Picking up the Pieces

 

Chapter One

 

The world around him was made up of a jumble of vague images and sounds.

Yata!” Kamamoto shouted in alarm, just before something struck the back of his head with enough force to send stars shooting across his vision.

His mouth felt dry.

Saruhiko’s expression was a strange mix of bored and vicious, eyes glinting with some emotion Yata couldn’t place. “You were always hoping to be a hero yourself, right, Misaki?”

It was like there was cotton packed to the brim inside his skull.

Kusanagi, sitting in an armchair beside the bed in the upstairs room at the Homra bar. His eyes were weary when they looked over at him. “I’m sorry, Yata…”

His arms and legs felt tight, stiff from inactivity. There was a pinched feel on his left hand.

“You’re the one who doesn’t get it.” Saruhiko again – that hateful smirk on his face. But that glint in his eyes…

What?

Off to the side, something obnoxious was beeping away.

Yata!”

Yata!”

Yata!”

Misaki!”

Misaki.”

Misaki…”

The ceiling was white – that was the first thing his foggy, not-quite-awake brain picked up on. He blinked slowly.

Not familiar.

That pinched feeling on his left hand… Yata turned his gaze, and it felt like the world tilted on its axis. He drew in a sharp breath, shutting his eyes against a wave of vertigo.

What?

Misaki?”

That was Saruhiko’s voice – Yata opened his eyes, and found it somehow difficult to focus on the half-blurred outline of his former friend. He wasn’t wearing blue. Why?

What are you even doing here? he wanted to ask. His tongue felt like it was made of lead.

Wait… where was here?

White ceiling… grey curtains… He was lying in a bed, but it was stiff and uncomfortable. The pinched feeling on his left hand was an IV.

I’m in a hospital?

Saruhiko’s face wouldn’t come into focus, no matter how much Yata blinked – it felt like he was moving underwater; the more he stared, the more his vision swam. It took him several tries and a ridiculous amount of effort before he managed a hoarse, whispered, “Saru?”

A cool hand closed on his; Saruhiko said something, but Yata didn’t catch it. Black was closing in rapidly on his vision, and he didn’t have time to wonder about the too-familiar contact or the oddly shaky tone of voice.

When his eyes shut again, he sank into complete darkness, without visions or vague impressions.

The next time he woke, there were hushed voices in the room.

Yata blinked up at the ceiling. His vision was still hazy, but his eyes seemed to focus. He ignored the voices for a moment, trying to catch up to his current situation.

Kamamoto and I were fighting a strain. He remembered that much, at least. The man was tall and thin, and fast. Somehow he’d gotten behind Yata, and –

Right, the blow to the head.

It had to have been a bad one – Yata could take a lot of punishment, after all, and he didn’t think he’d gotten so much as a mild concussion from being struck before. But then again, he didn’t usually give his opponents a lot of openings.

Wonder what happened there.

Depending on who was in the room with him, he might have a chance to ask. Yata shifted his gaze – slowly, remembering the vertigo from before – and found Kusanagi at the foot of the bed, talking quietly with… Saruhiko, again?

What the hell was going on?

There wasn’t really a chance to wonder, because almost at the same time as he’d managed to figure out who they were, Kusanagi looked over at him – and froze. Yata?”

Saruhiko turned abruptly, striding around the bed to his side as if he had every right to be there and taking hold of his hand like it was the most natural thing in the world. He was still not in uniform.

Misaki,” he breathed out, and Yata could only blink at him, brain going completely blank, because that tone was so desperate, drained, and somehow thoroughly thankful that it left him stunned.

Seriously, what the hell was going on?

It was a little too much to take in; when he managed to open his mouth and form works, he found himself croaking out, “What… truck… hit me?”

Saruhiko’s face was even paler than normal, the dark shadows under his eyes standing out in stark contrast. Still, he managed to respond without hesitation, “A bus, actually.”

Yata stared at him, confused. “… eh?”

Yata.” Kusanagi still stood at the foot of the bed, peering down at him with some concern. “Don’t worry about remembering the details. You still need to rest.”

“Oh…” Right, he was in a hospital, which meant his condition was kind of serious. The unpleasant, heavy feeling at the back of his head agreed with that. He let his gaze slide from Kusanagi back to Saruhiko, and then to the hand clutching his, and frowned, puzzled.

