“You saw the scars on his arm, right?” Darcy was pressing Emmett into a corner. Not physically, but she was doing it.
“We don’t know what they mean,” he was trying to shrug the conversation away. “Besides, we’re in the hallway at school. This isn’t the time or place to be talking about this.”
“It’s the perfect time,” she argued, but she was keeping her voice down. “Those are cut marks. Kuro showing them is a cry for help.”
“Darcy, I’m sure Dasai has a handle on things.”
“We can’t leave it to him. Dasai isn’t sensitive like we are. And Kuro is going to lie,” she leaned forward hoping to intimidate him into her viewpoint.
“Kuro sucks at lying,” Emmett pointed out hopefully.
They were interrupted, “hey guys, have you seen Kuro or Dasai?”
Emmett shook his head, “I think they may have ditched.”
“Oh cool,” Vince was easygoing about it. “Then I am free to do the same.”
Vince was about to move off. But something in that phrase caught Emmett’s ears, “hey Vince?”
“Yah?” that easy smile dazzled.
Emmett was drawn easily into returning the smile, “why does those two ditching free you up?”
Vince shrugged, “Dasai asked us to keep an eye on Kuro whenever we can. But if they’re off together, I can ditch.”
“Dasai asked you to do that?” Darcy seemed surprised.
“Ages ago,” he replied as though it were no big deal. Then a thought lit up Vince’s eyes. His glittering gaze pierced Emmett, “if you two are free, you should come to the track. Tam’s driving today!”
“Is she?” Darcy didn’t seem too interested.
“No surprise, she’s super excited!” Vince laughed. His dazzlingly bright teeth sparkled behind mocha lips. “Dasai and Kuro will be coming by after Kuro’s counselling session.”
“Counselling?” Darcy and Emmett spoke in unison!
“Yah, you didn’t know?” Vince grimaced. “Dasai’s been making him go for a while now. Same counsellor he sees. And if you didn’t hear that from me, just drop my name at the gate and I’ll get you in at no charge.”
Vince backed away, those sparkling eyes lingered a moment longer on Emmett before he finally turned around.
“Well, I gotta say that looks like Dasai’s more sensitive than you give him credit for,” Emmett continued to watch Vince. He gestured between them and Vince, “did you feel anything just there?”
“Annoyance,” she groused! “Why wouldn’t they tell us that?”
“Because it’s none of our fucking business,” Emmett channelled Dasai with a grin. “Come with me to the track?”
“Yep,” he breathed the word! “I don’t even know where it is.”
The sounds of the track were deafening as the pit crew tested the engine. Words could barely be heard, though that wasn’t stopping Darcy from talking to Kuro. She had him pulled off to the side, away from the track. He was glancing away, looking as though he were afraid of missing out. Responsibility and kindness kept him standing there.
“I’m really glad that you’re seeking help,” she shouted in his ear. “I’m just worried. Two people…”
The rest of the words were lost to all but Kuro. He stared blankly ahead as they registered in his brain. The cars on the track raced by to capture his vision. Dasai walked into his line of sight. He was chatting with Tam as she prepped for her first race back after her accident. The pit crew were all around as they ensured every detail had been checked and triple checked.
“I’m going to see Dasai,” he said softly, meaning that the words were probably lost. But he wasn’t concerned with that.
Dasai slid an arm around Kuro’s back when he walked up. The conversation with Tam didn’t stop because he walked up. It had reached a natural ending. She leaned over to share a kiss on the cheek with Kuro. It was the same kiss she and Dasai always shared. And it was a good luck gesture for Tam.
“What did Darcy want?” Dasai was being protective.
But now was not the time. Not when Tam was about to hit the track. Kuro gave his best grin, “apparently Vince invited Emmett tonight.”
They both looked over to see the two of them talking. Their body language was indicating a shared interest.
“I wouldn’t have pictured those two, but they would likely work,” Dasai was happy for his friends. “Vince would definitely be good for Emmett.”
Kuro watched him.
“What is it?” Dasai glanced down.
Kuro released his bottom lip as he replied, “just undressing you.”
Dasai’s eyes danced in delight. His hand slipped into the back pocket of Kuro’s jeans. His eyes said the words that would have been drowned out as the cars raced by again. They’d used the last condom Kuro had on him earlier that day. Anything beyond kissing was going to have to wait till they got home.
‘A relationship can only succeed if both people are mentally healthy.’
