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Father Nansen Kills a Cat

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                They spend a few days in the inn, avoiding both of their respective responsibilities, hiding out in this nowhere-place. They pass the day by fucking, mostly, and Majima feels thrilled each time, like he’s been on MDMA for three days straight. Slipping into Kiryu and letting Kiryu slip into him, smoking cigarettes between fucks and letting Kiryu eat the cum out of his ass as he taps the ash out the tiny window that took great effort to open, the iron frame of it caked in rust. Sometimes they talk about what they’re going through. Mostly, though, they barely speak in depth about anything but their present surroundings. The currency of the present is priceless whenever you live the lives that they do. Eventually, the host becomes nervous by the fact that they barely leave (save to get food once a day), and asks them with a polite, apprehensive voice to please “complete their trip,” as he has a scheduled reservation coming up. Sure.

                And so ends their stay.

                Whenever they return to Nagasugai, Kiryu beelines for his apartment building with Majima in tow. But he doesn’t hold him.

                It’s late afternoon by the time they’re back, and Kiryu looks at Majima as he sits down on the end of an unmade bed, his eyes looking filmy and glassy. The cattails are dying in the fading light. He knows that, soon, this will all end, and he knows Majima will be gone. And what does he have, then?

                Majima picks up the photo facing the wall and turns it around.

                Instinctively, Kiryu stands up. He doesn’t want to see, doesn’t want to acknowledge it. But he stops himself from reaching out or speaking as he watches Majima’s eye soften at the photo.

                “This is ‘em, huh?”

                The group of orphans beaming happily outside of Morning Glory, Haruka standing tallest amongst her childhood friends, Kiryu on the veranda. The Okinawa sun beams down on them, making everything stand in the sharp, clear light, the sand and sea almost aromatic just from the image alone.

                Majima sets it down, facing the wall again, and doesn’t look Kiryu in the eye.

                “You deserve it, ya know. You deserve a peaceful life.”

                “I can’t go back.”

                “I know. You would do anythin’ for her, even ruin yer own life, huh?”

                “I didn’t ruin it.”

                Majima looks at him in disbelief.

                “Ya say that with conviction, but yer isolation’s gonna kill ya, Kiryu-chan. Ya can’t keep doin’ like this.”

                “It isn’t my decision to make.”

                Majima snickers, “Well, can ya blame her? Pop music’s my shit. I love that mess.”

                Kiryu smiles gently.

                “You listen to her music?”

                “Fuck yeah, Kiryu-chan. I go hard on the karaoke machine when I hear Loneliness Loop. Ya should hear me.”

                “I don’t doubt it. You’ve always liked idol music.”

                Majima nods, swallowing a little.

                “Kiryu-chan, I gotta tell ya somethin’… Speakin’ of idol music.”

                “I’m listening.”

                Majima’s lips draw out into a thin line, pressing together hard, becoming pale for a second. A beat of silence passes as he thinks of mentioning Mirei. Of upending Kiryu’s newfound placidity. Of introducing a new element into his life—into Haruka’s life. His involvement in the past of the very industry Haruka is now in. How he knows Kiryu is here at all, how he knows Kiryu lost his orphanage to Majima’s own ex-wife. Then those lips split into a grin.

                “…I think yer voice is better’n Haruka’s,” he says, instead. “Ya should’a been the idol.”

                Kiryu rolls his eyes, imagining himself in Haruka’s stupid plasticky, neon-pink outfits, a headphone set on, choreographed to her upbeat music.

                “That suits you more, Majima.”

                Majima intertwines his fingers and holds them beneath his chin, batting his eye, “I’m yer 24-hour Cinderella, huh?”

                Kiryu approaches him and picks Majima up, bridal style, as Majima crows with laughter. Pressing his forehead to Majima’s, he says, “I don’t want you to go.”

                “I know,” Majima sighs, stretching out a leg and tossing back his head, “I’m real desirable. Hard to let a cute motherfucker like me go, isn’t it?”

                Kiryu nods, “But you’re gonna go, aren’t you?”

                “Yeah. I got to. Patriarch of a yakuza family, ‘n all.”

                Kiryu shakes his head, “Crazy how far you’ve come. I remember when you were just a little yakuza captain.”

                Majima snickers and wraps his arms around Kiryu’s neck.

                “Yeah, well, yer the solider-to-chairman-in-a-day.”

                “Doesn’t count if I retired in the same day.”

                Majima shrugs.

                “Yer always gonna be the Dragon of Dojima to me and everyone else.”

                Kiryu noses at the high jut of Majima’s cheekbone, closing his eyes and relishing in his smell, knowing that he’ll be missing it for a while, thanking whatever he can that Majima’s in his clothing, that he’ll leave it behind, and that once he’s gone, Kiryu can still take that t-shirt that hangs just a little too loosely on Majima’s smaller frame and use it as a pillowcase, or something.

                “I think Suzuki-san sounds a little more badass, don’t you?”

