Picking up the Pieces

 

Chapter Two

 

“I’m fine by myself, Kusanagi!” Yata grinned back at his older friend, hoping it wasn’t obvious how much he was leaning against the door handle. His head still felt like it was packed in cotton. “It’s not far from here to my place, anyway.”

“If you say so.” Kusanagi’s smile had a hint of resignation in it. “Don’t push yourself, Yata – you’re still recovering.”

It’s fine – I’ve got a strong skull, right?” Yata brushed aside his concern. “Anyway, you can’t leave the bar, and everyone else is out getting things done. I’m just getting in the way around here right now.”

Misaki.” Anna’s voice made him pause – he glanced over at his King, and found her watching him steadily. “You won’t be able to use red aura,” she reminded him. “Be careful.”

“O-Oh, right. Well, I will!” He scratched at the back of his head, feeling a bit awkward about it. If he was being honest, he probably wasn’t in the best shape to be walking home by himself, but being any more of a burden on Homra wasn’t an option he was willing to accept. “I’ll be around later, okay? See ya!”

The air outside was still chilly – it was only February, after all, although Yata wasn’t sure about the actual date. Somewhere close to March, probably. He’d only lost one night so far to his head injury, but the dull ache pounding at the back of his skull promised more to come.

I just need to get home and sleep.

Luck really wasn’t on his side lately, though – he’d barely gone two blocks when a familiar voice from behind him drawled out, “Does Kusanagi know you’re weaving around in the streets like some kind of drunkard, Misaki?”

It was a struggle to force himself to be slow when he halted and turned, but somehow Yata managed it. “Saru,” he growled, narrowing his eyes at the familiar figure in blue.

Saruhiko offered him that hatefully confident smirk in return. “You should be more careful,” he continued. “Too many blows to the head, and you’ll start to lose brain cells. Are you sure you can afford that, Misaki?”

“Stop using my first name, you creepy bastard!” The pain was getting worse already, but Yata would die before he’d give that traitor the satisfaction of knowing it. “What are you doing hanging around here?”

It’s part of my job to patrol the city,” Saruhiko replied, without losing an inch of that smug smile. “Not that I think we’re in any danger from miniature delinquents who get themselves concussed by second-rate strains.”

“You…” Yata could feel the strain on his wounded brain as his body responded to his anger and struggled instinctively to respond with a red aura trigger. The only result he could feel was his skin growing clammy. “Since when do you get your kicks from taunting someone who’s injured, you damn monkey?”

Saruhiko actually frowned at that, looking like he was ready to respond, but in the next instant his expression shifted, eyes narrowing. His hand went to his sword.

What? Yata had about half a second to stare at him in perplexity – despite everything, he didn’t really think Saruhiko would attack him while he was unable to fight back – and then he was being grabbed roughly from behind.

Motherfu – ” He responded without thinking, kicking back at where his assailant’s knees should’ve been while at the same time going for an elbow to the gut – but whoever it was apparently had a better reaction time than his slow, concussed self, because neither hit made contact. Something cold and sharp was jabbed right up against his neck.

Fuck!

Saruhiko was faster than he’d been; the knife was barely in place before whoever was holding Yata had to dodge back out of the way of a blue sword attack, dragging him along.

Vertigo from the sudden movement made his head throb sharply; Yata wasn’t able to hold back a gasp, nausea churning in his stomach as his head spun. Shit – this can’t be good…

“Don’t care about your pal, eh, Blue?” a somewhat breathless voice demanded from right next to his ear, as they took another sharp dive. The edge of the blade dug into his skin, causing pain to spike up from his neckline. A thin trickle of something warm ran down from the point of contact.

Yata’s vision was swiming, but even from his own uncertain viewpoint he was able to catch the brief second of hesitation from Saruhiko.

The hell is he…?

A brief second was enough; another figure – a strain, probably – darted in unnaturally fast and jabbed something Yata couldn’t see into the back of Saruhiko’s neck.

A sweet-smelling cloth was jammed up under his nose then, and the last image he registered before blackness descended was his former friend’s body crumbling forward.

 

 

His heart was still racing when he opened his eyes again, and there was a cold sweat forming on his skin. Yata blinked a few times, adjusting to the darkness in the hospital room.

That was a memory, right? It had felt a little too vivid and detailed to just be a dream. But what the hell had happened?

