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Age Before Beauty

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Dadadada,” Uno lightly sings as he makes his way to the mirror.

Preparing his morning routine, he winks to himself in the mirror, truly questioning his sexuality knowing that a man is capable of being this handsome.

Collecting his hair to get it braided, he sees a momentary flash.

That’s weird.

Maybe Nico played with his glitter pens too close to his hair while he was distracted again, little poppet’s been crazy about those lately.

Looking a bit more closely, he rules that out, the flash is too long-

Wait. No.

No, no, no, no, no.

This cannot be happening.

It’s just a trick of the light, just his imagination.

He’s not even twenty yet! There’s no way that-

The hair he’s got between his fingers shines back up at him.

The fact cannot be denied.

Sinking to his knees, the end of his will to live becomes visible.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Sniff…sniff…”

Is the pathetic noise being made by Uno, laying huddled on his side in his futon, shoveling tapioca into his mouth, a mound of empty cartons next to him, his back to his cellmates.

“Should we….” begins Rock, “Should we…do something?”

“Hell no,” Jyugo shoots back, unconcerned, “The last time I tried to help him when he was like this, he threw a book at me and started screaming about how it’s not fair I never have to watch what I eat or how nothing sticks to me or something like that. Apparently, he gained weight or whatever, I dunno, I was too busy getting checked for a concussion.” He reminisces bitterly.

“But he seems so upset!” Nico whines, “We should help him!”

“Nico, no.” Jyugo orders, “If we try to help him now, he’ll just take it out on us. Give him a sec to cool down.”

Giving a small, “Hmph!” to his older cellmates, Nico springs up and walks over to where Uno lays in a cloud of hopelessness, ignoring Jyugo and Rock’s warnings to come back.

“Uno-kun?” He starts innocently, “Are you oka-”

FWIP!!!!

And the covers are thrown off when Uno grabs Nico by the shirt, pulling him up, messy hair flowing down onto the floor, trailing behind the older man in fury.

Face the thing of nightmares, Uno roars, “IN WHAT WORLD WOULD I BE OKAY?!!!!!!”

Whimpering, Nico manages a little, “Huh?”

“EVERYTHING IS AWFUL, AND THERE’S NO HOPE FOR ANYTHING!!!”

“But, why?”

Growling, Uno lets Nico down before shoving a single strand of hair in front of him.

“YOU SEE, WHAT THIS IS, NICO?!!!” Uno hollers at the sickly child.

“Your hair?” Nico replies, scared and confused.

“IT’S GREY, NICO! GREY!”

Fuck, Nico thinks to himself.

“MY HAIR IS GOING GREY! MY LIFE IS OVER!”

“I…It’s okay, Uno-ku-”

“OH, SURE YOU CAN SAY THAT YOU ROSY-CHEEKED, BABYFACED LITTLE BRAT!” Uno cuts in, chuckling bitterly, “YOU’VE STILL GOT A FULL HEAD OF FRESH GREEN HAIR WITHOUT A HINT OF FATHER TIME’S JACKASSERY!!!!”

“I…I’m sorry…”

“Not as sorry as you will be,” Uno mutters darkly, bending his arm back before he finally throws a book at high speed…

…at Jyugo’s head.

“OW!” The escape artist moans, “Why’d you hit me?! Nico’s the one who brought it up!”

“I bet it’s real nice, goin’ around without a care in the world,” Uno says, continuing his tirade at Nico, ignoring Jyugo’s complaints, “All cute and youthful, not even thinking about what all the stress does to your friends!” He continues, before throwing another book at Jyugo.

“OW!”

“NOW JYUGO HAS TO SUFFER!”

“Uno-kun, I’m sorry,” Nico whimpers, a pitiful look on his face.

“’Sorry’ isn’t going to undo what all the stress you three give me did to me! I’M OLD AND UGLY NOW, LIKE HAJIME!” He shrieks, throwing a book to ricochet against the wall and hit the back of Jyugo’s head from where he’s defending the front with Rock, “Oh, I am gonna throw so many books at Jyugo!”

