Without Apology – Episode 4

Emmett blended into the wall. It was a reflexive move because danger was nearby.

Bryson’s laughter was loud, “did you hear him begging? Please sir. Please, I’m sorry.

Silas’ laughter was even louder, “what a pansy! And what a bleeder!”

“I didn’t know that much blood could come from a nose. You don’t think loser’s contagious, do you?”

The two moved down the hallway. Though their raucous conversation could still be heard, Emmett had stopped listening. He had a bad feeling he knew exactly who they were talking about. Deciding to follow his instinct, he moved in the direction they had come from.

The bathrooms were the most likely place to find someone with a bloody nose. The sound of running water emerged as he opened the door. The locker room was to the left, and the bathroom was to the right. He moved right. At the sinks he found Kuro hunched over. The water falling between his trembling fingers was bright red.

“You should keep your head up if you have a nosebleed,” cautiously he approached.

Kuro jumped at hearing someone address him. Blood and water flowed down his chin where it fell to the heavily stained sweater. A bruise already showed across his cheek up to his eye and over his nose. The fear in his eyes was enough to break Emmett’s heart. “I-I tripped.”

An excuse without being asked what happened was always a sign of a bad liar. Emmett didn’t challenge, “let me have a look.”

Kuro’s head dropped. He was going to run from the offer.

Emmett’s soft touch landed upon the quaking shoulder, “I used to get nosebleeds a lot as a kid. Couldn’t ever get them to stop. My nan used to say it was because I had too much love in my heart.”

Soft eyes looked at him, “what did you do about them?”

He lifted Kuro’s head up so that he was no longer looking at him from the tops of his eyes. “Keep your head upright, but don’t tilt back. Plug just like this.”

He handed Kuro some paper towel; the only tissues at hand.

“Now, blink three times, wink once, and tap your left foot four times.”

Kuro actually pulled up a wry grin behind the paper towel, “that doesn’t work.”

“Well, you won’t know unless you try, baby,” he quipped back with a playful lilt.

Playing along, Kuro followed the steps. Then he pulled away the tissue, “I’m still bleeding.”

“Man, you sure are. Too much love! You may have to channel your inner Dasai,” his grimace was amusing to Kuro.

“Dasai’s not in me,” there was a small laugh.

It took some superhuman strength not to make an amused comment.

“Oh well,” Emmett kept things to a shrug. Pulling a large handful of paper towel, “let me clean you up some while we wait.”

“I-it’s okay. It won’t come out.” There was a sad certainty in his voice that came with experience.

“Blood on a white sweater doesn’t bode well,” he agreed. Yet, he was soaking the paper towel, “still doesn’t hurt to try. This sweater is adorable on you. You know, if we soak it there’s a chance we can save it. Take it off.”

“No!” Fear brought Kuro’s voice to a whisper. His arm moved protectively across his body as his head dropped back down.

Emmett knew the signs. He backed off, “oh well, we’ll just have to get you a new sweater then.”

Kuro nodded, relief bringing tears to the corners of his eyes.

“Let’s have a look,” he encouraged. “And try not to swallow the blood. Too much will give you a stomach-ache.”

Kuro moved his hand away from his nose.

“Still going strong. Think you’re okay to head home? The sooner you get some ice, the better.”

Silence, and a slight nod of the head.

Emmett helped exchange the paper towel for some fresh ones. “We’ll head out together. It’s about time I got home. Mom’s making her signature potpie!”

“Sounds good,” Kuro glanced up.

“It’s terrible,” he laughed, “but she’s proud of it so we all pretend to love it.”

They walked out of the bathroom together. The halls were barren of all but the two of them. Though, in the distance, they could hear the sounds of teenagers playing basketball in the gym.

“You feeling okay?” Emmett held worries because to him, Kuro was looking a little pale. “Dizzy at all?”

“Nope,” he carefully shook his head.

Outside proved to be a nice afternoon. After the morning’s rain, this was a nice surprise. “Guess we don’t need our umbrella’s now.”

“You don’t have to walk with me. I’m okay by myself,” Kuro was trying to be considerate. They turned down the sidewalk.

“I actually don’t live all that far from you and Dasai,” Emmett confessed to him.

“Really?” the stuffed-up reply was filled with interest.

“Yep,” he nodded. “Lived here my whole life in the home my mom grew up in, which is also the house my grandpa built.”


“We’re all pretty proud,” he admitted with a smile. “It’s a piece of family history that we all want to be our inheritance.”

