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Keep Company

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Ryotaro Dojima knows better than anyone that Inaba is a small town, the kind where the rhythm of daily life is unfailingly preserved. Inaba is the kind of town that drives men from the city mad with boredom, and Dojima knows this every time he sees Adachi, sees the discontent in his eyes and his too tight grip on the coffee he purposely makes wrong.

His new partner is from the city, and he carries the madness of the city with him, young and overly eager for cheap thrills and rushes of adrenaline, for the power high that comes after confrontations that can't be found in a peaceful town like Inaba. Adachi’s smile reveals too much teeth, and his movements are too fast, too disjointed for him to fit in amongst the residents.

His deliberate incompetence frustrates Dojima; Adachi loses files, drops papers onto the floor, spills coffee on his desk, gets street names and stores wrong. Adachi is perfectly happy to act like a rookie, to bumble his way through cases and find excuses to slack off at Junes. Dojima has seen his file; he knows Adachi isn't the useless fool he pretends to be, that his transfer to Inaba has made him bitter and reluctant to try.

For lack of anything better to do, he takes Adachi drinking as often as he can. It’s for Adachi’s sake, so he can get used to Inaba, he tells himself, but when he drinks, he doesn’t have to think about Chisato’s too-soon death or Nanako at home waiting for an absent father.

 


 

 Sometimes Dojima drinks too much and before he knows it, the room is spinning and he’s leaning on Adachi’s shoulders. Rarely is Adachi the one drunk, but when he is, Dojima drags him back to his home on the other side of town.

Adachi sways when he crosses the threshold of his apartment. His grip on Dojima’s tie is too tight, his eyes too wide and far too hopeful.

The AC is on, and the room is cold when Dojima pushes him away and leaves.

He makes excuses to no one in particular; they’re drunk, there was no reason to stay, it's a long drive back, they'll see each other at work, he needs to go home to Nanako. His excuses feel brittle and flimsy, and his knuckles are white as he grips the steering wheel.

The drive back home is cold too.

 


 

He comes home every night to cars. There are papers on the table, and they contain cars from every country, cars of every shape and size, cars of every colour and make. But never the car that will bring him closure.

Even when his eyelids become heavy, when his hands shake with exhaustion, Dojima sits at the table sifting over old files, police reports, records stained by rings of coffee. Words blur into each other and names are forgotten as quickly as they’re read. The Junes theme plays in the background, occasionally accompanied by the cracking of thunder and the sound of rain. Dojima doesn't dare to look in the direction of his daughter, sitting by the TV alone.

The doorbell rings. He hears the sound of footsteps and the door opening.

Nanako's voice calls out, “Dad, Adachi-san's here.”

Adachi steps inside, sheds his raincoat, and says, “Sorry for dropping in, Dojima-san. It’s storming outside, and my bus got delayed. Your house was close by, and I'd rather not get hit by lightning, you know? I'm already soaked to the bone as it is, heheh…”

“It’s fine,” Dojima tells him. “You can wait for your bus here.”

Adachi laughs. “Thanks, sir! It’ll just be for a short while. I'll keep an eye on the clock, be out of your hair as soon as the bus comes,” he says.

Adachi settles on the couch to watch the TV with Nanako, and Dojima resumes his work. He can hear their comments on whatever show’s playing, can hear them singing the Junes theme, can hear Nanako's delight as Adachi shows her a magic trick, and it makes the house feel less empty than if it were only him and Nanako.

 


 

 “I'll be leaving now,” Adachi sets a coffee mug on the table next to Dojima.

“Thanks for letting me stay! See you, Dojima-san, Nanako-chan,” Adachi says as he lets himself out, the door opening and closing quietly.

Dojima takes a sip, and the coffee's been made perfectly.

 


 

It’s when he’s getting dressed one morning that Dojima notices his old tie, hanging bright red in the back of his closet. The colour reminds him of Adachi, and he hasn’t worn it in years, so he takes the tie with him to the police station.

“For me?!” Adachi’s eyes are wide as he stares at the tie in his hands.

“You never wear a tie,” Dojima states, rubbing the back of his neck. “And I don’t know how it’s like in the city, but around here, we police have to look proper.”

“Wow… Thank you, Dojima-san!” Adachi grins. “You don’t mind if I put it on right now, do you?”

“I’ll do it for you,” Dojima drapes the tie around Adachi’s neck and carefully knots it. When he finishes, Adachi’s smiling a genuine smile.

The rest of the workday passes with a pleasant atmosphere.

 


 

Adachi’s wearing the tie Dojima gave to him when he reaches over and lights Dojima’s cigarette.

“I thought you didn’t smoke,” Dojima comments.

“I don’t,” Adachi says, pocketing the lighter. “But you do.”

Their eyes meet and when did they get so close, Dojima wonders as the cigarette drops from his mouth.

 


 

There’s a new mug in his home. It’s red, and it stands amongst his own, Nanako’s, and Chisato’s.

There’s a space in Dojima’s heart, close to Nanako’s and Chisato’s, that’s been filled by a young detective with unruly hair and a red tie.

 


 

Adachi’s beside him, and it’s warm when he wakes up.