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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.

Chapter Text


 

"That red-head's really getting on my nerves."

Rin doesn't look up from playing Solitaire on his desktop. "You better not be talking about me."

Sousuke laughs. "I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about Minishiba over there."

"Isn't he in holding?"

"Not anymore, apparently."

Rin stops the game and looks up. A few desks over, Nitori is trying to work on compiling a case file while simultaneously having his ear talked off by Momotaro Mikoshiba. Catching Rin's eye, Nitori sends him a pleading glance as if to say, help me, I don't want to hear any more about stag beetles.

Rin sighs and stands. "Damn it, who let Momo out again?"

The boy turns. "Hi, Sergeant Matsuoka! My brother came to pay my bail so I'm technically not in custody anymore! Can I play with the puppy now?"

"Stop bothering Officer Nitori, Momo," Rin sighs, looking around for the older Mikoshiba brother. "And no, she is a fully trained police dog, not a toy, so you can't play with her."

"Not much of a police dog, she just lies on the floor and trips people up most of the time," calls Sousuke helpfully from his corner.

"If the peanut gallery could keep its thoughts to itself?" Rin replies tersely. "Mikoshiba, you should really start taking better care of your little brother."

Seijuro Mikoshiba, despite being all of six feet tall, fiery-haired, wild-eyed and well-muscled, shuffles his feet in embarrassment. "Yeah, sorry for all the trouble. What did he do this time?"

"He tried to shoplift a cupboard."

Seijuro whistles. "Momo, you lifted a whole cupboard?"

Rin shakes his head. "He didn't. It fell on him when he was halfway out the door. Shopkeeper waited a few hours before he called us, apparently. Thought it'd teach him a lesson."

"Yeah, if you're going to steal something, make sure it's not heavier than you!" Momo pitches in. He receives a slap on the head from his older brother as input.

"Dammit, Momo, how many times are you going to keep doing stupid shit? I don't want to keep having to bail your dumb ass out. The next time this happens I'm just going to leave you here to rot." He grabs his younger brother's collar and physically hauls him out the door, getting started on a long and probably slightly profane lecture about morals and if you're going to do something illegal at least try not to get caught.

Rin does, in fact, trip over the police dog on the way back to his desk, but his subordinates are polite enough to ignore it. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that kidgets locked up on purpose."

"He does. The first time we called him in, he tried to stay an extra night."

"But why?" Rin says to nobody in particular. The police dog gets off the floor and shuffles over to put her head in his lap. "There's nothing pleasant about holding. He's got nice clothes. His home can't be that bad. What possible motivation could he have for getting arrested every week?"

"We could always interrogate him the next time we see him. You know, rough him up a little," Sousuke grins.

"He's nineteen, and half your size. Everyone's already scared of you, you don't need a police brutality charge on top of that."

"Aw, come on." His voice is petulant, although nobody but Rin would have dared point that out. "He could be up to something. And besides, I'm bored."

"You and I both know Momo has about the same tactical ability as a fruit salad. And not a very intelligent fruit salad, either. I'd be more afraid the dog was up to something."

"She might well be. Hell, I'd be planning to kick some ass if some dumbass decided to call me 'Snoop Dogg' for the rest of my life."

"Fuck off, it's a good name. Isn't that right, Snoopy?" Rin coos, scratching the German Shepherd behind the ear. "You won't listen to that guy, will you? He's just jealous because I wouldn't let him name you after a Pokemon."

"Houndoom is cool, okay?"

"It's not, and you're a huge nerd."

"Fuck you too. At least let me play with her a little."

"Not after you insulted her. If you're bored, how about you do your damned paperwork? You could stand to practice your kanji. Some Sergeant you are, you can barely write your own name."

"Hell, I ain't that bored. And Yamazaki can be hard to spell, okay?"

"I take it back, you have the intelligence of a fruit salad," Rin mutters.

Sousuke twirls a pen in his hand and turns to look out the window. Tokyo is pretty busy for this time of day, although anything would be busy in comparison to Iwatobi. Neither he nor Rin have been to their hometown in a few years, but the fast-paced lifestyle and higher crime rates make sure Sousuke is always kept on his toes. "Hey, do I really have to meet your boyfriend?" he asks.

"Haru's not my boyfriend, dipshit, he's my best friend. And yes, you do. I've already booked a nice place for us to eat at. He's bringing Makoto too, so you better look presentable. I don't wanna see any of that sloppy 'I just rolled out of bed' shit."

"I thought I was your best friend."

Rin rolls his eyes. "'Best friend' is a level, man, not a title. So I want one best friend to meet my other best friends. Sound reasonable?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Is he cute?"

"I guess, but I think he and Makoto might have something going on. I don't know, we never really talk about that kind of stuff."

"Fuck."

"Yeah, probably not."

Sousuke throws the pen at him. "Let's get some ramen after the shift, I don't feel like cooking tonight."

"Only if you're paying," Rin replies.

Sousuke doesn't argue. The two collapse into companionable silence until Officer Nitori squeaks from one corner of the office. There is a sound like a stack of papers falling to the floor followed by a brief scuffle. The office goes quiet again, and then Rin hears a loud wail. Sousuke starts snickering beside him, and Rin doesn't even bother looking up this time.

"Alright, you assholes, which one of you let Momo back in?"


Nagisa has, somehow, a weird ability to guess what Rei is going to order even before Rei can look at the menu.

This wouldn't be much of a bother, except that Nagisa also makes it a habit to order the exact same thing, only to make Rei change his order to something Nagisa would like. They're not allowed to exchange dishes, for reasons that Rei is still trying to figure out, so they end up spending their lunch break picking food off each other's plates. Rei has asked about this many times, but the answer he gets is generally non-committal, and so he gave up before the year was out.

He allows Nagisa to spear a strawberry out of the cake box in his hands and is rewarded with a tuna roll in return. "Mr Nanase is going to be here at 3 pm. He said he wanted to take a look at Takano's newer works."

Nagisa takes a second to reply, chewing thoughtfully on his strawberry with a splotch of whipped cream on the tip of his nose that he may only be leaving there just to piss Rei off. "Which one was Tanako again?"

"Takano. The young one, Nagisa, her work is absolutely beautiful. I've never seen futuristic scenes rendered in such loving detail, and her female characters are divine. Did you know she was represented by Murakami? In one of his movies, I think it was Kiki, I can't imagine what an honour it must have been for such a young artist…"

Eyes glazing over like the top of his cake, Nagisa lets the steady stream of babble wash over him. Rei is cute as hell, but Nagisa could do without the weird obsession with aesthetic pleasure. Still, he supposes, he can't complain, because Rei wouldn't be Rei without his quirks. He's a bit of a fruitcake, sure, but Nagisa likes fruitcake.

Besides, it's not like Nagisa's easy to deal with himself.

He pokes Rei hard on the forehead, just to see what he'll do. The monologue stops immediately.

Rei's blushing, which is cute, but he's also gone cross-eyed and catatonic, which may be a sign of an absence seizure. Nagisa quickly removes the offending digit, but not before rubbing at Rei's skin slightly so nobody will find his fingerprints there in case Rei actually does die.

"Are you still there?"

"…please don't do that again, Nagisa."

Nagisa sighs. He likes art well enough, and it's always nice looking at pretty paintings and trying to imagine what the artist must have been thinking while creating them. It had been lonely though, working in the gallery all by himself in big bad Tokyo, until Rei had walked in like a batty butterfly in glasses to take a look at the display. Nagisa had fluttered his eyelashes and made cute remarks and followed him around because not only was this stranger disgustingly good-looking, but he looked smart and had an appreciation for the finer things in life. Rei became a regular until Nagisa finally managed to wheedle him into coming to work at the gallery with him, at which point he discovered that Rei was a lot more dorky than he let on, and then he'd liked him even more.

Really, you'd think he'd have managed to score a date by now.

The bell above the door jingles, making the two jump. Nagisa shoves the sushi box under the counter and wipes the cream off his face as Rei stands, and calls out a greeting.

"Sorry for coming in so early. We were in the area, so we just thought we'd stop by."

Rei's face breaks into a smile, and Nagisa bounces on the balls of his feet. "Hello, Mr Tachibana, Mr Nanase! Please don't worry, you're always welcome here. Would you like to take a look at the pieces I told you about last week?"

Nanase Haruka, twenty-four years old and a respectable connoisseur of the artistic medium, flops into a chair and lets Makoto do the work for him. "I wanted a tuna melt for lunch, but the restaurant we went to didn't have any."

"That's a shame," says Nagisa good-naturedly. "Rei's still got some tuna sushi, if you want. You can have some of that."

Haruka considerers this and gracefully accepts the offer. Meanwhile, Makoto walks among the paintings with Rei by his side.

"This one's interesting," he says, selecting one of the larger ones. "Tell me, how was it made?"

Rei launches into a complicated explanation about oil paints and special brushes, which Makoto nods along to. Haruka listens with half an ear. He's interested in painting methods, but when it comes to actually choosing art, he usually lets Makoto decide. He has a good eye for commercial value, after all, while Haruka can only appreciate a painting for its artistry, rather than its appeal to an audience.

Makoto ends up buying two paintings, which sets them back a couple of hundred thousand yen. Rei sometimes wonders what the two of them do for a living, that they can afford to buy mid-range art every month at such a young age. He's polite enough not to ask, though, so he leaves it at that.

The pair leaves, and Rei and Nagisa wave them off cheerfully. The moment the door swings shut, Nagisa leans forward for a stage whisper.

"I bet they're both members of the yakuza."

Rei splutters. "That's absolutely ridiculous, Nagisa. They're such nice people, there's no way that they're criminals."

Nagisa laughs and leans against the counter, retrieving his abandoned shortcake. "Oh yeah? Where'd they get all that money from, then? Who can afford to buy so many paintings all the time?"

"Maybe they're agents, Nagisa. They could be buying the art for other people. Some people resell art and make money off it. If that's the case then I have to congratulate them for their good business sense, because it seems they're quite successful." He rummages around for his sushi, ignoring the co-worker sprawled over the counter and getting in the way.

"Don't be so boring, Rei-baby. I'm just saying, I find it a little suspicious, that's all."

"Please don't call me Rei-baby, I'm twenty-two years old and not a girl."

"Sorry, sweetie."

Rei sighs and lets it go. Nobody ever wins when it comes to the little blond antichrist.

The idea of the Tachibana-Nanase duo being up to illicit activities is intriguing, but Rei brushes it off as fiction. Nagisa does, after all, like to spin stories about total strangers, often turning it into a game to pass the time. Mr Tachibana's gentle smile makes it very difficult to imagine him breaking someone's ankles, and Mr Nanase seems too…vacant to be any sort of criminal mastermind. If either of them have ever done anything wrong, Rei thinks, it can't be worth much more than a parking ticket.

"Nagisa?"

"Yes?"

"Where are all my tuna rolls?"

Nagisa, mysteriously, remains silent for the rest of the day.

 

Chapter Text

The only sounds Sousuke hears are clinking tableware and quiet chatter. There’s no sign of trouble anywhere, but he’s on edge. His eyes dart around the room, zoning on potential faces, looking for signs of ill-intent. Now is a good time to look for possible escape routes. The fire escape is one option, but it’s being blocked by a fat man in a suit. The doors to the kitchens are another, since he might be able to scare the chefs into keeping their mouths shuts until he has a chance to disappear into the back alley. If he can slip past the waiters, nobody will question his presence until he’s close enough to stare them down and flash his police badge. Slowly, carefully, he inches his way towards the kitchens, reaching his hands into his pocket for the keys to the car.

An iron claw makes itself at home on his shoulder. “And where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

Sousuke immediately stills. “Taking a leak?” he hazards.

Rin Matsuoka, eight centimetres shorter and nearly ten kilos lighter, pins him to his seat with the force of his stare. “Haru and Makoto will be here any minute. I haven’t seen them in ages and I am really looking forward to a nice get-together between all of my friends, so I would be very grateful if you would sit your ass down and act like a goddamn adult for two hours of your miserable life.

Sousuke sits.

Rin settles back into his seat with a beatific smile. “There. Isn’t this nice?”

“Yessir. Sorry sir.”

It takes another ten minutes before Rin’s guests arrive, apologizing profusely for being late (one of them, anyway). Sousuke bites the inside of his cheek and says absolutely nothing, because hot damn.

Nanase’s got a handsome face and very bright eyes, and Sousuke wonders what the guy must be doing to his hair to make it so shiny. He’s wearing a suit that’s a little bit big on him, but it’s easy to tell he’s fairly well-built. Nice voice, too, smooth and cool, although he doesn’t say much beyond a simple “hello”. The tall one, Tachibana, is about the same size as Sousuke, all powerful shoulders and muscle. His face is sweet, though, and Sousuke finds his mouth going a little dry when that happy little smile is turned on him. And then Tachibana reaches down to fix his shoelaces, and Jesus Mary Joseph that is an ass sculpted by the gods themselves.

If Rin had described either of them properly, Sousuke would have been a lot happier about dressing up. Then again, he’s standing there chatting animatedly with a dopey grin on his face, so he thinks maybe Rin just hasn’t noticed how attractive his friends are. Stands to reason, because Rin hasn’t seemed to notice how attractive Sousuke is, either. The guy’s so oblivious he wouldn’t notice a come on if it took off its shirt and sat on his couch with a smile and a glass of wine.

Sousuke knows. He’s tried.

He doesn’t much pay attention to the conversation. He’s too busy staring at the three men with him, thinking about how badly he’d like to tap all of that, preferably at the same time. When asked a question he answers, but aside from that he plasters on a neutral expression and lets Rin do all the talking. It’s a little weird, he thinks, that Rin’s been friends with these people for so long, and yet he’s never met them once.

His eyes lock with Nanase’s about halfway through dessert, and suddenly he has a very bad feeling.

 


 

Three days later, he has all of Momotaro Mikoshiba’s files open on his desk.

Rin leans over his shoulder to see what he’s doing. “Haven’t seen the kid in about a week now. What are you looking for?”

“Nothing much,” Sousuke replies, flipping a page. “I’m running dry on funny police stories for my folks, is all.”

“Well, Momo is some grade A joke material,” Rin chuckles, heading off for the break room. “Gou loves the story about the time he tried to recuse that cat from a tree and got stuck. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nitori so annoyed. You want some coffee?”

“Nah, I’m good.” He turns on his monitor and cracks his knuckles. “Anyway,” he mutters under his breath, “it’s not the younger Mikoshiba I’m interested in.”


 

There are two rumours going around the precinct that directly involve Sousuke Yamazaki.

One of them is actually true. It’s common knowledge that Sergeants Yamazaki and Matsuoka climbed the ranks so quickly because of their excellent teamwork and phenomenal arrest record. The two of them understand each other so well, it’s said, that they’ve got the good cop/bad cop routine down pat. Rin is the good cop; he’s dependable, trustworthy, easy to approach and always willing to lend an ear to the troubled. Sousuke, on the other hand, is aggressive, intimidating and, ruthless. While Rin is the protector of the innocent, Sousuke is the punisher of the wicked.

The other rumour is a little harder to place. Listen close enough to the whispers of the underground, and you’ll learn that Yamazaki Sousuke is a businessman. He buys and sells information, burrowing deep into the heart of the criminal world just far enough that he knows when to strike and where. Petty criminals awaiting the hand of justice have claimed that in their darkest moments, Sergeant Yamazaki has stepped in and offered them a choice. Tell me everything you know and we’ll see about getting you a slap on the wrist. This is, it’s said, the root of Yamazaki’s legendary ability to sniff out trouble even before it happens.

The second rumour is, in fact, also true. The only difference is that Sergeant Matsuoka doesn’t know it.


 

“I’ve heard,” says Sousuke, “that your older brother doesn’t just work as a gym instructor.”

It’s been two weeks since he met Nanase and Tachibana. Rin has been talking about them nonstop, but that’s hardly new. Sousuke, in between doing regular work, has been digging through police archives with the vivacity of an angry bloodhound. He’s found, to his great delight, that Momotaro Mikoshiba is not your ordinary nineteen-year-old-boy.

Momo frowns. It’s obvious he’d not sure how to answer, because he’s alone in a holding cell with Sergeant Yamazaki, who is much bigger than him, much meaner than him, and apparently the security camera has been switched off for a while because the little light’s not blinking.

“I dunno where you found that out from,” he says slowly, wondering if anyone will hear him if he starts screaming. Yamazaki grins.

“I have access to police files, you know. And I’ve been talking to some friends. I have a lot of friends.”

“I have a lot of friends too,” replies Momo, hoping that his intentions will translate. If he doesn’t get back from the police station in one piece, there will be hell to pay.

“I know. I was counting on that, in fact. I have some questions I’d like to ask your brother for me.”

Ah. There it is, the rumours are true after all. Yamazaki’s going to use Momotaro to buy information about the shady people his older brother works with, and then he’s going to go on an epic manhunt for some kingpin or other. Momo’s doesn’t know if he wants to be a part of this, but he’s also not sure if Yamazaki will take too kindly to being refused.

“I can’t promise you anything, you know.”

“I know,” replies the officer, leaning back in his seat. He pulls a piece of paper out of his pocket and slides it across the table. “I’m not going to snoop into Mikoshiba’s business. I don’t really care about some guy making meth in his basement. Well, officially, I have to care, I guess, but right now I’m not being official. If you tell anyone what I’m telling you now, of course, you’re going to be finding police tape around your house for a while and it’s not you who’s going to need bailing out.”

Momo takes the piece of paper and nods. “So you want me to find out whatever I can about this guy?” he asks, squinting at the crappy handwriting. Haruka Nanase, it says. Attached is a photograph of a young man with dark hair and serious blue eyes. Next to him is a taller man with a gentle smile on his face. The photo looks like it’s been cropped, but if he looks hard enough, Momo thinks he can see a flash of red at the very edge of the picture. “And what do I get out of it?”

Sousuke clasps his hands together. “That depends on what you want.”

A pause. “A date with Officer Nitori.”

“Well, I can’t promise you that.”

“His phone number, then.”

“You’ll have it by the end of the day,” Yamazaki says smugly. “He stays up late, so you can probably call any time. Don’t disappoint me, kid. I want as many details as possible.” He stands up to leave. Rin should be back from his coffee run soon, and he has to turn the security camera back on before anyone notices.

He’s halfway through the door when Momotaro speaks up again. “Sergeant Yamazaki, one more thing.”

He turns. “Yeah?”

The younger Mikoshiba’s expression is determined. It’s going to take some guile to get his big brother to help him out, and he’ll be damned if he doesn’t milk the opportunity Yamazaki’s giving him.

“Let me play with the dog.”

Yamazaki smiles. “Consider it done.”

 

Chapter Text

“So.”

“So?”

Rei narrows his eyes at the way Nagisa’s holding his hands behind his back. There’s something purple sticking up over his shoulder, and every time Rei tries to tilt his head to get a better look, Nagisa shifts with him. Rei moves the other way, and Nagisa mirrors the action. It’s suspicious, if not slightly annoying.

They’re the only people in the gallery, it being the middle of a weekday afternoon. Most respectable members of the Japanese public are busy at work or at school, so there hasn’t been a customer since nine AM. This is, of course, the only reason Rei had allowed Nagisa to run out for a bit without much of a fuss, but now he’s back with a mysterious bundle and a shit-eating grin.

“You look like you’re up to something,” Rei says, frowning.

Nagisa’s smile only widens. “I have a surprise for you.”

“I’m not fond of surprises.”

“…not even if it’s a surp-rei-”

“Your next word may be your last.”

“Okay.” With a dramatic flourish and a bow, Nagisa reveals what’s behind his back and thrusts it in Rei’s face with a high-pitched ta-da.

Rei is accosted with something soft yet simultaneously prickly that makes him sneeze. He splutters and pulls back, glasses askew, to inspect the bouquet of flowers that Nagisa's brandishing at him like a leafy weapon. “I - what?”

“Morning glories,” Nagisa announces somewhat redundantly, because obviously Rei can see that. “To symbolize fondness. And they’re purple. That’s your favourite colour, riiiight?”

One of Rei’s eyebrows falls, leaving its neighbour stranded in the middle of his forehead. “Nagisa, what is this for?”

The little bouquet is pulled to a reasonable distance and Nagisa settles a hand on his hip. “You give flowers to people you like,” he hints.

Rei blinks at Nagisa, then at the bouquet. “You’re trying to express affection?”

“It’s a lot less cute when you say it like that.”

“There’s nothing cute about giving someone decomposing vegetation,” Rei sniffs, wrinkling his nose.

“What? I thought you’d like flowers. They’re pretty. You like pretty.”

“I do like pretty, and I like flowers. I don’t like having them killed and presented to me in plastic wrapping. I see no merit in murdering something so beautiful and putting its corpse in a vase of water in some form of macabre display. There’s nothing remotely attractive about that, and wrapping them up in a bow doesn't really help.”

Nagisa scratches the back of his head. “Could you maybe consider this a testament to my abilities as a hunter-gatherer?”

“It’s not hard to hunt a plant. It’s not as though they move terribly quickly.”

“…you’re seriously hard to please, you know that?”

Rei meets Nagisa’s stare levelly. “I do not, how do you put it, ‘settle’.”

The unfortunate flowers are set on the counter and their bearer slumps into the seat next to Rei. “Can’t say I didn’t try.”

This time, Rei glances away. He picks up the flowers properly and takes a delicate sniff. They make him somewhat uncomfortable, but he’ll probably end up taking them home and caring for them anyway. “I’m allergic to pollen, you know.”

“So no more flowers, then?”

If Nagisa were to look up at that moment, he’d see the tips of his not-lover’s ears turn a little bit pink. Unfortunately (or fortunately, in Rei’s case), he doesn’t, so he misses it. “…if you’re going to give them to me, just don’t kill them first.”

“…in a pot, then?”

Rei nods. “In a pot.”

Characteristically, Nagisa launches off his stool to wrap his arms around Rei’s middle. “Okay! I’ll just keep trying till I find a present as pretty as you are. Which, now that I think about it, is probably going to be kind of hard, huh?”

Rei turns redder, but only elbows him in the face a little bit. Nagisa chalks this up to a win.

 

 


 

 

Haru’s frowning.

This is hardly breaking news, because Haru’s literally always frowning in some manner, even when he sleeps, even when he smiles. He’d been a particularly grumpy baby, and Makoto thinks it’s to be expected from someone whose very first word had been ‘no’ (Makoto’s own first word had, apparently, been ‘Haru’, but then again he isn’t actually sure if his mother can be trusted on that).

“What’s wrong?” he asks, looking up from his book.

Pink,” says Haru. Makoto isn’t certain what he means, but he sounds immensely offended nonetheless.

“Yes?” he hazards, glancing around because he’s fairly confident that there’s nothing in their pleasant studio apartment for Haru to be angry about. It's not as though they've been invaded by errant interior designers in the middle of the night, so the decor is basically the same as it has been since they moved in. All Makoto sees is the city skyline, wooden floors and lots and lots of framed art on the walls. Some of it is by Haru himself, and others are from varying galleries. None of it is aggressively pink.

Haruka makes an impatient noise and taps at one of the paintings they’ve just bought. “Hair,” he says. “She made it pink.”

Ah.

“Haru, I know you prefer artwork to be realistic, but Japanese pop culture isn’t always like that.” Makoto says it with a smile, because it’s difficult not to smile at the annoyed, confused face his best friend is making.

“Nobody has pink hair,” Haru retorts, eyebrows furrowing further.

“You didn’t complain about Tsuritama.”

Haru pauses. “Those were aliens,” he says a little petulantly. And besides, is the unspoken elaboration. It’s fishing anime. I like both fish and anime, so there’s nothing to complain about.

“I know,” Makoto admits, and goes back to reading. “It’s odd, but if this is what sells, I’m not complaining. Just try to bear with it, okay?”

Haru scowls at him. Makoto hides his smile in his book.

“You know, your things are going to dry out if you just leave them like that.”

The other man makes a huffy noise in his nose and goes back to the canvas they’ve set up in the living room. The irritation in his shoulders seems to fade with every slow, measured brush stroke. Every so often, Haru’s gaze shifts from his work to the pink-haired piece and then back again, but he doesn’t complain any more. From where he’s sitting, Makoto can see Haru’s painting take on a distinctive pink hue as well.

He’s probably won the argument for now. It’s good, he thinks, that he’s had a lifetime of dealing with Haruka, and could now probably be considered an expert in understanding one of the stranger creatures on God’s green earth. It certainly makes it much easier for the two to work together, considering Haru’s quirks. Plus, Makoto’s always liked being needed. It’s a nice feeling, being the strongest link between a person and the rest of the world.

That night, though, Haru gives him a sponge cake with an entire fish in it, and Makoto retracts his thoughts immediately.

 

 


 

 

“What would you do if you found out something about your friend? Like, something you never expected.”

Rin tugs a bud out of his ears and turns. His music’s loud enough that Sousuke can actually hear AC/DC over the sound of their labored breaths, but it seems the question isn’t going to go unanswered. Before Rin can say anything, though, the timer on Sousuke’s phone beeps, and the two slow down to a walk. Rin takes a second to think, reaching down to turn off the music on his iPod.

“If you’re trying to tell me you’re gay, I already know.”

Sousuke makes an annoyed noise. Snoop Dogg ambles along beside him, because this week is Sousuke's turn to care for the German Shepherd. He reaches down and scratches it absently behind the ear. “I’m not gay, I’m just very generous with my affections.”

“You like dick.”

“I like dick and vagina,” Sousuke corrects, stopping smack in the middle of the park to stretch. He flops onto the grass with complete disregard for gravity or the state of his joints. Rin settles down next to him, lying on his back with his arms splayed. The sun's beginning to set, so the park is slowly emptying of patrons. He and Sousuke are among the last ones there, but that's how they both like it. It's somehow more peaceful with just them (and occasionally the police dog) around.

“We’re gonna get stepped on if we just lie here,” Rin says.

Sousuke lets out an unintelligible sound that sounds a bit like ‘pah’. “Nobody’s dumb enough to step on a cop.”

“We don’t look like cops, we look like joggers.”

“We won’t look like joggers when we arrest ‘em.”

“I’m starting to think you’re a little trigger happy, Sou.”

“No point being a cop if you can’t enjoy it,” Sousuke laughs, although it turns into a strangled wheeze when Snoop Dogg decides suddenly to sit on his chest. “Christ almighty. Can you explain to this mutt that she’s too big to be a lapdog?”

His best friend grins but makes no move to help. “It’s your turn to take care of her this week, so you’d better get used to it.”

Sousuke doesn’t whine, but it’s a close thing. “Can’t you take her?”

“I had her two weeks ago, and that's quite enough for at least another month. I'm still cleaning dog fur out of the carpet. Don't give me that face, you big baby. Come on, she’s not that bad. She even fetches the newspapers! Although she doesn’t actually bring them to you, she just sort of puts them in her basket and falls asleep on them. But you could use her as a guard dog, probably.”

“She’s too old for that shit,” Sousuke grumbles, scratching the dog’s back absently and fluffing up her fur. “She’s not even a real police dog. She’s just a regular dog that hangs out at the station and hides our paperwork.”

“She makes a good pillow, though,” says Rin good-naturedly. “Anyway, what were you talking about earlier?”

Sousuke pauses. “It was about Nanase, actually.”

“Haru?” Rin folds his arms behind his head and stares at the sky. “Shit, I shoulda seen this coming.”

Sousuke balks, because he doesn’t think he’s been that obvious. “The hell you talking about?”

He gets the side-eye. “You’ve been asking me about Haru for like, two weeks now. I know what’s going on.”

The feeling in his stomach may be guilt, and it may also be a chubby German Shepherd lying on his gut. He gently pushes the dog off and rolls onto his side so he’s facing Rin. He’d had a bad feeling, but Sousuke had never really wanted to come between Rin and two of his favourite people. “I’m sorry. It’s just that I have a hunch about the Tachibana-Nanase duo,” he says, and then winces, realizing he’s doomed himself to thinking about them as Tachibananana-se forever now. “I’m not trying to fuck with your relationship. I just want to do what feels right.”

“I trust you.”

“…you do?”

“Yeah.” Rin settles a hand on his arm and smiles, which makes Sousuke feel less like he’s walking on eggshells. “Do what you gotta do, man.”

“You sure? You’re not mad?”

“Why would I be mad?” Rin raises an eyebrow and reaches out to rub Snoopy’s nose. “You’re my best friend.”

“Nanase is your best friend too.”

“That’s why I trust you not to fuck it up with him.”

“If I’m right, things are going to turn out really ugly, Rin.”

Rin blinks at this. “That’s awful pessimistic.”

“What? No it’s not, it’s completely realistic.”

Rin sits up just as the police dog snuffles into Sousuke’s ear. “Man, you have to believe in yourself. Things between you and Haru aren’t going to work out with that attitude.”

“…what?”

His partner rolls his eyes like Sousuke’s the one not making sense. “You’re a catch, you know. Anyone would be lucky to have you. And even if you don’t have so much practice with the whole commitment thing, you’re a great guy. I know you joke around a lot and you’ll flirt with anything that moves, but I can tell you’re serious about dating Haru. I’m not dumb.”

Yes, you are, Sousuke thinks.

He doesn’t say this. Instead, he sighs, grins and shakes his head. “You can read me like a book, Rin. Thanks for the encouragement.”

“That’s what best friends are for,” Rin ruffles his hair warmly. “Good luck, yeah? And you know I love you, but don’t hurt Haru, okay?”

“Okay,” Sousuke says, and crosses his fingers behind his back.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Dog noses, as it turns out, are the coldest fucking things in the world at seven o’clock in the morning.

Sousuke groans and pushes the offending thing away with a foot. He’s not going out for a run today because it’s a Sunday, which is meant to be a day of rest like the Lord intended. It is not meant to be spent with an overly-friendly canine wagging its tail against the floor and hitting the bedside table every two seconds with a muffled thump.

He groans again and, without opening his eyes, casts around on the floor until he finds a dirty t-shirt to throw at it, although that doesn’t seem to dampen its accursed high spirits. Finally pulling his face away from the pillow, he makes a noise like a hibernating bear and glares his hardest at Snoop Dogg. The effect of this is similar to throwing a teacup into a snowstorm.

He loses the staring contest. Defeated, he drags himself out of the loving arms of sleep and pads into the kitchen, grumbling slightly when the carpet gives way to the kitchen tiles. It’s cold, but that may only be because he’s shuffling around in his underwear. The police dog, acting as though this is its home, tags along so it can nudge its empty food bowl at him.

He huffs at it through his nose and digs around for the huge bag of dog food Rin has stashed under his sink. The sensible thing to do now is probably to join the dog for breakfast, since there’s little chance of going back to sleep, so Sousuke opens the fridge to stare at its meagre contents. He’ll pass on the cardboard cereal he usually inhales five minutes before going to work. It’s still ass o’clock in the morning, so he actually has time to make something elaborate. He could fix a batch of pancakes, or maybe finally give in to the popular stereotype and buy a box of donuts. There might be bacon in the freezer, too. He’s not a bad cook, but he has to go slow so he doesn’t fuck things up, so by the time he’s done with breakfast he’ll probably have time to watch a couple episodes of that bizarre cartoon about the kid and the stretchy dog (that he won’t admit Nitori has gotten him hooked on) before lunch.

Pancakes and bacon are probably excessive, actually, but Sousuke figures he’ll go for broke. Rin, after all, does enjoy complaining about how much food Sousuke eats, which is ridiculous, because as much as Rin says he likes to watch his weight, Sou’s seen him put away cheeseburgers roughly the size of his own head.

The phone rings before he can get the instant pancake batter out of the cupboard. He sighs and goes back to his room, patting Snoop Dogg on the way.

His phone’s somehow managed to find its way into his pillowcase, but it’s still ringing when he finally locates it. “Hello?” Sousuke says, trying not to sound like a grouchy fuck because some bastard’s calling him way too early on a Sunday.

The bastard turns out to be Rin. “Morning, sunshine.”

“You woke me the fuck up,” Sousuke lies, just to see if Rin feels guilty. He doesn’t, as it turns out.

“If I left you alone you’d sleep till tomorrow. You busy today?”

“Not really.” Sousuke flops onto his stomach and wrestles to get the sheets flat so he can lie on them. The dog, entirely uninvited, wanders into the room and rests its chin on the edge of Sousuke’s bed. Sousuke folds its ear inside out. “What d’you have in mind?” he asks Rin.

“Wanted to hit the community pool for old time’s sake,” he can almost hear Rin smiling on the other end of the line. “Relive our childhood. Maybe race a little.”

“You say that, but you’re just gonna splash around,” Sousuke mutters. He’s right, too. Neither of them have been serious about swimming since elementary school, and since then Rin’s competitiveness has diminished somewhat. Still, goofing off with his best friend doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the day. Snoopy stares at him piteously until he relents and fixes its ear. “What do I do with the mutt?”

“Bring her along, we can probably find some kids to play with her for a few hours.”

“Alright, I’ll come by after breakfast.”

“Ugh, what’s on the menu? Deep fried Mars Bars? Fried chicken and ice cream? Mayo out of a jar?” Rin adds because he’s got some sort of bizarre disdain for mayonnaise, and regularly gives Sousuke grief for his sandwiches.

Sousuke chuckles. “Nope. Bacon, and pancakes with bona fide Canadian maple syrup,” he says coyly, because even though Rin doesn’t like sweets, they both know the imported syrup Sousuke had paid an arm and a leg for is the stuff of the gods. “I’ll make extra, if you wanna come over.”

“I’ll pass,” Rin says dryly. “I don’t understand how you’re still alive what with all the junk you put in your mouth.”

Sousuke’s grin widens. “Well, I guess I do put a lot of junk in my mouth, but probably not enough to kill me.”

“Sou-”

“And besides, I don’t always swallow.”

“God dammit,” Rin makes a half-amused, half-exasperated noise. “You’re disgusting. Hurry up and make your greasy breakfast so I can punch you in person.”

“You’re jealous because I eat whatever I want and I’m still ripped,” Sousuke retorts, but gets up to look for some pants nonetheless. “Bring my Slayer t-shirt with you, I think I left it at your place the last time I was over.”

“If I remember,” Rin says, although they both know he will. “I’ll see you at nine.”

 

 


 

 

A box of chocolates has found its way onto Rei’s counter.

He stares at it. It could not, he thinks, have been left by a customer, seeing as they’ve only just opened up shop. The manager had left the keys with them today, so it’s hardly likely she could have left the chocolates behind either. Ordinarily, of course, he’d assume they belonged to Nagisa. The thought isn’t the least bit surprising, because he does seem to exist on a diet of sugar and fast food. That being said, even though it’s not unusual for Nagisa to bring chocolates to work, it is very strange that he should choose to do so in a frilly, heart-shaped box.

No other explanations are forthcoming, however, so Rei does the only thing he can do, and blames Nagisa anyway.

The man in question chooses that moment to stick his head out of the break room. Despite it being nine o’clock in the morning, he’s halfway through a packet of potato chips. He’s got two sticking out of his mouth to imitate a duck’s bill, which Rei supposes is meant to be amusing, but all he can really think about is that somewhere in Nagisa’s basement must be a pentagram and a contract written in blood, because that’s the only explanation Rei can come up with as to why Nagisa isn’t already the size of a blimp.

He doesn’t voice this thought. Instead, he prods at the offending box of chocolates and says, “please don’t leave your things lying around.”

Nagisa grins and tilts his head back so that his potato-chip-beak falls neatly into his mouth. “Those aren’t mine,” he says with a loud crunch.

Rei sighs. “They most certainly aren’t mine.”

Coming closer, Nagisa’s smile widens. “Ooh, maybe they’re a gift? Have you checked for a note?”

He hasn’t, actually. As it turns out, there is small card attached to the box. Sweets for the sweet, it says, in curly, loopy handwriting. Rei takes his glasses off to clean them, frowning deeply. “This is very silly. We’re not in high school anymore.”

Sprawling across the counter, Nagisa comes close enough that Rei can make out every detail of his face even without his glasses on. “Come on, Rei, be happy! Someone’s trying to give you a present! Or, actually-”

“Please don’t sa-

“A prei-sen-”

“Such as what?” Rei ignores him. “Type II diabetes?”

Nagisa winks. “Most people would appreciate getting chocolates from a secret admirer, you know.”

“Speaking of which, this ‘secret admirer’s’ handwriting looks a lot like yours.”

Nagisa eats a potato chip innocently. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Hardly news,” Rei mutters, opening the box. As it turns out, it’s not just the box that’s in the shape of a heart. Rei picks up one of the chocolates and inspects it briefly before popping it cautiously into his mouth. It’s very sweet.

“Is this filled with some sort of mousse?” he asks.

Nagisa nods enthusiastically, forgetting for the moment that his admiration is supposed to be a secret. “Strawberry! It was really hard to find but they’re good, right?” He looks into the box with a sparkle in his eye.

Rei glances from Nagisa to his chocolate, and then sighs. “Would you like one?”

The look he gets in return is starry enough to put the night sky to shame. “Really? Even though they’re for you?”

“I don’t mind. Go ahead.”

That’s all the permission Nagisa needs, apparently, because he tears into the box with gusto. Rei can already see how this is going to pan out; he’s going to reach for his box after lunch and find it empty, and Nagisa’s going to slink around the gallery with the expression of a kicked puppy for the rest of the day.

It doesn’t particularly bother him, though, because he likes to watch his health, and he supposes it’s the thought that counts. His co-worker is happy. At the very least, the box is rather nice, and Rei is probably going to end up bringing it back to his apartment because his collection of pretty seashells is still in need of a home. It’ll look good sitting next to the vase full of morning glories that is already on his kitchen table.

“Thank you,” he says sincerely, and manages not to laugh when Nagisa’s smile looks like it’s missing a few teeth because he’s got chocolate everywhere.

 

 


 

 

“Haru, if you’re going to wear my clothes, can’t you at least wash them afterwards?”

“Too much trouble.”

“I have literally nothing to wear.”

Haruka says nothing. He’s sitting upside-down on the sofa, watching a programme about deep sea fish, and he currently has no interest in Makoto. He is wearing a sweater that is rather too big for him, and there may be several large shirts in his dirty clothes hamper aren’t actually his, but that’s hardly important.

A torso in a towel blocks the TV. “Haru, I’m talking to you!”

Haruka sighs and tips sideways until he’s lying down. Makoto is frowning at him, although his frown his very different from Haru’s. Makoto frowns like he’s worried, while Haruka generally just looks irritated. He’s still damp from the shower, which he has, inexplicably, only spent about fifteen minutes in. Barely enough time to soak at all.

Instead of answering, he allows himself to admire Makoto’s state of undress, because he’s an artist, after all, and he knows how to appreciate aesthetic beauty even if it’s been a few years since Makoto’s swimming days.

Makoto, long used to this treatment, doesn’t do much more than turn a bit pink. “If you have time to stare at me, go find me something to wear.”

Haruka makes eye contact and shrugs. “None of my clothes will fit you.”

“You don’t have any of mine hiding anywhere?”

“Everything’s dirty.”

Makoto sighs. “I keep telling you we have more than enough money to buy you new outfits, so I don’t understand why you keep borrowing mine and not returning them.”

“Too much trouble.”

“I can’t walk around like this all day.”

“Technically you can-”

Haru.”

Haruka keeps quiet.

Makoto sighs again and pushes his hair out his eyes. It flops back down almost immediately. “I’ve still got some stuff at the dry cleaner’s, don’t I? Could you go pick it up?”

“Don’t wanna.”

In response, Makoto doesn’t even bother saying anything, only gesturing to his towel. You can’t expect me to go out like this, is what he’s trying to tell Haru, but Haru only rolls his eyes.

“What’s the big deal? You’ve got the essentials covered, right?”

“I don’t really want to get arrested for public indecency, thanks,” Makoto says dryly, because even if Haru’s trying to hide it, Makoto can see the corner of his mouth twitching.

“I don’t think anyone would really care. The other day I heard Nagisa saying, ‘I wouldn’t mind having a taste of Makoto’s Tachibanana’-”

“Haruka.” He’s definitely red now, and he’s covering his eyes with a hand. Haru takes the opportunity to bite back a snigger. “I’m going to put our clothes in the washing machine, and you’re going to go to the dry cleaners and get my suits so I won’t have to go around naked all day, and-” he raises his voice a bit to cut off Haruka’s inevitable complaints, “I don’t want to hear another word about it, or I swear I will put a padlock on my closet and you’ll never be able to borrow my things again. Understand?”

Haruka harrumphs minutely and stands. As much as he enjoys seeing his best friend traipse around in a towel that may or may not have underwear hiding underneath, he does rather like wearing sweaters that are three sizes too big, although he has no interest in actually owning one. He doesn’t say goodbye or respond to Makoto’s cheerful thanks, but they both know he’s not particularly miffed (although, just for making him leave the house in the middle of his show, Makoto will probably be finding a fish in the bath tomorrow morning).

The walk to the dry cleaners is uneventful, because it’s still early and although there are people out and about, none of them pay him any mind. The girl at the counter is the same one who always flirts with Makoto, so it’s with a little bit of satisfaction that Haru announces he’s here to take Makoto’s clothes home.

Far from being jealous, the girl has kittens, and asks a lot of questions about how long have you been together? Is he a chocolate and flowers kind of guy? Are you doing anything special for Valentine’s Day this year because my friend works in a really cute café where you two could have dinner!

Haruka, with some confusion, answers truthfully that he and Makoto have been together since they were kids, that Makoto doesn’t really bother with flowers but likes chocolate, and that no, they don’t usually do anything for Valentine’s Day other than stay at home and eat the dinner Haru makes because Makoto can barely even boil water without burning it.

The girl beams at him but doesn’t stop talking, and Haru leaves the shop with the distinct and completely new feeling that he should buy Makoto some chocolate on the way home. There’s a swimming pool complex two streets away from where they live with a vending machine, so Haru takes a detour to get a bar of that weird champagne chocolate Makoto likes.

While he’s fumbling around in his pocket for change, a shadow falls across the vending machine. Haru looks up and blinks.

 

 


 

 

“Hello,” says Sousuke. His voice his pleasant, but his smile is slightly predatory.

Haruka doesn’t take a step back, because there’s a vending machine right behind him. As it is, he reaches back to steady himself against it and meets this new addition’s gaze. “Yamazaki,” he says calmly enough.There’s a very large dog standing next to him, giving him the canine equivalent of the stinkeye. Haru glares back at it. Yamazaki smiles.

“This is the station’s police dog. She’s been helping us sniff out criminals for years. Got a nose almost as sharp as mine, in fact. Did you know that a trained German Shepherd is strong enough to take down a grown man? I didn’t.” He pauses to chuckle. “Then I saw it for myself, of course. Sometimes, when people try to run, we don’t even bother chasing. We just let her loose.”

Maybe Haruka’s only imagining things, but he swears he hears a very low growl. He isn’t sure whether or not to maintain eye contact with the hellbeast. Yamazaki, alarmingly, loosens his grip on the leash.

“You don’t like her, Nanase?”

“I’m more of a cat person,” Haru scowls.

“Huh. And she’s normally so friendly, too.” Sousuke glances at the laundry bag in Haru’s arms and then comes a little closer so Haru has to crane his neck to look at him. Involuntarily, he retreats until his back comes into contact with the glass of the vending machine. “Chores?”

“Dry cleaning.”

“Fascinating,” Sousuke says. “It’s really quite a coincidence, running into you here. I’ve been thinking about you for a while.”

“I’m not looking for a relationship.”

“I do not-” Sousuke starts, then stops and sighs. “You know what? I can see why you and Rin are friends. But that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“Good, because this is an awful way to ask someone out,” Haru deadpans. It’s mostly bravado, because he’s only just realized how small he is compared to Yamazaki, and how little he cares for dogs, and how this time, Makoto isn’t around to deflect the attention, so Haru’s basically on his own. They’re in public, but there’s nobody in the immediate area, and Haru isn’t entirely sure if screaming is going to help at this point.

A smile plays in the corner of Yamazaki’s mouth, which is a dangerous place for something as innocent as a smile to play, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “That’s a crying shame, Nanase. I really was hoping to take you out, you know? Of the picture, I mean. And Tachibana, too, for good measure.”

“What are you saying?” Haru narrows his eyes a little, because he doesn’t appreciate the idea of Makoto being unsubtly threatened.

Sousuke, however, only shrugs. “I’m curious about you guys. I wanna know everything about you. Every dirty little secret.” He abruptly stops smiling, which startles Haru somewhat. “Because, call me crazy, but you seem like you’re up to something. Something that Rin’s probably too nice to notice, but weirdly enough, you really rub me the wrong way.”

Haruka’s expression doesn’t change much, but his heart’s doing a fucking samba in his ribcage. He’s frozen, unable to react as smoothly as he knew Makoto would, or even properly defend himself the way Rin’s given him pointers on. “I haven’t done anything,” he says instead, doing a decent job of keeping his voice steady.

“Somehow, I doubt that. I have a hunch that you’re trouble, and my hunches are generally right,” Sousuke says darkly. He leans forward until he’s almost nose to nose with the man he’s shamelessly threatening. From this distance, Haru can only see the cold, alien blue of his eyes. “Stay away from Rin,” he hisses. “There’s something wrong with you, and I’m going to find out what.”

Haru doesn’t move as Sousuke draws away, because he can’t, really. He wishes he weren’t so wide-eyed, because Yamazaki’s obviously smug about it, but it takes a Herculean effort to put his poker face back on. Yamazaki doesn’t seem impressed, and only continues to look down his nose imperiously. “I’ll be keeping an eye on Tachibanananase.”

“What?”

Sousuke falters. “I’ll be watching Tachibana and also you, Nanase,” he clears his throat and glances away, because it’s not as though ‘Tachibananana-se’ is particularly fun to say, and he definitely hadn’t made a little song out of it and sung it to himself all through breakfast. He turns in the direction of the swimming pool’s entrance and smiles over his shoulder, tugging the evil creature with him. “Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of each other. Although, I suppose, that might not work out so well for you.”

He leaves. Haruka watches him go, feeling a little bit as though someone’s dropped a millstone into his stomach. Yamazaki disappears into the swimming complex, which makes Haru feel a bit sick, because he’s always associated the water with peace, and mixing a nice image with Sousuke Yamazaki somehow seems wrong.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out through his nose helps somewhat. Yamazaki is suspicious, and if he’s not full of shit, then Haruka and Makoto might need to start coming up with some plans fast. Talking to Makoto is probably the best idea, but he’s well aware that Mako tends to be very overprotective and might threaten Yamazaki right back. As much as Haru would like to see that, it’s best not to cause any more reason to doubt them. Besides, threatening a police officer is never a good idea, even if Yamazaki is a disgrace to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force.

He could complain to Rin. It would be well within his right, but this is Rin’s best friend, and Haru isn’t particularly interested in watching that drama unfold. No, until he stops feeling so helpless and manages to get his act together, he won’t breathe a word of this to anyone. Even though it’s starting to get very warm, Haru shudders in his sweater; Yamazaki’s gone, but now Haru can’t shake the feeling that he’s got eyes on him.

He buys the chocolate and goes home, glancing over his shoulder all the way.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

Makoto takes a deep breath and tightens his grip on the handle of his cylindrical case. They’re standing in front of the door to the hotel conference room, Haruka glancing around to make sure nobody is paying them too much attention. Makoto notices this and puts a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll be fine. You did a good job.”

“I know,” says Haruka. He doesn’t look nervous, but Makoto can tell. He always does.

“We’ve done this so many times before, Haru.”

“I know.”

“And your paintings are always perfect.”

“I know.”

“And I’m incredibly charming.”

Haru rolls his eyes at that. “I know.”

Makoto smiles. “Then we’ll sell this piece just like how we sold the others. There’s nothing to worry about. You trust me, right?”

“Yes,” Haru says, glancing at the case in Makoto’s hands. Haruka has one too, but they’re not going to need it just yet.

Makoto plasters a smile on his face and motions for Haru to leave. Haru strides off somewhere, probably to skulk behind a potted plant. He’s not usually this nervous, although, unsurprisingly, he’s hardly vocal about it. Perhaps he’s just antsy because he hadn’t liked the painting when Makoto bought it. Still, there’s not much time to think about it, because he’s got a client waiting for him.

The somber wooden door to the conference room swings open under his hand, and he is greeted by the sight of a gentleman in a grey suit that doesn’t suit him. He’s young, fair-haired, and spares Makoto a bright grin. “You’re early.”

“Punctuality is important,” says Makoto pleasantly. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Shigino.”

“Call me Kisumi,” the younger man extends a hand. “Have an easy time getting here?”

“I did, actually. Now, shall we get straight to business? I’m afraid I have another client to see in an hour and I’d like to be early for her as well.”

“Alrighty,” says Shigino- Kisumi, rather. “Show me what you’ve got.”

Makoto nods and opens the case. “Takano. You may not have heard of her, because she’s still quite new to the art scene. Her work is mostly pop culture, which is a little unorthodox, but she’s gaining a lot of popularity among the younger crowds. I thought this might do, since you said you wanted something feminine.”

“Oh, gosh,” Makoto’s client laughs out loud. “I don’t look like the feminine type , do I? My boss is the girly one, not me. I'm just the middleman.”

“Ah, my apologies.” Holding the bottom of the painting steady so it doesn’t roll back up, Makoto lets his smile soften. “You’re right, I did wonder if there'd been some sort of mistake, but to each, his own, I guess."

"True," Kisumi chuckles. "Although, I probably shouldn't say any more- I don't think I'd be employed for very long if word got out I was dissing my boss's preferences."

"That would be a shame, you seem like a very capable employee."

“Now you’re just trying to butter me up.”

“Maybe I am,” Makoto says, and treats Kisumi to his warmest laugh.

Tilting his head, Kisumi inspects the painting and then shrugs. “I don’t fancy it myself, but who am I to argue with pink hair? Other people can be difficult to shop for, I guess. Luckily for me, though, Orihaya, it seems you’ve got a good eye.”

Makoto, alias Ira Orihaya, smiles. “So I take it you’d like the piece?”

“I would. But you’ll allow me to check for authenticity first, of course. I don’t like to take chances, and this is my boss’s cash we’re talking about.”

“Of course,” says Makoto, stepping aside to let the other man inspect it. Kisumi opens his briefcase and tugs out a small magnifier. Balancing it between three fingers, he takes his time checking it over.

“Looking at tiny details like this makes my head spin, but I guess this is what a guy gets for graduating from art school,” he says conversationally. Makoto keeps the smile on. He knows what Kisumi is looking for; renegade brush hairs, a too-strong oil smell, convincing paint thickness, and any number of other minute details. Regardless of how good he is at his job, however, he won’t find anything out of the ordinary. Makoto hasn’t actually tried to scam him.

Not yet, at least.

Kisumi is satisfied, and reports that he’s happy with the quality of what Makoto’s trying to sell him. Now comes the fun part: arguing about price. Makoto’s first offer is three hundred and fifty hundred thousand yen, significantly more than what he had paid himself. Kisumi blinks at this, then glances down at the painting, and then back at Makoto.

“Orihaya, this isn’t a Da Vinci. Isn’t your price a little steep?”

“You asked for mid-range, and this is the upper end of mid-range,” Makoto says politely but firmly. Kisumi looks two steps away from outrage, and Makoto already anticipates demands that he be more reasonable. He is, however, not in the mood to bargain, and makes this clear. His client is having none of it and insists on a lower price, so Makoto bows, packs up his things, and politely walks out the door.

Haru’s waiting right outside.

The change of hands is easy to miss unless you’re looking hard. The original piece is swapped for the version painted by Haru. Convincing at first glance, but unlikely to stand up to scrutiny. Makoto, however, has no reason to worry about this because that hurdle has already been passed. By the time anyone thinks to take a second look, he and Haru will be long gone. The second case is identical to the first one, right down to the tiny scratch on the top of the lid. Haru disappears into the lift with the real painting, and Makoto walks away with the fake. One of the many fakes, in fact. Takano is popular this year, and there seem to be quite a few people willing to buy this particular work. Makoto is only too happy to oblige by giving out three copies in total, although he’ll be selling the original back to another art dealer before the month is out. It’s not worth having Haru gripe over hair painted the wrong colour.

He makes it halfway across the lobby before Kisumi Shigino opens the door and calls him back.

Makoto turns around and smiles even wider. This time, he’s prepared to negotiate.

 

 


 

 

 

Nagisa’s excited about having Rei over, it seems, because he’s barreling up and down the hall yelling something about chicken nuggets.

Rei sighs and adjusts his glasses. For the past week Nagisa has alternated between whining, cajoling and attempts at bribery to get Rei to accept a date. He’s refused, thus far, less out of any dislike of Nagisa than out of principle, because he kept making those awful puns with Rei’s name. Yesterday, though, he’d relented, only because Nagisa had looked so piteous that Rei couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

That’s the main reason why he’s in Nagisa’s cramped flat. He wouldn’t mind leaving to the park now, actually, because it’s dusk and the weather is very pleasant. Nagisa, however, has insisted on fixing him a snack, and is making so much noise that Rei’s half-considering taking over the job and kicking the blond menace out of the kitchen.

It’s terribly messy. This comes as no surprise, because his coworker is scatterbrained and lax, and completely unlike Rei, which explains why his living space is completely unlike Rei’s as well. It’s colourful, haphazardly decorated, and crammed full of junk. Still, Rei thinks, it’s not all bad, because at least it’s warm and he somehow doesn’t feel like an intruder even though he’s never been here before.

Something crashes in the kitchen and Nagisa calls out an apology. Rei puts his head in his hands. If he didn’t leave everything lying around, he’d probably have an easier time getting anything done. It’s no wonder he loses something important at least once a week. Nagisa’s far too old to need a babysitter, but Rei suddenly feels the need to do something about his messy, entirely immature lifestyle.

Tidying up the living room seems like a good start, so Rei nods to himself and gets to work reorganizing the coffee table. He’s a lot less irritated than he should be, but that may only be because he’s always liked making things pretty, not because this is Nagisa, specifically.

It doesn’t take much more than five minutes, so he moves on to the bookshelf, which doesn’t actually have any books in it because Nagisa’s left them scattered on the floor instead. He straightens up a couple of decorative odds and ends and debates whether or not to throw out the box for some hip new brand of headphones.

He opens it up first to check if there’s anything inside, and then blinks.

Nagisa pops his head out of the kitchen. “Okay, I might have gotten a little carried away with the chicken nuggets, and long story short, do you think you’ll be able to finish twenty-seven of them? Because that’s about half of what I made.”

Rei meets his gaze with an expression so void of emotion that Nagisa feels like he’s staring into Cthulhu’s inky black asshole. “What is this.”

Nagisa’s eyes slide down to the box in his guest’s rapidly tightening grip. “That’s. Uh. Oregano.”

“No it isn’t.”

If Rei had a dolphin handy, he might be able to translate Nagisa’s panicked squeaks. He doesn’t, unfortunately, so he’s forced to wait until the other man becomes coherent enough to claim innocence. Rei sets the box down gingerly, not wanting to get any on his hands, and scowls.

“When you invited me over, you didn’t tell me I would be walking into the house of a drug addict.

“I am not a druggie!” Nagisa holds his hands up in surrender, almost smacking himself with the spatula. “It’s not mine, it’s my friend’s, he left it here, anyway I don’t think you can get addicted to that stuff because it’s too mild but it’s really nice to help you unwind and food really tastes amazing-”

“This is illegal!” Rei bellows, and then drops his voice to a hiss halfway through the sentence. “I could get into trouble even associating with you! If anyone found out, we’d both get arrested!”

Nagisa gives him a nervous grin. “Now, don’t you think you’re exagge-rei-ti-”

Nagisa.”

“Okay, okay!” The spatula leaves a trace of oil on the counter when Nagisa puts it down. “You caught me. It’s mine, and I bought it for a really good price, and apparently I should have hid it a little better because I didn’t think you’d go snooping through my things-”

“I was cleaning-

“Regardless,” Nagisa interrupts, finally coming out of the kitchen to stand right in front of him, “I can see you’re not happy, and, well…do you not like me anymore?”

It would be easy to say that no, Rei doesn’t like him anymore, and that they’re not going out on a date, but Nagisa looks honestly scared. He can’t turn around and leave now, not after the flowers and chocolates and compliments and hugs. Rei does have a heart, after all, so he adjust his glasses and sighs. “I think you and I need to have a serious talk about the dangers of keeping illicit substances in your home.”

Nagisa positively beams at him. “So you still like me?”

“Yes, Nagisa, I still like yoof-” his words die into a strangled wheeze when he’s attacked by a blond head to the sternum.

“Thank you, Rei! I’m so happy!”

“You’re crushing me,” Rei croaks (his ribs are, after all, only organic), but doesn’t try to wriggle free.

Nagisa suddenly looks up at him and smiles, and Rei feels like he should have gone home after all. “Hey, Rei.”

“What?”

“You wanna try some?”

It takes a second for Rei to understand what’s being asked of him, and then he splutters. “Are you seriously trying to get me to sample your drugs?”

“I don’t think these count as drugs,” Nagisa says slyly, fishing around in the box until he finds a long, thin, white cylinder. “But it’s good stuff, and aren’t you curious at all?”

“No! Of course not!”

“Liar.” A lighter is dangled in Rei’s face. “You can’t just turn down a new experience, Rei! Come one, it’ll be fun. Do it for science.

Rei almost falters, at that. “You can’t get me to go along with your madness just by throwing around the word ‘science’, Nagisa.”

“Fair enough,” Nagisa laughs, uneasiness gone. “But it’s seriously an out-of-body experience! And, well, I’m gonna light one, so you can join in if you want.”

Rei frowns deeply as the stick is lit and an odd smell hits him after a few seconds of Nagisa’s puffing. He’s only ever read about experiences like these, much less come into contact with anyone who actually indulges in them, and as much as he hates to admit it, he does sort of wonder what it’s going to be like. He’s never even been properly drunk before, aside from that one time at his twenty-first birthday party. He eyes his friend warily, but doesn’t pull back when the unlit end is held to his lips.