Since when did Saruhiko care enough to visit his hospital bed and fret over him? This was… odd.

“I can give Seri an update,” Kusanagi was saying, somewhere outside of Yata’s confused thoughts. “You should stay with him until he falls asleep again, at least.”

What? Why?

Why would Saruhiko be the one to stay?

“Wait… Kusanagi,” Yata managed, before the older man could leave. His voice cracked, but he couldn’t find the energy to mind it. The way that the two of them were acting, as if Saruhiko belonged here and nobody – even Yata – should have any questions or concerns about it, was confusing and a bit alarming. What the hell was he missing?

And how was he supposed to ask, if they were acting like nothing was wrong?

Thankfully, Kusanagi seemed to take his confusion as something to do with his injury, because he lowered his PDA, offering a reassuring smile. “What is it, Yata?”

Why is Saru here? Why is he holding my hand like he’s got a right to? Why are you acting like nothing’s weird about that? Why don’t you think I should find anything weird about that? What the hell happened while I was unconscious?

It was too overwhelming. Yata felt his head throb – he was probably doped up on painkillers or something, because he was sure it should be hurting like hell – and fought back a wave of nausea. “I… don’t…” All at once, he couldn’t think of what he was supposed to be asking. His brain auto-piloted to a safer subject. “What happened to the strain?”

Both Kusanagi and Saruhiko were now staring at him like he’d just sprouted a second head. “Strain?” Kusanagi repeated.

“The… the guy. With the…” What the heck power did he have? Yata struggled to pull the memory from his already suffering brain. “The… thing. He was fast.” That didn’t earn him any more recognition than his first attempt. Yata gave up. “Is – Is Kamamoto all right?”

There was a startled pause. Kusanagi’s eyes on him were suddenly sharp. “Kamamoto has been out of town for the past week.”

Yata stared at him. He was vaguely aware of Saruhiko’s hand squeezing his, almost too tightly, but it felt like something in the background. “That can’t be right,” he said, weakly. “No – we were fighting a strain together.” The event was sort of piecing together for him now – at least, more than it had before. “He was trying to hijack a subway car.”

He heard Saruhiko’s sharp intake of breath even as Kusanagi’s eyes widened; turning his gaze toward his former friend revealed a startlingly stricken expression.

Wait, wait, wait… what’s wrong?

Yata…” Kusanagi’s voice was slow and somehow careful, as if he were treading on eggshells. “The hijacking happened almost a year ago.”

The moment of silence that followed that unexpected announcement felt like an eternity.

… What?

There was a sudden rushing in his ears, like the sound of the ocean crashing in all around him. In front of him, Saruhiko’s face went out of focus, blurring out like someone had censored it. Yata would’ve laughed at that thought if he wasn’t feeling like the ground had just crumbled out from underneath him.

“That… that can’t...” No. No way. It was impossible, right? “But – but I got hit. On the head.”

“You had a concussion,” Kusanagi agreed, evenly. “Kamamoto and I took you to a doctor, but they didn’t keep you. You spent the night at the bar, and we took turns waking you every hour. It wasn’t nearly as bad as this one, though. You don’t remember?”

None of that sounded familiar. Yata tried to shake his head and gasped at the resulting rush of vertigo. It felt like the whole room was spinning.

Misaki.” Saruhiko’s voice was sharp – a little too sharp, honestly. His fingers tightened again, almost painfully. “You need to stop. This isn’t helping.”

Yata shut his eyes and breathed, trying to work past that moment. He wasn’t sure if he felt more like puking or passing out.

Almost a year ago…

“I’ll call the nurse,” Kusanagi said suddenly. It sounded like he was talking from the other end of a tunnel. “Yata, just try to take it easy for now, okay? Plenty of time for questions when you’re feeling better.”

Answer the questions now! Yata wanted to tell him – but the world was already fading out.

When he woke up again, Kusanagi was sitting in the chair beside the bed, reading a book. The curtains surrounding the area were drawn, and with the small amount of dim light flitting through the space above and beneath them, it was impossible to tell what time of day it was.

Saruhiko wasn’t there, which was a relief. Yata honestly wasn’t sure if he could handle that at the moment.

“Awake again?” When he glanced over, Kusanagi was closing the book, offering him a small smile. “You didn’t sleep as long this time. How are you feeling?”