Guess I could ask Kusanagi later. He shut his eyes again, trying to calm down. Obviously things had worked out somehow, since he and Saruhiko were both alive and kicking, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. The details didn’t really matter in the end, right?

It still bothered him, though – that split second of hesitation where Saruhiko should have been confidently kicking those strains’ asses. Was it because of me? He was worried that guy would kill me?

He would’ve scoffed at the idea before. But… that was before. So.

Maybe our friendship still did mean something to him, even back then. Strange how that thought still kicked off the old, familiar ache in his chest. In the first few months after Saruhiko had left, Yata had wracked his brain going back through every old conversation he could think of, every moment when they’d been together or hung out or just talked, looking for clues about what had gone wrong. At the edges of his frustration, there had always been the lingering possibility he’d wanted to ignore – the chance that Saruhiko had never actually liked him, but had pretended to tolerate Yata for his own reasons and then jumped at the chance to abandon the false friendship. He didn’t actually believe it was true – couldn’t bring himself to believe it, more like – but it was there.

But if that hesitation had actually been for his sake… then…

Why is this such a big deal to me? Yata slung his arm over his eyes, annoyed at how they’d started to sting with the old memories rising back up. I already know we fixed things. We’re fucking living together, so why does this seem like such a huge thing?

Maybe when he remembered the rest of it, things would make sense.

That doesn’t help now, though. He slid the arm back and let out a long breath, cracking his eyes open to stare up at the ceiling in frustration.

Tomorrow, they were letting him out of the hospital – as long as someone was there to check him out and take him home. He was relying on Saruhiko for that, although Kusanagi had said he’d come up if he was needed, and it had been harder than it should’ve to convince his mother not to show up. He’d basically gotten out of that only by promising to message her every day. Yata would’ve honestly preferred to walk out on his own, but even if the hospital had okay’d that, he wouldn’t have a clue how to get to his – their – apartment anyway.

He wasn’t going to ride in the wheelchair, though. Fuck that.

I won’t get to do anything fun for a while… It was going to suck, actually. Sure, being at home – no matter how unfamiliar – was better than being stuck in a hospital bed, but ‘no strenuous activity’ was bullshit either way. Yata was sure he’d be ready to crawl out of his skin by the time ‘two or three weeks’ – or however long his recovery took – were over. And that was even without the weird and kind of uncomfortable prospect of learning how to live with Saruhiko again.

Somehow, it always came back to Saruhiko.

Can’t really help that, though. He shut his eyes, trying not to think too hard about it. They’d done it before, this ‘living together’ business – and hey, obviously it was working out now, or he wouldn’t still be there. He could totally learn to do it again.

Hopefully.

That thought was still on his mind when he slid back into sleep, and he didn’t have any more dreams.

 

 

The apartment building Yata lived in with Saruhiko was definitely a step up from his old place – it was bigger, for one thing, and in a much less ‘questionable’ part of the city. The individual apartment doors were all on the inside of the building, along with a row of mailboxes and an elevator, and the grounds looked like they were taken care of.

Looking at it gave him a sense of deja-vu; it wasn’t exactly familiar, but… it kind of was, at the same time. Like visiting somewhere he’d been once before, a long time ago. Or being a kid and playing an old, overused make-believe game. It didn’t seem like he actually belonged there.

Except I live here, so yeah. He’d just have to adjust.

“I left your keys here when I brought your stuff back from the hospital,” Saruhiko explained, as he unlocked the door to their apartment and pushed it open. “Since you were coming home with me anyway, I figured you didn’t really need them.”

“Huh, okay.” Yata wasn’t really interested in his keys right then. He stepped into the apartment, turned automatically to slide his shoes off, and moved out of the entryway to take in the home he couldn’t remember.

Not counting the bedrooms (which he couldn’t see yet with the doors closed), the place was probably about the same size as his old apartment. It looked bigger, but that was because there was a lot more open space without his bed and clothing and other personal items mixed in. The kitchen was more or less like his old one – less wear on the appliances and counters was about the only difference. The bathroom looked like a unit bath, which was what he’d had before (probably nicer than his old one, though). He was pretty sure the table was his – it was a traditional-style table that Kamamoto’s family had planned to throw away, and he recognized the chipped edges. The couch and TV weren’t familiar – Yata hadn’t had either in his old place – but they looked well-used, so maybe they were another handout or something. And then, on the stand beneath the TV…

A game console. The world suddenly seemed brighter. Yata ambled his way over and knelt slowly beside the TV for a closer look. The latest one, too… He would’ve killed for this back when he was on his own. “Hey” – he didn’t bother turning, but reached out instead to tap lightly on the casing – “Did you buy this?”