“Go ahead,” Nagisa bats his eyes.

Rei sighs, leans forward, takes a puff and proceed to hack up a lung.

 

 


 

 

 

The lights in the café are dim, bathing the room in a faint orange glow. There’s music playing on the speakers, but it’s drowned out by the soft chattering of the patrons. Two drinks are on the table. Sousuke hasn’t started on his share yet, but he can already tell that his coffee is going to be far too sweet.

“Thanks for taking me out even though I’m technically still arrested,” says Momotaro from around a mouthful of muffin.

Sousuke looks away from the elderly couple sitting at the table across from them. He gives Momo a smile that’s more teeth than mirth, but doesn’t bother straightening up in his chair. “Easiest way to talk to you. Plus, everyone at the station was happy to get rid of you, since you’re such an annoying little shit.”

Momo is, for some reason, tickled by this, and he makes his good cheer known by stealing the whipped cream off of Sousuke’s coffee. “I sure did miss you guys. It was hard getting away from my brother for long enough to get back in here.”

“Did you talk to him?”

“I did!” the younger Mikoshiba brother turns his muffin around, apparently wondering if he should eat the rest of it now that the crunchy part on top has been inhaled.

Sousuke leans forward and drops his voice so it won’t be heard over the noise. “And what did he say?”

“First he asked how I got his number, and then he laughed, then he said no thanks. But I’m gonna call him again tomorrow. I’ve got tickets to see the new Transformers movie so I’m sure he’ll go out with me then!”

Sergeant Yamazaki sighs. “Momo, no. I don’t care about your love life with Officer Nitori. I want to know what your brother knows about Nanase.”

“Oh.” Momo pulls a crumpled wad of paper from his back pocket and flattens it out. “Here, I wrote it down for you so I wouldn’t forget.”

Sousuke takes the piece of paper and frowns. “A phony art dealer?”

Momotaro nods, sipping his milkshake. “Nobody recognized the name, but apparently some people have seen the big guy. They say he sells paintings, but he uses a different name every time. He’s usually seen with the other one, the one with black hair. There are rumours that some of the stuff he sells turns out to be fake, but nobody’s managed to catch either of them yet. That’s all I could find out, though. Sei’s not really involved in that kind of thing. Speaking of which, he’s not gonna get in trouble, is he?”

“Not if he doesn’t do anything stupid,” says Sousuke absently, tapping his chin. Momo’s hand is inching towards his abandoned coffee, but Sousuke allows him to pinch it without much of a fuss. This information is interesting, but he’ll need proof if he wants to take any proper action against the men known as Nanase and Tachibana. It’s not hard imagining quiet, deep Nanase being in the background of illicit activities, but he should have been a little more suspicious of Tachibana’s affable smile.

He stands up. “Let’s get back to the station.”

“Do I have to go back into holding?”

Yes, you have to go back into holding. You tried to steal a policeman’s uniform.”

“That’s not so bad!”

“Momo, it was still attached to the policeman.”

Momo sighs. “I can’t help it, I just really like Officer Nitori.”

Sousuke opens the door and steps out into the street. Coffee in one hand and muffin in the other, Momotaro jogs after him. He’s probably trying to chat about something, but Sousuke doesn’t pay him much attention. Nanase is Rin’s friend, which means it might be a good idea to go easy on him, but he’ll be damned if he lets Rin get entangled with a criminal. He doesn’t say much when they get back to the station, but allows Momo to take his food back to his cell. Rin gives him a questioning glance. Sousuke tells him to go enjoy the rest of his lunch break.

He doesn’t tell Momo he’s done a good job, but the police dog finds her way into his cell half an hour later, and Momotaro’s yells of delight can be heard from all the way down the street.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Nuggets,” says Nagisa, “are the most incredible things to have ever walked the earth.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, nuggets can’t walk, they don’t have any legs.” Rei tries to pat him on the head, but misses a few times. “See? They’re round.” He holds one up and squints at it.

Nagisa tries to bite it out of his fingers, but Rei bats him away and retreats to the other end of the couch. “Stop that,” he complains. “I’m trying to examine this beautiful creature in detail. Look at its shape. It’s circular, except not really. Perfect in its imperfection. Unique! What a noble animal. And so very tiny.” He breaks it in half and inspects the contents. “I can’t make out its innards. Perhaps they’re very small? You should have told me there would be nuggets, Nagisa, I would have brought my microscope.”

Nagisa smiles giddily and leans back on the couch, planting his socked feet squarely in Rei’s lap. He feels light and cottony, as though his consciousness has escaped his body and is floating just above it, attached by a single, thin cord of self-awareness. The only parts of him that feel solid are the soles of his feet, being anchored to Rei as they are. He wiggles his toes, sighing at the reassuring firmness of Rei’s thighs. “I’m glad you decided to go out with me,” he says dreamily. “You’re really pretty and smart and kind of geeky but in a totally cute way. I bet you’re a virgin, too, but that’s fine.

Rei frowns at Nagisa’s feet and slowly starts slipping off the couch. “How rude,” he says, but doesn’t elaborate any further.

“Isn’t this the best?” It seems Nagisa’s lost the ability to speak without grinning. He doesn’t mind, though, because it’s entirely satisfying to sink into the cushions while his mind glides in the air just above him. “Just us two and delicious food. It’s g-rei-t.”

There’s an odd noise from the other end of the sofa, so Nagisa lifts his head. Rei’s face is doing something complicated, somewhere in between a laugh and a scowl. “I never know what to do with you,” he sighs, probably not noticing how petulant he sounds. “You’re so illogical and frustrating and overwhelming. Like a puzzle I can’t solve, but I want to keep trying.” He leans his head back, half a nugget balanced in each hand, and watches the ceiling through half-lidded eyes. “I’m not sure what to think right now. Can’t concentrate. Inspired, though. Everything is clear. My body and my mind have separated.”

“Separated?” Nagisa says.

“Sepa-rei-ted,” Rei says, and then dissolves into laughter.

Nagisa moves his feet and then shifts around until he can put his face into Rei’s stomach with very little finesse. Rei’s sweater feels like it’s made of kittens and weed. It’s nice. “Will you feed me another nugget?”

“By all means,” Rei transfers his broken nugget bits to one hand and picks up a whole one to hold against Nagisa’s mouth. “A tiny nugget beast for a tiny Nagisa beast.”

Nagisa’s eyes are slightly vacant, but they widen with sudden realization. He sits upright and grabs his friend’s wrist, starling them both. “Oh my god. Rei. What if we’re eating babies?”

Rei blinks, looks down at his mutilated nugget pieces in his right hand, and then at the unmolested nugget in his left hand. “Babies?” he repeats, tasting the word cautiously on his tongue. “Huh. You might be right. Maybe these are young. But what do the adults look like?”

“Hamburgers,” says Nagisa miserably, staring at the plate on the coffee table. There are four nuggets left, excluding the ones Rei’s got in his hands. “I can’t believe we ate so many babies. I think I’m gonna be sick.”

A mollifying hand finds its way to his arm, although Rei doesn’t look too sure how it got there. “Anyone is fair game in the animal kingdom,” he says kindly.

Nagisa sniffles and picks up the plate. “Poor things. They died for us. I feel so bad. But they taste so good.

Rei pops one of his nugget halves into his mouth inelegantly and then gently prods Nagisa to accept the other, whole one. “We shouldn’t let their deaths be in vain.”

“You’re right,” Nagisa says, lip wobbling, right before he shoves all four nuggets in his mouth. A single tear escapes unbidden from the corner of his eye. “It’s what they would have wanted,” is what Rei thinks he says, although it’s hard to tell with his mouth completely full.

He almost chokes when he swallows, so Rei thumps him on the back until he stops coughing. The plate makes a soft chink when Nagisa sets it back on the table. The thought of having eaten nugget children that might have had nugget parents and nugget dreams leaves a hollow feeling in his chest, although it’s hard to concentrate on this fully when his treacherous brain suddenly reminds him of what prawns look like when they swim, but he fights back the giggles and offers a prayer instead.

He turns to suggest that Rei offer some condolences as well because it’s only right, really, but realizes halfway through his sentence that he can’t actually talk because Rei’s tongue is, for some reason, becoming deeply acquainted with Nagisa’s tonsils.

Rei pulls away and Nagisa blinks at him. He glances at the floor and then back at Nagisa’s mouth. “You ate the last four nuggets,” he explains matter-of-factly. “Unfair. Trying to get them back.”

“Oh,” says Nagisa, and immediately climbs into his lap to try that again.

 

 


 

 

Once upon a time, Kisumi’s apartment looked like it belonged to a teenager.

The walls never used to be painted a calm, steel grey. Or, rather, they might have been, but it would have been impossible to see under the forest’s worth of posters stuck haphazardly onto every flat surface. It used to be messy, too. Now, Sousuke knows that if he were to run a finger against any surface, it would come up clean. He’d be more surprised at the drastic change if he didn’t already know that Kisumi had a maid come in every weekend, though. The truth is that the other man is still hopeless at cleaning up after himself. He’s only gotten better at hiding it.

“You like your coffee black, right?” Kisumi’s voice floats in from the kitchen. Sousuke answers that anything is fine.

Kisumi makes the coffee black anyway. It’s so bitter that Momo would have hated it.

“It’s unusual for you to come visit me,” Kisumi says amiably, leaning back in his plush cream-coloured armchair. He sips at the coffee as though it is water. “I don’t suppose you wanted to catch up on old times?”

“This is a business trip, unfortunately,” Sousuke replies. He leans forward to pull a folded-up photograph out of the back pocket of his jeans, and then slides it across the table. “There are a couple of people I’m looking for.”

The photo is held up at eye level. Kisumi frowns.

“What’s so special about these two?”

Sousuke quirks his lips at the lava lamp resting on the living room table. It is one of the few items to survive Kisumi’s recent redecoration. “I’ve heard that they’re not completely upstanding citizens. Right now, though, I can’t find any information on them. I was wondering if you’d happen to know them.”

The man sitting across from him smiles. “Gosh. What’s in it for me? Intel don’t come cheap, you know.”

“How’s your boss?”

If Shigino is thrown by the sudden change of topic, he doesn’t show it. “Fine, thanks. Busy with work.”

Sousuke hums softly in agreement. “Yes, I can imagine life must get hectic with the feds knocking on your door. Even with friends in high places, it’s hard to sweep accusations of yakuza involvement under the rug.”

“I get the feeling you’re trying to threaten me.”

“Threaten you? God, no. I’m a cop,” says Sousuke pleasantly. “I am, saying, though, that your boss’s life would probably be easier if, theoretically, someone were to stall investigations long enough to say, transfer money into an overseas bank account?”

Kisumi grins. “I bought a painting from the one with the brown hair. His name is Ira Orihaya.”

Sousuke blinks, glances down at the picture and then bites back a smirk. “Ira Orihaya, huh?”

“Yup. Nice guy. Knew his stuff. Offered to buy me a coffee, too, even though we only met the one time.”

“And you say you bought only one painting from him?”

“Yeah, some girly pink thing for the boss.”

“How much?”

“Two hundred grand.”

Sousuke raises his eyebrows. “Hefty sum.”

Kisumi shrugs. “Art is expensive, and some people can be picky. This is still considered mid-range, though. You should see the price tags on some of the really famous stuff.”

It’s easy to hide a smile under the pretext of taking a sip of coffee. “So, just to be clear, you bought a two hundred thousand yen, mid-range painting for your boss from the man in the photo, whose name is Ira Orihaya.”

A nod. “That’s right.”

Sousuke finishes his coffee and extends a hand. “You know what, Kisumi? Thanks. You were a big help, and I get the feeling this is going to turn out to be useful.”

 

 


 

 

 

Makoto makes a lot of noise when he walks.

It’s a good thing that Haruka has good hearing. Or, rather, it’s a good thing that he’s actually paying attention to his surroundings today, rather than goofing off in the bathtub like he normally does.

He is in the bathtub, of course, but this time, he’s busy.

Makoto knocks on the door. “You’ve been in there for an hour. I’m coming in.”

The door slides open and Makoto pokes his head in. Haru sighs and snaps his laptop shut. “It’s a little weird for a grown man to be coming into the bathroom when his other friend, also a grown man, is bathing,” he says. Well, he thinks it, anyway. Knowing Makoto, he will be able to understand Haru’s message with just a look.

True to form, Makoto only smiles in response to Haru’s baleful glare, and leans against the doorframe. “If I let you stay in there for as long as you wanted, you’d come out as one big wrinkle. And don’t look at me like that, Haru, I know what you’re going to say, and no, I’m not secretly trying to instill any form of Oedipus complex in you by mothering you.”

“I don’t know if I can trust the word of a pervert who keeps walking in on me in the bathroom,” Haru retorts.

Makoto chuckles and comes in anyway. “Even if that were true, it would be hard for me to practice my sexual deviancy on you, considering you wear a swimsuit in the tub.”

It’s with no small amount of smugness that Haru draws his knees away from his chest, although his expression remains neutral. “What swimsuit?” he asks.

Makoto’s face does something fascinating, then; it goes through at least six different expressions while simultaneously turning pale, and then he colours completely and covers his eyes with his hands. “Oh my god, Haru! Why didn’t you tell me you were naked?”

Haru raises an eyebrow even though Makoto can’t see it. “I have to announce that I’m going to be naked while I bathe?”

“You’re never naked normally!” Makoto cries, apparently too freaked out to run away. He peeks through a gap in his fingers, but keeps his gaze locked firmly above Haru’s shoulders. “What the heck! Why aren’t you wearing your swimsuit? Put it on!”

“Alright,” says Haru mildly, and moves to stand up.

Makoto yelps. “OH MY GOD I TAKE IT BACK SIT DOWN AND DON’T MOVE. I get the message, I’ll go! But what were you even doing?”

Haru says nothing, but glances at the laptop perched innocuously on the side of the tub. Realisation dawns slowly on Makoto’s face like butter over hot toast.

“Oh. Oh. You were, uh, having alone time, I’m so sorry, please warn me next time, I’ve gotta go not be here anymore. I’ll be in the living room trying to forget everything about my life up till now. Call me if you need me,” he says, turns, and runs out the door.

Haru almost shrugs, but aborts the movement halfway, because what’s the point, really. Makoto’s ridiculously easy to wind up, even if he’s the one taking care of Haru most of the time. He reaches over and pulls the laptop back towards him.

“Plane tickets should be pretty cheap this season,” he mumbles to himself, and continues studying up on overseas bank accounts.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rei wakes up to find one half of a soggy chicken nugget lodged in his bellybutton and Nagisa drooling on his chest.

He grimaces and prods at the limpet clinging to his torso. Nagisa makes an undignified noise and lifts his head, squinting at Rei through sleepy pink eyes. Rei, having misplaced both his shirt and his glasses, squints back.

“What happened?”

Nagisa thoughts appear to buffer for a good five seconds before he opens his mouth to speak. “We got high and made out. I think I cried over our food. I can’t remember why.”

“That’s what I thought.” Rei pushes at Nagisa’s shoulders until he reluctantly moves, and then winces at the creak of his joints when he sits up himself. “Well, I won’t deny it was an… informative experience. I’m not sure I’ll be doing it again very soon, though.”

“But it was way fun, right?”

It’s probably due to the after-effects that Rei lets out a soft snort of laughter. His body still feels asleep, even though his mind is awake. The world is mellow and incredibly warm. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.”

Nagisa stretches, still straddling Rei’s lap, and yawns. “You’re pretty hilarious when you’re high. You wouldn’t stop talking about how noble and majestic nuggets were. You tried to convince me noodles were a deep-sea creature related to eels.”

“You believed me,” Rei retorts. He should probably tell Nagisa to get off him, but he’s very comfortable at the moment, and doesn’t really want to be whined at. “And besides, you said the stars were salt, and that god was going to eat us.”

Nagisa grins. Bedhead and a debauched smile, Rei notes with some irritation, suit him well. “Speaking of salt, how do margaritas sound?”

“I’m not sure that crossfading is a good idea right now.”

Nagisa tilts his head, and his eyebrows disappear into his bangs. “I’m a little surprised you know what that means.”

Rin rolls his eyes. “I’m not completely clueless. I did have some semblance of a social life in university, you know.”

“I’ll say. You totally made out with me.”

“Yes, I know,” says Rei dryly. “I was there.”

“And you’re still here.”

“Your point?”

Nagisa comes closer. His smile softens somewhat before he ducks his head. “We should pick up where we left off,” he says, brushing his lips against Rei’s jaw.

Rei glances at the clock on the wall. “It’s forty-seven minutes past midnight. I should go home,” he says, but makes no move to leave.

The curious mouthing along his neck becomes more insistent. Rei tilts his head to allow Nagisa to nibble on a tendon. “You should stay. I’ve got a double bed, you know. More than enough room for two. Even if there isn’t, we can just cuddle up real close.”

“You could at least buy me dinner first,” Rei complains good-naturedly.

Nagisa huffs a laugh into Rei’s shoulder. “I made you like, fifty chicken nuggets.”

“Which you ate most of.”

“It’s what they would have wanted.”

Rei suppresses a grin. “Can’t disrespect the wishes of the dead.”

“Absolutely,” says Nagisa seriously, and swirls his tongue around Rei’s ear. “So you should definitely stay with me. I’ll take you out for a real breakfast tomorrow. And a real lunch. And dinner, too. And maybe we can go to the park like we planned. So. Sleep over?”

“Well, there aren’t any trains running this late,” Rei concedes, and submits to the hands undoing his belt.

 

 


 

 

“I need,” says Sousuke, “some bank records.”

Kou blinks at him over her pizza and sighs. “I should have known.”

Sousuke grins. They’re in a dinky little American-style diner at 8pm on a Saturday. Rin hates the place because the food is so greasy, so Sousuke typically uses Rin’s scheduled night shifts to get his fix of chili cheese fries without being grimaced at. Normally, he’d drag Kisumi or Nitori along, but tonight Sousuke has other things on his mind.

He sequesters some of the cream off Kou’s milkshake, smacking his lips obnoxiously as she gives him a dirty look. “I wouldn’t risk Rin punching me for taking his little sister out unless it was important.”

“You should be honoured to be seen alone with me,” Kou replies, shielding her drink from his marauding spoon. She looks a lot like Rin, who would probably have stabbed him with a fork at this point. “Whose bank records do you need and why?”

Sousuke shushes her and glances around. The diner is noisy enough that nobody seems to have heard them. “I’ll tell you in a second. First, I need to know if I’m gonna get into any trouble for this.”

“You’re a cop. Shouldn’t you already know these things?”

“Normally, I would have gotten a warrant first,” he says. Or he would have beaten someone up for a bit until he found a trail he could follow. “But right now I’d prefer to keep things, well. Discrete.”

She narrows her eyes at him, and he realizes that he probably sounds shady as hell. Still Sousuke’s not about to launch an investigation without having some sort of concrete proof. If he’s going to level accusations against Rin’s best friends, he’d prefer to do it with something more than hearsay from two men on the wrong wide of the law. He doesn’t let his gaze fall, staring back at her until she eventually shrugs.

Kou taps her spoon against the rim of her glass thoughtfully. He can tell she’s curious, but to his relief, she doesn’t press the issue. Instead, she puts her chin in her hand and hums. “You know, I’m a bank lawyer, so I’m not really qualified to advise you on this kind of thing. If I remember correctly, though, you’d get in trouble for trying to access any information that violates someone’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”

A waitress walks past holding a tray full of something sizzling. Sousuke follows her with his eyes until she gets to a table in the corner. “Assume I’m dumber than a bag of rocks, and say that again.”

Kou’s mouth does a funny thing halfway between a laugh and a sigh. “Okay, think of it like this. If you walk into a phone booth and shut the door, that means you don’t want anyone to hear your conversation, right? So, if someone eavesdropped on you, that would be a violation of your privacy. If you wanted to do that kind of thing legally, you’d need a search warrant, which is something you’re probably used to.”

Sousuke drums his fingers against the tabletop, because he knows this part. “But then I’d have to go to a judge, which I’d rather not do.”

“And it’s illegal to go snooping through someone’s stuff on just a hunch, right?”

“Right,” says Sousuke, even though that hasn’t stopped him before.

“Right, so,” Kou says, twirling her pretty red hair around a finger absently. “That still depends on whether or not it was reasonable to expect privacy. It’s not reasonable to expect privacy if you willingly give your information to a third party. So if you hand your documents over to the bank, you know people are going to read it, so it’s not private anymore.”

“So I could, as a member of the police force, take a look at this information?”

She shrugs. “Technically, yeah, but I wouldn’t take my word for it. It’s all kind of sketchy, Sousuke. Why don’t you just go about things the way you normally do?”

Sousuke purses his lips and picks at his last few fries. “It’s complicated,” he says, and the excuse seems flimsy even to his ears. Kou raises an eyebrow at him in trademark Matsuoka fashion, and he rolls the words around in his mouth before speaking again. “I don’t want Rin to know. What I’m investigating is pretty close to his heart, I think, so I’d prefer not to start turning over any rocks until I’m sure what I’m talking about. Plus, I’ve only got one reliable witness right now, and he tends not to get along well with the police. I doubt he’ll cooperate unless he knows he’s been scammed.”

Kou stares at him for a long, uncomfortable moment. Eventually, she breaks the silence. “So Rin is involved?”

A heavy pang of guilt hits him square in the chest when he looks at her, but he nods anyway. “I’m worried about him. He’s not…in any danger, I think, but this thing I’m worried about still looks like a threat.”

He doesn’t expect her to reach across the table and grab him by the hand, but it seems Matsuokas tend not to take things lying down. “Tell me everything.”

For a second, he debates this. Kou is an office worker, not someone cut out for chasing bad guys and trudging through the criminal underworld. Still, he does need easy access to any credit information he can get his hands on, and Kou may be able to help.

“You’re not going to leave me alone until I tell you, huh?”

“Of course not,” she says matter-of-factly.

He shrugs and sighs. “Alright,” he says, and reaches down to pull a rapidly wearing photograph out of his back pocket.

 

 


 

 

 

Nagisa opens bleary eyes at ten-forty five in the morning, and immediately realizes he is late for work.

He falls out of bed in a tangle of limbs and trips over his own feet on the way to his wardrobe. If he’s late for the fourth time this month, the manager is going to pitch a fit. He won’t lose his job, probably, but he’ll be hard pressed to sneak out for chocolate breaks in the middle of the afternoon.

He can’t even tell which shirts are clean and which are dirty. Everything is in various piles on the floor, and he can almost hear his mother’s chastising voice as he picks up a pair of pants at random and starts trying to get them on both legs at a time. He’s in the middle of trying to force his head through an armhole when a delicate cough makes itself heard, and Nagisa stills immediately.

Arms still stuck above his head, he turns like a meerkat to look at the bed. Rei, gloriously naked and at home in a mountain of pillows, looks intensely unimpressed. “Exactly what,” he says, “are you doing?”

Nagisa blinks. “Work?” he hazards a guess, although it’s probably the wrong one.

Rei adjusts his glasses. “It’s Sunday.”

“Oh.”

“We don’t work on Sundays.”

“Oh.”

“We slept together.”

“It wasn’t just a dream?”

“Evidently not.”

“Oh.”

“You promised to buy me a decent meal.”

“I did,” says Nagisa, memories of giddy laughter and warm skin coming back to him. Slowly, his face loses some of its stupor and stretches into a grin.

Rei reclines against the pillows, patting the spot next to him invitingly. “That being said, I’m really not inclined to get up at the moment.”

“Naked Sunday?” Nagisa offers.

“If you’d like.”

“Cool,” Nagisa says, drops his pants, and hops back into bed.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The office is dead silent. Understandable, really, because it’s nearing eight p.m.

Kou’s posture is relaxed in her chair, but tiny pinpricks of cold sweat soak through the back of her blouse despite the air-conditioning being on. She’s a hard worker, and she reminds herself that it’s nothing unusual for her to be staying late in the office once almost everyone’s gone home. There are about seven people left on her floor, two of them being senior managers in separate corner offices, but the others in her department pay her no mind. Kou steadily works through the pile of paperwork on her desk, company-issue (and out of date) computer glowing dully in front of her.

It’s a good thing her cubicle faces the security camera head-on, she thinks not for the first time since moving up to the legal department. It makes it infinitely easier to scroll through blogs of handsome actors when the facts and figures get a little too stifling. This time, though, there isn’t a browser window open innocuously in the background.

She puts her arms behind her head and stretches. The knots in her back don’t unravel so much as loosen slightly, but she ignores the discomfort of having been in the same position for most of the day. There’s no way real chance of calming down anyway. Although she’s taking care not to act very differently from the way she normally does, there’s a tenseness to her jaw that makes her look quite a bit like her older brother.

It’s been a week since dinner with Sousuke. She’s been making calls during her lunch breaks, company phone held close to her mouth and voice quiet. Some cheques given to the wrong bank, she’d explained pleasantly. One made out to a Haruka Nanase, and another to Makoto Tachibana. Would either happen to hold an account with you, by any chance?

She’s had no luck with Nanase. It’s a pure stroke of fortune, in fact, that Tachibana happens to have a credit card at the same bank Kou’s old schoolmate works with.

Fingers tapping nervously against her armrest and belying her peaceful façade, she glances at the fax machine. It’s a wretched old thing, used mainly by some of the older employees who don’t know their way around a PDF. Slow and noisy, but infinitely better than an incriminating email in her inbox. She could just delete it, probably, but better safe than sorry.

She stares at her screen, unseeing, for a good five minutes before the fax machine beeps and starts making noises like the awful dubstep her brother claims not to listen to. Still, she keeps her eyes fixed firmly on her work, willing herself not to spring up and charge at the paper being belched out. Wouldn’t do to seem too eager, not when there are people around and security cameras watching. Snooping through people’s credit ratings for no reason could get her fired, after all.

Ten seconds go by, followed by another ten. When her breathing’s evened out somewhat, she stands up and makes her way nonchalantly across the office.

She’s not quite fast enough. Sera, the kindly man who works two desks over, gets to the fax before she can. He tears it away from the machine and squints at it.

Kou grits her teeth. She’d forgotten than Sera was technologically illiterate and had a tendency to ask for faxes of things instead of emails. Plastering on her sweetest smile, she waves to get his attention. “Sera, that’s mine. Could you toss it to me, if it’s not too much trouble?”

Sera, despite being all of three years older, gives her a fatherly smile. “Sure, Kou. Sorry, I didn’t mean to snoop. I was expecting something from Accounting.”

She assures him it’s okay and hurries back to her desk before he can properly finish asking how her work is doing. He wanders away to the coffee machine, and she makes a show of leaving the fax next to her paperwork as though it’s not the most important thing she’s had to do this week. When she’s sure her coworker is too preoccupied with prodding around in the hopes of a cappuccino to pay her any attention, she pulls the piece of paper closer, pencil in hand.

Cracking her knuckles in anticipation, she hunkers down for a night of reading through Makoto Tachibana’s credit card history, and makes a mental note to buy Chigusa cupcakes in the morning.

 

 


 

 

 

It’s not like Sousuke’s easily intimidated. He’s not Nitori, who still flinches whenever Rin gets snippy with him. Still, Kisumi’s got a temper, and Sousuke isn’t interested in fending off a fist to the jaw, so the diner really is the best choice.

Kisumi takes a deep, appreciative breath of his hot dog. It’s a monstrous thing, relish, onions and mushrooms barely contained in its bun. He bites into it with every sign of enjoyment, as though this isn’t a shitty, run-down place with big portions as its only redeeming quality. Catching Sousuke’s eye, he grins.

Sousuke holds back a comment about how at home Kisumi looks with a phallus in his mouth because that would be hypocritical, really. Instead, he taps his finger against the mouth of his beer. “On a scale of one to Caesar,” he says, chin in his hand, “how much of a problem do you have with betrayal?”

Kisumi pauses mid bite. “What’s going on?” he asks, and he looks suddenly much colder even with his mouth full.

It’s a little hard not to grin. Not breaking eye contact, Sousuke swipes his thumb across the screen of his phone to unlock it. “You said you bought some girly pink thing, right? A Takano?” he asks, sliding his phone across the table so Kisumi can see the photo he took a few days ago. “Was this it?”

Kisumi sets his hotdog down and picks up the Samsung. It’s a photo of the painting he’d bought, hanging up in an art gallery somewhere. “That’s the one. It’s hanging in my boss’s living room.”

“That’s a little odd, considering I took this picture in the South of Tokyo not two days ago.”

Kisumi’s eyes narrow to slits. “If there are two copies floating around, then one of them is fake.”

He’s quick to catch on, Sousuke gives him that. “The art director says he never buys a painting without checking for authenticity first.”

“And where did he buy this particular painting from?” Kisumi’s voice is almost syrupy, but they’ve been friends for long enough for Sousuke to know that his trigger finger is itching.

“From a tall young man with brown hair and green eyes,” he replies easily, leaning over the table slightly to meet Kisumi’s stare head-on. “A man whose name is not, as it turns out, Ira Orihaya.”

 

 


 

 

 

It’s a fairly normal day at the station, insofar as such a thing is possible with Momotaro Mikoshiba around. Rin’s done with his share of paperwork, they haven’t had any calls in the past few hours, and Nitori and Momo are chatting about cartoons through the bars of his holding cell. He sneaks a glance at his phone, an IM meant for Haru still unanswered. Irritating as it is, he can’t bring himself to be annoyed, because Haru is notorious for treating his mobile phone with a significant amount of disdain. He makes an idle comment to Sousuke that they might as well have their lunch break while there’s still nothing to do.

Sousuke blinks, almost like he’s been startled out of a daydream. With a nod, he rummages around his desk until he finds one of the burgers they’d both gotten earlier. The police dog, pricking up its ears at the sound of foil crinkling, immediately makes her presence known by trying to clamber into Sousuke’s lap.

Rin can’t help but smile, even though he’s seen this sequence of events play out more times than he can count (and even though he knows how annoying it is to have a fully grown furry thing sticking its nose in your takeaway).

The script doesn’t pan out the way it normally does, though; Sousuke, instead of kicking up a fuss and banishing the dog to Nitori’s desk, hands over a slice of pickle without much fuss. Rin’s face melts into a frown, and he wheels his chair over until their knees bump.

“You’re normally more territorial when Snoopy tries to take your kibbles.”

Sousuke regards him thoughtfully, but doesn’t take the bait. Instead, he sets down his burger with a warning to the dog not to take his food, which is immediately ignored the moment he turns to face Rin. Rin considers bringing this up, but stops short when he sees the look on Sousuke’s face.

“What’s up, man? You look like a gargoyle, more so than usual.”

Sousuke’s never been one to beat around the bush. Visibly steeling himself, he takes a deep breath. “Rin, what do Nanase and Tachibana do for a living?”

Rin blinks at the unexpected question, and searches his best friend’s face for clues as to what he’s getting at. “Haru’s an artist. Makoto does some sort of business stuff, I don’t know, he never really explained. Why do you ask?”

There’s a pause. “You know, I wasn’t being honest with you. I don’t want to date Nanase. Never did,” says Sousuke.

Rin considers this, and then nods in understanding. “Were you trying to be friends with Haru so you could go after Makoto?”

If exasperation had a name, it would be Sousuke. “Rin, stop being dense. I’m trying to tell you something important. You’re not going to want to hear it, but I need you to believe me, okay?”

Snoopy, having made a thorough mess of Sousuke’s burger, slinks away to take a nap. Rin’s own burger is untouched, still on his desk. He’s holding a pen, and he taps it against his leg impatiently. Sousuke continues.

“You know how sometimes I get a bad feeling about a guy, and then it turns out he’s up to no good?”

“Yeah, you’re like a bloodhound sometimes. What happened, Sou?”

“I had a feeling about Nanase, too. So, I did a couple of background checks on him. I found something you’re not gonna like.” He digs around in his drawer until he finds an unassuming piece of paper, and slides it cautiously across the desk. The words Search Warrant are printed on top in bold, unfriendly letters.

Rin’s eyes begin to narrow. Sousuke, clearly sensing a blow-out, holds his hands up in surrender and quickly cuts Rin off. “I spoke to Kisumi. He said Tachibana sold him some painting. I had a friend look through their bank records. Couldn’t find anything on Nanase, but Tachibana’s credit card history shows that he bought that painting from an art gallery and then sold it to another one a week later. The thing is, though, that it’s the exact same painting he sold to Kisumi, meaning it was a fake. He used a pseudonym and everything. I’ve even heard he’s notorious for this kind of shit, even if nobody’s managed to pin him yet because he’s been so careful. Kisumi’s pressing charges and I’ve informed Inspector Sasabe. Formal action will be taken tomorrow.”

For a few moments Rin stays silent, slack-jawed. Sousuke reaches out a hand as though to pat him on the knee, but aborts the movement halfway, hand hanging awkwardly in midair until he runs it through his hair with a sigh. “They’re criminals, Rin, the pair of them. Tachibana for sure, and Nanase’s probably involved in there somewhere.” His words trail off, meant more for himself than for Rin. “I wanted to bust them. Didn’t think actually telling you would feel this bad.”

 

 

The eventual eruption is much like that of a volcano. Rin stares ahead, wide-eyed, face pale. Slowly, though, colour begins to rise to his cheeks, spreading harsh red across his face to the roots of his hair. With it, it’s almost like his heart is expanding in his chest – not in a good way. It feels like it’s going to explode, like it’s swelling with rage and disappointment, but painfully constricted by the solidity of his ribs. He wants to break them. Wants to break something, anyway, doesn’t matter if it’s his desk or his ribs or Haru’s or Makoto’s.

Sousuke watches Rin’s jaw lock, shoulders drawing in on themselves as a tendon stands out in his neck. The wheels of his chair make a squeaky sound as he stands, fists clenched and shaking.

The pen goes flying across the room, bouncing off the far wall and terrifying the other officers, Momo and the dog. Rin’s cry of utter betrayal reverberates. Sousuke, uncharacteristically quickly, hooks an arm around Rin’s middle and whisks him into the narrow alley behind the station, glaring behind him. The others know better than to follow.

He’s not quite prepared for the fist that collides with his jaw the moment he lets go. Stumbling back, Sousuke clutches at his face, managing just barely to dodge the second punch.

Rin’s eyes are wet and his face is red. His world is hot and angry-coloured. “You bastard,” he hisses from behind clenched teeth. “You had to be a jealous asshole and go poking your nose where it didn’t belong, did you? You couldn’t have fucking left it alone? You had to go and arrest my friends and tell me that they’ve probably been lying to me for years?”

Sousuke doesn’t hit back. He probably would, if this had been any other of their fights, but this time he barely tries to ward of the blows. Rin strikes without aim, blinded as he is through the tears. Sousuke lets him. There’s little satisfaction in a one-sided fight, and Rin’s going to make Sousuke hideous tomorrow. It’s hard to care, though, when it feels like he can’t breathe through the ugly sobbing ripping big holes in his chest.

Eventually he tires. The red haze in his vision fades to grey. It’s not at all hard to flatten his palms against Sousuke’s chest, and even less so to grab fistfuls of his shirt and surrender to the hand rubbing awkward, soothing circles into his own back.

“I hate you,” he says, and his voice cracks.

“I know,” Sousuke says quietly, and lets Rin cry a wet patch onto his shoulder.

 

 


 

 

 

The bathwater is hot, and it’s with a satisfied noise that Haru stretches far enough for his fingers to brush the bathroom wall. It’s been a quiet few days. With another job well done, all he and Makoto have to do is to lay low for a while. They’ve got enough to get by for a month at least. Haru plans to spend the time off the way he always does; by lounging around and thoroughly pampering himself. Maybe he’ll start learning some new seafood recipes, too.

He’s not completely surprised when the door slams open, but the exasperated sigh dies on his lips when Makoto stumbles in, ashen-faced and breathing heavily.

Haru glances down at the mobile phone being held out to him. On it is a text message from Rin, bearing one solitary word that makes Haru’s stomach fold in on itself. His eyes meet Makoto’s. Wordlessly, he takes the other man’s hand and lets himself be pulled out of the bath.

For a full minute, the light on Makoto’s screen stays on, Rin’s brief message an almost oppressive presence in his back pocket.

 

 

Message from: Rin Matsuoka

RUN.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“I’m sorry.”

Rin says nothing. Sousuke glances at the passenger seat. His partner is staring out the window, apparently lost deep in thought. The siren’s off, so the silence is stifling and dense. Noisy people bustle about on the streets of Tokyo, but neither man is interested in the rest of the world.

Sousuke’s face hurts. Rin’s always been fit, and police training, it seems, has been wildly successful. Sousuke’s got a fairly impressive black eye, and his jaw stings so much he can’t open it without looking like his joints have rusted shut. Subconsciously, he rubs at the blotchy purple spot to the right of his chin and winces. It’s going to be a liquid diet for the next few days.

They stop at a traffic light. Sousuke’s gaze shifts back to Rin, and he realizes the other man is watching him from the corner of his eye. “Sorry about your face,” Rin says quietly.

Sousuke shrugs. He doesn’t like Rin being quiet. He likes Rin being hot-headed and snarky, and not making sad eyes at the buildings they drive past. The uncomfortable silence remains until they reach the end of the street, and follows them out of the car and into the quaint art gallery specialising in modern Japanese pop culture.

Rin’s despondence fades into neutrality the moment the doors slide open. The curators, a petite blond and a man with red spectacles, unwrap their arms from around each other immediately and stand to attention. Rin flashes his police badge and introduces them; Sergeants Matsuoka and Yamazaki. Do you have time for a few questions?

Sousuke digs around in his pocket and shows them two photographs. Not the one he’s been using all this while; the one with Tachibana and Nanase smiling with Rin cropped out at the end. These ones are official and unfriendly-looking, passport photographs taken from the Home Office database. "Have you made sales to either of these men?”

The tall one squints at the photos and adjusts his glasses. “We have.”

“Could you tell us more about them, Mister…?”

“Ryuugazaki,” says the man, stepping gracefully from behind the counter. “I’m sorry, but we’re expecting customers in a few minutes. May we speak in the break room? That way Nagisa can handle the front.” He gestures to his friend, who’s eyeing the revolver in Rin’s holster with apparent interest. “I’m afraid my manager’s not in at the moment, though, so you’ll have to speak to me instead.”

“That’s fine,” says Rin, nodding at the alleged Nagisa and following Ryuugazaki into the back room. Sousuke spares a glance for the paintings on the walls and follows. The break room isn’t much more than a storage area, with some space made in the middle for two chairs and a table. It’s littered with empty packets of potato chips and an assortment of sugary drinks. Rin wrinkles his nose automatically, and Sousuke manages a small grin despite the pain in his jaw.

Rin sits across from Ryuugazaki while Sousuke looms in the background. “The work you sold to these men, it’s this piece, isn’t it?” he asks, sliding a folder across the table. In it, aside from various legal documents, is a high resolution photograph of a painting featuring a girl with pink hair.

“That’s the latest sale we’ve made to them, yes. May I ask what all this is about?”

“We’ve received reports against Ha- Nanase and Tachibana. Apparently they’ve been committing fraud,” Rin says, face flickering only slightly.

If Ryuugazaki notices to the slip-up, he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he leans back in his chair, eyebrows lowering in disapproval. “Everything we’ve sold to them is 100% genuine, I can assure you.”

“I don’t doubt that,” replies Rin. “What I’m saying is that these two have made copies of what you sold them, and distributed them for profit.”

“Are you absolutely sure? How do you know that somebody hasn’t just made a mistake somewhere and simply does not understand the intricacies of what I assume is a perfectly good painting-”

“Because,” Rin cuts him off tersely, “we’ve found the exact same painting in another showroom. Unless the artist has been mass-producing his perfectly good work, I’m pretty sure there’s something fishy going on.”

“Takano is a lady,” Ryuugazaki sniffs, adjusting his glasses. “I’m admittedly quite shocked at what you’re telling me. From what I’ve seen of them, Messrs Tachibana and Nanase are very nice gentleman. It’s hard to imagine them being capable of art fraud, of all things.”

“You’re preaching to the choir,” Rin says under his breath. “Anyway, my partner and I are going to need to see your transactions history with them. If they’ve sold one fake painting, it’s likely they’ve sold others. We have a search warrant, if you want to see it.”

“Certainly,” Ryuugazaki stands. “I would be happy to assist you. My manager is the only one with access to our ledgers, but I can show you some of the more recent sales until she gets back.”

It takes less time than expected. Ryuugazaki is organised, and before too long they have printouts of all records from the last six months. Rin asks most of the questions, while Sousuke hangs back and frowns at the blond curator, who immediately averts his eyes.

Rin’s scowl deepens as they survey their workload, a small canyon forming between his brows. Instead of looking at the paperwork, Sousuke looks at him. They wouldn’t have to do this if Sousuke could just use what he already knows. Still, searching through Tachibana’s records without waiting for a warrant has already earned him a stern talking to from the Inspector. The story that they’re going with is that they’re doing an investigation solely because of Kisumi’s complaint. Sousuke’s lucky he’s a favourite; to keep Kou in the clear, he’d have to fess up to snooping, but Sasabe hadn’t wanted to hear the details. If Sasabe had been any less lenient, Sousuke would be looking at a lawsuit instead of a lecture.

Rin’s expression is borderline heartbreaking. Sousuke shuffles closer. “This is too much to go through at all at once,” he mutters into Rin’s ear. "Let's bring it back to the station and get Nitori to help us. We can come back later for the rest of the stuff.”

Rin’s assent is more a rush of air than any actual words. Thanking the two at the counter, they leave.

Outside, Sousuke is halfway across the parking area before he realises Rin isn’t with him. He turns to see the other man staring holes into the ground. Without warning, Rin turns and his foot collides with a bin, sending it skittering across the pavement.

Sousuke has him bundled into the car before he can kick anything else. They speed off, Rin scowling all the way.

 

 

 

Rei and Nagisa watch them leave. When the sound of the engine dies down, Nagisa let out a deep breath and collapses against Rei’s side. “Oh my god. That cop was staring at me so hard, I swear he knew about the joints.”

“Highly unlikely,” Rei offers noncommittally. “It’s not as though your eyes are red. And I assume you’ve showered a few times since the weekend. Unless you haven’t, of course, in which case we’re going to need to rethink the nature of our relationship.”

Nagisa says nothing, but Rei can almost hear the smugness in the room. He turns around.

“We’re in a relationship,” says Nagisa with the biggest grin Rei’s seen on anything that isn’t a jack-o’lantern.

Rei splutters. “Well, regardless. I can’t believe that Mister Tachibana’s being accused of art fraudulence. It’s almost inconceivable that such a kind man should be involved in such a thing.”

Nagisa’s eyes widen. “Is that why they’re wanted men?” He clings to the front of Rei’s shirt like a limpet, eyes almost sparkling. “I was right! They’re totally bad guys!”

“Yes, statistically speaking, I suppose you must be correct some of the time,” says Rei good-naturedly, ignoring the weak punch in the arm he gets as input. Wrapping his arms around Nagisa’s middle without even meaning to, his frown deepens. “I do hope this doesn’t reflect badly on our business. I would hate for us to be thought of as a criminal items dealer.”

“Hey, it’s not our fault. It’s not like we were the ones selling fakes. How were we supposed to know those two would do something illegal?”

It’s one of the most reasonable things Nagisa’s said in a while, and the realization brings a small smile to Rei’s face. He looks down, expression warm, and plants a soft kiss on Nagisa’s forehead in thanks for the words of comfort.

“So, when are we going to go after them?”

Any warmth Rei feels promptly freezes over. Peeling his lips off Nagisa’s face with an entirely unattractive smacking noise, he tightens his grip enough to make Nagisa squeak. “I sincerely hope you’re joking.”

“Why?” Nagisa wheezes. “Rei, this is the most exciting thing to happen to me ever, so we really can’t just sit here and not get involved! We should go see what they’re up to, and also I like that you’re doing an impression of a boa constrictor and all but I kind of can’t breathe so could you maybe let up a little bit so I don’t puncture a lung?”

“Absolutely not,” says Rei calmly. “I’m not letting you run off headfirst into a crime that has nothing to do with you. Leave it to the police, Nagisa, they’re trained for this sort of thing.”

“But Rei-”

“Your doe eyes aren’t going to work on me, so please desist.”

Reiiiii.

Nagisa,” Rei snaps without any venom. “Please. This is a potentially dangerous situation. We have no idea what to expect, and I won’t have you getting hurt. I can’t even fathom what I’d do if you got yourself kidnapped by the mafia, or drawn into some black market scheme or killed.”

Nagisa deflates. “Are you worried about me?”

Rei doesn’t even try to deny it. “Yes, I am. And I’d like you to promise me that you won’t do anything unsafe.”

Sighing, Nagisa lets his head fall onto Rei’s shoulder with a thump. “Alright, alright. I won’t do anything dangerous and also totally fun.”

“Good,” says Rei, relaxing slightly. “Really, Nagisa, life isn’t a movie. You have to have some sort of self-preservation instinct, you know?”

“I have self-preservation instinct!”

“Don’t be petulant,” Rei sighs. “This is for your own good.”

“Okay, I believe you,” Nagisa says with considerably less than his usual vigour. Then he smiles again, and this time it’s more coy than excitable. “But to make up for spoiling my fun, how about we go make out in the back room till the next customers show up?”

Rei laughs. “If you insist,” he shrugs, and allows himself to be led away.

 

 


 

 

 

“Are you sure it’s okay for me to be here and not Sergeant Matsuoka?” Nitori asks, eyes darting nervously around the unfamiliar police car.

Sousuke shrugs. He and Nitori aren’t on bad terms in any way, but Sousuke is incapable of understanding the young man quite the way Rin does. Not quite sure what words could possibly calm his nerves, Sousuke settles for the truth instead. “This case is a bit too close to home for him.”

Nitori frowns out the window. “He was so stubborn about wanting to be a part of the initial investigation, though. Why the sudden change?”

“Looking for the truth about someone is a lot easier than confronting them over it.” Meeting Nitori’s eye in the rearview mirror, Sousuke puts on his signal and makes a left. Traffic parts for them easily. It reminds Sousuke a little of a zipper, and makes him uncomfortable. The Freudian tint to his thought process isn’t lost on him; ever since he’d broken the news to Rin, a ball of lead has settled somewhere in his gut. He wonders if he should have kept his mouth zipped after all.

Nitori, surprisingly, settles a hand on Sousuke’s forearm. “There’s no real reason to keep looking back,” he says gently.

Sousuke stiffens, partly from the unexpected contact and partly because Rin’s always said Nitori is observant, but not fucking psychic. He chances a glance sideways and sees that Nitori is serenely considering the road. “What are you talking about, kid?”

Nitori’s smile becomes somewhat enigmatic. “You’re a police officer. When somebody breaks the law, you start up the car and the rest of the road is supposed to get out of the way. No sense in checking the rear-view mirror and wondering if you really should have turned the siren on.”

Sousuke almost collides with a cyclist. “The fuck are you saying?”

“I’m just talking about the traffic, Sergeant Yamazaki.”

His cheerful tone of voice only earns a side-eye from Sousuke that doesn’t let up until they turn into one of the posher areas of the district. Killing the siren and parking on the side of the road, Sousuke tugs his badge and search warrant out of the recesses of his pockets and steps out of the car, Nitori on his heels.

The apartment building in front of them is imposing in its height and chrome finish. Sousuke briefly thinks of his shoddy rented flat that gets drafty in the winter, and has to take a moment to squash the ugly feeling of envy with the heel of his left foot. Face neutral, he waves his badge at the doorman, who nods and lets them through.

“Tachibana’s twice your size,” he says in the lift. “If they resist, don’t try to take him on un-armed.”

Nitori, unlike Rin, takes no offence at the subtle doubt of his strength. The doors open with a soft ding that does nothing to make either man any less unsettled.

“Life would be easier if we could just arrest these bastards before we searched them,” says Sousuke under his breath as they stop in front of apartment number 222. He raps hard on the door with his knuckles three times and demands that they open for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

No answer.

Sousuke smiles.

“Well, at least this part’s fun,” he says, and kicks the door down.

Only mildly startled, Nitori follows him through the door, weapon raised. It’s dead silent, and also very dark even with light flooding in from the corridor. A few second of fumbling finds the light switch on the wall. The world comes into focus. Sousuke curses.

Cocking his revolver back into its holder, Nitori sighs and prepares himself for a day of searching through an utterly empty apartment.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The smell of thyme and grilling meat is strong in Kou’s apartment, and is probably going to stick to Rin’s clothes for a while, but he doesn’t complain. It’s rare enough for her to cook, what with her busy lifestyle. Today, not only is she making Rin’s favourite, but she’s not making him get off the couch to help her. He decides not to push his luck.

“Another fifteen minutes should do it,” says Kou, leaning against the breakfast counter. Her apartment is chic, the most she can afford on her already impressive paycheck. Only a partition separates the kitchen from the rest of the living room. Rin looks up from where he’s sprawled on the couch and realises that his sister has turned her back on the stove. “You trying to cause a fire, kid?”

“I’m only a year younger than you are,” she sighs, crossing the room to join him on the couch. Rin immediately demands some of her coffee, and then makes a face at how sweet it is. She takes the mug back and daintily plants her feet in his lap. “I’m finishing dinner in the oven. It’s healthier.”

Rin pinches her calf half-heartedly. “You implying I’m fat?”

She rolls her eyes. “You’re such a diva.”

He tickles her feet. “I know, I know. You’re making it less greasy because that’s how I like it. Honestly, if I didn’t watch you, you’d just eat takeout every day. I don’t know how you don’t get sick of the stuff, you’re just like Haru and mackerel.”

He pauses, and then deflates. Kou removes her feet and settles a hand on his knee. “Hey,” she says gently. “You okay?”

“Just fine,” Rin huffs and stares at the coffee table. “Just, you know, wondering what an asshole I must have been in a past life to deserve this.”

Kou takes a delicate sip of her drink. “Hmm, is my coffee bitter? No? Must be you, then.”

Her brother spares her a moment of affront. “You’d be bitter too if your best friends turned out to be lying sacks of shit.”

She smiles. “I can only imagine. But, well, even though you’re not wrong, I can’t imagine how they would have broken the news to you, considering you’re a policeman and all.”

“Why be criminals in the first place?” Rin gestures suddenly, making Kou grin. “Why not be, I dunno, firemen? Why not work in a restaurant? Or do Olympic swimming? Competitive yam farming? Why art fraud?”

“A couple of those things may have been slightly unrealistic,” she teases, reaching up to scratch her nails gently across his scalp. “I wish I knew, though. I guess they just weren’t thinking about anything but themselves.”

“Stop petting me, I’m not a dog,” Rin complains and flops then onto her shoulder. “I just really wish I’d never found out. Fuckin’ Sousuke had to go and rat on them and ruin a lifelong friendship. God, what a dick.”

“You know he was just trying to look out for you. You probably would have done the same. When was the last time you spoke to him?”

Rin mumbles something incoherent. Kou pulls his ear. “Stop being a big baby. It’s high time the two of you kissed and made up, even if do you have the combined social aptitude of a banana slug.”

It’s difficult to tell whether the blatant outrage on Rin’s face is more from the idea of kissing his best friend or by the comparison to a banana slug. Kou laughs regardless, patting her brother’s head and standing up to rescue dinner from the oven. “You can’t stay mad at him forever, Rin. You guys fight all the time. I’m willing to bet you’ll get over it soon.”

Rin says nothing, but rises to help her set the table. Dinner is relatively relaxed. Kou talks about everything and nothing, and by the time they do the dishes Rin is chasing her around with a dish towel for leaving wet handprints on his shirt the way she does every time he comes over. They watch a chick flick, huddled together on the couch, and Rin makes fun of the male lead until Kou smacks his arm and tells him to shut up.

He’s ready to leave by ten p.m. Kou is having none of it.

“I have work in the morning,” he says gently, as she collapses bonelessly onto him in an effort to make him stay.

“Take a sick day.”

“I already didn’t go today.”

“All the more reason to extend your holiday.”

“That’s only going to get me fired.”

“No it’s not,” she says, sitting up to look at him properly. “You’re a workaholic and you barely ever play hooky. You need a break. They’ll understand, Rin. Just stay the night. Give yourself some time to get back on your feet.” Her face is uncharacteristically serious. It feels a lot, Rin realises, like looking in a mirror.

“And where am I going to sleep?”

“I’ve got a double bed.”

“We’re too old for that,” he says helplessly.

Kou rolls her eyes. “Fine, then take the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“No. You take the bed.” Rin settles a heavy hand on her head, upsetting her neat ponytail. Her hair’s shorter than it was in high school, but she still likes to wear it up. It’s a comforting constant, and Rin finds himself softening despite himself. “Don’t look at me like that, I’ll stay. My only condition is that I sleep on the couch. Deal?”

“Deal,” she sighs as though she’s terribly put-upon, but grins back nonetheless. A blanket and at least three pillows find themselves in Rin’s arms before fifteen minutes is up, and it’s with a soft smile that he shoos her away so they can both go to bed. The lights go out, and her bedroom door shuts with a very soft click. He is alone.

He lies in the darkness for a while, half-propped against the back of the couch with his legs bent at the knee. Vague shapes dance at the edges of his vision, melting into one another on the ceiling. The weight in his chest starts to settle back into its rightful place, and he sighs softly into the night.

He’s not sure how long he stays like that. Eventually, he decides to go home.

 

 

Just as he’s about to heave himself off the sofa, though, he hears the tell-tale sound of a door creaking open. In the silence that follows, Kou shuffles in, bundled up in a duvet and rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palm.

“What are you doing up?” he asks quietly, moving to the right so she can plop herself next to him and curl up against his side.

“Couldn’t sleep,” she whispers back, words slurred. It looks like she’s in one of his old t-shirts, although it’s hard to tell with the duvet wrapped around her like a burrito. “Too cold. Stay with you.”

“You know we can’t both fit on the couch,” he replies, using his big brother voice even though he knows she hates it. For once, though, she doesn’t react, only deigning to rest her head on his shoulder and let her eyes drift shut. Rin jostles her gently. “Oi. Don’t fall asleep on me, you lump. Get off.”

Somewhat predictably, she ignores him. He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “It would be nice if someone listened to me for a change,” he mutters under his breath, but for the strangest reason he can’t quite bring himself to nag her back to bed. The only other option is to pick her up like he used to do when they were children, but he wouldn’t really be arsed to do that on the best of days, let alone when he’s lonely and tired all the way down to his bones. Besides, if he’s going to be honest, the weight of her head against his arm is somewhat comforting, even if it means he’s going to be cramped and stiff in the morning from being used as a pillow for no good reason.

Leaning back into the couch, he does the only sensible thing, and settles next to his baby sister for the night.

 

 


 

 

Nagisa’s palm is sticky.

It’s probably a combination of melted ice cream and general clamminess, Rei thinks. He’d grimaced, at first, but he’s gotten used to the somewhat unpleasant sensation by now. Nagisa is clinging to his hand so tightly that Rei can’t help but forgive him. Besides, the other is far too happy for Rei to even consider ruining his fun by pulling away.

Nagisa’s taken to swinging their hands like a couple of children. People stare, but Rei decides to humour him nonetheless. It’s a nice day and he’s in a good mood, so much so that he’s allowing Nagisa to drag him all over town without question. They’ve been to the mall, the zoo, and the cinema. Now, ice-creams in hand, they wander the streets. Rei lets him lead and takes a moment to enjoy their surroundings.

This is, as it turns out, a mistake.

At first Rei thinks that they’re going back to Nagisa’s apartment, but he quickly realises that he’s never seen this building before. For some reason, though, Nagisa brings him inside through some dinky back door and rushes them into the lift. Rei looks around in confusion before frowning at the other, sweet vanilla cone beginning to melt. “Where are you taking me?”

Nagisa’s grip is almost vice-like. He graces Rei with his sweetest smile, which for some reason has Rei sweating nervously under his collar. “We’re going to a friend’s place!”

“Is that so? Is this a friend I’m familiar with?”

“Yep! In fact, you know them as well as I do, almost.” The lift dings, interrupting the bland jazz music that does nothing to slow the beating of Rei’s heart.

“I really can’t imagine who you mean,” Rei starts, but immediately falls silent when he catches sight of an open door, blocked from entry only by lines of police tape. Terrifyingly slowly, his expression turns murderous. “Nagisa.”

The man in question is unperturbed. “Turns out we’ve done deliveries for them before, and their address was in the books!” he chirps, letting go of Rei and skipping across the corridor.

Rei catches him around the middle before he can duck under the police tape, lifting him off the ground and effectively trapping him in place. “Nagisa!” he hisses again. “Are you seriously just going to break and enter into a crime scene? I know some people were dropped by their parents as children, but were you thrown at a wall?”

Kicking his legs in the air to get free, Nagisa whines piteously. “But Rei! The chance is literally right there! We’re about to see the inner sanctum of a villainous duo. This is the opportunity of a lifetime!”

Rei struggles with him back in the direction of the lift. “You promised me you wouldn’t do anything dangerous, you utterly insufferable creature!”

Nagisa goes wide-eyed at that. “I know. That’s why I brought you. Even if something bad happens, you’ll protect me, right?”

In the millisecond that Rei is too flabbergasted to respond, Nagisa wriggles free of his grip and darts through a gap in the police line. Rei splutters and follows, cursing the day he decided to step into the art gallery. It looked innocent enough, sure, but much like Nagisa himself, the place is unadulterated evil.

The apartment is dark, but spacious enough that Rei doesn’t bump into anything. From what little he can see, assorted belongings are scattered across the floor; either someone was in a hurry to pack, or someone was in a hurry to dig out every dirty secret.

Surprisingly, though, the place doesn’t look as though it holds any secrets. In fact, the place looks much like Rei’s own home. Then again, perhaps all the really incriminating stuff is long gone, either with the police or with Mr Tachibana on a flight across the world. Rei frowns at the mess and picks his way delicately across the hall and deeper into the darkness.