Like shit. His head still felt like it was packed with cotton and weighed down with lead. “I’ll live. Probably.”

“Don’t say it like that.” That faint smile turned a bit pained. “When I got the call from Seri, I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost ten years of my life worrying. The scene of the accident looked really awful, you know – you’re lucky you came out of it with just a concussion.”

Yata stared at him blankly. “Accident?”

“Ah, right, you don’t remember.” Kusanagi set the book aside, stretching a bit. “An out of control bus crashed into the building you were in.” His expression was sombre. “They’ve confirmed seven casualties so far, and I think there are a few still in critical condition.”

“A bus, actually.” Right. Saruhiko had said that, hadn’t he? Yata frowned. “That cold-hearted woman called you?”

“She was working with Fushimi when he got the call.”

When he got the call.

Yata’s frown deepened. “Why would he get a call about me?”

There was a noticeable pause. Then, “Yata… he’s your emergency contact. You don’t remember that, either?”

What the fuck? Yata’s thoughts whirled. “Wh… Why would I make him my contact? What the hell?”

“Ah. Well, I don’t know the details,” Kusanagi admitted, smoothly evading the question. “It’s probably not my place to talk about it, anyway. I’m guessing the subway hijacking is the last thing you remember?”

“Y-Yeah.” It was hard to wrap his head around this. Yata stared at his older friend, feeling more than a little lost. A whole year, gone from his head just like that. A year in which he’d apparently become friends with Saruhiko again somehow – close enough friends to be setting each other as emergency contacts, even.

And the way Saruhiko had said his name when he woke up the second time… the concern he hadn’t bothered to hide… his expression when Yata had mentioned the hijacking...

It seemed impossible. How the hell had it happened? How the hell?

“I did mention it to the doctor after you woke up last time,” Kusanagi was saying, somewhere outside of Yata’s mental turmoil. “Apparently it is a little unusual, but not unheard of. They were saying it’s more likely to be specific things you’ve blocked out, relating to some trauma. This accident, maybe, or even last year’s…” He paused there, then shook his head. “Well, I’m no expert.”

A little spike of anxiety stirred up at the pit of his stomach. “I’ll get them back, though, right? My memories, I mean.”

“The doctor seemed to think so,” his older friend confirmed. “Based on the scans they ran when you were first brought in, there’s been no sign of any kind of permanent damage.” He offered another reassuring smile. “I’m sure they’ll want to check in on you some time when you’re awake, but from what I gathered you’ll probably start to remember things once you’re back in familiar surroundings.”

So it probably wouldn’t be permanent – that was a relief, anyway. Yata let out a low breath, feeling some of the tension in his shoulders ease up a bit. “How soon do you think I can go home?”

There was another moment of hesitation. “Hm, well… I guess as soon as they’re confident you don’t need to be under observation.”

“Huh.” It probably made sense – honestly, he wasn’t even sure if he could sit up right then without getting all dizzy – but it was still frustrating. Once he was back home, he’d start remembering things, right? Familiar surroundings and all? “There’s – there’s other stuff, though, isn’t there? Things I should know?”

“Probably a lot of things.” Kusanagi’s smile was a bit on the wry side. “We’ll see what the doctor says before I start springing those on you, though – it might be better for you to remember on your own.”

Yata blew out an irritated huff of breath, but let it go. It wasn’t like he was in a position to complain, anyway. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Oh, and your family is on the way here, in case you were wondering.” It came as almost an afterthought. “I’m told they were on a vacation, but they started back once they got the news.”

He couldn’t hold back a wince at that. Not that he’d object to having them around, but in the middle of a vacation? Shit. It wasn’t like they had money growing on trees. “You didn’t… really need to call them.”

Kusanagi raised his eyebrows. “I think they’d want to know, wouldn’t you? In any case, I wasn’t the one who called them.”

That was enough to freeze him up – there was really only one person he could think of who would be able to get his mother’s contact information without him offering it straight up. It was kind of hard to believe he’d actually go to the trouble, though… Hell, calling his mother at a time like this? Yata couldn’t even begin to imagine how that conversation had gone. Why would he bother?

Obviously, he was missing something pretty important. But how could he ask in a way that would get actual answers? “Saru isn’t here this time,” he started, a bit warily.