“Obviously.” Saruhiko had walked over behind him. “I think we’ve established that you have no spare cash for things like this.”

Yata did turn to face him then, scowling. “I thought we might’ve gone in together, dumbass – does everything have to turn into an insult with you?” His gaze caught on a low shelf near where he was sitting then, and his annoyance faded. “Wait, hold up – we have this many games?” He reached out to grab a case from the shelf, slightly awed. “I’ve been dying to play this one!”

“You’ve already played it,” Saruhiko pointed out, flatly. “Believe me, you did. Every day, for hours. Until you got sick of it, at which point you moved on to one of the others.” He clicked his tongue. “Your good friends at Homra called my phone to find out if I’d knocked you out and stuffed you in a cellar somewhere, because you weren’t picking yours up.”

Yata blinked at him. He didn’t seem like he was joking. “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously. The only time I could get you to stop was if I – ” He halted in mid-sentence.

“If you what?” Yata prompted, torn between curiosity and wariness.

Saruhiko’s expression seemed to have completely shuttered up; his eyes dulled into that distant, bored gaze, and his lips thinned. “Nothing really,” he responded with apparent disinterest, and turned abruptly to walk away. “When you’re done having orgasms over the games, your room is the one closer to the bathroom.”

Yata watched him as he made his way to the other door, more than a little confused. Somehow, that had gone wrong, and wasn’t sure how or why. “Do I ever go into your room?”

Saruhiko’s hand stilled on the doorknob. “Why do you ask?”

“Just… you know.” He shrugged, feeling a bit awkward about it. “The doctor said I had a better chance of getting memories back in familiar surroundings. I need to know which surroundings are familiar for that, right?

There was a short but noticeable pause before the next response came. “I guess.” Saruhiko turned back with a bit of a frown, and clicked his tongue with obvious irritation. “You’ve been in here a few times.”

What’s with that response? Yata pushed himself carefully to his feet, wobbling a bit with the small spike of vertigo that came with his shift in position. “In that case, it’s no big deal if I have a look, right?”

He got another sharp ‘tsk’, and Saruhiko opened the door, moving inside without waiting for him. “Do whatever you want.”

“Your attitude really pisses me off, you know that?” He directed a sour look at his supposed friend’s back, making his way slowly over to the room. “We’re never going to get anywhere if you start sulking in a corner every time I can’t remember something. Because in case you’ve somehow missed it – stupid-ass monkey that you are – I don’t remember most things!”

“Ah, right.” Saruhiko didn’t spare him any attention; he was pulling a chair away from the small desk sitting directly opposite from the door when Yata came up to the room. “It’s hard to tell, considering how short your attention span’s always been,” he drawled, sliding into the seat. “As short as the rest of you, right, Misaki?”

“Fuck off about my height! I’m not that short!” Yata’s fists were clenched before he could think about it; there was red in his vision, and his head was starting to pound alarmingly. “And quit calling me by my first name! It’s creepy as hell!”

“Mm, is it?” Saruhiko opened his laptop. “You didn’t seem to mind much before the accident.”

Yata sucked in a sharp, angry breath, caught without a reply, and the silence stretched on for just a fraction too long. “You probably weren’t being such an asshole before the accident!” he retorted finally, trying to catch the flow of the argument again.

“If you really think that’s the case, you don’t know me at all, Misaki.”

His head was definitely not happy with him now. Yata unclenched his fists slowly, glaring at Saruhiko’s back as he tried to calm down. The dull, heavy ache against his skull was hovering on the edge between ‘warning zone’ and ‘danger zone’ – aggravating it wasn’t going to help. “Yeah, well, I figured that out a long time ago,” he muttered, wrenching his gaze away to take in the rest of the room instead.

You don’t exactly make it easy to know you, Saruhiko.

The bedroom wasn’t much of a distraction, unfortunately. Yata probably should’ve guessed that it would be mostly bare, considering the personality of the person it belonged to. There was the desk and laptop, a small bedside table with a drawer, and…

What, seriously?

