Notes: The story wound up a little shorter than I expected, so this is the final chapter. Thank you for reading!
Backwards. Fucked up. Completely fucked up backwards. That was all Superbi could think as he stared across the burnt-out campfire at the boy who, in ten years, would become his lover.
"Still," Yamamoto said, swallowing another pain pill, "I am glad you showed up again." He smiled--a smile untarnished by the loss that his future self would know. He seemed little more than a child, though he had not seemed like that when Superbi first met him. But then, he had been younger, too. He felt as if he were meeting Yamamoto all over again.
"So, why did we stay out here in the woods, anyways?" Yamamoto asked when Superbi did not reply to him.
"Voooiii! Don't you ever shut up?" Yamamoto's smile did not waver, so Superbi sighed and responded. "It's better to train out here." He did not mention that he did not think it a good idea to take Yamamoto home. He wondered if this younger Yamamoto knew about his father, and if Superbi had to be the one to tell him.
Yamamoto fell mercifully silent for a long moment. He stared off into the trees and picked leaves and twigs from his hair. Sunlight filtered through the forest canopy, flashing across his thoughtful expression. Superbi kicked dirt into the campfire, even though the fire had long since gone out.
"I'd like to go home today," Yamamoto finally announced. "I didn't go home when we visited Namimori before. Because it's empty, you know." His voice broke a little, but then he smiled and continued. "But you're here now. So it should be okay, if you come."
"Voi! You're some kind of weirdo. What, do you think we're buddies or something?" Superbi's words came out angrier than he intended. But this was not his Yamamoto. This was a child left in his place. His Yamamoto had gone to Japan and would not come back until after Byakuran was defeated. "I'm just your trainer. And I beat your ass rather soundly last night. So focus on your swordwork."
Yamamoto kept smiling. "I need to go home, please. I won't win unless I do that, and then I'll shame both of us." His smile would have fooled anyone--anyone but Superbi. He knew to watch Yamamoto's eyes. They were deep and brown and sad--like his Yamamoto's had been.
Superbi found words as difficult as when he found out Sawada died. He thought of Yamamoto's father, with that smile just like Yamamoto's. He thought of how accepting the man must have been to never complain about Yamamoto's lifestyle. Superbi had barely known Yamamoto's father, but somehow, he felt the loss now. The loss of a father, something he had never had.
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
Superbi turned his face. "Fine. Pack your shit, and let's go."
Yamamoto fell silent again as they packed. His smile faded as he led Superbi into Namimori. The town was almost as quiet as they were, and what few people were about at this hour paid them little notice. Superbi studied the boy beside him as they walked, finding it strange to have to look down at Yamamoto again.
When they arrived at Takezushi, Yamamoto went to the back door. His key still worked. Superbi followed him inside, expecting to find the place still in shambles, but all he saw was the same neat, clean kitchen that he had once stitched Yamamoto's chin in. There was no mess, no broken furniture, no blood. Superbi put a hand on the counter where Yamamoto's father had once stood to the wash the rice, wondering if his Yamamoto had cleaned everything up when he found his father's corpse. Superbi thought he could smell faint traces of bleach in the air.
After flashing Superbi another unconvincing smile, Yamamoto wandered up the stairs. Superbi pretended not to watch him climb the steps, then sat at the kitchen table. An empty sushi plate setting lay on the table before him, clean enough to sparkle beneath the lights. Superbi stared at it for a long moment before pulling out his mobile. He scrolled through his call history, noting the last time Yamamoto had called: three weeks ago. The day Yamamoto's father died.
Superbi put his mobile away before he remembered that conversation or Yamamoto's hoarse monotone. He wondered where all the happiness had gone lately, if he would find the older Yamamoto's laughter hiding somewhere in this house, in a dusty corner where death had not thought to look yet. He wondered about the younger Yamamoto's laughter, if he still had it, or if reality had stolen it, too. He headed up the stairs to find out.
Yamamoto's bedroom door stood open, so Superbi walked right in. He found the boy sitting on the bed, staring at a picture in his hand. Superbi glanced at the picture. In it, Superbi and the adult Yamamoto sat at a sushi bar in Italy. Yamamoto had one arm slung around Superbi's shoulders and the other raised to give a thumbs-up sign. His grin stood in stark contrast to Superbi's wide-mouth scowl. Superbi remembered the moment when the picture had taken. He had punched Yamamoto in the stomach only just a minute later. He told him a thousand times never to touch him in public, but Yamamoto never listened. Now, Superbi realized he would give almost anything to feel the warmth of his Yamamoto's hand on his shoulder again.
Sighing, Superbi sat down beside the boy and studied him. Everything about him seemed softer and sweeter, yet in the past few days, he had grown stronger than the Yamamoto that Superbi knew. Finally, Yamamoto took the sword seriously and became the man Superbi wanted him to become--but the problem was that he was just a boy.
