“You loved my Daddy, huh?”
Mizuki is sitting in the back of the PSYNC control room, scribbling away in her workbook while she’s waiting for Date to finish psyncing with someone, a random crook they had suddenly called him in to probe while he was taking her home from school. She’s working on her English homework, and it’s a breeze, since she picked up some phrases in the exercise from an action movie she watched recently, but, still, it gives her an excuse to not look up at the person she’s directing the question to— the grey-haired, strangely dressed man in front of the monitors, carefully watching Date’s (technically, Aiba’s) every move in the subject’s Somnium.
At first, he twitches at her question, but then doesn’t reply. Mizuki thinks for a second that maybe he didn’t hear her, but then, she sees him click a few buttons and lower the volume of whatever’s blaring out of the screen in front of him— the sound of Aiba and Date bickering at each other, something about how he’s making her do something stupid— until it’s a low hum.
“What did you say, Mizuki?” He asks.
Mizuki continues her writing, nonchalantly. From where she’s seated by the exit, she can only see his back, but she notices it’s stiffened. “I said, ‘you loved my Daddy, huh?’” She repeats herself.
“Where did you hear that from?”
She shrugs. “Mama told me and Date a while ago that Daddy got a watch from his lover, when we were still investigating the New Cyclops Serial Killings,” she says, and then doesn’t like the weirdness behind the word lover, but doesn’t know any other way to phrase it. She would say boyfriend, but Mama never specified the gender, and she didn’t want to put her in the hot seat. “And then, Date told me today during breakfast that you gave him the watch.”
It was a strange thing. The identity of her father’s partner is something Mizuki dwelled on quite a bit since his death— he had never told her about them, and she had only found out he had one after he had been killed. She wanted to know more about them, to connect over the loss they shared, but she never had the courage to ask Mama their identity, and she didn’t think Date knew anything of them, either. So, for the past couple of months, she kept silent about the matter, mulling over the mystery person in her head.
That was, until, this morning, when Date had complained about his coworkers working him to the bone. It was his usual speech, groaning about how he didn’t have any alone time, how Boss had yelled at him for wasting his paycheck at the cabaret club, how Aiba made fun of him when he woke up that morning, and so on. But when he got to a certain person, he said something interesting.
“He’s always making me stick around to do things in Somnium… I wish Pewter would do something nice for me for a change. Give me a watch like he gave Renju,” he had said, shoveling cereal in his mouth angrily. “That’s got different connotations, I know, but still. I want something!”
Mizuki was washing her dish at the time, only half listening at his stupidity, but she honed in on her father’s name like a hawk. She almost dropped the plate as she ran over to question him about his claim. However, once she started pressing him, Date seemed just as clueless as her— he assured her his information was right, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember how he knew it was right.
It was certainly a strange thing.
...She can tell that Pewter thinks that, too.
He turns his head slightly, just barely looking at her through his right eye. “Are you disgusted?” He asks. No real emotion, just the same weird mad scientist attitude he always put on. She thinks it makes him seem like a cartoon character. In the background, Mizuki can faintly hear the sound of Aiba break something, and a shattered glass appears on the monitor in front of Pewter. Date scolds her like she’s a child, prompting her to yell at him, since he was the one that told her to break it in the first place.
She shrugs again. “Nah. I don’t have a problem with gay people,” Mizuki says frankly. Now she’s having a hard time focusing on her homework, so she closes the workbook and puts it back in her school bag, feeling Pewter watch her the entire time. “There’s a guy in my class who’s dating another guy in my grade. And a lot of Iris’s big fans are girls that have huge crushes on her, too. It’s normal.”
“I see,” he nods. Some of the tension releases from his shoulders.
When Mizuki buttons her bag shut, she shifts slightly in her seat, then leans back so she can look Pewter in the eye, initiating a staring contest unwittingly. “I just wish Daddy or you would have told me,” she says. “I thought it was crummy to learn about that stuff through someone else.”
Pewter doesn’t back down from their stare off. In fact, he only turns to face her, but not before glancing at his watch to make sure he has time. It’s been a minute since Date entered Somnium, so he can chat for a bit.
