The First Beach
Some people’s lives did not revolve around someone else. Khun, my love, Shibisu wanted to say but didn’t, life did not begin or end on that beach.
A Khun doesn’t need love. Khun children were fed on ambition and cunning and trained to compete for their lives and their name by the time they were ten. They don’t need affection. They need strength in their limbs and lightning in their bodies and blood between their teeth.
Then Bam looks at Khun Aguero Agnis and tells him, “I didn’t have any friends. Let’s be friends with them.”
There’s something else between his teeth and he can’t decide whether he likes the taste of it, the word coming out before he can hold it in. “Fine.”
He doesn’t need the feeling of Bam’s shoulder between his fingers, but he can’t stop reaching for it. Doesn’t need this sudden warmth in his chest when Bam asks to climb the Tower with them. A Khun doesn’t need love, he tells himself, unwilling to admit he doesn’t still believe it.
“You want me to do the song with you?” Atsushi demanded, eyes wide.
“Of course!” Kenji shot him a radiant smile. “You’re perfect for it!”
Atsushi doubted it many times over the following days of practice before New Year’s, learning not only the drums but how to match Kenji’s tone and rhythm without tripping over his own feet and while adjusting to their outfits for the performance.
“That’s the tone we want! Let’s celebrate!” Kenji’s smile was as contagious as ever.
When finally the night came and they beat the drums in time together, Atsushi finally smiled, having caught it.
Kyouka’s eyes were shining beside Atsushi as they stared at all the good things offered in the stall at the festival—crepes, chazuke, warm buns with different spices and fillings. Colorful lights had been strung over stalls and the stars twinkled down on festive music and chattering crowds. It was all in all a delight.
Atsushi grimaced at his poor purse. An expensive delight.
But as Kyouka gasped softly, biting down on soft crepe and sweet warm fillings, the stars in her eyes as bright as the ones in the sky, he thought to himself that it was worth it.
Cold winters, they said in the southern lands—before Heresh had ascended as Winter King. Now, it was cold winter. Everywhere.
He didn’t stay there. He tried to stop breathing out the cold long enough to feel for Arot’s pulse and heartbeat, reassuring under his too cold hands, then he took his friend back to the Summer Court and left him at the back kitchen door where he knew the servants would find him quickly.
He couldn’t stay.
Heresh was winter and wherever he walked, winter would be coldest. He couldn’t stay and let it break Arot’s inborn summer power.
So he wrenched his gaze from the dim but reassuring glow, like sunlight under Arot’s skin, and stared out at the snow falling on late summer woods, then began to walk.
His friends come to the funeral.
Mikoto stopped next to Kusanagi, hands in pockets, radiating warmth in the chill but without expression. Totsuka stood on the other side, close enough to brush arms and shoulders, a frown on his usually cheerful face. Neither of them looked “free.”
They stayed through all of it, caging him in with their bodies and their wordless care. He wasn’t alone in this world yet.
Kusanagi sighed. “Let’s go back to Homra.”
They stayed there too, Totsuka talking lightly, Mikoto quiet but present.
Yes, Uncle. I have friends that might help me serve.
A moment of peace, rain falling gently against the windows, the scent of fire and red aura mingling with mundane smells of an apartment shut up against the weather, stale scents of breakfast and cigarette smoke.
It’s rare and remarkable for highly ranked blue and red clansman to share that moment of peace together.
Seri lets her wary edge slowly fade before Izumo’s openness. He seems so close to his king, in ways she doesn’t have with the Captain. Friends.
She looks at him talking about friends and wonders a little to herself if this is what that feels like.
Sleeping in the same room as Misaki was a strange feeling.
Saruhiko had always been alone, and now here was this other person breathing deeply in the same room, sprawled in trusting sleep like he’d never had to worry about who would come in at night or what they’d do.
The door quietly opened. Saruhiko feigned sleep, heart racing for a long moment.
Misaki’s mother glanced over them both.
“They’re fine,” her husband whispered loudly behind her.
“I know. I just like to check.” Then she was gone.
Saruhiko blinked in the darkness, breathed easier. It wasn’t a bad feeling.
His entire childhood had been a long line of broken things, things that guy had burned, things he’d torn apart and unraveled and left as gifts to his only child. Saruhiko had never had anything he cared about that had ever lasted whole.
Misaki was different. Misaki was his friend, and he’d left when that guy had come. He’d left and hadn’t been just another broken thing.
Saruhiko didn’t know why he thought it would last. He’d wanted to destroy the world with Yata, remake it, and somehow along the way, they’d taken fire to each other and broken everything.
Whenever Dazai looks wistful, Chuuya notices it’s in moments they’re talking about drinking or a certain intelligence officer in the upper echelons of the Port Mafia or a certain lowest-ranking member of the same.
It’s never for things, like innocence or goodness or family or anything others seem to allow it to cross their face for. It’s never for someone like Chuuya.
He’s met them both, considered Sakaguchi Ango competent and professional. Oda looks at Chuuya like he’s listening with everything he is or, gently, doesn’t really look at all.
Chuuya isn’t Dazai’s friend. But then, he’s always known that.
When it first started, Judith wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or horrified. She was leaning toward horrified. First it was the city council members bringing their questions and ideas and disputes, as if they had not enough wisdom in their own heads to do their jobs; then it was the suitors. It was really the suitors that were the problem. Well, to be truthful, they were generally one and the same.