"I'll speak to him."
The metal door clanked noisily as it was unlocked from the outside. The cell was tiny, there was hardly enough room to stretch one's legs. The walls seemed to close in around him as Shibuya stepped in. He shivered, feeling a little claustrophobic. The sooner he got out of this rat hole, the better, but first... Shibuya approached the unmoving figure hunched in the corner of the cell.
Izumi hugged his knees tighter and lowered his head.
"Izumi, you're free to go. They've found the real culprits."
"...I killed him..."
Shibuya yanked Izumi up by the neck of his shirt. "It wasn't your fault! There was nothing you could do!" Izumi winced. Shibuya loosened his hold on Izumi. "You couldn't have known. You were at a match remember?" Shibuya said in a gentler tone.
"...a match..." Izumi's eyes brimmed over with tears.
Shibuya took his arm, "Let's go. Serika and Yuugo are waiting for us outside."
"...a match..." Izumi repeated softly as tears trickled down his cheeks.
Tension was running high among the players. With only 15 minutes left to the end of the game and neither team having scored a single goal...
Izumi Takuto was not at his best. He was distracted. He dreaded having to go home after the match. Dreaded having to return to that over-possessive, selfish bastard. Couldn't Koji see how much soccer meant to him? Didn't he realize how much Izumi had sacrificed for him? He had even given up the chance to go to Italy, but that wasn't enough for Koji.
It was during breakfast earlier that day that the quarrel ensued.
"Hm?" Izumi looked up from his plate over at Koji.
"I've got today off. Let's spend the entire day together today," Koji said brightly.
"Can't. I've got a socce-"
Koji cut him off. "But Izumi! You have soccer practice every other day too! You've been busy with soccer and I've been busy recording that new album. It's not everyday that I get a day off..."
"Tomorrow, " Izumi promised. "I should be free tomorrow."
"But I'm not! Today! Please! Just this once! Today is-"
"What's so important that can't wait till tomorrow?" Izumi exclaimed heatedly.
"What's so important about soccer that you can't even-" Izumi's fork clattered noisily onto his plate, putting an end to whatever it was Koji wanted to say.
"You don't understand." Izumi stated.
"You're right! I don't! I don't see what's so interesting about a bunch of people chasing and kicking a stupid ball around a field!" As soon as the words left his mouth, Koji regretted what he had said. "No, I didn't really mean that. I'm sorry." He hastily tried to apologize. Izumi swung a punch at him, connecting with his jaw and sending Koji tumbling backwards. A trickle of blood trailed down from the side of Koji's lips. Izumi picked up his satchel and made for the door.
"Izumi..." Koji pleaded, reaching out for him. "Just for today. Stay with me."
"I wish..." Izumi began slowly, "that I had never met you that day... that I had not brought you home. Since then, you've been nothing but endless trouble. I'm sick of your whining. I'm sick of you trying to hug me every chance you get. I'm sick of your meaningless 'I love yous'. I am sick of you! I had a life once, before you turned up and messed it up..."
"I don't care! I love you, Izumi!"
"Just get out of my life." Izumi said quietly before he slammed the door shut.
Izumi wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. The sun's harsh glare made it hard for him to see without squinting. Just a few minutes more before the match would be over... got to get to the ball...
Izumi! Help me!
Not now! He didn't need to think of that jerk now! He was in the middle of a game for crying out loud! Izumi focused his attention on the opposing player with the ball, then came down upon him like a streak of pure lightning, neatly intercepting the ball. The crowd's cheers grew wilder and more frantic as he sped towards the goal.
Izumi! Help me, please!
No. He couldn't lose his concentration now. He was almost there. He pushed Koji's desperate pleas out of his mind.
Koji sobbed quietly after Izumi left. He had hurt Izumi. He hadn't really meant what he said. It was just that both of them had been so busy lately that they hardly ever saw each other these days. He had thought that perhaps, being the day it was today, Izumi would agree to skip soccer practice for just one day. He didn't think he was asking for too much. He should have known better. He sighed, then got up and cleared the table, putting all the dishes into the dishwasher before he left the house. He was going for a little stroll, he needed to clear his mind.
He didn't want to be Izumi's burden. He wanted to be Izumi's source of strength, his friend, his confidante, his companion, a lover... Where had he gone wrong?
Nanjo Koji was highly skilled in the arts of fighting. However, even the best martial artist in the world had his or her moments of downfall. When one was distracted...