He hears a high pitched giggle, and Nagisa’s head pops out from behind a door. Rei automatically scowls. “Don’t laugh,” he snaps. “It’s a crime scene!”

Nagisa ignores him. “There are so many swimsuits in here it’s not even funny. And every single one of them looks the same.”

“You’re really not supposed to be searching through other people’s things, you know.”

The withering look on Nagisa’s face actually has Rei feeling impressed. “What did you think we were even here for?”

“I thought we were going on a date,” mutters Rei sourly, stepping into the room with a furtive glance. It’s in a similar state of disarray, but he notices that the colour scheme is particularly pleasing. All soft blues and sea greens from the curtains to the bedsheets. He’d be appreciative, if he weren’t currently in a situation that could get him arrested (the second such situation of his life, interestingly enough, this one also brought about by Nagisa).

The man in question flits from cupboard to cupboard, inspecting things at random. He’s got the foresight to pull his sleeves over his hands so he doesn’t leave any fingerprints. Rei wonders whether he should be worried or awe-struck at the apparent practiced ease with which Nagisa goes about his business. He settles for a rather uncomfortable mix of exasperated and turned-on.

“Imagine how cool it’d be if we found something the police missed,” Nagisa rocks on his heels, spinning around with a coffee receipt in hand. “We’d be vigilante detectives. You can be the pervasive private eye, and I’ll be your funny, intuitive sidekick!”

“I’m not sure that word means quite what you think it means,” Rei sighs, and then immediately stills. “Nagisa. Quiet.”

Taking the hint, Nagisa falls silent, eyeing the rigidness of Rei’s posture. Straining his ears, Rei darts forward, finger to his lips, and jostles Nagisa towards the messy double bed. Hide, he mouths, and for once, Nagisa listens.

 

 

There’s silence for a good few seconds, during which Nagisa actually wonders if Rei’s only pretending. Soon enough, though, he realises that the noise he’s hearing isn’t actually the thudding of his heart, but the steady click of expensive shoes against a wooden floor. Subconsciously, he holds his breath. He can’t see anything but the shoes from where he is, but that doesn’t stop him from pricking his ears.

The footsteps get closer, and then stop completely. It sounds like the person in the room –a man, Nagisa can tell by the voice- is having a one-sided conversation. A phone call.

Rei’s sweat is starting to drip on him. Nagisa clings tighter, reassuring him with a silent kiss on the neck. Rei’s arms are trembling, and Nagisa squeezes his eyes shut, willing the intruder to go away.

It takes ages. The stranger eventually wanders away from the room, but his footsteps don’t leave the apartment until he’s scoured the entire area. Neither Rei nor Nagisa dare to emerge from their hiding spot until a good few minutes after the noise has left completely. With a shaky exhale, Nagisa slowly unwraps his arms and legs from around Rei’s and falls to the floor with a soft thump. He rolls out from under the bed, and Rei follows soon after.

 

 

Rei’s shaking. Glancing over his shoulder, Nagisa steps towards him and reaches up to massage his shoulders. “Rei, are you alright? Are you hurt? I’m so sorry you had to hide me Rei, you’re amazing, thank you.”

Rei’s rubbing his hands over his biceps, agitated. Sweat’s soaked through his crisp grey shirt, but for once he doesn’t seem to notice how disheveled he is. Eyeing the doorway, he creeps across the room until he can poke his head out. “I think he’s gone,” he sighs, although his voice is still hushed.

All of a sudden he feels exhausted. The adrenaline is gone, and although Nagisa is small, he’s surprisingly heavy. He turns around to say as much and plead that they hurry up and leave already, but stops short at the look of pure and unadulterated adoration shining in his boyfriend’s eyes.

Nagisa’s hands find their way onto the front of Rei’s shirt. “You’re amazing,” he breathes.

Taken aback, Rei, fumbles with his glasses, pushing them back up the bridge of his (regrettably damp) nose. “Not particularly. I could have chosen a better hiding place. In retrospect, the wardrobe may have been a better idea.”

Shaking his head slowly, Nagisa’s eyes only widen more. “No, I mean you’re so strong. The way you were just clinging to the support slats under the mattress so we wouldn’t touch the floor, even when I was koala-ing you the whole time.” Unbidden, a small hand caresses his bicep, squeezing almost hard enough to hurt. “I can’t believe how fit you are.”

Rei stares resolutely at the ceiling, ears going red. “Yes, well,” he mumbles. “Didn’t realize there was such a wide gap at the bottom of the bed. He would have seen us. Wouldn’t have had to if there’d been a duvet or something.”

“I’m glad there wasn’t. That was the single hottest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Rei, not for the first time, finds himself at a loss. As it turns out though, this is irrelevant, because Nagisa takes it upon himself to initiate what might possibly be the sloppiest, most enthusiastic kiss ever attempted by a mortal man.

It occurs to Rei that they are not completely in the clear, and that there’s nothing stopping another intruder, police officer or errant security guard from walking in on them. They’re a bit too old to use the ‘horny teenagers looking for an adrenaline rush’ excuse for trespassing, so Rei extricates himself with great reluctance from the other man’s grip.

A lesser man would buckle under the look of pure lust Nagisa’s giving him. “We can continue this at your place,” Rei says before the warm body in his arms can start warbling for more kisses. “In a place that won’t get us arrested. Come quickly, we’re not going to find anything here.”

It’s with a feeling of mourning that Nagisa lets himself be removed from Rei’s person and herded out the door. This does not, of course, stop him from feeling his boyfriend up the moment they get into the lift. Rei, surprisingly, protests very little, but does slam his hands on all the buttons so they’ll take as long as possible to get to the ground floor.

“You are so sexy,” Nagisa groans rapturously into Rei’s neck. “This is the best day ever. I got to see the really hot side of you, and we’re on our way to solving the biggest crime of the century.”

Rei pauses in mouthing his way down Nagisa’s neck long enough to speak. “What on earth do you mean?”

Breathless laughter deepens into a soft noise of pleasure. “I mean what that guy was saying on the phone.”

“Ah, that,” Rei sighs at the feeling of warms hands being slid up the back of his shirt. “Do remind me of how that conversation went. I was preoccupied with making sure we didn’t get ourselves killed, you see.”

“Completely understandable,” Nagisa replies, settling one of Rei’s legs comfortably between his own. “I didn’t catch the whole thing, but I did hear this.” Cradling his hands against the sides of Rei’s face, he looks him in the eye and grins. “ ‘Sure thing, boss. I’ll settle it right away. I’ll meet you at the library at the corner of fifth street, nine o’clock sharp.’ ”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

There’s something wrong with the water.

Haruka blinks. The situation he’s in is normal enough, but something seems off. It takes laughably long for him to process what it is; the bathwater’s cold, and his skin is starting to break out in gooseflesh. Knees drawn up to his chest, he straightens up slightly and glances around the bathroom of their shady two-bed hotel room. There’s an odd, damp smell on the bedsheets, but the bored girl at reception hadn’t asked very many questions when they’d checked in at two-fifteen in the morning. Makoto hadn’t seemed too bothered, which has put Haru somewhat at ease, but that doesn’t stop him from shuddering at the spots of mildew on the wall and curling up tighter to ward off the cold.

He realises with a start that his arm is outstretched, empty. Reaching out to nothing, really. Water drips off his palm and onto the white-tiled floor.

The tub sloshes loudly as he scrambles to get out and wrap a towel around his waist. Most of his swimsuits are back at the apartment; there hadn’t been enough time to pack more than a couple of sets. Skidding slightly on the wet patches on the floor, Haru ignores the chill of the air-conditioning on his skin and darts out the door, tripping over a discarded shirt and stumbling onto the bed closest to the window.

Makoto is asleep, half-wrapped in the sheets with his feet dangling off the edge of the bed. Haru leans over him, dripping water onto his face. Makoto twitches, and then blinks slowly awake. His voice sounds like he’s been swallowing razors, and his eyes are sleepy and green. “Haru? What’s wrong?”

Haruka sighs. Prodding at Makoto to move, he settles himself on the edge of the bed, legs curled under him, and glances at the clock on the bedside table. “I’ve been in the bath for almost two hours.”

Makoto makes a soft, sleepy sound. “That’s not good for you, you’ll catch your death,” he mumbles. Haru runs a hand through his hair and frowns.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I thought you’d gone and gotten yourself arrested while I was in there.”

Makoto frowns at him for a good few seconds. Haru waits; Makoto’s brain generally takes slightly longer to wake up than the rest of him, so by the time understanding finally lightens his features, Haru’s blood has stopped pounding in his ears and his breathing has slowed back to normal.

Sitting up slightly, Makoto offers him a tired smile. “Were you worried because I didn’t come get you?”

“You’re always so anal about it,” Haru mutters, although he’s suddenly too tired to snap properly. Makoto tugs the duvet around his wet friend, and Haru leans into him silently. Although he shivers at Haru’s dampness, Makoto doesn’t complain.

“Sorry, I guess I was just tired. We’ve been doing an awful lot of running around, although Rin still hasn’t told us why.” Dipping his head slightly to look Haru in the eye, Makoto’s frown deepens. “You seem to know what’s happening, though.”

Haru wants to smooth the crease between his best friend’s brows with the pad of his thumb, but he restrains himself. “Yamazaki threatened me.”

The way Makoto’s posture stiffens makes it abundantly clear that this is the wrong thing to say. Haru suddenly feels very silly for worrying about Makoto disappearing on him. Unsure what else to do, he latches on to Makoto’s sleeve with one hand and looks him in the eye. “He didn’t hurt me. He was only trying to scare me.”

It’s hard to believe it’s only been minutes since Makoto woke. “You didn’t tell me.”

Haru sighs. “You would have gone berserk.”

Jaw tensing, Makoto stares straight ahead. Haru has the distinct impression that a vein is slowly becoming prominent in the side of his neck, but it’s hard to tell in this lighting. “What exactly did he say to you?”

Almost of its own accord, Haru’s thumb starts rubbing slow circles in Makoto’s arm. It’s incredible how tense it is. “That he had a bad feeling about us, and that he knew we were up to something. I think he might have found out about the paintings and told Rin.”

“So that’s why Rin told us to run,” Makoto says under his breath, expression still hard. He glances down at Haru, who’s managing to look anxious despite the blankness of his face. Sighing, Makoto places his hand over the one clinging to his arm and leans back into the pillows. “So, what? Now we’re wanted men?”

“I don’t know,” Haru admits, chewing on his lower lip. Makoto’s staring at him, boring holes into his skull. It’s too much; Haru looks away, feeling guilty without quite knowing why.

“Haru.” Makoto’s reaching out, planting a heavy hand on his shoulder. “What else do I need to know?”

“We’ve saved most of our money, right?” Haru asks at length, extricating himself from the tangle of sheets and padding towards his suitcase. Makoto expects him to put some clothes on, but Haru instead comes back with his laptop. Settling back in bed (although avoiding the wet spot, Makoto notes), he pulls up a web page written mostly in English. “You’ve been putting it all into that joint account in Liechtenstein. A few days ago I moved what was left in my Japanese ones too. Left a cash account open and closed the rest.”

“How much does that come up to?”

“I don’t know, but it’s a lot. Yamazaki got in the way before I could tell you to move your money. I’m sorry.”

The anger in Makoto’s face is mostly gone, replaced with a mild form of awe. “Haru, no, that’s amazing. I only kept my accounts for making transactions, and even then most of them were under fake names. What about the apartment?”

“We’ve lost the rent till the end of the year and the deposit.”

“Well, maybe that was our own fault for paying in advance,” Makoto says thoughtfully. Noticing that Haru’s started shivering again, he lifts the laptop and shuffles around so the duvet covers them both. “I think we might have gotten a little too comfortable, actually. It’s a good thing we had the foresight to keep our money safe. Anyway, we’ve got most of our savings, but I don’t think I have much more than a few thousand yen on me at the moment, and I doubt I can make any withdrawals. What are we going to do?”

Haru hums, adjusting his towel so he can sit cross-legged. “I don’t know, but it’s not a good idea to stay.”

“In Tokyo?”

“In Japan.”

Makoto purses his lips. “I can see what you mean, but how are we going to leave the country when the police are looking for us? Getting new passports shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I think I can ask the usual people to help us out. Crossing the border may prove a bit more difficult, though. We can’t really just go, since we’re surrounded by water.”

“We could always swi-”

“Haru, no.

“It was a joke.” Drumming his fingers against his touchpad idly and making his cursor stutter, Haru considers their options. “I was thinking, if we had to run away, China would be a good option. Let’s say we stowed away or stole a fishing boat or something. Their border’s so wide we might be able to slip through somehow.”

“We might still be a target for Interpol, though. I mean, if we stay in China we might still end up getting identified and deported.”

Haru nods. “If we could go somewhere small, that would be better. We can get to Indochina by land.” Pulling up a search engine, he zooms in on a map of Southeast Asia. “Look. Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos share a border with China. You can’t get to Myanmar by land, though. Vietnam’s closer, and you can get a visa on arrival. You only have to pay about five thousand yen.”

Leaning forward, Makoto has to squint at the screen without his glasses. “You’ve put a lot of planning into this.”

“I thought we might need a contingency plan.”

“I’m still not very happy with you, though. I can’t believe you kept all this a secret.”

Haru shrugs. “Would you have confronted Yamazaki if I’d told you what happened right away?”

There’s a pause. “Possibly,” Makoto eventually sighs. “But I don’t like being kept in the dark, Haru. This involves me as much as it does you.”

“I know. But can we talk about this later?” Haru grumbles, scrubbing the heels of his palms over his eyes. “It’s four in the morning and I haven’t slept since yesterday. You can yell at me when we go back on the run.”

“I wasn’t going to yell at you, although I’ll admit I am considering it now.”

Haru stares at him. Makoto sighs again.

“Okay, go to bed. We’ll do this after we’ve figured out how we’re going to keep hidden. But, Haru?”

“What?”

“Would you please put some clothes on?”

“Do I have to?”

Haru.”

“…fine.”

 

 


 

 

 

 

The library’s emptier than usual, which annoys Kisumi somewhat. He’s wearing an especially nice pair of shoes today; white Italian leather shined to within an inch of its life, but there’s really no point if there’s nobody to appreciate them. Still, he supposes, the day is young. There are bound to be people on the street he can impress, even if the library turns out to be a bust. He winks at a young lady over his sunglasses, making her giggle and turn away.

He glances around. Amakata’s at the receptionist’s desk as usual, flipping through books and humming under her breath. Kisumi makes his way over, setting his Starbucks on the polished wooden counter and resting his chin in his hand. Amakata doesn’t notice him until she turns around, at which point she blinks.

“Kisumi! Goodness, why didn’t you say anything? You startled me.”

Kisumi graces her with a sunshine smile. “Sorry, Miss, I didn’t want to interrupt your work. And, well, you look so good today I had to take a minute to admire you.”

She chuckles at that. “What a shameless flirt you are, and with a woman my age, no less!”

“Are you saying I’m too old for you?”

Amakata shushes him gently, finger to her lips. “Quiet, now, you’ll scare the books.” There’s a soft smile on her face as she tuts at him for leaving his coffee on her counter. “Now, I hope you have something for me.”

Straightening up, Kisumi pushes his sunglasses so that they rest on his head. Suddenly it’s a little difficult to look her in the eye. “I went to where they live.”

Her smile is no less sweet, although her eyes have lost some of their warmth. “I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

Kisumi sighs. “They’re gone. Packed up and left, and the police don’t have them either.”

“And you have no idea where they could be?”

“Not as of yet, no.”

Leaning back in her swivel chair, Amakata taps her hand against her chin. “That’s a shame,” she says more to herself than to him. “Well, you know what they say. You can run, but sooner or later you run out of places to run to.” She offers Kisumi a smile bordering on a smirk. “And you’re very good at chasing, aren’t you?”

Kisumi’s gaze darts to the floor. “Yes, Miss.”

“Good.” Stacking the books on her desk primly, Amakata rises and hands them to him. “Be a dear and help me put these away, will you? I think you could stand to work a little harder to make up for what happened. Really, I’m a bit disappointed that you let them get away with that scam. And it was such a nice painting, too.”

Head bowed, Kisumi takes the books and follows her to the fantasy section. “I’m sorry. I was careless.”

“Yes, you were, but we’ve learnt our lesson, haven’t we?” she pats him kindly on the cheek. “And when we’re done here, you’re going to take some time off from being my PA, and you’re going to hunt down Tachibana and bring him to me. And bring Nanase too,” she adds as an afterthought. “I’m fairly certain we could use him somehow.”

Kisumi sees his chance at redemption, and he takes it. Reaching up to put the books neatly back where they belong, he turns back to Amakata, smiles, and bows.

“Anything you say, boss.”

 

 


 

 

 

Not two paces away, Nagisa is on his knees, hand clamped firmly over Rei’s mouth. They’re concealed by shelves on either side, but any movement now will probably only get them caught. The chatter between the mysterious man and woman fades as they move to another isle. Straightening up slowly, Nagisa releases Rei and sighs softly in relief.

Rei, conversely, is jittery. “Nagisa, this is a terrible idea, these people sound like Yakuza! I don’t want to be involved, it’s too dangerous.”

Shushing him, Nagisa spins around and clutches at his shirt. “Are you kidding? They’re totally going to murder Tachibana and Nanase, we have to rescue them!”

“I think it would be a better idea to go to the police-”

“The police are only gonna arrest them! That’s not going to help our cause, Rei!”

“What?” Rei splutters, extracting himself from the blond menace’s grip. “We have a cause? We have nothing to do with them, why should we be rescuing them?”

“Because they’re loyal customers?”

“They’re criminals.” Grabbing Nagisa’s wrist, Rei marches them out of the aisle and towards the exit. “You’re getting in way over your head. Besides, how do you even know this is the same man we saw in the apartment?”

“Rei, I’d recognize those fabulous shoes anywhere. And if you don’t help me, I guess I’ll have to solve this case by myself!”

Rei spins him around and catches his upper arms. “You are going to do nothing of a sort.”

“Then help me!”

“No!”

“Come on, Rei!” Nagisa bats his eyes, running his fingers up Rei’s bicep. “I would never be able to do this without someone as strong and intelligent as you by my side.”

Rei pushes up his glasses. “Yes, well, I do have quite good problem-solving skills, so I can see why you’d say such a stop trying to flatter me into indulging you!”

Nagisa pouts. “Your only purpose in life is to ruin my fun, isn’t it?”

“I’m trying not to get us both killed, you cretin.”

“Rude.” Nagisa twists around in his grip, sighing loudly. “Alright, let’s do it this way. If we’re really meant to be investigating this case, then we’ll wait for a sign. Let the gods tell us whether or not we’re going to pursue our destiny.”

“I don’t believe in the supernatural, and it’s highly improbable that such a ‘sign’ is going to materialise just because you say it will.” Rei huffs a snort through his nose. “But yes, alright. In the next few minutes, when nothing happens, both of us are going to go home and forget about any of these criminal dealings.”

Nagisa glances to the left. “I hope you like the way those words taste, Rei, because I see a pair of Italian leather shoes that are going to make you eat them.”

Blinking hard, Rei turns. Sure enough, a perfectly-styled head of pink hair is making its way across the parking area and towards the main road opposite the library. Feeling his jaw slacken slightly, he lets go of Nagisa’s arms and groans. “Damn it.”

Nagisa’s smile is sweet. “Well, statistically speaking, I suppose even I must be right some of the time.”

Rei scowls at him. Nagisa doesn’t even flinch.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Rin finally gets back to work, it’s the sound of complete and utter silence.

He blinks. Every officer in the station is tense, either staring at him openly or straining with the effort to look somewhere else. Rin sighs; convincing his sister that he’s a grown man who can take care of himself is bad enough. He doesn’t particularly look forward to having to do that with the rest of his coworkers. Deciding to go down the path of normalcy, he barks. “What the hell do you think you’re looking at? Get your asses back to work, I won’t tolerate any slacking off!”

The effect is instantaneous. Gazes are dropped and papers are shuffled. Chest puffed slightly for show, Rin makes his way to his corner. The police dog accosts him the moment he gets to his desk, sticking its nose in his pockets for treats and whining until he relents and scratches it behind the ear.

Sousuke looks up. His expression is expectant rather than surprised. The bruise around his eye has eased into a sickly yellow that makes him look more like a thug than an officer of the law. Rin stops in front of his partner’s desk and stares him down.

“Hey,” says Sousuke slowly.

“Hey,” says Rin, more confidently than he feels.

Sousuke watches him for a moment, and then nods and gestures towards Rin’s chair. He doesn’t smile. “Sit down. There are some case files Sasabe wants you to work on. I’ll run them down for you, and then you’re supposed to start investigations ASAP.”

Rin wheels his chair to Sousuke’s desk and sits. “Fuck that. I wanna work on what you’re working on.”

Sousuke frowns at him for a good few seconds. “Rin, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be working on something you’re personally connected to.”

“What are you, my mother?” Rin says coolly, crossing one ankle over his knee. The police dog’s chin claims its rightful place on his thigh. He rubs its muzzle. “There are two art fraudsters running around Tokyo, and you’re going to catch them. I’m your partner, so I’m going to catch them with you.”

“What, and try to knock my block off every two days? No thanks.”

Rin rolls his eyes. “Look, I said I was sorry.”

“You’re not fucking sorry, are you?”

“No, because you deserved it.”

This time it’s Sousuke who rolls his eyes. “You know what, fine. I don’t even care anymore, since you, Rin Matsuoka, over-react to everything. I thought you’d grown out of the whole crying thing in high school, you goddamn delicate flower.”

“Don’t be a dick,” Rin snaps at him. “Whatever it is, I’m better now, okay?”

“What, you’re not mad?”

“Mad? I’m furious. That was some pretty underhanded shit you pulled.”

“I’m a police officer. I can’t let them off the hook just because they’re your friends-”

“I’m not saying you should have,” Rin says through clenched teeth. “I’m saying you should have fucking told me you were suspicious and not kept me in the dark as though I had nothing to do with it.”

Sousuke glances away. “You would have cried if I’d told you.”

“So you figured you’d wait till an arrest warrant came out, because it’s not like I cried anyways, right?

Sousuke’s jaw tightens, but he continues staring at the pen on his desk instead of at his friend. Even looking away, he can practically feel the heat of Rin’s glare singeing the side of his head. He holds out for all of twenty seconds before he grits his teeth and turns.

“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” he hisses. Nitori glances at them from across the room, but wisely chooses to go back to his paperwork. “I’m sorry you have shitty friends, I’m sorry you think I’m one of those shitty friends even though I’m not up to my balls in fake paintings, and I’m sorry you feel betrayed or whatever. The bottom line is that it’s done. They’ve been found out, they’re going to jail.”

“I should give you another black eye,” Rin mutters darkly. “Half the time I don’t even know why I’m friends with you, you insensitive piece of shit.”

“Why are you sticking with me, then?”

“Because you’re all I have left, asshat.” Pinching the bridge of his nose, he sighs. “Look, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to be a part of this investigation. I’m not gonna be happy until I see this thing through. I deserve some sort of closure. I want to see them behind bars.”

“That’s going to be hard, considering they’ve up and left before we could get to them. It’s almost like someone warned them they were in deep shit,” Sousuke says, raising both eyebrows.

“…huh.”

If he notices Rin flinch, Sousuke says nothing. Instead he huffs quietly through his nose and looks away from his paperwork to fix Rin with a critical gaze. “Fine, let’s say you investigate. What happens if all of this gets to be too much?”

“It won’t.”

“I have known you since we were kids,” Sousuke snorts, leaning closer to scoff in Rin’s face. “You’d get emotionally attached to a goddamn tree. You’re not gonna be magically okay about your friends turning out to be giant wankstains. So tell me, what are you going to do if it gets to be too much?”

Rin throws his hands up, jostling the dog. “I don’t know! I don’t fucking know, okay? All I know is that I don’t want to be out of the loop anymore. I want to know what’s going on. If you feel like I’m becoming a liability, you can ask Sasabe to take me off the case. Get Nitori to take over for me instead. Just please don’t leave me out of this. I have a right to be involved.”

The other officers are very pointedly not looking at them. Sousuke holds Rin’s gaze for a few more tense seconds, and then finally relents and goes back to shuffling his paperwork. “There you go again, didn’t I tell you you’re too old to cry?”

Rin bites his lower lip as the dog licks his knuckles. “I’m not crying.”

“Sure.” Tugging over a thick black folder, Sousuke opens it to the latest entry and points. “Look, this is what we have so far. We’ve gone through everything in their apartment and looked at their bank records. It’s suspicious; Nitori can tell you more, I could never get my head around the whole numbers thing. No real reason to put their mugs on TV, since they’re not especially dangerous, but we’ll give notice to all the major public transport stations to be on the lookout. Their faces should be in the newspaper somewhere by tomorrow.”

“Arrest warrants?”

“Approved.”

“Okay,” says Rin quietly. “Now what?”

“Now, you lick Sasabe’s heels and beg him to let you back on the case, with the assurance that you’re not going to let personal matters interfere with your job. When you’ve done all of that, then we can think of a battle plan.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m your subordinate,” Rin says without much poison.

For the first time in three days, Sousuke smiles. “If you stop acting like a baby, I’ll stop treating you like one. Until then, suck it up.”

“I’m older than you, asshole.”

“Whatever you say, p-rincess.”

Rin kicks his shin out of spite. Snorting, Sousuke fends off the attack and rises out of his chair. “I’m gonna get something from the coffee machine. Want anything?”

“Espresso,” says Rin automatically.

Sousuke nods at him and ambles off. Rin’s gaze drops to the open folder. The dog snuffles, lifting its head in an attempt to get to his face. He stares at it, and round, brown eyes stare back expectantly.

“Stop feeling sorry for me,” he tells it. “What do you know? You’re a dog. I don’t have to listen to you.”

It puts its front paws on his legs and whines. Rin sighs.

“I’m not sad,” he says, and wonders how long it will be before he means it.

 

 


 

 

“This wig itches.”

Makoto shushes him immediately, glancing around the train cabin to make sure that nobody’s overheard them. The other passengers spare them no attention. Makoto relaxes slightly and settles in closer to Haru, tugging his hand away from his hairline so he doesn’t upset the unassuming brown wig they’d bought at a joke store.

“Having an itchy scalp is a lot better than having a police officer recognise you,” Makoto says under his breath. “And besides, beards tend to itch too, you know?”

“It’s not a beard if you’ve only been growing it for two days,” Haru mutters, turning to look at the scenery flash by through the window. He considers Makoto out of the corner of his eye; he’s got something of a five o’clock shadow obscuring the lower half of his face, and a large pair of cheap sunglasses obscuring the top. His hair’s been combed away from his forehead, making him look quite a bit older than he really is. He looks different, Haru supposes, but if he’s trying to be inconspicuous, he’s failing badly, because they’ve been stared at by young women all the way from the hotel. He considers telling Makoto this, but decides it would be too cruel.

Drumming his fingers against the armrest, Makoto fidgets in his seat until Haru places a hand over his arm. He stills. “Haru?”

“It’s Hiro when we’re in public, remember?” Haru says quietly, squeezing Makoto’s forearm reassuringly. “Stop squirming. People will stare.”

“I think people will stare more if you’re going to hold onto me,” Makoto laughs weakly, but complies nonetheless. Under his sunglasses, his skin is pallid. Haru purses his lips.

“You’re nervous.”

“Well, we are on the run from the police.”

Haru frowns deeper. “We could have gone all the way to Nagasaki if we’d had more cash on us. It’s going to be hard getting there from Nagoya.”

“I know.” Makoto sighs, hand clenched on the seat. “I’m afraid this is all we could afford. It’s not a good idea to spend everything we’ve got before forming some sort of plan.”

“Hmm.” Trees and buildings blur together outside the window. If they had the time, it would probably be nice to sit down and sketch their surroundings. Something pink flashes by –it’s probably only a plastic bag, but Haru sits upright, fingers fiddling with his stiffly-gelled wig. “Do you remember the cherry blossom outside our elementary school?” he says suddenly, surprising Makoto.

The other man blinks. “Yes, I suppose so. We decorated the base, right? You and I made rocks, and Rin planted flowers-” he stops abruptly, and then frowns. “I wonder how Rin’s doing.”

“Crying, probably,” says Haru, albeit less maliciously than normal. He slouches back in his seat, making the collar of his jacket go all the way to his chin. “‘S been a while.”

“Yeah,” says Makoto, face falling slightly. “I, uhm. Hope he’s alright, considering…” He trails off. Haru hears the unspoken works and sighs.

“He warned us. He doesn’t hate us.”

“That’s true.” The words come out in a relieved rush of air. “Rin… Rin cares about us. Even if he’s angry, he wouldn’t hate us.”

“No kidding,” says Haru lightly. “He attached himself to us the moment he moved to Iwatobi. He can’t afford to hate us, since nobody else will put up with him.”

“There’s always Yamazaki,” Makoto says uncertainly. Gently, Haru reaches out a foot and steps on the tip of Makoto’s loafer. Makoto glances at him.

“I don’t like Yamazaki. Neither do you. But Rin does. That’s enough, I guess.”

Makoto nods, still frowning. “All things considered, we can’t say he wasn’t right about us. In fact, come to think of it, I’m a little bit surprised it took so long.”

Haru shrugs. “That’s because Rin took so long to introduce us.”

Makoto’s shaky laugh reverberates weakly in the cabin and dies prematurely. “Yeah, I guess if he’d met us any sooner, he’d have cottoned on straight away. Rin probably never suspected.” He pauses, and then pinches the bridge of his nose under his sunglasses. “He never suspected a thing.”

Haru blinks. He can’t quite see Makoto’s expression with his silly disguise in the way, but that doesn’t stop him from moving his hand to cover Makoto’s. He rubs his thumb over Makoto’s knuckles despite how clammy Makoto’s palms are. “He doesn’t hate us.”

“But we’re terrible, aren’t we?” Makoto says, remembering at the last second to keep his voice down. “What kind of friends just… lie like that? He’s a policeman. And we’re…us. We’ve been doing this for so long and we just haven’t been thinking about him at all, have we? And here we are, on a train to Nagoya while he’s hurting somewhere.” His voice cracks at the end, and he stares forlornly at the floor. “What kind of people are we?”

Haru stays silent. To be honest, he’s not sure what kind of people they are. He just is, as far as he knows. There’s never really been much point in thinking about it. Not when they have pressing matters to attend to, like what to do once they reach Nagoya. Which is a question that should be answered fairly quickly, because they’ll be reaching in about fifteen minutes.

Not knowing what to say, Haru slowly threads his fingers with Makoto’s. “You used to hold my hand when we were kids. Whenever you got scared.”

Makoto, from behind dark lenses, gives him a watery smile. “I’m scared now, too.”

A woman’s voice floats to them over the intercom. It’s pleasant, but it doesn’t do much for either of them beyond making them grip their seats tighter. The train shudders and begins to slow. At length, Haru speaks into his jacket quietly. “You’re not the only one who’s afraid.”

The smile Makoto gives him is not what it usually is, but it’s real enough. They get out at the station with their pinkies still interlocked, just like they used to do when they were six years old and chasing frogs in Makoto’s back garden.

A couple of people point and start to giggle. Haru ignores them and keeps walking.

 


 

 

“We’ve been following him around for hours,” Rei grumbles, hunched awkwardly behind a bush. “He hasn’t done anything particularly noteworthy. Can we leave?”

Nagisa makes a face at him, peering intently through the bushes at the mysterious man having lunch in a café across the road from where they’re hiding. “That’s not true! He keeps making phone calls, I’m sure he’s up to something.”

“Even if he is up to something, it’s really not as though we can get close enough to hear.” Adjusting his glasses, Rei sighs and plops heavily onto his haunches, mindful of any grass stains that could get on his pants. “We’re two grown men hiding in a bush. We’re going to be arrested.”

“I look about sixteen, so I could probably pretend you kidnaped me,” says Nagisa nonchalantly. “We’ll follow this Kisumi guy around for the day, kay? If we don’t find anything new by like, dinner, then we can go home.”

“That’s far too long to realize what we’re doing is utterly pointless,” Rei mutters. “I still don’t understand why we’re here.”

Because, Rei, this is the most exciting thing to happen to either of us, and I want to see Haru and Mako and rescue them from the police?”

“When on earth did they become ‘Haru’ and ‘Mako’? And besides, why are we rescuing them when they’re obviously felons?”

Nagisa shushes him. “He’s moving! He’s paying his bill! Come on, Rei, we’re gonna tail him!”

“I’d really rather not,” Rei has time to say, just before he’s grabbed by the wrist and physically dragged across the road with a strength that should not be present in a five foot five man.

 

 


 

 

“Long time no see.”

Seijuro runs a hand through his hair, making it stick up at even wilder angles. Kisumi, by contrast, is completely unruffled. He glances down. It’s a little weird; Kisumi is somewhat shorter than him, but something about him makes Seijuro uneasy, has been making him uneasy ever since they first met a few years ago. “Not long enough,” he says. He’s only half-joking.

Kisumi chuckles anyway. “I sure am glad you agreed to meet me so quickly. I’m sure you have a busy schedule, what with trying to handle your business and beating up druggies and homeless people.”

“You make it sound like I do that sort of shit for fun,” Seijuro sighs, eyes darting around to make sure they’re alone in the dinky little back alley behind a row of shops. It’s quiet. Not many people are wandering the streets on a weekday afternoon, so Seijuro relaxes as much as he can under Kisumi’s reptilian stare. “Anyway, what exactly do you want from me?”

“It’s business-related, unfortunately,” Kisumi says, tapping around on his smartphone. Seijuro watches apprehensively. His faded red hoodie looks especially shabby in the face of Kisumi’s Italian leather shoes, and he abruptly realises that this is what self-consciousness probably feels like. Standing up straighter, he squares his shoulders. It’s not his fault he has to make his money the hard way, while Kisumi enjoys the cushy trappings of white-collar crime.

Kisumi shows him a photo. It’s of a man with brown hair, green eyes and a gentle smile. Seijuro blinks, and then frowns. “Who’s this? Doesn’t look like he’d hurt a fly.”

“I didn’t think so either, to be honest,” says Kisumi cheerfully, pocketing the phone. “His name is Makoto Tachibana. He’s got an associate named Haruka Nanase. I’d really appreciate it if you could help me locate these two.”

Seijuro’s eyes narrow. “What are you planning to do with them, exactly? You’re not gonna hurt them, are you? I don’t hurt girls.”

“Nanase’s a man.”

“Oh.” Seijuro scratches the back of his neck, still frowning. “Well, I guess I could ask around for you.”

“You could,” says Kisumi sweetly. “You could, in fact, send this picture around to all your clients and tell them to keep a lookout in every seedy part of town you have some pull in. You could even tell them you’ll give them a discount on your products if they help you find these two men. In return, of course I could reimburse you for the lost profits.”

Pursing his lips, Seijuro glances behind him, more out of habit than anything else. “This sounds like an awful lot of work. I’m not sure I want to be a part of this, Shigino.”

“I thought you might say that,” Kisumi sighs.

“Are you gonna threaten me?”

Kisumi actually looks offended at that. “What exactly do you take me for?” he asks, hand raised to his chest in mock indignation. “Threats only get a man so far, you know, and I’m not some kind of barbarian, I don’t go around breaking people’s kneecaps when they don’t pay me back for my illicit substances-”

“That was one time, and it’s not like I let anyone keep a tab anymore-”

“Regardless,” Kisumi says smoothly, settling a hand on Seijuro’s shoulder. “Let’s look at the facts. You’re operating in our area, and we’ve let you do what you want all this time. I don’t want that to change. I find that people tend to work better under positive incentives, anyway. What I want is for us to be able to rely on each other to some extent.”

“You say that, but I’m pretty sure you’d stab me in a heartbeat.”

Less than a heartbeat,” Kisumi chirrups. “But right now, I’m asking you for a favour. A favour that you’re free to call in at any time, you know. Think about it. I don’t have a lot of money to give you, but if you ever find yourself in a tight spot, I could always swoop in and give you a hand. I’ll put in a good word for you. You know my boss treats her allies well.”

Seijuro says nothing. He’s never actually seen Amakata, only heard of her. The main impression that he has of her is that she’s terrifyingly efficient at running her section of the underground, even though for some reason Seijuro often hears her being referred to as Little Miss Miho. It’s a slightly demeaning name, actually, but it probably can’t hurt to stay on her good side. Might come in handy if his idiot brother ever accidentally sets one of his police friends on his tail.

Shrugging, he stuffs both hands in his back pockets. “Sure, I’ll do what I can,” he says. “Tachibana and Nanase, right?”

“That’s right,” Kisumi flashes him a smile that’s blinding in its brilliance. “Please don’t disappoint me, Seijuro, I’m counting on you.”

Their meeting ends. Seijuro walks out of the alley, breathing noticeably easier. His phone pings and he glances down at it; it’s only Kisumi, sending him a picture of Tachibana’s face for reference. Seijuro stares at it, and then locks the screen and sighs.

“Something has to be wrong, if everyone’s looking for this guy.”

 

 

“Including us,” Nagisa whispers from behind a dumpster, muffling his laughter as Rei puts his face in his hands and silently screams.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Momo grins at Officer Nitori from behind the bars of his cell. For a brief moment, Nitori smiles back, and then quickly ducks his head to continue working under the stern gaze of his superiors.

Momo squirms happily. For a holding cell, this is actually pretty comfortable. The officers usually let him keep his backpack, so he can finish his homework in peace. Gotta study hard if he’s going to be the best mechanical engineer in Japan, even if his course doesn’t offer a module on how to build giant flying robots, which is totally bogus (he’d wanted to be an entomologist until he’d figured out he wouldn’t actually be studying ents. Robots are the next best thing). Sergeant Yamazaki, for all his gruffness and bull-like strength, is surprisingly quite helpful when it comes to maths. Plus, even though Sergeant Matsuoka gives him a lot of shit for his throw pillows, they haven’t actually been taken out of the cell, so Momo doesn’t really mind the lack of a proper bed. The only downside is that they’ve got his older brother’s number on speed-dial, so Momo isn’t allowed the customary phone call anymore. Then again, it’s probably his own fault, since that one time he’d ordered a pizza instead of calling Sei to bail him out.

He stretches and yawns. There’s chatter going in the office, and he’s bored of algebra, so he stands, rocks on the balls of his feet and bounces over to hang on the bars.

“Sergeant Matsuoka,” he calls, dragging the last syllable just because he likes the way it sounds. Sergeant Matsuoka glances up and sighs, but then ignores him. He’s been doing that a lot. Momo doesn’t like it very much. He prefers being scolded to being left to his own devices. Officer Nitori hasn’t really explained what’s eating everyone, but Momo’s heard little bits and pieces. People tend to talk over his head because they think he won’t understand much. They’re not wrong, usually, but he’s not completely dense.

He amuses himself by trying to do the Macarena with his feet. There’s a bit of a commotion around Sergeant Matsuoka’s desk, so Momo presses his face into the bars to get a better look. There’s a lady with very red hair talking to the officers, holding a paper bag and some coffee.

“Hi!” says Momo, because nobody’s paid attention to him in a while.

The lady turns. She’s pretty, and probably older than him. Blinking, she turns to Sergeant Matsuoka. “Why is there a bean bag in there?”

Sergeant Matsuoka quirks a half-smile. “That’s Momo’s cell. He’s here so often we just leave his crap there for him.”

The lady brightens. “Oh, you’re Momo! My brother tells me funny stories about you all the time. Is it true you broke into a McDonalds once and fell asleep?”

“Yes,” says Momo, mainly happy because he’s not being ignored anymore. “I really wanted something to eat, but they were closed.”

Sergeant Matsuoka rolls his eyes. “He got into the kitchen and ate two burgers.”

“I paid for them right after!” Momo complains. “Are you really Sergeant Matsuoka’s sister? You’re prettier than him, though.”

“That’s not difficult,” says the lady. “My name is Kou.”

“I’m Momo!” says Momo,

“I gathered,” says Kou.

“You’re pretty,” says Momo.

“You’ve mentioned,” says Kou.

Officer Nitori suddenly coughs loudly. “Oh, look, the elder Mr Mikoshiba is here,” he says, very pointedly clicking his pen.

Momo, Sergeant Matsuoka and Kou turn like a bunch of meerkats. Seijuro stomps into the office, normally cheerful expression replaced with one of intense annoyance. He points a finger at Momo, making him shrink back slightly. “I was right in the middle of mini golf, you little turd. Next time I should just leave you here to rot.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Don’t be stupid, mom would kill me,” says Seijuro, flicking Momo’s forehead hard through the bars of his cell. “Sorry for the trouble again, officers,” he says, turns and suddenly stills. “Ah.”

Sergeant Matsuoka raises his eyebrow. It’s a move Momo’s seen so often it’s lost its effect. Surprisingly, though, it does nothing to Sei either. Momo glances between the two, and then realises that Seijuro’s not actually looking at the police officer.

“You’re pretty,” says Seijuro to the lady resting her head on Matsuoka’s shoulder.

She laughs. “Thanks.”

Sergeant Matsuoka immediately scowls. “Both of you stop hitting on my sister and get out.”

“She’s your sister?” Seijuro has time to say before Momo’s cell is unlocked and he’s launched face-first into his older brother’s chest. Momo lets out a soft ‘oof’, but Sei doesn’t even notice. “I never knew you had a sibling! We should exchange sibling tips, maybe go out to lunch sometime?”

“Sure,” says Kou, at the same time her brother says no. He turns his scowl on her. “Don’t you have contracts to look over?”

“Excuse me for dropping in to feed my big brother once in a while,” she says and flounces off his desk, long red hair dancing behind her with the movement. “I can see where I’m not wanted.”

“I can’t imagine anyone not wanting you around,” Seijuro says. He seems to mean it.

She turns and smiles at him. “At least somebody appreciates me. By the way, my name is Kou.”

“No it’s not,” says Sergeant Matsuoka, putting both hands on her back and herding her in the direction of the door. “It’s Schartzmugel. You’re very busy and you want to go home early this evening. Go away, Schartzmugel. Be free.”

Kou’s clear laughter reaches them even as she disappears from view. “That’s the silliest name I’ve ever heard.”

“Take that up with our mother,” Rin says before their voices fade completely. Seijuro stares after them, suddenly much happier than he was when he came in. Momo wanders away to sprawl his upper body over Officer Nitori’s desk. Officer Nitori ignores him and rests his folder on Momo’s face.

“Wow.” Sei only turns after a full minute of silence to grab his little brother by the wrist. “Come on, you shit, we’re going home,” he says dreamily, pulling Momo along despite his protestations. Momo waves at Officer Nitori helplessly. Officer Nitori, somewhat grudgingly, waves back.

 

 

They make it to the main street and stop at the curb, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. Cars whizz by. It’s a nice day that could be better spent not getting a lecture for half an hour. “You can let go of my hand now,” Momo says. Sei starts and blinks like he’s only just noticed him. Letting go of Momo’s wrist, he stuffs his hands in his pockets. His expression turns somewhat serious.

“I have to talk to you about stuff,” he says, looking straight ahead.

“Is this about the burgers, because I swear I paid for them,” Momo starts, and then stops when Seijuro places his entire hand over Momo’s face.

“It’s not about the burgers, although you’ll be hearing about that later. Do you remember those two guys you wanted me to look up? The ones you said your policeman pal was looking for?”

“Ye-e-es,” Momo says, half-hoping that Sei will forget about the question by the time he’s done. Somewhat predictably, though, he has no such luck, because Sei continues talking as they cross the road to get to the bus stop.

“You said Yamazaki asked you for help finding them?”

“Yeah, since I’m arrested so often, he thought maybe I’d have connections. I don’t actually have connections,” he says quickly. “I was just acting cool. I'm a regular guy, I put my shirt on one leg at a time. And he’s so scary I didn’t want to disappoint him.”

Seijuro frowns deeper. Momo swallows. He’s fairly certain his brother doesn’t buy the excuse, but he hasn’t said anything so far. Glancing sideways, Momo wonders if he’ll have enough warning to run before Sei hits him. Sei’s stronger, but Momo’s faster, and would probably make it to their parents place first. Sei probably wouldn’t be able to smack him there.

“Who exactly are they? I mean, they’re white collar criminals, but why was Yamazaki looking for them? Why did he need to ask me instead of doing what the police normally do?”

Momo pauses. “I dunno,” he says, furrowing his eyebrows. “He never said why. It all seemed kind of shady, though. And I’ve heard rumours that Sergeant Yamazaki asks criminals to do stuff for him all the time. Like, he gave me Officer Nitori’s number as a reward, and he let me play with the police dog.”

“And what did he do with the information?”

“They’re going to arrest the guys,” says Momo, scratching his ears. “I keep hearing them talk about it. Officer Nitori says they might have ran away from Tokyo, even, so they’re on the loose somewhere. But they’re not really dangerous or anything.”

“Alright,” says Sei, chewing on his lower lip. “Does Yamazaki know what I do for a living?”

Momo momentarily stops breathing. He chances a glance sideways. Sei’s staring back at him expectantly, eyebrow raised. Opening his mouth to say something, Momo gestures wildly. “Well, the thing about that is-”

Sei hums thoughtfully, cutting him off. He doesn’t seem particularly angry or surprised, meaning he must have known from the start. Momo wrings his hands nervously. This is what he’d been afraid of. Sei has, Momo has learnt, a habit of pretending to be clueless right up until the moment he turns into a brick wall and break’s a guy’s kneecaps. Coming up short for something to say, Momo pulls up the hood of his jacket helplessly to hide his face. “Are you gonna hit me?”

“I’m not gonna hit you,” Seijuro says calmly. “Even though you’re an idiot. Did Yamazaki threaten you?”

Momo pauses. “Kinda.”

“So you couldn’t help it, right? It was a bad move to get so chummy with the police force in the first place, but this wasn’t entirely your fault.” Scratching the back of his neck, Seijuro sighs. “But you’re going to make it up to me, you understand?”

“Yes,” says Momo immediately, eyes regaining some of their shine. “What do we do? Should I help you beat people up? Can I handle the cash? Do I get a weapon? I’ll take a baseball bat like yours, those are pretty handy-”

“I keep telling people, that happened once. Anyway, Momo, no. For now I need you to keep doing what you’re doing, okay? Spend time at the station. Keep your ears open for any info on Tachibanananase- Tachibana and Nanase. Ask Officer Nitori if you can, just don’t be too obvious about it.”

“Okay, but why?”

“Because I’m curious,” says Seijuro distantly, patting around his pockets for his bus pass. “Find out everything you can. Their whereabouts, their history, whatever. Then we’ll be even. Got it?”

“Got it,” Momo chirps, gripping the straps of his backpack and bouncing in place. Seijuro stares at him for a second, and then grins.

“Momo, one more thing.”

“Yeah?”

“See if you can get me Kou’s phone number.”

Momo smiles. “Consider it done.”

 

 


 

 

They’re in yet another seedy hotel, this time just South of Nagoya. They’re all starting to blend together at this point into a collage of thin walls and thinner bedsheets. Haru is in front of the mirror, one finger poised in front of his eye, the other hand holding his eyelids open. He’s been standing here, stock-still, for the better part of twenty minutes.

Makoto’s voice drifts to him from somewhere in the bathroom, mingling in Haru’s mind with the smell of ammonia. “Are you still there?”

Haru blinks. Hot tears splash down his cheeks from having had his eyes open for so long. He scrubs them away irritably and sets his contact down, remembering at the last minute that it belongs in its case and not on the tabletop. “Why do I need to wear glasses and contacts?”

Makoto’s head and torso appear from behind the doorframe. He’s shirtless, black hair dye staining his forehead and probably the back of his neck. He smiles. “Your eyes are very conspicuous, Haru, we need to cover them up. I’m going to be wearing them too, you know.”

“You’re already used to them,” Haru grumps, glancing back down at his contacts. They’re cheap, and are probably going to give him some sort of infection along with masking his eye colour. Out of habit, he moves his head to toss his hair out of his eyes, realizing belatedly that it’s all been cut off. Scowling deeper, he picks a contact lens back up and jabs it into his eye with a little bit more force than is probably wise.

He swears. Makoto, having disappeared for a moment, pokes his head back out of the bathroom. “Everything okay?”

Peachy,” Haru hisses, one eye red and watery. Makoto chokes back a laugh.

“Tell me if you need any help,” he says and ducks his head. There’s the sound of running water for a while, and then Makoto steps out of the bathroom, rubbing at his head with a towel. “How do I look?”

“Like me,” Haru says impassively, eyeing the dark stains on Makoto’s shoulders. “You’ve made a mess.”

“It’ll wash out,” Makoto shrugs, digging around for a comb. Slicking his hair back with deft movements, he turns to Haru and smiles. “This will work!”

Haru sighs. “Makoto. I hate to say this, but no, it will not work.” Ignoring his friend’s protests, he sequesters the comb and starts undoing the coif. “You’re already unreasonably good-looking. This is only making it worse.”

“That’s going a bit far,” says Makoto sheepishly, bowing his head and submitting to Haru’s ministrations. “I’ve been walking around like this the whole time, though.”

“Yes, and we’ve been stared at the whole time.” Winding his fingers through Makoto’s hair to curl it, Haru grimaces at the traces of dye marring his fingernails. “Try not to smile too much.”

“This is how my face naturally is, though,” says Makoto, smiling wider. “You look funny with one brown eye and one blue one.”

“Shut up,” says Haru, smacking him weakly on the arm. Makoto suppresses his grin. Haru’s spindly fingers feel like being hit with wet noodles. Haru tuts. “No more smiling. Think of kittens getting run over. Think of old people eating by themselves.”

Makoto’s face falls into the saddest expression Haru’s ever seen. He immediately regrets his suggestion. “Okay, stop, I get it. Happy thoughts. Just try to turn the corners of your mouth down.” He doesn’t mention that Makoto’s mouth has been more downturned than usual anyway lately. Shrugging to himself, he sets down the comb and steps back. “There. Unremarkable.”

“Thanks,” says Makoto, ruffling Haru’s new, short hair because he knows it’ll annoy him. Haru huffs and bats his hand away.

“Stop it, I’m not Ren.”

Makoto laughs. “Ren’s probably about your height now, though.” He pauses, and then frowns. “Actually, I’m not sure. It’s been a while since I’ve seen him.”

Haru shrugs, handing over a worn t-shirt and not bothering to look away as Makoto pulls it over his head. “Neither one of us has been to Iwatobi in years.”

“I guess,” Makoto’s voice is muffled as he changes. “I guess I never wanted them asking too many questions about work. I mean, I sent back lots of cheques and presents, but…” he trails off, tugging at his bangs absently.

Haru flicks his hand. “Don’t ruin your hair,” he says, and turns away to sort out the other evil contact. “You family thinks you’re a businessman, right?”

“Yeah,” says Makoto faintly, sitting down on the hotel bed to watch Haru in the mirror. “I mean, that’s what I wanted to do in high school.”

“I thought you wanted to be an author.”

Makoto waves a hand noncommittally. “That would have been a bad cover, though. They would have tried to buy my books. Anyway, it’s not a steady job, so it wouldn’t have helped our financial situation much.”

“This isn’t a steady job either,” Haru points out.

Shrugging, Makoto fiddles with the sheets. “It pays, though. That’s what I really wanted.”

Contact still balanced on his fingertip, Haru meanders to the bed and settles himself gingerly next to Makoto. “Things were hard for you.”

“Yeah.” Gently retrieving the contact, Makoto motions for Haru to tilt his head back. Haru complies. “I mean, we weren’t dirt poor or anything. But it was kind of hand-to-mouth, you know? I don’t think my dad ever really made enough to save up, and there was stuff like school and the house and the car to pay for. I guess my parents tried to make it seem like we had enough, so they weren’t as frugal as they should have been. I get it, though. I always acted the same way with Ren and Ran.”

“You bought them toys out of your allowance,” Haru says, flinching as the brown piece of plastic looms closer.

“Stop blinking,” Makoto chastises him. “For some reason I can’t remember what you wanted to do when we were kids.”

The contact lens is installed. Haru blinks rapidly, immediately trying to rub his eyes. Makoto takes hold of his wrists, keeping him still. Haru scowls. “I wanted to be whatever you wanted to be.”

“Hmm.” Makoto doesn’t move away. From this distance, Haru can make out the faint freckles on his skin, gradually being hidden by the scruff on his jaw. His lips stand out in stark detail, chapped and slightly asymmetrical. Haru’s fingers itch for a pencil.

Makoto’s expression is distant. “I remember. You just wanted to swim and draw and be yourself. I dragged you into this whole mess, didn’t I?”

Haru shrugs. “Technically I started it with the fanart.”

Makoto grins. “Yeah. You’d draw manga character for people, right? Commissions never really made a lot of money, though.” His face falls slightly. “I was the one who suggested we started copying popular art.”

He falls silent. Wanting to erase the lines between his friend’s eyebrows, Haru fumbles. “It got away from us,” he says. It’s not very comforting, now that he thinks about it, but it’s true. He doesn’t remember any one point when either of them consciously decided to go down the path of crime. Like many things in Haru’s life, it sort of just happened.

“I’m not going to see my family again, huh?” Makoto says quietly, staring at the carpet. Haru frowns.

“It’s better not to involve them,” he says.

“I could have probably made more effort, though,” Makoto sighs. He seems to realize that he’s still gripping Haru’s wrists, and abruptly lets go. “It’s kind of stupid, isn’t it? I started off wanting to make money for them, and then I ended up forgetting about them. My parents are probably ashamed. Their son is a criminal.”

Haru says nothing, but deflates slightly. He’s not sure what Makoto must be feeling, seeing as his own parents have been estranged from him for years now. He glances away.

Apparently sensing his thoughts, Makoto brightens. It’s fake, but the sentiment does not go entirely unappreciated. “Ah, well, no point talking about it now, since it’s in the past!” he says quickly, drawing away from Haru and making his way towards the bags. Stuffing things in at random, he throws a smile over his shoulder. “We’d better hurry. We’re meant to meet Uozumi about making new passports soon. He’s giving us a discount since we’ve known each other for so long.” He’s babbling, he knows, but Haru slides off the bed nonetheless and starts to slowly pack his things. Breathing out a sigh, Makoto holds out a hand for his spectacles, but gets Haru’s box of contact lenses instead.

“Green eyes don’t blend in,” Haru reminds him, and Makoto nods.

“Thanks for reminding me,” he says, setting down his bag and opening the box. “Honesty, Haru, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Not be a criminal, probably,” Haru says.

Makoto doesn’t laugh.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Rin stretches, muscles finally feeling like something other than sleepy goo, and rolls his shoulders in preparation for the next six or seven kilometers. The sun hasn’t yet properly risen, but the park near his apartment is pretty well-lit, and there are already old people gathering for their daily tai-chi class.

Snoop Dogg makes a disgruntled noise next to him. Winding his earphones around his neck and flitting his thumb between two different playlists, he raises an eyebrow at it. “You know the drill, Snoopy. You live with me for the week, you exercise with me for the week. No excuses.”

The look the dog gives him is intensely unimpressed, but Rin ignores it. Deciding to start his morning with rock and roll, he starts a slow jog counterclockwise around the park. It’s brisk even through his jacket, but then again Rin’s never really done well with the cold. A breeze ruffles the parts of his hair he hasn’t managed to properly tie up. He shivers and goes faster.

It’s relaxing, this. Normally he’d jog in the evenings with Sousuke (because, despite not actually being a heavy sleeper, nothing short of a giant lizard attack can get the man out of bed any time before eight A.M.), but lately Rin hasn’t wanted anything but the sound of his own breathing and his steady thud of his shoes against the ground. With every few steps, his thoughts leak out of his head until he’s left with blissful static. His water bottle bounces on his hip, right next to where he’s tied the dog’s leash.

He breaks into a run. It’s been a long time since he’s really pushed himself, because he usually opts to chat about everything and nothing with Sousuke while they exercise. There wouldn’t be any breath left to spare for idle chatter now even if he wanted to. Other joggers move out of his way so he can whiz past them.

He’s two friends short. Three, maybe, if he and Sousuke don’t go back to normal soon. He can’t actually see how they will, because even though he knows it’s not really Sousuke’s fault, it’s hard not to associate him with the recent, rude downturn of his life. Gritting his teeth, he leaps over a tree branch. He wants his friends safe. He wants justice. He wants answers. He wants to go back to when they all used to be happy. He also want to go home and swathe himself in blankets and talk to nobody but his sister for the next few years.

Something tugs at his belt loop. Slowing slightly, he turns. The police dog is pulling at its leash, not letting him run. Irritably, Rin pulls back, and succeeds in dragging it a few steps forward. It stops moving completely and digs in its heels, collar riding up its face and squishing it until it looks more like a pug than a German Shepherd.

Exasperated, Rin pauses, jogging in place so he doesn’t lose his momentum. “Come on, asshole, it’s a nice day out, I want to run!”

The dog responds by flopping bonelessly onto the ground, directly in the path of the other joggers. Rin swears and flails the leash. Snoop Dogg stares back at him, tongue lolling and tail swishing.

He stands there for a second in slack-jawed disbelief, and then sighs so loud he thinks he can feel a lung collapse. Defeated, he trudges back along the path and plops down next to the dog. It looks up at him as though it has not just completely ruined his morning of rigorous physical activity. Tugging the neck of his t-shirt to mop at the sweat on his forehead, he turns to gaze unseeingly at the sunrise. “Even you’ve forsaken me,” he says glumly.

Everyone else at the park gives them a wide berth, because it seems nobody has much interest in bothering the young man and his dog as they stare morosely at the sky. Rin wilts until he’s draped over Snoopy, because he’s his own man, and he can be a sulky non-functioning member of society if he wants to. His muscles burn, and it’s satisfying even if his run has been aborted. Running a hand through his damp hair, he turns off his music and buries his face into Snoopy’s stomach.

