Jigen parked their newest acquisition at the bottom of the hill from the police station and leaned against the upholstery. Plush.
“Is Lupin on his way?” said Goemon. He was sitting across from Jigen, looking around and touching the shiny surfaces. It was rare for him to be next to the driver’s seat and even rarer to be smoking in a car. Jigen smiled, glanced at his Rolex.
“They’re on their way,” said Jigen. Goemon nodded, taking a drag off the joint.
“You lit that not five minutes ago, and…” Jigen trailed off, resting a fist on the wheel. Goemon looked assessingly at the joint, then passed it to him.
They sat back, filling Zenigata’s swanky van with the earthy smoke. Goemon leaned even farther back between tokes, wriggling his narrow hips back and forth as if trying to find the best position. There was a low mechanical sound, then a whoosh, and suddenly the seat was moving, stretching back, taking Goemon with it. Until he was practically horizontal.
Jigen stared. Then he laughed, forgetting about the smoke in his mouth; choked for a second and laughed again. “Interpol’s shaggin wagon. Now I really have seen everything.”
Goemon decided to go with the flow, shucking off his slippers and drawing his feet up onto the seat. “It’s comfortable. I want to sleep.”
“Hopeless,” said Jigen. “We should’ve cleaned the basement out. This van is huge.”
Goemon reached out for another turn. He had absurdly long fingers. Tapering, even. Watching him grind weed and roll a joint was… pleasing. Aesthetically. They hadn’t really done this too many times. Jigen enjoyed it alone sometimes. It helped with some of the stubborn flares of pain in old scar tissue.
Last time Goemon hadn’t been with them, it was indoors, and Lupin almost set his sideburns on fire while trying to cook between smoke sessions.
On fire from the stove.
Goemon was rubbing his chest absently. Now it was Jigen’s turn to look around. He found a bottle of water slung behind the headrest. Twisting the cap open, he sniffed the contents. Definitely water. Jigen secured the cap back on and tossed the bottle to Goemon. “Slow down,” he said.
“Nn,” said Goemon.
Jigen’s mobile was vibrating. It felt pretty good where it was, deep inside a trouser pocket. He ran a hand through his hair, breathing a little deeper.
“It’s Lupin or Fujiko,” said Goemon. Jigen cursed, whipping his phone out.
“Jigen-chan, nice work,” Lupin howled into his ear. “Get the back doors open for us, will you?”
“Fuck you,” mumbled Jigen, and thumbed at the remote.
“You want the last hit?” said Goemon, as the doors rolled open, letting in a gust of sharp evening wind. Looking out for the motorcycle that was headed their way, Jigen reached out for the joint but found it pushed against his lips. Jigen turned to Goemon. The younger man was sitting up again. His chin was wet, and so was the small hollow between his collarbones. He’d spilled some of the water on himself.
Probably he was a little buzzed.
Jigen took his last hit, watching Goemon.
With a gusty roar the motorcycle jumped into the back of the van. That was Jigen’s cue. One engine died down with a terrific squeal, and overlapping that, the van’s engine purred into action.
He’d cleared out of the quiet neighbourhood, no sign of pursuing cops, and shifted into third gear when his other passengers emerged from the back. Fujiko was trying to fix a bad case of helmet hair and Lupin was sporting a faint bruise on his lower jaw.
“Aww, you guys started without me,” he whined. “Wait, you’re not stoned, are you? Lemme at the wheel!”
“We saved some for everyone,” said Jigen. “Even Pops.”
“But we just stole it from Pops,” said Goemon.
Lupin craned his neck to look at Goemon. “It’s weird when you call him Pops.”
“He’s old enough to be Pops,” said Goemon. He was frowning over a new bud, picking out stems. “So’s Jigen, but I can’t call him Pops.”
“How high is he,” said Lupin, and the little shit was smiling.
“You know,” said Jigen. “It’s hard to tell.”
They ended up being demoted to the back seat after all. Jigen wasn’t annoyed, because the interior of the van was so spacious. Or maybe it was partly because he was already so relaxed. Fujiko had to move Goemon manually, high ponytail bouncing as she shoved him on the seat next to Jigen, careful not to bang his knees on the tinted window.