“Mm.” Kusanagi didn’t seem particularly uneasy with the subject. “I told him to go home – he’d been here all night, and I doubt he spent any of that time sleeping.” He gave another of those rueful smiles. “To be honest, I don’t think he would’ve gone if you hadn’t dropped that bombshell about the hijacking on us. I expect he thinks you probably don’t want to see him right now.”

That hit uncomfortably close to the mark. Yata remembered the strangely distressed look on Saruhiko’s face when he’d brought up the year-old incident, and squirmed, feeling a little pang of guilt without really knowing why. He couldn’t remember ever seeing an expression like that, even back when they were close, and the weird new behavior was confusing him more than ever.

He was here all night!

It didn’t seem real, somehow.

Kusanagi.” He took in a breath, and then decided, Okay, fuck it.Saruhiko and I, we… became friends. Somehow. Right?”

Another one of those weird pauses. “More or less.”

Yata frowned, a bit suspicious. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Kusanagi shrugged, spreading his hands. “Well, from what I can tell, it’s a long story.” He offered another not-quite-apologetic smile. “The details really aren’t any of my business, though, Yata – I’m the wrong person to ask.”

“But how, though? When? Why?” Yata was frustrated enough to make an attempt at pushing himself up off the pillow, and regretted it instantly when a rush of nausea forced him to flop back down. He took in a couple of deep breaths, shutting his eyes against the sudden dizziness. “Damnit…”

“Don’t push yourself,” Kusanagi lectured, with mild concern. “You should probably get some more sleep – your body’s still healing, after all.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Yata opened his eyes slowly, adjusting once again, and looked at his older friend somewhat balefully. “You won’t tell me anything, will you?”

“We can talk about it later.” Basically, no. “Would you rather Fushimi didn’t visit you?”

Yata shut his eyes again and let out a long, irritated breath. So, no details – he woke up, and Saruhiko was magically friends with him, and he should just accept it. That was it? Saruhiko, who he’d thought would be by his side forever. Saruhiko, who had destroyed everything between them so casually and easily, who mocked him for his loyalty and jeered at everything that was important to him. Saruhiko, who claimed to hate him and all that he stood for, but who still helped him when he was at his lowest – and then turned around and acted like he and his thanks were a disease.

Saruhiko, who somehow had the capacity to act like he’d fallen apart when Yata was seriously hurt.

He doesn’t make any sense, seriously.

“Ah, whatever!” His head was already feeling overworked just trying to sort this all out. “That guy will just do whatever he wants anyway. I don’t care.”

Hm, all right.” Kusanagi didn’t exactly make a comment, but it was definitely there in his tone of voice. “I’ll make sure he knows that.”

Yata’s head hurt.

It wasn’t the kind of soreness he was used to – strong and sharp – but more like a dull, persistent ache. He felt groggy and immobile, like when he first woke up in the morning, too lethargic to move his limbs.

What…?

He was vaguely aware of being draped over Kamamoto’s back, and Kusanagi was talking. There were people in blue uniforms.

“The doctor said it wasn’t serious,” the older man said, and Yata recognized the blonde hair of Awashima Seri standing opposite him. “He just can’t sleep for too long. If anyone wanted to visit him, though, they could come by the bar.”

Why would she want to visit him? Yata was confused for a moment, but then his gaze caught on the dark-haired figure hovering off to the side, purposefully not looking at any of them, and he thought, Oh.

You’re wasting your fucking time, Kusanagi, he would’ve said, if he was conscious enough to manage words. He won’t come.

He never came, even after Yata had wished for it over and over. It was a dream he’d given up ages ago.

The bitter self-pity chased him into wakefulness, and when he blinked to clear the sleep from his eyes, it somehow didn’t surprise him that Saruhiko’s familiar figure came into focus at the right side of his hospital bed.

Can’t get away from you whether I’m sleeping or awake, huh?

Saruhiko’s eyes were on his PDA, and he didn’t look up when Yata carefully turned his head on the pillow. He was still dressed in street clothing – a plain sweater and dark jeans – but he’d taken the time to style his hair, and his expression was the familiar unconcerned and slightly bored one. The dark circles under his eyes didn’t look like they’d gotten any smaller.

“Awake, are you?” he commented blandly, without bothering to look up.