He’s not actually sure how long he stays like that, since he’s got no shift today and there isn’t anywhere for him to be until dinner. The dog is stupidly comfortable, and his eyelids start to tug themselves shut of their own accord. People tut at him quietly for taking up the entire path, but he ignores his surroundings. He’s comfortable.

He’s startled out of his reverie when his phone buzzes with a personalized ringtone, some ridiculous song about anacondas that Sousuke had never fully understood. Blinking rapidly, he sits up, digs around in his pockets and accepts the call.

“It’s my day off,” says Rin without much preamble. He holds his phone slightly away from his ear so he won’t get the screen all wet and gross.

“They took a train to Nagoya.” Sousuke’s voice is tinny and gruff over the speakers. “Someone at the train station recognized them from the posters we’ve been handing out. Not sure where they’ve been since then, but they’re not in Tokyo anymore.”

Rin straightens, and then frowns. “How long ago did they leave?”

“A couple of days. The other stations in Nagoya are coming up empty, so I get the feeling they haven’t gone too far. Then again, Nitori says there are other means of transport we might have missed.” He pauses for a second, and Rin hears the sound of a pen clicking in the background, too rapid to be of any practical use. It’s a nervous habit of Sousuke’s. “I just thought you’d want to know.”

Drawing his knees up to his chest, Rin mulls over the words. The dog pricks its ears, and Rin scratches them. “Thanks,” he says after a beat. It’s soft and grudging, but genuine. Sousuke grunts at him and stops clicking the pen.

“If there’s anything else we find, I’ll tell you when you come in tomorrow.” Another few seconds tick past. “Don’t forget to eat.”

“I can take care of myself,” says Rin automatically, but when he hangs up he’s startled to find that the clock on his phone reads nine forty-seven am. Normally he’d have finished doing the dishes from breakfast by now. Grumbling quietly to himself, he stands, dusts his pants off and yanks half-heartedly at the dog’s leash. Mercifully it listens to him this time, standing and ambling alongside him on the walk back to his home.

“I should probably do something productive,” he says, half to himself and half to the dog. Snoopy bumps against his leg reassuringly. He glances at it.

“What? It’s completely normal. I mean, Sousuke could probably sit on the couch and eat ice-cream all day, but that’s because he’s a big useless waste of space, and we don’t want to be like that, do we?” Bending over, he fluffs up the fur on his companion's head, and then snorts. “Who am I kidding? You’re exactly the same. Between the three of us, I’m the only one who ever gets anything worthwhile done. I mean, aside from busting Haru and Makoto, I guess.” He trails off, chewing absently at his lower lip. “I didn’t do that. Sousuke did.”

The dog tugs at its leash again. Furrowing his eyebrows, Rin stops walking and takes a look around. “This isn’t the way back to my apartment.” He scrubs a hand over his face and turns around, following the dog’s lead as she trots back the correct way home. “Shit, and Sousuke’s always the one getting lost. You must do this with him all the time, huh?”

It wags its tail at him. He chuckles. “Guess he’s not the only hopeless one. Maybe that’s not so bad once in a while. Hell, that ice cream’s starting not to sound so bad. Wanna watch cartoons with me and eat junk?”

The dog barks its assent. Rin snorts and pats it on the head.

“Alright, laziness it is.”

 

 


 

 

 

 

“Laziness,” says Nagisa, “will get you nowhere.”

Rei gives him a look designed specifically to peel wallpaper. Characteristically, however, Nagisa pays this no attention, deciding instead that his energy is better spent scavenging a piece of katsu from Rei’s plate. Rei, having long given up on any sense of decorum, lifts his food above Nagisa’s reach and tuts.

“This is not laziness, it’s self-preservation, which you are quite sadly lacking. I don’t want to chase after people who may or may not be members of the yakuza for the sake of adventure or whatever such nonsense you’ve been talking about. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why you would.”

“Because of reasons, Rei,” Nagisa sighs like Rei is the one being unreasonable. They’re in Nagisa’s bedroom, because his living room is too cluttered to actually live in. Making sad eyes at Rei’s food, Nagisa gestures with his chopsticks. “I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve got a plan of action, right, so I’m going to need you to coope-rei-“

“If you applied half as much effort to your job as you did to this nonsensical goose chase-”

So,” Nagisa continues, unconcerned, “listen carefully to me, and don’t worry about anything because I’ll be doing most of the actual work.”

Rei stares at him for a second, and then sighs. “Even if you say that, I get the feeling I’m going to end up looking out for you to make sure you don’t do anything reckless.”

“I’m a very rational person, Rei-baby, I don’t do anything that doesn’t make complete sense.”

“Then why are we eating lunch in your bed and likely getting food all over the sheets instead of cleaning up the table like normal adults?”

Nagisa gives him a look. “Rei, I think we both know the sheets are going to get dirty anyway. I invited you here for a reason.”

“I don’t see what-” Rei starts, and then splutters and stops. After a beat, he pushes up his glasses. “Anyway. Whatever plan you have, it’s going to be dangerous, and I’m obligated to tell you to stop it immediately.”

“Nothing short of tying me up and throwing me in a cupboard is going to make me stop it,” says Nagisa lightly. “Which may be kinky, but you’re going to have to release me at some point, and I’ll escape and do it solo even if you don’t decide to help. I’m not actually going to put you in any real danger, you know; you’re my boyfriend, after all.”

The word is designed to make Rei falter. He knows it is, but that doesn’t stop him from turning slightly pink and fiddling with his spectacles. Nagisa takes the opportunity to filch his katsu, but Rei ignores it. “I’m more worried about you putting yourself in danger.”

Nagisa softens slightly, expression going warm. “If you’re so worried, come with me and make sure I don’t get myself into trouble. You’re good at that, right?”

“I can’t help but feel that this is some form of emotional blackmail,” Rei says unhappily.

Grinning, Nagisa sets down his plate and takes Rei’s face in his hands. “I promise I’ll return the favour somehow,” he says, and rubs their noses together.

“I’m still very unsatisfied with this.”

“I know,” Nagisa coos at him. Gently taking away Rei’s plate, he sets it on the bedside table and presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “But I really want to do this, and I trust you. I just want you to trust me. Please?”

Rei’s voice is weak. “But Nagisa, the danger-”

“We won’t get too involved”, Nagisa promises, silencing him by pressing their mouths together. His hands make their way to Rei’s shoulders, thumbs hooking in his collar to rub against the skin of his neck. “I only want to find them, that’s all. It’s not illegal to look for someone. We won’t do anything, we won’t piss off the yakuza, okay? Relax. Relax.”

“That’s like telling an asymptote to touch the x-axis, Nagisa, it’s impossible-”

“You’re such a nerd,” Nagisa laughs into his mouth, climbing into his lap and tipping them both over. “That’s kind of why I like you, though.” Humming, he idly starts undoing the buttons on his shirt, smiling at the way Rei eyes him over the rims of his glasses. “Let’s get the sheets dirty.”

The final button comes off and Nagisa’s shirt slips off his shoulders. Smiling wide, his mouth finds its way onto Rei’s neck. Rei discovers fairly quickly Nagisa isn’t afraid of putting his tongue anywhere, and well, Rei doesn’t get much of a chance to talk after that.

 

 

 


 

 

 

The first thing Nitori does once Momo’s been safely locked up is sigh. It’s not a rare occurrence, with this kid, but today it’s a more substantial sigh than normal. “Momo, no. Never again.”

Momo blinks innocently. “It was only watercolour. I did it for you, you know.”

“I know,” says Nitori hotly, cheeks burning red to match. “I know, and everyone in the station knows, and everyone who knows me probably knows too, because you painted ‘do a cavity search on me Officer N’ on the side of a suspension bridge, and you spelled it wrong, and how did you even get up there without killing yourself?”

“My love is not a slave to gravity,” says Momo seriously.

Officer Nitori presses his fists against his mouth to muffle his scream of mortification. “Momo, never again, do you hear me? It’s embarrassing as heck, and you could have died.”

“I hear you,” says Momo unhappily. “But you believe me now, right?”

Face doing something complicated, Officer Nitori sighs again. Pulling up a chair, he sits and puts his face in his hands. He’s still for a long while, until Momo notices his shoulders shaking. Alarmed, he darts forward and reaches through the bars, arms not long enough to reach the young man in front of him. “Don’t cry! Please, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again!”

A loud, racking sob makes Officer Nitori collapse further into himself. Momo’s heart breaks a little further. Helplessly, he wrings his hands and looks around for help, feeling the urge to tear up himself from pure guilt.

At least, until Officer Nitori starts to fucking laugh, the bastard, arms folded around himself and one hand clamped over his mouth to stifle his high-pitched giggling. Sergeant Yamazaki glances up with a half-hearted comment to keep it down, and goes back to shuffling papers around his desk. The station goes silent; Sergeant Yamazaki because he’s engrossed in work, Momo in shock, and Officer Nitori because he’s laughing so hard he’s wheezing.

‘I can’t believe,” he chokes, “that you actually scaled a bridge just to use that crappy pick-up line. A bridge. And, what? A cavity search? Who even says stuff like that? Do you even know how those things work? With like, rubber gloves and torchlights and everything? That’s like, the least romantic thing you could have picked, Momo.”

“It was that or a baton euphemism,” Momo says, slightly put-out. “You don’t have to laugh that hard.”

Eyes gleaming, Officer Nitori continues vibrating in his chair. “Oh my god,” he gasps. “What was it? Something about wanting to try out my night stick?”

“Probably, yeah,” Momo says, and then cracks a grin. “You do this seal-clappy thing when you laugh. It’s really funny!”

The other man immediately sits on his hands, although his smile stays where it is. “Seriously, Momo, that was really irresponsible, so don’t do it again, okay?” He tries and fails for a stern expression a la Sergeant Matsuoka. “The next time you want to woo a guy, why don’t you try flowers?”

“Lame,” Momo shrugs, smushing his face against the bars of his holding cell so he won’t have to stand up straight. “But yeah, okay, if that’s what you’re into I guess I could go with that next time. So now that you’ve been appropriately wooed, how about that date, huh?”

“After that stunt I should send you straight back to your brother,” Nitori says, and then softens. “But you’ve made your point, I guess. I can tell you weren’t kidding about the dating thing.”

“So are you free this weekend?”

Officer Nitori grins. “I might be. That is, if I’m not up to my neck in work looking for- oh.” He stops talking suddenly, abashed, and rubs at the back of his neck. “Sorry, police work. Not really stuff I should be sharing with the public.”

Momo raises both eyebrows. “I’ll gladly talk about it in private.”

That has Officer Nitori rolling his eyes, although his smile does come back. “Easy, Momo, we haven’t even started going out yet.”

“I know, I know, you’re a lady, you don’t entertain gentlemen callers until after three dates at least.”

Hey.” Flicking his forehead, Nitori settles his chin in one hand. “That does sound nice, though. A date, I mean. It’s been a stressful week.”

“You should stop worrying about everything, you’ll give yourself wrinkles.”

“I’m only twenty-two.” Drumming his fingers absently against the side of his face, Officer Nitori turns slightly to consider Sergeant Yamazaki, who is too busy to notice. “I hope this mess sorts itself out soon. Having to look for two runaways on top of all our regular work isn’t much fun.” He pauses, and then shrugs. “Well, I suppose I did sign up for it.”

“Why’d you become a cop, anyway? You seem too nice to be tracking down lawbreakers.”

“You seem too nice to be a lawbreaker, but looks where we are,” Officer Nitori retorts. “I wasn’t completely sold on police work, at first. I wanted to do something that would make my family proud. But, police officers came to my school for career day once year, and I was really impressed, so I decided I’d try out police academy. The rest is history, I guess.” Blinking suddenly, he chuckles and straightens up. “Sorry, that was pretty boring. I tend to ramble when I’m tired, I didn’t mean to start telling you my life story.”

“I wanna hear it, though!” Grinning wide, Momo stretches out a hand as far as he can through the bars of his cell. “Here, let’s make a deal. I’ll stop getting in trouble so you have less work to do. In return, you let me take you out and buy you food and stuff.”

“I should really be buying you stuff, since I’m working and you’re still in university.”

“We’ll pay for each other,” Momo shrugs. “Come on, shake on it!”

The other man sighs, but shakes his hand nonetheless. “I really don’t get you,” he says. “Fine, we’ll go out, but I’m probably just going to end up complaining about work and talking about dogs.”

Grinning, Momo squeezes his hand tight. “Don’t you worry, Officer Nitori. You can tell me anything.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

She picks up on the third ring.

 

“Kou Matsuoka,” says the smooth voice, still pretty despite the distortion over Seijuro’s cheap hands-free speakers. Bouncing on the balls of his feet, he makes no effort to keep the smile out of his voice. He’s halfway to the kitchen, and it’s with a breathless noise of excitement that he yanks the fridge door open and reaches in for the orange juice.

 

“Hi! I hope I’m not bothering you. It’s me, Seijuro. Mikoshiba, you remember? We met at the police station, you saw my little brother, and-”

 

“Of course I remember,” says Kou with a hint of a laugh. The noise makes Seijuro grin wider. “I was wondering how you’ve been.”

 

The carton of orange juice is empty. Seijuro makes a face at it and sets it on the counter to be thrown away, reminding himself to clock Momo for leaving rubbish in the fridge. “I’ve been great! I hope you don’t mind that I asked my little brother to get your number for me, though. Now that I think about it, that might have come off as being kinda creepy.”

 

“I was a little confused, until he told me it was for you.” There’s noise in the background. Traffic, probably. He can imagine her clicking down the sidewalk in sky high heels, on the way to some fashionable restaurant for lunch with her friends. “Were you too shy to ask me yourself?”

 

She’s teasing him. The thought makes him giddy; she’s on the phone with him, joking with him, taking time out of her lunch break to entertain him. He realises he’s been standing aimlessly in the kitchen for a good few seconds, so he gravitates to the bottle of instant coffee grounds on the counter for something to do. “Can you blame me? You’re kind of out of my league, Schartzmugel.”

 

There’s a pause. For a split-second, Sei wonders if he’s offended her, but then she laughs, high-pitched, bell-like, and with the tiniest hint of a snort. It’s unbearably cute. “Oh, god. Please stop listening to my brother. My actual name is pretty enough, thanks.”

 

“I don’t know, Schartzmugel is kind of a turn-on. I feel like you’d make great cheese.” Black, two sugars. It’s too hot, so he scalds his tongue, but he bravely manages not to make a sound. It’s worth it, because Kou laughs uninterrupted, which makes him forget his soul-crushing pain entirely. “Anyway, listen. I was wondering if you were going to be free any time soon. I was thinking, if you’d like to, I could take you out? To like, the movies? I mean, that’s if you like movies, because if you don’t then we can go. Do something else. Like. Food.”

 

She hums. “You’re not taking me anywhere, but I’ll gladly go to the movies with you. There’s a really cute romcom I wanted to watch. I would have gone with my brother, but I’d infinitely prefer going with you.”

 

“Sure! When do you wanna go?”

 

“Is tomorrow too soon?”

 

Seijuro nearly drops his coffee cup. “N-no! Not at all! Tomorrow’s perfect, I can’t wait!”

 

“I get off work at five. I’ll meet you in Toho Cinema, alright? And don’t call me Schartzmugel again, or the date’s off.”

 

“Sorry, Schartzmug-ou.”

 

“Hey.” She tuts at him without any real ire, and then laughs. “Okay, I’m just about to have lunch, so I have to go. Bye, Seijuro. I’ll see you tomorrow evening.”

 

“Okay,” Seijuro manages to say before she hangs up. Dreamily, he puts the phone in his pocket and smiles. He’s going to have to dress up, and to take of his business quickly so he can show up early and impress Kou. Flowers may be a good idea, too. He wonders if roses may be a bit much, but she seems like a daisy kind of girl anyway. Pink and yellow should do the trick, and there’s a florist a few streets away who can get him a decent bouquet pretty quickly.

 

His spine’s melting. Collapsing slowly onto the counter, he rests his chin in his hand and sighs. Forgetting his coffee’s still far too hot, he absently takes a sip. It burns the inside of his mouth. He doesn’t notice.

 

 

 

 


 

 

“Now, I know it’s only been a few days,” Miss Amakata says kindly, “but I can’t help but feel as though you’re not doing much.”

 

Kisumi chuckles weakly and taps his fingers against his mug. They’re in her living room, sitting on opposite sides of the teak coffee table. It’s big enough that he could probably lie down on it, but it still looks dwarfed in comparison to the size of the rest of the room. He doesn’t have to look to know that there are some very large men standing by the door and giving him the stinkeye. It’s ridiculous, really. Kisumi is the one who should be vetting visitors, not the other way around. Still, he keeps his gaze locked on his boss. He’s big, but some of Miss Amakata’s bodyguards look like they could bench press him if they got bored.

 

“I’ve contacted some friends,” he says quickly. “They’re on the lookout around Tokyo. Nobody’s seen Tachibana or Nanase just yet, but I’ve heard that the police want them too, so I doubt they’re going to be able to run very far.”

 

“I see,” offers Miss Amakata noncommittally. She takes a delicate sip of her tea, watching him over the rim of her cup. “Well, I don’t really care how you get your job done, as long as you do it. ‘Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it’, you know.”

 

Kisumi blinks. “Who said that?”

 

“The Buddha.”

 

 

“Oh.” He takes a sip of his tea, smiling beatifically even though he much prefers the strength of coffee. He’s sure Miss Amakata knows this, but she continues to pour him tea when he comes over anyway. “I worry that this may be an indiscreet question, but I have to ask; if it’s the fact that you- we got cheated that has to be fixed, why not wait for the police to do their job?”

 

The smile Miss Amakata gives him is indulgent, if slightly patronising. “Because, if I wanted to get my money back, I’d no doubt need to go through some messy legal process, and, well. I’d really rather not have the police snooping through my business. Besides,” she continues, taking her eyes off him so she can reach into the packet of biscuits, “what happens to them if they get arrested? A fine? Five years in prison? Too lenient.” With a sudden, violent movement, she snaps one in half. Kisumi stares at her. Smiling sweetly, she offers him a piece. “Biscuit?”

 

“No, thank you.”

 

“More for me, then.” She looks as though she's about to dunk one in her tea, then thinks the better of it and pops it straight into her mouth. “If I’m going to be honest, I’m a little intrigued. This Tachibana character seems like a piece of work. I’d very much like to meet him, and his friend, too. I sincerely hope you manage to find them as soon as possible, Kisumi.” She pauses, and then smiles. “But, you’ve never let me down before. There’s a reason I trust you with so much, so I should probably have more faith in you.”

 

“Probably,” says Kisumi cheerfully, although this does absolutely nothing to reassure himself. Bowing slightly, he drains the last of his tea and stands up. “Thank you for your time,” he says, even though he’s only here by her request.

 

She waves a hand at him, and he turns away before the human bulldozers can physically remove him from the room. He doesn’t deign to look at them as he passes, but his shoulders slump the moment he’s outside her house.

 

Rubbing a hand against his suddenly clammy forehead, he hurries down the steps and into the street. He feels like he’s just escaped something. What, he can’t imagine, but the feeling doesn’t leave him for the rest of the day.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

“I’m busy,” Seijuro snaps, phone squeezed between his shoulder and his ear.

 

On the other end of the line, Kisumi sighs. “I know, I know, you’ve got your own mundane life to take care of.” There’s a pause, during which Sei sticks one leg into a clean pair of jeans. “I’m on a tight schedule, though, so I’m going to need you to pick up the pace.”

 

“That’s funny,” says Seijuro sourly, realising belatedly that he’s been trying to put his pants on backwards. “Because, you know what, I also have a tight schedule, which you are getting in the way of, because, believe it or not, I have shit to do.”

 

“Is that so?” Kisumi doesn’t sound terribly sympathetic. “Well, if you get this out of the way quickly enough, you can go back to collecting debts from drug addicts or whatever it is you do.”

 

“Look, this is your job, not mine. I’m under no obligation to haul ass for you.”

 

The first half of whatever Kisumi says is muffled as Seijuro pulls a clean blue shirt over his head, but he catches the last bit. “-I will make you bleed.”

 

Seijuro pauses. “Come again?”

 

“You heard me.”

 

“...right.” Giving himself a once-over in the mirror, Sei straightens his collar and frowns. “I’ll keep asking around.”

 

“Thank you.” Kisumi is infinitely more pleasant once he’s already hung up.

 

Seijuro almost throws his phone across the room, but remembers at the last minute that he’ll probably need it to find out which part of the cinema he’s meant to meet Kou in. Grumbling to himself, he strips his shirt off and tugs on a yellow one instead. It matches his eyes.

 

It’s not as though he hasn’t been threatened before. It comes with the territory, in his line of work. Right now he’s got more important things to worry about, so he snatches up his keys, stuffs his wallet in his pocket and leaps over the clutter of his bedroom to sprint to the door.

 

He yanks it open and is greeted by a short blond who blinks at him with wide, startled eyes, fist raised mid-knock.

 

Seijuro blinks back. “Can I help you?”

 

The kid -he can’t be more than twenty- glances around. He doesn’t look like he’s slept in a while, and his skin is pale. He lowers his hand, which, Sei notices, is jittery.

 

“My friend told me I could buy stuff from you,” he says, not looking him in the eye.

 

Seijuro frowns and glances at his watch. “Yeah, okay, but could you come back at another time?”

 

“Wait!” The kid fixes him with a desperate, bloodshot stare. “I mean- I need it. I really. I need a hit, man. You gotta hook me up.”

 

Sighing, Sei shuts the door behind him and tries to get around his unwanted visitor. He can tell when someone’s got it bad, and this guy looks like he’s started down the long road destined to end in a crash and burn. “Look,” he says, not unkindly. “Maybe you should take it easy, yeah?”

 

“I can’t, I need-” the boy starts, fiddling with his hands. “I don’t. I don’t have a lot of money. I can pay you back, I swear, but I need something, anything, all I’ve got is cough syrup. Just give me a hit, I’ll come back with the money later, I can-”

 

“Hold on.” Seijuro fixes him with a frown, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “I don’t take tabs, kid. Pay up front or I’m not giving you a damned thing. I have better things to do than running after punks like you for money.”

 

“There has to be something!” His voice cracks at the end of the sentence. “I can do something for you! I’ll do your dishes! Clean your house! I look good in a dress, you can use me to make your girlfriend jealous or whatever, come on-”

 

“Okay.” Running a hand through his hair, Sei takes another look at his watch. “If you really want a discount, there are two guys I’m looking for. If you can find them and keep an eye on them for me, I’ll give you something for free. I heard they’re all the way in Nagoya, though, so it’s not going to be easy-”

 

“I’ll do it.” The kid’s eyes sparkle.

 

Seijuro stares at him for a second, and then digs around his pocket for his phone. “Fine, whatever, I’ll fill you in later. Give me your number, uh…”

 

“Nagisa,” says the blond, fingers tapping away rapidly. “So they’re in Nagoya somewhere?”

 

“Yeah, if I can find out more I’ll tell you where exactly to start looking. If you do this for me, I’ll give you a discount. If you find them, you can have it for free.”

 

“Great!” Nagisa seems suddenly cheerful, but Seijuro is too distracted to take any notice. “Don’t forget to call me, okay?”

 

“Yeah, okay, now I have to go, so scram.” Placing both hands on Nagisa’s shoulders, he steers him forcefully in the direction of the lift. “I’m gonna be late for an appointment, so you need to leave.”

 

“Sure,” Nagisa chirrups as the elevator doors close behind them. It moves, jolting them both, but Nagisa positively beams. “I’ll book my tickets to Nagoya tonight.”

 

“You really need to sort out your life,” says Seijuro absently. He’s got fifteen minutes to stop by the florist and catch a train to the cinema. If he hustles, he’ll make their date with five minutes to spare, and then it’s on with what he hopes is one of the best afternoons of his life.

 

The doors open. Before Seijuro can do a thing, Nagisa shoots out of the lift, twisting to wave a hand in his direction. “Thanks, Sei!” he calls, and disappears down the corridor.

 

In the end, Seijuro is ten minutes late, but Kou shows up even later, complaining about traffic and an overturned lorry blocking two lanes. He hands her a bouquet of daisies and she kisses him on the cheek, and it’s with a huge smile that he buys her popcorn and holds her hand in the theatre.


It’s only halfway through the movie that it occurs to him that he never actually told that Nagisa kid his name, but he brushes it off as unimportant.

 


 

 

Inspector Sasabe’s office would be more spacious if it weren’t crammed from wall to wall with fishing memorabilia and nonsensical posters, but that would be a bit much to expect from a man with a hairstyle like some Western rapper. Sousuke spares a glance for the knick-knacks, Rin on his heels, and plants himself in one of the two chairs in front of the Inspector’s desk.

 

Goro Sasabe greets them with a nod, gesturing vaguely for the two of them to make themselves at home somehow. Sousuke watches Rin out of the corner of his eye, sees him wrinkle his nose at the poster of the kitten saying Hang In There in aesthetically displeasing font. He directs his attention back to his boss. “What did you need us for, sir?”

 

Sasabe hands him a map. Sousuke unfolds it, Rin peering over his shoulder, as the Inspector talks. “The folks at the Nagoya department say they may have spotted those art fraud fellas in a couple of places. Nitori’s marked them off on the map for you, along with possible routes they may want to take. We don’t know exactly where they’re headed, but my guess would be somewhere remote where they think we won’t find them.”

 

“How do you know they’re not going to try to flee the country?” Sousuke asks.

 

Sasabe shrugs. “We don’t. But it’s gonna be hard as all hell for them to run off without owning some sort of a private jet. It’s not like they can swim across the Sea of Japan,” he says, and then laughs.

 

Rin offers him a half-hearted smile. “Nah, they wouldn’t do that...probably…”

 

Laughter trailing off, the Inspector considers Rin carefully. “Matsuoka, these were close friends of yours, weren’t they? Normally you wouldn’t be allowed to take on a case like this.”

 

“I know, boss,” says Rin dutifully. His voice sounds uncharacteristically tired. “But I’m confident I can handle this.”

 

“You’re one of the best officers I’ve worked with,” says Sasabe, frowning. “That’s the only reason I’m bending the rules for you here. If Yamazaki notices your game is off in any way, I’m taking you off immediately, understand? I can’t have you jeopardising our work.”

 

“I understand, boss.”

 

“Good.” Settling back in his chair, Inspector Sasabe digs around in the first drawer of his desk, pulling up two train tickets. “Now, these two aren’t really much of a public threat, if I’m right. Still, since they’re obviously on the run, we’re on a tough schedule. I want them in prison as soon as possible. That’s why I’m putting the two of you in charge of this case.”

 

“I thought we were already in charge of this case,” says Sousuke, eyebrows furrowing.

 

“Yeah, but no more sitting in a cushy office doing paperwork for you. You’re going after them.” Sliding the tickets across the table, their boss steeples his hands and smiles wryly. “I hope you’re ready for the next big step in your police career, boys, because you’re going on a road trip.”

 

Rin stares at the tickets, apparently processing this. “Like, we’re actually, physically going after them?”

 

“Yep.” Crossing one leg over the other, Sasabe laughs in a way that reminds Sousuke of the uncle his parents prefer not to invite to dinner. “Honest, nose-to-the-ground investigation. Pack your bags, gentlemen, you’re going to Nagoya!”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Stop!”

 

Haru's lungs burn. Despite being bigger, Makoto is a considerably faster runner, and he’s probably a few hundred metres away by now, somewhere where Haru can’t see him. He can’t spare any time to look for him, as much as he wants to. He needs to focus on getting away as quickly as possible.

 

The hood of his jacket is starting to slip off, but he pays it no mind. There’s not much point in covering his face now that there’s a policeman after him, shouting at him to stop in the name of the law. He turns a corner and skids on a puddle of something he doesn’t care to identify. The policeman is closer now, screaming something into his walky-talky, and Haru’s going to need to come up with something quickly if he doesn’t want to be jump-tackled to the ground within the next five minutes.

 

He rounds another corner. The streets in this part of Osaka are tiny and sprawling. He’s run so far that he has no real idea where he is anymore, only that he needs to be somewhere else, and that all these walls and dark alleys are starting to look the same. He runs into a dead end, spins around and sprints back in the other direction, barely missing the policeman on his way out. If this keeps up he’s going to be getting more identical walls, this time in the form of a prison cell, and he highly doubts he’ll get a lot of running space in jail.

 

A hand attaches itself onto the back of his jacket and pulls. Haru flails madly for a second as he’s yanked backwards into a tiny alley and his mouth is covered by a warm, clammy palm. He stills instinctively. His pursuer thunders past, still calling frantically for backup. Beats of sweat roll down the sides of Haru’s face as he’s slowly turned around and the hand on his mouth his removed.

 

The chest he is pressed up to is Makoto’s. Haru breathes a sigh of relief, sagging slightly against the solid presence in front of him. Makoto hushes him shakily, pulling him close and squeezing as far into the dead end corner of the alley as possible. Haru listens. Above the loud beating of his own heart, he hears distant shouting and footsteps, probably from more than one person. He buries his face into Makoto’s shoulder, hands fisted in his coat and breathing hard. Makoto curls protectively around him. One set of large fingers threads itself through Haru’s hair, and the other digs into Haru’s back through the gabardine of his clothes. Makoto’s voice is croaky and tight as he whispers into Haru’s ear. “Don’t move.”

 

Haru obeys. The noise fades into the distance, but Makoto’s absurdly strong grip doesn’t let up. Haru burrows deeper into his friend’s reassuring grasp, pressed so close he can barely breathe. It’s a good thing, probably. Otherwise he’d attract more police attention with his hyperventilating.

 

The firm, slow strokes up and down his spine are the only reason he's able to pull away at all, although he remains close enough for Makoto’s arms to stay wrapped around him. He chances a glance up. Makoto looks exactly like Haru feels, ashen-faced and tight-jawed. He cups Haru’s face a little too hard when he asks if he’s alright, and hugs him with more strength than strictly needed when he pulls Haru back towards him and starts apologizing.

 

“My ribs,” Haru complains quietly, doing absolutely nothing to get away. Makoto lets go after a beat, expression sorrowful and scared.

 

“Haru, I thought you were right behind me, I swear. I didn’t mean to leave you behind. I’m so sorry.”

 

Haru murmurs something dismissive. He knows Makoto would never leave him on purpose, but there’s still blood pounding in his ears at the thought of being captured and dragged back to Tokyo alone. If given the choice, he thinks he’d gladly go to prison if it meant Makoto’s freedom, but that doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t still terrify him to the core. Makoto’s so deeply ingrained in his life that he can scarcely imagine clinging to anyone the way he’s doing to the other man right now.

 

Except Rin, maybe. That’s the other thing that has his knees shaking and hands sweating. For a moment he’d been sure Rin was the one chasing him, and that’s why he’d run so hard. It sounds counter-intuitive even now, because Rin would probably be gentler with him than, say, Yamazaki, but Haru would give up a finger to never have to see Rin running after him. His face is too open, too expressive, too raw. It would be more than Haru could handle.

 

He steps back. His hands, he realises, are regrettably empty. He frowns at them, making Makoto frown too. “Haru, what’s wrong?”

 

“I dropped dinner,” Haru mumbles. Their cheap fried rice is probably streets away, having met its unfortunate demise at the hands of cruel asphalt. The reality of this affects him more than it logically should. It’s just food, but they’re low on funds, and Haru had bought it even despite the mushrooms because he’d known Makoto would wordlessly take them off his plate the moment he wrinkled his nose at them, and now there’s no dinner and it’s not like they can walk into a restaurant and get some more because there are police after them, and they’d been suspicious of them even with the disguises, and Makoto could probably have talked them out of it except that Haru had completely clammed up which was basically a guilty plea, and now they’re wanted men and Rin hates them and-

 

“Haru?” Makoto’s hands are heavy on Haru’s shoulders.

 

“I’m sorry,” Haru chokes, hands tangling in Makoto’s lapels again of their own accord. He’s not about to cry. He’s not, because it would be unseemly, not to mention unfair considering Makoto’s face is already milk-white and he doesn’t need to waste valuable energy comforting Haru about spilled food of all things. Still, Haru doesn’t shrug off the arms drawing close around him, or the nose being buried in his hair, or the lips being pressed to his hot, damp forehead.

 

“It’s alright,” says Makoto quietly. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. It’s alright. I’m scared too.”

 

“’M not scared,” Haru tries to say, but his breath is shuddery and makes him stutter. Instead he elects to keep quiet, hands finding their way to Makoto’s neck. It’s the only skin Haru can reach at the moment. His grip isn’t as gentle as it should be, but Makoto mercifully says nothing, only continuing to murmur soothing nonsense into his ear.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

“You know, this’ll be our first holiday as a couple,” Nagisa says, grinning from ear to ear.

 

Rei sighs. “I’m not sure it counts as a holiday when we’re chasing a pair of criminals on the direction of a drug dealer, who is also, by the way, a criminal. Besides, Nagoya isn’t really all that different from Tokyo.”

 

“That’s not true! There’s the Astuta Shrine, and the Castle, and, like, a bunch of boring museums. You like boring museums.”

 

“You have no right to call museums boring when you read history books in your spare time, you hypocrite,” says Rei petulantly. “Are we actually going to see any of those things, or are we just going to run around exploring the dark underbelly of Nagoya’s spider web of evil?”

 

“Oh, Rei, stop being such a drama queen,” says Nagisa airily, adjusting his beanie. Scenery blurs through the train window, but neither of them pay it much attention. “We’re not going to get into any trouble, like I said. We’re just looking around,” he says, waggling his eyebrows.

 

Pursing his lips, Rei puts his entire hand over Nagisa’s face, making the other man squawk. “Sorry, you had some significance on your face. It didn’t belong there, I was trying to get it off.”

 

“Mean,” Nagisa says, puffing out his cheeks. “Anyway. Even if you don’t like it, this was the only reliable way I could think of to track Haru and Makoto down. Did you have any better ideas? No? That’s right, so you should be thanking me.”

 

“I’m not thanking you for dragging me into a situation I didn’t want to be involved in,” Rei retorts. “In fact, it seems hanging around you has given me more exposure to illicit activities than is strictly reasonable. First it was your stash, now I'm somehow in contact with a drug dealer.”

 

“You should be thanking me for that, then,” Nagisa says primly, leaning his head on his boyfriend’s shoulder. “Some drugs are fun. Except meth. Don’t do meth.”

 

“I wasn’t planning to. Incidentally, Nagisa, I’m a little disturbed by that act you put on yesterday. How exactly do you know what a drug addict looks like?”

 

Nagisa pats his arm. “The internet is a vast and wonderful place, Rei-baby. Anyway, relax. All I did was drink loads and loads of coffee, remember? I’m not actually a druggie, so chill.”

 

“I don’t think you should be allowed to drink coffee anymore,” says Rei sourly. “You’re completely insufferable on caffeine, more so than usual.”

 

“Yes, but you’re still here, so either you secretly like me, or you’re a huge masochist.”

 

“A bit of both, probably. I deserve a medal. If we ever do find Mr Tachibana and Mr Nanase, I’m going to demand they give me a medal.”

 

When we find them, Rei. It’s extremely important.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why is it extremely important?”

 

Nagisa raises an eyebrow at him. “Maybe because we stalked Yakuza, fooled a drug dealer and spent about twenty thousand yen on train tickets to Nagoya?”

 

Rei settles sideways in his seat so he can look at Nagisa properly. “Yes, I know, I was there. I’m asking why we did all those things. You keep saying it’s for the sake of adventure, but that seems like flimsy reasoning to me.”

 

Nagisa pauses, blinks and glances away. “Why are you asking me this now?”

 

“Because I didn’t think you were this serious. Honestly, I thought you’d give up within a week if I could stall for long enough, but here we are, with a dealer’s phone number, traveling cross-country as though we weren’t adults with jobs to do.”

 

“We both had loads of sick days left, so taking time off work isn’t really a big deal-”

 

“Stop dodging the question,” Rei interrupts, taking Nagisa’s hand and squeezing it. “Nagisa, what is it that you’re not telling me?”

 

“Alright, you caught me. The surprise was that there’s a shop my friend told me about that sells fuzzy handcuffs and things, so I was thinking when we get to the station we can look around for a couple of hours and pick up something nice-”

 

“Nagisa.”

 

“Yes?”

 

Rei frowns, deep lines forming between his eyebrows. “Why are we going after Tachibana and Nanase?”

 

“I already told you, we’re going to find them and hand them over to the police!”

 

“Really? Because two days ago, you said you wanted to rescue them.”

 

“I did?” Squirming slightly in his seat, Nagisa glances out the window and tugs his hand free of Rei’s grip. “Well, regardless, I’m serious. I’m not going to waste my youth sitting behind the counter at some dinky art gallery. It’s only a part-time gig while I get through university, you know?”

 

“You graduated two years ago!”

 

“I know! I know, okay? I only stayed for so long because of you!

 

Rei physically recoils. “What are you trying to say?”

 

Wringing his hands, Nagisa lurches forward and grabs Rei’s hands in his. “No, no, you stop that, you know I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I’m looking for an adventure, Rei, always have been. I stopped searching for a little while because I like you so much, and I wanted to take you with me. But you’re my boyfriend now, right? And now a mystery’s just fallen into our laps. I’d be stupid not to follow the trail.”

 

“Can’t you find less lethal adventures? I hear skydiving is very good if you want an adrenaline rush, or maybe a Yu-Gi-Oh match or two-”

 

“Rei.” Eyebrows sloping upwards, Nagisa brings Rei’s hands to his lips and squeezes. “Rei, I want to do this so badly. Don’t take it away from me, please.”

 

“It would be irresponsible of me not to try to talk some sense into you,” says Rei unhappily. “What if we die? Who’s going to water my plants?”

 

“They’ll think of something,” says Nagisa, leaning forward to put his face in Rei’s chest and wrap his arms around his middle. “Some of your smartness must have rubbed off on them by now. Emotional osmosis can be very potent.”

 

“Did you listen at all to your biology teacher in high school?”

 

“Yeah, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and all that. I know my science, Rei.”

 

Rei tugs on the ends of Nagisa’s hair and sighs. “I never know what to do with you,” he says, reluctantly returning the embrace.

 

Nagisa burbles into Rei’s cardigan. “You can stay still so I can nap. We’ve got an hour and a half to kill till we reach the station.”

 

“Fine, but don’t you dare drool on me.”

 

“I make no promises.”

 

It takes an unnaturally short amount of time for Nagisa to fall asleep on him. Rei jostles him experimentally, but receives only sleepy grumbling in response. Sighing, he realises that he can’t reach into his bag for a book without dislodging his parasite, so he leans his head back and takes a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the train compartment.

 

“I still think there’s something else you’re not telling me,” he says softly and plants a kiss which is quickly lost in a mop of yellow hair.

 

Nagisa does, in fact, drool on him, but Rei doesn’t bring it up.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Sousuke steps out of the train and stretches. There are hundreds of other people at the station, but they give him a wide berth. A bright pink backpack catches his eye, being touted by a little blond clinging to the arm of a taller man in glasses. Sousuke squints. He’s sure he’s seen those two somewhere before-

 

“Something wrong?” Rin steps onto the platform next to him, duffel clutched close to his side so nobody bumps into it. His hair’s tied in a loose ponytail at the nape of his neck, unusually rumpled just like the rest of him. Sousuke glances at the creases on Rin’s old plaid shirt and shrugs.

 

“It’s nothing. Come on, we have places to be.” As he starts walking, Rin’s smaller hand attaches itself to the sleeve of Sousuke shirt. The corner of his mouth quirks upwards. “What, are you holding on to me so you don’t get kidnapped?”

 

Rin rolls his eyes. “First of all, no, people are walking into me and you’re a fucking tree, so of course I’m going to hold on to you. Secondly, you phallus, the exit is the other way. Your sense of direction is shit.”

 

"I’m not a phallus,” says Sousuke, obediently turning around. The walk to the exit is short, but takes a long time because of the sheer number of travelers they have to battle their way through. The police car parked in front of the train station is a sight for sore eyes, and it’s with a sigh of relief that the two pile into the car and greet the officers sitting in front. “This sure beats the treatment we get in Tokyo,” Sousuke grunts.

 

“Maybe we should transfer,” says Rin.

 

The one at the wheel, a young man with red hair entirely too messy to be proper for a police officer, flashes them a smile from the rear-view mirror. “Hell, we’d welcome you. Officer Matsuoka, right? And Officer Yamazaki. You guys have a great reputation, you’d be a huge help. Plus, I mean, a guy gets tired of seeing the same faces every day, you know?”

 

“You’ve only been here two years,” says the passenger. His hair is also a blatant breach of dress code, not-quite black and long enough to obscure a good part of his face. Rin considers saying something, but decides he has no right to comment.

 

“No, I’ve been here for three years. I’ve been your partner for two years, which is two years too long. Officer Asahi Shiina, at your service,” he offers. “This guy is Ikuya Kirishima, but you can call him Ikayaki, because that’s what his name sounds like.”

 

“I am not a grilled squid, and I don’t want to hear that coming from someone named after a beer.”

 

Sousuke and Rin share a glance, and look away smiling slightly. Bickering like this is is familiar territory. Clearing his throat, Rin puts on his best Stern Officer voice, the one that has everyone in the station scrambling to attention. “Boys, you’re supposed to be filling us in on the situation.”

 

The officers, only a couple of years younger, immediately snap out of their mini-argument. “We got a call earlier today from Fukushima saying that two men loosely fitting Tachibana and Nanase’s description were trying to get on a train South. He didn’t get that good a look at them, but when he stopped to question them, they ran off,” says Shiina.

 

“Innocent people don’t usually run,” says Sousuke, half to himself. “Where’s the report?”

 

“At Aichi Headquarters,” says Kirishima. “The officer who saw them gave us a statement and everything.”

 

Rin frowns deeply, turning to look at Sousuke. “What are we doing here, then? If we get on the next train to Osaka, we might still be able to catch them.”

 

“Yeah, but we don’t know if it’s them for sure. For all we know they could just be some punk shoplifters.” Raising his voice slightly so the two in front can hear them, he leans his arm against the window. “Try and see if you can get a criminal sketch artist to draw the people the guy in Fukushima saw. We’ll be able to compare properly then. In the meantime, there are a couple of people I want to talk to. We might be able to figure out where those two are trying to go before they actually get there.”

 

The next fifteen minutes of their car ride is silent save for Kirishima’s phone conversation with the police officers in Fukushima police station. Rin jogs his knee impatiently, making the whole care shake slightly until Sousuke puts a hand on his leg to stop him. Sighing loudly through his nose, Rin takes to drumming his fingers against the seat, which, while distracting, is not nearly as annoying.

 

“We’ll get them,” says Sousuke quietly.

 

Rin looks at him and bites his lip. “Yeah. We will.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“So they’re yelling at me like it’s my fault they didn’t read through the contract properly, but you know, if they’d just taken a minute to look at the damned thing, they would have seen what was wrong pretty quickly. I mean fifteen  per cent in interest is completely mental, right?”

“Right,” Sei agrees dutifully, even though he has no real idea what his date is talking about.

 Kou smiles. She’s dressed all in yellow today, sundress splayed attractively around her on the sofa even though it’s almost winter. She plays with the braid cascading over her shoulder and scoots closer so she can curl herself into Sei’s side. “You’re a good listener. Anyone else would have been bored by now.”

“I don’t think anyone in their right mind could ever get bored of you,” he says sincerely, wrapping one arm around her and accepting a kiss on the jaw in return. “You’re great. I could listen to you talk about business forever.”

She laughs. “It’s contract law, actually, but thank you anyway.”

Sei’s apartment hasn’t been this clean since he’d first bought it. That’s not to say he’s a slob or anything; it’s just, his home is in a perpetual state of healthy clutter, especially because Momo comes over so often. This morning, though, he’d scrubbed the floors to within an inch of their lives, organizing even the things that were never meant to be organized until it looked like the living room could be in a magazine. Most of the excess junk had been stashed in a cupboard in the guest room, but it’s probably a bit too much to expect for him to get rid of it properly.

Something buzzes, and Kou shifts against him with a noise of annoyance. Reaching into her handbag, she unearths a sleek mobile phone and frowns at the screen. “It’s my brother.”

Scratching gently at the back of her head, Sei releases her. “You gonna take the call?”

She smiles apologetically. “Yeah, but don’t worry, I’ll make it quick. I’ll tell him he’s interrupting quality time with my boyfriend.”

Sei’s grin stretches so wide it starts to hurt. “And is your boyfriend going to mind that you’re spending quality time with me instead?”

She smacks his arm and wanders onto the balcony to speak to her brother. He puts his face in a cushion and laughs.

Boyfriend. Sei is the boyfriend to this funny, capable, beautiful girl who could probably out-adult him any day of the week. The hour spent on the phone with his mother trying to make sure he didn’t completely ruin lunch has paid off, because she’d complimented his cooking, and insisted on doing the dishes, and now she’s cuddling with him on the couch and calling him her boyfriend, because she likes him at least half as much as he likes her and Sei wants to pick her up and spin her around and scream.

He doesn’t. He does, however, stuff both fists against his mouth and giggle like a twelve-year-old.

 

The balcony door slides shut with a snap. “What’s gotten into you?” Kou tilts her head at him curiously.

He holds both arms out. “Nothing, I’m just thinking about how pretty my girlfriend is. Come here.”

She obliges. Burying her face into his neck with a satisfied sigh, she mumbles something Sei can’t discern.

 “What?”

She pulls away. “I said, I’m worried about him.”

“Your brother?”

“Yes.” Her cheek is warm as she rests it against his shoulder. “You must have read about it in the newspapers, right? About those two art fraudsters? Apparently, they sold a whole lot of fake paintings and then they disappeared and the police are looking for them.”

Seijuro nods slowly. “Men with girly names?”

She chuckles weakly. “Yeah, Makoto and Haru. They, uhm... they were actually friends with my brother before all of this happened.”

Sei’s eyes widen as she pulls away to look at him. “They knew each other before? No way!”

“Yes way.” She chews at her lower lip, eyes downcast. “I’m so scared for him. He was devastated when he found out, and now he’s doing the investigation himself. I don’t think he even knows whether or not he wants to catch them. In fact, I’m not sure if he even really believes they’re guilty. I’m trying to be there for him but I don’t know what to do.”

 “He just tried to call you, right? Maybe you should call him back? Talk to him properly? I can wait if you guys need to have, like, a real conversation-”

 She shushes him. “I will, just not now. That wouldn’t be fair to you. In fact I’m not being fair to you right now. I probably shouldn’t be telling you all of this, but you’re so easy to talk to, you know? But it’s okay, it’s not your problem, I don’t want to drag you into it.”

 “Please drag me into it!” Seijuro says earnestly, taking her by the shoulders. “If it makes you feel better, please talk to me. I’ll do my best to understand.”

 Her smile is a little watery. “Thanks, Sei.” Settling back against his chest, she fiddles with the buttons of his shirt. “Rin was really down for a long time. Wouldn’t talk to anyone, barely functioned, tried to work himself to the bone…and he’s not on very good terms with the officer who busted them right now. Rin loved them. I don’t know them well, we’d only hung out as kids, but I never would have imagined they’d be criminals.”

“How’s your brother coping now?”

“He’s better, but only a little.” She rubs little circles in his stomach. “I think he really wants to be the one to catch them. Well, that’s what it looks like, since he’s obviously working so hard, but maybe that’s not it at all. Like I said, he tries to work away his problems anyway, so maybe this is just him trying to deal with it. I don’t know. I don’t understand my brother as much as I’d like to.”

Frowning, Sei chooses his next words carefully. “Where are they now? The criminals, I mean.”

She shrugs. “Last I heard they were in Nagoya somewhere, although that was two days ago. They might have moved by now. Oh, but Sei don’t tell anyone, okay? There haven’t been any press releases yet. Rin says they don’t want to release any new information until they have solid leads, else Haru and Makoto will know where they’re being looked for.”

“I won’t breathe a word.”

“Thank you,” she sighs, nuzzling him. “I really hope Rin finds them. He deserves some sort of closure.”

Pushing gently at her shoulders, Sei tilts her chin up so he can look her in the eye. “Would it make you happy? If your brother found them, I mean. Would it make you less worried about him?"

She kisses his thumb. “I’ll never not be worried about him. But, yeah. I think it would make him happy. I’m happy seeing him happy.”

 “Okay,” he says, drawing her close to kiss her forehead. “Okay.”

 

 


 

 

Haru’s been kind of quiet lately.

 He’s usually quiet, of course, but that’s a different sort of quiet. Haru’s regular quiet is content, idle thoughts of the ocean or art or what they’re going to have for dinner. Haru’s regular quiet makes him blink, long and lazy and slow like a cat, across the room until Makoto smiles and teases him into chatting.

 This kind of quiet makes Makoto anxious to fill it up. Haru hasn’t made proper eye contact since they almost got caught, which is jarring because Makoto normally has to almost beg Haru to stop staring at him. Now the lack of attention has Makoto a little jumpy, edging slowly into Haru’s field of vision in the hopes that Haru will look up at him and call him a needy puppy like he always does.

It doesn’t work.

“I feel like you’re avoiding me,” Makoto laments.

Haru frowns at him from where he’s curled up on the ratty armchair by the window. “We’ve been in the same room all day.”

Makoto leans forward, resting his chin on his hands. “I know, but I can tell you’re not really here. You won’t look at me. Haru, what’s wrong?”

As if trying to prove his point, Haru glances away again. “Nothing.”

Haru.” The bed creaks as Makoto stands. There’s only one chair in the room, so Makoto kneels in front of it, tugging Haru’s ankle imploringly. “Haru, come on.”

 “Go away,” his friend says, kicking weakly at his shin. Makoto catches his foot and tickles the bottom of it, getting kicked harder in response. He rests his chin on Haru’s knee and frowns.

“Please?”

 

Haru says nothing. Sighing, Makoto settles onto his behind, legs folded before him. It takes a bit of maneuvering to get his chin back onto Haru’s leg, but he manages it. Haru scowls at him but doesn’t try to get away. “You’re still shaken up over what happened yesterday, huh?”

“No,” mutters Haru automatically. He’s struck a chord, then. Makoto sighs again.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I really didn’t mean to leave you behind, I promise. I should have been a better friend. I should have looked out for you, I shouldn’t have panicked and run off like that-”

“Stop it,” Haru snaps. His expression is more upset that Makoto remembers ever having seen. “Aren’t you tired of that? Of trying to take care of me? I’m a grown man. You need to stop.”

Makoto pulls away, wounded. “What? Haru, where is this coming from?”

 “Who cares,” says Haru, standing up and edging around the man on the floor. “Doesn’t matter. Stop babying me. I’m going out.”

 Makoto scrambles after him, latching onto his wrist before he can finish putting on his coat. “Haru, what the hell? Why are you so angry? What did I do?”

 “You shouldn’t have grabbed me,” Haru bites, finally turning to glare at him. “What were you thinking, pulling me into that alley with you when there was a police officer right behind me? That was a dead end, you idiot. If he’d followed me we would have both been caught. There would have been nowhere to run. Did you stop to consider that?”

 “No,” says Makoto, tightening his grip on Haru’s wrist as he tries to stomp out the door. He’s stronger even though Haru’s threatening to start thrashing. “I didn’t, because you’re my friend, and I love you, and I want you to be safe.”

 “Why?” Spinning around, Haru runs a hand through his hair in frustration. “Why, Makoto? You could probably talk your way out of anything. I’m a deadweight. If we were to split up, you’d have a better chance. Wouldn’t that be better?”

The timbre of Makoto’s voice rises slightly in sincere confusion. “What? No, of course not. Either both of us go free or both of us go to jail, Haru. I shouldn’t have to spell this out for you.”

Ineffectually, Haru tries to pull his hand away. “I got us into this mess.”

 “Haru, I don’t know what you’re talking about. We got into this business together, and besides, I would have found some other way to break the law even if you hadn’t helped. Really, I’m the one to blame, if there is anyone at all-”

 “You’re not,” Haru cuts him off, very nearly stamping his foot. “Yamazaki was suspicious of me. He knew we’d done something wrong because of me, and if I’d just said something instead of trying to come up with a stupid fucking contingency plan, maybe we wouldn’t be stuck in a shitty hotel in the outskirts of Osaka with no food or money. The only reason we’re not in jail yet is because Rin warned us, because he was trying to take care of us, just like how you’re always trying to take care of me. Why do you do that, Makoto? Why do you look out for me just because I don’t like to do things myself? I don’t deserve it. What have I ever done for you?”

His voice cracks slightly before he falls silent. It’s the longest string of words Makoto’s heard from him in a long time, but he’d rather he’d never heard them at all. Releasing Haru’s arm slowly, he takes a step back and bites his lip. “Because I love you.”

 Haru blinks, and then looks away. “Why?”

 “I don’t know, Haru, I just do. You know I do. I’ve spent my whole life around you. I want to pamper you and treat you well because I care about you. Maybe I shouldn’t have…I mean, you’re an adult, I know you can take care of yourself so maybe I should stop acting like your guardian, but you do deserve it, okay? You’re my best friend. I can’t imagine treating you any differently.”

Haru looks caught halfway between screaming at him and outright crying. “Why do you have to be so good?”

“I’m really not.” Shuffling backwards until he reaches the bed, Makoto sits down heavily and stares at the space between his feet. He’d like nothing better than to gather Haru into his arms and coddle him, but he keeps his hands to himself. “I got us involved in art fraud. I know half of Tokyo’s underworld, and I’ve learnt to lie so well even I can’t tell when I’m telling the truth sometimes. You just want to paint. I’m not good.” Scrubbing both hands over his face, he chances a glance up. “I look out for you because I’m selfish. I want to be special to you, Haru. I want you to need me the way I need you.”

The bed shifts slightly as Haru gingerly sits next to him. “I need you more than you need me.”

“That’s not true.” Scraping his nails lightly over the material of his jeans, Makoto falters. “I’ve always thought you were the strong one. No matter what happens, you don’t let it change you. You haven’t changed your morals just because you want money.”

“I’m just as much of a criminal as you are.”

 “You’re different.” Smiling slightly, Makoto turns to look at him. “You’re a criminal, but you’re still Haru. You like art and fish and you’d rather not have to deal with mundane stuff like life. I go through life thinking about how to use everything to my advantage. I never used to be like that. I’m a different person, and I’m not a hundred per cent sure I like it.”

 Haru’s silent for a couple of minutes. Makoto stares at the wall, feeling like someone’s wrung his insides out and left him somehow dry. Taking a deep breath, he reaches out blindly and lets his hand envelop Haru’s. “I’ll stop. You’re an adult and I should treat you more like one. But I’m not leaving you. I mean it; if we go down, we go down together.”

Haru squeezes back, gradually inching closer until he can rest his head on Makoto’s shoulder. “Okay,” he says simply.

Makoto chokes out a laugh. From Haru, that’s as good as an I love you, too. He supposes he already knew that, though, else Haru would never have agreed to live with him, considering he can only stand other people for a few hours at a time. He’d never waste fish to fill anyone’s bath but Makoto’s, after all.

 “Look at us,” he says, turning his upper body completely so he can wrap his arms around Haru’s shoulders. “Two grown men about to cry like little kids.”

 “You’re the crybaby, not me,” says Haru, bumping the top of his head against Makoto’s chin. “I used to have to hold your hand whenever we watched TV and the bad guys came on.”

 “Who would have thought we’d grow up to be bad guys?” says Makoto wistfully.

 “Hey.” Peering up at him, Haru pulls his hand free so he can tug Makoto’s face until their foreheads are resting together. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll be alright.”

 “I hope so,” Makoto whispers, eyes squeezed shut. “I’m scared, Haru. I know I’ve been acting like I’ve got a plan, but I’m really terrified. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to be away from you. I feel like you’re all I have.”

 “I’m sorry,” Haru murmurs, thumbs kneading slowly against Makoto’s throat. “You deserve a lot more.”

 “You’re already more than I deserve, though,” Makoto responds, rubbing their noses and pressing a kiss onto Haru’s cheek. He’s got a small, weak smile on his face. “You’re more than anyone deserves.”

 “Sap,” Haru accuses under his breath. He realises that he’s tilting his head so Makoto can continue peppering kisses on his face, but it only seems natural, so Haru lets it happen and allows his eyes to flutter shut.

Makoto’s lips are chapped and his stubble itches, but his hands are warm. Haru’s ears, as it turns out, are slightly ticklish, so he makes a face. The contact stops, and Haru will not stand for this, so he opens his eyes partway and frowns. “What?”

 “I love you,” says Makoto a little helplessly.

 “I know,” Haru says, and kisses him softly on the mouth.

 

It’s not that different from kissing the rest of Makoto’s face, actually, but this time he can feel Makoto’s soft exhale of surprise before he pulls away, eyes wide. Haru raises both eyebrows, as if to say, what.

“Haru, are you sure?”

He shrugs. “It feels right. Stop stalling and kiss me back.”

Makoto’s smile is sweet. “Okay,” he says, obliges. He tastes like cheap chocolate and fear, but Haru presses closer nonetheless.

 

 


 

 

 

“I’m busy,” Seijuro snaps for the second time this week, voice hushed so he doesn’t wake the woman sleeping next to him.

Kisumi’s voice is less pleasant that usual, which is oddly satisfying. “Yes, and I’m on a deadline. I don’t know if you realise this, but my boss is a woman doesn’t really like to wait around.”

Seijuro extricates himself from Kou’s python grip and stands. She curls up tighter around a cushion, having dozed off on the couch half an hour ago. Sei hasn’t actually been doing much aside from stroking her hair and smiling to himself, but he snaps at Kisumi nonetheless. “What makes you think I care about your boss? Go eat a dick.”

“You’ll care when she comes knocking on your door soon,” Kisumi hisses. “And then I won’t be able to save you because I’ll be running for my own life.”

 Seijuro scowls. This is the absolute last thing he wants to talk about today, but he sighs through his nose and leans against the dining room table. Kou grumbles in her sleep and stretches, one arm falling over the edge of the couch.

