Hide resisted the urge to draw images in the condensation on the inside of Anteiku’s windows with great difficulty. It was dark, it was freezing (but the weather didn’t have the mercy to be cold enough for snow, so the downpour outside this nice, warm little cafe felt like taking an icy shower), and the steam from the coffee in Anteiku was fogging up the windows so much that Hide couldn’t see outside.
Which, to be honest, made him a little nervous. Not that he would ever tell anyone that. Because then they might think he was still too jumpy to go out and do work in the field again, and he would be stuck doing desk work for eternity.
He stared despondently at the pile of papers he had on the little table in front of him. He probably shouldn’t be working on case files outside the office, confidential information and all, but if he had to listen to one more argument about their shitty wi-fi while drinking their even shittier coffee he was going to lose his goddamn mind.
Besides, no one was looking. He was fine.
The shadows of people walking by the cafe on the street unnerved him.And he once again resisted the urge to nervously draw images on the windows. He was trying to prove he was a serious detective, and serious detectives did not draw smiley faces on cafe windows.
Another cup of coffee was placed in front of him, and Hide nearly jumped out of his seat.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you!” The waiter said apologetically.
“You didn’t,” Hide grumbled, feeling ashamed of himself.
“I just thought that you looked like you needed another cup,” the waiter laughed gently. “You were frowning pretty intensely at your work.”
Hide hastily moved the papers to make sure the waiter couldn’t see anything. “Maybe you’re right about that one.” Suddenly, Hide realized that he had never seen this waiter before. He had pretty carefully observed each staff member the first few weeks he had come here, playing off his investigation as overly friendly banter, and the idea of someone he didn’t recognize sneaking up behind him while he looked at important files was more than a little disconcerting.
Though a small voice in the back of his head told him he was being paranoid. He was being brought coffee in coffee shop, what did he expect-
“Is something the matter?” The waiter asked, and Hide was snapped out of his reverie enough to finally give him a good look.
“N-no?” Hide said, with a forced smile. “Just surprised me, I guess?”
“Sorry,” the waiter laughed. “I’ve been told I have a bad habit of sneaking up on people, I guess I walk too quietly?”
Hide’s intention had been to quickly memorize the waiter’s features and then try to get a general impression of his trustworthiness (not an impossible feat, if you knew what to look for, and Hide’s intuition had almost never steered him wrong), but his brain seemed to have short circuited because all he was learning was that the waiter was very cute.
He was average height and build, on first glance anyway. But his sleeves were rolled up, revealing very muscular arms (Hide wondered what he did when he wasn’t a waiter, did he just work out a lot? He had a softness to him that didn’t suggest physical work). He had something of a baby face, which made it harder than Hide would have liked to guess his age. He supposed somewhere around his own age, he was probably older than he looked. His was also smiling in a pleasantly bemused sort of way. His hair was probably his most striking feature. The ends were pure white, slowly darkening to gray before it finally went black at the roots. Hide was very familiar with what bleach did to one’s hair, and he could tell that the waiter’s hair was natural. Why would he leave it like that? Surely it attracted unwanted attention? Couldn’t he dye it all black or cut it short until it came in again?
(Though the effect of his slightly brittle white hair with his healthier dark hair gave his hair a curliness which Hide admittedly found endearing).
It was his eyes that made Hide’s heart skip a bit, though. They were a light grey, an extremely unusual eye colour. The colour of an overcast sky. It gave the waiter a distinct look, as though he was permanently lost in thought. It was such a rare eye colour that, Hide thought, he should have never seen it on anyone before, except-
He felt like he had seen it, somewhere - on someone - before.
Hide realized with a start that he hadn’t actually looked at the waiter’s name tag and was mentally kicking himself. That should have been the first thing he looked at, normally it would have been. Maybe he was really losing his touch, was he so lonely that he would be so easily distracted by a pretty face?
The honest answer was “yes”, but Hide chose not to think about it.
He glanced at the name tag Sasaki-
“-Haise?” Hide realized too late that he had spoken the odd name out loud.
“Yes,” Haise said with a wry smile. “You’re not the first person who’s found it odd.”
Hide went a little pink. “Sorry. It’s just not a name I’ve ever heard before. It’s nice though.”
“Thanks, I picked it myself,” Haise winked at him, and Hide was sure it was supposed to be a joke, but could have sworn a bit of a shadow had crossed Haise’s face as he said it.
But that was stupid.
“The coffee is on the house, if that’s what you’re worried about?”
“What?” Hide said. “No, you don’t have to do that. Why would you-?”
“I’ve seen you the last few weeks, you come here all the time and you seem stressed about, well, whatever this is,” he gestured at the papers on the table. “But today you seem even more stressed out than usual.”
“Yeah, well- wait what?” Hide said. “How have you seen me here for weeks? I’ve never seen you before now.”