Yamamoto set the picture back down on the table by his bed. It stood beside another picture, one of Yamamoto's father as a young man. Yamamoto's father sat at a proper Japanese sushi bar, in almost the same position as Yamamoto, but with a surly Japanese woman under his arm.
"That your mother?" Superbi asked. He eyed the woman in the picture. She had a sultry beauty, though the cigarette dangling from her lips made her appear sardonic. Yamamoto resembled her strongly in appearance, though certainly not personality.
"Yeah." Yamamoto actually frowned. He had never spoken of his mother before.
"Did she die, too?"
Yamamoto glanced out the window. "I wouldn't know. She left when I was seven and never came back." He turned to Superbi. "But my dad's not dead. He's back in my time, probably wondering where I am. It's the other me who lost his dad." He sounded firm about this. Superbi wondered if that line of thinking made it hurt less.
Superbi studied Yamamoto's face. The lines of his face were clean and simple, fresh and new, like something right out of the box on Christmas morning, waiting to be assembled. Even so, Superbi could see fear and sorrow lurking in Yamamoto's eyes. "You're wishing your future self stuck to baseball, aren't you?"
Yamamoto glanced at the photo with Superbi and himself at the Italian sushi bar. "Would you have been interested in me if I only played baseball?"
Yamamoto laughed, and for a moment, Superbi could see the man Yamamoto would grow to be. Moments passed with nothing but the two of them staring at each other. Yamamoto ran his fingers across Superbi's neck, brushing aside Superbi's hair, and he kissed Superbi's throat. Superbi closed his eyes and smelled the green foliage of the forest that still clung to Yamamoto, making him seem rich and real. The kiss felt the same as the last one his Yamamoto had given him before leaving for Japan.
And then Superbi remembered it was the boy, only a boy, who kissed him and shoved Yamamoto across the bed. "Voooiii! Perverted kid!"
But Yamamoto grinned, undaunted. "You must really like that. I like the way you sucked in your breath when I did it. Do I do that a lot?"
"Listen up, you don't do anything to me, you fucking piece of trash! Do that again, and I'll cut your lips off."
As if on cue, Yamamoto leaned forward and tried to kiss Superbi again, but Superbi was quicker. He grabbed Yamamoto's face and pushed him back again. "Knock it off, katana-brat!"
"But you didn't cut my lips off." Yamamoto laughed again. Light flashed through the window blinds, spotlighting him for just a moment. He lay back on the bed, in almost the same exact position he had taken when he and Superbi first fucked. The sight made Superbi's pulse quicken. He almost pounced the boy and ripped off his clothes, suddenly desperate for the distraction of soft kisses and warm flesh.
"You're too fucking young."
"Oh." Yamamoto's smile faded. "I see. I'm sorry. That was stupid of me. You're not my Squalo."
Yamamoto hung his head. "My future self would never forgive me for trying to take his Squalo. I'm so sorry."
Superbi stared at him. "You fucking moron," he said gently. Yamamoto raised his head and smiled at that. It was just like him, at any age, to smile at Superbi's insults.
"I want to change the future, to save my father, but I don't want to lose you. When I go back, do you think the you from my time will still become mine?"
Words had failed Superbi before, but words would not fail him now. He put his artificial hand on Yamamoto's head, and his finger's sensors registered the thick nest of black of hair beneath its fingertips. "So long as you don't fail the sword. You just have to remember to devote yourself to it. And if you devote yourself to the sword, you've devoted yourself to me."
Yamamoto's brown eyes seemed wide and innocent as he listened. Just like when Superbi had first tried to explain it to him. Superbi smirked and thought of that old, stupid sushi metaphor--or simile, he could not tell the difference--he had used to drive his point home. "The sword and me, we're pieces of sushi. You have to put the whole thing in your mouth. You can't eat us in pieces. All or nothing."
Peals of laughter burst out of Yamamoto. Superbi lifted his hand and snarled. "Voi! Stop laughing!"
"I'm sorry, I can't help it! You're really hilarious, Squalo. I love the ridiculous things you say."
"I said to stop laughing, dammit!"
Yamamoto grinned. "It was kinda hot, though. Eat you whole, huh? Kinky. Does the future me do that a lot?"
"Shut up! How the hell do you get to be a pervert in middle-high, anyways, you fucking brat?"
"Don't worry, Squalo. I won't try anything perverted until I get back to my time and my own Squalo." Yamamoto quieted, but he still smiled. "The other me is really lucky."
"Peh." Superbi repressed a smile and stood up. "He's going to really fucking unlucky if you and your trash friends don't fucking get your shit together and defeat Byakuran."
"I'll get him back for you," Yamamoto promised, and when he said it, Superbi believed him. In that boy's smile lay an entire world of possibilities untouched by death and loss, unknown to Byakuran. A world where Superbi's Yamamoto would return and walk up to him, brush his hair aside, and kiss his neck. A world worth fighting for, no matter the cost.
"Now, let's go back to training, katana-brat," Superbi said, heading to the doorway. "You have still have teeth left. I'll fix that for you."
Yamamoto laughed and followed--just as he was always meant to.