“I can never tell if you’re being honest with me.” Youji rubs tiredly at his eyes, his jaw tight. “I just don’t think it would kill you to genuinely try to help for once.”

“It’s as good an idea as any,” Zenya mumbles from around the pen clenched between his teeth. He chews on it absentmindedly, evidently having given up searching through papers for the time being. He leans his head back against the wall, strands of blonde hair shining against the dark mahogany boards. “Aren’t you the one who said you’re pretty much willing to try anything at this point?”

Youji exhales, his temples aching. He straightens his stack of yellowed papers and begins to look through them again, eyes scanning the same inscrutable lines, hoping he’ll find something he missed the first dozen times. Surely there was something written in here that would help. Anything, no matter how small.

“Doesn’t it make sense, though, when you think about it?” Zenya insists. His drawling tone gives no indication to whether or not he’s joking. Zenya had exactly two tones of voice - sarcastic and greasy, or raw with fury. Having a conversation with him involved making constant assumptions about the intent behind his every statement. “The problem is that he can smell it on you. Just getting rid of it seems like the easiest answer.”

Sure, that would be the easiest answer, if anything about this situation were easy. But Youji doesn’t miss the deeper, selfish implication to Zenya’s ‘suggestion’, nor is he entirely convinced that it would really work the way he suggests. “I think,” Youji says carefully, pressing his hand to his forehead as he tries to work through the horrible memories of his bed-ridden nightmare, “that would only make it worse.”

“You have to remember, Youji-” and here Zenya plucks the pen from between his teeth, using it to point at him - “that was all Shironuma.” The name makes Youji’s stomach churn, but Zenya continues speaking anyway. “There’s no telling if the same thing would happen with me.”

Trying to be as blunt as possible without setting off Zenya’s temper, Youji chooses his words carefully. “I can only imagine it would be worse with you.”

He leaves the important part of his statement unsaid, but Zenya is aware of what he means. He falls silent for a few moments, and returns to gnawing at his pen. “Technically,” he says after a while, “that whole mess was only a nightmare for you. Hell, let’s say the same thing does happen, but it gives your friend a rest for a while. Would you be willing to do it for him?”

A question like that is intrinsically unfair. Would he be willing to undergo that torture again for Makoto? Would he be willing to go through that again for anybody? No, absolutely not. But his immediate denial of the option somehow makes Youji feel sick, as if he should feel guilty for putting his well-being first in a situation like that.

“It’s kind of selfish, honestly,” Zenya muses, and Youji looks up at him, feeling rage begin to boil inside him. “Wanting to still be around him after the shit you’ve put him through. He’d be much better off never seeing you again.”

Youji resists the urge to raise his voice. Instead, he lowers his eyes again, begging the tattered notes in his hands to offer him some guidance. “Like you have any right to call me selfish. The only reason you’re even letting me in here is because you want something from me.”

The truce they shared was thin and weak, hardly even a real truce. Zenya held almost all of the cards in the situation, all of the knowledge, all of the power. Youji’s only weapon was his own body, and using it as a bargaining chip was a disgusting feeling. He’d been lucky, so far, but he was keenly aware that the more he asked of Zenya, the more difficult choices he may find himself faced with.


back to writing