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Keep Your Enemies Closer

Chapter Text

The cab took fifteen minutes to get to the convenience store.
Azusa’s nerves were bursting tight at the seams. He practically threw the cash at the driver in his haste to get out and once he did, he sprinted up the walk and made it through the door in just a few steps. Worried eyes hurriedly scanned the front of the store seeking out that familiar mass of black hair. He saw Hatsumi first. She rushed to his side and immediately tugged his hand to lead him to the back of the store. His breath hitched in his throat when he saw Shin, slumped in a chair, pale as a ghost. Hatsumi spoke first.

“He’s lucid but very weak. He seems to be coming around to the idea of going home.”

Azusa slipped his hand from her grasp and knelt down between Shin’s knees to gaze up into his shadowed eyes. There was no disguising the fatigue written there, muddled in with the dark circles and the ashen face. He traced shaking fingers over that pale cheek softly, before he could stop himself. The man would never understand what these episodes did to his blood pressure.

“Shin?”

Shinogu slid a sleepy glance from under heavy lids.

“You really know how to scare a man don’t you?”

A small laugh escaped between thin gasps.

“Didn’t I tell you to stop pushing yourself so hard? Everyone worries when you do that.”

“Sorry. I will be fine if I can just rest up a bit. I still have the shift at the warehou—"

Azusa grabbed his wrists, pulling him down to look at him face to face. When he spoke his words were gentle but firm, there would be no argument.

“You are not going to work...you are going home to rest.”

When Shin looked as if he was about to argue, Azusa hissed in annoyance and pulled him roughly to his feet. Shin swayed slightly, the brunt of his weight coming to rest on Azusa’s side. The younger man eyed him pointedly and placed his arm around his waist for support.

“You can barely stand on your own, please just listen to me for once and let me take you home.”

Shin seemed ready to argue, but thought better of it. Satisfied, Azusa motioned to Hatsumi, who looked on, her gaze analyzing.

“Hatsumi, would you get us a cab?”

She nodded and left the store. Azusa helped Shin back into the chair and followed her out, unaware of the eyes that followed his departure. When he found Hatsumi, she was outside, talking on her phone. She hung up when Azusa came to stand beside her and she looked at him apologetically.

“I’m sorry I bothered you, but I-I…”

Azusa shook his head.

“No need to apologize. If you ever need help, I will be there. It’s the least that I can do, you know…after all that happened.”

Hatsumi sighed and leaned against him. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and they stood in companionable silence for a moment.

“Azusa, I can’t go with you take Shin home, I have to meet Ryoki in a few minutes, you know how he gets.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can take care of him.”

Hatsumi relaxed visibly and turned to give him a warm hug.

“Thank you.”

The cab pulled up then and Hatsumi broke from the embrace to go inside and retrieve Shinogu. She stopped short as she nearly ran into him in the doorway, he was so quiet neither of the two had noticed him come out. His face was pale, and his gaze worn, it also appeared to be tinged with pain. She rushed to his side and put her arm around his waist.

“Shinogu, are you alright?!”

He shook off her arm and stood away from her. The gesture was lost on Hatsumi, but Azusa recognized the change in the other man's mood. Shin seemed to realize that he was being cold and tried to soften his reaction with a short smile.

“Don’t worry Hatsumi. I will be o.k. I am sure that Ryoki is waiting on you, go ahead and go. I will go straight home. I promise.”

Hatsumi looked at the both of them, the struggle was plain on her face. She looked from the reassuring grin on Shinogu’s face, to the determined look of Azusa’s. She swooped up to give Shinogu a sisterly kiss on the cheek and squeezed his hand.

“You take care. Call me if you need anything.”

With one last look at the both of them, she left, dialing on her cell and speaking in hushed tones. The two men watched her leave for a moment and then looked at each other.

“Well, let’s get you home.”

