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if i could buy forever at a price

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When he was young, Kindaichi's family moved into a bigger apartment across the city.

The memory is distinct in his mind, partially because living in that place led to both his parents being killed as the building crumbled around them, to Kindaichi running out barefoot into the streets and watching a kaiju literally step over him, falling as the tremors of its steps shook the earth. But also, the memory of moving with his family, of lugging boxes into a huge truck and sleeping in an empty room for a week while they unpacked everything.

Moving into an apartment with his new family is nothing like that. Most everything they already had been either lost or confiscated in the military raid and when Kindaichi steps into the apartment, his fingers clinging to Kunimi's sleeve, an old suitcase in his other hand, that's really all the moving in they have to do.

Kyoutani looks around the room with a little grunt under his breath, squeezing his key in one hand and apparently not noticing the way Yahaba simply leans against the wall and watches him instead. There's a smile on his face, at odds with the tired circles under his eyes. Kindaichi can't fault him for them, though—none of them have slept well since the raid.

Without the corner store that they'd called home for years, and without Yahaba, they had spent a week roaming between different parks and broken buildings, sleeping in whatever space Kyoutani declared safe enough. Kindaichi knows the only times Kyoutani actually went to sleep were when they found themselves in Kenma's shared apartment—he spent the rest of his time coiled and tense like an animal on watch for danger.

Now, he turns and catches Yahaba staring at him, giving him a crooked little smile in return. Kindaichi turns quickly away, because that look is usually followed by the two of them kissing, and looks down at Kunimi ahead of him instead, squeezing his hand around Kunimi's sleeve. “We have our own room now.”

The apartment wouldn't be large by anyone else's standards. It's got two rooms, a single bathroom, and a living room that bleeds into the same space as the kitchen. But, compared to five years sharing an office between the four of them, it seems more like a palace. Kunimi nods, and even though his mouth is set into an impassive line, Kindaichi can see the little sparkle in his eyes. He hasn't asked how this is being paid for, and all Yahaba said about the matter was that it was a condition of helping out the SSP.

Kunimi passes by Yahaba and Kyoutani, inclining his head away from their shared smiles, and instead the two of them end up in the smaller bedroom. There isn't a hallway to provide any kind of buffer between the main room and the bedrooms, but there is a door, and that in itself feels like a luxury.

Kindaichi is pretty sure that Kunimi feels the same way because his lips twitch slightly when he swings it shut, sliding his backpack off his back and picking his way around the single bed that marks the center of the room. There's sparse furniture throughout the apartment—an old couch, a fridge, and apparently a twin bed without sheets. Kunimi looks over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow when Kindaichi freezes staring at it. “Is it okay if I take this side of the room?”

He jolts to focusing, looking around and nodding his head quickly, noticing after a long moment that Kunimi picked the side with the window. He feels a little safer that way, instinctively, and wonders if that's why Kunimi picked it. He turns, unpacking his clothing and making a neat stack of it in one corner. They don't have shelves or a dresser, but it doesn't stick out much in his mind. Instead, he steals glances at the things Kunimi unpacks.

There's a knife nearly as long as his forearm, the one that Kunimi simply had one day with no explanation provided, and his much smaller switchblade that he tucks into his pocket rather than setting with the rest of his things. Neither of them has much outside of that—Kindaichi has a few small nicknacks picked up doing various jobs in Block 12, and Kunimi has their shares of food that will likely get moved into the new kitchen area.

It all makes Kindaichi practically vibrate with excitement, and he forgets until night actually sets in that he's going to be formally sharing a bed with Kunimi until they get a second one.

And really, it isn't that he minds sharing a bed. Really, it's the exact opposite. He's too excited to have Kunimi falling asleep next to him, and he balls one hand into a fist in the thin blanket they have to share and lays awake for half the night listening to Kunimi's easy breathing next to him.

 

Kindaichi didn't think, after July 10th, that his life would ever have this kind of easy rhythm to it once again. But, his days draw out long and calm—Kyoutani teaches him how to cook, a skill he didn't even know Kyoutani had, and Yahaba shuffles himself around every morning and kisses Kyoutani before he goes to work.