                Majima turns his head to nip lightly at the tip of Kiryu’s strong, pointed nose, “I’m shakin’.”

*

                The way Majima sleeps on him—oddly enough—reminds Kiryu of Haruka. Not recently, of course. She’s too old and too independent to sleep on his chest. That place has been taken by Eri, the youngest of his orphans. Or it used to be. But when he first met Haruka, whenever she first became comfortable with the prospect of physical closeness to a father figure, she would curl up like this, with her ear over his heart, and her thin arm thrown around his waist. There’s always been something paternally innate within him, perhaps in the fact he grew up at Sunflower. He often took care of Nishiki, or the other younger “siblings” of his. Idolizing Kazama, harboring a stupidly protecting streak both of his father and of everyone else—it all contributed to what he is now.

                Even so, he doesn’t feel paternal over Majima. That’d be odd. Majima is older than him. He just misses Haruka.

                He watches Majima’s serene, sleeping face rise and fall on his chest. Kiryu fits his fingers through his hair and watches the roots of his hair at the line of his scalp as he pushes them back. They glisten in the TV’s glow, which is muted, and currently playing an advertisement for something called BURNER+. The guy on the television flexes. He has the physique that Saejima does.

                He wonders if Majima misses his brother, too.

                Kiryu stares at him fondly for a while, feeling an odd chill needle itself into the pit of his stomach. He doesn’t see himself and Majima spending the rest of their lives together. Kiryu doesn’t see himself integrated inevitably into the structure of the Tojo Clan any longer. And yet, he forced Majima back into it. The guilt makes his heart race beneath the white of Majima’s cheek.

                Kiryu grabs him by his newly shaven chin and tilts his head up. Majima’s eye flutters open and for a moment his vision blurs before it catches on Kiryu’s face. He sighs through his nose and crawls onto all fours, settling his body over Kiryu’s, stretching his legs over his own.

                “What’s wrong?” Majima’s voice crackles with exhaustion like an ancient vinyl.

                “Nothing. Just savoring the view,” Kiryu mumbles.

                Majima closes his eye again and falls back asleep on his chest. Kiryu doesn’t take his eyes off of him, doesn’t turn off the TV that illuminates his profile, until the images of Majima’s bare, sleeping face is implanted in his vision, a white afterimage appearing behind his eyelids when he finally drifts.

                In the early hours of the morning, Majima kneels in front of his dresser, opening each drawer.

                A pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Majima’s left glove. A gaudy, heavy watch from the late eighties, maybe early nineties. A bag of crumpled honey butter chips. A stack of crayon drawings: of Sunflower, of Haruka holding Kiryu’s hand—both of them stick figures—and of a dog named Mame. The rest is his clothing.

                Majima stands up and drifts to Kiryu’s sleeping form, kissing him once on the lips. The wrinkled blanket over his stomach looks inviting, warm, evidence of Majima’s body over his for the past few hours. Majima’s back aches. He watches that gentle linen rise and fall, pungent with body odor and the faint scent of detergent. Majima pulls it up under his chin.

                Then he returns to the dresser and stuffs one rather important item into his pocket.

*

Late November – 2012

                Majima left the morning after Kiryu returned to his apartment in Nagasugai. He woke up without him, and he supposed that was for the best. Majima probably wouldn’t be able to make himself leave had Kiryu been conscious and pathetic-looking and desperate eyed, begging him to stay with his face rather than his words. Of course, Majima would never approve of this state had he not known Kiryu at the height of his strength. He isn’t one for pity or caretaking. Strength is all that appeals to him and all that ever will. But domesticity and kindness aside, Kiryu’s a man’s man, and he doesn’t mourn Majima for departing to Kamurocho. Kiryu will see him again. He isn’t some clingy wife; he’s lost more in his time than a single visit from his friend.

                Boyfriend.

                Kiryu didn’t cry when he woke up to the empty room, but the remainder of the day felt hazy, slow, like he was wading through fog.

                He couldn’t find his fundoshi for work that night. He kind of figured where it might have ended up—the little pervert.

                It’s been a few weeks since Majima made his visit, but he doesn’t know how he feels. There’s some semblance of momentary hope, he supposes, in that he hasn’t quite lost everything. Majima isn’t the most important person in his life—Haruka is. But he comes close. And he supposes that, despite everything, he can slog through the lack of willpower in order to, someday, be in his arms again.

                What else does he have, really?

                It’s not much, but he grasps onto it, nonetheless. His heart isn’t broken.

                Suddenly, aggression becomes approachable. His street fighting has slowly begun to replace the gym overtime, like it used to. He doesn’t lose anymore—doesn’t let himself lose. He still obscures his body in neutral, grey uniforms. He wears sick masks and glasses often, keeps his eyes ahead and his head down, but there’s something in his walk that intonates he might still have some scales left on his back from his dragon days.