He purses his lips “Alright, I do have something for you, but it may not be completely accurate, you understand. I’m going on the word of a bunch of addicts who’ve never actually seen your men before.”

“Yes, fine,” says Kisumi impatiently. “Just as long as I have something to work on.”

Glancing back at Kou, Seijuro takes a deep breath. “Someone saw them in a back alley in Shinjuku.”

 Kisumi hums. “They haven’t left Tokyo?”

 “No.” Quietly making his way back to her, he reaches down and tweaks her nose. She snuffles. “You can still find them if you hustle.”

“Thanks,” Kisumi sighs, sounding honestly relieved. Seijuro doesn’t have much time to share that relief before the other starts talking again. “I’ll head to Shinjuku tonight. Keep me updated if they start to move.” Without so much as a thank you, he hangs up the call.

 

“Sure,” Seijuro says to the dial tone. He puts his phone back in his pocket and sighs, tugging on a lock of Kou’s hair. “I sure hope this is worth it,” he mutters, and decides to join her on the couch for a nap.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Haven’t seen ‘em.”

Kisumi’s smile is plastic and forced. “Are you sure? Maybe you aren’t looking quite hard enough.”

The woman he’s talking to raises an eyebrow at him and taps her cigarette against the doorframe. Behind her, thumping bass and flashing lights drown out half of Kisumi’s thoughts. He suspects half the patrons of this particular run-down club must be high off of something illegal. Nobody would be able to stand the smoke and noise and gyrating, unwashed bodies otherwise at half-past three in the morning.

Kisumi chuckles softly and pockets his phone. “Oh, well, I guess I’ll have to keep looking, then. Thanks for your time. If you do happen to see them, do call me. I’ll make it worth your while.” He hands the bouncer his business card with a wink, then turns on his heel and leaves.

His smile melts into a scowl the moment his back is turned. She’s going to throw his card away, probably, just like the six other people he’s spoken to tonight. It’s cold and his shoes are getting scuffed. Shinjuku is quite phenomenally unpleasant, and he would much rather be in Tokyo leafing through paperwork. As much as he complains, white collar work is definitely better than this.

His phone weighs heavily in his pocket despite being not much thicker than three pieces of paper clipped together. On it is a missed call that he’s been avoiding all day. He has two choices now; continue the physically exhausting search for some hint of Tachibana, or go back to his hotel and make the call. The longer he waits, the less pleasant Amakata is likely to be. She doesn’t like to be kept waiting. At this point, Kisumi’s not terribly sure they can do much else.

One more. He’ll find one more seedy joint to ask around in, and then he’ll return for the night. Not before treating himself to a few shots, though. He’ll want something strong in his system if he’s going to face the music.

Hah. Music. Honestly, he’d pick crappy techno any day.

 

 


 

 

“You still haven’t told me what we’re doing,” Rin says, walking quickly to keep in step with Sousuke’s long strides.

Sousuke shushes him quietly. He’s dressed in dark colours, leather jacket innocuous in the dim streets of some neighbourhood Rin doesn’t much like the look of. They’ve both left their uniforms in their hotel room. Rin had protested at first; questioning civilians is only properly legal when they’re honest about being cops, but Sousuke had shut that notion down without much explanation. Now Rin stays close to his hip, wrapped in one of Sousuke’s huge parkas because apparently his own beige trench coat would have attracted too much attention. He pulls up the hood and shivers.

“Are you sure you know where we’re going?” Rin asks, partly because he’s genuinely concerned with Sousuke’s sense of direction and partly because he doesn’t much like being ignored. Sousuke frowns at him.

“Stop being annoying.”

“I’ll stop being annoying when you stop being a wet cabbage,” Rin mutters under his breath.

Only one street light appears to be working properly. To Rin’s relief, Sousuke turns into the apartment building just behind the light. It’s shabby and there seems to be some sort of mildew growing on the walls, but the tottering old man at reception barely spares them a glance, so they walk right in. The tiny, elderly lift shudders in a way that makes both men grimace. Rin vaguely hopes they don’t get stuck. This would be an anti-climactic way to die.

They squeak to a stop on the fifth floor. The hallway lights flicker as they walk, and Rin half-expects to see a girl crawling backwards toward them. This is exactly the kind of place Makoto would hate. Before he can pursue that line of thought, though, Sousuke stops walking, making Rin bump into him.

“Oi,” he says half-heartedly. Sousuke waves for him to follow, and raps his knuckles three times against the third door from the end of the corridor.

The loud music coming from inside cuts off abruptly. The door opens slightly, and someone peers at them for a good few seconds.

“Open up, Uozumi, it’s me,” says Sousuke impatiently.

The man on the other side of the door grunts and lets them in. His hair is like Inspector Sasabe’s but darker. On a man barely pushing thirty, the style makes him look more like a thug than a kindly middle-aged man with eccentric taste. He looks down his long nose at Rin, and then shrugs and waves them towards the old couch in the living room opposite a flatscreen TV. Padding to the fridge, he sticks his head into it without paying too much attention to his guests. “Beer?”

“We’ll pass,” says Sousuke gruffly. Rin peers at him when Uozumi’s back is turned. Sousuke’s normally placid expression is stony, jaw set and eyebrows drawn sharply downwards. He’s not actually angry, because his body language is still somewhat relaxed, but Rin narrows his eyes curiously at the sudden change nonetheless. Sousuke sits himself heavily on the couch instead of flopping onto it like he normally would, and Rin gingerly follows suit.

Uozumi sits opposite them, nursing his own beer. “Who’s this?”

“A friend,” says Sousuke before Rin can open his mouth.

“A cop friend?”

“Doesn’t matter,” says Sousuke, leaning back. “He’ll keep quiet.”

Rin does keep quiet, albeit reluctantly. Sousuke glances at him out of the corner of his eye and changes the subject. “Kazuki said you had something to tell me.”

Leaning forward to tug a half-empty carton of cigarettes out of his back pocket, Uozumi makes a show of lighting it. Exhaling a puff of smoke, he leans back in his seat and rests his right ankle over his left knee. His tin of beer leaves a wet ring where it balances precariously of the arm rest. “Maybe. What’s in it for me, though?”

Sousuke almost rolls his eyes. “How about this, my cop friend over here won’t report you once he finds out that you forge documents for a living.”

Uozumi colours and sits upright. “Now that’s not fair, Yamazaki, you can’t just bring a fucking cop in here and threaten me after all I’ve done for you-”

“You know I don’t do favours,” Sousuke cuts him off. “I don’t owe you shit. You don’t owe me either, but my friend over here isn’t into shady business, and I can’t really help you if he decides to arrest you, you know? I mean, unfortunately for you, he knows where you live, he knows your name, your face, he knows what you do…”

Well, this is unexpected. Rin goes along with it, smiling sardonically in the face of Uozumi’s poisonous glare. He sees Uozumi’s gaze flit from his eyes to his teeth, and smiles wider. Uozumi subtly leans away.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Sousuke says, leaning forward so the muscles in his shoulders stand out.

Uozumi is silent for a long time. Finally breaking eye contact, he clicks his tongue and takes another irritable drag of his cig. “Kazuki showed me drawings of those fuckers you’re looking for. They bought from me not two days ago.”

This time Sousuke leans forward out of genuine interest. “What did they buy, exactly?”

“Passports. Under fake names. I don’t know what those names are, they insisted on doing that part themselves. I don’t fucking know how, though, I mean, it’s not like you can just write your own damned name in an official document. They didn’t get any of the usual stuff, though; driver’s license, insurance, whatever. They looked like they were in a hurry.”

“Any idea where they were going?”

“Out of the country, probably.” Tapping his finger against the mouth of his beer, Uozumi frowns. “I mean, they didn’t say as much, but they did specify they needed visas. No clue where they’re headed, though.”

“I see,” says Sousuke, frowning deeply. Rin grits his teeth to keep from talking. There are several questions he’d like to ask, but he gets the feeling this Uozumi is not going to be able to answer them. Unclenching his jaw, he clears his throat and forces his voice to be completely level.

“I want to see exactly what it is that you gave them.”

“I don’t have copies.”

“Make them.”

Uozumi curls his lip, but complies after a few tense seconds. His stomping fades away to some other room. Rin catches Sousuke’s eye, and Sousuke gives him a quick nod. Rin exhales slightly and relaxes his posture before Uozumi can return and see him ripping holes in his palms.

Sousuke’s hand is warm over his knee. Rin sighs, half-expecting a quick massage or a gentle, reassuring squeeze. Instead, Sousuke pinches the inside of his leg, making him tense up and gasp.

He’s glaring at Sousuke when Uozumi returns. The set to Sousuke’s jaw looks menacing, but Rin can tell it’s just because the idiot is trying not to laugh. Uozumi slams a thin stack of papers onto the coffee table without much preamble and collapses back into his lazy chair. His cigarette is finished.

“That’s everything they asked for in their own words,” he says. “I didn’t give them any extra. They barely had the money for what they ordered as it is.”

Rin picks up the stack and frowns, turning the pages. Sousuke glances over his shoulder and then taps him on the leg. “Fine. We’re leaving. If I need anything else, I’ll be calling you.”

Uozumi scowls. “Like hell.”

Sousuke grins at him. He’s no Rin, but his teeth are worryingly large, and Uozumi visibly shrinks. “Just get out,” he says weakly. The policemen take pity on him and see themselves to the door.

 

 

The hallway is marginally less creepy-looking now that they’re facing towards the lift rather an away from it. Sousuke’s face goes back to normal, although he does blink in surprise when Rin threads their hands together as they wait for the elevator to reach them. “What are you doing?”

Rin pinches the inside of his wrist. Sousuke yelps.

“What the fuck, Rin?”

“That was for pinching me,” Rin hisses at him, eyes narrowed in affront.

Sousuke rubs at the red spot at his skin mournfully. “I didn’t pinch you that hard. Anyway, you were getting all tense. You can’t get antsy like that, Rin. It makes you look weak. It’s not safe to look weak in front of people like Uozumi. They’ll eat you alive.”

Rin pinches him again. Sousuke jerks away.

Now what?”

Now you tell me what the fuck you were doing bringing me into a crime hotspot,” Rin snaps. The lift door opens with a pathetic-sounding ding. “That guy was making fake documents and you’re just gonna let him keep doing it? How do you even know him, anyway? And how dare you use me to threaten him, talk about fucking rude, Yamazaki.”

Sousuke makes a face at him as the deathtrap of an elevator jerks its way back to the lobby. “I told you there was someone I wanted to talk to, right?”

“You didn’t tell me it would be a criminal.”

Sousuke sighs. “Uozumi isn’t dangerous. He does pretty low-level stuff. I knew him from Tokyo before he moved here.” His footsteps are quick once the doors open, as though he’s trying to get away from Rin even though they’re going the same way. “He’s in contact with a lot of the underground. I leave his business alone, he tells me what I need to know.”

Rin scowls at him. “Since when were you in cahoots with felons?”

Stuffing both hands into his pockets, Sousuke stares ahead, not meeting Rin’s eye. “Since a while.”

“What kind of answer-” Rin huffs, and then shakes his head. “Who was the other guy? You said someone referred you to Uozumi.”

“Kazuki.”

“Fucking hell, how many are there?”

Sousuke says nothing. Rin suns a hand through his hair.

“Sousuke,” he says, voice low. “How…what’s going on? How many criminals are you friends with? Do you just find them and then keep letting them do what they want?”

“Look I’m not-” Sousuke starts, and then stops and sighs. “This is how I get my information, Rin. There’s a network. I make deals with some of the spiders in the web, and they lead me on to the bigger ones.”

“What kind of cop makes deals with criminals?” Rin demands. “You can’t just pick and choose who gets to stay out of jail and who doesn’t. You’re supposed to be protecting innocent people from guilty ones. You can’t just fucking let half of them go like that.”

Sousuke scowls at the ground. “I already said Uozumi wasn’t dangerous. I’m picking the lesser of two evils here, alright? How do you think our arrest record is so good? We’d never be able to find out half the stuff we did if we didn’t have help. It’s not squeaky clean, I know, but it’s smart.”

Rin has, Sousuke realises, stopped walking. He turns. “What are you standing there and staring at me for?”

Rin bares his teeth. “All this time you’ve been cutting deals like this behind my back? It’s not just Uozumi and Kazuteru or whatever, is it? You’ve been doing this the whole time. The whole time, I thought we were some kind of wonder team, I thought…but it’s really just been you sticking your fingers into their fucking illegal pies? You’ve just been fucking lying to me?”

“Keep your voice down,” Sousuke warns. The silence of the neighbourhood makes Rin’s voice seem extra loud, and Sousuke can almost feel suspicious eyes peering out of darkened windows. This is not a safe place to be. Holding up both hands in what he hopes is a placating gesture, he takes a step forward. “You need to calm the fuck down. You’re still angry at me for breaking up your friendship with Nanase and Tachibana, I get it. Can we do this somewhere else?”

“Are you kidding me?” Rin hisses at him, stepping away. “This has nothing to do with that, you prick-”

“Then what have you been pissy at me all this time for-”

“I was angry at everything,” Rin snaps, not bothering to keep his voice down. “Yeah, okay, I was taking out on you, I’m sorry, okay, I was angry at them and that turned into me being angry at you, but this, Sousuke, this is not fucking okay. All these years you’ve been lying to me. You’ve been keeping shit from me and, what, rubbing shoulders with mob bosses? Letting drug dealers ruin people’s lives so you could ask them questions like a goddamn magic eight ball? Why, Sousuke? I thought we were partners. I thought we were supposed to do things together and not lie to each other.”

Sousuke’s jaw slackens slightly in disbelief. His voice, although strained in his throat, sounds even more low and tense in contrast to Rin’s broken anger. “What the fuck are you talking about? How is this lying? I do what I have to to go after ringleaders. A couple of small fry go free, big deal. I can get to them later. Doesn’t it make more sense to go after the big guns and then take out the little guys? I don’t fucking get you, Rin, you get angry about fucking everything. If I didn’t have these connections then I’d never have found out about your asshole friends forging art. Get mad at them, not me. I know what I’m doing, just trust me.”

“Trust you?” Rin’s hollow laughter echoes in the darkness. “Trust you? You’ve been lying to me for years. Putting yourself in danger, getting involved with the Japan’s most disgusting people, letting me believe that I knew you. Does the rest of the station know, or have you been lying to them too? Hmm? Do you laugh about how fucking clueless I am with Nitori? Or do you have burgers with rapists and murderers and laugh with them about how you’ve got the whole Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force fooled?”

Three quick steps bring Sousuke close enough to grab Rin by both wrists and shake him hard. “Stop it,” he barks. “Whatever the fuck you’re doing, stop it. I do this shit for you. I put myself in danger so you don’t have to. I ask questions and make shady deals to protect you from criminals pretending to be your friends. This is how I do things, and it works, so don’t you act like I’m some sort of fucking traitor or whatever.”

“That’s exactly what you are, you patronizing piece of shit,” Rin snarls, struggling to pull free. “Are you listening to yourself? You’re doing this for me? Why, because I’m some sort of delicate fucking flower who faints at the sight of blood? I am a trained police officer, you asshole. I’m your partner. We go into danger together, we’re supposed to trust each other. Or are you afraid that if you trust me I’ll fuck everything up? You ruined our partnership because I’m not good enough, so you have to do everything by yourself, right? Poor crybaby Rin can’t do jack shit, can’t even see his own friends are lying to him. I can’t do anything right, can I?”

“Maybe you can’t. Maybe I can’t fucking trust you, and I have to do everything myself, because I wonder how your criminal friends knew we’d be coming for them? I wonder how they disappeared just in the fucking nick of time, before we’d released any information, before we’d issued an arrest warrant, before we could fucking come after them?”

Silence. Rin’s face crumples like he’s been slapped. The tears are coming, Sousuke can tell, but there’s no stopping now. Tightening his hold enough to leave angry red crescents into Rin’s arms, he leans forward so their noses almost touch. “Gonna cry?” he sneers. “Gonna go home and call your little sister and cry on the couch because nobody gives a shit about you, Matsuoka? That’s what you do, isn’t it? That’s all you’re fucking good for.”

Rin doesn’t start to cry. He does, however, draw his leg back and knee Sousuke hard in the stomach.

Sousuke releases him and staggers back. He’s bigger, but Rin is faster, and Sousuke doesn’t have time to dodge the punch to his nose that follows. There’s a crack –it’s broken, Sousuke’s sure, but he wipes the red warmth from his lower lip and straightens up. This is the second time in as many weeks that Rin’s hit him. This time Sousuke doesn’t stand still.

Rin’s teeth are sharp. They’re sharp and they must hurt the soft insides of his mouth when Sousuke aims for them, so it’s with a crooked leer of satisfaction that he throws his fist with all of his not insignificant strength. Rin manages to pull back, but not enough. Sousuke still clips him, and Rin spits out half a tooth.

“Fucking go ahead, Rin,” Sousuke growls. “I’ll wipe the floor with you.”

Rin flips him the bird, faced pulled into an ugly glower. Instead of responding to Sousuke’s threat, he scrubs at the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand and turns around. Whichever direction he’s going in is not the way back to their hotel.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Sousuke calls after him. “Get your ass back here and finish this.”

“I’m done with you,” Rin snaps over his shoulder. “Go do whatever the fuck you want to. I’m continuing this investigation on my own.”

“I’m in charge of this case, asshole. I’ll send you back to Tokyo.”

“Go right ahead,” Rin says. He pulls the hood of his parka – Sousuke’s parka - up and stomps off into the darkness. Sousuke stares after him, scowling, and then scoffs. Stupid fuck won’t be able to get his clothes back from the hotel once Sousuke checks out, but that’s really not his problem. He kicks at the ground and leaves.

The night is dark and eerily void of life. In the heavy silence, Sousuke thinks for a minute he can hear faint sniffling as Rin walks away.

He doesn’t turn around.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Have you found anything, Momo?”

Stepping carefully around a discarded pile of clothes, Momo huffs into the phone and checks over his shoulder again. “I told you, when I’m on a mission, I have a code name. Do you want me to get caught?”

“He already knows you’re there,” Seijuro says, and then sighs. “You know what, fine. Have you found anything, Special Agent Pyunsuke?”

Momo grins. “I’m looking through his files as we speak. It’ll take me a while, though, his place is really messy.”

“Sure.” There’s a pause, during which Momo tugs gingerly at a piece of paper at the bottom of the pile and hopes nothing falls over. “Listen, be quick if you can, okay? I’ve got a lot riding on this. I’ll reward you well.”

“The finest cheeseburgers, I know,” says Momo. “I’ll call you back later.”

“Alright.”

He hangs up. Officer Nitori’s apartment is tiny and cramped, but it’s still pretty impressive that he’s saved enough to afford a place of his own in Tokyo. It’s a mess, too. Momo doesn’t particularly mind the clutter, but he’s having a hard time digging out any useful information. Nitori’s already been gone for about half an hour. There probably isn’t much time left.

This is the work pile. Momo’s sure this is the work pile, because there wouldn’t be this many boring reports on the desk otherwise, even if there does seem to be a porno hiding under one of the police manuals. A piece of paper catches his eye, so he snatches it up and scans through it. It says something about two suspects sighted in Osaka. Momo snaps a photo on his phone and sticks it back where it belongs.

The front door opens just as he’s putting his phone back in his pocket. Momo turns and flees into the living room, diving onto the couch and arranging himself into something approaching casual just in time for Nitori to get his shoes off and look up. “Hi,” says Momo, because he can’t think of anything else to say.

Officer Nitori smiles. “Hi,” he says. He looks like a teenager without his uniform on. He could almost be one of Momo’s classmates, although he seems more like a Biology type than a Physics type. “Sorry for leaving you like that. You weren’t bored, were you?”

Clambering off the sofa, Momo takes the box of pizza Nitori’s got in both hands. “Nah, my big brother called so I talked to him. Thanks for getting us dinner!”

Rubbing his arms, Nitori wanders into the kitchen to look for cutlery, Momo trailing after him. “It’s no trouble. Are you sure you didn’t want to go out, though?”

“I’d rather stay here with you,” Momo grins impishly, making Officer Nitori swat his arm. “Where do I put this?”

“I should say ‘table’, but I’m going to say ‘couch’. We can pop in a movie. How do you feel about horror?”

“Love it,” Momo lies. He prefers action-comedies, but horror is a good choice. If he’s lucky, Nitori will get scared and cling to him. If not, he’d been smart enough to leave his yellow hoodie at home so he’s got an excuse to demand they cuddle (never mind the fact that Nitori’s got the heating up).

Officer Nitori beams at him. “Great! Go sit down, I’ll bring some Coke. Or do you want something else?”

“Coke is good!” Momo cries, bouncing off back to the living room. “Do you have hot sauce?”

“Yes, I have hot sauce,” says Nitori indulgently. “I’m coming, scoot over.”

Momo scoots. Nitori settles daintily beside him on the couch. Momo decides to take up as much space as possible so that they’ll have to sit close together. “Feed me?”

Nitori looks slightly horrified. “What? No, I’m not going to feed you, you’re not a little kid.”

“Come on,” Momo whines, flopping dramatically onto his date’s shoulder. “Feed me, Officer Nitori, I’m a guest. You have to be nice to me.”

“Are you still calling me that?”

“What?”

“Officer Nitori,” he says, canting his head slightly. He smiles. “You can call me by my first name, you know.”

“Aiichiro,” says Momo obediently. Nitori laughs.

“Just Ai is fine,” he says. “The only person who calls me Aiichiro is my dad.”

“Okay, Ai,” says Momo, mirroring the grin. “I’d tell you to call me Momo, but, I mean, everyone already calls me Momo, so.”

“That’s okay,” says Ai with a light laugh. “When you find someone special, you can come up with a good name together."

Momo doesn’t understand. Ai isspecial, because it’s really not like Momo would get himself arrested every day for anyone else. Well, maybe for the police dog, but aside from that, nobody else. He isn’t exactly sure how to articulate all of this, though, in a way that isn’t completely haphazard and embarrassing. If only he could express his affection without needing any words.

Oh. Wait. Duh.

Ai blinks rapidly when Momo takes him by the shoulders, gaze flitting down to Momo’s unattractively puckered lips. “What are you doing?”

Momo pauses. “Kissing you,” he explains through his fish lips.

Ai colours. “Oh. I, uh, I see.”

“Cool,” Momo says, and kisses him.

 

Ai tastes kind of garlicky, which is a little weird. Momo pulls away and squints. “You helped yourself to the bread sticks on the way back,” he accuses.

Ai bursts out laughing. “Oops,” he says. He doesn’t seem very sorry.

Momo supposes he can forgive the betrayal this time. Shrugging, he settles his head against Ai’s shoulder (which takes some maneuvering, seeing as he’s a bit taller) and waves a hand imperiously at the TV. “Play the movie.”

“Yes sir,” Ai says. The screen blares to life.

The pizza’s good. Ai’s warm, and he doesn’t mind when Momo ends up wrapping around him like a koala halfway through the film. Momo’s phone buzzes a few times, but he ignores it. He’s sure it’s his brother. That can wait until later. For now, he picks sausage bits off Ai’s pizza and settles in to spend the night watching dumb teenagers get killed.

He makes the mistake of saying this out loud. Ai takes the opportunity to remind him that he, too, is a dumb teenager, but Momo resolutely ignores him.

 

 


 

 

 

“Stop ignoring me,” Rei complains, tightening his grip on Nagisa’s sleeve.

Nagisa pats his hand distractedly. “I’m not ignoring you. How could I ignore you, my perfect rei of sunshi-”

“We’ve been wandering around for hours,” Rei frowns. “And as of yet we’ve done absolutely nothing worthwhile.”

“That’s not true, we did, like, loads of sightseeing. And, I mean, I wouldn’t say we didn’t do anything last night, because my butt is actually really sore so I think you could stand to be a little nicer to me-”

Rei promptly covers his mouth. Nagisa laughs and licks Rei’s palm.

“You said yourself we didn’t come here to sightsee,” says Rei, grimacing and wiping his hand on Nagisa’s jacket. “What happened to looking for Tachibana and Nanase?”

Nagisa deflates slightly. “I’ve been keeping an eye out for them, but I’m not actually sure where to start looking.”

“So we’ve been wandering around here for no reason?”

“Think of it as a holiday,” Nagisa attempts a smile.

It’s dark out, but there are people around despite the cold. They must look like homeless people, roaming the streets with their bags. It would be easier if they could just leave everything at the hotel, but that would require booking another night, and neither of them is sure enough of their plans to be able to commit to that. Well, Rei wouldn’t mind staying another night in a comfy hotel, probably, but Nagisa wants the option of mobility.

There’s some empty space at the edge of a fountain. Nagisa makes a beeline for it, patting the space next to him. Rei sighs and sits, bags tucked neatly between them.

Nagisa starts rooting around in his pockets. “Coins? I wanna throw one into the fountain. Maybe it’ll tell us what to do.”

“You know that doesn’t work in real life,” says Rei, but hands him five yen anyway.

Nagisa tosses it behind him and makes a wish. “Now all we have to do is wait.”

Rei watches him out of the corner of his eye. Gently, he reaches out to take Nagisa’s hand and rub his knuckles. They’re partially hidden by the bags, so Rei’s fairly confident they won’t get stared at. He moves a little closer. “You’re very determined about this.”

Nagisa cants his head inquisitively. “Well, I mean we did go through all that trouble.”

“For the sake of adventure, huh?” Rei tilts his face up to look at the sky. The city’s too bright to be able to see any stars, but the moon is nice. “It’ll make for a good story, at least.”

“When you say it like that it sounds silly,” Nagisa says, smiling weakly.

“But it is silly, isn’t it? Us doing all of this for a whim?”

Nagisa pulls his hand away, expression souring. “No, it’s not. That’s really rude, Rei.”

“Don’t get upset,” Rei sighs, reaching out to take his hand again. “No, stop squirming. Please talk to me, Nagisa. What’s on your mind?”

Nagisa frowns at him. “What do you mean, what’s on my mind? I’ve already told you everything, haven’t I? I can’t believe I opened my heart up to you and you don’t even remember it.”

Rei pushes up his glasses. His voice is calm. “I didn’t forget. You said that your life was static, and that you needed to do something with it. What I’m saying is that I don’t think you opened your heart up to me, Nagisa. That’s not why we’re here, is it? It’s not the only reason, anyway.”

“What are you talking about?”

Rei intertwines their fingers. “I love you.”

Nagisa blinks. “What?”

Rei can’t look at him. He can’t, because the words will probably falter in his throat and come out of his mouth without his control. Without order and wrong and embarrassing. He can already feel his ears warming. Fixing his gaze on a dark patch of clouds, he clears his throat. “Don’t make me keep saying it, will you? I love you. Quite a lot, you know. I mean, well, I care about you very much and I want you to be happy. Well, specifically I want you to be happy with me, but that’s not the point.”

Nagisa’s breath hitches. “Oh, Rei-”

“I’m not done,” Rei interrupts before he can lose his nerve. “I’m your boyfriend, aren’t I? I’m supposed to make you happy. You’ve made me happy. I can’t have you being unhappy just as I’m starting to…have fun. I mean, you’re completely mad, but I genuinely enjoy being around you.”

His palms are starting to sweat, which is superbly unattractive. Nagisa waits patiently. Rei coughs. “So, what I’m trying to say is that I…care for you deeply, and I feel as though something is bothering you that you aren’t telling me about. I’d like you to tell me. I’d like you to trust me. I want to help.”

He doesn’t dare turn around to see what kind of expression Nagisa is making. All he can feel at the moment is that Nagisa’s clinging almost painfully to his hand with both of his. He hopes the cold sweat on his forehead isn’t visible under the dim street lights. He hopes nobody’s staring at his bumbling attempt at a love confession. He should probably have written something down. He hopes Nagisa doesn’t laugh.

Actually, no, laughing would be alright. Nagisa’s silence is unnerving.

He chances a glance, and then does a double-take. “Why are you crying? Did I do something wrong?”

Nagisa’s face is utterly wretched. “You’re not fair,” he says, smacking weakly against Rei’s bicep. “You can’t sit with me under a fountain on a perfect night while we’re on an adventure and then tell me you love me, that’s not fair. It’s like a romance novel. You’re the worst, Rei.”

“I’m sorry?” Rei hazards as Nagisa faceplants into his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to make you upset. Please don’t cry.”

Nagisa sniffs loudly and probably gets snot all over his shirt. “I’m not sad, I’m happy.”

“You don’t look it.”

“I am,” says Nagisa, peering up at him and offering a watery smile. “I really am. And for the record, I love you just as much.”

“That’s reassuring,” says Rei, not sure what else to say. Would a thank you be appropriate? Should they get married?

Nagisa laughs and wipes his eyes. “Sorry. People are staring at us.”

“Let them,” says Rei, feeling oddly light. “I don’t mind, this time.”

“Okay,” says Nagisa, wiping his eyes. “Okay.”

“Okay,” repeats Rei. He scratches the back of his neck, which is by now probably as red as the rest of his face. “Now, I had a point to this. I was going somewhere with this train of thought.”

“Are you going to ask me to move in with you?” Nagisa smiles wider.

“What? No, stop making fun of me. Nagisa, something is bothering you. I know you, you get fixated on something and you won’t rest till you get your way. That’s what’s happening now, isn’t it? You want to find them for a reason, but you won’t tell me what it is.”

Nagisa’s expression falters slightly. “Well, you weren’t kidding about your deductive skills.”

Rei takes him gently by the shoulders. “Please tell me what’s happening. Why are Tachibana and Nanase so important to you?”

Nagisa bites his lip, opens his mouth to say something, and then shuts it again. “It’s stupid.”

“The Time Cube is stupid. You are not.”

Nagisa sighs and averts his eyes. “I just wanted to know why.”

Rei leans down to look him in the eye. “Why what, Nagisa?”

“Why they did that.” Nagisa looks up, expression strained. “Why they stole from us and then ran away, I just – weren’t we friends? I know it’s not like we used to see each other much outside of the gallery, but they came in so often, and we talked a lot and they were so nice to me, I just,” he stops, voice cracking slightly. “I thought they cared about me. I cared about them.”

Rei wraps his arms around his boyfriend and tugs him close. “Tell me everything,” he says soothingly.

Nagisa makes a frustrated noise. “You don’t know. You came to work there a couple of years after I did, so you never really got to know them that well. But I liked them a lot, you know? I came to work at the gallery part-time in my last year of university. I always felt so awful. My parents were pushing me into some business job I didn’t care about, I hated studying. I wanted a job, any job where I could make a bit of money and just get away from the pressure. So I took the job at the gallery, and I met Makoto and Haru, and they always asked about how I was doing and somehow they’d know, even if I didn’t tell them they’d know if I wasn’t happy, and they’d cheer me up and listen to me. Do you know how many people listen to me, Rei? Nobody. Nobody but you, and them.”

Rei rubs a hand along Nagisa’s back, frowning. “I’m so sorry,” he says, planting a kiss on Nagisa’s head. “I had no idea you felt that way. I’m sorry.”

Nagisa sniffles pathetically. “No, it’s not your fault. By the time I met you I was happier because my parents had stopped bugging me. But they helped me get that way, Rei.” He scrubs both hands across his face. “Everyone thinks I’m a dumb airhead. Everyone thinks I’m shallow. People think I don’t care about anything, that I just do things for the hell of it, but I don’t. I’m not shallow.”

“I know you’re not,” Rei says, cupping his face.

The corners of Nagisa’s mouth turn further downwards. “They knew it too. I was so surprised, you know. That these two people who had no reason to be worried about me would take the time to check up on me so often. Haru used to bring me sweets. Makoto remembered all my sisters’ names. I talked to them, Rei, I told them everything. I mean, it’s not like I was spilling national secrets that they ran away with, but I really trusted them, you know? But they’ve been lying to me, lying to us all this time. They bought paintings from us because we trusted them, because we never would have suspected them of being criminals. The whole time I thought we were friends. I guess the joke’s on me, huh? I guess they just thought I was some stupid kid they could scam.”

“We don’t know that,” says Rei, voice gentle but firm. Tilting Nagisa’s chin up, he wipes some of the tears away with the pads of his thumbs. “Think about it, Nagisa. They’re older than us, and they’ve been ‘art dealers’ since before either of us came to work at the gallery. I’m not saying they were right to do what they did, but they would have been involved in crime before becoming friends with you. They wouldn’t have been able to tell you the truth without hurting you. They’re not great people, but I don’t think they were actively trying to hurt you.”

Nagisa sobs. “I feel so stupid.”

Rei kisses his forehead. “Don’t. It’s not your fault. Maybe they cared about you just as much as you cared about them. Nobody in their right mind could want to hurt someone like you, Nagisa.”

“How do you know?” Nagisa says miserably under his breath.

“We don’t yet, but we will once we find them.”

Nagisa looks up, eyes widening. “Really? We’re… I mean, you’re okay with this? You still want to help me find them?”

“I want to help you find closure,” Rei says, gently pushing Nagisa’s bangs out of his eyes. “I want you to be happy.”

Face crumpling, Nagisa squeezes Rei’s hands hard. “Thank you, Rei, thank you. I – I was so sure you’d want to go home after I told you. I was so sure you were going to tell me it was stupid and wasn’t worth it.”

Rei smiles. “I’m your boyfriend. I wouldn’t be very good at it if I didn’t try to stay by your side. Besides, you’d be lost without my superior deductive skills.”

Nagisa snorts when he laughs. “Some detective you are, you can’t even figure out where I hide your glasses half the time.”

“I think that might have to do with the fact that I can’t see my glasses when I’m not wearing them.”

“You could try contacts,” Nagisa shrugs, settling his head against Rei’s shoulder. “Although, I think the glasses suit you.”

“Thanks,” says Rei dryly. “I think your phone’s ringing, unless there’s something else in your pocket that vibrates.”

“I don’t carry those around in public,” says Nagisa, wiggling around to get to his phone and answer the call. He stiffens and immediately sits upright. “Sei?”

The conversation is short, and Nagisa nods a lot. He hangs up and turns to Rei, eyes wide and chewing his lip in excitement. “The police saw them in Osaka.”

“Osaka?” Rei frowns, running through numbers in his head. “That won’t take us much more than a couple of hours on the train. The next one is in about an hour. A bus would take longer, but it would be cheaper.”

“We’ll take the train and get a cheap motel,” says Nagisa, standing up. “How do you know when the trains run?”

“I memorized the schedule before we left,” says Rei, dusting off his pants and reaching down for the bags.

Nagisa stares at him for a second. “Have I ever told you that your big brain is a huge turn-on?”

Rei turns slightly pink. “Well, I’m aware of it now.”

Grinning impishly, Nagisa catches Rei’s free hand in his. “I hear Osaka’s Universal Studios is great.”

“I doubt we’ll have time for rides,” says Rei mildly, allowing himself to be dragged along. “I’m not partial to roller coasters myself. I prefer to admire the physics from afar.”

Nagisa laughs at him. “Nerd,” he says, and then stops. “Rei?”

“Yes?”

“Are you sure about this? Is it really okay?”

Nagisa’s attractive even in cold moonlight, Rei thinks to himself. His eyes almost glitter. He gives in to passing fancy and bends to press a soft kiss to the tip of Nagisa’s nose. A passerby titters. Rei ignores them.

“I go wherever you go,” he says sincerely.

Nagisa smiles at him. “I love you,” he says, heading down the road to look for a cab. “And just so you know, you’re getting on a rollercoaster with me whether you like it or not.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Makoto.”

“Mmmmmph?”

“Makoto. Move.”

“Mmmmph.”

Haru sighs and tries to wriggle out from under the larger body crushing him. He’s never wondered before what it would feel like to be trapped under a boulder, but he’s fairly certain he knows now. It’s information he could have lived without, probably, but there it is, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

He pinches Makoto’s ribs ineffectually (because Makoto’s completely resistant to tickling, damn him) and sighs. “I’ll come back to bed, just let me up.”

Makoto appears to consider this for a moment, not that Haru can really tell with Makoto face-down in a pillow. Eventually he grunts and rolls off, allowing Haru to wheeze in some sweet, life-giving air.

He sits up before Makoto can get any other ideas. His shirt’s quite superbly crinkled from having been slept in, but Haru takes some comfort in the fact that Makoto’s clothes must be the same. They should have changed before bed, probably, but Haru was absolutely exhausted after their brief fight and significantly less brief bout of kissing. He can hardly be blamed for falling asleep right after, especially when sleeping next to Makoto is, as it turns out, like having a very large hot water bottle that occasionally snores and is very difficult to remove.

Haru slips out of bed and pads to their bags. Behind him, Makoto rolls into Haru’s warm patch, but Haru pays him no mind, instead rifling through their things until he finds the fake passports Uozumi sold them. He flips through them, frowning. They seem legitimate enough, not that Haru would really know beyond how they look. Makoto’s checked them, anyway, so it’s probably safe to take his word for it. Their real passports are hidden under a flap in Haru’s backpack. He unearths them and his pencil case, and then returns to sit on the edge of the bed.

It’s just their personal details that need filling in. It shouldn’t be too hard; Haru’s calligraphy isn’t the best, but it’s neat enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell it from typeface unless you were looking very, very hard. After that he’ll have to stick on the shiny translucent layer that’s supposed to make the documents hard to forge (hah) and he and Makoto will begin their new lives as Hiro Nakamura and Masao Takagawa.

Something cold and rounded pokes itself into the skin between the hem of Haru’s shirt and the waistband of his pants. He jumps and lets out a noise a little like a bullfrog. Makoto snuffles a laugh.

Haru scoots away, mortified, but Makoto tugs him back before he can topple off the edge of the bed. He rests his head against Haru’s thigh and grunts again.

Haru frowns. “I have to work.”

Makoto blinks sleepily. “ ‘m not stopping you.”

“I can’t do anything with you lying on me.”

“Mmmmph.”

“Go away,” Haru complains, pushing at Makoto’s forehead. “I need peace or I’m going to make a mess. I should be at a desk.”

“Noooooo-”

Fine,” Haru tries to huff, but it comes out woefully fond. “Then at least sit still and stop putting your nose on me. You’re not a dog.”

Makoto nuzzles Haru’s waist against in response. “Ticklish?”

“No,” says Haru, struggling not to laugh. “Get off.”

Makoto hums and sits up, tugging at Haru’s shirt to get him to lean against the headboard. Folding himself around Haru’s back like an amorous koala, he plants a kiss onto the back of Haru’s neck and settles his chin on his shoulder. Haru rubs his thumb over Makoto’s knee.

“Don’t move,” he says quietly, rummaging around for a G-Pen. Makoto mumbles something into Haru’s shirt and, by the looks of it, promptly falls asleep.

Haru sighs and opens his real passport to an unused page. Uozumi’s used the same kind of paper, so he’ll be able to practice until he runs out of empty space. After this he and Makoto will have to destroy the old passports and become intimately familiar with the new ones, but Makoto’s got strong memory, so that should work out fine.

As for Haru, he’s not nearly as confident about his ability to meld into roles like that. Still, he thinks, putting pen to paper, after inking Hiro Nakamura a few hundred times, the name will probably stick.

 

 


 

 

 

 

It’s cold.

Grumbling under his breath, Rin tugs his coat closer around him. It’s his own, this time, not Sousuke’s. Sousuke’s ugly parka is sitting at the bottom of Rin’s suitcase somewhere, because he’d forgotten to leave it in Sousuke’s hotel when he’d gone back to get his things after check-out time. He should really just throw the fucking thing away, but it’s still fairly new and would be kind of a waste. Maybe he should donate it to the less fortunate; he’s sure there’s someone on the streets of Osaka who’d appreciate it.

He needs a plan. Getting on a train is all well and good, but he’s been stuck in his hotel for the better part of the day because he’s got no real idea what to do now that he’s on his own. As much as he hates to admit it, a lot of the time Sousuke is the one who comes up with something to work off of. Rin’s better at coming up with things on the fly.

Not this time though. Bristling at the thought that he could ever come to rely on Sousuke, (or on anyone else, for that matter) he pushes open the door to some overpriced souvenir shop he doesn’t care to know the name of.

The old woman behind the counter calls out a greeting. He gives her a perfunctory nod in return and heads straight to the back, where there are stacks of foldable maps organized neatly on plastic shelves. He picks one of Osaka, and then a map of Japan for good measure. He’s not particularly interested in the tourist attractions highlighted in bold, but these are infinitely better than staring at topography on a computer screen, because the light’s starting to give him a headache. Plus, it’s satisfying, being able to scribble all over something tangible.

He pays for them, and for a green marker pen. The chime above the door jingles as he exits. He’s got a plastic bag full of takeout that bumps against his leg as he hurries back to his hotel, but its warmth is reassuring in this weather. His stomach murmurs something rude at him for only remembering to eat at a quarter past nine.

The glass doors to his hotel slide open with a friendly swoosh, and Rin hurries to the lift before the receptionist can say a word. His room is bare but clean; he’d have gone for something a little more comfortable, probably, except that not being with Sousuke means not having living expenses covered by the station. Doesn’t matter. This is nowhere near the worst he’s been in, so he figures he’ll deal with it.

The desk chair squeaks a little when he sits in it and tries to unpack his udon with one hand. He types in the password to his laptop with the other. Nitori’s on Skype, so Rin starts up a video call and nibbles on a piece of tempura.

Nitori answers when Rin is smoothing out his maps so he can look at them properly. His voice is hushed as he says hello.

Rin tries to increase the volume on his computer, but realises it’s already at its loudest. He frowns. “Speak up, I can’t hear you.”

Nitori flushes and clears his throat. “I, uhm, I can’t, Sergeant, you see, uhm, the thing is-”

“Jesus Christ, what happened to your neck?” Rin cuts him off, leaning forward to squint at the grainy image on his screen. Nitori’s sitting in the dark, but there are deep blotches disappearing into the collar of his baggy hoodie, barely illuminated by his laptop. “What…did something bite you?”

Nitori squeaks. Something murmurs in the background. Nitori hits it with a pillow.

“What’s going on,” Rin tries to say, but his video feed suddenly dies. He’s left staring at the screen with a slightly open mouth for a good minute before Nitori calls him back, face flushed and, notably, no longer in his bedroom but instead in the living room.

“Ahaha! Terrible wifi! Hi, Sergeant! So sorry about that!”

“Who was that?”

“Nobody, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there are zero people in my apartment, aside from me, I mean, and like, this really old block of cheese that’s been in my refrigerator for a while and it might have gained sentience, I don’t know, I actually think it eats all the other food because I keep having to shop for groceries for some reason-”

“Yellow is a good look on you,” Rin says wryly, eyeing the hoodie that he’s definitely seen before, but decidedly not on Nitori. Nitori lets out a nervous giggle.

“Well, uhm, did you need something, Sergeant? How’s work?”

Rin’s face immediately hardens. Clearing his throat, he busies himself with poking at his udon. “Sousuke and I split up to cover more ground.”

“What? Why?”

“Because,” Rin says, remembering at the last second to keep his voice down, “we had a disagreement about how to run this investigation. So he’s off in I-don’t-fucking-know-where, doing god knows what, and I’m here, doing real police work.”

“Oh, that’s…huh,” Nitori says, looking suspicious but thankfully deciding not to press the issue. “Well, uh, you’re on your own now? Are you still in Osaka?”

Rin accidently slurps in lieu of trying to answer. Making a face in self-directed affront, he uncaps his marker pen and taps it against the table. “Yeah, still in Osaka. I haven’t seen Makoto or Haru anywhere, but I guess that’s expecting a bit much.”

“So what now?”

Humming thoughtfully, Rin picks the yolk out of his boiled egg slice and eats the rest of it. “Put your earphones in, Nitori, this is confidential.”

Scratching the back of his neck, Nitori shrugs sheepishly. “I don’t have any. Lost my last set.”

“If your house is anything as messy as your desk, I’m not surprised you lose shit.”

“Sorry!”

Rin clicks his tongue. “Now how am I supposed to talk to you?”

“I’ll keep the volume. Don’t worry, he sleeps like a rock, he’s not going to overhear. Plus even if he did, I don’t think he’d understand any of it.”

“It’s a man, huh?”

“So tell me about how your case is going!”

Rin snorts and rolls his eyes good-naturedly. Stretching his arms above his head to give some relief to his tired muscles, he lets the subject drop. His head feels a little foggy, which is the only reason he’s talking to Nitori instead of trying to power through this on his own. His subordinate’s soft tenor is a welcome change from the gravelly monotone he’s used to. The thought lifts his mood considerably. “Haru and Makoto got themselves fake passports, according to Uozumi. Oh, we’re gonna need to put out a warrant for him, by the way. He forges documents.”

Casting around for a pen, Nitori scribbles the name down on the back of his hand. “I’ll tell Inspector Sasabe.”

“Good.” Looking between the maps of Osaka and Japan, Rin purses his lips. “If they went through the trouble of getting passports, that must mean they want to go somewhere. But where, though? It’s not like you’d need a passport to travel around Japan, so I guess they’re planning on fleeing the country.”

“But that means they could be heading anywhere!”

“Not if all the airports know what they look like,” says Rin, marking a small X over Tokyo. “We can arrest them the moment they try to get on a plane, so that’ll cover us if they try to travel by air.”

“Does that mean we just have to wait until airport security finds them?”

Rin stares at Osaka. “Probably not. Neither of them is stupid. I bet they would have guessed that air travel would be out. The only other option is a passenger ship somewhere. Make sure their photos are circulated to sea ports as well as airports, could you, Nitori?”

“Yes, Sergeant,” says Nitori, making another note on his hand.

Rin nibbles on a mushroom. “So that means they can’t run away, but it doesn’t help us find them. What we need to do is see if we can figure out where it is they’re going, and then intercept them.”

“Where could they realistically go by sea?” Nitori asks, shifting around slightly.

“China,” says Rin, counting off his fingers. “The Koreas, the smaller Japanese islands.”

Nitori taps at his keyboard. “Taiwan,” he says. “They could go to Taiwan, too.”

Rin nods. “So, any one of those places. Japan’s obviously out, since they’ll only get caught eventually, and so is North Korea. That leaves us with China, South Korea and Taiwan.” He stares at his maps, chewing contemplatively. “Now, where could they be heading?”

“China?” says Nitori, resting his chin in his palm. “China might be doable, since the border’s so big. I mean, that’s what I remember one lecturer telling me when I was in the police academy. Something about how many people try to run away to China a lot, because you can slip past border control if you’re lucky.”

Rin snorts. “Haru doesn’t even like Chinese food,” he says, and then pauses. He frowns at the Japanese map, and then crosses off Nagoya and Osaka. “It looks like they’re travelling south.”

Nitori cants his head at the sudden change in topic. “Can you tell where they’re headed?”

“Not really,” says Rin. “But they’re going somewhere.” He puts a large bracket around Okayama and Hiroshima. “If I could just figure out where they’d be going, I’d be able to head them off.”

Nitori hums. “If anyone can figure them out, Sergeant, I think it’ll be you.”

“What, because I knew them before?”

“I guess so. And, because you’ve always been good at understanding people, you know?”

Rin raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t I impossible to get along with, though? That’s what Sasabe keeps telling me, at least.”

Nitori only laughs. “If you say so,” he says, and then flops sideways with his laptop. “By the way, I’m not going to bed for a while yet, so I’m here if you need me.”

“Okay,” says Rin absently, sipping at the last dregs of his soup. He can’t actually be sure where Haru and Makoto are going to run away to. It’s imperative that he finds them before they leave Japan, or they’ll likely be gone forever. As much as he wants them arrested, they’re not dangerous enough that very many resources will be wasted on tracking them across countries. Rin’s pragmatic enough to know that much. The problem is, though, that he has to figure out what country they’re going to if he’s going to anticipate how they’ll try to get there.

A ferry to South Korea would be the easiest choice, because it’s the closest country to their own. China and Taiwan would be more difficult, but still within reach. He stares at his Japanese map, which has slivers of neighbouring countries on it, pushed to corners Rin would otherwise never look at. He can’t for the life of him imagine Haru or Makoto in a country other than Japan, not with his memories of the three of them sleeping under Haru’s kotatsu or how Makoto consistently manages to be popular with the owners of small ramen stalls.

South. They’re heading south, and Rin’ll eat his police hat if they’re still hanging around Osaka. If Rin were going to try to get to South Korea by ship, he’d probably head west, straight to the East China Sea, instead of trying to navigate through Japan as they seem to be doing. That leaves China and Taiwan. Doesn’t seem like a good idea to go to an island, though; Taiwan’s fairly close to Japan, but there’s nowhere to run without having to get onto yet another boat.

So, China, then. Rin makes a soft noise of frustration and puts his face in his hands, chewing on the inside of his cheek. China. China.

God. It’s completely bizarre to think of Haru in China, even if Makoto could probably assimilate. “Come on, Rin,” he hisses to himself, scrubbing at his face. He knows them. He knows them, they’ve been friends since elementary school, he should be able to figure out what their plans are. Sousuke has nothing to go on but his shitty criminal informants. Rin doesn’t need to sink that low. He can do this the proper way, with his own brains, and his own intuition.

He’s not looking at his computer screen, but Nitori’s watching him, eyebrows furrowed. “Think, Sergeant,” he says, startling Rin slightly. “Try to remember if they’ve alluded to travelling at any point.”

“I don’t know,” Rin snaps, slamming his fist on the table and making his marker jump. “Fuck, they would have said something, I just can’t fucking remember, god, I’m an idiot, I’ll never catch them before Sousuke does, this is complete bullshit-“

Rin.”

Rin pauses and blinks at the screen. Nitori’s eyebrows are furrowed in concern. “Take a deep breath, Sergeant. We’ll get through this.”

Rin exhales through his nose, hands in his lap. He tries to forget about the frustration biting at his gut and instead focuses on how weird it is to have Nitori call him Rin. “I’m taking a deep breath,” he says.

“Good.” Nitori adjusts his own screen, glancing off into a corner of the room Rin can’t see. “First thing’s first. We’ve frozen their bank accounts and based on our sightings, they’ve been moving pretty slowly. What does that mean?”

“It means they’re still in Japan, probably,” Rin says, eyes shut.

“So there’s still time, right?”

“Yeah. There’s still time.”

“They’re going south.”

“They are,” Rin says, crossing the northern half of Japan off his map. Somehow the action makes him feel better. He crosses off both Koreas and Taiwan for good measure, although this time with smaller X’s. “They’re trying to get to another country.”

Nitori makes a soft noise of agreement. “I’m looking at a map. We’ve got China, Korea and Taiwan.”

“Not Taiwan,” says Rin, tapping his chin. “Not Korea.”

“So, China?”

Rin pauses. “No.”

Nitori blinks at him, perplexed. “No? Why?”

“I don’t know,” says Rin, frowning at an unsuspecting patch of wall. “It’s a hunch.”

“That’s our last option, though.”

“Maybe not,” says Rin, leaning over his map and staring at a purple blotch in the corner. “There’s Vietnam.”

“Isn’t that kind of far away?”

It is, actually. But it’s also relatively lax with immigration laws, and shares a border with enough smaller countries that travel will be easy. Haru, like Rin, likes warm weather because that means he doesn’t have to bother with layers of clothes. Makoto jumps at anything that calls itself Southeast Asian food. Not actually logical reasoning for wanting to go to Vietnam, Rin knows, but somehow the idea sounds better the more he thinks about it. It feels right, the same way that becoming a police officer felt right, the same way it feels right to extent his patrol route to back alleys because there might be someone there who needs his help.

The corner of Rin’s mouth lifts into a smirk, and he snatches up his marker to start jotting notes onto his map.

Nitori seems to realise he’s not about to get an answer, so he waits until Rin’s flurry of movement dies down and he triumphantly drops his marker. “Yes?” he prompts as Rin nods to himself in satisfaction.

“Nagasaki,” says Rin, a touch proud. “The easiest way to get to Vietnam by sea is through the south, which means Nagasaki. There are a lot of ports there. Makoto and Haru are cautious, they’d want to make sure they had a chance of escape wherever they went. They also like to keep low-profile, so they’d choose a country most Japanese people wouldn’t think of straight away. And Makoto’s always wanted to see Nagasaki and take a cruise. He’d know he could get away by water if they went to Nagasaki.”

“But they can’t,” says Nitori, reading the notes on his hand again. “Because we’ll have informed everyone by then.”

“They don’t know that,” says Rin. “They don’t know we know about their fake passports. As far as they’re concerned, we’re hunting them down by sight.”

“I guess that makes sense,” says Nitori, sounding nonetheless a little confused. “Now what?”

“Now we check if my hunch is right,” says Rin, glancing at the clock. It’s half past midnight. “When you go in to work, tell Sasabe what I told you. Have people look around Nagasaki. I’ll head there and wait for them. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to have eyes on route to Nagasaki. Buses, trains, whatever.”

Nitori nods, writing the new information down. Rin opens his mouth to tell him to buy a notepad, but realises that Nitori probably does own one which is lost in the clutter somewhere, so he decides instead to write some notes of his own. “I’ll call you when I get to Nagasaki tomorrow. If you want to ask me anything you can contact me, though, okay?”

“Yes, Sergeant!” says Nitori, smiling wide. “Please get some sleep, don’t tire yourself out.”

“I’m not tired,” says Rin distantly.

“You’re trying to write with a chopstick.”

Rin blinks. He is, in fact, trying to write with a chopstick, and there’s soup on his map. He grimaces and tosses the garlicky piece of wood away. “Stop laughing at me, you.”

“I’m not,” Nitori says, voice burbling slightly and betraying him. “It’s a good habit to go to bed early. My grandpa’s always asleep by ten o’clock.”

Rin bristles. “Well your grandpa and I are productive members of society who don’t stay up all night blogging or whatever it is you do. Go to bed.”

“Alright,” says Nitori cheerfully. “But, uhm, Sergeant Matsuoka?”

What?”

Nitori’s face softens. “Take care of yourself, alright?”

“…I will,” Rin says, and then smiles back. “Now, I mean it, go to bed. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Alright,” says Nitori, and waves until Rin ends the call. Rin considers the paper on his desk, copies of witness statements and documents and police reports. Picking up his marker, he cracks his knuckles and hunkers down to figure out Haru and Makoto’s possible escape routes.

The clock ticks steadily onwards. Rin ignores it. He can sleep on the train.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“Special Agent Pyunsuke, reporting for duty!”

“Don’t yell,” hisses Sei, yanking Momo inside and snapping the apartment door shut behind him. “We’re trying to be discreet, remember? I don’t need my neighbours asking who Special Agent Pyunsuke is.”

“Well, it’s me, obviously,” says Momo. He flops face-first onto the sofa and kicks his feet in the air. “Aw, man, do I have news for you!”

Sei grabs on to Momo’s ankles and tugs him out of the way so he can sit. “What did you find?”

Momo grins. “Alright, so, Officer Nitori was doing a video chat with Sergeant Matsuoka, right, and Sergeant Matsuoka was all grumpy and like, woah what’s that mark on you and Nitori got all cute like nah it’s nothing don’t worry about it-“

“Get to the point, Momo.”

“Right, okay, so they talked about Nanase and Tachibana and then Sergeant Matsuoka said they’d be going to Nagasaki.”

Seijuro frowns. “Why?”

“Because they’re gonna run away to like, Vietnam or something.”

“What? How does he know that?”

“He figured it out. I dunno, it all sounded really complicated, but basically they’re probably going to run away to a different country, and the easiest way to do that is on, like, a boat from Nagasaki. So he’s gonna go wait for them there, or something.”

“Did Officer Nitori tell you this?”

“Nah, I heard them talking. They thought I was asleep. Are you going to buy me a burger now?”

Leaning back against the sofa, Seijuro purses his lips contemplatively and looks out the clear balcony doors. The weather’s muggy; it’ll probably start raining later in the afternoon, which will make his lonely evening even more miserable. Kou’s busy today. Her friend has a birthday, or something, which Sei can’t help but feel a little bitter about. He wants to be out with his girlfriend, not stuck in here making sad eyes at the phone and hoping that she’ll remember him and send him a text. At least if the weather were nice he’d be able to go outside and distract himself. Momo would suffice, normally, except lately he’s been talking non-stop about his Officer Nitori, and Sei isn’t in the mood to be reminded about how pathetically alone he is on a Saturday.

He hums in agreement and pushes off the couch to locate his mobile phone. It’s still on the kitchen table from when he was having lunch, so he retrieves it (and a beer for good measure). “Alright, pick a place.”

“McDonald’s,” says Momo, immediately making grabby hands for a taste of Sei’s beer and subsequently wrinkling his nose at it.

Seijuro ruffles his hair. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, kid. Pick a place with a little more class.”

Momo pauses to consider this. “Okay,” he says after a beat, and starts patting his pockets for his cell. “I’ll search for good places to eat on the internet! But you have to agree to whatever I pick.”

“That was the deal,” says Seijuro indulgently, ruffling his little brother’s hair again and making it even wilder. “Choose wisely.”

Momo bats him away and gets to work, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration. Sei leaves him to it and heads to the bedroom, easing the door shut with a foot. He locks it after a second’s consideration, and straightens out the duvet a little so he can sit down and scroll through his contacts.

Nagisa picks up on the fifth ring. His voice is almost drowned by the noise in the background, and Seijuro has to press the speakers to his ear to be able to make out the muffled greeting.

“Where are you?” Seijuro asks, annoyed.

Nagisa ignores the question. “How’re things on your end?”

Sei frowns at the wallpaper. “I’m told that Tachibana and Nanase are probably on their way to Nagasaki.”

“What? Why?”

“Because they’re going to flee the country by ship, apparently, and hitching a ride from Nagasaki is the easiest way to do that. Now, I don’t know how accurate this guess is, so you might find a dead end, but it’s worth a shot anyway.”

“So we should go straight to Nagasaki?”

Sei considers this. “They seem to have been moving pretty slowly so far. I’m not sure if they would have actually reached.”

Nagisa makes a thoughtful noise. “That’s true. I could try to figure out the easiest route from Tokyo to Nagasaki and go that way. I should be able to catch up with them eventually.”