“I’m not stoned,” said Goemon, but it was a feeble protest. He gave Fujiko a quick hug, which took her visibly by surprise.
“Does he get like this from weed all the time?” she said. “Cute.”
“I’m not stoned,” said Goemon, louder, and hid under his fringe. Jigen stretched his legs out, happy that there was room to do so.
“They can’t use this for arrests. It’s too… sexy.” Lupin was feeling up the van, irresistibly drawn by its curves. “Stakeouts, I think.”
“Sexy stakeouts?” said Fujiko, taking her gloves off.
“The only kind, baby.”
“Lupin, what happened to your jaw?” said Jigen.
“We had an adventure,” said Lupin, waving smoke out of his face.
“That’s what he said,” said Fujiko. “And I turned off all the surveillance cameras, by the way.”
Jigen opened his mouth, but it was Goemon who spoke up. “I haven’t had sex in six months.” He seemed to be talking to himself.
Lupin looked at Fujiko. Fujiko looked at Jigen. Jigen looked down at his hands, inspecting his cuticles. They’d gotten ragged. There was even a hangnail…
“Anyone want some music?” said Fujiko. They all did, and soon they were flying down the highway to the swampy, electronic, bass-heavy music oozing from the speakers. Jigen had no idea what or who it was, but it went well enough with the present mood. He had no cause for complaint. He took a swig from the water bottle and watched Goemon assemble another joint.
The roach went first. By the looks of it the next joint was going to be a fat one. Goemon procured some fine paper from inside his kimono and laid it flat on his lap. Slowly he began to lay the ground-up weed out on it.
“Tobacco or not tobacco?” said Goemon in English without looking up.
Jigen thought for a moment. “Why not, burns easier that way. But then I’m biased.”
Lupin gave a low whistle. “Nice, Goemon-chan.”
Jigen scoffed. “You can’t even see from there.”
“I mean the pun?”
Jigen blinked. It hadn’t been funny at all! Goemon’s lips were still a serious line, and he was totally engrossed in his task. A light dusting of tobacco went on top of the weed, and then he was rolling the paper around the precious cargo. With a few precise flicks of his fingers he packed the cylinder tight. Goemon held out his hand, palm turned up. Amused, Jigen gave him his lighter.
“Party time,” said Fujiko. “Lupin, I’m ditching you for the boys in the back.”
“Fujikoooo, how could you?” said Lupin, all mock indignation. But he was moving along to the music and his tie was draped over the back of his seat. “It’s like my middle name’s Uber… Can’t this wait until we get home?”
Fujiko levelled a look at him that Jigen didn’t feel like parsing. It made Lupin shut up, though.
Jigen unhooked his ankles and pressed himself along one side of the van as Fujiko climbed into the back. She noticed and rolled her eyes.
“Are you five? Girl cooties?”
But then she settled down on Goemon’s other side, the leather of her biker jacket squeaking against the van’s upholstery. The air between them smelled different, at once thicker and warmer. A woodsy, spicy scent that spiked above the lingering odour of the cannabis. Bold, unashamed. So bold. It made him remember things. Places.
“Fujiko,” said Jigen. “What is that cologne?”
“Guess,” said Fujiko, leaning against Goemon’s shoulder. “I’ll give you a year, though. Nineteen eighty-five.”
Jigen said nothing, but Fujiko seemed satisfied. He was mulling over his realisation that she changed perfumes more frequently than her hairdo. Her only signature was this changeability. Was there anything about her that wasn’t confusing?
Goemon held up the brand new spliff. “Two tokes and pass. So who wants to go first?”
“You do,” said Lupin, and started to climb over the driver’s seat to join them. Panic spiralled up in Jigen’s belly, even though Lupin had just thrown his hands up and was grinning. “Chill! I programmed it. It can run itself for a while. Shit, I don’t think I’ll return this one to Zaza.”
“You can’t trust computers so much,” said Jigen, trying not to let the worry show. “Don’t know about you, Lupin, but I’d prefer not to die so stupidly.”