Oi, Saru.” He raised an eyebrow at his old friend’s back. “What the hell do you need a bed that big for? Your bony ass doesn’t take up that much room.”

“Hmm?” Saruhiko actually tilted his head back over his shoulder at that, offering a lazy smirk. “As flattered as I am that you’ve paid so much attention to my ass…”

“S-Stop twisting things around!” Yata could feel the heat rising on his face at the implication. “You know what I meant!”

“… I really shouldn’t need to explain what people buy large beds for,” Saruhiko finished, as if he hadn’t said anything. He raised both eyebrows meaningfully. “Or is it too much for you to comprehend now that your brain’s regressed to virgin mode?”

“Eh?” Yata blinked at him, glanced back to the bed – what people buy large beds fortoo much for you to comprehendvirgin modevirgin… He just about choked. “Wait – wait – you… on this bed…”

That condescending look didn’t even falter.

Yata’s face was growing hotter by the second – his thoughts whirled. No way… no way in hell… He couldn’t imagine Saruhiko… doing that. Sex. Fuck, he seriously did it? Some bitter emotion stirred at the pit of his stomach; envy, he thought. Probably. He didn’t want to think about it too much. More importantly… “With me sleeping in the next room? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Who said you were sleeping in the next room?” Saruhiko continued right along before he could gather his wits and demand an explanation. “Either way, it wouldn’t be any of your business if I did. I can do what I want in my own bedroom, right?”

Th-This is different!” His head was pounding again – it felt like all the blood in his body had rushed up to his face – but it was drowned out by the sudden thunderstorm against his ribcage. He’s not saying he didn’t… “You… you can’t just…”

“Just what? I said you weren’t in your room – what do you care?”

That bitter feeling was still churning around in his stomach, worse than ever. Why am I so upset about this? Yata clenched his hands into fists and looked away, confused and embarrassed. “Yeah, fine,” he muttered sullenly. “I don’t care.”

“That so?” Saruhiko sounded somehow irritated; when Yata glanced up, his face had a sort of dissatisfied look to it. With another click of his tongue, he turned back to his laptop. “Well, good for you – now you can shut up about it.”

Yata stared at him for a minute longer. He still felt vaguely uncomfortable with how that had gone, but the flurry of emotion was making him flustered, and he didn’t really trust himself to push for more answers. He didn’t actually say he did, either. Somehow, the thought made him feel better. Saruhiko was probably just bugging him – he did that all the time, right? He hadn’t actually had sex with some unknown person in the apartment they shared.

Right?

The uncertainty had barely hit him when he was assaulted with the sudden, vivid mental image of a cheap bar from the vantage point of a stool at the counter, and a bowl of ramen being placed in front of him.

It was too hard to look up at the owner of that neatly manicured hand that had delivered his food; Yata settled for muttering a self-conscious “thanks” at the bowl, and reached for his chopsticks.

From beside him, he heard a familiar amused-sounding snort. “Vir~gin.”

“Shut up!” He directed a scowl at the source. “Like you’re not. Anti-social bastard.”

“I can talk to women without turning into a stuttering mess, though.” Saruhiko had already busied himself separating the vegetables from his noodles, but paused to return the irritated gaze with a raised eyebrow.

Yata’s own eyebrow twitched involuntarily. “That’s because you don’t bother to talk – you just click your tongue at everyone and tell them they’re annoying!”

Saruhiko’s mouth quirked downward. “I can also say the word ‘sex’ without blushing. Why don’t you go ahead and try it, Misaki.”

Sh-shut up!” Based on the traitorous warmth flooding his cheeks, he was probably already blushing, and he hadn’t even tried to say anything yet. Yata directed a glare at the taller man. “Some of us don’t bring up crude subjects like that in public places, okay?”

Saruhiko let his eyes rove meaningfully around at the other patrons of the bar. Most of them were salarymen, with a few laborers mixed in. “I don’t think you’re going to find any delicate sensibilities to upset here,” he remarked, blandly. “Except for your own, of course.”

Yata clenched his fist around his chopsticks tightly. “That’s not the point!”

“Oh, really?” He got a smirk in response. “So, in that case, if we went back to your apartment, you’d be able to talk about sex no problem, right?”

“… ngh.” Fucking goddamnit. Yata glowered helplessly at him. “You’re the worst.”

