takes that as permission and leans in.
When he finally comes home, Haruka greets him with a very tired smile, wrapped up in several blankets, an exasperated but fond Date hovering behind her shoulder.
Something to look forward to, he thinks as he tucks Haruka into bed, careful to rest his weight on his right instead of his left leg as he leans over her.
Only later on, he feels strangely empty, cold and lonely. He tosses and turns all night, wary of any pressure against the aching spot. By the time he wakes up, he barely even feels the pain anymore - a part of him, vanished, just like that.