“OW! Dammit Rock!” The boy complains to their trashcan, confusing it for Rock’s face, “What kind of human shield are you?!”

“Okay Uno,” Rock finally says, making his way over to the upset gambler, while Jyugo begs the trashcan not to leave him vulnerable, “That’s enough. You’re making Nico sad, and I think you messed with whatever little brain Jyugo’s got.”

“Shut up, Charlize!” Jyugo yells back in retaliation, “Can you believe her, Rock?” He asks the trashcan.

“Is stopping going to fix my hair?!!” Uno demands angrily, tossing another book at Jyugo.

“Hey! It’s one hair, dude!” Rock shoots back, trying and failing to catch the book mid-flight, “Ya still got like a billion more!”

“NOW!” Uno screams, “It’s one hair now! Who knows how much time I have left before it’s ALL grey, asshole?!!!” He bemoans, launching two books at once at Jyugo.

“WHEN DID WE GET SO MANY BOOKS?!!!” Rock screams.

“KAPPAS!” Jyugo shoots out.

“AND WHY DO YOU KEEP HITTING JYUGO?!!!!”

“BECAUSE HE’S THE ONE WHO KEEPS MAKING ME STRESSED, WHICH IS MAKING ME GO GREY!!!” Uno explains as he pulls a freaking library cart next to him to reload.

“…That makes sense,” Rock concedes, “BUT IT’S STILL NOT NICE!!!!”

“Excuse me?” Seitarou asks through the bars on the door, “Is everything alright in here?”

“…Fuck.”

“Sixty-nine!” The guard scolds, “Watch your mouth!”

Turning his head slowly to the guard, Uno has the look of a demon on his face.

Jumping back, Seitarou stutters, “E-Eleven?”

“I AM GONNA CHOKE YOU WITH THAT STUPID, FULL AND SOFT BLUE HAIR OF YOURS!!!” Uno screams as he flings himself at the door, throwing a dictionary at Jyugo on his way.

Yelping at the inmate, Seitarou is paralyzed in fear.

“Seitarou,” Rocks pipes up, “Just go.”

Nodding in agreement, the guard runs off, crying the whole way.

“Seitarou-chan, wait!” Nico calls out to the blubbering guard, “You said when we finished getting my medicine today, I could have a cookie!”

“What?! Nico, he gives you cookies?!”

“No, you idiots!” Jyugo cuts in, “Kappas eat cucumbers!”

“Okay, Uno!” Rock finally says, getting angry, “That’s enough! It was bad enough when you were makin’ Nico sad and hurtin’ Jyugo, but you cross the line when you keep people from getting cookies!”

The look Uno gives him is one that reminds him that he’s technically someone who’s in prison to protect the general public.

Luckily, this is when Hajime decides to come in.

“Why the hell did Seitarou run into the office crying about getting choked by his hair?!” The bald man demands as he slams the door open.

“I ENVY HIS YOUTH!” Uno explains. Another book thrown at Jyugo’s head.

“Is it desire or love?!” The boy exclaims, clinging to Hajime’s arm.

Flinging the idiot off, Hajime turns to Rock, “Explain. Now.”

“Uno has a gray hair,” Rock answers bluntly.

“…That’s it?” Hajime questions, not noticing the fury coming off of Uno.

WHAM!

And Jyugo is flung right into the cart.

“JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE USED TO BEING OLD, DOESN’T MEAN THE REST OF US WANT TO BE!”  Uno yells angrily over the worried calls of “Jyugo!” and “Jyugo-kun!” from Rock and Nico, “IT’S NOT MY FAULT YOU CAN’T REMEMBER HOW GREAT IT WAS TO BE YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL, YOU FORTY-SEVEN-YEAR-OLD GEEZER!”

“…I’M TWENTY-NINE!” Hajime yells back angrily.

“Say, whaaaaa?” Is said in unison by all four prisoners.

“…You all die today.”

Before death, Mitsuru arrives.

“WHAT’S GOIN’ ON IN HERE?!” The loudmouth exclaims into a microphone, “Cell 13 sure is lively this mornin’!”