“You have brothers and sisters?” Kuro was curious.

Emmett nodded, “eight of us in total.”

“Wow!” Kuro repeated himself.

“Yep,” he laughed. “It’s a nightmare trying to get time in the bathroom, and the kitchen isn’t nearly big enough. But, we all love it. So, what about you?”

Kuro carefully shook his head, “I was an only child. Mom never wanted kids.”

Emmett looked at Kuro with a note of worry, “I hope she was happy that she had you.”

Kuro’s only reply was to lift one shoulder in a shrug. He kept hidden behind the wad of paper towel pressed to his nose.

“So, how do you find living at Dasai’s?”

Kuro changed hands holding the paper towel, “it’s nice. The kitchen is huge. And I can make anything I like.”

“Sounds like heaven!”

Kuro gave a breath of a laugh, “I like it.”

“Well sadly, this is my corner. But one of these days, you’re having Darcy and I over for a supper that you make us.”

“Okay,” he agreed instantly, his eyes lighting up.

“You okay to head the rest of the way alone?”

He brought up a tremulous smile, “it’s just a little nosebleed.”

“Little,” Emmett challenged.

Kuro hesitated, “you won’t tell anyone, will you?”

“That you’re a klutz? Promise I won’t,” he let the lie stand.


He watched Kuro hurry off. There wasn’t a moment that he had been fooled. From his pocket he pulled his cell. “Hey, where are you?”

“I’m home. Why?” the front door shut soundly behind Dasai. Silence greeted him.

“I just walked Kuro out of school. He had a run in, and I’m pretty sure we both know who with.”

“So?” his bag hit the couch.

“So,” Emmett sighed with frustration, “it was bad. He lost a lot of blood and he’s looking pale.”

Dasai stopped moving. His glare was fierce.

Emmett kept talking, “when he gets home, take care of him. I’m really worried. And don’t be all you when he walks in.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Dasai growled.

From the other end of the call, “it means don’t be you by jumping all over him. He’s an introvert. Do you understand what one of those are?”

“I’m not holding his hand.”

“How many times has he brushed off an injury because he tripped?” Emmett challenged.

That question had him thinking back.

“The bullying is worse than we know. And he’s doing his best to hide it, which tells me that they’re striking where Kuro can hide it. Or they were but something happened today.”

There was a noise outside of someone opening the trashcan. Looking out the curtains he saw Kuro closing the lid.

“I’m hanging up on you,” he told Emmett.

“I’m not done…”

He disconnected the call as the front door opened. Kuro was keeping only the immediate vicinity within his downward turned gaze. The aim was to conceal himself as he took extra care to shut the front door without making a sound. As he turned around, he caught sight of Dasai’s feet. Fear froze his body as well as his brain for about half a moment before he turned to run up the stairs.

“Hold it,” his order was gruff.

Kuro paused with one foot on the stairs.

“You gonna explain that?”

“I’m sorry,” came the expected, knee-jerk response.

Dasai ground his teeth in frustration.

“I’ll get it clean,” he took off running up the stairs.

At a slightly slower pace, Dasai followed. At the top of the stairs, he found Kuro in the bathroom. Cold water was running into cupped hands.

“Works better if you take the sweater off first,” he leaned against the doorframe.

Kuro turned his head away, “that’s okay.”

Turning his head away only allowed the mirror to capture the injuries and reflect them Dasai’s way. Blood was heavy under a swollen nose. At a trickle now, a drop fell into the sink.

“Take it off.”

Kuro’s hands shook. Slowly, that movement made it to his head in a sad attempt to refuse. He weakly tried to come to a compromise, “I’ll change…in my room.”

“Now, Kuro!”

He flinched. But there wasn’t a way out of the situation. It caused him pain to remove the sweater; physical as well as emotional. The reason for that pain became very clear. Fresh bruising mingled with old in a desperate attempt to conceal scarring.

Anger washed over Dasai closing his eyes and tightening his fists. Similar to Kuro’s downcast posture, Dasai’s head lowered. A different emotion attempted to take the anger’s place. Anger was easier to deal with.

He took the hand towel from next to the sink. The cold water was quick to soak the towel. Surprise had Kuro looking from the tops of his eyes. Wet towel in hand, he stood before Kuro. Gentle was the touch he used to lift that face which was filled with shame. Blood was caking dry over pronounced bruising. As Emmett had mentioned, Kuro was looking pale. It was that which tempered his next words.

“I’m gonna kill them,” he muttered.