At first, it makes Kindaichi more anxious than usual. He waits for something to go wrong, for another kaiju attack or military raid to come and tear everything apart again. He's still having dreams about Yahaba's voice in the dust clouded air of the storm begging soldiers not to shoot Kyoutani, only made worse by how real the moment was, by the memory of Kunimi's hands gripping his shoulders like claws and preventing him from doing anything at all.

Those dreams make him roll over and tuck himself closer to Kunimi's back, squeezing his eyes closed and listening to the relaxed breathing of the boy next to him. Because none of them got shot, and Yahaba's smart enough that he turned the situation around to help their family, and things are going to be okay for all of them.

And they are okay. The environment seems to brighten Kyoutani significantly, making Kindaichi wonder what his life with Yahaba was like before they lost their homes. He catches Yahaba staying up late, staring at page after page of scrawled notes and scientific formulas until he slips asleep and Kyoutani hauls him to bed, thumbing worriedly at the circles under his eyes. But Yahaba brushes it off and says that he thinks there's a way they can really help fix the Soldiers.

He doesn't mention fixing Kyoutani, and Kyoutani doesn't ask about it.

The person that seems to struggle most is Kunimi. The peace seems to make him uneasy, and Kindaichi, at first, doesn't blame him but worries when it doesn't seem to go away. For as close as he and Kunimi were before the raid, they'd been practically attached after. Part of it had been fear, Kindaichi knows, and not just his own. It was a shock to see how fragile their family was, how someone as strong as Kyoutani couldn't do anything about it.

But once they've moved in, Kunimi seems to pull back sharply. He huffs, hesitating in the middle of the room, watching Kindaichi scrubbing at one of their few dishes for a moment, shifting his bag on his shoulder. “I'm going out.”

“Huh?” Kindaichi looks over his shoulder, blinking rapidly. He sets the dish down, forgetting that his hands are still wet as he rubs at the back of his neck. “Where are you going?”

Kunimi gives him a flat look in response and shrugs his shoulder. He has his backpack on, and Kindaichi would bet the few yen he has to his name that the switchblade is in his pocket as well. He shifts awkwardly in front of the sink—reluctant to be left behind but not sure if he should ask to come along or not. He settles for hoping that Kunimi will just ask him but is met with a small roll of Kunimi's eyes.

“I'll be back later,” is all he says, turning and leaving before Kindaichi can question that any further. He sighs so hard he deflates a little, staring at the door and digging his teeth into his lip.

It becomes Kunimi's habit, leaving after Yahaba does in the morning, somehow managing to avoid Kyoutani's sharp eyes for several days while he's at it. It worries Kindaichi, even more so when he realizes that Kunimi is coming back with things stolen from the nearby shops.

He waits, though, until both Yahaba and Kyoutani are out, to try and confront Kunimi about it. He takes a deep breath before walking into their room, hands clenching into tight fists, pushing the door gently closed and nodding his head at the small pile of things on their 'new' dresser.

“You stole that stuff, right?” It's really an assortment of junk, nothing they would've had any use for while still squatting in the store, and Kindaichi doesn't get what the attraction to grabbing any of it could be. He's not worried about Kunimi getting caught, at least, not any more worried than he used to be.

“So what?” Kunimi snorts just a little when he speaks, and Kindaichi runs a nervous hand through his hair.

“We're not supposed to be doing that anymore,” he answers, and there's a tremble in his tone. Kunimi looks up at him with both eyebrows raised, lips twitching upwards in amusement.

“Because they found a fancy way to make Kyoutani-san a prisoner too?” His voice is calm when he says it, but the words make Kindaichi's insides wilt. He can feel his eyes going big and round, and Kunimi shakes his head. “You didn't realize it?”

“W- what do you mean?” This wasn't the military's idea. It was Yahaba's condition for working for them. They'd been so reluctant to accept that Kenma had turned to his friend for help.

“They came for him first,” Kunimi answers, crossing his legs as he moves from reclining to sitting upright on the bed, frowning now. “Because he was their prototype. That's why Yahaba-san went instead.”

“Y- Yahaba-san went because he was a scientist,” Kindaichi doesn't know why he's arguing. It's not like he has any devotion or love for the military, and it's not like Kunimi doesn't have a point. But he doesn't want to let go of the fact that the four of them could be happy for once.

