It’s late. And even though he had told her to go to bed a while ago, Haruka is still awake.
Kiryu hears the door creak open, and she peeks out. “Uncle Kaz?”
“It’s past your bedtime, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.” She sits beside him on the porch. Even in the dim moonlight, the uneasy expression on her face is clear.
"Is something on your mind?"
"With all that's been going on lately…"
He puts his hand on her shoulder. "I won't let anyone take Morning Glory, don't worry."
She shakes her head. "Please don't get into any more trouble."
His stomach twists into knots at the thought of her stressing so much about him. But she was right- death seemed to follow him like the wake of a boat, and he's had many close calls of his own.
"I…" The words die in his throat.
"Promise me you'll keep yourself safe," she demands, extending her hand to him, pinky out.
As much as he wants to reassure her, he can't bring himself to lie. "You know I can't promise you that."
He looks away, but can feel her pleading gaze without even seeing it. She's not one to give up without a fight, and this is one he doesn't think he can win.
"I'll try my best," he concedes, locking pinkies with her.
"No, you will."
"... I will."
The room is dark, humid, and quiet; he hears the muffled sounds of cicadas outside, and a light rain on the roof. He lies curled up on the bed, and lets his body relax until everything starts to slip away.
He wonders if this is what death feels like.
That thought came to him often in jail, curled up in the same way, letting the deep, dark stillness of the night envelop him. It's calm, but lonely.
It makes his throat hurt, like right after he was released- that conversation with Majima broke an unofficial vow of silence that had lasted years. His chest aches like his first lungful of city air.
Okinawa is peaceful, but the quietude always stirs up his darkest thoughts, and he'd rather avoid the muddy waters of the past. At night, he longs for the sounds of the city.
But he settles for the rain and cicadas, and falls into a restless sleep.
No matter how many precautions you take, there will always, always, be sand in the house. Rikiya pauses his sweeping to take a breath and wipe his forehead, then begrudgingly continues, mumbling to himself. "I told them all to leave their shoes at the door… I swear, if this is 'cuz of aniki…"
"Are you busy?" He jumps when he hears a voice behind him.
"Oh, hey, Haruka." He ruffles up her hair, grateful for the distraction. "You need something?"
She hesitates, wringing her hands. "Have you noticed anything off about Uncle Kaz, lately?"
"Huh? What do you mean by off?"
"I… it's hard to explain."
"Why don't we talk outside? I need a break, anyways." He tosses his broom to the corner and leads her out onto the porch. They sit side-by-side.
"Sometimes he just seems different." She looks up to the skies. It's slightly overcast, with a cool breeze blowing past. "You know how the weather is before a storm, all windy and cold and weird, and all those big clouds start coming in? It's… like that, almost."
It's a strange explanation, but he understands.
"Yeah… I had that kinda feeling about him." He had seen it, too- those moments where his expression was best likened to choppy ocean waves.
"I just don't know what to do for him, when he gets all… stormy-eyed."
"Hmm… Me neither. But we'll figure something out, alright?"
Kiryu would never say this out loud, but Majima's calls are always the highlight of his day. Ever since he took on the job of watching Daigo, they had agreed to keep in contact. Majima, erratic as ever, would call him about once or twice a month, usually in the middle of the night.
It had become something of an inconsistent routine for the two- starting off with updates about the chairman and the state of the Tojo, and devolving into gossip about the lower ranks, who had more drama than a soap opera.
Kiryu lies back in the sand, phone held to his ear. He's staring up at the moon and half-listening to a story Majima's spinning about some Nishikiyama Family grunts fighting over a girl.
"And in the end, she went with a totally different guy! Some random civilian. Said she didn't wanna be involved in 'that kinda lifestyle'. Crazy, huh?"
"Yeah," he replies lamely, hoping Majima doesn't sense the listlessness in his voice. Not that he's ever much of a talker, anyways.
"Ehh? What's been up with you, lately?"
"Oh, c'mon! Are ya really tryin' to slip one past me like that? I've known you too damn long for you to be able to lie to me that easy. What's wrong?"
This isn't a conversation he's in the mood to have, but he knows Majima won't just let it go. He pauses, in thought.
"Nothing. We've had a few bumps in the road, but… it's been perfect here. It's so peaceful, I never have to worry for Haruka's safety. The kids are amazing, they all get along so well and always do their part to help. Rikiya and Mikio, too. I love them all, I really, truly do, but… I don't know." His voice starts to break in a way Majima has never heard before.
He knew the feeling, though- that sense of hollow emptiness that persists even when everything outside is fine, that drags you down like a whirlpool. He knows how destructive it can be.
"Keep yourself safe for me, alright?"
"I know. Everyone here needs me, too." It sounds so distant and sad, completely unlike him. He takes a deep, shaky breath. "It makes me feel horrible to say this, but… Sometimes, I wish the ground would open up and swallow this whole country, and I could disappear without anyone to worry about, or anyone worrying about me. I'm sorry, I know it's selfish." His voice is dripping with guilt. He's not sure what pushed him to such raw honesty, but it feels good to get off his chest.
"Ah, shit..." Majima blurts out, struggling to find something to say- his last comment seemed to have missed the mark. "You don't have to be sorry for feelin' like that."
He hears a sigh and the vague, staticky sounds of the ocean in the distance. Kiryu doesn't respond.
"... Is the weather nice there? I heard there was a storm coming in."
"It's good, for now. No clouds at all." Kiryu is just as happy to change the subject.
"Huh. It's been a while since I've been to the beach. Bet it's pretty."
"Yeah… The water's calm tonight." He gazes out to the shoreline, and watches the way the moonlight bounces off the waves. The rhythmic pattern is grounding, and he wonders if that was Majima's intention.
He expects a witty comment or another non sequitur, but it doesn't come. So he just watches and breathes slowly, listening to the breathing on the other end of the line.
After a long bout of silence, Majima finally speaks up. "Hey, how about I come visit soon? Ya can show me around town, introduce me to the kiddos- it'll be fun!"
"Sounds good." The thought of the kids meeting Majima is interesting, although he's not sure if it's the best idea. It's certainly something to look forward to.
"You'll… be fine on your own 'til then, right?" It's a serious question wrapped in a sarcastic tone.
"Dunno if I can survive without you," he deadpans, which earns a laugh from Majima.
"Hah! Now that's the Kiryu I know and love. Well, see ya soon."
"... Thank you, Majima."
When the call ends, he's left with the same quiet darkness as before, but somehow, it doesn't seem so imposing. It's long past his usual bedtime now, but he decides to spend another moment sitting in the sand, alone with his thoughts. I'm not alone, he reminds himself, glancing back towards Morning Glory.
The moon hangs high in the sky, with a hint of light peeking over the horizon. There are so many stars that he'd never see in the city.
For now, he'll be okay.