“I need them found before they manage to leave the border.”

“You can bet on it,” says Nagisa a little darkly.

Seijuro doesn’t comment on the change of tone. “I’ll ask some other friends of mine and keep you updated. Be ready to get a text from me if I find anything new.”

“Sure,” Nagisa says, suddenly cheerful again. “Oh my god, Sei, I have to go, Rei look it’s a waterslide we have to ride it-”

Seijuro sighs at the dial tone and takes the phone away from his ear. Scrolling through his contact list once more, he places another call and drums his fingers as he waits for the other person to pick up.

“Yo.”

“Kazuki,” says Seijuro pleasantly. “I need a favour.”

“Sure, bro,” says Kazuki. “Not for free, I hope?”

“I’ve got some green for you, if you want,” says Seijuro, glancing at the wall hanging above his bed. Behind it is a safe with a combination he’s had memorized for years. “Five grams sound good?”

“Pure?”

“Anything for a friend.”

“Count me in. What do you need?”

Seijuro grins. “There are a couple of guys I’m after. Skimped on paying.”

“Shit,” says Kazuki sympathetically. “You gonna break their kneecaps?”

“Damn it, I keep saying that happened one time-”

“Chill, chill,” Kazuki chuckles quietly on the other end of the line. “I’ll look around for you. What are their names?”

“Tachibana and Nanase. I’ll send you a picture in a second. I hear tell they’re on the way to Nagasaki.”

“Wouldn’t they have gotten there by now? A train takes like, a few hours.”

Sei falters. “I don’t think they can afford the train,” he says slowly. It’s probably true if Momo is to be believed anyway. “So could you check around buses and shit like that?”

“Where’d they start from?”

“Tokyo, but they’re at least in Osaka by now.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” says Kazuki. “Give it to the bastards good.”

“Oh, I will,” says Seijuro, snorting slightly. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem.”

He hangs up the call. Seijuro stands up and puts his phone back into his pocket. As far as he knows, Kazuki’s network is extensive, so he’s got a fair chance of someone spotting Tachibana or Nanase. It’s not like Sei’s got much of a choice anyway, seeing as a vast majority of his own contacts are Tokyo-based and are therefore of little help in this situation. Giving up a big bag of weed isn’t going to cost him much in the long run, not if it means finding those two before Kisumi does. If Seijuro manages to pin them, he can probably drop enough hints for Sergeant Matsuoka to be able to get them.

Even better, if Seijuro manages to pin them, Kou will stop looking so sad whenever she talks about her brother.

Speaking of brothers.

It’s been quiet for a long time, so it’s with no small amount of suspicion that Seijuro opens his bedroom door. With good reason, too; he’s immediately accosted with a head to the sternum which knocks the breath out of him,  and would knock him clean over, if he were a lesser man. He wheezes and tries to breathe through the python-like grip around the lower half of his ribcage.

“Found a place we could go to,” says Momo smugly.

Seijuro pries him away. “It’s not McDonald’s, is it?”

Momo scoffs. “No, it’s this Western place. We have to take the train and then get on a bus.”

“Couldn’t you have chosen a place a little closer to home?”

“You said we’d go wherever I wanted!”

“Alright, alright,” Seijuro says and peers at the mobile version of the menu that Momo’s trying to show him. “What the hell are these things made of, diamond-encrusted buns? Dragon meat? Does the Buddha himself descend to weep into your cup? This is fucking expensive!”

“You said we’d go wherever I wanted.”

Sei pinches him. “Fine, you little brat, go put your shoes on.”

Momo cackles and bounds away. Seijuro tugs his room door shut and follows him out into the living room, patting his pockets for his wallet. If Momo decides to eat as much as he usually does, then this whole project is going to cost him significantly more than the cost of five grams of weed.

He sighs and shrugs on his coat. Kou’s worth it, he reminds himself, and suddenly his wallet doesn’t feel like it’s weighing a hole into his pocket.

 

 


 

 

“Why are you calling me?”

Kisumi runs a hand through his hair, messing it up even more. “Do you know where they are, Sousuke?”

“Who?”

“Tachibana and Nanase. I know you’re looking for them. Where are they?”

Sousuke pauses. “This is an official investigation and that information is classified. Why do you want to know, anyway?”

Kisumi swears and ends the call. His shirt’s wrinkled and his tie is probably in his suitcase somewhere, but there’s no time to clean up or get rid of the ugly puffiness under his eyes. Miss Amakata is waiting for him at her house, and the sweat seeping through the back of Kisumi’s shirt isn’t just because he’s power walking his way there.

He’s not entirely sure how much money he has left, because he keeps spending it all on travel, but right now that’s probably the least of his worries. His throat itches for some coffee despite the jumpiness of his nerves. Amakata’s house looms in front of him for all its suburban prettiness. He slows to a walk and takes a deep breath, although it does nothing to stop the small twitch of his expression when he steps up to the front door.

He plasters a tight smile on his face as a large man in a suit scrutinizes him. An agonizing second later, he’s waved through the door. Muscle memory takes him to the living room, where Miss Amakata is seated delicately at the coffee table, stirring at her tea. She doesn’t look up as he comes to stand in front of her, only nibbling on a biscuit as he shifts nervously from foot to foot.

“You wanted to see me?” he hazards. Normally he’d wait for her to address him, but at the moment he feels like he’s about to pass out.

She glances at him and goes back to her tea. “Yes, I did.”

He waits for a few seconds more, eyeing the guard hovering conspicuously by the door. “I’m here.”

“Alone, I see.”

Kisumi falters. “You were expecting more?”

“I was expecting,” says Amakata sharply, “to see the two men I asked you to find.”

He swallows and looks away. “I…haven’t found them. I’m sorry.”

“As you should be, but that’s hardly enough, now is it?” she asks, voice back to its usual saccharine sweetness. She crosses her legs and leans back in the plush cream armchair, but doesn’t suggest that Kisumi should sit. Sipping at her tea, she hums and taps her manicured fingers against the part of her knee that isn’t covered by her soft taupe skirt.

“Do you know why I hired you?”

Kisumi shakes his head, mute. Amakata smiles at him indulgently, although it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“I hired you because you were a broke arts student with clothes too expensive for you, and you tried to convince me to buy you lunch under the pretense of flirting with me. You’re a conman in shiny wrapping. I like people like that, you know? I like someone with a little gall.”

Glancing around nervously, Kisumi opens his mouth to say something, but Miss Amakata cuts him off with a gesture. “No, let me finish. I run a very…complicated business. And to help me run this business, I hire clever people like you. Clever people who know how to dress up a stock and make it pretty, and who know how to make everything look nice and squeaky clean. Now, I’m not a very violent person. You know that, right?”

“Right,” says Kisumi dutifully, forcing himself not to turn around to side-eye the hired thug glaring at him from the entrance to the other room.

Amakata pays him no attention. “I’m not a public menace. I make a little bit of money here and there, but I like to think I don’t cause too much trouble. I also like to think I can trust the people who work closest to me,” she says, watching Kisumi over the rim of her cup. “So, when one of these people loses my hard-earned money to unscrupulous characters, I expect them to get that money back. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says Kisumi. Looking her in the eye is making him feel a little squeamish, but he doesn’t dare look away. Her smile widens a little around the edges, and Kisumi feels the bottom of his stomach fall off and settle somewhere around his feet.

“Like I said, I’m not a very violent person. And I quite like you, Kisumi. You know, that right?”

“…yes, ma’am.”

“So I’m not going to hurt you. You take such care over how you look, I wouldn’t want to ruin that. But I will get my money back, you understand. And if it doesn’t come from the men who stole it from me in the first place, then it’s going to come from you.” She pauses, and then smiles. “With quite a bit of interest, I think.”

Kisumi nods jerkily. He’s seen her extract money ‘with interest’ from the people in her bad books. Like pimps, for instance, or anyone else dabbling in the sex trade, which she seems to have a deep-seated hatred for. One by one she squeezes every last yen out of them, until they come crawling back for loans and she turns them away with a dainty laugh.

She won’t be quite so vindictive with him, probably, but Kisumi has no interest in testing this hypothesis out. She pays for almost everything he owns, as he’s painfully aware.

“I’ll get it done,” he says, voice a little hoarse. She flashes him a beatific smile.

“Make sure you do, Kisumi. I don’t want to end up taking care of it myself. If I have to leave my house for this, I guarantee you’ll be leaving yours permanently.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

Makoto tugs his scarf higher up his face and hurries onto the bus with a cursory nod to the driver. Haru hurries behind him, following him to the seat just before the back, where they’re hidden behind everyone else. Makoto slides down in his seat so his head doesn’t stick out, and Haru leans in to talk to him.

“We’ll be in Hiroshima by the end of the route, right?”

Makoto nods. “It’ll take about an hour, probably. We can get on another bus right after.”

Haru purses his lips as the bus bumps its way across the outskirts of Okayama. He’d much rather be on the train, but they’ve learnt their lesson by now. Security guards at train stations can be, as it turns out, frighteningly adept at noticing when someone looks suspicious, and Haru has no intention of having to run away from one and dropping his fried rice in another alleyway. Besides, it’s not a good idea to have to keep giving out their details to buy tickets, anyway, even though Haru’s certain his work on their passports is on point. Intercity buses are out of the question for precisely the same reason. Because of this they’ve been riding regular buses instead, which is time-consuming and is making Haru’s ass hurt.

He tucks his bus pass into his pocket, right before smacking his head against the window when the bus gives a particularly violent lurch. He winces. Makoto glances around to make sure nobody’s looking, and then reaches around Haru to massage the side of his head with gentle fingers. “Don’t lean on the window, Haru, you’ll hurt yourself.”

Haru disregards him and rests his head against the window again, this time trapping Makoto’s hand to use as a cushion against any future blows. “I don’t like buses.”

Makoto hums. “I don’t either. They jostle around and make me feel nauseous.”

Haru makes a face at him. “Don’t puke on me.”

“I can’t promise you anything,” says Makoto seriously. Haru wrinkles his nose, and Makoto kisses it.

“It’s going to take years to get to Nagasaki at this rate,” Haru grumbles, rummaging around in his bag for a bag of potato chips. Makoto stares at him hopefully as he opens it, and Haru sighs and offers him the packet.

“It’ll take a few days, definitely,” says Makoto, making fish lips so Haru will feed him. “But aside from that one incident in Osaka, I don’t think we’ve left any clues as to where we’re headed.”

Haru pops a chip into Makoto’s mouth, sighing at the loud crunch that follows and helping himself to one with decidedly more grace. “I don’t fancy jail.”

Makoto scratches Haru’s cheek gently. “We’re not going to jail…I think.”

“That’s not reassuring,” Haru sighs again. He turns his head slightly to look at the dull, blurred scenery outside the window. The bus rattles every so often, but Makoto’s hand protects his face from any more abuse. “I’m tired. I want this to be over.”

Makoto’s face falls slightly. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s not great, but we’re going to have to deal with it for now.”

Haru watches him impassively. “It’s not your fault.”

Makoto considers this for a second, and then the corner of his mouth lifts into a smile, although he still looks sad. “No, it’s not, I guess.” Glancing around again to make sure they’re safe from prying eyes, he tugs Haru closer to rest his chin on the crown of Haru’s head. “You woke up early. Take a nap. I’ll wake you when we get to the last stop.”

Depositing the half-empty snack packet onto Makoto’s leg, Haru allows himself to be rearranged and settles his head on Makoto’s shoulder. Makoto runs his fingers through Haru’s hair once, and Haru shuts his eyes and tries to get some rest.

The bus’s shaking makes it impossible for him to even get close to dozing off. Still, Makoto’s warm, so Haru lets himself be held until the end of their journey.

 

 

 


 

 

 

Sousuke sits in a darkened motel room in Osaka, glaring at his phone.

The darkness isn’t intentional, actually. It’s just that he’s been sitting in the same place since this afternoon, and it’s gotten dark around him. Scrubbing his hands over his face, he stands, stretches, and shuffles to the door so he can flick on the lights.

He wouldn’t have to, if he’d been in one of those fancy hotels with the automatic lights that came on the moment you came in. He’s doesn’t have money to spend on that, though, not when he’s got to save everything he can in case he needs to pay someone off in exchange for information. At least the place is clean and void of vermin; specifically, cockroaches, because Rin has a vendetta against them and would probably try to halt the apocalypse to stomp on the six-legged bastards.

The thought almost makes Sousuke wish there were roaches around, even though he’s not really a fan of them either. What he wouldn’t give for the satisfaction of seeing one of those abominations and not having someone scream in rage two seconds later. If he saw one of the little fuckers now he’d probably let it live just to spite Rin on some existential level.

He grunts in frustration and tries to massage some of the tiredness out through his temples. Predictably, it doesn’t work. Sliding down the wall to sit on the floor by the radiator, he glares at an unsuspecting patch of wall. In his head, the wallpaper starts to smoulder.

His usual informants have been particularly unhelpful lately. Uozumi hadn’t even picked up his phone when Sousuke had tried to call last night. Understandable, considering how Sousuke had threatened him the last time, but somehow Sousuke suspects Rin might have something to do with Uozumi’s absence. Stupid self-righteous bastard’s probably gotten Uozumi arrested. That could explain why everyone else is being so tight-lipped; Uozumi’s arrest would mean Sousuke can no longer be trusted. He’s lost a big source of information.

He leans against the radiator, the heat of it relaxing his back a bit through the material of his rugby shirt. He’s a few days behind on delivering his progress report to Sasabe, after the whole blowout with Rin. There’s so much he has to do that he just wants to collapse into bed and sleep until dinner, but if he puts this off any longer, he’s going to have Sasabe being annoying and texting him every few hours.

Face breaking into a small smirk, Sousuke straightens up with a noise of discomfort and goes back to his tiny desk. Sasabe can’t complain about Sousuke’s lack of results if he’s busy dealing with Rin’s inability to work on the case. Sousuke wouldn’t be wrong in reporting Rin’s apparent emotional issues; it’s protocol, anyway, to speak up if there’s something affecting your partner. Keeping the integrity of the investigation, and whatever, as outraged as Rin is likely to be. It’s for the idiot’s own good, Sousuke thinks, selecting Sasabe’s number from his list of contacts and placing the call.

Rin crying in Sasabe’s office is better than Rin crying alone, probably. Not that Sousuke cares. As far as he’s concerned, this means Rin isn’t going to do something stupid like going around arresting any more of Sousuke’s contacts. Or attempting to arrest every crime ring in Japan and getting himself killed, a small, uncomfortable part of him adds. If this gets both Rin and Sasabe out of the way, then that’s all Sousuke needs.

After this, Sousuke thinks, he deserves to take that nap after all.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“I’m pretty sure this isn’t how you’re supposed to do it,” says Ai, allowing Momo to twirl him in a slow pirouette.

Momo snorts. “Well I’m sorry, mister expert-on-old-fashioned-western-dancing, clearly I lack the years of grueling training that you had to go through, so I’m not the best at doing the waltz.”

Nitori rolls his eyes good-naturedly. “I don’t know if what we’re doing can be called a waltz. I don’t know if it can be called anything at all. Might I ask, why am I doing the girl’s part?”

“Because you’re short,” says Momo matter-of-factly, grinning when Nitori smacks him on the shoulder. “And with my hand here, I can do this!”

‘This’, as it turns out, is moving his hand from Nitori’s waist to his behind and giving it a hard pinch. Nitori jumps and smacks him again. Momo laughs.

They manage to navigate around the dining table without breaking anything. The empty dishes from dinner are still piled up in the middle of it, waiting to be washed along with Nitori’s wok. Momo is, as it turns out, surprisingly adept at cooking, even if he has strange and slightly alarming predilection for deep-frying things. The thing is, Nitori doesn’t actually remember having invited Momo. He just showed up in the evening with grocery bags and announced that he wanted to make dinner together.

Momo’s lucky that Nitori doesn’t have much of a social life outside of his blog, Nitori thinks to himself, settling his head on Momo’s shoulder. His laptop sits on the coffee table, perched on a stack of magazines and playing slow music that Momo sways to inexpertly. Humming, Nitori steers them both in the direction of the couch so he can pick the next song.

“Why are we dancing?” he asks, probably a bit belatedly considering they’re about to start their fourth attempt at a tango.

Momo spins them. “Because your taste in music is really old and I wanna dance to it?”

“This is what my parents used to listen to, thanks,” says Ai, laughing as he stumbles. “I like songs like these. They feel nostalgic.”

“I like them too,” says Momo cheerfully, attempting to dip him and instead toppling them both over onto the couch. Ai yelps, and then bursts into high-pitched giggling.

Momo doesn’t bother getting off of him. “Aw, now look what you did.”

“What I did?” Ai pinches him. “You’re the one who dropped me.”

“Yeah, but I dropped you on the couch, so I’m a totally cool boyfriend,” Momo says, and then pauses. “…are we boyfriends?”

Ai blinks, and then flushes. “Oh. Uhm, well, yes, I guess we are.”

Momo’s grin returns. “Cool.”

Something vibrates in Ai’s pocket, startling them both. Wriggling a little under Momo’s weight, he fishes his phone out from where it’s trapped between his leg and the couch and checks the caller ID.

It’s Inspector Sasabe. Nitori swats at Momo until he whines and rolls off of him and onto the floor. Sitting up and clearing his throat, Nitori takes the call, Momo shuffling around to put his chin on Ai’s knee. Nitori pats him.

“Good evening, Inspector! What can I do for you?”

Sasabe’s voice is gruff over the line, like he hasn’t had much sleep. “Evenin’, Nitori. Has Matsuoka contacted you recently?”

Momo tilts his head up to nibble on Ai’s finger. Ai flicks his nose. “Not since a couple of days ago.”

“Has he seemed alright to you?”

Nitori pauses. “As alright as you could hope to expect, considering the situation. Why do you ask, sir?”

There’s a sigh, and the sound of swallowing. Nitori imagines the Inspector at home, nursing a stiff drink in his hand. “I’ve got Yamazaki telling me that Matsuoka’s getting emotionally involved in the Tachibana case, and it’s affecting his performance. Matsuoka’s one of my best officers, but I’m still obliged to find out if what Yamazaki’s saying is true.”

Ai goes still. “Is Sergeant Matsuoka going to be okay?”

“I don’t know,” says Sasabe, voice concerned. “But that’s my problem to deal with. I’m not letting anyone tear themselves up over a case. Protocol for situations like this is that he’ll have to take some time off the investigation for evaluation.”

“But that’ll take ages!”

“Necessary evil,” Inspector Sasabe sighs again. “I don’t like it either, but what can you do? Anyway, if he contacts you again, tell me. I want to know if he looks like he’s cracking. I’ll break the news to him as soon as I get the paperwork in order.”

Nitori nods even though he knows his boss can’t see him. “Yes, sir.”

 

Momo frowns at him when he hangs up the phone. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Momo,” says Ai, standing up and stepping around the clutter to get to his bedroom. “I have to make a call, okay? I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.”

“Hurry,” says Momo, sounding slightly disappointed. Ai waves at him distractedly and shuts the door behind him.

Sergeant Matsuoka picks up on the third ring. “What’s up, Nitori? I’m just about to get on the night train, you’ll have to make it quick.”

“Sergeant Yamazaki reported you,” Nitori blurts out. “He said he thinks you’re getting too involved in the case. Inspector Sasabe’s going to make you come back to the station to get an evaluation.”

 

There’s silence for a good ten seconds, apart from the hustle and bustle in the background. When Sergeant Matsuoka finally speaks, his voice is surprisingly steady. “Come again?”

Nitori takes a deep breath. “Inspector Sasabe just called me asking how you were. He told me that Sergeant Yamazaki told him that you were starting to...not perform the way you should be. He said to call him if I heard from you, and that he’d break the news to you once he’s sorted the paperwork out. But, well, I thought you’d want to know,” he trails off, fiddling nervously with the hem of his t-shirt and worrying his lower lip with his teeth.

Rin’s silence continues for a long while. Nitori checks the screen of his phone to make sure the call is still on. “Sergeant? Are you still there?”

“Not for long,” Rin suddenly growls, starting Nitori. “Fuck this. Fuck all of them, fuck Sousuke. I’m handling this case just fine.”

“I know that,” says Nitori in a rush. “I’ll tell them what you said about Nagasaki, I’ll explain that you have a lead, and then maybe the Inspector will-”

“Don’t bother,” Rin cuts him off, voice still steely. “I’ll chase that fucking lead down myself. Don’t contact me for a while, Nitori, or Sasabe’ll give you shit. I’m acting on my own here. Pretend like you don’t know anything, got it?”

“How are you going to make it in time before Inspector Sasabe calls you back to Tokyo?”

“I’m not going back to Tokyo,” Rin says, grunting a little like he’s carrying a heavy bag and trying to walk quickly at the same time. “Not until I solve this.”

“But Inspector Sasabe-”

“Inspector Sasabe can kiss my ass!” Rin barks. “I’m going to Nagasaki, and he’s not fucking stopping me. Neither is Sousuke, that petty son of a bitch.”

“You could get suspended!” says Nitori a little hysterically.

“Not if I turn out to be right. Now, listen to me. Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone, okay? I’ll figure something out. I’ll find them, just watch.”

“You don’t even have any backup!”

Rin pauses. “No,” he says bitterly. “I guess I don’t.”

Ai realises too late he’s hit the wrong chord, but he doesn’t get the chance to backpedal. Rin hangs up without warning, and the next two calls Ai tries to make go straight to voicemail. Stuffing both fists against his mouth with a soft cry of frustration, he flops onto the edge of his bed and curls up.

There’s a knock on the door. “Ai? You okay? Do I have to kick somebody’s ass?”

Ai laughs, although it sounds a little crazy even to his ears. “You don’t need to do anything. There’s going to be a lot of ass-kicking anyway.” The identities of the kicker and the kickee are unknown to him at the moment, but he supposes he’ll find out soon enough.

Momo opens the door and cautiously pokes his head through. “So, you don’t need me to beat anyone up for you?”

“I’m trained in judo and you’re not,” says Nitori morosely as Momo comes to plop down beside him.

Momo tugs on a lock of his boyfriend’s hair. “I’d still kick their ass.”

Ai smiles despite himself. “Thanks,” he says, rolling over onto his back. “I’ll hold you to that.”

Momo’s face appears, upside down, in his field of vision. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Can’t. Can’t do anything about it either,” Ai says, and then sighs.

Beaming, Momo bends down and plants a loud kiss on Ai’s forehead. “Well if you can’t do anything, why worry about it?”

“You can’t just tell me not to worry, I mean, I have legitimate concerns here and it’s not like I can just brush them off-”

Momo silences him by pinching both of Ai’s lips together, giving him an unflatteringly fishy face. “You can’t do anything right now, so don’t stress. Distract yourself with something. Worry about it tomorrow, when it’s actually possible to get anything done.”

Ai blinks. “Distract myself how?”

“Well, I mean, we’re technically already in bed and this is a date, so-“

“Momo!” Ai gasps at him, scandalized. “How could you even suggest such a thing?”

“I can see you smiling, you know,” Momo snorts, bending down to kiss Ai on the cheek. “I’m just saying, since we’re here, might as well make the most of it.”

“I feel miserable, though,” says Ai, mostly fake-pouting.

Flopping over so they’re lying side-by-side, Momo pats Ai on the stomach. “Don’t worry,” he announces. “You’re about to find out that I’m an expert at cheering people up.”

“I do not want to be cheered.”

“We’ll see,” Momo says, and blows a raspberry into Ai’s neck.

 

 


 

 

 

Nagisa taps his stolen hotel pen against his notepad idly, eyebrows furrowed deeply in concentration. Next to him, Rei leans over the table to see what he’s got written down. Nagisa’s crudely drawn map has several lines drawn through it, and Rei’s neatly written calculations fill up some of the empty space in the upper right corner.

They look like any other tourist couples, probably, sitting in a cute café and looking at a Japanese map on Nagisa’s phone. Nagisa’s cake is almost completely gone. He stabs at the last bite with his fork and pops it into his mouth without looking away from his phone, fork returning to an empty plate in search of more sweet stuff. Wordlessly, Rei pushes his parfait over and lets Nagisa dig into that.

“You’re absolutely sure you counted everything correctly?”

Rei pats his hand. “Yes, I am. It wasn’t particularly difficult arithmetic, you know. All it involved was looking at public transport routes, ticket prices and journey time. You could have done it yourself, if you’ve wanted.”

Nagisa wrinkles his nose in reply, still not looking up. “Numbers are gross. So based on all of this, it would be safe to assume that they must have taken this route?” he asks, tapping at a particularly thick line on his map.

Rei nods. “It’s the one I’d pick, if I were on a limited budget and tight schedule. There are other possibilities, of course; I mean, they might not have my good sense, so they may have taken slightly different routes.”

Drawing a big circle around one section of Rei’s journey analysis (an awful name, but he’ll let Rei have his fun), he cracks his knuckles triumphantly and helps himself to another bite of Rei’s parfait. “And you’ve got it down to individual bus routes, too. Have I ever told you that your brain is seriously sexy?”

“You might have, yes,” says Rei, colouring slightly. “Would you like to call your drug dealer?”

“Don’t call him my drug dealer,” says Nagisa mildly, taking several photos of their notes and tapping off a quick text message. “I’m sending him pictures so he knows where to look. Where do you think Haru and Mako would be by now?”

Rei shrugs. “They could be anywhere, assuming they haven’t already left the country. You have two choices; either wait for them at Nagasaki itself, or try to follow a trail and see if we can catch up with them.”

“The sooner we can catch them, the better,” Nagisa muses. “I mean, if we follow your route we’ll end up in Nagasaki anyway, so we might as well try to catch up with them instead of heading them off.”

“Fair enough,” Rei hums in agreement, tugging Nagisa’s phone towards him and zooming in on Osaka. “We’re here,” he says, pointing. “If we want to get onto the route they probably took, then we’ll need to head to Okayama. The problem is that we won’t see them if we’re not on the street, of course.”

“We’ll get off the train and ask around every couple of cities,” says Nagisa airily, finishing his tea and pushing the remainder of the parfait back to Rei. “If Sei’s informant guy can give us any info, then we’ll know where to look.”

“Where to now?” asks Rei, finishing his food and standing to hoist their bags onto his shoulder. “Train? Bus?”

Nagisa lets him carry most of it. “Train,” he says after a moment of thought. “I know you said they probably took the bus since it’s cheaper, but the last time anyone say them in Osaka was ages ago. They must be somewhere else by now, so I want to catch up with them quickly.”

“As you wish,” says Rei, allowing Nagisa to open the café door for him. Even though it’s nearing winter, the sunshine is bright enough that he has to squint a little bit when they get outside. “The next one leaves in about two hours. We can take a cab to the station, or we can go on foot.”

“Cab,” says Nagisa immediately, leading the way to the main street. “There’s no way we’re carrying all of this.”

“I’m doing most of the carrying,” Rei points out dryly. “I sincerely hope we find them, Nagisa. I’ll do my absolute best.”

For you, he doesn’t say, but they both know what he means. Nagisa beams at him and, taking a second to glance around, tiptoes to kiss him softly on the cheek.

“I know. Thank you.”

“For you, a thousand times over,” Rei says, and finds that he genuinely means it.

 

 


 

 

 

Seijuro’s phone rings when he’s in the middle of an after-dinner shower.

He swears and turns the water off, half his torso still covered in soap. Grumbling his way through putting on a towel, he dries his hands enough to dig through the pockets of his discarded pants and answer the call. It’s Kazuki.

The irritation falls off his face immediately. “Hello?” he says, putting it on speakerphone and setting the phone on the edge of the sink to keep it outside of the splash zone.

“Yo, Sei. Busy?”

“Not really,” Seijuro lies, stepping carefully backwards to perch on the edge of the tub. “How’s it going?”

“I took a look at those pictures you sent me,” says Kazuki, voice tinny over the speakers. “So, I asked around those areas. That’s like an hour of talking, bro, you’re lucky I’ve got unlimited calls.”

“Thanks,” says Seijuro, soaping up a foot just for something to do with his hands. “Any news?”

“Yeah. There’s this one guy who works at one of those tobacco shops in Hiroshima somewhere, right, you know the ones with like 600 types of the same shit? I don’t see the point, I mean, give me a pack of menthols any day, that’s more than enough for a fucking cigarette that’s gonna last thirty seconds, amiright? You might as well spend that extra cash on booze, something that’s actually gonna last.”

“Right,” Seijuro says, making a conscious effort to keep his voice patient. “So what did your guy say?”

“Hmm? Oh, right. So his shop’s in that bus centre, but not the main one, you know? There’s a smaller one with shorter routes. Apparently it’s so old, nobody gives a shit about security anymore. Now, he’s been on the lookout ever since I told him, and he’s got a pretty good eye for faces. And there’s this girl that works at the ticket counter who’s sweet on him. She’s real cute, actually.”

“And?” Seijuro says, tense. Get to the point.

And,” says Kazuki triumphantly, “two dudes, one tall, one a little shorter, and they look just like the drawings you sent me. So my guy asked that girlfriend of his where they were going, and she told him Yamaguchi.”

Sei sits up. “Was this today?”

“Not two hours ago.”

“Yamaguchi? So they’re really heading south?”

“Yup. Now I don’t know for sure, okay, I mean, drawings aren’t really much to go off of, so-”

“That’s good enough.” Standing up and wiping soap off his hands, Seijuro treads carefully to the sink and picks the phone up, holding it away from his ear to keep it dry. “Thanks for your help, man. I’ll send the green your way tomorrow. If you hear anything else, let me know.”

“Sure thing,” says Kazuki good-naturedly.

Seijuro ends the call, and places a new one immediately after. It rings four times, and then he’s greeted with a cheerful hello.

“Yamaguchi,” Seijuro announces without preamble. “Somebody saw them buying tickets to go there. Now I know that’s not much to go on, because it’s a big city, but it’s a good start-”

“We’ll find them,” Nagisa cuts him off, voice suddenly sharp. “What time are they arriving?”

“I hear they bought the tickets just a couple of hours ago from Hiroshima,” Seijuro holds his phone away from his ear to check the time. “They’re going by bus, so it’ll take a while. I expect they’ll reach the city sometime after midnight.”

There’s brief, muffled conversation on the other end. “There aren’t many night buses from there. They might stay the night. We’ll get to Yamaguchi as soon as we can.”

“Who’s ‘we’?” Seijuro says, realizing belatedly that he’s talking to the dialtone. He frowns and sets down his phone. It’s a bit damp despite his best efforts.

Shuffling back, he turns the shower back on and relishes the inviting warmth of the spray. He doesn’t trust this Nagisa kid. He’s a bit too put-together to be a convincing addict, but he seems to have a vested interest in catching Tachibana and Nanase. As long as someone finds them, that’s all Seijuro needs. He’ll be able to hand them over to the police. Possibly to Yamazaki, since he already knows what Sei really gets up to in his spare time.

He’s running out of shampoo. Frowning at the bath tiles, he rubs the last bit of it into his hair and thinks. Best-case scenario, this Nagisa character turns out to be genuinely useful in finding the outlaws, which will lead to them being arrested and Kou being happy. Worst-case scenario, Nagisa turns out to be some brand of yakuza, and Tachibana and Nanase get their pinky fingers cut off as retribution. Which may only be an urban legend, but Sei doesn’t think anything will surprise him very much at this point.

Well, even if the yakuza do take them, at least that’s better than having them completely impossible to track. He figures he’s doing as well as he could reasonably be expected to, given the circumstances. As long as Kou’s happy. That’s really all he cares about at this point.

 

 

 


 

 

 

“I wish there’d been another bus we could take,” Makoto sighs, stretching his legs all the way until the end of the bed.

Haru nudges him aside. “You’re half-asleep as it is. Any more travelling would kill you.”

“Not true,” says Makoto, yawning wide. “Hmm. Okay, maybe a little true.”

“It’s bad manners not to cover your mouth when you yawn,” Haru remarks, even though he doesn’t really care. Makoto’s not going to listen to him anyway; he seems to be melting slowly into the sheets, sequestering both pillows for himself. Haru can already tell he’s going to wake up smothered again tomorrow. “Remind me again why we’re sharing a bed?”

“Cheap,” mumbles his companion.

“Don’t call me cheap,” Haru says mildly, even though he knows that’s not what Makoto means at all. The corner of his mouth quirks a little at the grunt that follows. Settling daintily next to him, Haru pets his hair.

A hand catches hold of his wrist. “Bed.”

“I’m in bed,” says Haru patiently.

“Sleep.”

Haru checks his watch. It’s approximately four in the morning, because they’d decided to walk to their motel from the bus stop instead of spending money on a cab. And also because they decided to stop at a late-night laundromat, because Haru was beginning to get uncomfortable with recycling his clothes.

“I’ll get to sleep in a minute,” he says, slipping out of Makoto’s grasp. I’m just going to fold my clothes so they don’t get wrinkled.”

Makoto’s response is unintelligible. Haru suppresses another smile and stands up, slipping off his shoes to pad softly to their bags. He’ll fold Makoto’s clothes while he’s at it. They may be on the run, but that’s no reason for either of them to look like hobos.

 

A knock on the door startles him, making drop a shirt. He doesn’t try to pick it up. Can’t, really, because the tips of his fingers have suddenly gone numb, and the bottom of his stomach feels like it’s fallen off and is now rolling somewhere around his feet. He turns slowly to look at Makoto. He looks just as scared as Haru suddenly feels, eyes wide and very, very awake.

Haru swallows. Their room doesn’t have any windows, and the one in the bathroom is nowhere near big enough for them to escape through. The only way to get out is through the door. Which might have anyone at all behind it right now; police, possibly. A suspicious guest. If they’re phenomenally lucky, lost room service.

There’s another knock, louder this time, like someone’s pounding to get in. Haru swallows and looks to Makoto for reassurance. He doesn’t get any, because Makoto’s gone completely pale, fists clenched in the sheets hard enough to rip holes in them if he moved.

Slowly, woodenly, Haru shuffles forward. Reaching for the doorknob is like trying to move his hand through gelatin. He closes his hand around the knob and turns, realizing suddenly that he’s completely forgotten to breathe.

 

 

The door swings towards him slowly, and he braces himself for the inevitable police-issue gun to be aimed at his forehead.

It doesn’t come.

He does, however, immediately get punched in the face.

 

He yelps and topples over. Makoto’s by his side in an instant, hands on his back and trying to hoist him onto his feet. Haru clutches at his nose, which is most definitely bleeding by now, and stares, wide-eyed at the man at the door.

The very small, very blond, very angry man.

Haru. Mako.”

Helplessly, Haru turns to look at Makoto, head still spinning from being hit in the face. Makoto stares back, mouth in a round ‘o’ of surprise. Slowly, they both turn.

 

“Nagisa?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Explain.”

 

The first thing that goes through Makoto’s head is shit, we’ve been caught.

 

The second thing that goes through his head is oh my god, they killed Haru.

 

Makoto’s got his arms around Haru’s waist, heaving him off the floor with probably a bit more force than is advisable. Haru wheezes and swats at his hands, and Makoto releases his ribs to grab him by the shoulders. “Oh my god, Haru, breathe! How did you find us, Nagisa, what the fu- what was that for?”

 

“What do you think? We haven’t seen you in two weeks,” Nagisa snaps. “Which wouldn’t be so bad, you know, except that you stole from us and then ran away.”

 

“Oh god,” says Makoto, looking at Haru instead. “Are you alright?”

 

“Peachy,” Haru grumbles under his breath, gingerly making his way to sit at the foot of the bed. His nose is bleeding pretty badly. For such a small person, Nagisa has a mean left hook.

 

Grimacing, Makoto turns on his heel and very nearly sprints to the bathroom to get the roll of toilet paper and one of the towels. Normally he’d be more worried about damaging motel property, but this is technically an emergency, and it’s not as though this place has spectacular service anyway. “Let me see,” he says, tugging Haru’s hands away from his face. Haru hisses when Makoto presses the towel to his nose.

 

Nagisa stamps his foot. “Stop ignoring me. I came halfway across Japan to find you two. Tell them, Rei!”

 

“We came halfway across Japan to find you two,” says Rei dutifully from where he’s leaning beside the door. Nagisa huffs and pulls up the only chair in the room.

 

“What’s going on?” he asks, planting himself right in front of them. Makoto throws his hands up.

 

“What are you thinking? How could you just come in here and hit someone in the face, Nagisa? What are you even doing here? Oh my god, did you bring the police with you, are we going to jail-”

 

“No, we didn’t bring the police. I’m here because I want to know exactly what you were thinking, stealing from us- stealing from our gallery,” says Nagisa, voice surprisingly level. “How many people have you done this to? Are we the only ones you conned?”

 

“I- please, look, it was nothing personal-”

 

“Nothing personal,” Nagisa repeats bitterly. “You just lied to us for years, because it’s not like we were friends, or anything. It’s not like Rei and I trusted you.”

 

“We didn’t take anything from you,” Haru says, voice muffled under cotton and blood. He sounds bitter, which is understandable, really, given the circumstances.

 

Nagisa scowls at him. The expression looks out-of-place, because Makoto can only ever remember him being either peppy or overdramatic. This genuine anger is bizarre on him. “We were friends.

 

Makoto stares at him, slack jawed. Nagisa’s expression is difficult to read.Makoto raises both hands slowly in what he hopes is a gesture of peace. “Okay, yes, I can see how upset you are, but maybe we should sit down and talk instead of beating each other up?”

 

“Sit down and talk-” Nagisa grits his teeth and abruptly stands to start pacing. Spinning on his heel, he points a finger. “I want to talk,” he says,“about how you decided it was alright to scam me. You know what, when I came to work in that gallery, I thought the two of you were the nicest people in the world. We used to chat. We used to share lunches. I liked you both so much that I went out of my way to get pieces I thought you’d like. But all this time, you were criminals? All the art I got for you, you’d just, what, make copies of it and sell it off to who-knows-where? You really took me for a ride, huh? You guys are assholes.”

 

Haru looks away. Makoto runs a hand through his own hair. “Okay. Okay, I can definitely see what you’re saying, Nagisa but please think about this. Haru and I are in some serious trouble right now. I mean, we’re on the run from the police, and- you know about that, right? You must. So this really isn’t a good time, I mean, once everything’s died down a little, we can do this properly. I don’t know what else we can do for you.”

 

Nagisa says nothing. Makoto turns to wipe Haru’s face. His nose has stopped bleeding, thankfully. “Like I said, it was nothing personal. We rotated between galleries, so, I mean, it’s not like we were targeting you specifically, you know? It wasn’t like that, I promise,” he says pleadingly. “But there are a lot of things we need to worry about. I think it would be best if you could go home, before someone hears us and calls the police.”

 

“Makoto,” says Haru quietly. Makoto looks up.

 

Nagisa’s back is turned, but they can see him scrubbing furiously at his face. Rei cautiously steps away from the door to take him by the shoulders. Nagisa makes a soft noise of frustration and walks out of the room. Rei lets him go.

 

Makoto blinks at his back. “You’re leaving?”

 

“I don’t know,” says Rei coolly. “I suppose there’s no real reason for us to keep associating with a pair of criminals, but that’s up to Nagisa to decide.”

 

“That’s exactly what we are,” says Makoto slowly. “We’re criminals.”

 

Rei crosses his arms. “He loved you both, you know.”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“He thought that you were his friends. Nagisa...cared about you,” says Rei with some difficulty. “He was mistaken, clearly, but he thought you felt the same. Personally, I doubt he cares overly much about the art. The problem is that you tricked him into befriending you, and then disappeared without so much as an explanation.”

 

Makoto softens slightly, a peculiar mixture of anger and guilt weighing heavy in his stomach. “There’s not a lot we can do about that.”

 

“No, I suppose not. But, while I can appreciate you being wrapped up in your own situation, I suggest you take a moment to consider how he feels. He says that when he met you, he was a lonely child in Tokyo. He tells me you were his first friends here. Now he’s lost you both, and it seems that you’re not bothered by it in the slightest.”

 

He stares them down. The tension in the air his thick and uncomfortable, and they stay silent until Nagisa comes back into the room, eyes suspiciously red.

 

“I hate you both, and your crappy new haircuts,” he says flatly, grabbing his Rei by the elbow. “Come on, Rei, let’s go home.”

 

Rei turns around to look at Haru and Makoto. Haru, strangely enough, is the first one to speak.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs.

 

Nagisa freezes, but doesn’t turn around to face him. “What?”

 

Haru stares at the ground. “It wasn’t your fault,” he says, quietly enough that Makoto’s sure the others have to strain to hear. “We were friends. We were.”

 

“But you lied to me,” Nagisa responds, squeezing Rei’s elbow almost painfully.

 

Haru looks at Makoto helplessly. Makoto sighs. “Nagisa, we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Since before we met you. We did… we do care about you, it’s just that we couldn’t tell anyone at all about us.”

 

Why.”

 

“If you’d known what we were doing, you would have gone to jail with us. You would have been an accomplice. You understand that, right?”

 

Nagisa says nothing. Makoto runs a hand through his hair and sighs. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but it really was nothing personal. We weren’t trying to hurt you. You happened to work at one of the galleries we went to, and that’s unfortunate, but we weren’t lying to you because we felt like it. Please try to understand, Nagisa. We couldn’t tell you the truth, and when we left, it’s because there was no time to stop and say goodbye. We cut ties because we didn’t have a choice.”

 

Nagisa turns ever so slightly. “Were we friends?”

 

“Yes,” says Makoto truthfully. “We didn’t lie about our friendship with you.”

 

“Didn’t you think I might be upset when I found out?”

 

Makoto falters. “We didn’t think about it. I’m starting to see that we really weren’t thinking anyone else. But, please believe me. It’s not that we knew you’d be angry and we did it anyway - we were just so busy thinking about ourselves that...we were selfish. I’m sorry, Nagisa. This is has nothing to do with you. It’s our fault. For what it’s worth, I still think of you as my friend, even if Haru and I did mess things up pretty badly. Rei, too,” he says with a weak smile. “You’re a good person, Rei. I like to consider you my friend as well.”

 

Rei offers him a stiff nod. Makoto smiles a little bit wider. “You make a good boyfriend, huh?”

 

Rei blinks. “How did you know-”

 

“He’s the best boyfriend ever,” interrupts Nagisa, wrapping both arms around Rei’s waist with equal parts possessiveness and pride. “He’s smart and cute and he has nice legs and he’s so sweet. He came all the way here with me just so I could yell at you losers. He’s mine and I love him.”

 

“I, uh. Thank you,” says Rei, colouring slightly.

 

Haru puts his feet on the bed so he can rest his chin on his knees. Makoto wraps an arm around him and gives him a little squeeze. “I know the feeling,” Makoto says quietly.

 

Nagisa stares them down. Makoto releases Haru with a nervous laugh. “I don’t know if it’s safe for you two to be here. If anyone finds out that you met us, you might get in trouble.”

 

“We’re the only ones who know where you are,” says Nagisa a touch smugly. “Me and Rei figured everything out with our superior deductive skills.”

 

Haru frowns. “If you figured us out, that means Rin can too.”

 

“Who’s Rin?” asks Nagisa.

 

Makoto doesn’t answer. Instead he straightens up, worrying at his lower lip. “Oh, no. Haru, do you think the know our plans? What if they followed Nagisa? What should we do? Should we try to come up with a back-up?”

 

“Nobody followed us,” says Nagisa impatiently.

 

“How do you know?”

 

“We guessed the route on our own,” Rei says, pushing up his glasses. “It wasn’t very difficult. Nobody else was involved.”

 

Nagisa waves a hand at them dismissively. “Anyway, even though we’re the only ones who’ve managed to find you, I heard people know that you’re heading to Nagasaki. You should be careful.”

 

“That means we’re definitely going to need a contingency plan,” says Makoto to himself. “We need to leave.”

 

Haru tugs on his sleeve. “Tomorrow. We can leave tomorrow, first thing in the morning. Makoto, it’s three in the morning. You need to sleep.”

 

“We don’t have time for that,” Makoto says and stands, moving towards their bags. “Come on, we need to pack. We can sleep during the day.”

 

“Better tired than in jail,” says Nagisa as though he’s enjoying all of this. He probably is, in all truthfulness. “Where are you going now?”

 

“That’s a secret,” says Makoto, clearly distracted. “You two should go, I really mean it this time. We can’t stay here for long.”

 

“Let me punch you,” says Nagisa suddenly.

 

Makoto stares at him. “I. What?”

 

“Let me punch you. Like with him,” says Nagisa, pointing at Haru. “It’s only fair. I mean, I still think you’re a dick.”

 

Haru looks like he wants to say something, but Makoto almost laughs. “I don’t want you to punch me, but I suppose I’d deserve it if you did.”

 

“Cool,” says Nagisa. He wrings his hands for a brief moment, and then crosses the room. “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,” he says seriously, and punches Makoto on the arm.

 

He pulls back, rubbing his knuckles. “Okay, I forgot you were basically made of concrete. It seems I’ve made a mistake.”

 

“You were right about it hurting you, at least,” says Makoto with a slight smile. “You should apologise to Haru for making his nose bleed, though.”

 

“I’m sorry you can’t take a hit, Haru.”

 

Makoto stifles a laugh at Haru’s look of affront. “I guess that gets the message across?”

 

“Yeah.” Nagisa shifts around on his feet for an uncomfortable moment, and then looks up at Makoto, all traces of humour gone. “I’m still angry at you. I’m glad that you’re okay, and I’m happy we’re friends, but I’m still angry. I’m going to be angry at you for a while.”

 

“I know,” Makoto sighs. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Okay,” says Nagisa, putting his face in Makoto’s chest. “Just as long as we’re clear.”

 

Makoto pats him. Rei clears his throat.

 

“Look at the time, we really must be going,” he says, pointedly not looking at his watch. Nagisa peels himself away from Makoto and grins.

 

“You’re still my favourite, don’t worry,” he says, and goes back to take his boyfriend by the hand. “Hey, if you guys are leaving, can we use your room?”

 

“You don’t know what we’ve been doing in here,” Haru points out. Makoto gasps.

 

“Haru!”

 

Haru hides a smile. “I’m packed. Let’s go. There are late buses we can take.”

 

Makoto shoulders his bag and head to the door, Haru right behind him. He pauses suddenly, making Haru bump into his back. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other any time soon. Take care of yourselves, okay?”

 

Nagisa’s voice is surprisingly calm. “The same goes to you. Try not to get caught. If you do, though, Rei and I promise to visit you in jail. Right, Rei?”

 

“Perhaps,” says Rei diplomatically. Nagisa kisses him.

 

The door creaks a little bit when Makoto opens it. He turns with half a smile. “Well, I guess this is goodbye, then.”

 

“Goodbye,” says Nagisa, leaning into Rei’s side.

 

“Good luck,” says Rei reluctantly.

 

Makoto waves and steps out the door. Haru pauses just before he leaves.

 

“We’ll miss you,” he says.

 

Nagisa smiles even though he knows Haru can’t see it. “We’ll miss you too,” he says, and Haru shuts the door.

 

 


 

 

 

 

“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Yamazaki,” says Inspector Sasabe over the phone.

 

Sousuke almost feels his heart stop. He glances at the clock on the wall; it’s just after eight in the morning. It’s only been three hours since he fell asleep, since he’s been out all night trying to build up broken connections. Going very still, he takes a deep breath and does his best to sound completely awake. “What’s the problem, Inspector?”

 

“Turn on the TV. Go to JNN and watch the news.”

 

Sousuke does as he’s told, shivering slightly at the loss of his duvet. The heating in this shitty motel is inconsistent. He should have worn sweatpants. The TV comes on with a worryingly loud noise, although the quality of the picture isn’t too bad.

 

There’s a pretty newscaster talking about a couple of criminals who have apparently been on the run from the Tokyo Met. Sousuke squints at the screen, wondering what he’s supposed to be looking for. “Is she talking about the Tachibana case?”

 

“You bet your ass she’s talking about the Tachibana case. Do you want to know what she’s been going on about for the past ten minutes?”

 

Nothing to do with policemen getting information from yakuza and drug dealers, Sousuke hopes. He clears his throat. “What’s she talking about?”

 

“She’s talking about how those assholes are apparently going to flee to China from Kagoshima.”

 

“I...what? Where did that come from?”

 

“From one Sergeant Matsuoka.”

 

Sousuke nearly drops the remote. “What? Rin ta-- Matsuoka talked to the press? When?”

 

“That’s what I was hoping you could tell me,” says Sasabe, voice taut. “Because, last I heard, Matsuoka wasn’t fit to continue investigations. Now he’s made a breakthrough, and every reporter in Tokyo is going to him for new evidence.”

 

“Shit,” Sousuke says under his breath, falling heavily into a chair. “I had nothing to do with this, sir. I don’t know what he’s thinking.”

 

“He didn’t hint anything before the two of you split up?”

 

“No, sir. All I noticed was that he was stressed and starting to get a little unstable.”

 

“Unstable? Are you telling me that there’s an emotionally compromised cop running rouge on the street of Japan, and now he’s friends with the press?”

 

“I don’t know,” Sousuke barely manages not to snap. “He cut off all contact with me.”

 

“Kagoshima didn’t come up even once?”

 

“No,” Sousuke says, frowning at the wall. “How the fuck did he decide Kagoshima?”

 

“Beats me,” Sasabe sighs, making the line crackle. “I asked Nitori about this. He tells me that Matsuoka told him about Kagoshima, before anyone was thinking about a psych evaluation. Apparently Matsuoka said he had the whole thing figured out, and that he knew exactly where Tachibana would be going.”

 

“So what was he planning to do?”

 

“Head them off at Kagoshima, I suspect.”

 

“Why the fuck would he go to the news about it,” Sousuke says mostly to himself. “That’s like putting up a sign telling them to go underground so we’ll never see them again. He’s lost it.”

 

“What I want to know is why he put his name to the info,” Sasabe says. He sounds like he needs a stiff drink, even if the work day has barely started. “You realise it’s going to be impossible for me to pull him from the case now, right? We’d look like idiots.”

 

Sousuke pauses. “Did he know you were planning on doing that? Taking him off the case?”

 

“I didn’t get to tell him. I couldn’t contact him.”

 

“Who else knew?”

 

“Nobody but you, me and Nitori. Why do you ask?”

 

“Because I’m willing to bet he knew what he was doing,” Sousuke mutters. “It might well be that they’re heading to Kagoshima. Rin knows Tachibana and Nanase, and he’s smart, so maybe he did figure out their plan. But he’s also a hot-headed idiot. I’d have no trouble believing that he would go public just so you couldn’t make him stop the investigations. He wouldn’t even consider that it might backfire on actually finding those fuckers.”

 

“Shit,” Sasabe groans. Sousuke briefly pities him. “You’re saying that even if Matsuoka was right, it’s probably going to be impossible to find them by now?”

 

“Yes,” says Sousuke. “Unless they’re already at Kagoshima, and it’s too late for them to change plans. It’s unlikely, but it might be worth looking into.”

 

“Are you going to try to find them there?”

 

“It’s worth a shot,” says Sousuke, standing up to rummage through his suitcase. “It’ll take me a couple of hours to get there. I’ll call you back if I find anything.”

 

“I’m counting on you, Yamazaki.”

 

“I’ll do my best,” Sousuke promises.

 

Sasabe hangs up, and Sousuke gets himself presentable in record time. His things are easy to gather, considering he never really bothered to unpack last night. Yawning into his hand, he snatches his coat from behind the door and makes a mental note to buy himself a coffee or three for the train.

 

He pauses just before opening the door. Dropping his bag, he spins on his heel and strides to the bed.

 

He punches the pillow hard enough to knock some stuffing out of it. “Fucking Rin,” he says, and then leaves.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

“Kagoshima?” Makoto frowns at the newspaper.

 

Haru looks over his shoulder, eyebrows furrowed. “He got it wrong. It’s nothing to worry about.”

 

Makoto’s frown deepens. “Yes, but Kagoshima’s pretty close to where we’re actually going. What if we run into him somehow?”

 

“It’s a big place,” Haru says, putting a hand on Makoto’s arm. “We’ll be safe.”

 

“I suppose so.” Sighing, Makoto folds the newspaper and puts it on his lap. He can’t read in moving vehicles without getting a headache. “It’s weird, seeing his name in the papers after not talking to him for so long.”

 

“It’s only been a few weeks,” Haru says, but he knows what Makoto means. Leaning his head on Makoto’s shoulder, he reaches out absently to tap his finger over Rin’s name in the article. “He’s looking for us.”

 

“He probably hates us,” says Makoto quietly. “Nagisa was furious, and he’s only been friends with us for three years. Rin’s known us since elementary school. He’d shoot us if he saw us.”

 

“At least he won’t punch me in the face,” says Haru, smiling weakly. Makoto kisses his forehead.

 

“How’s your nose?”

 

“Hurts,” Haru admits. “Not broken or anything, though. At least, I don’t think so.”

 

“Good. You’re too pretty to have a broken nose,” says Makoto, trying and failing to be serious, Haru gives in to impulse and pinches his arm.

 

“Would you not like me if I were ugly?”

 

“You could never be ugly. No matter how you look. If you’re Haru, you’re pretty, that’s just how it is,” Makoto grins. “Sorry, I don’t make the rules.”

 

“Gross,” says Haru half-heartedly, settling back in his bus seat. Makoto’s warm beside him. He stares out the window, zoning out. He’s exhausted.

 

Makoto nudges him. “Am I pretty?”

 

Haru takes a moment to think about this. “You’re Makoto.”

 

“I suppose that’s true,” Makoto chuckles. “I could never be as pretty as you, anyway. You look like a flower.”

 

“Stop it,” Haru says, pinching him again and making Makoto laugh. “I’m not a girl.”

 

“No, I suppose not,” Makoto hums, taking Haru’s hand and squeezing it. He goes quiet, leaning his head against Haru’s and tapping his fingers against Haru’s palm. “We’re almost at Nagasaki. We’re almost safe, Haru.”

 

Haru puts his face in Makoto’s shoulder. “Good,” he says, and he means it. It feels like every bit of stress he’s ever felt has collected into pinpricks behind his eyes, drilling into his head and making him want to collapse into a corner. At this point he’d almost consider turning himself in, if it didn’t mean leaving Makoto.

 

But he won’t have to worry about that for long. The police haven’t found them, and they’re going to get away from all of this. They’ll have to leave behind a lot, sure, but Haru thinks he can deal with that. He’s got Makoto and he can do what he wants for his life. That’s what’s important. It’ll be like starting fresh, probably, and Haru quite likes the idea of that. Smiling, he closes his eyes and tries to go to sleep.

 

He hopes things will get better soon. Being free sounds nice.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Kisumi tugs his blanket closer around himself, cursing under his breath. It’s cold. Freezing, in fact, even though the weather’s meant to be warming up. The heating hasn’t been on in three days, and his fridge is empty. If he’s lucky, his landlord will leave the electricity on for a little while longer. Unlikely, though. He hasn’t paid any bills this month.

 

Can’t, really, because Amakata’s withholding his pay. If he were more sensible, he’d have something saved up, but his bank account is close to empty. He’s spent most of what he has getting around Tokyo, trying to find Tachibana and Nanase. Buying food for the week would put him in the red.

 

This situation is...not ideal. Not ideal, but not new, either. He’s been in this position before; when he’d made the mistake of thinking that happiness was more important than practicality and he’s picked studying art over studying something that would pay. Back before he’d had a job, when he was living in a shoebox and eating instant ramen every day.

 

It had been torture. He’d rather kill a man than go through all that again.

 

His phone buzzes for the third time this week, audible even over the background noise of the TV. It’s Amakata, probably. The woman has a twisted sense of humour, and she’s been sending him pictures of people who could easily take over his job. Aki from this district, and Sato from that district. People he normally wouldn’t care about, but every resume she sends him only makes him angrier. It’s not his fucking fault that he can’t find them. How the fuck is anyone supposed to find two men in the whole of Tokyo?

 

Seijuro’s no help. Sousuke’s off doing god-knows-what. All of his usual friends are suddenly silent, unwilling to get involved in an investigation that the police are also a part of. It’s maddening. Kisumi’s at his wits end and there seems to be no feasible way out.

 

He runs a hand through his hair and changes the channel. He doesn’t want to watch Iron Chef, because he’s hungry and he doesn’t think he can afford real food. Naruto irritates him because it makes him think of fishcakes. Reality TV makes him want to throw himself at a wall.

 

He settles on the news, which is neutral enough. Hopefully they’ll do a feature on something awful and gruesome, which will make him feel better about himself. He draws his knees up to his chest and turns up the volume.

 

The man on the screen is middle-aged and has a blue tie that doesn’t suit him. Kisumi scoffs at it. Maybe he could get a job as somebody’s stylist. The newscaster could definitely use one. He should be focusing on his wardrobe more than two runaways on their way to the south of Japan.

 

The name ‘Tachibana’ comes up on the screen. Kisumi freezes.

 

“The police inform us that these men are attempting to flee the country. Reports say that they have been sighted in Osaka, and that they may be planning to go to Kagoshima. Although they are not dangerous, they have allegedly sold millions of yen’s worth of fake art, which is a federal offense under Japanese law and could lead to up to twenty years imprisonment…”

 

He doesn’t hear the rest of it, because he throws his remote at the screen.

 

“Kagoshima,” he says quietly to himself, fisting his hands in his blanket. “Sighted in Osaka? They must have left Tokyo weeks ago, and all this time I’ve been looking for them because…”

 

Because of Seijuro.

 

Because Seijuro had promised him that they’d be hiding in Tokyo somewhere.

 

Because Seijuro had lied.

 

The apartment is eerily silent as Kisumi stands and drops his blanket on the floor. His suitcase is in his bedroom, still half-full and spilling out onto the floor. It doesn’t take long at all to unzip the side pocket and find one of his very first presents from Amakata - one that he’s never had the pleasure of using, but it’ll be broken in before too long if he has his way.

 

It’s elegant, as far as these things go. And very sharp, which is just as important.