“The military probably wants to fix Kyoutani-san and make him a Soldier again,” he says the words like they taste bitter in his mouth. “That's why the Captain found us this place.”

“He's Kenma-kun's friend,” it's not even an argument at this point, he gives the fact in a meek voice, shrinking into his own lanky frame. Kunimi blinks his eyes twice, frowning and turning his face slightly away.

“I'm not counting on this working out for long,” is what he grumbles, and Kindaichi nods rather than pointing out that the things he's stolen aren't even supplies, or that they have nowhere else to go, or that this is the first time he's actually seen Kyoutani and Yahaba happy.

 

Kyoutani knows that people don't look at him and see a smart man. It doesn't feel like information that's really that important most of the time—he keeps it filed away in the back of his mind and focuses on more important things.

Having a home again shifts that focus from keeping his family safe and fed and making sure that the police don't descend on them in the middle of the night. Now he considers what he should teach Kindaichi to cook, and if Shigeru is actually getting enough rest at night.

Sometimes it's a struggle to keep his own discomfort in check around the matter of Shigeru working for the military again. He understands why—he's considered more than once walking back to the base and offering himself up to help them solve the problems that are plaguing the program, problems that he knows all too well at this point. Insomnia, memory loss, muscle aches, and the rages that seem impossible to control.

His eyes skitter over the notes in Shigeru's hand. The two of them are lounging on the old couch that Kenma somehow found for them, with Shigeru leaning back on Kyoutani's chest, sliding his glasses slightly further up his nose and frowning at the sheet he's holding. Kyoutani breathes out slowly, tightens his arms around Shigeru's waist, and leans his head on the scientist's shoulder. “How was Oikawa today?”

“He's been awake for the last two days,” Shigeru answers without lifting his eyes from the page. He leans more of his weight back into Kyoutani's embrace, voice thoughtful. “I'm considering giving Iwaizumi-san a prescription for him.”

Kyoutani hums and turns his face to rest his forehead against Shigeru's cheek, eyes slowly closing. The motion makes Shigeru pause, lifting his head and setting the notes down on his lap. Kyoutani's fingers tighten slightly, but he's not surprised either when Shigeru questions him. “What's wrong, my love?”

“Boys are fighting,” he answers with a soft sigh, blowing warm air against the side of Shigeru's neck. He hasn't asked either of them about it yet, but it wasn't that hard to put the facts together on his own. Shigeru hums, and his fingers stroke over the back of Kyoutani's hand before lifting his arm and flipping it over, stroking the galaxy of tiny scars left dotting the inside.

“It's an adjustment,” he says finally with a small sigh. Kyoutani nods his head, still pressing his face into Shigeru's neck. It doesn't feel like much of an adjustment for him, even if he can't quite remember the details of their routine before the experiments. It wasn't, he knows, anything like this.

They argued a lot, and neither of them had made the step to actually being up front about the fact that they had feelings far past a long-standing friendship. Now he lets Shigeru trace the blue lines of his veins, relaxing at the repetitive gesture.

“Ken—” there's a strain to Shigeru's voice that makes Kyoutani lift his head, blinking his eyes against the lights as he opens them again. Shigeru doesn't turn to look at him, staring down at his arm instead with a small frown.

“Oikawa started asking you for samples of my blood yet?” He tries to keep his tone light, or at least as light as his voice can go, but Shigeru's shoulders flinch slightly even as he shakes his head. His fingers stall.

“I promised you it would never happen again, didn't I?” His lips catch into a small smile even as his voice goes steely and serious, and Kyoutani privately wishes he wasn't so willing to stick to that promise. He hasn't forgotten the feeling of having Shigeru ripped away in the name of protecting him, and his arms tighten slightly. “He hasn't asked me.”

He can sense something going unsaid, a piece of the puzzle that Shigeru isn't ready to hand over to him yet. Years ago, he's sure it would have pissed him off, but now he simply settles his shoulders more comfortably and nods. Whatever Shigeru has on his mind, he'll find a way to approach it when he's ready.

