A party was not the first Tojo event Baba expected to be a part of. To be frank, he wasn’t sure he expected to be a part of any of it, despite his… feelings for Saejima. And he couldn’t think of any yakuza clan he’d been a part of or pretended to be a part of that ever had social events. But Tojo Clan did things a little differently, apparently.
So here he found himself in Chairman Dojima’s residence, awash in warmth and good humor as Shinada explained baseball to a rapt Hana and quietly bemused Akiyama, complete with physical demonstrations, occasionally aided by Majima or Daigo, much to Mine’s fury. Which required Daigo to console his overly possessive boyfriend. It would have been amusing, except Baba counted Mine as one of the few people who might kill him if this all became ugly, so instead it was just faintly nauseating watching the most powerful man in the room baby the most deadly man in the room.
Saejima was mostly quiet, except when Majima or Kiryu jibed him into sharing an anecdote or two himself. And it did sufficiently arrest Baba’s attention to watch Saejima come alive when his brother drew him into recounting a sordid misadventure of their youth. Which inevitably lead to a renewal of the strength debate between Kiryu and Saejima. Baba had not known the dragon long, but he could already tell that this was a favored chestnut between them, tonight settling it with arm wrestling over many a glass of sake.
All in all it was far too… friendly. Everyone here was smiling, warm, having a good time. Even Mine, despite his scathing scowls at Shinada, could not resist the occasional half-smile when Daigo was looking particularly soft and happy. It just highlighted how out of place Baba was, a stranger to the group with no shared trauma to bind him here, except to Saejima. It had been kind of them to invite him along as well, he supposed. But he couldn’t believe any of them liked him, and why should they?
Baba stared into his drink, jostled briefly by Saejima as he pitted his massive forearm against Kiryu’s, trying to wrestle the third chairman into submission.
“This time,” Saejima grunted, “This time we’ll finally see who’s strongest.”
Kiryu just smirked, even as the ropes of his muscle stood out under his shirt. “Just promise not to take it too hard.”
Saejima laughed and threw more of himself into the struggle. Behind them, Hana cooed, “And show me the pitching again, is it like this?” She deliberately mimed throwing badly.
“No, no, no!” Shinada insisted, standing again, “Like this .” He raised his leg, bending his whole back into it as Hana reached forward to touch a curve of muscle. Akiyama raised an eyebrow and hid a pout behind his hand, pretending to be focused on the political conversation Daigo and Mine were now embroiled in. Majima’s high cackle rose above the noise in response to something Kiryu said. Baba had to get out of here.
Without a word, he stood and walked around the two hulking competitors who took no notice of his movement. None did, as he moved graceful and silent as a shadow to the door and stepped out onto the stoop. Door safely closed behind him, he drew his hood up, folding his arms over his chest as he leaned on the railing and watched his breath cloud in the chill night air. It was still the season that normal people gathered together and cherished each other’s company to keep out the cold. But he wasn’t normal. And he didn’t have people.
Baba reached for a cigarette, but he itched for something stronger. Maybe he wouldn’t feel so awkward or so lonely if he could just get out of his head. Why did he even come here in the first place? Why did he ever think this would be a good idea? He relished the sharp smell of burning tobacco as he put his lighter away and breathed deep.
He was an assassin for fuck’s sake. He didn’t do parties or friends or any of it. He was an outcast anywhere he went because anywhere he went was full of people he’d someday have to kill. Baba swallowed hard. At the end of the day, that was still the problem. Saejima was nice and all and his friends were kind, but, even if they accepted him, he’d still never not feel like he was in a room of dead men. Being away from people was just easier.
“Leaving early?” A voice asked from the dark.
“Shit, fuck!” Baba nearly jumped out of his skin, clutching the railing for support as he turned to make out a tall, lean figure standing in the shadow of the door. Oh, this guy. “Fuck is your problem?” he grumbled, recovering, “Coulda given me warning.”
“‘Pologies,” Majima answered, stepping a little into the glow from the window, “Just thought I’d grab some air and you were lookin’ so thoughtful. Figured ya might want to talk about it.”
Baba turned back to the street, rolling his eyes hard. “I’m fine, thanks.”
Majima made a little snort behind him. “They’re not usually like this,” he explained to no question.
Baba turned back to ask him what the fuck he was on about and saw Majima peering inside at all the happy people. Baba swallowed, caught by the weirdly serious look on Majima’s face. “W-What do you mean?”
Majima shrugged. “It’s been kinda a hard year. Daigo nearly lost Mine and then nearly lost everything, Kiryu’s been struggling with being a father and yakuza all at once, Saejima’s back from the near dead.” Majima paused, looking down at his shoes. “Normally there isn’t time to stop and take stock of what we have, normally we just roll from one crisis to the next. So they thought they’d have a nice night celebrating.”