Instantly Kuro was afraid, “it was just an accident!”

Dasai knew it was a lie, and he was more sad about that than he was angry. And so, there was no anger in his tone, “I don’t want you lying to me.”

Kuro’s eyes danced. He was trying to come up with something to say.

“What happened?” A soft tone shifted with warning, “lie to me and I’ll kick your ass.”

With his chin in Dasai’s hand, Kuro couldn’t drop his head. But that didn’t stop his gaze from falling. His words were barely more than a whisper, “I fell.”

“Kuro,” he gave an uncustomary second warning.

Kuro’s eyes closed, “i-is it okay if I don’t say it?”

He glared at the blood he was carefully wiping away. The depth of the swelling and bruising bothered him. With a clean spot on the towel, he captured Kuro’s tears.

“Come on. You’re going to lie down. I’ll get some ice.”

“I’m okay on my own,” more fear.

“Are you that afraid of causing trouble for people?” he demanded, lifting Kuro’s chin.

A timid nod was the reply.

His finger lightly brushed the hair off Kuro’s forehead, “then shut-up and do as I tell you.”

The contrast between Dasai’s touch and his tone kept Kuro from arguing when he was sent to his room. Downstairs in the kitchen, Dasai paused. In his hand was Kuro’s sweater. It wasn’t worth trying to save. Kuro only wanted to because he wanted to hide what had happened.

The sweater went into the garbage. He took an icepack out of the freezer and the dishtowel off the oven handle. Back upstairs he didn’t even bother knocking. Inside, Kuro was sitting lethargically on the foot of his bed with the palm of his hands pushing away tears.

He paused with one eye hidden behind a fist, “I’m sorry!”

The apology was a reflex, and it pissed him off. “Not accepted.”

Kuro dropped his head with a sadly accepting nod.

Roughly, he picked Kuro up by the arm only to direct him back into bed but this time at the head where he should be. He sat next to Kuro. Gently, the icepack touched one side of Kuro’s face while Dasai’s hand took hold of the other side. Stern was his look, “this doesn’t happen again.”

Kuro mistook the meaning. He nodded with an expression that tried to hide his fear. He was trying to come up with a way to meet the command.

Annoyed, “hey! It’s not for you to figure out, dumbass.”

Kuro stared blankly at him.

“You’re my responsibility.”

Kuro stopped breathing, “uhm…”

“Shut it.”

Kuro closed his mouth. But, since his nose was swollen, it didn’t take long before he was forced to open it again. When he did, he let Dasai know on a shaky breath, “i-it’s okay if you want to leave.”

There was a silent plea making Kuro’s eyes shine. He couldn’t stand being a burden on anyone.

Understanding that only made Dasai feel shittier, “are you telling me what to do?”


“Good. Now shut-up and move over. And take the fucking ice. Do I look like your bedside nurse?”

Kuro hastily followed the order which allowed Dasai to stretch out his legs next to him.

As he sat back against the headboard next to Kuro, he looked around. Annoyed was the tone when he asked, “why is there nothing in your room?”

“There’s lots,” Kuro whispered behind the icepack.

He cut him off, “there’s a bed and a dresser. There isn’t anything that’s you. There’s supposed to be posters up on your wall. A mess all over the place. Stuff that you’re into.”

Kuro just kept holding the icepack.

“What are you into?”

Kuro shrugged.

Dasai sighed with growing annoyance, “every time I come home, you’re either doing homework or chores. I never see you doing anything for fun. Do you even like cooking? Or do you just do it for us?”

“I like that I can do it,” seemed as much as Kuro was able to come out with.

Dasai set his palm to his forehead with a sigh.

“We,” Kuro hesitated, “we don’t have to talk about me.”

He looked sidelong at Kuro, seeing how uncomfortable he was. It didn’t matter to Dasai if he was, “you’ve got two choices. Talk about what happened, or talk about you.”

Kuro cringed.

“Other than this bullshit, I hear you’re good in school.”

The statement didn’t bring about an emotional response. Kuro only shrugged a little, “I get good grades.”

“So, why doesn’t anyone know your name?”

Again, a small shrug, “when we changed schools, no one knew my name. It’s easier not to talk.”

“You were always a quiet kid,” Dasai stared ahead at a blank wall. Hands moved behind his head as a pillow, “what were you like before you lived with us?”

Kuro’s gaze was deep into the icepack he hid behind, “the same, I think.”

Silence fell between them for a moment.

Then Dasai quipped very lightly, “about the same height, at least.”