Haise quirked his eyebrow, clearly noticing the hostile edge to Hide’s voice. Hide was instantly ashamed but he couldn’t take it back. And, again, he thought he saw a dark look on Haise’s face that was gone in an instant.
“I’m the manager here,” Haise said with a smile, just a little forced. “Well, assistant manager anyway, but I’m sort of being trained to take over so more or less the manager.” Haise paused. “Um, you probably aren’t interested in my work politics.” (Hide was). “The point is, I’m here all the time, but usually in the back. I keep an eye on things but don’t generally come up to the front unless a bunch of people suddenly have very important things they need to ditch work for.” He rolled his eyes and Hide laughed.
“Sorry,” Hide said. “I didn’t mean to imply I thought you were being creepy. I’m just a naturally nosy person.”
This got a laugh out of Haise too. His laugh was cute. And Hide really needed to get his shit together because he normally didn’t get so attracted to people immediately after meeting them. He really must be lonelier than he had thought. He should get himself a fish. That would occupy his time.
“A dangerous trait to have,” Haise said.
“I prefer to think it brings excitement to my life.”
“I’m sure it does,” Haise said. Just then there was distant sound of shattering glass from back room and Haise sighed heavily.
“It appears that things have fallen apart during my five-minute absence, so I should probably head back.”
Hide smiled. “Well, thanks for the coffee. I appreciate it.”
“No problem, let me know if you need anything else.”
Haise turned back and Hide got a nice view of his ass, which was very nicely accentuated by his pinstriped pants.
Hide resisted the urge to groan out loud. Pinstriped pants did not have the right to be sexy. He was falling apart.
He turned resolutely back to his coffee and his papers. Focus, Hide. Be a detective.
But he had a hard time letting go of the odd feeling that had settled in his stomach. He couldn’t shake the idea that Haise was familiar, that he had seen him somewhere before.
And, despite Haise’s claim that he kept an eye on things in general, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it seemed Haise had been keeping a very close eye on him since he had started coming to Anteiku.
As much as Hide hated paperwork, he was trying to put his best effort into typing up notes on cases other people had solved and organizing them. He always got through the mountain of papers on his desk in record time, and the idea had been to show everyone that paperwork was too easy for him and he should really be out in the field.
But considering it had been three years, he wasn’t sure his strategy was working.
Amon came and neatly placed some papers on his desk. Hide liked Amon, for one thing, he always made sure Hide was aware of his presence before he put things on his desk (unlike everyone else, who just tossed things at him and took his jumpiness as a sign he wasn’t ready- didn’t they know they were being rude?).
“Nagachika,” Amon said pleasantly. “You seem busy.”
“Nope!” Hide threw another folder into the “Done” pile. “Do you have anything interesting for me?”
“Not particularly,” Amon said, dashing Hide’s hopes. “There was a break and enter, but it turned out the woman was just trying to take her dog’s favourite toy back from her ex’s apartment.” Amon tried to grin but Hide glared at him.
“I know you have better stuff than that.” They had rehashed this argument a thousand times.
“And it doesn’t matter, because all you’re doing is making sure everything is in the right order,” Amon said evenly.
“If I’m going to be stuck here reading all day, you could at least give me something fun.”
“You just get what we need done,” Amon avoided looking at Hide’s face and he didn’t need to be a detective to know he was lying. It seemed highly improbable that he would get stuck with all these files day in and day out and still get nothing related to the case that had put him out of commission in the first place. He knew they were still working on cases that seemed to be connected to it.
But Hide couldn’t say that, because that would be admitting that he had ways of finding out what they were working on when he really wasn’t supposed to.
“And one more thing,” Amon added. “Marude has told me to inform you to stop giving advice to the investigators when you read their unsolved cases.”
Hide wanted to say he only did that because they were useless and couldn’t put two and two together, but saying that would probably get him on the bad side of the very people he needed to give him his job back. So he bit his tongue, and turned to the pile of papers in front of him. Jokingly, he said. “You’re wasting my talents here!”
He was expecting Amon to make some sort of joke at his expense, but when Hide glanced up, Amon looked sad. He looked as if he wanted to say “I know”.
Hide blatantly refused to bring any work home with him that night. It wasn’t getting him anywhere, he might as well start putting in exactly the amount of care they were giving him.
He wasn’t normally so pessimistic, but he had just about had it. The pitying look Amon had given him was the final straw. Everyone knew he was better than this, that he deserved more than this. But he was still never going to get it, because everyone thought he was broken because of a mistake from years ago.
He should have gone straight home, but habit brought him to the little coffee shop before he had even realized it. He sat in a corner seat by the window because it gave the front counter the worst view, and the idea that that manager had been watching him this whole time still freaked him out for reasons he couldn’t name, even though he was sure it was benign.
It also meant that Hide could clearly see when the manager saw him while serving another customer, looked surprised, and headed over to his table as soon as he was done with the other person.
“And here I was thinking you had found another coffee shop,” Haise said with a laugh. Hide wasn’t sure if he should like that the man had clearly been looking for him, but he had to admit he felt a bit of a flush of pleasure at the thought his absence would be noted by someone.