Baba glanced from Majima to the window and back a few times, not quite sure what Majima was getting at. But the scene was captivating, people with hard lives and hard stories just having a good moment together. It sounded lovely, but-
“You should stay,” Majima commented, still looking at his shoes, eyeing them in the soft glow from the window.
Baba recoiled, eyes widening on Majima and the bastard’s uncanny read on people. That one eye schtick was just a joke to keep people underestimating him, wasn’t it? Not very funny. “Ha,” he laughed bitterly, “I’m not really one of the team, I don’t really do teams.” Baba smiled sourly.
“But ya could,” Majima insisted, turning to him, “You could be on this team. They’d let ya.”
Now he was just starting to piss him off. “Listen, you don’t know a fucking thing about me,” Baba hissed, “Just because you’re Saejima’s brother doesn’t mean you get some kind of fucking hold on me. I don’t know what-”
As Baba began his tirade, Majima just stepped forward into the light, revealing he’d left the party without his jacket on. And he kept walking forward until he was at the railing, brushing next to Baba, stopping when he was standing directly under the pool of light from the streetlamp and only then did Baba stop talking.
They were old now, but still there. Baba’s mouth dropped, his cigarette falling from his lips. Hidden under the Hannya’s glower was a net of scars, striping Majima’s back in a way Baba had never seen but immediately recognized.
“They’re lunatics, that bunch,” Majima pointed a thumb at the group behind him, “As stupid as they are kind. And I love ‘em, god help me, I love ‘em dearer than my own skin. Ya wanna go ya can, no one sent me out here to bring ya back. But they would take ya in and treat ya good, if you’re ready for it. That’s all I wanted to tell ya.”
Baba covered his mouth slowly, holding back a cry he hadn’t known was welling up inside him. Majima just stood next to him, letting him take his time. Baba stayed quiet, trying to keep the tears silent and quick as they rolled down his cold cheeks. “They um… they really are stupid, aren’t they?” he eventually said.
“If they weren’t talking, I’d say they were brain dead,” Majima muttered, turning back around to watch the window with Baba.
Baba laughed and started to smile. “But you’ve got a soft spot for the biggest dummy in there I see.” He winked, nodding at Kiryu, with his teeth clenched against Saejima bearing down on him.
Majima rolled his head over to him, squinting. “Well, be fair, Shinada’s in there too.”
Baba giggled and wiped the last tear on his sleeve. “Fuck, I’m a mess,” he sighed, knowing his face must look red and puffy now.
“Aw, don’t worry about that.” Majima shook his head. “The night air does that to people sometimes,” he smiled, “and ‘sides, Saejima’s always liked the broken ones.” So saying, he sauntered to the door. “Ready to go in?”
Baba inhaled deeply. He really hadn’t seen it coming, this whatever Majima was. His mask was on so tight, it fit him so well, Baba hadn’t seen anything moving behind that manic exterior. And it hit him, all at once, that the mask wasn’t for anyone in there, but for the man behind it. Anyone that broken who could still feel happy here probably had good advice. He nodded.
Majima just smiled and swung open the door.
“I win!” Saejima cheered, standing in victory.
“That doesn’t count, I was distracted,” Kiryu pouted, glancing to the open door.
Saejima shook his head. “Not very sportsmanlike to blame the environment,” he criticized, before sweeping Baba into his arms and kissing him briefly. Baba melted with how chaste, but affectionate Saejima was in public. “Where did you go?” the big man rumbled, “Are you feeling alright?”
Baba smiled, pulling his arms around Saejima’s neck. “I’m fine,” he nodded, “I just needed a little air, but I’m fine now.” He leaned up and kissed the tender spot on Saejima’s jaw that always made him shiver. He grinned to see it hadn’t failed.
Saejima flushed a little and shyly retreated out of his arms, a besotted look on his face.
“I see you’ve managed to lose your shirt,” Akiyama called from the other couch, watching Majima stretch and sit back down.
“A shirt? Me?” Majima blinked innocently, hand feeling his chest in mock-confusion, “When did I put one on?”
The group laughed, but Kiryu was watching Majima. He looked over at Baba and Saejima, seeing Baba smile for the first time all night as he swung himself into an embarrassed Saejima’s lap, then back at Majima.
“Thank you for that,” Kiryu murmured, inclining his head toward Majima.
Majima raised his eyebrows. “Ya know I’d strip for ya any time ya want, Kiryu-chan,” Majima purred, creeping closer, “No need to thank me.” He winked.
Kiryu smirked, but shook his head and found Majima’s hand, twining their fingers together and giving it a squeeze. “You’re a good man, Majima.”
Majima deflated, giving a put out look instead, but leaning against Kiryu’s shoulder all the same. “I wish people would stop fucking saying that,” he muttered.
Kiryu smiled. “Not a fucking chance.”