Lupin’s chimp grin softened, his eyes glittering in the cool light. He perched himself on Goemon’s lap and twisted his torso around to take Jigen’s face in one hand, hooking a finger in the soft underside of his chin. Another mercurial shift, an almost melancholy look. Jigen shuddered. The bass was thumping under his ribs, so steady.
“I can think of stupider ways to die,” said Lupin, and kissed him.
His brain shut down for a while. The longest time. For a minute or two, tops. His mouth was too dry but Lupin fed him his saliva, licking along his upper teeth.
Then Lupin pulled away and took the spliff from Goemon, their hands brushing.
“Let’s try something,” said Lupin, and Jigen watched, sticky lips drying in the open air, as Goemon took a hit. His cheeks bulged as he held the smoke in place. The seconds ticked breathlessly by.
Lupin ducked down, tapping the side of Goemon’s face. Goemon released a creamy cloud of cooled smoke right into Lupin’s waiting mouth.
Jigen fidgeted. His clothes were feeling too tight, too abrasive. He prodded at the knot of his tie, frustrated by how difficult the simple action was. There was a hand on his knee, and he’d know those long fingers anywhere by the shape alone. Without hesitation he pushed his leg into that touch. Closed his eyes for a second.
He could almost taste the rush from the weed and tobacco, but he was good at being patient.
A soft noise made him open his eyes, and he found himself looking at Fujiko, who was shotgunning smoke into Goemon’s mouth. One of her legs was hiked over Goemon’s, her big leather boot pressing down on his thigh. Goemon obviously didn’t mind, he was too busy rubbing the nape of her neck.
“Damn, you guys are pretty,” said Lupin, sighing, and squeezed himself between Jigen and Goemon—getting maybe half of one skinny buttcheek on the seat. Jigen took the spliff from him, taking a good drag. “We should get home in ten.” If Jigen didn’t know better, he’d attribute the slight edginess to Lupin’s body language to the weed. But it was just as likely that it was all him.
It hit him, then. That out-of-time, out-of-space feeling. All the way to his bones. Jigen nearly moaned. Lupin had gotten his shirt unbuttoned down to the navel, and was running one hand over all the skin he could find. Jigen ended up closing his eyes once again, overwhelmed.
The noises were drowning out the van’s stereo totally. There was Fujiko’s voice, uninhibited, diving up from the depths. She sounded husky, close to guttural in her pleasure, nothing like he’d thought—not that he’d thought.
Meanwhile Goemon’s pitch had left his usual baritone for higher altitudes. He made soft, yelping sounds, as if punctuating something. It was so easy to visualise it.
This time when the spliff was passed to him, Jigen indulged, hoarding most of the payload, then using his tongue and lower jaw to push it out in tiny bursts. He cracked his eyes open to the sight of Lupin poking at the fat white rings of smoke. One wafted over to Goemon’s hair and disappeared.
“Gotta keep up with you crazy kids,” said Jigen, voice gone sandpapery. He wasn’t sure the words were coherent, but it was okay. Lupin was in multitasking mode, one hand ghosting over Jigen’s back, the other hand somewhere down Goemon’s hakama.
The kimono was bundled around Goemon’s waist and Fujiko had one arm over his shoulder in an oddly protective gesture. He was arching off the seat, still yelping rhythmically.
So much for that six-month abstinence record, thought Jigen. His own arousal simmered low but reassuring. He tilted into Lupin for another kiss.
Lupin shook his head.
“What?” said Jigen, laughing. Lupin snorted smoke through the sides of his mouth and his nostrils. “Show-off.”
“Fujiko’s stayin’ over tonight,” said Lupin.
That’s not what he was about to say.
“What, she needs my permission?” It was Goemon’s hand inside her pants now, and a passing car cast a faint red glow over the side of her face Jigen could see.
With a shock he realised she’d just looked right at him. One heavy-lidded eye, still alert.
“Ahh,” said Lupin, sounding smug. “Ahhhhh.”
“Lupin… Why isn’t Zenigata after us right now?” He was sweating, thinking too much. Not thinking much at all.
“Ah,” said Lupin.
“I hope there’s food in the fridge or something,” said Lupin, dropping his head against Jigen’s shoulder.