Azusa snagged his elbow and ushered him into the waiting taxi. He slid in beside him and gave the directions to Shin’s house, as Shin was already nodding off. His gaze wandered over those strong features, his head was tilted back on the seat, his breathing an even whoosh in and out of his slightly open mouth. He looked so fragile, so vulnerable and Azusa had to reign in all desire to take him in his arms. Azusa’s mind replayed the scene from just a moment ago. That look on Shin’s face. How much of that conversation had he heard? Was he upset because Hatsumi had to leave him to be with Ryoki? Pain throbbed in his chest and he looked at the other man again sleeping soundly beside him, despite the bumpy ride. Nothing made sense anymore, and the more he tried to pick apart all the ill-fitting pieces the more it hurt. The ride was conducted in silence, his head wrapped around thoughts of Shin and his growing resentment of Hatsumi. He knew that these feelings were nothing but trouble. That eventually they would break him. The large irrational area of his brain wanted to blame Hatsumi and Shin each in turn. Yet, he couldn’t justify anything anymore, maybe a year ago, but not now.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Shin’s eyes fluttered opened slowly allowing them to adjust to the light.
He was in a car. Why was he in a car again? He let his gaze wander and it encountered a very serious Azusa looking out the opposite window. The fog dissipated slightly and a vague remembrance of the night’s events struggled to life in his brain. He struggled to sit up and Azusa’s eyes snapped to him, warmly observing.

“You’re awake.”

“So, it seems.”

Azusa reached out to touch his hair and every muscle in Shin’s body tensed immediately. If Azusa noticed he didn’t let on but continued to stroke his hair.

“Are you feeling better?”

“...a little.” the reply was given grudgingly. Of course, Azusa had to be sensible about everything.

The hand was removed from his hair and he found that he could relax again, somewhat. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but for some reason he felt angry. Azusa, however, seemed pleased with his answer and the conversation tapered off there. He let his thoughts roam, wondering what Hatsumi and Azusa were talking about while he was sitting inside. He wasn’t allowed the time to delve too deeply into his imagination on the subject, so he permitted the curiosity to mingle with the anger as the cab pulled up in front of his building.
There was some argument over who would pay the fare, which Azusa eventually won by default, overriding weak protests. He shoved money into the driver’s hand and opened the door to help a seething Shin out of the car. Shin fixed him with a glare and ignored the offered hand.

“Being a little high-handed, aren’t we?”

Shinogu turned his back on him, staggering slightly up the stairs but steadfastly refusing any help. He couldn’t quite understand the anger, any more than he could make it go away, so he coped with it the best he could. His hand shook as he opened the door that lead to the winding staircase. His apartment was on the second floor and he nearly groaned out loud at the prospect of trying to get his leaden legs to carry him up. Azusa anticipated this and swooped in, despite Shin’s protests, wrapping his arm around his waist to haul him up the stairs.
Shin muttered a small thank you and let them in. The apartment was small but clean with wood floors. There was a soft black sofa and light ash colored tables scattered about the room in a cozy clutter that said home. A small T.V. was placed against one wall and black curtains were drawn tight against the setting sun. It wasn’t the first time Azusa had been here, of course, but he always looked on the place with reverence. This is where he could just unwind and be, without too many people getting into his business. He could think here…well, sometimes. Sometimes he would encounter a freshly showered Shinogu when he walked in that door and any possibility of thinking flew straight out the window. He stared at him now as he slumped down on the sofa and put his feet up on the low coffee table.
He had kicked his shoes off in the doorway and was wearing a pair of mismatching socks with a hole in one toe. Only Shinogu could make that endearing. The color seemed to be returning to his face and his hands were much steadier. He wished he could say the same for himself. Clearing his throat, he walked towards the kitchen.

“I’ll make some tea; do you want some?”

Shin looked over shoulder.

“Make it a beer and you’re on.”