“So you say.” Saruhiko turned back to his task of disassembling his meal, his unconcerned manner marred by the way his mouth turned up at the corners in a smile that had no mockery in it. “But you’re the one who insists on spending time with me.”

Heh. Well, I have to take responsibility as the only person who can put up with you,” Yata retorted, but even as he turned back to his own food, he felt an answering smile tugging at his own lips.

Worth it.

The scene slid out of focus like a fade-to-black from a movie, and Yata raised a hand to his head, momentarily disoriented. Another memory…

He shut his eyes for a moment, rewinding back over that short clip. Somehow, the similarities and differences between their conversation at the bar and the one they’d just had seemed to leap out at him. Sure, they’d been sniping at each other in the memory, but it had somehow felt comfortable. Familiar, even. Like there was an understanding between them.

Like they actually enjoyed being around each other.

A sudden rush of longing rose up as an ache at the back of his throat, catching him completely off-guard and nearly causing him to choke with its intensity. He could still see that rare smile, carrying the lingering traces of his own contentment. If it was like that, then why...?

Why couldn’t they be like that now?

When he’d gathered himself enough to open his eyes, Saruhiko was looking over at him, chair half-turned. His eyes were hooded. “Another memory?”

“Yeah.” Yata lowered his hand, turning his head so that he didn’t have to meet that sharp gaze. He scowled at the floor, suddenly embarrassed. “You’ll probably think it’s stupid again, so – ”

“What was it?” Saruhiko cut him off, without inflection.

Yata raised his eyes again, scowl deepening. “Do you even fucking listen when I start to talk?”

“Right, I heard you, I’ll probably think it’s stupid.” That drawling, I-could-care-less tone. “I was in it, wasn’t I?”

“I never said that!”

“Oh? I wasn’t, then?”

This guy… Yata’s eyebrow twitched. “… I never said that, either.”

“So, I was.” Saruhiko raised his own eyebrow. “What did you remember about me, Misaki?”

“I told you to stop using that name, already!” The irritation building at the back of Yata’s skull was starting to make his head pound again. “Ugh, fucking whatever, I don’t care! We were at a stupid bar eating a stupid meal and you made a stupid comment about me acting like a stupid virgin in front of a stupid serving girl, and then we had a stupid argument – that’s it, are you fucking happy now?”

Saruhiko studied him for a moment, impassively. “That’s it?”

Yata returned his stare, feeling belligerent. “What the hell else were you expecting?”

“Hmm, who knows.” His gaze was searching. “You had a weird expression on.”

Heat rushed to Yata’s face. He noticed?Th-that wasn’t…” Fuck, how could he explain it without saying something that would probably get him mocked? “It was just – it felt different.”

“Different,” Saruhiko repeated. It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah, different.” Yata rubbed gingerly at the back of his head, feeling awkward about it. “Like, you weren’t as much of a dick – I mean, you were, but it didn’t really feel that bad, somehow. It was more, I dunno, comfortable. I guess.”

“Comfortable.” That flat tone spoke volumes somehow.

“Well, we were friends or something, right?” Now he just felt defensive about it. “It was like that. You were pissing me off, but I was still happy about it in some weird way.”

Saruhiko was still looking at him with that unimpressed look. “Happy, huh?”

“Would you cut that the fuck out? Don’t just repeat whatever I say!” It was more nerves than anything that had Yata snapping back. “At least have some kind of reaction!”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, frown deepening. “You’re not exactly describing it well.”

“I don’t want to hear that from someone who responds to everything with ‘nothing really’ or ‘figure it out yourself’ all the time!” Yata retorted, feeling more than a little bitter about it. “Anyway, we were obviously on good terms then, so what the hell is with you now?”

Another irritated-sounding ‘tsk’, and Saruhiko turned away, his upper lip curling. “I’m not the one who’s different now.”

“You are the one being difficult now, you stupid monkey!” Yata glared at him. Is he actually serious? What the fuck? “You’re acting like I forgot on purpose just to inconvenience you. This isn’t fucking easy for me, but at least I’m trying!”

“Trying what, exactly, Misaki?” There – somehow he’d managed to get on Saruhiko’s nerves too, at least, because that earned him a return glare. “Asking me to just explain everything to you? Do you have any idea what you’re asking for? What do you think your reaction’s going to be like if I give you an itemized list of the last year? You’ll just say ‘oh, okay, so that’s how it is’ and everything will be fine?” The look that came along with that was scornful. “Don’t make me laugh. Look at how you reacted in the hospital when you first woke up.”