Yata eyed him warily. This was more like the behavior he was used to, but he didn’t think he’d ever forget those moments after he’d woken up the second time. “Yeah.”

“Hm.” Still no particular reaction.

The silence between them felt strangely oppressive. Yata tolerated it for only about a moment before it became too much. “What are you looking at?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, finally lowering the PDA. “Nothing.”

“Okay...” It shouldn’t be this awkward, should it? If they were really friends… Yata tried again. “Do you still make things like custom apps and stuff?”

The chair creaked as Saruhiko leaned back in his seat, shutting his eyes with what sounded like an aggrieved sigh. “Sometimes,” he responded, shortly.

The deliberately brief answers were starting to get on Yata’s nerves. Would it kill him to meet me halfway here? I’m trying! He swallowed back that response, instead shifting his gaze back up to the ceiling. If I hadn’t lost my memories, this would’ve been easy. “I guess that’s one of those things I should remember, huh?” he mused out loud, more to himself than anything.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw Saruhiko’s fingers clench around his PDA, but a second later it was deliberately stuffed away into his pocket. “Why should you remember something useless like that?”

The hell? Yata could feel his mouth edging down in the familiar scowl. “Are you being a jerk on purpose? If we’re friends now, I should know these things.”

“Ah, we’re friends, are we?” Saruhiko finally turned to look at him then, raising both eyebrows condescendingly. “And who gave you that information? Kusanagi? Or maybe you just dreamed it up yourself, hm, Misaki?”

Instinct had him pushing himself up abruptly from the pillow. Bast - !” The word cut off in a gasp as vertigo hit, and nausea churned sharply in his stomach. He managed to hold his upright position only by bringing up his knees and bracing his head on them, feeling the world spin around him alarmingly. “Fuck…”

There was movement beside him; Yata opened his eyes and barely caught an unfocussed image of Saruhiko dropping back down into the chair, as if he’d jumped to his feet for some reason. “You shouldn’t be moving around so quickly,” he said after a moment. There was a bit of an edge in his voice.

“Shut up! Whose fault do you think that is?” The world was starting to come back into focus, at least; Yata took the opportunity to glare. “I wake up and you’re beside my hospital bed holding my fucking hand, and Kusanagi tells me you were my emergency contact, and now you’re here, looking like you haven’t slept in like a week, and you’re saying… what? We’re not friends? What the fuck are we, then?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue again, turning his gaze away deliberately. “Figure it out yourself,” he muttered.

Yata stared at him incredulously. What the hell? “I’ve lost my fucking memory, you asshole! How the hell am I supposed to figure anything out if you won’t tell me what happened?”

He got another sharp ‘tsk’ in response, and then silence.

I seriously can’t handle this guy, what the fuck?

Yata’s head was starting to throb – it wasn’t painful, but it felt like his energy was slowly being drained, and that made it hard to stay angry. Was he really going to find out that Saruhiko had become his friend again only to lose whatever they had immediately? It didn’t seem fair, when he couldn’t remember enough to know why it was going wrong. “You’re always like this,” he mumbled, before he could think it through, and inwardly winced at how childish it sounded.

One stupid head injury, and I’m acting like I’m five years old or something. Fucking hell.

“If it bothers you that much, I can leave.” Saruhiko pushed himself out of his seat without even waiting for a response. “This is pointless anyway.”

“You…” Yata grabbed his arm without pausing to think about it, feeling his eyebrows come down in another glare. “Stop being a jerk! I never said I wanted you to go! And what exactly is the big deal about just telling me where we stand? I didn’t lose my memory on purpose or anything!”

Saruhiko wasn’t looking at him; his eyes looked like they might have been wavering, but it was hard to tell if it was just Yata’s poor vision or not. “It’s pointless,” he repeated, voice deliberately flat and even. “It won’t mean anything if I tell you – I might as well make something up.” He clicked his tongue again, grimacing. “It’s better if you just pretend nothing changed.”

Is this idiot even for real? “What the hell are you talking about? How is that better?” Yata tightened his grip, trying to ignore the pounding of his head. He wasn’t sure if anger was the best thing for his current condition, but whatever. “My memories will come back anyway, so – ”

The muscles under his fingers tensed, and Saruhiko turned his head, startling him out of that thought. His eyes were narrowed and his mouth was tight. “Who told you that?”

