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Persons of Interest

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It starts with a game of Monopoly in the bath one Thursday night.

“Give me Oxford.”

“I’m not going to give you Oxford, Haru, I’ve got two out of three and I’m only a roll away from being able to buy the last one-”

Give me Oxford.”

“…fine.”

The card is passed over. Haruka accepts it with nary a change of expression, and Makoto sighs.

“I don’t understand why we’re playing this game in the bath. Wouldn’t it be better on a table?”

“There’s no water at the table,” Haruka says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Makoto sighs again. What with his increased lung capacity from having to hold his breath underwater, it’s a long sigh.

“The board’s going to get ruined.” And he’s got a point, too. It’s bad enough that Haru’s bathtub is barely large enough for the two of them to sit in without touching (although, admittedly, neither of them is small-sized), but having to play with a flimsy square of cardboard perched on your knees is kind of a pain. The board wobbles every time one of them moves, which is often, seeing as they have to bend to get at the stacks of money and cards on the floor next to the tub. There are already splotches of damp on all the paper components of the game, and Haru had thrown a silent tantrum when the ship token had gotten lost (Makoto had told him that trying to float it in the bathwater was a bad idea).

“Let’s get a new one,” Haru suggests.

“We’re not made of money,” comes the reply.

The game continues. Despite coercing Makoto into handing over no fewer than three of his cards, Haru still manages to lose. As per usual, he flips the board. Little plastic houses go everywhere and innocent paper money gets soaked beyond recognition. The dog token, which Haruka for some reason forces him to use every time they play, bounces off Makoto’s forehead. For the third time that hour, he sighs.

Haruka crosses his arms over his chest. “I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

“That’s what you say every time, and yet we end up in here almost every week.”

Except, this time Makoto swears they’ve lost half the pieces, and it’s going to be difficult to play with the ink smeared so badly it’s hardly legible.

“We’ll buy a new one,” says Haru in reply to the unspoken concern.

“Like I said, we’re not made of money.”

Makoto leans back against the tub and looks out the window. It’s not as though he is especially poor. It’s just that things are a bit tight for the Tachibana family, what with three kids to take care of. Makoto tries his best, and has been working part-time jobs ever since he was thirteen, but there are times when he has to go hungry so Ren and Ran don’t have to. He doesn’t begrudge them of it, because he’s a good older brother, but it’s starting to wear on him just a bit.

Haruka, by contrast, is actually pretty wealthy. His parents work overseas and periodically send him money. Unlike Makoto, however, Haru is absolutely useless at taking care of his finances, and cash flows through his fingers like the water he loves so much. Even after Makoto had taken charge of his best friend’s accounts, Haru still tends to spend on junk (like ‘Mr Northern Stoplight Loosejaw’, which, as far as Makoto can make out, is some sort of utterly bizarre onesie that Haru likes to wear to sleep, although how anyone can go to sleep wearing a horrifying, larger-than-life deep sea fish is beyond Makoto’s comprehension. He aborts that train of thought, because while Mr Stoplight Loosejaw makes Haru sleep like a baby, it also gives him nightmares).

It takes another half hour before Haru can be coaxed out of the tub, by which time he is pliant enough to go to bed without much fuss. There is a minor incident as Haru insists on the accursed onesie or nothing at all, but he is eventually wrestled into a pair of underpants and Makoto is able to lie down next to him without having an aneurism. Even without his beloved pyjamas, Haru falls asleep easily and dreams happy dreams, only kicking his friend in the stomach once that night.

Makoto, on the other hand, stays up thinking how nice it would be if they had just a bit more money to spend. He goes to school the next day with this same thought in his head, and there it stays for the next four years.

If he’s going to be honest with himself, it’s no surprise at all that he and Haru grow up to be a pair of criminals.