Koji didn't notice the errant youths trailing him, never saw the blow coming... Pain exploded at the back of his head like a million light bulbs shattering. The world went dark. Koji drifted between the planes of consciousness and unconsciousness. He knew what was happening to him but he was too weak to even move a muscle, too much in pain to put up a struggle. He was being robbed and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He could feel himself being dragged away, could feel himself being searched, being shoved to the ground shortly after, could feel the ground hammering along his back... and he fell into the abyss.
His throbbing scalp woke him up a few minutes later. He felt as weak as a new-born kitten and could barely manage a weak struggle as he tried valiantly to fight them off. The grip on his hair tightened suddenly as his head was yanked back painfully. Tears sprung unbidden to his eyes. In that few minutes while he had been unconscious, they had beaten the fight out of him.
"Why if it isn't the Nanjo Koji! The great singer!" Their laughter chilled him to the bones.
"Just take the money and go!" Koji hissed. The fist locked in his hair twisted cruelly, causing him to emit a soft cry of pain.
"We just hate your kind. You think you own the world, think you can do anything you like just because you have the cash, just because you have a pretty face, eh?" Koji tried to pry the unrelenting fingers away from his hair and got slapped. " So what if you're rich and famous? I can sing too, you know!" They laughed again.
Koji's heart sunk to the pits of his soul as he stared into their eyes, crazed, burning with hatred. What did he ever do to them? He slumped, fully aware that he was completely at their mercy. He only hoped it would be over quickly, that whatever it was they had planned in mind for him wouldn't hurt too much.
"You know, you really don't look too bad." The one holding him observed. He turned to his accomplices, "What do you think?" He relinquished his hold on Koji. Koji tumbled to the ground, unable to move, to speak even. He lay helpless as one of them straddled him while the other two pinned his arms and legs down, rendering him immobile. NO! His shirt was ripped off him violently. They descended upon him like a pack of hungry wolves.
Izumi! Help me!
Koji pleaded mentally. He had never been one to believe in telepathy, yet, somehow, whenever Izumi was in trouble, Koji always had a gut feeling that something was wrong, perhaps... Izumi could sense him too...
Koji muffled a soft cry as pain washed over his entire being, He had never been entered before. He never knew it could hurt so much... Somebody make them stop! Koji bit down on his lip, drawing blood, his body buckled in pain.
Izumi! Help me, please!
The ball sailed into the goal post, just a few seconds before the whistle blew. The crowd erupted. Izumi's team-mates swarm him, some hugging him, some pounding on his back, some ruffling his hair as they made their way into the locker room. Izumi laughed with them as he changed. Winning this match would put them in the finals, up against the national champion. He had never felt happier.
His mind drifted to Koji as he started packing his bag. Then it clicked. Today was the day he had first met Koji, when he picked Koji up off the streets exactly a year ago. No wonder that sentimental idiot had wanted to spend the entire day with him. Ok, so he was a little harsh on Koji earlier. No. Make that very harsh. He'd make it up to Koji. Go home, spend the rest of the day with him, fix him a good meal, watch television together...
Izumi started, a cold feeling of dread slowly creeping up his spine. He half expected to see Koji standing before him.
"Hey Izumi! Let's go and celebrate our victory!" One of his team-mates called out to him.
"Uhm... no... I have something on..." Izumi grabbed his stuff and darted out of the room.
Izumi flung open the door to their house. "Koji, I..." He let his sentence trail off as the silence of the darkened house greeted him.
"Koji?" He switched on the lights and made a general sweep of the house. No Koji. Something was not right. He could feel it. Koji needed him. He had to find Koji.
Izumi had been wandering around for hours now. He had not found Koji. Why should he even have bothered? Koji probably got bored of waiting for him and ran off to seek comfort in the arms of one of his many amorous lovers. Rain sheeted down, he was soaked to the skin, the cold seeped into his very bones. That was nothing compared to the cold hand that held his heart in a vice-like grip. Where in the world was Koji? He should head back home and soak himself in a nice hot tub before he caught his death out in the rain. Koji would be back by morning, smelling strongly of liquor and perfume. A dull gleam of metal caught his eye just as he decided to head home. He jogged over and picked it up.
Koji's dog tags.