Yata blinked at him, taken aback by the sudden switch in the atmosphere. “Kusangai told me that’s what the doctor said.”

Something shifted in that gaze – Yata couldn’t place it, but it stirred up a little ache in his chest somehow. Without bothering to reply, Saruhiko abruptly dropped back into the chair again, pulling his arm from Yata’s slackened grip.

Seriously, what the hell? “I don’t get you at all.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, not looking at him. “Why would I need you to ‘get’ me? You’re too annoying.”

I’m annoying? You’re the one who’s being a total pain the ass right now!” Yata studied him a bit warily. His gaze still wasn’t returned, but he hadn’t really expected that. He wasn’t any good at reading Saruhiko’s expressions, although he’d once thought himself an expert on his best friend’s moods. “Are you going to actually answer me? Are we friends, or what?”

There was a short moment of silence, and then Saruhiko shut his eyes, let out what sounded like a frustrated huff, and answered, “We live together.”

That was not what he’d expected. Yata blinked. “Eh?”

“You heard me perfectly well.”

“What the fuck? Are you kidding me?” He couldn’t help but stare, completely stunned – and a little suspicious. “You’re not actually kidding, right?”

“What would be the point of making something like that up? Quit acting like a moron.” Saruhiko made another sharp ‘tsk’, scowling at him darkly. “We have a two bedroom apartment three train stops into the city.”

Two bedrooms?” Yata repeated, unable to keep himself from sputtering. There was no way. What the fuck? “How the hell am I affording the rent on a two bedroom apartment?”

“You’re not. As if you could.” Saruhiko raised his eyebrow condescendingly, folding his arms. “I pay two thirds of the rent, and you do all the chores.”

Yata opened his mouth to ask when the fuck he’d agreed to do that again, and –

“The hell, Saru? Did you borrow my toothbrush?” He stared at the offending item in agitation. “That’s fucking gross, cut it out!”

“Considering where your mouth has been, I don’t think you have cause for complaint.” Saruhiko straightened his uniform jacket, clearly unmoved. “Besides, it’s a pain to have to stop at the dorms before going to work.”

Yata scowled at him, shoving the toothbrush back into its holder. “Why the hell don’t you just move all your stuff here? You’re over all the time anyway.”

Saruhiko frowned at him. “This place is too small.”

“Your fucking dorm is smaller than this!” Yata said, exasperated. “Anyway, excuse me for having a small home! Some of us still live on a budget, you know.”

The corners of that frown edged up. “I guess it wouldn’t seem that small to you, would it?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean!?”

“Nothing really.” Saruhiko belted his sword on, nonchalantly. “I have to go.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Yata trailed after him to the door, internally debating over what he was about to ask. “We could… get a bigger place. I mean, if you were going to move in and pay half the rent and all…”

“What?” Saruhiko glanced over his shoulder, clearly startled, and their eyes locked.

For some reason, that was making Yata feel oddly self-conscious. He rubbed at the back of his neck. “It - it was just an idea. Seriously, though, it makes no sense for you to stay over here every night and have all your stuff at the dorm. Bring your own damn toothbrush!”

“We could… get a bigger place.” Saruhiko turned to look at him. There was a sort of wary, almost-but-not-quite-pleased look on his face, as if he wasn’t sure whether it was safe to be happy about the idea. “If it’s going to be like before, I wouldn’t mind it.”

The short burst of surprised pleasure from the first sentence quickly faded into irritation at the second. “’Like before’?” He narrowed his eyes. “Oi… don’t tell me you still expect me to do all the chores?”

Saruhiko completely ignored him, frowning thoughtfully. “If I’m working on something, I don’t need you interrupting all the time. We’ll need to get a place with two bedrooms.”

“Two bedrooms? Are you kidding me?” Yata stared at him, incredulous. “Do you have any idea what that’ll cost? I can’t afford half of that!”

“Oh?” Saruhiko’s lips curled up into a lazy, satisfied-looking smirk. “Then you’d have to do the household chores to make up for the difference in rent… right, Misaki?”

“Ugh…” He’d walked right into that. Yata glowered back. “You lazy bastard…”

“At least I’m not broke all the time.” Saruhiko swung open the door and stepped out briskly. “Anyway, we can talk about it later. I’m off.”

“Talk about it later, my ass.” Yata slammed the door after him without responding. As if he hasn’t already made up his mind. “Jerk.”