 

He selects a three-piece suit, but forgoes the tie. Pity, but not ideal for the situation. The outfit’s a deep charcoal, much darker than he usually wears, and he picks the black shoes instead of the white. His switchblade is a reassuring weight in his pocket.

 

 



He smiles at his reflection and leaves the apartment. His outfit could use a little splash of red, but he’ll be getting that in abundance soon enough.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

There’s a knock on the door.

 

Seijuro curses under his breath, although it’s lost to the music playing in the background. He stares at both the shirts in his hands. He’s been debating between blue and green for the past ten minutes, but there’s no time to think about things now. Tugging the green one over his shoulders and buttoning it up on the way to the door, Seijuro takes a deep breath and doesn’t bother trying to hide his smile.

 

Swinging the door open with a bit of flourish, Sei steps aside to let Kou in. “You’re early!”

 

It’s not Kou.

 

“Hope you’re not too busy,” Kisumi says airily, inviting himself into the apartment without waiting for an answer. Seijuro stares after him; Kisumi looks weirdly cheerful, completely unlike how he’d sounded when they’d spoken last. Seijuro can’t help but feel that this is not a good thing, but he swings the door shut and follows Kisumi into the living room nonetheless.

 

“I am busy, actually,” he says, glancing at his watch. “I’ve got company soon, so if you could come back some other time-”

 

“This is nice wine,” Kisumi says, picking up the bottle sitting on the table. He turns it over to inspect the back label, humming thoughtfully. “I never pegged you for a white kind of guy. Actually, I never pegged you for a wine kind of guy at all. As for me, though, I tend to prefer red.”

 

Seijuro frowns, stepping forward and holding his hand out for the bottle. “Did you come here to waste my time, or did you need something?

 

Kisumi ignores him. “This must have been expensive. Shame if it got ruined, don’t you think?”

 

“What are you talking about, Kisumi?”

 

Smiling sweetly, Kisumi, saunters over to the wall, right where the TV and stereo system sit. Popping the cork, he takes a delicate sniff of the contents, and then overturns the bottle and lets everything pour onto the floor. “Whoops.”

 

Sei almost screams. “What the fuck? That was expensive, you piece of shit, what the fuck are you playing at-”

 

Kisumi smashes the bottle against the wall. The bottom half shatters, and the jagged edges of the top glint dangerously under the soft ceiling lights. “If you liked wine, you should have told me. I could have brought you a bottle from Tokyo. It’s not like there was anything else I could find there. I’m not naming names, but I think someone may have led me on a bit of a wild goose chase.”

 

Seijuro feels his blood run cold. Slowly, he raises both hands, backing away as though Kisumi were a snarling animal waiting to claw his eyes out. “Put the bottle down.”

 

“I don’t think I will,” Kisumi says after a moment’s consideration. “I quite like sharp objects, as it turns out.”

 

“Look, calm down,” Seijuro says, glancing around for something he can use as a weapon. Kisumi’s a few paces away and his reach isn’t very far, but there’s nothing nearby that looks like it’ll be of much use. “You’re not going to solve anything like this. I told you what I thought I knew, and I warned you I might be wrong, remember?”

 

“I don’t think you were wrong,” says Kisumi, coming closer, sharp end of the bottle outstretched. “I think you were fucking with me, because I saw on the news that Tachibana and Nanase have been sighted in Osaka, and I think you knew about that and didn’t bother to tell me. I’m dirt fucking broke and Amakata’s out for my head, and I think that’s your fault.”

 

“Be reasonable, put the bottle down-”

 

“If this bottle’s going anywhere, it’s straight into your face,” says Kisumi pleasantly, voice hard around the edges. “I have been starving. I’m going to break about half of your bones, and then you’re going to tell me where those bastards are, do you understand?”

 

Sei scowls, shifting his weight a little so he can make a break for it when the time is right. “What makes you so sure that’ll work out?”

 

“Because,” Kisumi spits, face twisting into something ugly. “Because, Seijuro, I have absolutely nothing to lose.”

 

His aim’s good, as it turns out; glass shatters right behind Sei’s head just a split second after he ducks out of the way. There’s no time to recover. He’s immediately kneed in the stomach, knocking the breath out of him and making him stumble to his knees. Kisumi hicks him in the ribs, once, twice, thrice – pain shoots along the side of Seijuro’s torso, but he manages to catch Kisumi’s foot and yank, sending him onto his back with a yelp.

 

He’s not fast enough to scramble to his feet and high-tail it out the door, though. Kisumi’s got him in a headlock not two seconds later, squeezing like a vice around his neck and make Seijuro gasp for air. He sinks his teeth into Kisumi’s arm. The material of his jacket prevents any real damage, but it does make Kisumi let go out of surprise. Seijuro takes the chance to whirl around, swinging wildly and catching Kisumi’s jaw with his fist. Not hard enough – Kisumi retaliates, aims for the nose, and Seijuro’s scream of pain is only just loud enough to cover a sickening crunch.

 

He’s tackled to the ground. It’s hard to see when the corners of his vision are turning black, but he hears his stereo set suddenly die as the extension cord is ripped from its socket and subsequently wrapped around his neck. He gasps, but it doesn’t do any good; he’s being slowly strangled even as he grabs at the wire and tries to wrestle it away from his throat.

 

Kisumi’s voice is low and slightly hysterical in his ear. “Where are they, Seijuro? Where the fuck are they?”

 

“Nagasaki,” Seijuro gasps, consciousness starting to go fuzzy. Kisumi lets up on the pressure around his neck, but only just. Seijuro grabs breath while he can, choking around the rapid-fire words that he says without really thinking. “They’re heading to Nagasaki, I had a guy track them down, some little blond kid called Nagisa or something, let me go you fucking psychopath let me go-”

 

“Maybe not,” Kisumi chuckles low and breathy. “I mean, you’ve inconvenienced me quite a bit, haven’t you? I should teach you a lesson. Just a little bit; not to kill you, just to hurt you, and you wouldn’t even be able to go running to the police, would you? You wouldn’t want some stinking cops sniffing around and finding out about your hobbies, so I could do whatever I wanted to you so long as you didn’t die.”

 

Seijuro’s airways burn. Kisumi’s hands are trembling, although it’s hard to tell from what. “Some things are worse than dying, you know,” he says, and then screams.

 

 

 

The pressure on Sei’s throat falls away and he gasps in a deep, ragged breath. He can feel rather than hear Kisumi’s shriek of absolute rage, and then there’s that loud, wooden sounding wham again. Something heavy hits the floor, and Seijuro gathers his bearing enough to scramble away into a corner.

 

 

Kou’s standing over Kisumi, baseball bat hefted over her shoulder and face absolutely livid. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing to my boyfriend?” she spits. She looks like a Valkyrie. Seijuro, deprived of oxygen and bleeding from several places, falls in love all over again.

 

 

 

She hits Kisumi again, although this time he manages to catch it on the arm and wrench the bat away. Kou backs away as Kisumi stumbles to his feet, clutching at the back of his head and swaying slightly as he reaches into his pocket. It takes a second, but Seijuro notes with a jolt of panic that the lunatic’s carrying a switchblade and pointing it at his girlfriend. “I’m going to kill you, you goddamned-”

 

He doesn’t get to finish. Sei launches himself at Kisumi’s back, knocking him off-balance enough for Kou to snatch her weapon back and slam it into Kisumi’s ribs. He cries out and doubles over; Seijuro falls, still dizzy, and Kou retreats to the far end of the room.

 

Kisumi spits blood. “Fuck you,” he snarls, hair mussed and clothes tattered beyond belief. Thick red runs down his chin, dripping onto Seijuro’s carpet and making Kisumi’s voice sound garbled. “I’ll be back with everyone I have, do you hear me, I’m going to come back and rip your pretty spine out of your body and make your precious boyfriend watch. ”

 

“Get out of this house,” Kou replies levelly, tightening her grip on the bat. Double-handed; atta girl. “I’m calling the police, get the hell out and leave us alone.”

 

The corner of Kisumi’s mouth twist into something hideous. “Fine. But I won’t be gone for long.”

 

 

 

He’s out the door and running to the lifts before either of them can say another word. Sei isn’t particularly concerned; it feels like he’s about to pass out, and Kou’s gone white as a sheet now that the adrenaline of facing down a crazed criminal is starting to wear off. In a daze, he reaches out to her and tries for a smile. “Hi, Kou.”

 

She drops the bat and comes running. “Don’t hi me, asshole, what the fuck was that about?”

 

Seijuro wheezes as she kneels and thumps him on the arm, albeit more gently than she normally would. “It’s kind of complicated,” he says, wincing at the twang his ribs give when he tries to sit up. “Do you think you could take me to a hospital?”

 

“I’ll call an ambulance,” she says, leaving him to rifle through her purse. “Oh my god, Sei, I was wondering why you didn’t answer the door, I can’t believe some knife murderer just tried to attack you! What did you do to him?”

 

“That’s also kind of complicated,” he says under his breath. “Can I explain later? I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Where’d you get the bat?”

 

“I heard yelling so I got it out of the cupboard,” she frowns, putting her phone to her ear. Hand on her hip, she fixes him with a glare that makes her look like she’s considering breaking his neck. “Once we’re sure you’re okay, you’ve got one hell of a lot of explaining to do.”

 

 

“Yes, dear,” he says sheepishly, and almost wishes Kisumi were back so she could be mad at him instead.

 

 


 

 

“I thought you said Kagoshima!”

 

Rin sighs, drawing a circle around a port on the map on his table. “Try to keep up, Nitori.”

 

Nitori huffs on the other end of the phone. “That’s not fair, Sergeant. I’ve been up all night swamped with work because of your stunt, you know?”

 

“Sorry,” Rin tries not to laugh at him. “Just, try to pay attention. I told the press they’d be heading to Kagoshima just so Sasabe wouldn’t be able to take me off the case. If I look like I have all the answers, it’ll be hard for him not to have me on the investigation, yeah?”

 

“Yes, okay. But they’re not going to Kagoshima.”

 

“No, they’re going to Nagasaki, just like what I explained to you the other day.”

 

“So why did you say Kagoshima in particular?”

 

“No reason, it was just convenient.”

 

“Okay. So you said you knew where they were so you could stay on the case, and you said Kagoshima so they wouldn’t think you actually knew where they were. But, secretly, you do know where they’re going.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And how do you know where they’re going?”

 

“Instinct.”

 

“Uh, okay. And the plan now is?”

 

Rin settles back in his chair, tapping his trusty green marker against his chin. He’s got a scribbled-on map of Nagasaki spread out in front of him, illuminated by the daylight streaming in through his hotel window. Hopefully, this will all be over soon, because he’s not sure how much longer he can afford to stay anywhere other than the streets. Humming, he adjusts his phone so he’s not holding it in place with his shoulder.  "The plan now is to wait. Preferably with back-up,” Rin says, frowning at the map. “It’s not possible for them to leave the country by air. Every airport in Japan has them on a blacklist. That leaves the sea, since we’re an island. Now, there’s already been warrants issued to seaports all across the country just in case, right?”

 

“Right.”

 

“Right. But we’re focusing on Nagasaki. I’ve spent yesterday getting to know the Nagasaki Met. Today I’m going to make more friends, and tomorrow I’m going to tell them my plans. They don’t know that Sasabe doesn’t actually trust me, and Sasabe’s not about to admit it now, so they’re probably going to listen to a Sergeant from Tokyo.”

 

“And what are they going to do, exactly?”

 

“A stakeout,” says Rin triumphantly. “We wouldn’t need that many resources, maybe a police car at every commercial port. There are only, like, ten, anyway. Har- Nanase isn’t dangerous, and neither is Tachibana. We won’t need to use too much force. Then all we have to do is wait, and they should walk straight into it.”

 

Nitori hums. “That’s a big gamble, Sarge.”

 

“I know. But I can feel it in my gut, Nitori. I know them. I’m absolutely sure this is what they’re doing, and I’m going to take the risk.”

 

“And what if Inspector Sasabe finds out?”

 

Rin pauses. “I was hoping you could help me with that. Sasabe usually has you answer the phone for him, right?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“If Nagasaki and Tokyo talk, could you handle it? Just, pay attention to what they say to each other and fill me in?”

 

He can almost hear Nitori’s eyes widen. “What, are you asking me to pretend to be the Inspector or something? I could get fired!”

 

“I’m not asking for that,” Rin says. “Just, y’know, pretend like you’re his secretary or something. You basically are, already.”

 

“I’m not a secretary, I’m a policeman-”

 

“That was a joke,” Rin says gently. “You’re the only person I can trust right now, Nitori. Ai. I just need you to have my back. But if you get in trouble, you need to put the blame on me, got it? Tell them I coerced you.”

 

“I’d never!” Nitori sounds immensely offended. “We’re friends, Sergeant, I’m not just going to sell you out!”

 

Rin pauses, and then softens. “You’re the friend I need, Ai, but not the one I deserve.”

 

“Does that make me Batman?”

 

“Sure,” Rin snorts into the phone. “But I don’t want to be Robin.”

 

“You could pull off the tights, though.”

 

“Hey, watch it. I’ll make you a scapegoat, just wait.”

 

Nitori giggles. “Good luck, Sergeant. Someone’s coming, I gotta go.”

 

“Sure. Ah, Nitori?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Thanks. For, you know. Everything.”

 

There’s a beat, during which Rin’s sure his cohort is grinning. “Any time.”

 

 


 

 

 

“Explain.”

 

Seijuro considers, for a brief moment, acting like he’s still high on morphine, but the thing is that Kou’s sitting right next to his IV and the look on her face says she’s not above ripping it out of his arm should she feel the need. Swallowing thickly, he opens his mouth to say something, the bruising around his windpipe making him sound like he swallowed a razor. “I’m not who you think I am.”

 

She rolls her eyes at him. “Yeah, I gathered as much. What secrets have you been keeping from me, Sei?”

 

He sighs. The hospital room is quiet as hospital rooms can get; even though neither of them are talking, there’s a constant hum of noise in the background. Nurses, doctors, wheels rolling, the beeping of machinery that Sei can’t even begin to name. Someone in the next room coughs so loud that they can hear it. Kou’s staring at him, and he can’t hold her eye for more than a couple of seconds.

 

She settles herself on the edge of his bed, reaching up to gently run her fingers along his face. He winces even though she takes care to avoid his nose, and she frowns. “Seijuro, please. He hurt you. He tried to strangle you, I...I’m scared. I don’t know what’s happening. Don’t keep me in the dark.”

 

He’s never seen her cry before, but this time she looks close. He doesn’t want to talk. All he wants to do is pull her to his chest and rub her back until her breathing evens out, but she’s too far away and his ribs hurt too much to sit up. It hurts to talk, too, but it hurts even worse when her face crumples and she pulls away.

 

“Kisumi,” he croaks, squeezing her fingers, the only part of her he can properly reach. “He’s...not quite yakuza, but he’s not clean either. Works for a lady called Amakata. She’s dangerous.”

 

She clasps his hands, anxiety obvious. “Why’d he attack you? What does this Amakata woman have against you?”

 

“Nothing. Probably. Kisumi has a grudge. Wanted me to help find some people for Amakata and I gave him bad info. She’s squeezing him, so he must’ve gotten desparate. I dunno how he found out the truth, though.”

 

“Why is he asking you?”

 

Seijuro speaks slowly. “I’m not clean either,” he says quietly. “I, uhm, don’t just work as a personal trainer. I...deal. On the side.”

 

The way she freezes up is almost instant. “You what?”

 

He winces. “I...deal. Drugs. Since before we met, and, uhm, I don’t really want to talk about this here because we’re in a public area but shit Kou I’m sorry I didn’t tell you please don’t break up with me I love you I don’t want you to-”

 

“Stop it,” she says levelly, and he shuts up. She tugs her hands out of his grip, shoulders stiff and mouth set in a thin line. “If you talk so fast you’ll hurt your throat. I’ll decide what to do about us later but either you quit this job or I will walk out on you, do you understand?”

 

“Yes,” he says immediately.

 

“Okay. Now, who were they trying to find and how were you suppose to have helped?”

 

His stomach drops. “Nobody important, just a couple of petty criminals.”

 

“Seijuro.”

 

“...the guys your brother’s after.”

 

“What-”

 

He shushes her. “Baby, we have to be quiet, anyone could hear us. I...I’m sorry. You know how Tachibana and Nanase basically ripped some people off, right? Amakata was one of them. And because she’s, well, her, she wants to find them. And make them pay, I guess.” He pauses. Swallows. “Kisumi asked me to help, since we knew each other and I have contacts.”

 

“But you said you gave him the wrong info,” she says, eyes narrowed.

 

“Yeah. I, uhm. On purpose. See, I was looking for them, but only so I could keep Kisumi away from them.”

 

“Why? Were you trying to help them?”

 

“No,” he blurts, only to be interrupted by a harsh coughing fit. She hands him a glass of water and he sips at it with a grimace. He clears his throat. “No. I was trying to help, well, your brother. Kisumi wanting to find those guys was coincidence, but then you said your brother was looking for them too and you said he’d be happy if he found them so I figured I’d keep Kisumi away from them...and none of this sounds very convincing, does it,” he trails off.

 

She stares at him, one eyebrow raised, and he squirms. “You’re a real idiot, you know that?”

 

“Yeah,” he says sheepishly,fighting the urge to pull his blanket up and hide.

 

She sighs. “Okay. Okay, we can deal with that later. Right now we have to make a police report, right?”

 

“I don’t know,” he says after a beat. “I don’t...really want the police poking around, you know, because of my, uh, job.”

 

“My brother doesn’t know about any of this, does he?”

 

“Nope. At least, I don’t think so,” he says and then frowns. “Actually, I don’t know. Sergeant Yamazaki knows. That’s what Momo said, anyway. He tried asking me where Tachibana was, but I didn’t know at the time.”

 

She blinks. “I’m not surprised, I think Sousuke doesn’t always do things by the book - what do you mean, at the time?”

 

“Ha.” Shrinking back against the pillows, Seijuro coughs nervously. “Some kid came up to me asking for a hit, but he couldn’t pay. I told him I’d give him something for free if he could help me track them down. Last I heard was something about them going to Nagasaki, but I haven’t heard from the kid in a while.”

 

Her expression is very slightly murderous. “You knew where two wanted criminals are, you knew my brother was looking for them, and you said nothing?”

 

He makes a vague hand gesture. “...sorry.”

 

“Oh my god.” Putting her face in her hands, she takes a deep, shuddering breath and stands up to pace around the room. “Alright. Okay. I can deal with the other stuff later. Where is Kisumi?”

 

“Heading to Nagasaki, probably. I told him what I knew.”

 

“Why?”

 

“He was strangling me!” Seijuro tries to protest, voice coming out like a rusty hinge. “What else was I supposed to do?”

 

“I don’t know, I’m not a criminal, I don’t get into fights,” she snaps.

 

He falls silent, wounded. She massages her temples and huffs.

 

“Sorry. Sorry, I...we’ll talk about that later. I’m going to call my brother and tell him what you told me.”

“That might get me into trouble,” Seijuro says haltingly. “I don’t know if he knows what I do. But, it’s...up to you. I put you in danger today. I’m sorry. If you want to tell Rin you should.”

 

He tries to make it clear that he’s being sincere, even with his face barely moveable under the bruising. She gives him a long look, and then reaches into her purse wordlessly and tugs out her cell phone. She chews her lip as it rings. Seijuro watches from his spot in bed, eyes focused on the way some of her pretty red hair escapes from its ponytail and cascades over her shoulder. With a pang, he realises that this might well be the very last time he gets to call her his girlfriend. He’s willing to bet that Sergeant Matsuoka will not take kindly to his sister dating a criminal.

 

Whoever it is she’s calling answers. She perks up, and opens her mouth to speak. Seijuro takes a deep breath.

 




“Sousuke,” she says, finally meeting Seijuro’s eye. “Listen. There’s something I need to tell you.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“I’m sorry, Kou, but I’m a little busy at the moment.”

“Yes, I know, but this is important.”

Sousuke sighs. He’s got one finger plugged into his free ear to block out some of the noise; Kagoshima city is huge, and he hadn’t counted on there being this many people around the ferries in the middle of the afternoon. He thinks it’s the middle of the afternoon, anyway. He’s been awake so long that the days feel like they’re starting to blend together, and it gets dark so quickly that daylight isn’t an accurate measure anymore.

Kagoshima’s police headquarters haven’t been much help, either. Nobody at the precinct has heard anything about either Tachibana or Nanase, never mind what Rin says. He’d been accosted by some small-time press the moment he’d walked through the doors – you’re a Sergeant from Tokyo? Do you have anything to say about this case? Can you confirm Sergeant Matsuoka’s theory on the criminals’ whereabouts? The Met must have been dealing with this all day, poor bastards. He can’t really blame them for giving him the stinkeye, even though none of this is technically his fault.

“I’m in the middle of an investigation,” he just manages not to snap. Kou’s a nice girl; she’s not her brother, and there’s no point getting snippy with her. “Can it wait til later? Or you could contact your brother or Nitori, they might be able to talk to you.” Not that Rin’s in any position to do anything useful, though. As far as Sousuke can tell, he’s gone completely off the deep end himself.

“I got attacked by a man with a knife.”

“Tell me everything,” Sousuke says immediately, spinning on his heel and shouldering past the throngs so he can get to a quiet space. It’s the alley between two restaurants and everything smells like fish and brine, but he barely notices. “Who was he? Are you hurt?”

“No,” she says; she sounds like she’s still in one piece, but there’s a tinge of exhaustion to her voice that Sousuke, sadly, identifies with. “Sei is, though. He tried to strangle him. We’re in the hospital right now.”

“Have you filed a police report? Are you still in a public area, do you have any clue what he wanted from you-”

“His name is Kisumi,” Kou says. Sousuke’s mouth snaps shut. “Shigino? Seijuro says he works for a lady called Amakata.”

“Seijuro?” Sousuke repeats slowly. “Seijuro Mikoshiba? What are you doing with him?”

“We’re together.”

“Yes, I know you’re together, you just said that, I’m asking you why-”

“I mean we’re together. He’s my boyfriend. For the moment, anyway,” she mutters a little darkly.

Sousuke scowls at a patch of dirty wall. “Don’t date him. He’s-”

“A drug dealer, yes, I know,” she snorts, although there’s very little humour behind it. “I found that out when we got attacked by almost-yakuza. That’s not why I called. Kisumi is looking for Haru and Makoto.”

“What does that have to do with him attacking you?”

“Sei knew where they were.”

What.”

“Listen.” Kou sighs, and Sousuke can almost see her rubbing her temples the way her brother does when he’s upset. “Alright. I’m only just hearing about all of this now, okay? So take it easy and let me finish. Kisumi asked Sei to help him find Haru and Makoto. Sei tracked them down to Nagasaki, but he told Kisumi that they were still hanging around in Tokyo. Kisumi found out that Sei was lying, and he came after him. But I hit him with a baseball bat and he ran away. Now we’re in the hospital and Kisumi’s gone, presumably to go find Haru and Makoto, since Sei told him everything.”

It is, Sousuke’s discovering, a little difficult to pick out which piece of information worries him the most. “You hit him with a baseball bat?”

Yes,” Kou says, exasperated. “Will you focus on what’s important? That Kisumi is dangerous, Sousuke. He attacked us. I don’t know what to do.”

“Don’t worry,” Sousuke responds, folding his free arm across his chest. “How do you know that Tachibana and Nanase are in Nagasaki?”

“Sei got one of his druggie people to find them.” There’s a pause, and what sounds like Kou holding the phone away from her mouth so she can talk to someone else. “Some kid, and also he asked around for some help from his other, uh, friends. Someone saw them buying bus tickets? Yeah, that’s right.”

That’s…kind of impressive, actually. Although the only reason Mikoshiba’s managed to get help from the criminal underworld is because he’s part of the criminal underworld, Sousuke reminds himself, more than a bit irritable. “Why did he lie to Kisumi?”

There’s a pause. “He was hoping you guys would find them first.”

Sousuke pauses in fiddling with a crease in his shirt, jaw slackening even though he knows Kou can’t see it. “Why?”

“Because I told him it would make me happy,” Kou snaps. “He’s my boyfriend, okay? He’s an idiot, but he was trying to be nice.”

How does that- okay. Okay, I’m not going to try to understand what’s going on. Let’s pretend I get it.” He doesn’t see how he can be reasonably expected to get it. Not by a long shot, but he can worry about that later. If Mikoshiba’s injured, then Kou should be safe, at least for the time being. He frowns at a ferry taking on passengers. None of them likely to be the men he’s looking for, if this story is to be believed. He’s here for nothing. “Do you know exactly why Kisumi is after them?”

“Something about Amakata making him do it? Sei says she probably wants her money back.”

“Technically, he was responsible for getting her a fake painting,” he muses. Kou makes an incredulous noise.

“Wait a minute, you know Shigino?”

Sousuke blinks. “Well. He was the last victim, I guess. He came to the cops when he found out he’d been scammed. I talked to him a little to get details. I didn’t expect anything like this, though.” That part’s true, at least.

“Why not just wait for the police?” Kou grumbles, although it’s clear her anger isn’t directed at Sousuke specifically. “Why go crazy and attack people?”

He remembers a brief phone call. Kisumi had asked about Tachibana, even if Sousuke hadn’t thought much about it at the time. “I’ve heard of Amakata. The police have been after her for a while. I’ve heard she’s brutal. I have no trouble imagining she must have threatened him, or something similar.”

There’s a pause. “Should we be worried? Is this…is this Amakata woman going to be coming after us as well?”

“Call the station,” Sousuke says. “Tell them what happened, tell them I want a police car outside your apartment. Use my name, it should help.”

“Sei doesn’t want the police involved-”

“If he cares anything about you, he’s not going to argue. If he’s smart, there won’t be enough evidence of his hobbies lying around for anyone to get suspicious. If anyone asks, you can say you don’t know what happened or who Kisumi was. Pretend Mikoshiba never told you.”

“I’m not gonna just sell him out!”

“This is not your problem,” Sousuke says shortly. “It doesn’t matter that he’s your boyfriend. These are criminals. You’re a civilian, Kou. Mikoshiba can handle himself. The most important thing is your safety.”

She sounds like she’s about to argue, but there’s another voice in the background, just too low to hear. Kou pulls away from the phone again to respond, words rapid and clipped, and Sousuke taps his foot as he waits for her to resume the conversation.

“Fine,” she says grudgingly, although she doesn’t specify exactly what is fine or why she should feel that way. “I just…please be careful, okay? And my brother. Look out for him. He hasn’t been answering any of my calls. Is he with you? Could you put him on?”

“He isn’t with me, Kou,” Sousuke says, a little gentler this time.

“What? Weren’t you working together?”

“We split up to cover more ground.”

“Oh…right. Okay. Guess I should’ve figured that out from what they said on the news. Everyone keeps saying he made a breakthrough, but – oh! He got it wrong! He thinks they’re going to Kagoshima, you need to tell him everything I told you!”

“We’ll handle it,” Sousuke says reassuringly. “Don’t worry, we have a plan. But I’ll tell him you miss him, okay? Stay safe, Kou.”

“I will,” she says, unhappily. Sousuke can’t blame her; he’d be ready to knock a few heads together if he were in her position. She hangs up with a final goodbye, and Sousuke puts his phone back into his pocket right after checking the time.

He tugs his wallet out and frowns at its contents. Looks like he’ll be taking the bus, unless Sasabe decides suddenly to send money his way. Stuffing it back where it belongs, Sousuke takes off down the harbor to the where he thinks the bus station must be, strides long and rapid. People scuttle out of his way at the expression on his face, although only part of it is due to genuine anger. The other part is the overwhelming need to take a nap.

The bus’ll take about five hours, so he’ll be able to get some shut eye, hopefully. If he’s lucky, this will all be over soon. All he has to do is catch Tachibana and Nanase, smack some sense into Rin, and then he can go home and go back to his life.

The thought of it makes him walk faster. One more bus ride, and then he’s back to a healthy six to fourteen hours a night.

 

 


 

 

Kisumi smiles at a woman on the train.

Leers, really. He’s not up to his usual standards, seeing as she averts eye contact immediately. Kisumi can’t really blame her; he’d run to the nearest station without bothering to clean himself up first, and now there’s a drying trail of blood running down the side of his face and staining his collar. Shame. This had been a nice shirt, although the darkness of his suit mercifully hides the rest of the mess.

He might be missing a tooth, actually. That red-headed…nuisance had been deceptively strong, although he supposes that anyone would feel a little sore after taking a baseball bat or three to the vital regions. He’d go to the hospital to get fixed up, normally (blood and pain are quite unattractive), but he’s on a tight schedule. He’ll just have to deal with being less than presentable for now. His major concerns are getting to Nagasaki, and making sure he doesn’t pass out before he figures out what his plans are.

His ribs hurt. Scowling at his cell phone, he thumbs through his contacts, no longer terribly worried about the six unread messages waiting in his inbox. Amakata can wait until he’s sorted some things out. He’s already called Uozumi, who hadn’t answered, and Aki, who’d known nothing. He doesn’t know many of Seijuro’s friends, but he does know that a fair number of small-time dealers tend to share clientele.

Kazuki picks up on the third ring. “Shigino? What’re you calling me for, I haven’t heard from you in ages-”

“Do you know a Nagisa?” Kisumi interrupts curtly. “Male. Blond. Addict, one of Seijuro’s.”

“Don’t think so,” Kazuki muses, making Kisumi huff in irritation. “What’s this for? You sure it’s a dude, cause I’m pretty sure ‘Nagisa’ is a chick’s name, I don’t know wha-”

“What about Tachibana? Ever heard of him? Or Nanase? I can send you pictures if you need them.”

“The names ring a bell. Fine, send ‘em over.”

“They’re transferring now. Tell me if you recognize them.”

There’s a brief pause, and then Kazuki makes an unnecessarily loud exclamation. “Oh, hey! I’ve seen these bastards before! Sei was looking for ‘em, too! You know they skimped on paying? Shit, and Sei gave me a great bag of green for helping him out.”

“Where are they?”

Kazuki hums. “Last I checked, someone saw them heading to Yamaguchi. I checked a little more after – apparently they went into some dinky motel, but Sei never did call again to ask where they were. Oh, hey, if you see him, could you tell him I tried to call him? Fucker ain’t picking up his phone, and here he calls himself a friend. He better have a good reason for snubbing me, I swear-”

“Could you send me the name of the motel?”

“Eh, sure. Can’t remember it offhand but gimme a couple minutes and I’ll text you the address or whatever. Say, why’re you looking for them too?”

“They skimped on paying,” Kisumi says distantly, ending the call and immediately pulling up Amakata’s number.

 

“Kisumi?”

“Hello,” says Kisumi pleasantly.

“Why, I didn’t expect to hear from you,” Amakata responds, equally sweet. “Here I thought you’d gone and run away from me.

“Oh, I would never.”

“Good. It would have really upset me. Tell me, how’ve you been?”

“I’ve been better,” Kisumi hums, picking dried blood out of his fingernails. “That switchblade you got me is wonderful, by the way.”

She’s quiet for a second. “Oh, is that so? And when did you have the opportunity to use it?” Kisumi can almost hear her smile grow wider.

“Just a little while ago. I took your advice and took care of a few, ah, roadblocks.” He studies his faint reflection in the window, poking gently at a bruise that’s rapidly turning yellow under his right eye. “You were absolutely right, by the way. I wasn’t trying hard enough. Terribly sorry about that, I’ve seen the error or my ways and all. I’m actually on the way to Nagasaki right now, although I think I’m going to stop by Yamaguchi first.”

“And what business do you have in Nagasaki?”

“I’ve tracked them there. I’m not sure exactly what their plans are, but I’ve, ah, coaxed some information out of a dear friend of mine.”

“And how do you know they’re still there?”

A good question, actually. “They’ve been moving slowly. I assume they’re trying to lay low; we’re not the only ones who’d like to see them, of course. The police have a vested interest in finding them too.”

“But you’ll get to them before the police do,” Amakata says almost indulgently. Silverware clinks faintly on the other end of the line, and Kisumi’s swallows unintentionally in response. “Well done, Kisumi. I knew you’d get the job done eventually.”

“It’s not like I had a choice,” he says with bitter cheerfulness. “I’ll contact you the moment I have my hands on them.”

“Perfect! I look forward to seeing you back, Kisumi.” Amakata’s tone loses some of its bubbliness, and for a second Kisumi thinks she’s hung up on him. “I should say, I look forward to seeing you back with company. I’d rather you didn’t return alone.”

“Oh, I know,” he laughs. He’s oddly serene; this must be, he realises, what it’s like to fall into panic and come out the other side, slightly cracked but somehow still running. “Don’t worry. If I fuck up this time, I’ll be disappearing for good.”

 

 


 

 

 

“All passengers boarding the intercity bus to Nagasaki prefecture (route: Nagasaki expressway), please be ready at the gates of departure. This is a final call for: Nagasaki prefecture.”

 

Haru looks up from doodling in Makoto’s newspaper, although there’s not much he can see with his hoodie pulled so low over his face. Gently, he reaches out to nudge Makoto awake with his elbow, tilting his head at the soft snuffle he gets in response. “Ma -- Masao. Our bus is leaving soon. Wake up.”

Makoto stirs and sits up. Haru rubs at his shoulder; Makoto’s head is quite unreasonably heavy, and Haru has a slight suspicion he’s been drooled on. Doesn’t matter, though. There are more important things to worry about, such as the fake passports weighing heavy in the pocket of his hoodie, and the fact that passengers are starting to form neat, orderly lines in front of the doors. If Haru had his way he’d sprint into the bus and towards freedom, but that’s likely to be a bad idea. The absolute last thing he wants to do is attract attention to either one of them, not when they’re so close he can almost smell freedom.

“Come on,” Haru says, getting to his feet and shouldering his duffel bag. “You can sleep on the bus if you’re tired.”

“Sorry,” Makoto says around a yawn. His cabin luggage has its handle folded in, and he picks it up instead of rolling it on the floor. The wheels are a little wonky, anyway, and they squeak loud enough to wake the dead. “It’s just really early, that’s all.”

“It’s afternoon.” He knows what Makoto means, though. There’s effectively been no sleep for either of them, so much so that it’s hard to imagine either of them ever having a normal sleep schedule after this. Still, he’d take making it to their destination in one piece over a good night’s rest any day, even if Makoto does have an annoying habit of sleeping on him regardless of whether or not they’re in public.

They join the line, which doesn’t takes forever and a day to start moving (as far as Haru’s concerned, anyway; nothing short of instantaneous movement would satisfy him at this point, although he supposes he can hardly be blamed for that). He stares unseeingly at the shiny station floors. Makoto squeezes his elbow.

“We’re going to be okay, Haru,” he says, although his voice is tight and uncertain himself. Haru spares him a glance; Makoto’s face is pallid, and the bags under his eyes are dark and make him look about ten years older than he is. Haru’s fingers twitch with the urge to rub Makoto’s frown lines away. He’s been wanting to do that a lot, lately.

“Don’t try to comfort me when you’re nervous yourself,” he mutters, although the sentiment is not altogether unappreciated. He lets Makoto surreptitiously link their pinkies together for a moment, breathing a sigh as the line finally, finally starts to move towards the bus. “You’re fidgeting. Stop it.”

“Sorry,” Makoto says with a weak smile. His fussing doesn’t stop, only transfers to his fingers, where he plays with the handle of his bag absentmindedly. “I just…we’re almost there, Haru. At the end of this, it’ll all be over.”

Whether for better or worse, he doesn’t say. Haru thinks either one might come as relief at this point.

 

 


 

 

 

“I had no idea I could get off on tickling,” Nagisa says, lying on his back and making starry eyes at the ceiling.

Rei hums softly from the direction of the bathroom, waiting to turn the faucet off before trying to speak. “I’m quite surprised, myself. I’ve never heard such a thing was possible.”

“Boy, am I glad you found out,” Nagisa says dreamily, rolling over and tangling himself further in the sheets, one leg hanging over the edge of the bed. “Rei, what are you even doing? Come back here, I miss you.”

“I haven’t gone anywhere,” Rei sighs, although the fondness on his face is clear when he steps out of the bathroom. He’s half-dressed, wiping his hands off on a towel, and he pauses to admire the way Nagisa smiles back at him, all messy hair and affection. “Perhaps it might be wise to put some clothes on, hmm?”

“Ugh, why? Who’s gonna see us, Rei?”

“Nobody, but I can’t help but feel that you should come into contact with the sheets as little as possible,” Rei says primly, coming to settle on the edge of the bed so he can stroke Nagisa’s hair. Nagisa wriggles until his head is resting on Rei’s lap. “This isn’t a terribly, how shall I put this, reputable-looking establishment. I wouldn’t want to take any risks.”

Nagisa flaps a hand at him. “Please, I’ve been in far worse places. I was a student once, you know.”

Rei grins. “Depraved creature.”

“Hey, you can’t call me depraved, you decided to start foreplay by sticking your fingers into my ribs.”

“That wasn’t foreplay,” Rei says, pinching Nagisa’s nose and making him whine automatically. “That was an attempt at cheering you up. You were acting like a languishing heroine. Such a thing doesn’t suit you, my dear.”

“You know, women were written weak and defenseless to keep the patriarchy in place,” says Nagisa seriously, taking Rei’s hand and kissing his knuckles. “I like to think I’m subverting gender roles by playing the part of the beautiful leading lady.”

“Well, when you put it like that, I suppose I can’t argue. Still, I still think a pair of pants might be in order.”

“Fine,” Nagisa sighs, drawing out the word. He lets Rei extricate himself from their position, humming tunelessly under his breath at the rustle of clothes in the background. Something soft is deposited onto his face, and Nagisa pulls them off to inspect them. “I forgot I was wearing these. I have really cute taste in underwear.”

“I’m actually kind of curious how you found yellow robot underwear in the men’s section.”

“Who said I got them from the men’s section?” Nagisa retorts, wiggling his hips so he can get into his clothes without sitting up. “There, I’m dressed now. Happy?”

“You’re still only in your underwear, but I suppose I’m satisfied,” says Rei, resuming his seat and bending to kiss Nagisa on the forehead. “Are you, though? We got what you came here for, but I can’t help but think you’re still upset.”

Nagisa goes quiet, playing with a loose thread on the sheets for a few seconds. “I don’t really know how to feel right now,” he says quietly, smile slipping slowly off his face. “I mean, I’m glad I got closure, but…they’re leaving. Probably forever, and I’m still angry at them, but I also feel really sad because I want to go back to how things used to be, but…that’s not happening anymore.”

“I suppose it isn’t,” Rei says, just as quiet. His hand continues its soothing path through Nagisa’s mop of blond, pausing here and there to scratch gently at his scalp. “There isn’t much more to be done, now. I suppose all that’s left is to go back to our lives. It will be difficult, I think, but if you ever want to,” he pauses to gesture uselessly in mid-air. “Talk. Or anything at all. I’ll do what I can. Whatever you need of me, in a heartbeat. I’m only sorry I can’t make you happy again.”

The susurrus of sheets is almost lost to the noise of the radiator when Nagisa sits up. Twisting around to take Rei’s face in his hands, he plants a kiss in the corner of his mouth, and then another on his boyfriend’s cheeks. “Hey. You already make me happy. You’ve done so much for me already. Thank you, Rei,” he says with a smile, soft around the edges and creasing the corners of his eyes. “You’re a better boyfriend than I deserve.”

“You deserve the world, Nagisa, I don’t know how else to convince you of that.”

“I’m this close to making a cheesy joke about how you are my world,” Nagisa grins, pecking Rei once more on the nose and laughing at the huff he gets in return. “Say, what time is it? Haru said we could use his room but he never did say when we had to leave.”

“I think it might be a little past noon,” Rei frowns, glancing at his wrist and realizing he’s left his watch on the night stand. “We might as well leave; we have to go back to Tokyo, and I think it might be past check-out time – is someone knocking?”

“Shit, speak of the devil.” Heaving himself to his feet, Nagisa adjusts his underwear and ruffles Rei’s hair on his way to the door. “Must be reception here to tell us to get out. Oh, maybe Mako and Haru ordered room service.”

“I doubt they have room service in budget motels,” Rei says, standing up to follow. “Don’t answer the door, Nagisa, you’re not dressed.”

“I’ve got the essentials covered,” Nagisa says over his shoulder. The rapping on the door gets harder, and Nagisa rolls his eyes. “Jeez, calm down, we’re coming.” Hand closing around the knob, Nagisa tugs the door open, ready to talk to reception or accept errant room service.

Neither of them are there. There is, however, a man with a knife and a worryingly large smile leaning against the doorframe.

 

Nagisa backs up automatically, bumping into Rei’s chest, eyes trained on the blade that’s held to his Adam’s apple before he can quite process what’s happening. The scream in his throat shrivels up and turns to dust; the metal tip is digging into his skin and Rei’s gone completely still behind him, hands frozen on either side of Nagisa like he can’t decide whether or not to grab him.

“Hi,” Nagisa manages, hands coming up slowly in a universal gesture of surrender. “Hi, uh, I’m not sure what’s going on but I think there may have been some sort of misunderstanding-“

“Oh, no, don’t worry, I understand what’s going on perfectly well,” says the man at the door, voice chipper as he steps inside and shuts the door behind him. Nagisa tilts his head back as the sharp edge of the knife digs worryingly into his neck. “I have to admit, you’re a little bit younger than I thought you’d be. You don’t really look like an addict, but I suppose you get all types. It’s Nagisa, isn’t it? I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“Yes? How do you know my name?” Nagisa stutters, tearing his eyes away from the weapon with some difficulty, focusing instead on the person holding it. His eyes widen almost imperceptibly; it’s obvious, suddenly, why Rei’s gone so quiet instead of demanding an explanation like he normally would.

The man is mistaken. They have met before, even if he doesn’t know it. Nagisa would recognize those white Italian leather shoes anywhere, even when they’re stained a deep, dark red.

 

Kisumi Shigino smiles, blood in his teeth and hair askew. “Boy, am I glad I found you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“You,” Kisumi says, “do not know how to cover your tracks.”

Nagisa glances at Rei. He’s backed up against a corner, arms crossed over his chest and fingers twitching against his bare skin. His hands are free, but he’s as good as tied up; Kisumi has not for one moment relinquished his grip on the blade being held to Nagisa’s throat, even for long enough for him to pull a shirt over his head. He’s sitting in his underwear, perched uneasily on the only chair in the room. The very same one he’d been sitting in earlier to interrogate Makoto and Haru, although this time he’s not nearly as relaxed.

Fingernails almost digging scratches into the plastic edge of his seat, Nagisa glances at the door, and considers the possibility of escape. It doesn’t look likely. Kisumi’s standing eerily still, and the cold edge of metal against his Adam’s apple deters any heroics he might have otherwise been willing to pull. “We didn’t think there’d be anyone following our tracks.”

“That, my friend, is a rookie mistake,” Kisumi says cheerfully, sticking his free hand in his pocket and starting a slow pace around Nagisa’s chair. The switchblade scrapes at him uncomfortably, and he can’t keep his eye on Kisumi for long enough to be able to tell if he’s actually got anything in that pocket. “There’s always someone following. Always someone looking over your shoulder, in this business. A loud blond really sticks out when he’s going around asking questions. It’s a smaller world than you think, hmm? People either already know you, or they really want to get to know you. I’m the latter, in this situation.”

And Nagisa is the former, although it’s probably not a good idea to point that out. Since Kisumi’s out of his field of vision, he fixes his gaze on Rei. Rei’s face is pale and starting to shine with cold sweat. “I don’t know what you want from me,” Nagsisa says, voice just barely level. “Who are you? How do you know my name? Why are you trying to hurt me?”

Kisumi drifts in front of him again, pausing on his way to put a hand to his chest. “I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m threatening to hurt you, you see? There’s a difference. And to answer your question, it’s a lot easier threatening to hurt you than it is to stab both you and your boyfriend over there before either of you gets to scream.” He grins. “But enough about me. Tell me about you. A very big, very dead birdie told me that you’ve been doing a job for him. Have you been following two men around?” The thing in his pocket turns out to be a cell phone, and Kisumi thumbs through it until he finds a picture. “Do these two look familiar?”

Nagisa sort of wants to cry. “Who’s dead? What happened?”

“Well, he’s not dead yet. He will be, though.” He waves the phone in Nagisa’s face. “So?”

“I’ve never seen them.”

“Funny you should say that, because I haven’t seen them either. The problem is that I’d really like to. They’re old friends of mine, you know, and my sources led me straight here. But instead, I find you two.” The look he gives Nagisa is a little condescending. “Do you see my point, here? Do you want to try again?”

Nagisa looks him dead in the eye. “I’ve never seen them.”

Kisumi hits him. Hard, right on the cheekbone, with the hilt of his blade. Nagisa makes a strangled noise at the same time that Rei surges forward, although they both still immediately when Kisumi holds his weapon up to let it glint under cold fluorescent lighting. “Please don’t be silly. The young lady at reception was very nice, you know. She informs me that you came here asking for two men. One with very straight hair and a sour face, and a tall smiley one. Extra credit, now. Do these two look familiar to you?”

“Look, I’m just some kid, there’s really no reason for this and if you just let me go then maybe we can go somewhere nicer and talk about this-”

Nagisa’s hair is yanked, and his head jerks back to follow. His throat is completely exposed, now, and Kisumi drags the tip of his knife down his jugular with relish. “Do you value your teeth, Nagisa?” he asks mildly. “Because I guarantee there’s someone out there who values them more.”

“If you kill me, you’ll get arrested,” Nagisa says desperately. “The girl at the counter saw you, they’ll know you came here. You won’t get away with it.”

“Maybe I won’t,” Kisumi says sweetly. “But the point is, you’ll be dead.”

Nagisa clenches his eyes shut. “I don’t know anything. You’re wasting your time. If you want them so badly, you should be going after them.”

“I will, just as soon as I find out what’s happening here. Now, one more time. Did Seijuro Mikoshiba send you to find these men?”

Yes,” Nagisa gasps, leaning his head as far back as he can to get away from the knife as Kisumi digs it in. “Yes, he did, I needed a fix but I couldn’t pay for it, he sent me here and said that if I found them then I could have a hit for free.”

“See, was that so hard?” Kisumi’s circled back to face Nagisa again, and this time he stops to pat Nagisa on the cheek. “Go on. Tell me the rest.”

“They were here,” Nagisa continues breathlessly. “They – they were in here and we waited around outside and, they, uh, they’re not here anymore. They left.”

“And you let them go.”

Nagisa whines at the feeling of metal. He rolls his head back and focuses on Rei, who seems like he’s about to be sick. “I, I couldn’t do anything, they were bigger than me, I didn’t know what to do, I tried to call Sei but he wouldn’t pick up and they left so we took the room cause we were tired but we couldn’t stop them honest, I’m being honest, please don’t hurt me I didn’t do anything wrong-”

“Be quiet,” Kisumi snaps. His smile’s melted into a scowl, and it looks awful when he’s ragged and blood-stained. “Where did they go?”

“I don’t know!”

A bead of blood wells and trickles into the hollow of Nagisa’s throat. “You’ll think of something, I’m sure.”

“I’m telling you that I don’t know-”

“Nagasaki!” Rei cuts in suddenly, silencing them both. They turn to look at him; Rei’s got both hands over his mouth, breathing elevated, although he does manage to speak without stuttering. Everything comes out in a rush. “Nagasaki – I heard them say it. Please stop hurting him, they’re going to Nagasaki, they’ve just left a few hours ago, you can catch up with them if you hurry, just please stop hurting him.”

Kisumi regards him for one heart-stopping, horrifying moment. “Where in Nagasaki?” he asks coolly.

Rei makes a soft noise of distress. “I don’t know, I – wait! Wait, please put the knife down, I,” he breathes out shakily. “I saw one of them, the short one. He had a couple of passports. I don’t think they can leave by plane, so I’d assume they’re going by sea. As far as I know, there’s only one seaport in Nagasaki. They must be going there.”

Kisumi taps his fingers against his chin. “And what if you’re wrong?”

Rei falters. “I…I don’t know,” he says, voice hushed. “But this is all the information we have, I swear. You have a knife to his throat. There’s no conceivable reason that we would lie to you. Please.

 

 

For a long while, Kisumi appears to think about this. He glances at his phone; Nagisa thinks at first that he’s looking at the photo again, but he huffs and sticks the phone back into his pocket with a quiet grumble about having spent too much time here. With a soft chink of metal, he flips his switchblade shut and takes a step back, making Nagisa finally release the sigh that’s been trapped in his throat, just under the point of a blade. “For all of our sakes, I sincerely hope that you’re right.”

Rei looks like he’s going to sag onto the floor. “I’m telling you all that we know.”

Kisumi smiles at him beatifically. His teeth are slightly red. “And I know what you look like. I’ll be in touch, just in case it turns out that there’s been a little misunderstanding between us. I hate being misdirected.”

They watch him go. Nagisa’s hands seem to have started shaking at some point; he can barely stand when Rei launches himself across the room to pull him into his arms, and it’s Rei who finally manages to get him back into bed so he can collapse bonelessly onto the sheets. The lights on the ceiling seem to be spinning. The door opens and shuts with a snap, although Nagisa makes no attempt to disentangle himself from Rei for long enough to check that Kisumi’s really gone.

“You told him,” Nagisa says, voice soft and flat. “Rei, he’s going to kill them.”

Rei pulls away just enough to look at him. “He was going to kill you,” Rei says. “I would tell him again a thousand times if I had to.”

“He’s going to kill them!” Nagisa says again, voice cracking at the edge like a china plate. “Rei, they are my friends! You can’t just hand them over to some crazy person with a knife, what the fuck were you thinking?”

Rei sits up, looking like he’s just been slapped. “I saved your life, you ungrateful – what else was I supposed to do? Sit there and watch you get hurt? I made the sensible choice.”

“I could have done something! I could have come up with something to throw him off if you’d just kept your mouth shut and given me a little more time--”

“And you think he would have believed you? You think he would have nodded along to whatever you said and thanked you for your time? You may be clever but you’re not a criminal, Nagisa. This isn’t a matter of following clues and taking trains across the country. This is dangerous. He is dangerous, and he would not have hesitated to gut you like a squealing pig if one of us hadn’t given up those men.” His expression is all hard edges and unforgiving lines; there’s none of that exasperated fondness that he has when he’s indulging Nagisa’s nonsense. It’s actually downright frightening, and Nagisa would find himself shying away if there weren’t a film of crimson clouding his vision.

“So, what then? We just send them to their deaths? Who gave you the right to decide that? You don’t like them! You don’t even know them! You think you can just open your big mouth and let two people I happen to love get hunted down?”

“Two people you love, huh,” Rei echoes hollowly. “And me? I have to let someone I love get hurt for the sake of two criminals who got themselves into a mess? Because make no mistake, Nagisa; they may well be your friends, but they’re no innocent lambs. I don’t know what they’ve done to this Shigino person, but I shouldn’t have to remind you that they’ve been scamming us for years.”

“That doesn’t mean --”

Stop it,” Rei snaps. He stands abruptly, and then clothes are being thrown onto Nagisa’s stomach before he can get a word in edgewise. “Get dressed. We’re leaving. You got what you came for, Nagisa, and this is exactly what I was afraid of. Following your friends around Japan is one thing, but this is completely another. I didn’t sign up for this. We’re going home, back to where it’s safe.”

Nagisa heaves himself upright and manages to wobble across the room. “Go home on your own. I have to warn them, they’re in trouble.”

Rei spins around and grabs him by the shoulders. “Our involvement with this is done. You are bleeding. A man covered in blood just held a knife to your throat, asking for information about two men we shouldn’t even have been meddling with. And he might be back if my guess wrong. What happens when he finds out that we knew Haruka and Makoto, huh? I cannot lose you, Nagisa. I’m not letting either of us continue down this path when it’s obviously dangerous. I know I’ve given in so far but I will drag you back to Tokyo kicking and screaming if I have to do it.” His eyes almost glint behind his glasses. “Don’t make me do that, Nagisa. Just put your clothes on and let’s take the next train home. This isn’t worth it anymore.”

Nagisa glares back at him, although his vision’s blurred by the hot, angry tears that decide to come splashing down his cheeks. Rei’s grip on his shoulders softens somewhat, and then he rests his forehead against Nagisa’s own.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs, eyes squeezed tight shut. “I’m just…I’m scared, Nagisa. I was not prepared for that. I don’t want to do this anymore. Please. I want to go home.”

“They’ll die,” Nagisa whispers hoarsely. He sounds like a rusty hinge. He looks at the shirt he’s clutching in his hands, and Rei’s thumbs come up to rub gently at his cheeks and chase the moisture away, although more keeps coming. “I…my neck hurts…”

“I know, sweetheart,” Rei coos, folding Nagisa into his chest. “I know. I’m sorry. We’ll have you looked at the moment we’re in less secluded place, okay? But we have to leave. Before he comes back. Can you do that for me?”

Nagisa stays silent, and Rei sighs. “Look, you can be angry all you want, but it’s done now. I still think that in time you’ll agree with me, but...there’s nothing more we can do. You’re hurt, and he’s gone. The only thing left for us is to go home.”

 


Eventually, Nagisa nods and manages to pull his t-shirt over his head. The collar’s no doubt going to be stained before the day is out, but he doesn’t think he’s going to want to wear it again anyway. His pants are handed to him and he steps into them slowly, and he does up his zipper as Rei steps back to survey the room in search of anything they might have left behind.

Rei leads him by the hand, out the door and down the corridor to the lifts. He keeps their shoulders pressed all the way down. Before the doors open to the lobby, Rei presses a kiss to his hair. “You’ve already helped them,” he says. “You warned them about the police. You’ve done more than you had to already. They can handle themselves, they’ve managed to dodge the authorities for this long, right? Don’t cry. I love you, Nagisa, please don’t cry.”

“It’s not like I can just turn it off,” Nagisa says sullenly, although he allows himself to be kissed again. He doesn’t dare look at the receptionist as they leave. She probably doesn’t really give two shits about them, but Nagisa is bloody and crying, and he’d rather not have to deal with any more questions today. As much as he wants to pick up the phone and call Haru, he also wants to go home and sleep for about a week.

The train station is empty, but Rei still stands very close. Nagisa keeps his eyes glued to the floor, right up until Rei snakes both arms around him and presses their cheeks together.

“This whole ordeal is over,” he says against Nagisa’s face, voice low enough that only Nagisa can hear. “We can go home now. We’re safe. I love you. Everything is going to be alright.”

 

 


 

 

 

Sousuke clears his throat a little louder than strictly necessary.

Two police officers look up from their shared reception desk. One’s a man with tanned skin and crew cut, and the other’s a sleepy-eyed young lady who gives him a once-over before standing up to greet him.

He has to tilt his head down when she addresses him. “Can I help you, sir?”

He flashes her his police badge. The other officer wanders over to join them, footsteps loud in the otherwise silent room. “Sergeant Yamazaki. I’m from the Tokyo Met. Think you can do me a favour?”

She blinks. “Welcome to Nagasaki, sir. What do you need?”

“Have you seen a Sergeant Matsuoka anywhere here? He’s from Tokyo.”

“Oh, the guy with the red hair? Sharp teeth?” asks the policeman, grinning wide. He nods enthusiastically and goes back to reception, pulling out a large black log book and flipping it to an entry beginning a couple of days prior. “He stopped by here a while ago. You just missed him, actually.”

“Any idea where he went?”

“Nagasaki seaport,” says the man, tossing the book onto the desk. His partner huffs at him and goes to put it back in its corner where it belongs. He bumps shoulders with her affectionately as she passes. “He said he was gonna do a stakeout for some Tokyo felons.”

Sousuke raises an eyebrow at him. “A stakeout.”

“Yup! I gotta congratulate you guys, this was a really good move. Throwing the media off and doing the real investigation here? I don’t think we would ever have thought of that.”

“Sergeant Matsuoka always has a plan,” Sousuke smiles thinly. He’s hardly surprised; the public announcement that Tachibanananase would be going to Kagoshima was suspicious from the start. He’d had a sneaking suspicion that Rin had something else up his sleeve, although exactly how he’d known to come to Nagasaki is something Sousuke can’t quite answer. He’ll find his answers when he finds Rin, probably. “Any idea where the patrol car is specifically?”

“Oh, there’s no patrol car,” says the female police officer as she straightens out the desk. “He’s on his own for now, since this isn’t a high-risk operation or anything. He’ll call for backup if he needs it.”

Every thought process in Sousuke’s head screeches to a grinding halt. “He’s alone?”

She and her partner share a glance. “Yes? Is something wrong?”

“No.” Shit. Spinning on his heel, Sousuke pulls his coat closer to him and strides straight for the door, barely pausing to turn and thank the officers over his shoulder. “You’ve been a big help,” he says before they can respond, and the sliding doors open for him with a soft whoosh.

Jabbing at the touch screen of his phone, he waves his arm for a cab as he jog-walks down the steps and onto the street. Rin’s number is still number one on speed-dial, and he curses under his breath as the first call goes straight to voicemail. “Pick up, you moron,” he growls under his breath as he tries again – then a third, and a fourth, and a fifth time. Finally, after what must be five missed calls and near-constant buzzing on Rin’s end, the idiot picks up the phone.

“This better be important.”

“There are yakuza after you.”

“The fuck? You’d better be joking, Sousuke.”

Sousuke winces. There would have been a better way to say that, probably, but at least he got his point across. A cab slows down for him and he runs to catch it, yanking the door open and sliding in with a curt instruction for Nagasaki harbour. “Tachibana and Nanase pissed off a mini-yakuza boss. Her PA found out where they’re supposed to be going, and he’s heading to Nagasaki with a grudge and some weapons. If he sees you, he’s going to try to take you down.”

Rin’s voice is clipped and businesslike. “And I should trust you on this because…?”

“Because your sister told me.”

There’s silence for a couple of seconds. ““You’d better not be tellling me that my sister is involved in some yakuza bullshit because I will come over there and kick your ass.”