The sense of dread that had been festering in him amplified a thousand times. Then Izumi spotted him. He was lying motionless in a little alley that branched off from the main road. The only light from the single street light there cast a weak glow upon Koji. Like the light of a dying sun. Izumi heaved a sigh of relief. Koji was drunk again. Izumi allowed himself a little smile. Exactly a year ago, he had found Koji while he was jogging home from work at night. It was raining then too. Koji was lying dead drunk at the side of the road, weak with fever, his cheeks flushed, his breathing slow and irregular, his heartbeat erratic. The street light had bathed Koji in an ethereal glow, reminding Izumi of an angel in innocent slumber. Highly vulnerable. He could not bear to leave him at the mercy of elements, so he took him home and nursed him to health.
Izumi made his way towards Koji slowly, carefully avoiding the overturned trash cans lying around. He knelt beside Koji, then shook him a little. He remembered the first time he tried to wake Koji up.
...Ma-na-ger...give me...5 minutes more...
At times, watching Koji sleep, he found himself wanting to say those 3 words to Koji. The 3 words that Koji often said to him, that he never returned. Those times, he truly believed that Koji loved him with the purity of his virgin heart. Totally giving of himself, utterly sincere, asking nothing in return but an occasional show of affection...
"I love you." He whispered as he smoothed Koji's brow. He was cold. Koji was cold. Something was very very wrong. Koji's face was drained of blood, a pallor of death, it lacked the usual lustre of life that flushed his cheeks even as he slept. He felt like cold marble. Koji was still. Too still. Izumi then realized what was so wrong about the entire picture. The gentle rise and fall of Koji's chest, his soft breathing was replaced by a wicked looking dagger still embedded in his chest. Izumi's fingers encircled the hilt of the dagger and pulled it out. The blood that flowed from Koji's open wound was soon washed away by the rain. Izumi could now see the tell-tale signs of what had occurred earlier in the alley. The fallen dog tags, the overturned trash cans... Koji's ripped clothes... the cuts, bruises and scratches covering Koji's body... the dagger that undoubtedly claimed his life...
Izumi! Help me!
With trembling fingers he gently caressed Koji's cheek. Someone had got to his Koji. Someone had touched his Koji. Hurt his Koji.
Izumi! Help me, please!
It wasn't enough that they had beaten him up and robbed him. They had to ravage his body too. And Izumi had ignored him, pushed Koji's desperate cries to the back of his mind. Left him to the mercy of his tormentors, like a lamb led to the slaughter. The game was more important... Was it worth the while? Was the game worth Koji's life?!
He grabbed Koji and shook him violently. "DAMMIT KOJI! WAKE UP!! I DIDN'T MEAN WHAT I SAID!!!"
Just get out of my life.
His last words to Koji. And Koji really did. He curled himself up into a fetal position and sobbed. Bitter tears flowed freely, mingling with the rain beating down upon him. The scar tissue at his left hip burnt like a hot iron. He refused to listen to Koji, ignored him, sent him to his death.
"I killed him," he murmured softly to himself, over and over and over again. "I killed him." Izumi made no move when the police laid their hands on him. Didn't move when handcuffs were snapped onto his wrists. Didn't move when they took him away from his Koji.
A few months later...
"Is he any better?" Shibuya asked.
Serika shook her head sadly. "He refuses to talk to anyone at all. Refuses to eat. They have had to force-feed him most of the time."
Shibuya stepped into the padded cell where Izumi was currently having a conversation with himself.
"You know, Izumi, the food here stinks! They can't cook for peanuts! And they expect me to eat it!"
"You're so used to my cooking, you refuse to eat anything else. You're fussy, Koji. Fussy and spoiled."
"I can't be bothered to argue with you."
"Why don't you cook for me?"
"I can't. They won't let me out of here, I can't even go to the kitchen."
"Very funny, Koji!"
"Izumi?" Shibuya called.
"Ah! Get lost! Tell the manager I'm quitting. Cancel all my contracts. Can't you see I'm busy? Izumi needs me!"
"Niisan!" Serika called out in dismay. She turned and sobbed quietly. Shibuya took her by the shoulders and led her away.
Izumi looked up. "Hey Koji! You can come out now. They're gone!" In his mind's eye, he saw Koji coalesced before him, first a shimmering figure, which slowly gained solidity and formed a translucent being. Koji smiled at him.
Izumi returned his smile. "We'll always be together. Just the 2 of us! I won't let anyone else take you away from me ever again!" Koji beamed, then mouthed a few words.
"I love you too, Nanjo Koji. I love you too."