Switching on the kitchen light, Azusa reached into the fridge and grabbed two beers. A picture on the refrigerator caught his attention. It was from a year ago, maybe more. Shin and Hatsumi sat on a bench outside of the complex together, smiling as the sun set. Shin looked happy, Hatsumi made a strange face with her eyes crossed and her mouth wide with laughter. He tried to shrug off the uneasiness, the fear that what he wanted, was slipping away.
He forced himself to look away and plastered a bright smile on his face as he turned to head back into the living room. He ran right smack into Shin. He really needed to stop sneaking up on him like that!

“Whatcha looking at?”

Shin’s arms were crossed over his chest the look on his face was forbidding and Azusa’s confusion once again kicked into high gear.

“That picture of you and Hatsumi. It was taken, what, maybe a year ago?”

Shin shrugged.

“You should remember Azusa; you were the one that took it. I think about five months ago?”

“Oh?”

He didn’t remember. How could he have forgotten that?

Shin sighed heavily, taking the beer that Azusa offered. He left the younger man standing there and returned to the living the room to flop on the couch and wipe the sleep out of his eyes with shaking hands. Azusa took a position beside him and they sat sipping beer in awkward silence.

“So, what are you going to do about work?”

“What do you mean “do”? I’ll rest up tonight and return tomorrow. It’s no big deal. Besides, the bills won’t pay themselves you know.”

He punctuated he sentiment by taking a large swig of his beer. His mood inexplicably growing darker. He didn’t notice the subtle narrowing of Azusa’s eyes.

“I don’t think that is a good idea Shin, you need rest.”

“Not an option,” he snorted.

Azusa’s eyes narrowed further; his mouth set in a stubborn line.

“Shin, I know you need the money but your health is important, taking a day off will not kill you in fact--“

Shin didn’t let him finish.

“This is not open for discussion and really Azusa, what I do is none of your business…”

Shin could feel his temper rising. Just how did Azusa know what he needed? He didn’t know anything. His attention was elsewhere. Shin caught himself. Why did where his attention was suddenly matter? His heart thudded with an unnamed need. Something he could feel but not identify and this close proximity to Azusa made it worse. He stood up to pace it off, running his hand over his face, tugging at his chin, darting looks in Azusa’s direction. His anger was rising rapidly, feeding on the confusion. He couldn’t grasp why he felt this way and the ambiguity just served to deepen the confusion and make the anger grow. Why was he so angry? Every little thing was setting him on edge. His mind raced furiously, trying to pinpoint the exact moment he started to lose control.

“Shin?”

Every word out of Azusa’s mouth, every gesture, every glance, made his blood burn.

“What’s wrong? Would you stop pacing and listen to me please?”

Shin stopped suddenly and pinned him with a glare. Placing his hands on the back of the sofa bringing himself nose to nose with the younger man. His eyes pierced, never flinching.

“I’m listening what do you need to say?”

Azusa’s mouth opened, but nothing came out. All words failed in the face of Shin’s surprising mood swing and he just didn’t know where to go from there. Shin laughed harshly and backed away.

“No words of wisdom? No brotherly advice to help me along? Just butt out! I will be ok, even after your high-handed shit. I just hope that I don’t lose my job over your paranoia.”

Azusa’s eyes hardened, this was beyond any fainting spell or one missed shift. What was upsetting Shin to the point of casting off his normal air of calm reserve. What caused this shift in attitude? The look on shin’s face struggled to find middle ground between anger and something else. His heart lunged to his stomach and everything became tinged with red. How could something hurt this much and not kill? He raised his hands in a placating gesture.

“What the hell Shin? You know damn well that you couldn’t handle another hour of work. You need rest. You need time to recuperate.”

Shin’s eyes burned into him and his mouth twisted in anger. He closed the distance between them in two quick steps and grabbed the front of Azusa’s shirt. He wanted to shake him. To make him understand. Understand? Understand what? How dare he presume to know, when he refused to see in the first place?

“Who the hell do you think you are?! You have no idea about what I need...you know nothing!”

He yelled it; his eyes glassy. The damning words floated down from where they had risen and settled like a toxic smog around them.
Shin’s breathing was heavy.
What was happening to him? What was he going to do with these bullets in his throat?