“Not everyone thinks like you, Mizuki,” he says. “Your father ran an extremely large company— he was a well known name, but not well known enough to let him get away with everything he wanted. He had to abide by society’s norms. If he didn’t, it would spell disaster for his reputation.”
“So he had to hide you, even from me?” Mizuki notices that question comes off far more bitter than she intends, but she can’t help it. It makes her upset how she was never really consulted about this. “That’s not fair. I wouldn’t have been mean about it!”
“I don’t think he was hiding me from you because he thought you wouldn’t accept him,” Pewter corrects her. “I think he thought it would be cruel to you.” There’s a soft, sad look in his eyes that tells her he’s had this discussion before— with her father on the other end, instead of her.
“What do you mean…?”
He begins to ascend the staircase between them. There’s a few thoughts in Mizuki’s mind— how close has she gotten to this guy before? Can he just leave Date and Aiba be like that, since it’s his job to watch over them in Somnium? Also, how close does Pewter think he’s gonna get, anyways?
She at least gets the last answer when he stops in front of her, kneeling so he meets her height. She subconsciously scooches back in her chair, because she feels like he’s just a bit too close for comfort, but Pewter doesn’t put his hand on her or try to touch her to establish some kind of connection. He keeps an invisible wall between the two of them like he does with everyone in ABIS.
“Renju would get drunk and get all emotional on me, and whenever he did, he’d always talk about you.” Pewter says. “He told me that he thought… Well, on top of being insecure with his own sexuality, that if you were to find out he had a lover, it would be like he was betraying you. ‘She would think I’m choosing to be with someone else instead of her, abandoning her, when it’s nothing like that,’ he’d say.”
Mizuki thinks on that.
“I think that’s stupid.”
And she does. Because maybe she would have been a little jealous at first, but she would never think he would betray her, either. If she knew that her father was happy, then that would make her happy, too. The fact that he thought she was so emotionally immature like that made her mad! If he were alive right now, she would probably yell at him.
Pewter gives a dry smile. “I told him similarly. But he didn’t seem to take my word on it.” He sighs, then, and it’s a sigh that Mizuki can practically feel the weight of. “He crumbled under the ideas of what society wanted from him as a company president, as a father, and as a man— so he hid away parts of himself to save the little face he had left.”
“That’s stupid.” Mizuki repeats. “It’s stupid. If you can’t be yourself, what’s the point in being alive?”
“That may be how you see things. But Renju wasn’t strong enough to follow in your thoughts.”
“Well, why didn’t you tell me anything?”
”...I didn’t know you knew anything. I thought it would only complicate things to tell you about our relationship.”
Mizuki shakes her head. “Stupid…” It’s the only thing she can say, because she doesn’t know what else to say now. It’s not like her father is here for her to yell at, and it’s not like Pewter can change the past. So all she can do is just be bitter and upset in the present. He seems to understand that, because he doesn’t try to correct her after, or try to change her mind, either.
There’s a silence between the two— briefly interrupted by Pewter pressing the side of his ear to say, “Four minutes left, Date,” followed by an explicative from Date coming from the main monitor, but then there’s silence again.
“Did you tell Daddy you did all of this?” Mizuki gestures to the room. If he did, she could see where he took some inspiration from for one of Lemniscate’s idols— a girl she couldn’t remember the name of whose gimmick was supposed to be that she was a cybernetic singer from the future. The PSYNC control room alone had enough sci-fi atmosphere to power an entire idol group backstory.
“Oh, no,” Pewter shakes his head. “I told him I was part of the MPD, but that was it. Strangely enough, he didn’t believe me at first.” He adjusts his visor, and in a brief, rare moment, Mizuki completely understands her father— Pewter dresses in such a weird way, it’s like he’s a cosplayer or something. Was that his type? “After all, Date didn’t tell you about any of this until he had to psync with you, right? And you had lived with him for four years up until that point.”
“Oh, yeah…” Mizuki nods. Part of her wishes that Date would have told her about all of this before, because it was way cooler than what she assumed he did— giving out parking tickets and stopping hooligans from vandalizing storefronts, classic police officer things. Going into someone’s mind was much more interesting, and there were way more fun stories from that than the ones Date would make up and tell her at dinner.