When I first woke up… Yata tried to go back to that moment. Which reaction of his had been so bad? When he’d stared at Saruhiko and their joined hands in confusion? When he’d tried to keep Kusanagi from leaving them alone? When he’d panicked over the ‘almost a year ago’ thing?

Don’t tell me… he actually noticed all of that?

His anger felt like it had drained out of him; he stared back, more than a little stunned. “You…”

“If you’re not going to remember it on your own, it’s meaningless.” Saruhiko shut his eyes, let out a frustrated-sounding breath, and turned back to his laptop again, purposefully. “If you can’t stand to talk to me before that happens, then just don’t talk to me. I don’t particularly care, you know.”

But that’s a lie, isn’t it? Whether it was a memory or just instinct, Yata had a strong feeling that was the way it was. “Dumbass,” he responded, without heat. “Who else am I going to talk to when I’m stuck in this apartment for the next few weeks?”

“That’s what your PDA is for, isn’t it?”

Yata raised an eyebrow, torn between irritation and amusement. “Are you an idiot? I’m trying to make a gesture here, Saru!”

It would’ve been easy to miss the way Saruhiko’s mouth twitched if he hadn’t already been watching. “Do whatever you want,” he muttered, not taking his eyes from the screen.

Yata felt the corners of his own mouth turn up – the atmosphere felt lighter, too. I think I’m starting to get the hang of this guy again. “Then I guess I’ll go check out my room.”

“Go ahead.” Saruhiko still didn’t turn as he made his way slowly to the door, but just as he was reaching back to close it after him, he added, in a grudging undertone, “You’re not the only one trying.”

The surprised pleasure that spread out from his chest at that made Yata feel warm. He’ll actually admit something like that to me now? It was really gratifying, somehow. “Ah… oh.” He cleared his throat, embarrassed. “… Thanks.”

“Shut the door after you,” Saruhiko said, without addressing the rest.

It’s a start, I guess. “Yeah, yeah.”

 

 

He ended up taking a nap – as much as he would’ve liked to be stubborn about it, it made way more sense to just give in when he felt like he was pushing it. There wasn’t exactly anything urgent he needed to take care of, and the more he rested, the sooner he’d get better… right?

Hopefully.

Yata’s bedroom was the same size as Saruhiko’s, but it felt both bigger and smaller at the same time. Bigger, because he still had his old bed, which took up a lot less space. But smaller, because he actually had stuff in his room. Personal stuff, like a shelf full of comics, stacks of magazines, and photos of his friends. His skateboard leaned against the shelf, and he had posters on the walls. His handheld gaming console was charging near the bed, a couple of games sitting beside it.

Overall, it felt like home, and he’d finally gotten the sense that he actually belonged here – which was a huge relief.

It was probably his stomach that woke him up – that, and the smell of food wafting in from the next room. Yata felt groggy, and his head still had that unpleasantly heavy feel to it that made him wary of moving too quickly, but he was hungry, and – he checked his PDA – it was about time for dinner anyway.

Takeout or leftovers, probably, knowing Saru. Either way, it smelled good. He slid carefully out of bed and wandered over to the door.

Saruhiko was at the counter unloading containers from a nondescript brown bag – Heh, called it – but he looked up when Yata came into the room. “Good morning,” he drawled.

“Uh huh.” Yata eyed the spread in front of him dubiously. “What army did you invite over?”

He got two raised eyebrows for that. “You do want something to eat for tomorrow, don’t you?”

Right, Saruhiko would be going back to work. He remembered talking about it now, as part of the discussion on whether or not he’d be fine by himself. It was a conversation that hadn’t been easy on his pride. “Yeah, but this is kind of… I dunno, too much? I’ll be making my own meals again before I’ve used it all up.”

“I’ll take some for lunch.” Saruhiko set the now-empty bag aside. “Isn’t it better to have too much? If you called me at work to order food for you, I’d hang up.”

Yata scowled at him. “As if I’d do that, idiot!”

Kamamoto is still out of town, you know.” That knowing smirk was back again. “You can’t call him to bring you food.”

“I wouldn’t do that either! Just shut up already.” He hesitated in front of the cupboards. “Plates are up here, right?”