A breath of a laugh escaped Kuro. It seemed a trigger for him, a release of sorts. For Kuro shifted so that he was lying back comfortably beside Dasai. His head was on his pillow, lightly he turned towards Dasai, “you got a lot bigger.”

“Eating your cooking, it’s no wonder.”

Eyes sliding closed, Kuro hid a smile, “I really like cooking.”

The statement was an admission that embarrassed Kuro. As though he didn’t feel he had a right to enjoy it.

He saw the effort in this, “it shows in what you make.”

Kuro hid deeper behind the icepack. It wasn’t deep enough to conceal the pleased sparkle in his eyes.

The morning sun filtered in through Kuro’s bedroom curtains. Next to Dasai, he was snuggled close. Incredibly adorable, shirtless, relaxed. Snoring lightly. Dasai ran his fingers lightly over the smooth cheek, careful not to touch the bruising. Kuro turned his cheek into the touch. He was waking up.

“Hey,” he greeted the sleepy eyes that opened.

Kuro smiled. A dry mouth had him making several attempts to swallow. Since he wasn’t moving to get up, Dasai allowed his fingers to trail lazily down Kuro’s arm. Eyes falling closed again, Kuro’s fingers wove into the material of Dasai’s muscle shirt.

He was loathed to break the silence, but as his fingers found a grouping of scars on the inside of Kuro’s arm, it was impossible not to demand, “tell me about these.”

Kuro’s fingers stopped holding him. He moved his arm to try and hide the scars, “it doesn’t matter anymore.”

“I didn’t ask for your opinion,” he took Kuro’s arm back. “Some of these could have used stitches. Why didn’t you go to a doctor?”

Kuro whispered, “it costs money.”

Dasai closed his eyes. His thumb moved slowly over the raised marks, “that’s your dumbass excuse? It’s not that you’re trying to hide this? You just don’t want to cost us money?”

Kuro stared at Dasai’s side, “I-I didn’t…do those.”

He said nothing as he held Kuro’s arm.

“S-Silas and Bryson think it’s funny when they make it look like I cut myself. They s-stopped when I started wearing long sleeves all the time.”

Dasai recalled the knife Kuro had dropped in the sink just before school started. “You didn’t?”

Kuro shook his head.

“I believe you,” he assured softly, letting go of Kuro’s arm.

Kuro’s fingers reclaimed Dasai’s shirt.

His hand trailed to the ribs, “was this when mom thought you were smoking last year?”

He nodded so subtly that it was nearly missed. But then he spoke, “she could smell the smoke. Silas had an allergic reaction, so they stopped after a few times.”

“They used your body as an ashtray,” anger tightened his voice.

“Only for a bit,” not surprisingly, he tried to brush the memory off. “So that I wouldn’t tell on them.”

The response pissed him off! His voice tight with anger, he pressed, “what else have they done?”

The response was to have Kuro nestle in closer to his side. Fingers gripped Dasai’s shirt. Pain brought tears that fell to the bed, “I don’t matter.”

It was a desperate plea to stop noticing Kuro.

Furious at the words that had come out, and broken by the pain that had taken far too long to see, “I don’t want to hear that from you.”

Kuro rolled onto his side away from Dasai. In doing so, he inadvertently revealed another scar. This one ran down his side and back, plunging down into his pants where it was hidden. It was a thick scar, wide and rough.

The back of Dasai’s fingers made contact, “what’s this?”

Kuro clung to his pillow. He didn’t want to talk about it.

Too bad for Kuro. Dasai had his shoulder in his grip, forcing him onto his back. Eyes growing with surprise looked up.

He struggled to explain, but the words were stalled. Perhaps, it was because, “bringing up the past doesn’t change it.”

He stared down.

Until finally, Kuro gave in on a whisper, “they tied me to their bikes, but I couldn’t keep up.”

Eyes shut, Dasai fell to the bed next to Kuro. Emotions ran through him until they opened his eyes once more. Staring up at the ceiling he spoke softly, “I’m sorry.”

Kuro looked over in surprise, “you didn’t do anything!”

“And it won’t happen again.” His eyes steadily held the ceiling until he sat up suddenly, “come on.”

“Where are we going?” Kuro seemed a little sad to be getting up, though he would pretend otherwise.

“It’s important,” Dasai moved off the bed.

Kuro watched him. Dasai paused after he pushed one arm through the sleeve of his discarded shirt. He glanced down at Kuro.

His expression cold, “I’m doing this alone?”

