Better than a Roll of Duct Tape

He runs his fingers along one of the clumsily repaired gashes, duct tape from God-knows-where precariously holding the priceless portrait together. Well, it was priceless. Now, it only serves to remind him of the bitter experience of betraying his best friend, of watching a man he loved do things he’d would’ve killed others for even thinking about, once upon a time.

Vandal and makeshift repairman hides around the corner, watching. Murata knows he’s there, and Yozak knows he knows because there’s just this thing, this connection, this understanding. It’s the reason they work so well together, the reason Murata trusted Yozak with everything (except that one thing, he couldn’t trust anyone with that, and the reasons show themselves in the ruined paintings on the wall). It’s the reason Murata crawled so willingly into Yozak’s bed, and the reason Yozak let him.

The thing that hurts him the most about seeing these portraits, mocking him with their ruin, is that Yozak is the one who did it, got riled enough to hack heirlooms to pieces, and the thing that makes him the happiest is that it was Yozak who ended up fixing them.

“I didn’t hate you, y’know.” He steps out, arms folded, swagger that would look stupidly feminine on a man of his build if it were anyone but Yozak. “I’ve never hated you.”

Murata fingers the duct tape. “I find that hard to believe.”

“S’true.” He points, limb stretched to its fullest in over-exaggeration, right at Shinou’s face. “I hated him most, for what he did to the kid. And I hated him,” his arm sweeps smoothly to the left, “for making you help him do it.”

“Yozak, I am—”

His arms are around Murata before the boy can finish his sentence. “No,” he says fiercely, “you’re not.”

That’s all he’s ever needed to hear.

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