“Can’t say,” Saruhiko replied lazily. “I was told to shut up.”

“Fucking dick,” Yata muttered under his breath, opening the cupboard anyway. Bowls, mugs, and glasses. He found the plates behind the next door. “You seem like you’re in a good mood somehow.”

“Mm, that so?” The response was somewhat distracted; Saruhiko was already dishing food out onto his own plate, carefully avoiding the parts he didn’t like. “You slept for a long time.”

And that puts you in a good mood? Figures. Yata frowned at the back of his head, waiting for a turn at the food. “Still not eating vegetables? I figured you’d be over that by now.”

“I don’t trust them from some random place.”

“What’s there to trust? They’re vegetables.” He moved in as Saruhiko carried his plate out of the kitchen, scoping out the trays for the best content before starting to load up. As expected, they were mostly meat-based dishes. “Anyway, what qualifies as not being ‘some random place’?”

Saruhiko lowered himself to a cross-legged position beside the table, pulled a face, and clicked his tongue. “It’s all right sometimes when you include them.”

“What, seriously?” Yata just about dropped his chopsticks, gawking openly at his – roommate? Friend? Both? Whatever. Either way, the most stubborn person he knew, and not someone he’d ever expected to give ground on anything. “You never ate them when I cooked before…”

He got a dismissive noise as a response; Saruhiko picked up his chopsticks and focussed on his food rather than looking up. “I had no incentive before.”

“Right, incentive – should’ve known.” Yata smiled ruefully to himself, piling the last selection onto his plate. Saruhiko always needed reasons for the things he did – and not just ‘it’s good for you’ or ‘you’ll ruin your health in the future’, but immediate and definable reasons. Or, occasionally, bribes. “So what is it?”

“What?”

“Your mother. What the fuck do you think?” He set his plate down and lowered himself carefully into a seat on the floor, shooting a flat stare across the table. “Your incentive for putting the vegetables I cook into your fussy fucking mouth, what else?”

“Oh, that.” Saruhiko looked up long enough to smirk at him. “Get the right memories back, and I’ll fill you in. Assuming you can’t figure it out for yourself by then, of course.”

Yata scowled at him. “Fuck you.”

“If you say so.” He shrugged, clearly unconcerned.

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Yata muttered, a little unsettled by the way the response triggered a familiar sort of tension at the pit of his stomach. Familiar… but he didn’t recognize it. Like the edge of a memory he couldn’t quite grasp. Feeling a bit awkward about it, he picked up his chopsticks. “Thanks for the food, by the way.”

“It’s nothing.” Saruhiko glanced up at him again, without mockery this time. “Still fine for tomorrow?”

Yata choked back the urge to get defensive – he was injured, so it was understandable. “Yeah, yeah, it’s all good.” Kusanagi and the others would’ve worried, too.

Actually, they did, didn’t they? Unbidden, the memory from last night came rushing back to him. Kusanagi and his resigned concern. Anna with her carefully worded warning and knowing eyes. And then Saruhiko’s moment of hesitation that had cost him the fight with the strains.

That last bit gave him pause; Yata watched his friend for a long moment, debating internally. He wanted to know, but… well…

Fuck, whatever, it can’t hurt. “So I had this dream last night…”

“If it involves the nurse at the hospital, I don’t want to hear it.”

“N-Not that kind of dream, you fucker!” Yata felt heat rising to his face again, and mentally kicked himself for leaving an opening like that. “It was a memory.”

Saruhiko lowered his chopsticks, eyeing him with sudden interest. “Oh?”

“Yeah, from my last concussion – you know, with the strain.” He waved his chopsticks vaguely. “I was walking home by myself and you came along and starting being an asshole, like always. I couldn’t trigger red aura, and we got attacked, it was pretty stupid.”

There was an unmistakeable tension in Saruhiko’s posture; his lips thinned. “Oh. That.”

That wasn’t much to go on. Yata felt like maybe he was treading on thin ice now, but he couldn’t help but push onward anyway. “I dunno, it just seemed like… maybe it was just me imagining it or something, but…” Fuck, why was it this awkward? “Were you actually, you know, worried about me?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, frown deepening. “Believe it or not, we’ve had this conversation already.”