Kuro pulled his leg beneath him as he sat on the edge of the bed. Nervous fingers pulled at the covers, “you’re trying to manipulate my guilt.”

“So?” he rolled his eyes as he moved away. The second sleeve slid on. The flannel was warm against his skin. The muscle shirt didn’t provide warmth as he lay in Kuro’s bed, but he hated sleeping with a long-sleeved shirt bunching up on his shoulders.

“Thank you,” the soft words hit Dasai’s back.

He looked over his shoulder with a sharp edge.

Kuro jumped up, a smile upon his face, “but it’s okay if you just give me orders.”

“Tch,” he roughly mussed up Kuro’s hair. “Don’t act like the trash you are.”

Kuro grabbed a t-shirt and a light hoodie from his dresser. Pulling these on, he trailed after Dasai.

Not surprisingly, the park was quiet at this time of the morning. Just a few early risers out with kids in strollers. Kuro was looking over his shoulder at the street. Dasai got it since his own gaze was there too.

“It’s weird,” he turned away.

Kuro looked at him in question.

“Our lives changed drastically in an instant. Yet, nothing looks different at the place where it happened. You’d almost think nothing had happened.”

He took a seat on one of the benches. Kuro followed suit. In their hands, coffee and a breakfast biscuit. Kuro nibbled. His nose was so swollen that it made breathing through it impossible. A nibble was about all he could manage before needing another breath. Dasai watched him with a note of concern.

“It’s the anniversary of their death,” his breakfast sat next to him untouched. He couldn’t bring himself to eat anything.

Kuro nodded. Despite his earlier claim, his gaze was off reliving the past.

“Have you been back here since that day?”

Kuro shook his head, stating simply and softly, “no.”

Dasai leaned back, “I come here every year on this day.”

“You do?” worry pinched those eyes.

“Doesn’t matter how much we change, the past doesn’t. I’ll agree with you on that much.”

“I’m sorry, Dasai,” Kuro was staring at his coffee cup. Tears rolled off his cheeks.

He stared because he didn’t know how to respond.

“It’s my fault. I told mom that I wanted to come here.”

“When we were kids?” he questioned because it wasn’t the direction his mind was taking.

Kuro seemed almost afraid to nod, “when she said that we had to go out, I begged to come here. I liked the spray-park.”

“So, that makes this your fault?” his question was to point out the idiocy of that thought.

But Kuro nodded, “it’s okay if you hate me.”

The thought that Dasai might hate him seemed to break Kuro, and the tears fell harder. The palms of his hands pushed away the tears and provided him something to hide behind.

“Why the hell would I hate you? All you did was ask to go to a park.” Dasai was pissed!

But as the words left his lips, he understood something important. Something that kept Kuro’s gaze from reaching others.

“That’s why you work so fucking hard around the house. And why you won’t ask for anything,” the words accused Kuro. “All these years you felt responsible?”

Kuro turned away in shame.

“You idiot! You want someone to blame, you blame me!”

“Be-but it was my mom in the car with your dad. She was driving,” it wasn’t easy to point that fact out. But it was why Kuro thought the way he did.

“And I’m the one that threw the ball at them,” Dasai growled!

“What?” the befuddled word slipped out. Kuro finally turned to look.

Tears sparkled in the corner of Dasai’s eyes, “I threw the ball when I saw that it was the two of them. I was fucking mad because even then I knew what he was doing. To mom, and to our family.”

“But,” Kuro almost reached out to touch him.

“I threw it and right after they were hit.” A single tear slipped down Dasai’s cheek. “So if you want someone to blame, you blame me, not you.”

Kuro looked earnestly at him, “are you a superhero?”

“What?” he snarled, looking down at Kuro.

Kuro’s shoulders moved into a shrug, “unless you’ve got superpowers, I don’t think you could throw a ball hard enough. Even now.”

“It was a distraction.”

“Even so, I don’t think you had anything to do with what happened. You didn’t cause the drunk driver. And they chose to leave us alone in a park so that they could have an affair. If they hadn’t done that, they would be alive. But maybe the drunk driver would have hit kids in the park. Or maybe he wouldn’t have hit anyone at all. Maybe it was karma, or just a string of bad events. But it wasn’t you that caused any of it. So, I guess maybe it wasn’t me either.”

Dasai glared, “why the hell does that realization make you sad?”

Using the sleeve of his hoodie to dry the tears, Kuro explained as much for himself as for Dasai, “it’s the only identity I have. Now, I don’t know who I am.”