Somehow, though, despite his irritation, he couldn’t help but smile. Moving in together, huh?

It gave him a nice feeling.

Misaki?”

Yata blinked, and the last of the vivid daydream faded. He put a hand to his head, slightly bemused. “Huh.”

That had definitely been a memory – even if it hadn’t felt so real, he was sure he’d never dream up that conversation. And the feelings that went with it… the irritation (well, that was normal), the anxiety, the relieved elation…

I was feeling good. It had been a long time since he’d felt like that in Saruhiko’s presence.

Well, it seemed like it had, anyway.

A finger jabbed into his cheek, and Yata swatted it away, scowling. “Cut it out! What was that for?”

“You were sitting there spacing out.” Saruhiko shrugged, unconcerned. “I thought it would be a good idea to check that you weren’t losing the rest of your brain.”

“Hah! Well, shows what you know.” Yata took the opportunity to return his smirk. “As a matter of fact, I just got a memory back.”

He got the satisfaction of seeing Saruhiko’s eyes widen just a fraction. “Of what?”

“We were talking about getting a place together.” Yata followed up on his advantage, pleased that he’d managed to evoke some reaction. “You borrowed my toothbrush – that’s disgusting, by the way, who does that? – and I told you to just move in already and stop using my stuff.” He raised an eyebrow. “I noticed that stupid idea about a two bedroom apartment was your way of getting out of doing chores. Seriously, are you still five years old?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, looking dissatisfied – as if the memory had failed to live up to his expectations. “That’s it? What a stupid thing to remember.”

Yata frowned at him, nonplussed. “Well, sorry for having memories that don’t meet your high standards!”

Saruhiko looked ready to respond to that, but before he got the chance, the curtain at the foot of the bed was pulled back and a nurse smiled at them with strained politeness.

“Excuse me for interrupting,” she started, in a voice that was maybe just a touch too cheerful. “We’ve had some complaints about noise from the other patients in this area. Can you please keep your voices lowered?”

“O-Oh…” Right, other patients. Yata felt his face grow hot, and fisted a hand in the covers, looking off to the side to avoid meeting her gaze. “S-Sorry…”

“Thank you very much!” The curtain slid shut again.

Saruhiko hummed low, obviously amused. “Well done responding like a total virgin there.”

“Shut up!” Yata muttered at him, trying to ignore the flush lingering on his cheeks. He eased himself back on the bed until his head met the pillow again, and sighed. “How much longer do I have to be here?”

“Who knows.Saruhiko glanced sideways at him, almost warily. “Where are you planning to go when you leave?”

“What do you mean ‘where’? Home, of course.” The words were barely out of his mouth when he remembered that ‘home’ no longer meant his old apartment. “Oh.”

“Finally realized, did you?” Saruhiko remarked. His voice was neutral.

Yata studied him for a moment. His former – well, probably not so former – friend had already turned away, as if he was not really interested in a response. His hands were in his pockets, and there was nothing particularly ‘off’ about his expression.

Somehow, his eyes looked tired, though. Maybe it was the dark circles underneath.

Seriously, what a pain…

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter.” It was the place he’d been living recently – ‘familiar surroundings’, right? Plus, it wouldn’t be fair to impose on Kusanagi – or his parents, God forbid – when there was no good reason to. “I’m paying a third of the rent, so of course I’m going to stay there.”

Yata could see the muscles in Saruhiko’s throat work as he swallowed, but there was no other sign that he was moved by the decision. “You won’t be able to afford a third of the rent until you can work again,” he commented, evenly.

Ouch. “W-Well, I’ll… I’ll pay it back.” Yata shifted, a little embarrassed. His paycheck-to-paycheck living had never been an issue when it was just him on his own, but with another person to worry about… it felt like he’d become unreliable. “Anyway, you’re not kicking me out, right?”

He was expecting some snide comment about how broke he was, so it surprised him when Saruhiko tensed up instead. “No,” he responded, shortly. “I’ll pay the rent.”

“O-Okay then.” That was weird. “I guess it’s settled.”

For some reason, Saruhiko shut his eyes and chuckled, as if at some inside joke Yata didn’t know about. “Right,” he agreed, and looked up again with a smile that somehow seemed painful. “It’s settled.”

 

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