“Well, I don’t remember it!” Yata’s fingers tightened around his chopsticks. “Can’t we just fucking talk about it? Our friendship meant something to you, right? I mean, we wouldn’t be here together if – ”

Across from him, Saruhiko abruptly pushed himself up, taking his plate. “I’m eating in my room,” he said shortly, already moving in that direction.

“Fucking, just…” The door shut sharply behind him. “… wait.”

Goddamnit

Yata turned his eyes back to his plate, hurt and frustration welling up at the pit of his stomach. Should’ve known better than to ask. He poked at the suddenly less appetizing food in front of him, as an old, familiar ache rose up at the back of his throat. Bracing his left elbow on the table, he rested his forehead against the heel of his hand and let out all of his breath in a rush, feeling the rest of his energy drain.

This is why I can’t fucking deal with you. How had he handled this over the past year?

Did he even have to handle this kind of thing, or was it specific to him not having any memories?

Whatever. Yata straightened up, focussing on his food with determination. He wasn’t about to let a stupid argument get him down now. I’ll remember it on my own – just you wait, you stubborn son of a bitch.

When he’d finished up and cleaned off his plate, somehow his gaze automatically fell on the closed door. Saruhiko hadn’t come out even to drop off his own dirty dish, and Yata had a sneaking suspicious that he probably wouldn’t – at least, not until he was sure that the room would be empty.

Do we fight like this often? It seemed likely, with everything that had happened, but he had a sneaking suspicion that it was easier to deal with Saruhiko when armed with the memories that would give him some of the answers he needed. So, maybe not.

“What do you think your reaction’s going to be like if I give you an itemized list of the last year?” Yata frowned to himself, torn between frustration and an odd twinge of guilt. Okay, yeah, so Saruhiko had straight-up told him why he didn’t want to explain any of this, but was it really so bad to want to know? It felt like there were holes in his life the size of Shizume City, and their falling out had always been a particularly sore spot.

In short, he was desperate, and there was a chance for a scrap of information, he was going to grab for it. He couldn’t help it.

Still… going to bed on bad terms, with Saruhiko heading back to work tomorrow…

“Fucking hell,” Yata muttered under his breath, and sighed, making his way across the room to his roommate’s door. He rapped his knuckles on the wooden surface. “Oi, Saru.”

Silence from inside.

There’s a surprise. He had to bite back his irritation. “About earlier…” The words didn’t come easily – but then, nothing did when it came to the two of them. “My bad. Sorry.”

More silence.

Yata sucked in a breath, clenching his hands into fists and fighting the urge to snap out something. He was supposed to be apologizing, after all. It would be nice if he’d at least acknowledge it or something. “All right, anyway, see you tomorrow some time, I guess.”

He’d already turned away from the door with the intention of shuffling off to his own room when it opened, and Saruhiko’s voice answered, flatly, “It wasn’t really your fault.”

Yata turned back around to stare at him with more than a little surprise, and he added, “Mostly.”

Heh.” The edges of Yata’s mouth tugged upwards. “That sounds more like you. For a second there, I thought you’d lost it or something.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, shifting his gaze to the side. “I told you I’m trying. Our – this – ” A faint red color rose on his cheeks. “It’s… important to me,” he muttered out, obviously with some effort.

Yata stared at him, completely dumbstruck. Even in his most deluded moments, he never could have imagined his former best friend like this. He’d have sworn up and down that Saruhiko would die a painful death before confessing to having something as human as feelings. And, seriously, blushing? What the hell was this?

I… don’t mind it, though. Something turned over in his chest; Yata swallowed painfully. His mouth felt dry. “Saru…”

Saruhiko turned again so their eyes met, and it felt a little bit like the world had tilted. “Misaki,” he responded, voice low, expression somehow intent.

What is going on, seriously?

Yata cleared his throat, feeling strangely self-conscious. His face was uncomfortably warm. “Anyway, I should probably go get some more sleep or something,” he managed, a bit desperately. “Right?”

“Ah, right.” Abruptly, Saruhiko’s whole face seemed to shutter up; he shrugged with seeming indifference. “I’ll let you know when I leave tomorrow.”

This was better – familiar territory again. Yata breathed with a little more ease, the tight feeling in his chest loosening up. “Yeah, okay. Night.”

“Night.”

He heard the door close shortly after he’d turned to walk back to his own room, but it still felt like Saruhiko’s gaze followed him all the way in. And, for whatever crazy reason, his heart was going a mile a minute.

 

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