                One evening, when the moon sits full and round above the skyline, when it reflects in the shimmering black rivers, Kiryu stops his cab next to two young men obviously intoxicated. They clamber into the backseat, and despite the both of them looking rather rough around the edges, they don’t speak much save for the giggly, conversational chatter about the next bar they’re going to stop at. Kiryu drives slowly for the sake of the one with a greenish glow in his sallow cheeks, listening to dreamy, electronic jazz on the radio played at a low volume. One of the guys—the one with tattoos and less visible nausea—tugs on his own lip piercing in thought, then abruptly says, “Hey! Hey! I know you!”

                Kiryu’s eyes dart to the rearview mirror and he tilts his head. The guy’s got a pinched looking face, humor all over him, and half of his tattoos are westernized.

                “Oh, yes. I remember you,” he lies, “Took my cab a few weeks ago, yes?”

                “Nah, man, I’m from Kamurocho.”

                “Must have mistaken me for someone else,” Kiryu supplies, “What brings you to Nagasugai?”

                The sick-looking one, with full, round cheeks, slouches down and tugs at the front of his button-up.

                Wait… thinks Kiryu, inspecting him closer.

                “We’re on a, uh, business trip. I guess. But it’s the weekend, y’know?” says the skinnier one.

                “…Yeah?” he mumbles.

                The conversation comes to a standstill, and Kiryu pulls to a stop. In the gleaming stoplight, the soft, round faced one makes eye-contact with him in the rearview and his trembling, sweaty lips peal up into a smile of recognition.

                Kiryu darts his line of vision to the street and drives in silence, carefully listening to the two of them crow in the backseat.

                “Minami,” says the one who smiled at him, “I think I gotta call it quits.”

                “Eh? Why? You can’t tap out this fuckin’ early, man!”

                “I’m gonna fucking puke.”

                “So? Just makes room for more, Nishida-san. C’mon.”

                Kiryu can’t help it. He smirks a little. Ah, Majima is so coy, sending him reminds of himself. What a narcissist.

                Whenever he pulls up outside of a dim izakaya—the same one he slouched in months ago, when he first arrived here—he listens to the throbbing enka loosen from the open sliding door as the two Majima-kai yakuza get out of the cab.

                As Minami walks into the club, Nishida lingers for a moment, carefully counting each note of yen beside Kiryu’s open car door.

                Once Minami is out of earshot, Nishida swallows, sways a little, extends the cash that Kiryu takes.

                “Um,” Nishida smiles gently, “And I got—got you a tip, Kir—I mean. Suzuki-san.”

                Nishida reaches in his pocket and extends a plain, white envelope. On the outside, in English, the words “I LOVE YOU!!!!!!” are written in that immediately identifiable chicken scrawl.

                Kiryu takes it and says, softly, “Thank you, Nishida. …Drink some water.”

                He watches the short captain stagger into the bar behind his friend, and he turns off the signal of his cab to alert that he’s taking no passengers. He puts his car into park and unfolds the envelope, working out the letter from the inside.

                Hey Kiryu-chan,

                I took your fundoshi. I hope you don’t mind. It’s framed and hanging above my 65-inch TV in my mansion. Which is on top of my loft. I also have… like 5 pools… I’m doing really well for myself. Anyway, since you’ve been so good to me, I paid the rest of your rent for the year. That’s right. A whopping two months. You should be bowing down.

                In all seriousness, I hope you’re doing okay.

                I’ve never seen you like this before. It’s weird. But you better snap out of it because who’s gonna kick my ass? Really. Haruka makes some good music. Is it a worthy exchange for your depression? I don’t know. But hey, you’re letting her live out her dream. I just think you sacrificed a bit too much.

                Go easy on yourself. I hope Nishida gets this to you.

                And I mean it when I say that I love you.

                Okay?

                Goro-kun

                Kiryu spends a few minutes reading and re-reading the letter, absorbing the words, taking note of every slant of the ink, memorizing each punctuation mark. It smells of his cologne, which has obviously been sprayed on the letter not without excessiveness, if the greyish, deep stain on the back of the envelope is anything to go by. How romantic.

                Kiryu folds it and feels a strange, unfamiliar clog in his throat. He swallows and brings the paper to his lips, resting it there in a still, unresponsive kiss. He inhales.

                Then he tucks it back into its envelope, carefully slides it into the pocket of his jacket, and tilts his head back. The knot in his throat doesn’t go down.

                Time ticks by, digitally green on his car’s analog clock. He gets lost in the stretch of the night, watching traffic inch along beside where he’s parked.

                There’s a knock on his window and he rolls it down.

                “I’m not taking any—”

                He looks up and sees Nishida, looking significantly less nauseous. Now, his face is covered in a sheen of sweat that slicks over his skin, shining in the streetlight’s dim glow.

                He extends his hand, holding a silk handkerchief.

                That elegant, pale hand, holding a square of cloth patterned with delicate mockingbirds, seems like it belongs to a woman rather than the captain of the Majima family. Kiryu takes it from him and wipes his face.

                He hadn’t realized he’d been crying.