Those had been Darcy’s words at the track last night. Kuro was stuck with them now. His eyes and mind were lost out at sea. He wasn’t mentally strong. So, did that mean that he and Dasai were doomed? Was he supposed to walk away now then? Selfishly, he didn’t want to, even though he knew it couldn’t be about him. It had to be about Dasai. What did he need from Kuro?
“Kuro,” his name was said to get his attention.
“Huh?” he looked panicked as he turned towards Danny.
“I was thanking you for allowing us to reschedule your session to today,” the smile was warm, yet hinted at insight.
Kuro nodded quickly, hoping to evade.
“Where’s your mind at?” a friendly prodding reached through his turmoil.
His smile was automatic.
“Nope,” Danny denied before a word had come out.
“What?” he stared blankly.
“I only want the truth,” the grin was warm and friendly.
Kuro looked down at the sand they walked upon. Softly a sigh moved through his lips, “your approach is softer, but you’re a lot like Dasai.”
Danny laughed, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
A grin slipped out as he muttered, “it is.”
“Alright Kuro,” Danny closed his hands with a clap! “You have something on your mind, and I have something on mine. So, if you tell me what I want to know, we can spend the rest of our time working on yours.”
“Aren’t both of them about me?” he challenged softly.
It brought up a laugh in Danny, “yes, but this is your hour.”
Kuro shrugged, giving in.
“Tell me, do you think about killing yourself?”
There was such a disconnect from the words and tone that Kuro had to think about it. In silence they walked the shoreline.
“I don’t think about it, but I also don’t want to feel sad anymore. And I want the voice in my head to be quiet sometimes,” he admitted, watching the water as it ran over his toes. Then his head snapped up, “not that I hear voices!”
“Relax,” Danny’s smile was reassuring. “We all have an inner voice. What is yours telling you?”
He stared at Danny, debating internally how to confess something he hadn’t told to anyone before. Danny simply waited patiently.
Kuro stopped walking. His gaze was on the water, “I’m worthless.”
“Are you?” the soft question hit his ears.
Tears came to his eyes as he nodded.
Danny stood next to him, “I can’t argue because I don’t know everything that your inner voice does. So, it’s up to you to argue it.”
“Argue what?” he glanced up.
“Your worth,” Danny’s eyes danced with the sunlight. “Every time your inner voice tells you that you have no worth, I want you to say back that you are worthy. Come on, give it a try.”
“Now?” he was at a loss. The wet sand worked around his toes as he stood there fidgeting.
“Go on,” Danny pressured lightly. “Out loud.”
“I can just…”
“Ah, you could, but you won’t. So out loud,” the grin was merciless.
He sighed because he wasn’t going to win, “I…have worth…”
“Oh, so wrong,” Danny laughed, making the moment easier. “I am worthy.”
“Isn’t that the same?”
“It’s about possession. I can have money, but I can’t be money. If I want to be worthy, I have to own it.”
“There were a lot of holes in that analogy,” he pointed out with a grin.
Danny raised a questioning brow.
He shrugged, “fine. I am worthy.”
He didn’t want to be difficult, but he wasn’t sure how to express, “I don’t feel it.”
“And you won’t,” Danny admitted on a serious note. “Not for a long time yet. But the more you tell yourself this, the quieter the inner voice gets. But you can’t ever let up on it.”
“I’ll…keep working at it,” the promise was given.
“Good,” Danny took his word. “Now, tell me what’s been on your mind.”
He gazed sightlessly at the water at his feet, “do you think a person who didn’t have a dad, might be trying to replace that with a boyfriend?”
“Keep explaining,” was the gentle prompt.
Kuro’s hands wrung together, “I never had a dad. And I took Dasai’s away from him. So now I don’t…I don’t know what it means. Or what I’m supposed to do!”
Tears blurred the vision and did their best to fill the ocean.
Danny walked up next to him. Hands in his pockets, he replied, “it’s unfortunate how that day played out. But there isn’t a thing that you own responsibility for.”
“I’m not arguing with you,” Danny softly cut him off. “I’m stating a fact that you’ll need to come to terms with. You can’t change your situation. At least, not about the past. You can only determine how you will live in this moment. So, what is it that you want for Dasai, for his mom, and for yourself?”
The workshop had seemed exceptionally hot today. The locker room would only be marginally better. Sweat was beading heavily on his body making him uncomfortable. It was in his gloves, under his clothes, and had even found its way in behind his goggles while he worked. Dasai wiped his forehead across his arm, but it didn’t help.
