Masayoshi was lying on his side on the floor, head propped in his hand and a bored expression on his face. Gotou stared at him, absolutely bewildered, remote control in hand. “Well?” Masayoshi prompted, gesturing at the remote. “Are you gonna turn it back on, or are you gonna flap your jaw at me until a bird nests there?”
But – but, he could still hear the shower.
Gotou turned the television back on. “Thank you,” this Masayoshi said, and immediately started ignoring him. He walked to the bathroom, stuck his head in – Masayoshi was still in the shower, humming, shampoo suds in his hair. Looked back out into the room. Lying in front of the television. He stepped into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
“Do you have any siblings you neglected to tell me about?” His voice came out a little more strangled than he meant it to, but – but.
Masayoshi stopped scrubbing his head and peered at Gotou through the steamed-out door. “What?”
“Siblings. Long-lost or otherwise. That's a thing, right? Happens to heroes all the time.” It took a lot of effort to keep his voice steady. Had he locked the bathroom door behind them? He needed a cigarette but there was no way Masayoshi would let him get away with that in this tiny bathroom, never mind the fact that they were out there in the room with his jeans. And the Other Masayoshi.
Masayoshi rinsed his head quickly and turned off the water. “That's a weird question – Hidenori, what's going on?”
Gotou tilted back against the bathroom door, stared at Masayoshi leaning out of the shower – hair dripping, naked, his Masayoshi most definitely, the ring would be the eternal dead-giveaway. “Do you have any siblings?”
“No – no, you know I don't, my parents died before I turned two. You know that.” Masayoshi was starting to get angry at him. “What is going on?”
He shoved a towel at Masayoshi and moved aside. Masayoshi wrapped it around himself and stalked out of the bathroom. “You are acting so weird,” he complained over his shoulder, and then stopped dead.
Gotou had been hoping that he was just heat-addled, that had too much Masayoshi on the brain, something logical like that … but no, that strange, other-Masayoshi was still lying on the tatami floor, wearing a vest and a collared shirt and looking almost exactly the same. He raised his hand in greeting, but did not take his eyes of the television. “Yo.”
Masayoshi's eyes had grown to the size of dinner plates. “YOU'RE DEAD!” he yelled.
The other-Masayoshi sat up finally, and for the first time Gotou saw the tail. Okay, it wasn’t so much a tail as it was straight-up an octopus’ tentacle coming out the back of him. Gotou had no idea what the hell was going on. The other-Masayoshi patted his chest, looked down, looked up at Masayoshi and shrugged. “I was. Not anymore, though.”
“Wh-” Masayoshi almost dropped the towel he was keeping cinched on his waist. “But - what- how- you are SUPPOSED to be DEAD.”
Other-Masayoshi inclined his head at Gotou. “Takes him a minute, doesn't it?”
Masayoshi put himself between Gotou and other-Masayoshi. “He's From Beyond!” Masayoshi's voice hadn't climbed quite back to yelling, but he had put on his 'hero' voice, which was somewhat hilarious coming out of him while he was dripping and holding a towel around his waist to protect his modesty.
“From Beyond?” Gotou said. “But they're all dead-”
“NO SHIT,” Masayoshi screeched.
Other-Masayoshi waved his hand in the air. “Nah, they're all gone, it's just me now.” He thumped the behemoth of a tail. “Left some remnants behind that I can't seem to shake, though.”
“What is going on?”
“He's evil!” Masayoshi yelled.
“You're STUPID,” other-Masayoshi said back in a sing-song, taunting tone.
“One of you two needs to explain something to me right now,” Gotou yelled, raising his voice above both of the Masayoshi's.
The other-Masayoshi blanched visibly at his tone, but his put an arm out. “I won't let you hurt Hidenori,” he said, his voice lethal.
“I'm not here for him,” other-Masayoshi said. “Put on some pants, brother, there's work to be done.”
Now dressed, the three of them sat around the table. Other-Masayoshi curled his tail around him like a cat – Gotou edged a little off his seat and closer to his Masayoshi so he didn't run the risk of accidentally brushing his foot against it. Neither of them had been forthcoming in the slightest about what the hell was going on, and he was aggravated beyond belief. Masayoshi – his, his Masayoshi – had gone stock-still and silent, his eyes narrow as he watched this mirror with distrust.
“The room service here is wonderful," other-Masayoshi said cheerfully, his voice not quite like Masayoshi's, but familiar enough that it felt wrong. He plucked a sushi roll off a plate, looked up at his own twin and smiled, and they could not only be brothers but be twins. Then he glanced to Gotou with such venom that Gotou felt like he had been physically struck. “He is me,” his Masayoshi said quietly. “From another timeline, I guess. Beyond Flamenco.”
