Sebumi shaded his eyes against the sunlight as he stepped out of the building. The deep blue of the cloudless late autumn sky and the orange and red leaves of the trees that overlooked the path outside the police department seemed unusually intense, after the blue-tinged dim fluorescent lighting of the Unidentified Crimes Unit. He stalked over to a nearby bench, disturbing a flock of pigeons in his way, and sat down. He had brought his bento with him but did not feel hungry. He checked his watch. 1 PM. According to the rules, he only had a half-hour for lunch. Of course, Toma did whatever she wanted, and Chief Nonomura frequently disappeared for hours on dates, but he, Sebumi, knew how to be professional.
He stared at his bento. He still did not feel hungry. He opened the box, which contained some leftover yakisoba and half a korokke from the local conbini. Neither looked appetizing. In an impulsive gesture, he flung the food towards the pigeons who scuttled away, startled, before coming back and settling down to the feast.
He sensed rather than saw a shadow fall over him. "What a waste of food," drawled the familiar, oh-so-annoying voice. "You could've given it to me."
Sebumi just rolled his eyes and continued watching the pigeons squabble over the crumbs and noodles.
"Budge over," Toma commanded, poking him with her cast.
When he didn't respond, she sat down anyway and edged up close to him, until he could smell the garlic on her breath. He made a face as he turned away. "Do you ever brush your teeth?" he grumbled as he scooted down the bench.
Toma grinned but didn't respond. She rummaged in her suitcase and took out a styrofoam container, which contained--surprise, surprise--a truly obscene number of gyoza. In some ways, Toma was predictable in her eccentricities.
She crammed about three into her mouth without even taking out chopsticks. Yes, very predictable.
"Look at that one," she said, still chewing. "The other pigeons are avoiding it."
"Maybe it's diseased." The pigeon in question looked ordinary, no different from the rest of the flock, but the other birds left whenever it came to take its share of the food.
"It's getting more food."
"Maybe it has a SPEC," he said dryly. "Maybe it has some psychic power to repel other pigeons."
Toma turned to look at him, her mouth half-open. She tilted her head. "What a ridiculous idea," she said, and a piece of half-chewed gyoza hit him on his cheek.
He made a face as he brushed it off with a handkerchief. "Could you swallow before you speak? For once in your life?"
"Why bother?" She gestured at the pigeon. "It has the right idea."
"What, drive the others away to get more food?"
"So to speak."
"Well, it's not a very good strategy. That pigeon's also made itself an easy target."
"That's the idea." A slow smile spread on Toma's face. It made her look remote, abstracted, but also curiously intent, as if she was focusing very hard on something that no one else could see. Sebumi felt an odd twinge as he watched her. He'd seen that look before, on other detectives--on his own face even, if he caught himself in a mirror after a night spent on stakeout--but on Toma's face, it seemed more dangerous and more brittle at the same time. Inadvertently, he reached out and touched her, very lightly, on the shoulder.
She glanced at him, the smile fading, and swallowed.
He withdrew his hand and not knowing what to say, cleared his throat. "Oi. Give me one of those."
She immediately crouched over her food. "No! Get your own."
"I don't have any lunch."
"Whose fault is that? You're the one who scattered your lunch all over the ground."
"Well, I wasn't hungry then, and I'm hungry now. Come on, you can spare a couple. You must have at least thirty in there."
"Thirty-five. I ate fifteen," she said absently, then quickly crammed another two gyoza into her mouth.
Well, there was only one possible response to that. He made a lunge at the container in her lap.
She beat him about the head with the cast--what was in that thing to make it so heavy?--but he succeeded in grabbing a handful before upturning the container altogether.
Toma stared in dismay at the pavement. "Now look what you've done!" The pigeons were already starting to converge. She began shooing them away as she picked up the fallen gyoza from the ground.
"That's disgusting," he said. He took a tentative bite from one of the gyoza in his hand. It was lukewarm and a bit soggy, but much to his surprise, quite good in an odd sort of way. He munched on the rest as Toma squatted on the ground and yelled at the pigeons. The sun felt warm on his back, and the birds were making disgruntled coos at Toma's attempts to drive them away.
In the end, she sat back on the bench, defeated. The pigeons swarmed close to the bench, only temporarily stymied by Toma's half-hearted kicks if they ventured too near her feet.
"There goes my lunch break," she said. Her head drooped.
"It's 1:30. We need to get back to work."
She squinted up at him, her hair hanging over half her face. Like one of those ghosts from a horror movie. "I'm still hungry."
"Guess you were right. You get more food if the other birds avoid you."
She smirked and leaned back against the bench. "Not just food, you know."
He stood up. "Let's go. I'll buy you more."
"What?" For possibly the first time since he'd met her, Toma looked startled.
"Well, it was my fault that you lost your lunch. I'll buy you more. It's that dumpling place you always go to, right?"
She nodded, still looking surprised. He huffed and began walking to the sidewalk. A short moment later, he heard the clatter of wheels following behind him. "Wrong direction. It's that way, you dunce."
He scowled as he let her take the lead, rolling suitcase and all. It was 1:30 PM, and technically, he should be back at his desk, working. Technically, she was supposed to be too.
But after all, the gyoza was rather good. And he was, like Toma, still hungry.