“Aiba, you see that shoe? Can you throw it at that window?” Mizuki suddenly overhears Date ask on the monitor, and she peeks over Pewter’s head just right to see Aiba chuck a boot at the glass in front of her, only to have it bounce back and smack her in the face. While Date bursts out laughing, Aiba rolls on the ground in pain.
“Wow, they’re dumb,” Mizuki marvels.
“That they are,” Pewter agrees, not even bothering to turn his head to see the scene she was looking at.
Seeing Date and Aiba working makes her think. “...I wonder what Daddy’s Somnium would have been like.”
“Probably Lemniscate. He spent so much time there, it would be hard to imagine another place.”
“Would you be there, or would I? Since people can show up.”
“Perhaps we both would be.”
“...Huh. Maybe he’d imagine us battling it out for his love!”
Pewter seems a bit distraught by that, and leans back slightly. “I… don’t think that’s likely.”
Mizuki grins at his apprehension. “You’re saying that because I’d totally win. You’re as skinny as a twig! I could snap you in half.” She doesn’t even have to give him a once over— she knows she can do it just from how he’s cowering.
But then she stops herself. “...Daddy probably wouldn’t want me to do that, though, so I guess I shouldn’t.”
Pewter nods, then stands back up, finger to earpiece, “Three minutes, Date. Pull it together, please,” and then begins to return back to his work station. It seems like their conversation is over now, but Mizuki doesn’t want it to be, yet. She wants to know more stories about her father, get to understand him more, maybe even learn something about Pewter outside the fact that the PSYNC control room had a shelf dedicated to his BL manga. But she doesn’t know how to stop him, or even what to open with.
So, in the spur of the moment, when he’s just about to descend the staircase back to the pit, she calls after him. “Hey, did you want to marry Daddy?”
He’s gripping the handrail very tightly now.
“...Yes. I did,” he admits.
That’s interesting to Mizuki, at least.
“Where would you wanna get married? America?”
“Maybe. We were both dragging our heels hoping that legislation in Japan would change its mind first,” Pewter says, vaguely hinting that both him and her father had spoken on the situation. There’s a long pause, then, and when he speaks again, he continues descending the staircase. “I had bought a ring, you know. But that same day, Renju showed up with a ring for me, too, out of sheer coincidence. Of course, it wasn’t like we were going to get married then and there, but they were like… a proof of promise.”
Mizuki narrows her eyes. “So you guys did all of that, and I STILL didn’t know?”
“If Renju had more time, I think he might have… would have told you,” Pewter says quickly. His back is turned to her once again, so she can’t see his face, but she’s kind of glad for it— there’s a pain in his voice that clearly tells her how sad he is about the situation.
Maybe he was never given the time to mourn like she was, Mizuki thinks. If his relationship with her father remained such a secret, why would he have been?
“...And then I’d have three dads,” Mizuki counted on her fingers once the thought hit her. “Daddy, Date, kinda sorta, and you.”
“You don’t have to say that,” Pewter shakes his head. “You shouldn’t say that. We aren’t blood related. Giving me a title in some hypothetical world where we wed isn’t right.”
The sound of Date cursing again. He makes a pretty bad father figure, when you really stop to think about it, but Mizuki can’t see him in any other light after everything that’s happened. Of course, there’s no way she’d ever tell that to his face, but at least Pewter doesn’t seem like he’d rat her out to him. Mizuki points to the monitor, even though she knows Pewter isn’t looking her way. “If I can think of that loser pervert as family without the blood relation, then I should have been able to do the same for you,” she says plainly.
She pauses for a beat.
“Daddy would have been fine with it, I bet.”
Pewter ducks his head. “...P-Perhaps.”
His voice is strained. “Perhaps he would have been...”
Mizuki notices from the clock on the wall that Date’s entered the two minute threshold, but Pewter doesn’t say anything into his ear pierce to let him know. He’s gone completely silent, save for a few quieted, stuttering breaths.
His shoulders are trembling, and his hands are squeezing onto his desk like he’ll fall if he lets go.
She gets up from her seat. The creak of the chair doesn’t startle him into shutting up, and neither do her footsteps.
In fact, when she comes up to his side and hugs him, he actually gets noiser with his crying.
“...I loved him, too,” she says. And all Pewter can do is nod.