“Why didn't you tell me?” Gotou asked him.
“I thought that you knew,” Masayoshi said. “They showed pictures - on the news, remember, when the Prime Minister…?”
“I figured those has been altered, as part of the whole conspiracy,” Gotou said. “They were trying to say you were conspiring with a lookalike, sounded like the stupidest thing I’d heard by far.”
“Nope.” Masayoshi’s expression was pallid. He spoke as if the other-Masayoshi wasn’t present in front of him. “That was real, that confrontation. I ended up killing him - well, he forced my hand-”
“Don't flatter yourself,” other-Masayoshi said. “I did it, you never would have been able to.” He looked down at his plate, and then back up at Masayoshi. “And I could have stayed dead and never passed another thought on it but no, you had to be noble and shit and pass every damn test.” He put another roll in his mouth, chewed. “They were tests, don't let the ~will of the universe~ fuck with your head.”
Masayoshi had opened his mouth, closed it again. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn't come to try to kill you, so you can relax.” The very tip of his tail thumped the ground. “I came to collect you.”
“Collect-?” Gotou said, and other-Masayoshi turned his glare on Gotou full-tilt.
“There's a very specific way these things go,” other-Masayoshi said. “This isn't the first time-line I've wandered into. I've gone looking through a lot trying to find my way back here. The ~will of the universe~ decided that I was the best person for this job, fuck – fuck it, whatever the fuck form it wants to take, fuck it-” the other Masayoshi slammed his chopsticks and bowl into the table and shattered the bowl. Gotou jumped but his Masayoshi didn't even flinch. “I don't even want to be here, you two make me sick.”
Masayoshi said, very calmly. “Why did you need to find me?”
“Because you'll be able to convince them.” Other-Masayoshi waved his hand in the air, indicating – Gotou didn't know what. “You'll be able to convince them to fight again, whereas if I turned up they would shoot me in the face without so much as a hello.” He looked down at the mess he'd made and gave a short, bitter laugh. “I should know, I've tried.”
“You want my help.” It wasn't a question, and Gotou knew that tone of voice well.
“Masayoshi, you don't have to listen to him – whatever he is.” The other-Masayoshi snorted.
“I don't want it,” other-Masayoshi said. “But I need it.” He picked up some rice off the table with his finger and licked it off his fingers. “It's simple, really. You come with me, we convince them to do what they need to do so their Earth doesn't get destroyed, you come home safe and sound and it'll be like nothing changed at all.”
He looked strangely sad in that moment, this other-Masayoshi. Gotou knew exactly what his own was about to do so he grabbed his Masayoshi by the arm. “Come with me right now.”
Just as calmly, Masayoshi yanked his arm away and didn't rise from the table. “I'll help you,” he told this other-Masayoshi, who grinned just like his Masayoshi did when he was relieved.
“Masayoshi!” Gotou said.
He looked up at Gotou and Gotou knew what he was going to say before he said it. “People are in danger,” he said softly. “I already saved this world – it might not be perfectly done, but it can handle itself again. If I can help, I have to do it. Please understand.”
Gotou sat back down, legs folded and hands on his knees. “God dammit, Masayoshi.” He glared across the table at this other-Masayoshi, who he didn't trust and he didn't like. “I'm not letting you go with this thing alone.”
“If you're going, I'm going.” It didn't quite quell the sudden panic that Masayoshi's acceptance had birthed in his gut, but at least this way he wouldn't be sitting here, wondering if he would ever see the man he loved again. “No discussion. Either both of us or neither.”
There was a long silence, and then Masayoshi's hand found his under the table. “I thought you didn't do this hero thing,” he said lightly, but there was an undercurrent to his tone that Gotou recognized. Thank you.
“I don't,” Gotou said. “I do the 'keeping my husband's ass out of trouble' thing.” Seems like it was more or less the same thing, most days, anyway.
“Knew I should have separated you,” other-Masayoshi said. He sounded more exhausted than disgusted this time. He tapped his fingertips on the table again, thoughtfully – looked at Gotou and in that moment looked more sad than anything else. “You sure about this?”
“No,” Gotou said, at the same time that Masayoshi said, emphatically, “Yes.”
“Don't say I didn't warn you,” other-Masayoshi murmured. He thumped that tail-tentacle-thing on the ground once and just like that, the room was empty.