Though he would only be missed by the manager of a coffee shop he always visited alone.
“Do you really think I would cheat on you like that?” Hide said the words before he thought of them, and even he could admit it was a bad habit for someone trying to be a detective again. Haise blinked and Hide felt himself flush again, this time from embarrassment.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Haise said.
Hide didn’t know what to make of it.
“Your usual?” Haise said.
“Yeah,” Hide had never ordered from Haise, and he wondered if he had really memorized his order from observing him.
Maybe he just asked his baristas, like a normal person would. Hide had no idea why he kept thinking the worst of a random coffee shop worker.
Haise rubbed the back of his head, looking a little sheepish. “To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I thought you weren’t coming tonight. I was going have your favourite ready for you and everything.”
Hide instantly felt even worse for thinking Haise was creepy.
“That’s nice of you.” Then, worried he sounded sarcastic, he said, “Really”.
Haise smiled and went to prepare Hide’s coffee. He was back a few minutes later with Hide’s favourite coffee prepared. He set it down in front of Hide, and instead of leaving immediately, he stood around, looking oddly like he wanted to say something.
At Hide’s inquisitive look, Haise said, “Um, I guess work is going well?”
“Just… you don’t have papers for the first time.”
Hide blinked. “Oh. No, I just realized my work and my life are pointless.”
Haise looked taken aback but tried to recover into a pleasant customer service disposition. Hide had to fight back a laugh.
“Oh, well- I’m sure it’s not-”
“It is! But it’s okay,” Hide said. “The sooner I accept it the sooner I can move on with my life.” He was mostly just teasing Haise at this point, but there was a hint of truth to it.
“Don’t say that!” Haise said. “I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working. You shouldn’t just give up!”
It was Hide’s turn to be taken aback. He suddenly felt embarrassed that he had whined about his work to this complete stranger. He glanced at the window so he wouldn’t have to look at Haise, but saw that the darkness made it impossible to see outside. He could see himself and Haise reflected in the glass, nothing else around them but complete blackness.
“Your life can’t be more pointless than mine,” Haise said, with a bitter laugh.
Hide snapped back to reality and gave Haise a look.
“I-it was a joke,” Haise said with a laugh, reaching up to touch his chin in an odd gesture. Hide narrowed his eyes.
“Sorry,” Haise said. “I’m probably just bothering you when you’re trying to drink your coffee in peace I’m just… going to go.”
Haise moved to shuffle away awkwardly. Hide felt bad for making Haise feel uncomfortable, so he added weakly to Haise’s retreating back “Thanks for… remembering my coffee order.”
He didn’t receive a response. Hide didn’t blame him. That was a weird thing to say.
Hide looked out the window, staring at his own reflection sitting in the darkness, now alone.
He hadn’t lingered too long in Anteiku. He drank his coffee quickly and when he paid he looked around for Haise so that he could wave goodbye, but didn’t see him anywhere.
He must be hiding in the back , Hide thought, though he had no idea why the thought of Haise hiding from him bothered him so much, or why he even bothered to want to say goodbye to him.
On the train ride home, Hide briefly considered that he should find another coffee shop. It’s not like they were in short supply, he didn’t have to keep going to the one with Haise and his watching him without Hide knowing it and his awkward conversation-
But he was supposed to have let the whole “watching him” thing go.
He paused in looking up local coffee shops on his phone and sighed. He knew he wasn’t going to find another shop. Anteiku was nice, out of the way, not too loud. And, though Hide would not admit it to himself, he was intrigued by Haise. He wanted to see him again. He wanted to know more about him.
The train sped Hide on his way home, and Hide suddenly felt the exhaustion of the day creep up on him. The rocking of the train almost made him fall asleep, and he fought to keep his eyes open.
When he got home he decided to skip dinner and just crawl into bed. He wasn’t hungry anyway.
Despite how exhausted he felt when he got into bed, he tossed and turned all night. Though this wasn’t unusual. He almost always woke up with his sheets tangled around him, feeling just as tired when he woke up as when he had fallen asleep.
His dreams where shadowy and indistinct. Yet he always remembered them when he woke up.
A young man in front of him, his face hidden as it had been for the last three years. Wearing a mask that covered one eye, showing fake teeth. In his dreams, Hide was sure his mask was his real face.
Sometimes he dreams about what had actually happened. Out of ammo and cornered and sure he was going to die, Hide makes a desperate move and strikes his opponent on the side of his head with his gun. The moment seems suspended in time, as the light goes out of his opponent’s eyes and he falls-
And sometimes he dreams about the things he should have done. He allows himself to get shot, so that he wouldn’t become a killer. He reaches out, and grabs the man by his black shirt before he can fall. He does anything else.
No matter what he dreams about, he wakes with a start, covered in sweat. And it always takes him a moment to realize he’s safe in his bed.