“I have to ask you about something,” Shigeru twists slightly in his arms, doing his best to look Kyoutani in the face, teeth worrying at his lower lip. He looks so tired, but there's an edge of fear to it that makes Kyoutani's spine straighten slightly, instinct worrying in his blood. His hands are still squeezing around the scarred surface of Kyoutani's forearms. Still, he inclines his head slightly, trying to urge Shigeru on. “It's—in regards to the program itself—”

His voice has slipped into that plastic, formal tone he uses when trying to charm a mark on the street, and Kyoutani frowns harder than usual. Shigeru seems to notice it too because he closes his mouth quickly, lifting one hand and rubbing his palm against his forehead, breathing out a slow sigh. “I should have found a way to stay working there. If I hadn't left after you—if I hadn't left, I might have been able to figure out a cure for you. But I was so angry at Oikawa after they kicked you out, after everything that happened…”

Kyoutani resists the urge to point out the fact that there isn't a question anywhere in there, and instead leans forward and kisses Shigeru firmly to make him stop talking. It works, his words cut off with a soft sound of surprise that melts like snow against a gentle sweep of Kyoutani's tongue. Shigeru rests their foreheads together after a moment, breathing out a slow breath against Kyoutani's lips.

“I need to know if you're angry with me for that,” he says it softly that the words are more taste and vibration against Kyoutani's mouth than actual sound. He snorts softly in return, lifting a hand to pet at the back of Shigeru's head, eyes lightly shut, shaking his head and nuzzling their foreheads together with the motion.

“Don't be stupid,” it's a growl, but only because the idea that he'd be angry after all the things Shigeru did to help him is annoying. Shigeru laughs softly, and when Kyoutani blinks his eyes open again he's smiling. “No reason to think you can fix whatever they did anyway.”

“I should've tried harder,” he answers, almost too quickly, and Kyoutani huffs once more. They don't discuss it much, in part because it feels like the events of another lifetime at this point. Instead of arguing, though, he twirls his fingers slightly in the fluffy strands of Shigeru's hair and hums from the back of his throat.

“Akira's been shoplifting,” it's a clumsy change of subject, but Kyoutani isn't exactly a delicate or subtle person, and he doesn't dwell on it. Shigeru blinks his eyes, shifting slightly so he's in a more comfortable sitting position—his back against Kyoutani's chest, head lolling onto his shoulder. He takes Kyoutani's arm and drapes it around his shoulders, a small smile on his face as he rearranges them.

“I suppose it's to be expected,” he says after he has himself situated how he wants. Kyoutani frowns, because expected or not it's going to become a problem. He's not the same kind of worrier that Shigeru is, but he's sure that if one of them gets caught stealing then they won't be staying in this apartment anymore. “Have you talked to him?”

Kyoutani shakes his head slowly, rolling his thumb in small circles around Shigeru's shoulder. It's been a long time since he was able, felt confident enough, to actually wrap Shigeru up in his arms like this. But since moving into the apartment, the monster in the back of his head has felt more distant, less likely to reel up and use his strength to snap bones or lash out at whatever, whoever is closest to him.

But, he's lived with the monster long enough. He doesn't trust the serene quiet of his mind.

“I wanted to figure out why first,” he sighs, resting his cheek against the top of Shigeru's head. He has a hunch, at least, enough information that he's suspicious, but he doesn't want to do anything before he's actually sure. Shigeru nods his head, reaching and pulling the notes back into his lap and pushing his glasses back up his nose again. “Have you found anything out?”

“Iwanuma is changing Oikawa's formula,” Shigeru answers, finger tracing over a complicated series of symbols with a small hum. He shuffles the papers, pulling an older one to the top and inclining his head slightly at it. “This is the comparison of the sequence he made for you and the one he made for Iwaizumi-san.”

Kyoutani leans forward to study it, blinking his eyes. The symbols don't really mean anything to him, except for the fact that a lot of them are the same. He narrows his eyes, tracing over them again, feeling his hand tighten slightly around Shigeru's shoulder. Shigeru taps his finger against the page. “He was close with yours before they added to it.”

“How close?” He doesn't like the little tremble that works into his voice.

“Ken,” Shigeru says it softly, a warning. He sinks slightly further, feeling one of the lumps into the couch dig into his back. He closes his eyes and focuses on the feeling, tries to clear everything else out of his head. The effort of it means he can feel the spot in the back of his mind where the monster tends to lurk, the low rumble of it reverberates in his bones.