“No!” Uno whines, “I’m dead!”

“And Jyugo doesn’t know what anime he’s supposed to be in now!” Rock adds.

“Whaaaat? Ya seem fine to me!” Mitsuru examines as he heads over to Uno, tossing his microphone down for Jyugo to grab and cling to Hajime, singing, “Otterly sexy!” while Hajime tries to push him off.

“I have a grey hair!” Uno cries as he tries to find any leftover books.

Let desire flow, never let it go!”

“JYUGO, QUIT SIINGING!”

“Look,” Mitsuru starts, placing a hand on Uno’s shoulder, “It ain’t that bad, I started goin’ gray early years ago (unless the manga contradicts this further down the line), and I’m still a kid inside, y’all!”

Trying to find any gray in the wannabe DJ’s hair, and receiving a nod in confirmation from Hajime, Uno says back, “Huh?”

“Well, I dye it, but I ain’t gonna let goin’ gray get me down!”

“Kazuki,” Jyugo says, making his way over to Uno, pushing Mitsuru off and planting both his hands on Uno’s shoulders, “Look, I know it’s hard to let everyone see what you’re ashamed of, but if you share this, your connections will only grow stronger. These insecurities don’t control you, you control them.” He finishes, pulling Uno into his chest and rocking him, stroking his hair, “Now take that shirikodama and get your wish.”

“…The hell is Kazuki?” Uno finally says.

“Couldn’t ‘ave said it better myself!” Mitsuru agrees, somehow understanding what Jyugo’s going on about.

“Kuji…Kuji, learn to trust others,” Jyugo says, letting Uno go, and cupping Mitsuru’s face with his hands, “These are good people,” the probably brain damaged boy says, gesturing to everyone else in the cell, “Go legit and form real friendships.”

“Alright!” Mitsuru agrees with a thumbs up.

“Jyugo-kun,” Nico says, worried, “I think you need to see a doctor.”

“Enta,” Jyugo says, slightly annoyed, pushing Nico’s face back, “For the love of, give Kazu some fucking space.” Shaking his head slightly he continues pushing Nico back, “You, you clingy little stalker.”

“…I’d hit him, but I don’t know how much more his head can take,” Hajime says after a silence.

“Everything I do, I do out of love for you, Reo!”

“So yeah,” Mitsuru starts back, “Ya never know when the gray hits and if it really bothers you, just dye it, but don’t let it get ya down!” Wiggling his eyebrows, Mitsuru whispers, “And if you don’t stop stressin’ ya might end up in the same smooth-headed boat as a certain cranky ol’ gorilla!”

Still not quiet enough to keep Hajime’s fist off his head.

“Okay, are we good here?” Hajime asks.

Looking over the mess in the cell, Uno grimaces and says, “Yeah, I think we are, sorry guys.”

“It’s okay,” Nico assures with a smile.

“You owe us cookies and a clean cell,” Rock demands.

Seize the truth buried away!” Jyugo sings out, wrapping himself in Hajime’s arms, “Is it love? I can’t say!”

“…Yeah, maybe should have dialed it back on the books a bit,” Uno grimaces.

“Alright,” Hajime cuts in, “Twenty-five c’mon, I’m taking you and this idiot to the infirmary,” he says, keeping a still singing Jyugo from clutching his face and hoisting him over his shoulder, “Let’s go.”

“Can I get a cookie?” Nico queries.

“Do I look like Seitarou?”

Pouting Nico gets into a stare off with the supervisor.

“Sarazanmai!” Jyugo sings.

While Mitsuru and Uno playfully start tossing books around.

“This is a good stress reliever!” Mitsuru squeals.

“And the hollow sound that comes off Jyugo’s head is really relaxing!” Uno agrees.

Leaving Rock to regard all the shit going on around him before ten in the fucking morning.

“Good morning, gentlemen!” Yamato’s voice booms as he stands outside the cell, “Who will join me for some early morning training?!”

“…Fuck it, get me out of here, Yamato.”