“Fucking logical thinkers,” Dasai muttered angrily. “And screw them for leaving two little kids alone in a busy park. They’re lucky something didn’t happen to you, or I’d have killed them.”

Unfocused eyes stared out across the park. There was no inflection in his tone when he said, “no one wants me.”

“What?” Dasai had his shirt gripped tight with that snarled word!

Kuro stared with wide eyes, “sh-she always said that no one wanted me, so that’s why she could leave me alone anywhere. She’d always be disappointed when I was still there.”

Dasai pulled him close, “she was a shit human being.”

Kuro blinked, “do you think…she died because I’m a bad son?”

The pain he heard in Kuro’s voice closed his eyes. His fist released Kuro’s shirt, only to pull him close on the bench. Stiff shoulders hit his side. He had a hand resting in Kuro’s hair as he offered an alternate view, “or maybe she died because you deserved better.”

The softness in his voice didn’t hide the lilt of dark humor as a thought bubbled up, “that would still make it my fault, though.”

Ruffling that hair, he chuckled, “shut-up.”

He felt Kuro relax, “thank you, for bringing me here with you.”

Dasai stared ahead. His fingers kept running lightly through Kuro’s hair as they watched two sets of parents walking through the park together.

“And just so we’re clear; Silas and Bryson are garbage human beings too. What they did, they had no right to do. You don’t deserve it. And the next person who lays a hand on you is going to feel my fist connecting with their head. Is that clear?”

“Yah,” Kuro nodded quickly.

Satisfied, Dasai dropped the issue, “eat your breakfast.”

Kuro took a bite of his biscuit.

“How’s your nose feel?” Dasai passed over an icepack as he claimed a seat on the couch next to Kuro.

Carefully he placed the icepack to his nose. There was a bandage on it now, “can’ bewieve you made me go a do’tor.”

“Will you stop whining,” Dasai commanded with an impatient roll of his eyes. “You’re on mom’s benefits plan. It’s not like you’re costing anyone money.”

“We wasted na day dere,” he noted unhappily. It was becoming unbearable after the doctor poked and prodded at his sensitive nose. The ice was helping to take away some of the fire the ordeal had caused. “An my nobe hur’ more now.”

“Stop talking, you sound ridiculous,” Dasai chuckled at his expense. “You’ll get the gauze out soon enough. At least we know it’s not broken.”

It was a safe bet there was pout behind that icepack.

Dasai had a hold of his shoulder, “try lying down.”

It was Dasai’s directive that Kuro lay down with his head on Dasai’s lap. He looked up at Dasai with concern, “uhm Da…”

“I’m pretty sure I told you to stop talking,” there was a faint grin coming out.

Defeated, he closed his eyes and relaxed, holding the icepack to his face. “Sanks.”

Dasai said nothing in return. Gentle fingers brushed the bangs on Kuro’s forehead, directing him towards sleep.

His mom entered the house. Another late worknight. He’d been just as annoyed as he was happy that she wasn’t here. She spotted the two of them on the couch. Kuro was nestled next to him using Dasai’s lap as a pillow. He was curled up, facing the television but he’d fallen asleep. The icepack was lying uselessly on the cushion. The touch of Dasai’s fingers was as soft as the hair it lightly ran through.

She came over to them. Without a word she knelt before them. Her fingers took hold of the prescription bottle. In her eyes rested a question that she asked of him. His response was to simply stare back with cold eyes. His light touch continued to run through Kuro’s hair.

Accepting that she wasn’t going to get an explanation, she placed the bottle back and stood back up. She reached over Kuro towards the expensive blankets she’d had imported. The first she placed gently over Kuro. Her touch lingered on his shoulder. Then she took the second blanket and placed it over Dasai’s lap. With cool eyes he watched. The icepack crinkled softly when she picked it up. She was off to the kitchen, pulling out her cell. She brushed her fingers over his hair exactly as she used to when he was a kid. He turned his head away.

Next to him Kuro stirred softly. The hand still visible outside the blanket pulled in closer to his face. A feathering sigh moved past open lips. In the growing dim the bruise looked somehow worse.

She was back. In one hand, her cell. The other hand passed over a small container to Dasai, “his lips will dry out breathing through his mouth. This is medicated, it’ll help.”

He watched her as she moved to take the armchair.

She let him know, “I’ll order us pizza for supper. You still a fan of buttered chicken?”

He nodded. While she ordered them supper, Dasai opened the lip balm. With his pinky finger, he coated Kuro’s lips.