“Doesn't matter,” he agrees after a moment, nodding his head. He knows that part of Shigeru's goal is to find a way to cure the Soldiers, but the subject hasn't come up between them yet.

There's no going back, Kyoutani already knows that.

 

Kindaichi's at a loss when Kunimi comes home with a black eye and a swollen lip. He can tell his best friend isn't exactly in the mood to talk about whatever happened, and so instead Kindaichi flees their room on awkward legs, coming back a few moments later with a cloth dampened with cold water.

He holds it out to Kunimi like a little peace offering but sighs when Kunimi stares at him rather than taking it. His uninjured eye is half-lidded, and he quickly turns to look at something else when Kindaichi drops to sit next to him. Kindaichi ignores it and wipes the blood off his mouth with a little huff. “Who did you get into a fight with?”

Kunimi shrugs and doesn't say anything and so Kindaichi grips their blanket tighter in his hand and tries a different tact.

“You don't have to do this anymore,” his voice is softer than he means for it to be, and he flinches back when Kunimi's head whips around, both eyebrows raised. He reels slightly, trying to pull his nerves back in. “I- I mean—!”

“What am I supposed to do?” He asks, and it's as close to a growl as Kunimi usually gets. Kindaichi blinks, surveying him in confusion. Kunimi frowns harder, his lips drawn into a tight line. “Am I supposed to be like you and learn how to be some kind of housewife?”

Kindaichi blinks his eyes, confused by the venom of the statement. He's been asking Kyoutani to teach him so he can help out more, and Kunimi fuming over that fact doesn't make sense. He's pretty sure that Kyoutani is still taking the time to teach Kunimi how to fight though after so many years of it Kindaichi is sure that they're less like lessons and more like practice sessions. He clears his throat, trying to make sure the nerves don't make his voice shake. “I'm just trying to help.”

“What am I supposed to do?” The change in inflection catches Kindaichi's attention and he pauses, searching Kunimi's face. He seems less angry though sometimes it's hard to tell with how placid he can be, but more frustrated, confused even.

“Kunimi-kun?” He asks softly, trying to prompt whatever Kunimi is actually getting at. Kunimi's shoulders flinch for a second before he huffs out an irritated sigh, grabbing the damp cloth out of Kindaichi's hand and pressing it against the swollen skin around his eye.

“It's weird,” he starts, and Kindaichi gently raises both eyebrows, tilting his head to the side. Kunimi bites down on his lip for a moment, making more blood bubble to the surface. He seems to realize it and lets go quickly. “I don't know how I'm supposed to help. Stealing and fighting are the only things I'm any good at.”

“Are you worried we don't need you anymore, Kunimi-kun?” Kindaichi finds himself leaning forward, sliding into the slight dip of Kunimi's weight on the bed. Kunimi huffs air through his teeth and shrugs in a way Kindaichi knows he's too embarrassed to say yes.

Kindaichi is quiet for a moment following that, trying to pick his words carefully. He remembers that feeling well—being the only member of their small family who wasn't any good at being a criminal. He hesitates before putting his hand over Kunimi's, trying to swallow down nerves that have nothing to do with his anxiety and everything to do with the fact he's had a hopeless crush since the older boy took a knife for him over a stupid suitcase. “You know that's not true, though. We still need you.”

Kunimi's face shifts slightly, and even with his flat expression, Kindaichi can see how he's not sure those words are true, and he squeezes his fingers slightly around Kunimi's with another rough swallow. “I, um, I need you.”

His good eye blinks open wide and surprised, and Kindaichi isn't sure how to read that, so he snaps his hand back quickly, rubbing the back of his neck. “W- we're a family, after all! So you have to be good!”

There's a beat that follows his words, where Kindaichi realizes his heart is in his throat and both of them are leaning forward, that he's so close he could count each of Kunimi's eyelashes, can see the little hazel flecks in his dark eyes. He's not even sure if he's breathing anymore. Kunimi's lips lift into a tiny smile, shy but hopefully reassured. “Okay.”

 

In the end, Kyoutani doesn't go out of his way to confront Kunimi about the black eye. It nets a pair of raised eyebrows from Yahaba, but he settles in and watches Kindaichi try to instruct Kunimi on the proper way to use the coffee maker instead.

Kyoutani thinks the four of them will be alright.