The road was so smooth, and the spliff was vanishing. Jigen adjusted himself, determined to make it back to their latest dump of a hideout—that Lupin so sweetly called home—in one piece.
Then Fujiko groaned, a sound so loud and deep that it penetrated the haze around Jigen, sneaking under his skin. Lupin reacted immediately, as through some invisible connection, convulsively throwing his head back. Jigen wiped the sweat off Lupin’s forehead, kept his hand in his hair.
“Lupin, you just…”
“Yeah,” said Lupin, shivering. Jigen’s hand slipped to his shoulder, and Lupin turned to Goemon this time, lazily biting at the younger man’s neck.
You could cut the atmosphere inside the van with a knife.
“Goemon, your mouth,” said Fujiko. “Use your mouth.”
“Guys,” said Lupin, weakly. “Guys, please. A-almost there. And we should eat first. And I mean food. Heh.”
Jigen now focused on the job at hand: he had the honour of finishing the spliff. He put his hat back on for it. Very little had happened, but he had the sinking feeling he’d remember this evening for a long time, the quick burn and the slow one.
Somehow Fujiko was fully dressed again and in the passenger seat before he could blink. Jigen had forgotten about the music, and it was her switching it off that reminded him. Suddenly the confines of the van seemed oppressive.
Strange. Cannabis didn’t tend to make him paranoid.
Lupin was rubber-legged, playing with something under the driver’s seat. Neither she nor Lupin had bothered to put Goemon back together.
“Goemon-chan, if you’d please,” said Lupin, eyes roving down Goemon’s torso. He was holding something out to the swordsman.
It was so surreal, it was like something out of a movie. A plot twist, not a gut punch.
Goemon lifted and unsheathed Zantetsu, and looked calmly at the object. He sliced through one of the exposed wires with just the tip of the blade. “There,” he said. “A pocket knife would have sufficed.”
“You have no sense of ceremony today, Goemon,” said Lupin. “I’m disappointed.” He giggled, popping the disabled bomb into a box.
“I told Zenigata,” said Fujiko, looking up from her phone. “He’ll buy us dinner.”
“Cheap bastard. Dinner, a yacht, and a lap dance or bust.” Lupin pulled out a pack of Gitanes. “Whew. That’s done.” There it was, the line of his shoulders loosening. The line of his back.
“Lupin, why didn’t you tell me? Either of you?” He was piecing it together, step by step. The delay. The silent, heavy looks he’d thought were about something else. Zenigata’s unusual… reticence when they made their escape.
Had it been in the van all this time? Had Lupin and Fujiko brought it with them?
“I’ll tell you when we get home, okay? Was my idea. And I improvised.”
Goemon was half-standing, stuffing his arms back inside his kimono. “They didn’t tell me either,” he said. He winced slightly. “Well, until about ten minutes back.”
“And you’re—” started Jigen. Thinking, I’m never touching weed again for the rest of my goddamn life.
Goemon tipped his hat back with one finger. “You were right, it would have been a stupid way to die.”
Jigen kissed him on the corner of his kiss-bruised lips.
The van lurched under them, but Goemon just sat down with poise. He smelled of the weed and the tobacco and Fujiko’s saliva and Lupin’s sweat and his own sandalwood smell. Jigen wanted all of it.
He only hated feeling like a fool. He was trying to work his way up to anger.
But under everything, a fit of laughter brewing. After all wasn’t it just like them?
“Next time we do this, we gotta invite Pops,” said Lupin, switching to manual. “Man, there’s a guy who could use some relaxing. What d’you think, Fujicakes?” Lupin ran a finger down the outside of her arm. She flipped her hand, gripping him by the wrist. Lupin’s throat fluttered.
“Well, if four’s not a crowd, would five be?” said Fujiko, parking her feet on the dashboard. She’d snagged one of Lupin’s cigarettes.
“You two,” said Jigen. “Are a handful.” And he drank some more water.
“I’m just used to Jigen being the oldest guy in the room,” said Fujiko, with perfect timing. The water ended up all over his shirt. Goemon nudged him aside, checking his hair in the rearview mirror. They were nearly home.
Jigen shook his head, and she blew him a kiss.