In the locker room he found Kuro sitting alone on one of the benches. Something was up. An air of trepidation surrounding him caused a small furrow on his brow. It pinched his gaze ever so slightly and had his fingers working deep into the towel he held. And the moment that he realized that he was not alone, that damned nervous smile showed up.
Kuro rushed over with the towel. He used this to wipe away the sweat plaguing Dasai, “I’m sorry.”
Dasai lifted his brows in challenge when the pause went on too long.
“For being late,” Kuro explained.
“Acceptable reason to apologize,” he conceded on a cool note.
Kuro reached over to the bag he’d brought with him. From it, he pulled a large bottle of cold water. Dasai took this along with the light kiss he wanted. Then, with a grateful sigh, he poured most of the water over his face and chest. Almost as good as jumping in the ocean. When he opened his eyes it was to find Kuro watching him from the bench with a soft smile. He sat down on the bench facing Kuro. Lightly, the excess water dripping down his face was wiped away.
“What’s up?” he pressed with uncharacteristic softness.
He gave time when Kuro hesitated.
Hands toyed lightly within his lap. With effort he maintained eye contact with Dasai, “what do I do for you?”
Dasai’s smile was suggestive.
The blush that sprang up was as adorable as the light laugh. The tops of Kuro’s ears went red, “not like that! I mean, Danny said that in a relationship it’s only important that you make each other better people. You help me be stronger. But do I do anything to make you better?”
He leaned forward, “where’s this coming from?”
Nervously, Kuro’s fingers toyed with each other, “Darcy said that only strong and stable people have lasting relationships. Otherwise, they’re doomed to epic failure. And I’ll hurt you.”
He picked up Kuro’s hands, “what part of me isn’t fucking stable?”
“Oh no,” he panicked! “Not you, it’s…”
He noted Dasai’s smirk. The tension in his shoulders melted away.
Dasai allowed a note of seriousness to come out, “you’re too close to see your own strength.”
Kuro’s sigh held a note of derisive laughter, “I’m not strong. I’m always crying.”
“No matter how hard school got, you kept going. Despite my mother and I wanting nothing to do with each other, you kept our family together. You’re Santanah’s hero.” His breath brushed over Kuro’s lips, “I’m using my words because of your influence. Takes a lot of strength to stand up to me.”
Kuro let out a soft laugh. Their foreheads lightly touched.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit. And you give Darcy far too much. She’s always forcing her ideals onto everyone else. But her ideal is boring. Always holding hands, long talks into the night, chaste and cute moments of tight-lipped kissing. Completely PG.” Slowly he had undone the zipper of Kuro’s hoodie as he talked. His hands slid under the t-shirt, pushing it up. “Things are better heated. Can’t do that if your hands are always tied together in adolescent fantasies.”
Kuro was biting his bottom lip, trying to maintain his senses. But desire was wining out. Kuro’s hands moved to his neck to bring their lips together for a kiss that was anything but chaste. As Kuro rose to his knees on the bench, Dasai’s hands took advantage to hold his body. His fingers hooked the waistline at the back of Kuro’s pants resulting in him melting.
“Not here you two,” Carina’s rough voice pulled Kuro up short. “Go home if you want to do that.”
“Get lost,” he ground out over the shoulder he refused to look over. Kuro was a much better vision to be looking at.
Kuro tried to quietly admonish him with a look.
“What?” he challenged with a half a grin. “I used my words.”
Kuro laughed despite the look he was trying to give. He reclaimed his seated position on the bench. “Sorry, Carina.”
“You I’ll forgive because you’re just too damned adorable,” she smiled at him. “So, get your boyfriend out of here before he breaks a rule and I have to break his neck.”
“Boyfriend,” Kuro breathed the word blissfully.
Dasai’s grin was wicked, “didn’t think it was a rule after last Saturday night.”
“You little shit,” she was caught!
“Next time you should make sure you’re alone.” Dasai moved back to Kuro, “or just don’t care who sees.”
“What happened last Saturday?” Kuro turned his head away from Dasai’s lips, but when those lips landed upon his neck, he couldn’t stop the sigh that escaped on a shiver.
“I’ll show you,” Dasai had Kuro’s ear in his teeth.
“Take it outside you two,” she grumbled as she pulled her jacket off the hook.
“That would be illegal,” Dasai pointed out.
“Dasai!” Kuro softly pled.
“Fine, let’s go home,” he relented.
On his feet, he pulled Kuro to his. He grabbed his jacket and Kuro’s hand. Behind them, Carina was grinning.