Sousuke sighs. Scenery blurs past the rear window of the cab, although not quite fast enough for his liking. . Hearing Rin’s voice again is…nostalgic, seeing as it’s been a while. It’s almost like they’re just on different patrols and they’re arguing about where to meet up for lunch. “Alright. Don’t freak out, okay? She called me at…I dunno what time, actually, but it was about six hours ago. Said a guy with a knife broke into her boyfriend’s house and attacked them.”

What-“

Let me finish. She’s okay, she hit the fucker with a baseball bat and he scarpered. I’ve sent a couple of police cars to patrol around her apartment building, just in case anyone else decides to show up.”

“She hit him with a baseball bat?”

“Yes, Rin, focus. She’s fine, but her boyfriend’s injured. You remember Mikoshiba? The elder one, the one who isn’t constantly getting arrested?”

“Please don’t tell me he’s her boyfriend.”

“He is. Also, he’s a drug dealer,” Sousuke says a bit too quickly to hear.

This time he thinks Rin may actually have hung up on him. “You mean to tell me,” he says surprisingly calmly, “that my baby sister is dating a drug dealer.”

“Yes?” Sousuke says slowly. The cabbie’s giving him an odd look through the rearview mirror. Sousuke tells him to keep his eyes on the road. “Mikoshiba’s been hospitalized. Kou’s keeping him company. What with his injuries and the officers looking out for her, she’ll be safe.”

“Why the fuck did she call you instead of me?”

“Maybe because you stopped picking up your fucking phone, dumbass.”

Rin huffs. “So why didn’t you call me?”

“I’m calling you now, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, half a day later!”

Sousuke takes it back. Hearing Rin’s voice again is grating, not calming, and his fingers dig into the material of his jeans almost painfully. His voice is low and tense. “Look, I have more important things to do than to sit around ringing you over and over because you’re being a huge pissbaby who doesn’t know how to answer a goddamned call. Like hauling ass to Nagasaki harbour to get you, because I found out from Met that you went out there on your own, you moron. No, shut up and listen to me for a second. The guy who attacked Kou and Mikoshiba? It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that his name is Kisumi Shigino, and he works for yakuza. He was the last person that Tachibana and Nanase scammed. He gave us a police statement, but he dropped out of correspondence after that. Turns out that he’s been looking for the guys on his own.”

“What does this have to do with Kou?”

Sousuke frowns at the back of the passenger seat. “Not Kou, Mikoshiba. I don’t think I quite understand her explanation, but Mikoshiba knew that Tachibana and Nanase were going to Nagasaki. Speaking of which, how did you know before anyone else did?”

“Does that matter? Get back to the explanation.”

“Fine.” A flare of irritation makes Sousuke lean his head back against the cushions and sigh through his nose. The cab stops at a red light. Sousuke jogs his knee. “Kisumi and Mikoshiba know each other. I think Kisumi was trying to use Mikoshiba to get info on where Nanase was, but he wasn’t being very helpful. So Kisumi attacked him. And Mikoshiba told him everything, so now Kisumi’s heading to Nagasaki, where it’s the middle of the night and you’re alone.”

“I think I can take on one guy, Sousuke.”

“While you’re trying to handle a couple of guys on the run? Listen to me, Rin. I know Kisumi. And I’ve heard of the woman he works for. He’s not really the type to get his hands dirty, so it’s really weird that he got violent. I’d be skeptical, normally, but knowing Amakata…she’s brutal. And if he’s acting so out of character, there must be something wrong.”

“How do you know him so well?” Rin huffs a laugh, although it’s pretty easy to tell he doesn’t actually find any of this particularly funny. Sousuke feels his hackles rise at the mix of mocking and bitter that Rin manages to pack into a couple of sentences. “Or, wait, let me guess – he’s one of your criminal buddies, huh?”

Sousuke grits his teeth. “Yes. I’m not gonna deny it, but I’m not gonna sit here and argue about it, either. I’m telling you what I know, and I’m telling you to stop being a diva and just listen to me for this one thing.”

 

 

The cab finally, finally pulls up next to its destination, and Sousuke hastily hand some bills to the driver, who’s watching him like he wants to ask Sousuke to continue the story. Sousuke waves him off and steps out of the cab; Nagasaki Harbour is almost deserted, since the last passenger ships are leaving for the day and the fishing boats won’t be going out til the wee hours of the morning. Rin’s silent on the other end of the line, and Sousuke would normally wait for him to talk, but the persistent sense of urgency rolling around in his gut is wearing his patience thin.

“Look,” he says, voice deliberately level. “You hate me. You think I’m a scumbag. I get it, okay? But you can be mad at me later. The guy who hurt your sister is heading this way, and if everyone’s information is right, so are the guys who hurt you. You’re alone because you thought the patrol cars might scare Tachibana away, right? Kisumi isn’t going to be scared away, Rin. You can’t do this by yourself. Right now I’m the only friend you’ve got. Now tell me where you are, and I will do whatever I can for you.”

“…construction site,” Rin finally offers. “Look for the crane. I’m by the entrance, sitting next to a tractor.”

Sousuke can see it in the distance. “Okay. It’ll take me a few minutes, but I’m on my way. This place is huge, and empty, so if we’re lucky then Kisumi will miss us entirely. I’m not actually sure he’s heading here specifically, but I don’t trust him, and I don’t want to take any chances. Just stay on the phone with me until I get there.”

“I’ve got a revolver with me. I’ll be okay.”

“A revolver won’t be that much help against three other people,” Sousuke retorts, half-running across the empty harbour. There are a couple of stragglers who watch him as he comes speeding past, but he ignores them and keeps his eyes trained on the crane jutting out between buildings. If he’s not mistaken, the construction site he’s looking at is pretty close to the passenger bay. Rin’s picked a good spot to watch.

Rin doesn’t try to make conversation, although he does stay on the line for the ten minutes it takes Sousuke to find him. He’s leaning against a tractor, just as he said, and as Sousuke jogs closer, he notices that the dark green parka Rin’s wrapped up in is strangely familiar.

“I was wondering where that went,” he says in lieu of an actual greeting.

Rin follows his line of vision and colours immediately. Stiffly, he peels it off and hands it back, turning around to survey the passenger ships instead of looking Sousuke in the eye. “I don’t need this shit,” he says curtly.

Sousuke rolls his eyes. “Don’t be a stubborn asshole. You get cold looking in the fridge, and I can’t wear two coats. Any sign of them?”

Rin hesitates for a moment, and then grudgingly puts the thing back on. “Not yet. I’ve been here since the early hours of the morning.”

“How do you know you haven’t missed them?”

“I don’t.”

Sighing, Sousuke clambers through the opening on the side of the tractor and flops onto the driver’s seat. Rin rests his elbow on the wheel, body language tense despite the pretense of being relaxed. “I’m not gonna shoot you while your back’s turned, you know.”

“You have no trouble doing anything else when my back is turned.”

“I didn’t have to come running halfway across Japan to save your ass,” Sousuke snaps. This verbal ping-pong is familiar, at least, even if their circumstances are vastly different. “I could leave you to fend for yourself.”

Rin scowls at him. “I don’t need saving. How much you wanna bet no crazed yakuza is gonna come bursting in here?”

“I don’t know, maybe you should ask your sister when she leaves the hospital.”

“I’ve changed my mind.” Rin turns to bare his teeth at him, and Sousuke actually considers pulling his foot away before Rin can decapitate it. “I don’t want you here anymore. Leave.”

“I’m bigger than you, dipshit,” Sousuke snorts. “Good luck moving my body.”

“Then I’ll leave,” Rin says, throwing his hands up and stalking away. Sousuke waits for exactly half a minute before Rin realises that they’re technically on a stakeout and there’s nowhere else to go without giving away their position. He comes back with an absolutely poisonous expression, and Sousuke puts his feet on the dashboard just to be safe. “I hate you.”

“I don’t care. We have a job to do, so you can go back to hating me later.”

Rin falls silent and perches sullenly on one of the huge wheels of the tractor, arms folded and brow furrowed. Sousuke watches him. “You never did say how you found out they’d be coming here. If they are coming here and this isn’t some huge pile of horse crap,” he adds.

Rin snorts at him. He’s silent for a little bit; Sousuke can’t see much more than the top of his head from here, but he can imagine the conflicted expression on Rin’s face from trying to decide whether to be stubbornly silent or gloat. “I figured it out. Without cozying up to felons.”

“Yeah, yeah, I have shitty sources, whatever. Why Nagasaki? Why the harbour?”

Rin’s quiet for a second. “Knowing them, they’ll try to leave the country. Probably to Vietnam, or something. Lax border control, not the kind of place Interpol would think to look. Not that we’d expend a lot of energy trying to find them, since they’re not violent.”

“And you think they’ll try to go by sea?”

“They sure as hell won’t be getting there by plane,” Rin says like Sousuke’s an idiot. He probably is, for running all the way here for someone who won’t even spare him a glance. “All I have to do is wait for them.”

“At a port with millions of people.”

“I’ll recognize them,” Rin says. Stubborn asshole.

They lapse into silence. Sousuke shifts around in his seat and leans forward to look at the row of ferries and passenger ships lined up along the waterfront; sea travel isn’t all that popular aside for cruises, and it’s late. There aren’t many people around, and most of them stick to the brightly-lit areas of the port. The few other stragglers are either wandering around the late-night shops or sneaking away to do something inappropriate – Sousuke thinks he can see a couple getting frisky by a closed ramen stand. At least someone’s enjoying themselves, he thinks morosely.

Rin’s the first to talk again, voice soft enough that Sousuke can barely hear him over the noise of the waves. “Why are you here?”

He frowns even though he knows Rin can’t see it. “I already told you.”

“Yeah, you think yakuza are gonna show up. I’m asking you why.”

Sousuke watches him; there’s more to be gathered from what Rin doesn’t say than what he does, Sousuke’s learnt over the years, and he takes a second to figure out what’s really being asked before opening his mouth to speak. “We’re partners,” he says slowly. “And you’re a real dick, but you’re not getting stabbed by yakuza while I’m around. Other stuff isn’t important. We have work to do, now.”

This answer must be acceptable, because Rin says nothing, only continuing to stare off into the distance. “We’ll do it. They’re not getting away. I’d recognize them from a mile off.”

“That’s good, considering we probably are about a mile off,” Sousuke says. He doesn’t point out that they’ve probably fucked up the timing completely and either missed them or come way too soon. He doesn’t point out that there’s no real evidence pointing to Nagasaki, either, aside from Rin’s confusing logic.

But Rin’s a police officer for a reason. And, Sousuke grudgingly admits as he considers Rin’s figure in the dimly-lit construction site, he’s a damn good one.It’s almost like the man’s got criminal spidey-senses, sometimes, because his intuition bizarrely never seems to fail -- and, perhaps more importantly, when push comes to shove, Rin’s instinct is always to protect the victim rather than going after the villain. Which is, to be fair, something that Sousuke is guilty of. Rin’s never let anything get in the way in his dumb romantic desire for doing Good for the world, and he follows his moral compass with the single-minded determination of a mule. It’s a little Captain America for Sousuke’s personal taste, but...he can’t deny that Rin probably has the right idea of what being a cop is actually about. And Sousuke would be lying if he said he didn’t sort of admire that.

 

 

“If they can’t leave the country by air, how do you know they can leave by sea?” Sousuke says eventually. “They’d still have to go through the same immigration procedures. Someone might call the cops on them, right?”

Rin doesn’t look at him. “It’s easier by sea.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.” Rin’s shoulders are stiffening, Sousuke realises, which means…that he probably already knows that something doesn’t quite click. Frowning, he stands up to lean out the open door of the tractor, craning his neck to look around the rest of the harbour. “They’d still get caught here, wouldn’t they?”

“I’m positive they’re going by sea.” Rin’s voice is a bit loud. He’s defensive.

Sousuke has no interest in reassuring him. He’s more interested in clambering onto the top of the tractor, gingerly letting his weight rest on the top so he can get a better vantage point. There are lights on at the far end of the harbour, away from the passenger cruisers. “There’s more than one way to go by sea.”

Looking down, he finds that Rin’s turned to face him, eyes wide in understanding. Sousuke points behind him, swinging his legs over the edge of his perch so he can drop heavily onto the ground. “What kind of ships don’t normally check your passport?”

For the first time in a long time, Rin smiles, teeth glinting in the moody light. “Cargo ship.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“So what’s it like down at the harbour?” Kisumi chirps, blood turning the sink a watery red.

The voice on the other end of the phone is tinny in the train bathroom. Kisumi’s phone, balanced precariously on the shelf over the sink, wobbles as the train rattles around a corner. “It’s fine, man. Why?”

Kisumi hums. His bare shoulders prickle in the cold, but there’s not much he can do about that at the moment. He’s lucky he caught a train this late as it is, seeing as the harbour tends not to be very busy at night. Scrubbing his fingernails over the collar of his shirt, he purses his lips at the realization that holding it under the faucet is not so much cleaning off the bloodstains as it is spreading them around. “I just sent you a picture of two men. Seen them anywhere?”

Hayato makes a disinterested noise. “Nope. It’s a big place, man, it’s not gonna be easy picking two faces out like that. What do you need them for?”

“I’m supposed to meet them,” Kisumi says airily. His shirt’s almost completely wet, now, and he holds it under the automated hand dryer. The noise is deafening, so he picks the phone up and hunches his shoulder awkwardly to hold it to his ear. “I was hoping you could help me, Hayato, you’re the only person I know who lives in Nagasaki.”

“Weird place to be meeting a guy,” Hayato grumbles. “I want to go home.”

“No, don’t go home just yet. Keep looking for a little longer. I’ll buy you a beer when I see you.”

“A case of beer, more like. I left my house in the middle of the night for you.”

“I’ll be grateful every day.”

Hayato goes quiet for a second. “Are you seeing these guys on business?”

“Yes, why?”

“Are you sure you wanna do that, man?” his voice is lowered now, and he speaks directly into his phone’s mic, quiet and uneasy. “Maybe you should hold this thing off. I think I just saw a cop car.”

Kisumi stills. The noise from the hand dryer dies down, and Kisumi puts an arm through his still-damp shirt, scowling at his reflection in the mirror. His hair is mostly clean, as is the rest of his face, although there’s no fixing the dark circles right now. “How many?”

“Just the one, maybe it’s just a routine patrol – wait. I think they’re arresting someone.” A beat. “No, they’re just talking to them. The cops are driving off, now.”

The bathroom stall is eerily silent save for the occasional groan of the train. There’s probably someone waiting to use the bathroom; he’s been in here for about half an hour, although no stranger’s bladder is going to make him leave his base. “Who were they talking to?”

“I dunno, hard to see in the dark. Two guys. Really tall one, and a shorter one.”

A woman’s soothing voice announces the next stop. Nagasaki Harbour. It’s showtime. “Are they the men in the photo?”

“No. One of them is a red-head.”

“A red-head?” Kisumi pauses in doing up the last button on his shirt. “What does he look like? Does he have sharp teeth?”

“The fuck? I dunno, man, he’s too far away to see – wait, I think so. Yeah, they’re kind of, uh. Fuck me, how’d he get them like that?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m at the cargo bay, it’s where all the non-passenger ships are. I came out here for a smoke because the other docks were starting to close – are you seriously still coming here? Do you know these guys, Kisumi?”

“In a fashion,” Kisumi says, sliding the door open and stepping out. There’s a long line of people waiting for the toilets, and he smiles at them all sweetly. The next one is going to be finding blood stains in the sink. The man at the front of the line averts his eyes. “Cargo bay, you said?”

“Yeah, but--”

“Goodbye,” says Kisumi cheerfully as the train slows to a stop. He cuts the call, puts his phone in his pocket, and steps off the train with his suit jacket over one shoulder.

 

 

The station is empty. A couple of stragglers are hurrying up the stairs going god-knows-where, but Kisumi doesn’t need to shoulder anyone out of the way as he makes his way up the stairs and out into the cool air of the street. It’s especially chilly through his thin, damp shirt, and his stomach grumbles in discontent as he speed-walks down the street, his fingers clenched in the material of his jacket at the flash of police lights in the distance. No sirens, though. He’s either too late for a showdown or too early.

Nagasaki harbour is largely desolate at this time of night, aside from a couple of late-night cruisers lit up and loud with the sound of tourists drunk on champagne. Kisumi retreats into the shadow of a closed sweet shop and eyes them critically. Not difficult to imagine Tachibana sleazing his way onto a ship, smile wide and reassuring all the way to whatever country they’re trying to run off to. Kisumi could probably do the same. He just has to find out which ship he’s heading to, first.

And the cops are going to be a problem. If they’re here, they must know what’s going on, which means that it’s going to be hard to throw them off. If Sousuke finds Tachibana and Nanase first, they’ll be packed up and shipped off to prison before Kisumi can deliver them to Amakata. If Sousuke finds Kisumi first, he’s likely going to have to answer a lot of questions and that’s going to waste precious time. Assuming that Tachibana and Nanase are even around here. The port is huge, small buildings obstructing the view of nooks and crannies that lead to god-knows-where. They could be anywhere. Kisumi has to find them before they leave, and before the police figure out that he’s here.

Or, well.

Actually.

There’s a part of the harbour that’s not quite as brightly lit. Only a couple of docks in the distance have anyone around, men shouting at each other as they load heavy-looking containers onto massive, ugly cargo ships, just like Hayato said.

Shoes leaving faint red prints on concrete, Kisumi makes his way across the harbour, creeping around stalls so his lone figure won’t be seen. Construction on the way gives him cover. Cranes loom eerily silent overhead like colossal metal skeletons. He buttons up his suit jacket. His breath mists as he breathes out, fingers tapping a staccato rhythm against the switchblade in his pants pocket. The lights come closer.

He stands at a distance, scanning the men moving around lumbering machinery, glad for the gloom. Workers run back and forth like small worried animals. It’s impossible to really make out their faces from this distance, but he does notice a couple of dockhands who don’t seem to be doing anything much.

Sousuke and Rin. He hasn’t met Rin in person, but he’s seen him with Sousuke enough to be able to recognize him by now. It’s hard to miss the hair, tied back into a ponytail in blatant disregard for uniform requirements. The problem is that Sousuke knows him. It’s hardly surprising that they’d both decide to interfere, but the fact that they’re all here at the same time is suspect. Probably means that Tachibana and Nanase are planning their moves for tonight. He’s not too late yet, at least.

There are only two ships that seem to be in operation this late. Kisumi toes his shoes off and comes quietly closer, hidden from view by a stack of containers that looks higher than his apartment building. Rin and Sousuke aren’t quite as well hidden as they probably should be, although Kisumi’s hardly complaining. They’re in a corner by themselves, leaning against a stack of crates. Watching.

Kisumi steps into the shadows and tugs the blade out of his pocket. It’s not quite his style, but it’ll keep him company while he waits.

 

 


 

 

“Makoto.”

“I’m here, Haru.”

Haru gives his companion a once-over. Their clothes are probably a little too nice to properly fit in with the deckhands at work, but there’s not much else they can do. Anyway, Makoto looks tired enough to negate his unreasonable handsomeness. Between that and Haru’s unremarkable face, they might get away with slipping onto the ship unnoticed.

Makoto stuffs the last of what can be stuffed into Haru’s duffel bag and leaves the rest by a dumpster. They’ve got just the essentials, including the fake passports tucked into Haru’s hoodie. Makoto says that designer suits and six sets of swimwear attract too much attention, so the rest will have to be purchased when they get to their destination. If they get to their destination. This last leg of the journey will be the longest and the most dangerous, and the bottom of Haru’s stomach flops unpleasantly at the thought of their hasty plan falling through.

“Remember that your name is Hiro Nakamura now,” Makoto tells him for the third time in as many minutes. “I’m Masao Takagawa and we’re part-timers going on our first job overseas. We’ll reach Danang in about five days, and when we get there we’ll need to be off the ship as soon as we can, or maybe we should wait until the sailors get off so we can blend in—”

Masao,” Haru interrupts with a hand on Makoto’s elbow. “I know. I wrote our passports. We’ll be fine.”

Makoto lets out a long breath. “Yes. Yeah, we’ll be fine, I’m just—I’m scared, Haru. I’m terrified.”

Haru knows the feeling. But he’s not about to admit that right now, not when Makoto’s pale and haggard and fidgety, surrounded by dumpsters and shadows as they watch men work from afar. “Hiro. I’m Hiro now.”

“Hiro,” Makoto chuckles humourlessly, scrubbing a hand across his face. He’s got their bag over his shoulder, throwing it around like it’s full of so much cotton. His arm is tense under Haru’s fingers. “Hiro. Right. Of course.”

“You won’t forget,” Haru says, eyeing the rigid set of Makoto’s broad shoulders. “Come on. We might as well go, there’s no sense hiding in the shops forever and missing our boat.”

Makoto laughs again, although this time it sounds genuine. “God, can you imagine? All this effort and we miss our boat because we’re too afraid to come out of hiding. We may as well turn ourselves in right now.”

“Don’t be silly,” Haru says. “There are no bathtubs in prison.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want you to dehydrate,” Makoto sighs, stepping out into the path. The longer he wears his smile, the more real it becomes. Adjusting the bag over his shoulder, he pauses for just long enough to hold out his hand. “Come on, Haru. We have a ride to catch.”

One step forward. Haru takes the proffered hand, and lets himself be led into the light.

 

 

 


 

 

 

To be brutally honest, Sousuke’s forgotten how boring stakeouts could be.

He pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. Now that he’s sitting still, the days of no sleep and dead ends feel like they’re coming back to him all at once. Rin’s no help, pacing back and forth like a bubbling fountain of boundless energy and muttering under his breath as he thinks. Sousuke wants to get off his tractor and punch him. Gently, just hard enough to maybe knock him the fuck out and keep him quiet for ten minutes.

But that would defeat the purpose of him running halfway across Japan. Whatever said and done, as much as he wants to smack Rin’s sharp teeth in, it’s Sousuke’s own fault that he’s here. He’s the one who decided to come rescue Rin’s reckless ass. He’s the one who told him about the situation with Kou. Hell, he’s the one who started this whole mess by poking around in Tachibanananase’s business, and now Rin’s fingers twitch with the urge to wrap themselves around Sousuke’s neck, and Sousuke’s got nothing to go on but Rin’s shoddy reasoning because he’s lost his network of information.

But he’ll deal with that later. Opening that can of worms while they’re working is just going to lead to another shouting match that’ll break Rin’s concentration and let the whole of Nagasaki know they’re here. The idiot’s distracted enough as it is, and his agitation is starting to rub off on Sousuke.

“Kou’s fine,” he says, making Rin start out of his brooding. “I ordered patrol cars outside her apartment. Mikoshiba’s in the hospital and far away from her. She’s not hurt.”

Rin scowls. “I know that, asshat, I called her. You think I’d still be here if she wasn’t safe?”

“I think you’re a selfish jerk who stopped picking up his phone and made his baby sister worry about him.”

“Well at least she cares,” Rin snaps, flapping a hand dismissively in Sousuke’s direction. The action is somehow even more insulting than anything he’s said today. “Nobody else fucking does.”

“Oh, shut up already. I didn’t have to haul ass here to save you.”

“From what? There’s nobody here, asshole. I bet your yakuza buddy isn’t even gonna show up. I bet he isn’t even real.”

Sousuke very generously decides not to give him a black eye. “For your own sake, I hope he doesn’t. I could be at home right now, but instead I’m here with no backup, no uniform and no sleep. Stuck with a stubborn, childish bastard who stole my parka and won’t sit still for more than five minutes at a time.”

Rin practically throws himself onto a crate. “There. I’m sitting still, are you happy, you lazy jerk?”

“This has nothing to do with being lazy, moron, it has everything to do with you not giving away our position.”

“The only position we should be in is my foot up your ass, you lying, two-faced son of a b—”

“Shut up,” Sousuke says suddenly.

Rin stares at him. He looks like he’s actually turning purple with rage. “Did you actually just tell me to –”

“Shut up,” Sousuke hisses, dropping onto his stomach so he’s not so easily visible. “Someone’s coming across the dock. Come up here, I can’t make out who they are from this distance.”

Mouth snapping shut, Rin scrambles off his crate and onto the roof of the tractor, elbowing Sousuke aside so he can see.

 

 

Two figures are brisk-walking down the dock, coming from the commercial area and heading towards the cargo bays. One of them is taller than the other, and they’re probably male based on build, although Sousuke can’t reliably identify much else.

Rin, on the other hand, is already sliding off of their perch and gesturing for Sousuke to follow. “Come on,” he says, voice low in marked contrast to his earlier shrill complaining. “We can head them off if we go around the construction site.”

Sousuke lands on asphalt with a soft thud. “You’re sure it’s them?”

“I’d stake my badge on it. They look a little different, but I’d recognize them anywhere. Let’s go.”

The men working on moving containers onto the ship pay them no attention as they slip out of hiding and double back out of their secluded section of the harbour. Rin slides his revolver out of the holster resting on his hip, keeping it securely in both hands as he ducks around the massive body of a crane. Sousuke glances over his shoulder. A couple of officers had dropped by on routine patrol but they’re long gone, off checking the commercial district just outside of the harbour. Not immediately available, but not far enough that he and Rin are completely on their own.

“Think we’re gonna have any trouble with them?” Sousuke murmurs, voice just barely carrying over the sound of men working in the distance.

Rin spares him a glance before leading them to the outer edge of the area, devoid of life aside from them. “I doubt it, unless they’re spoiling for a fight.”

Sousuke eyes the unforgiving set of Rin’s shoulders and snorts. “I bet they wouldn’t be the only ones.”

 

 

They skirt the edges of a huge, half-finished building, its concrete skeleton looming over them and obstructing Sousuke’s vision. Tachibanananase could be anywhere. If this is a problem for Rin, though, he doesn’t show it; he barely slows as he weaves between naked pillars, tracking his former friends like an irate bloodhound. Sousuke stamps down on the sudden spike of irritation at having to stay on Rin’s heels. He’d found those scumbags out, he should be the one arresting them.

He really fucking hopes Rin knows what he’s doing.

Wordlessly, Rin holds up a hand and Sousuke stops in his tracks, right behind a stack of construction material. Over there, Rin mouths, pointing to their ten o’clock.

Sousuke squints in the gloom. Tachibanananase have stopped walking not thirty metres away, rummaging through the bag on Tachibana’s shoulder. It looks like they’re arguing, although their voices are too faint for Sousuke to hear. Rin signals with two fingers, and Sousuke nods. From this distance, their best plan is to try to get as close as possible without being seen before trying to make the arrest. They’ve got the advantage of being armed, but it would be better not to spook them too soon. It’s not easy to hit a moving target. Sousuke wishes he’d brought the police dog.

Rin turns to bring their faces close, although he doesn’t take his eyes off their quarry. “Let’s split up. If we go around the building we should be able to sneak up on them,” he mutters against Sousuke’s ear. He smells like cologne and cheap detergent. “Tachibana’s big, but he scares easy and he probably won’t try to fight me while I’m armed.”

“And Nanase?” Sousuke whispers back.

“Slower runner than he looks. You’ll be able to take him no problem.” Rin pauses, sparing Sousuke a scowl. “Whatever you’re doing, stop it. They’ll hear you.”

Sousuke blinks. “I’m not doing anything,” he says, although he can hear it too. A quiet, drawn out scrape, scrape, scrape. To their left, not-quite rhythmic and steadily getting louder. “What the hell is that?”

 

 

“We’re alone here, right?” Rin hisses, tensing up like a coiled spring. Sousuke lowers his weapon, turning away to pinpoint the source of the noise. It’s right above them, almost, not far away, probably from the stack of pipes they’ve been using as cover.

Sousuke watches, slack-jawed, as the top of the pile starts to wobble.

 

 

Fuck,” he manages, dropping his gun and pulling Rin out of the way. They barely make it; the tower collapses and five-metre pipes go crashing onto the ground, rolling every which way with a deafening clatter. “Fuck, what the hell just— Rin, are you okay?”

They’re flat on the ground. Sousuke had leapt to the side, bringing Rin with him, and Rin bolts upright on Sousuke’s chest. He’s not even listening. “Fuck, fuck, they’re getting away!”

Sousuke follows his gaze. Tachibana and Nanase are sprinting away from the disaster, heading straight for the docks. “If they get into the crowd, we’re gonna lose them.”

Rin’s on his feet in an instant, Sousuke not far behind. “We can catch ‘em. We have to move it, come on.”

Sousuke watches him scramble over the wreckage, breath harsh and irregular. A flash of pink catches the corner of his eye, and Sousuke almost screams. “Kisumi?”

“What?”

Kisumi,” Sousuke spits. “The yakuza bastard. We’re not alone, he’s trying to get in the way.”

Rin looks like he’s about to start screaming himself. Tachibana and Nanase’s figures are rapidly shrinking, and Rin looks from them to Sousuke. “What do we do?”

He’s not finally bowing to Sousuke’s authority. He’s trying to decide between the men who broke his trust, and the man who tried to hurt his little sister. There’s no choice. “Go after them. I can handle Kisumi.”

Rin’s expression hardens. “Take my gun.”

“No. You need it, you’re outnumbered. I’ll be fine, Rin just go.”

“But—”

Trust me.”

A split-second pause. “Alright.” Stepping back, Rin spares Sousuke one last look, and Sousuke nods in acknowledgement. “Try not to get your dumb ass killed.”

“Rin.”

“What?”

Sousuke holds out a fist, expression all steel and hard lines. “Don’t let them make you cry.”

“I got this.” Rin bumps their knuckles together and turns to go. “Nobody’s making me cry again.”

 

 

 


 

 

 

There. Right there. The ship is straight ahead.

Haru almost trips over his own feet. Makoto’s too fast, he’s getting further and further away, Haru’s not going to make it in time. There’s a commotion going on nearby and Haru doesn’t know what’s going on, but he’d heard the noise and known he needed to leave.

Makoto knows too. Makoto knows because he knows everything that goes through Haru’s head, because they’ve been connected for so long that sometimes they have thoughts that belong to them both.

There’s a stich in his side. Haru’s breath comes up heavy and desperate, and he reaches one hand out hoping Makoto will take it. That he’ll turn around and remember that Haru’s still there, that at the very least he won’t forget what Haru looks like if they get separated and Haru goes to jail. Haru doesn’t begrudge him that. If it came right down to it, he’d take the blame in a heartbeat. As long as it meant Makoto would go free.

He can’t breathe. Nerves and exhaustion and hysteria rise around him all at once, threatening to crash back down in unforgiving waves that he’ll never see the end of. It’s over. There are footsteps thundering after him and Makoto’s going too fast for Haru to catch up, and it’s all over.

In the end, he does trip.

It’s almost anticlimactic, in a way, he thinks dimly as the ground surges up to meet him. He’ll fall flat on his face and whoever’s chasing them will take him away, and all Haru will have left is the knowledge that at least Makoto is safe. At least the plan worked for one of them, and honestly it’s a good thing it’s Makoto because he’s capable of more than Haru will ever achieve. Haru deserves this. He deserves the pain that comes from landing right on his nose, and he deserves the grip on his neck that yanks him onto his knees. Something cold presses itself against the back of his head. This is it. He’ll go to jail and be hated forever, and he can kiss all of his life goodbye.

 

 

The world stops spinning.

“Makoto,” he sobs weakly, too soft to hear.

 

 

Someone familiar clears his throat. “If I were you, I’d stop moving and drop the bag.”

Fighting to keep his heart rate under control, Haru lifts his gaze off the ground. Makoto isn’t running. He’s standing stock still just ahead of them, towering over Haru with his back ramrod straight and hands suspended at shoulder level. He’s trembling. Their duffel bag slips out of his grip and onto the ground forgotten.

“Good. Now turn around slowly and keep your hands behind your head. I’m armed, so don’t try anything else stupid.”

Makoto obeys. Haru almost screams for him to keep running, just leave, but he’s too scared to open his mouth. Makoto’s not looking at him, anyway. Makoto’s attention is focused straight ahead, at the police officer holding a revolver to Haru’s head.

 

 

“Makoto Tachibana, Haruka Nanase,” says Rin, adjusting his grip on his firearm. “You’re under suspicion of multiple accounts of fraud. On behalf of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force, the two of you are under arrest.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Things would be a lot less painful for you if you stopped running from me,” says Sousuke.

A voice floats back to him from somewhere in the room, chuckling. “I think perhaps you’ve got that the wrong way round.”

Sousuke’s fingers twitch. It’s dark in here, and the mess on the ground makes it hard to pick his way forward. Moonlight filters through the scaffolding of their abandoned building like a skewed checkerboard of shadow and bright.  Kisumi’s nowhere to be found. Clearly hiding in a corner somewhere like the cockroach he is. The lack of holster on Sousuke’s hip makes him feel exposed and bare, and it’s almost as an afterthought that he steps back into the dark. He’s a sitting duck, and he’s not sure what kind of nasty weapons Kisumi might have on him.

Squinting into the gloom, he wills his eyes to adjust faster and does a quick sweep; nothing to his front, nothing on either side. Damn it. You’d think ridiculous hair like that would stand out.

He must still be here, though. Sousuke’s standing by the side of the building that leads out onto the docks, right where Rin just left from. If Kisumi ran out now, Sousuke would see him. And be able to catch up with him, probably, which is likely why Kisumi’s still hiding.

“Heard through the grapevine you assaulted a guy,” he says, conversationally. “Tried to strangle him and everything. I didn’t peg you for the violent type.”

“I like to think I’m versatile,” Kisumi says. Sousuke shut his eyes for a second and listens for where it’s coming from. “I guess it counts as practice.”

The corner diagonal from here. Slowly, Sousuke switches directions, inching across the concrete floor with a hand outstretched to feel for obstacles. “For what? Me? I should probably remind you I’m a trained police officer, and you’re a desk monkey.”

“I’m also armed,” Kisumi chirrups back. “And I feel like you’re not, because otherwise I’d be head-butting bullets by now.”

True. Scowling into the gloom, Sousuke kind of wishes he’d brought the gun anyway, even out of uniform. It’s not like he hasn’t already broken enough rules to get him fired twice over. “I’m trying not to kill you yet. See, I had a couple of questions that you probably won’t be able to answer with lead in the brain. Like, what fuck are you doing interfering in my investigation?”

“Well I’m not doing this for fun, if that’s what you’re wondering. I’m a desk monkey, I’d much rather still be in Tokyo. But someone decided to rip off my boss, and you can probably figure out the rest.”

The tip of Sousuke’s shoe nudges a fallen pipe, and he winces as it makes a soft clattering noise as it rolls. “I’ll bet she’s pretty pissed off that you let that happen,” he says to cover the noise. “Did she make you come after them herself?”

“Does it matter to you?” Kisumi asks, voice echoing. Just a little further, keep him talking.

“If you’d just waited for me to put these fuckers behind bars, Miss Miho would have her money back eventually. Drawing attention to yourself by assaulting a guy and getting in the way of my arrest sounds kind of counter-intuitive.” A broken piece of plaster or something crunches gently under his shoe. Sousuke bends and feels around for a bigger piece, tossing it into a patch of shadow several feet away. It bounces off something with a soft clatter. Sousuke goes in the opposite direction, still silently following the sound of Kisumi’s voice.

Kisumi laughs, high pitched and hysterical. “Oh, you think? I guess I didn’t think of that, what with Miho threatening to cut me off. You know what it’s like to starve, Sousuke? ‘Cause I do. And I don’t trust her. She won’t just leave me to rot, she’ll get rid of me somehow, I know it. She terrifies me. More than you, more than some con artists or a steroid-pumped small time drug dealer. I don’t think I really had a choice.”

“Maybe,” says Sousuke somewhat dismissively. “Maybe she’s a threat. But, you know, I’m definitely a threat, and now you’re stuck here with me.” If he squints, he can see what must be Kisumi’s outline, wedged strategically between a pile of bricks and what looks like a concrete mixer. Could push him into that. Probably kill him, though.

Kisumi turns around. Sousuke freezes, cold sweat breaking out on his palms. He can’t make out a whole lot in this light but he knows Kisumi’s looking right at him.

Kisumi smiles, and his teeth glint. “Actually, I think you’re stuck with me.

 

 


 

 

 

Makoto isn’t moving.

Haru trembles, watches the tense line of his shoulders, grasping for clues to tell him what to do. Sweat prickles the back of his neck, running down into the collar of his hoodie even as his skin breaks into goosebumps.

Rin has a gun to his head. Everything is over.

He locks eyes with Makoto. Please, he tries to covey without words. Makoto’s always said he has expressive eyes, even when he doesn’t talk. Please, do something. I don’t know how to fix this.

Makoto swallows, and Haru watches the bob of his adam’s apple with something like desperation. “We’re not armed, Rin. Please, put the gun down.”

The mention of his name in Makoto’s voice has Rin tensing even further. The revolver against Haru’s neck presses closer, briefly, making Haru squeeze his eyes shut. “I don’t think,” Rin says, voice low and controlled, “that you’re really in a position to order me around.”

“I’m not,” Makoto pleads. “I just – can we talk? About everything?”

There’s a pause. Haru tries to imagine the expression on Rin’s face – stunned silence, or tears, or rage. “I am arresting you. We’re not going to talk.”

Makoto’s fingers twitch, hands still at shoulder-level, eyebrows slanted upwards and gaze darting from Rin’s face to Haru’s. “I…okay. I’m sorry. We’re sorry.” Rin says nothing, and Makoto barrels on. “I mean, you’re probably really mad at us but we are sorry, we never meant for this to happen. It just sort of got away from us, and by the time we—”

“Shut up.” Makoto’s mouth snaps shut abruptly, and Rin releases a shaky sigh. “Right. Okay. I am trying real hard to be professional right now, but there’s not a lot stopping me from pistol whipping the ever-loving fuck out of you both.”

Haru winces. He’s fairly certain that the Tokyo Met isn’t usually too concerned about its officers roughing up felons, but he hopes Rin is just exaggerating.

Rin sighs again, even softer this time. The cold metal against Haru’s neck draws away somewhat, but he doesn’t dare turn around. “I can’t—,” Rin starts, voice hitching. “Fuck this, fuck being professional. What is wrong with you two? What were you thinking? Were you thinking at all? No, of course you weren’t.” He growls, and Haru can imagine him scrubbing both hands over his face. “Just – why? How long have you two been doing this shit behind my back?”

Neither Haru nor Makoto speak. Rin snatches at the back of Haru’s hoodie, yanking him off balance and making him choke. “I said, how long?”

“Stop that!” Makoto makes to step forward, but pulls up short when Rin aims the revolver at him. “Please, Rin, you’re hurting him.”

Rin stares at him for a good few seconds. “Of course. Of course you’re only worried about Haru, because he’s all you fucking care about.”

Something shameful settles itself in Haru’s stomach. Rin is half-illuminated by the halogen dock lights, towering over Haru where he lies on his back on cold concrete. “A while,” he manages. “Halfway through university, small-time. And then we got bigger.”

Rin scowls down at him. “What else are you guilty of?”

Haru breathes in deep. “Just the fraud. I made copies. Makoto distributed.”

The tip of Rin’s sneaker digs Haru’s ribs. “You’d better not be lying.”

“He’s not,” Makoto cuts in, looking like he wants to wring his hands. “I…it was my idea, mostly. I put him up to it. I made it into this whole,” he gestures vaguely, “thing.”

They stare at each other until Makoto drops his gaze. “I’m sorry,” he says again. “Once we started, it just kept growing, and we couldn’t tell you. You would have stopped us.”

“No shit I would have stopped you,” Rin snaps. “I’m a god damned police officer, you idiot. You didn’t think it would be risky?”

It’s not like you found out, Yamazaki did, Haru thinks, but has the presence of mind not to say. Instead he inches backwards slowly, away from Rin, careful not to move too much and draw attention to himself. He just wants to be away from the gun. Rin doesn’t pay him any attention, instead apparently focused on taking slow, deep breaths.

“I can’t believe,” he says, voice thick, “that I am surrounded by so many traitors. I hope the two of you have fun in prison.”

It’s unclear who he means aside from Makoto and Haru, but Rin doesn’t elaborate, posture drooping a little like he’s trying not to cry. Another wave of guilt twists Haru’s gut; somehow it seems like Rin’s been doing that a lot, lately.

“I don’t understand,” he says quietly, surprising all of them. He should not be talking. He doesn’t want to be talking, he wants to dive off a pier and hide. Rin doesn’t shoot him, though, so he keeps going. “Didn’t you – you warned us. I thought…I thought you still,” he pauses, taps his tongue against his teeth, looking for the right word. Words are so hard, and he hates them. “I thought you cared. I though you wanted us to run.”

Rin takes a step back, face colouring immediately. “Shut up.”

Makoto frowns at him. “I thought Yamazaki would be the one to arrest us, after what he said to Haru. Not you.”

“Shut up!” Rin screams at them both, putting his head in his hands, although neither of the two take the opportunity to run. “Yes, okay, I warned you, okay? I did. Because somehow I was hoping that Sousuke was wrong, and that the people I thought I was friends with weren’t liars. Weren’t criminals. I wanted you two assholes safe, I didn’t want to see you go to jail. Even if you broke the law and basically stomped all over me. Even though,” his voice cracks. “Even though I knew it was wrong, the first thing I wanted to do was protect you. Joke’s on me, huh? I’m pathetic. You pull this shit and I still tried to save your asses.”

His breathing is ragged. No tears come from him, though, brave that he is, and Makoto slowly lowers his hands, expression both guarded and shameful. “I’m sorry, Rin.”

“Don’t you fucking pity me,” Rin spits. “You don’t deserve me. You lie to me for years and shit all over everything I stand for as a police officer, as your friend. Sousuke was right to be suspicious. Even if he’s a dick himself, at least he cottoned on.”

He falls silent. Chatter from the dockhands in the distance reaches them in snatches, almost drowned out by the sound of waves lapping against the harbour. The cranes stop groaning as the last containers are stacked into place, and Haru slowly sits up, eyes meeting Makoto’s. He looks the way Haru feels, hollow and ashamed that even with Rin shattering in front of them, the thought on both their minds is that their chance to escape is slipping away without them.

Rin stares at the ground. He looks forlorn, and Haru hesitantly reaches out to touch him. Stops himself at the last minute and draws his knees to his chest instead, because he’s the last person Rin needs comfort from.

Resigned, he takes a last look at the ship and breathes out slowly. “So what now?”

Rin looks at him with wet eyes and a shuddering sigh. “I don’t know.”

 

 


 

 

 

Sousuke lunges. Aims for the midsection, but ends up throwing himself to the left to avoid Kisumi’s fist. He’s holding something. Sousuke can’t quite see it, but he can hazard a guess. His heartbeat fills the spaces between his ribs. “Illegal to be carrying that shit around, you know.”

“Yeah, don’t care.” He hazards another swing and Sousuke takes a step back, hissing. Kisumi’s clearly inexperienced, but that makes it hard to tell exactly where he’s aiming. “I gotta tell you, it sure does help the nerves, though.”

“You talk a lot for someone in the middle of a fight,” Sousuke says, eyes darting around for something he could use. He’s not strong enough to lift a beam and there’s nothing worth throwing. If he can stall for long enough, Rin will come back eventually with the gun. “Kind of ruins the mood a little.”

Kisumi jumps at him again, and Sousuke dodges. “Tell you what. Once I stab you, I won’t say a thing.”

Grab the wrist, move the knife, aim for the sternum. The next time Sousuke’s prepared, and the blade – a switchblade, of course it’s a switchblade – falls from Kisumi’s hand at the same time Sousuke jabs a fist into the other man’s chest. Something cracks under his knuckles. Kisumi grunts, and before Sousuke can block, Kisumi’s free hand swings wildly to clip him in the face.

He cries out. Blood trickles down his lower lip, his nose only just starting to heal from when Rin broke it a few days ago. He lets go, stumbles backwards. Has the presence of mind to kick the knife out of reach  but it seems Kisumi’s forgotten about it now, zoned in on his weak spot and intent on hitting him one more time. Sousuke grits his teeth through the pain and keeps swinging. It’s hard to focus. Kisumi’s uncoordinated but he’s strong, and Sousuke’s not about to underestimate him.

He keeps an arm in front of his face to ward off blows to his nose. Tastes like copper and adrenaline. Kisumi pauses, drawing back and obviously trying to figure out what to do. Leaves his ribs wide open, and Sousuke kicks hard, sending Kisumi tumbling sideways.

Sousuke grabs him by the front of the shirt before he can fall into the concrete mixer, pulling him forward and onto him. Both men fall, the ground hard and unforgiving under Sousuke’s back as Kisumi falls onto him and knocks the wind out of him. He doesn’t seem grateful that Sousuke saved his ass, unless his way of saying thanks is straddling him and punching him in the nose again.

Sousuke curls up instinctively as best as he can with Kisumi on him. He flings a hand out and casts around for something – anything, fuck, he’s a police officer, he can’t die in the middle of nowhere surrounded by dirt and concrete and –

And bricks.

 

Kisumi shrieks when Sousuke hits him. Understandable, considering Sousuke wouldn’t want to be smacked in the side of the head with construction material either, but it does the job. Kisumi rolls onto the ground. Sousuke scrambles to his knees, hands going for the cuffs hooked to his belt. Takes some work to pry Kisumi’s hands away from his bloodied face and roll him over, but the handcuffs snap into place with a satisfying click.

Groaning, Sousuke heaves himself onto his feet and clutches his nose. Takes the opportunity to kick Kisumi in the side while he’s just lying there, earning a strangled expletive in response.

Sousuke grins at him, not without some malice. “At least you’re not fucking talking anymore.”

Kisumi spits out a tooth. “You fucking,” he starts, but whatever he’s about to say next dissolves into a wordless snarl. He’s much less intimidating on his stomach with both hands behind his back, and Sousuke stares him down until he tires himself out and goes still.

His nose throbs. The bleeding’s slowed down some, though, so he gingerly lets go of his face and digs his phone out of his pocket for some light. Kisumi’s pocket knife lies discarded some three metres away, and Sousuke retrieves it for evidence. A weapon’s going to add a lot more time to Kisumi’s sentence, once Sousuke gets him put away for assaulting a police officer. “Prick.”

Kisumi barely struggles when Sousuke hauls him to his feet, staggering a bit from being shoved. “Get moving,” Sousuke says. Blood is still flowing freely from Kisumi’s face, albeit slower now. Sousuke doesn’t bother patching him up.

He needs to go in Rin’s direction. He might need back-up, although with any luck, he’ll have subdued Tachibana and Nanase on his own by now. By the sound of it, neither of them should put up much of a fight.

“At least she won’t get her hands on me in jail,” Kisumi mutters under his breath.

Sousuke croaks a laugh.

 

 


 

 

 

The docks are almost silent as Sousuke hauls Kisumi to where he thinks Rin might be, and dark save for the cargo area. Looks like Rin was right after all. Tachibana and Nanase wouldn’t have any other way to escape the country, seeing as all the other bays are closed to the general public.

Kisumi’s cheerful, which is slightly unsettling but much less so than having the man try to stab his eyes out. He’s unresponsive when Sousuke tells him to be quiet, but whatever. Must have finally lost the last few marbles he had rattling around in that stupid pink head of his.

Two figures stand out between Sousuke and the water, only partially visible behind the looming shadow of a pickup truck. No, three. One of them is on the ground, sitting up. The atmosphere is tense and quiet.

Sousuke’s good mood evaporates, tension creeping back as he deposits Kisumi by some bicycle racks where he can keep an eye on him from afar.

His footsteps are uncomfortably loud to his ears as he draws closer, but the trio appears to be distracted. That’s Rin’s voice he hears. Rin, with his back to him, and Tachibana facing him. That must mean he’s got Nanase pinned on the ground. He’s handling the situation just fine, then. Sousuke can lend him an extra pair of hands and get them carted off along with Kisumi. Hell, maybe he’ll even stick them both in the same car, might be fun to see if Kisumi manages to strangle one of them with his handcuffs.

 

 

“Are you going to arrest us?” he hears one of them ask.

Of course he is, Sousuke rolls his eyes. What the hell else did we come here for?

But Rin says nothing. Sousuke slows in his steps. Rin’s standing stock-still, not pointing his firearm, not tugging his handcuffs off of the loop in his belt.

He doesn’t say yes.

Slowly, Sousuke moves to stand behind the truck instead of making his way to the others. Say yes, Rin. You already let them go once. Say yes.

Rin’s response is so quiet that Sousuke almost doesn’t hear. “You know, I should, for everything you did. But I really don’t want to. Even now, even after everything, I still don’t want you to get hurt.”

No. Sousuke shuts his eyes and sighs, because this…is exactly what Rin would do. Stupid selfless Rin who feels too much and holds grudges only long enough for them to break him. Of course he’d cry and hunt down the people who hurt him and then not be cruel enough to punish them even though he knows he should.

“Maybe Sousuke was right,” he says, and Sousuke’s foot stops moving before he can take a step forward. “Maybe I’m just…not worth much. I mean, I thought you were my friends, and look how this turned out. I let my sister hook up with a drug dealer, and then she gets attacked by some yakuza-wannabe I’ve never even heard of. I had one friend left and I pushed him away, and he still came back for me. No wonder he thinks I need protecting. I can’t…I’ve fucked up so much.”

The truck’s rusty exterior feels grimy under Sousuke’s dirty fingers. It’s not true. Rin made mistakes, they all did, but he doesn’t deserve to feel so broken, not even if he’s repeating all the poison that’s come out of Sousuke’s mouth. Even if Sousuke had meant it at the time and been more wrong than he’s ever been in his life.

They do this to each other. They hit where it hurts and trust each other to bounce back, but maybe this time Sousuke should be the first to apologise. Maybe this time he needs to put aside his stupid fucking ego and be the partner to Rin he should have been weeks ago.

Oddly enough, Nanase beats him to it.

“You didn’t,” he says, and Sousuke, for once, agrees with him. “We did. There’s no use blaming yourself for our mistakes. It’s not right. I don’t understand the other stuff but…it’s not your fault. Don’t think that. You’re wrong.”

You could have put it better, dickbag, Sousuke sighs through his nose, although Rin doesn’t comment on Nanase’s eloquence.

Tachibana’s face is too far away for his expression to be seen, but his voice is clear when he speaks. “Haru’s right. I know this isn’t worth much, but we’re sorry. I’m sorry. Even if you’re the one arresting us, I’m still grateful you tried to protect us.”

“That makes me a pretty shit police officer,” Rin says flatly.

Tachibana shrugs. “Makes you a great friend, though. Better than we are, at any rate.” A pause. “Are we? Still friends? As stupid a question as that is…”

Of course not, dipshit. Sousuke wishes he could see Rin’s expression right now, but he’s just doing that thing where he looks at his shoes because he’s trying very hard not to cry.

“I don’t know,” he says finally. “I don’t think I can ever forgive you for this. But I still can’t bring myself to hate you. Pretty bullshit, huh?”

Slowly, Nanase gets to his feet. His body language is tense, but he makes no sudden movements, and Rin doesn’t seem very alarmed. “You’re still our friend. Even if we don’t deserve it.”

Rin laughs. It sounds empty and sad, and it makes Sousuke want to punch something. “And I still don’t want to see your ass get kicked in prison. Even if you do deserve it.”

He wraps his arms around himself, like he’s warding off the chill even through his stolen parka. “But if I did that, I think Sousuke might actually never speak to me again. And I don’t know if I can handle losing him too.” His voice goes even quieter. “He already hates me as it is.”

Fuck. Sighing, Sousuke steps out from where he’s been skulking in the shadows, making no effort to quiet the noise of his sneakers as he finally comes closer. Tachibana looks about ready to shit himself, and Nanase takes a step back like he thinks the others are going to protect him. Laughable. “I don’t. I mean, you’re annoying, but not that annoying.”

Rin whips around, face drained of colour as he casts around for something to say. “Sousuke, wh—what happened to your face?”

“Some asshole broke my nose. And then Kisumi punched it,” Sousuke says. He turns to stare holes into Nanase’s head, and the man swallows, glaring back with something like defiance and fear. “Are you, uh. You alright?”

Rin fidgets. “I, yeah. I’m alright.”

“Okay,” Sousuke says, shifting his gaze back to Rin. His work partner for years, and probably his best friend in the entire world. “Yeah. Okay.”

Every emotion is stark on Rin’s race, the conflict of doing his job versus protecting the people he cares about. The sleepless nights, the worry about his sister, the anger simmering underneath and the relief that his former friends are still here, still connected to him enough to at least try and apologise.

Three weeks of work and fights flit through Sousuke’s memory. So much effort and rage and exhaustion, all for a couple of low-risk criminals he should have just left to Amakata.

He’s so tired.

“I guess…you heard all that,” Rin says, having the decency to look guilty. “I’m not…sure I’m the best person to be working on this case anymore.”

Silence. Shifting his weight, Sousuke lifts a hand to scratch at the back of his neck, resolutely ignoring Tachibananase even though he’s really itching to kick them both in the ribs. “Nah. You’ve never failed us before.”

Rin’s head snaps up at that, eyes wide and lips slightly parted. Sousuke find some trouble meeting his gaze.

Go on, he tells himself. Apologise.

“I’m…gonna go,” he says instead. Jerks one thumb over a shoulder, in the general direction where he knows Kisumi’s attached to a bike rack humming to himself like a lunatic. “Dangerous criminal and whatever. Tried to shank me. You can deal with these guys, right?”

“I…yeah? I guess I can.”

Sousuke nods. Turns to leave, and then pauses. “Two on one. Would be a real shame if those guys overpowered you and ran off while my back was turned. You know. If they wanted to. Sasabe wouldn’t blame you.”

He leaves to the sound of silence and ocean waves, and the honk of a ship horn as it prepares to leave the docks. En route to Vietnam via the East China Sea, where a couple of wealthy expatriates might fit in with a visa purchased at the sea port.

This time, when Rin watches him go, it’s not so bad.

 

 


 

 

And here they are. Three complete fools standing around and staring at each other, two parts shameful and one part hollow. Makoto doesn’t meet his eye, and Haru just stares.

Rin sighs. The past month has aged him more than it should, and he wants nothing more than to curl up on the couch and watch bad movies with his baby sister. He looks up at the ship.

“Go,” he says, and can’t help the lingering flutter of affection when Makoto and Haru look at him like he’s saved their lives. He has, he supposes. “You’ll miss your chance. I hope you spend the rest of your lives feeling guilty about this.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt of that,” Makoto says, eyes glistening a little. His smile’s back, little by little, and he looks better with it. “Thank you, Rin.”

“We’re sorry,” Haru says, and falters. “We… we’ll miss you.”

“Yeah,” Rin responds, voice rough. He sniffles, and then takes a step forward. “Wait. Before you go.”

Immediately, Makoto opens his arms, prepared to receive Rin and hug him for what’s likely going to be the last time in his life.

 

Rin punches him.

 

Makoto howls. Getting punched by a police officer, as Haru will later point out, is rather different from being punched by Nagisa, and now Makoto’s the one with the nosebleed.

Rin rounds on him next, and Haru raises both hands in surrender. “I’ve already been hit once this week. In the face. It wasn’t nice.”

Obligingly, Rin punches him in the stomach instead, winding him. He and Makoto stand there doubled over for a second, and Rin doesn’t even bother not looking slightly smug. “Right. What are you waiting for? Get out before I change my mind.”

“Thanks,” Makoto wheezes, picking up the bag and hobbling off to the ship. Haru follows him somewhat normally. The foghorn sounds, and they break into a run, Makoto waving his arm to attract the crew’s attention to stop the ship from leaving without them.

To freedom.

And away from Rin, forever.

 

The tears finally come. Alone in stark fluorescent light in the middle of an empty harbour, Rin Matsuoka lets himself cry.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Kisumi wakes up dead.

 

Wishes he did, anyway. His face hurts. A lot, which is honestly kind of unfair, because much of his success stems from being pretty enough and cheerful enough to swindle money from gangsters and little old ladies.

Grunting, he shifts around a little, squinting at the harsh fluorescent lighting overhead. Something mechanical beeps at him; there’s an IV attached to his arm, and one of those mysterious ping pong game-looking things that measures a person’s heart rate.

He’d passed out, then. Understandable, because fucking Sousuke had decided to be a big damned hero and get in the way of everything, and now Kisumi has the sinking feeling that his pretty face won’t be of much use after all, because his days of swindling gangsters and little old ladies are over.

His nose throbs rather unpleasantly. Annoyed, he lifts a hand to poke at the bandages probably on his face – and stops, because his left wrist is handcuffed to his uncomfortable hospital bed. “Well, fuck. “

“Language.”

Kisumi does not scream. Mainly because he’s certain his jaw has been dislocated and talking actually hurts quite a bit, but the ping-pong heart machine does make a very alarming series of bleeps for a second before he gathers himself enough to turn.

Amakata is sitting in a chair by his bedside, paper cup of tea in one hand and looking very convincingly like a concerned visitor. Smiling beatifically, she reaches out to pat his hand, prompting from Kisumi a noise slightly like a deflating balloon.

“There, there, dear. Try not to move too much, you’ve hurt yourself quite a bit.”

Eyes wide, Kisumi blinks at her, mentally weighing the chances of her murdering him right now when they’re in a semi-public area that’s probably also being heavily monitored. The odds don’t seem great, so he reminds himself that a hospital is probably the best place to get stabbed if he wants to live.

Amakata takes a small sip of her tea, making a face at the taste. “We haven’t been in touch for a while, have we? I’m sorry about that, really. It’s been a busy few days, looking for a new PA and all that. I’m sure you understand,” she pats his hand again. “I mean, I was rather attached to you, you know, but…” She trails off, gesturing to the handcuffs.

Kisumi swallows. His throat feels scratchy and sore. “I’m…sorry.”

“Yes, I know,” Amakata says in a tone Kisumi usually hears from disappointed parents. His, mainly. “I did have high hopes, but I see I’ve asked a bit much of you. You don’t know much about fieldwork. I suppose I should have expected failure from the outset.”

Kisumi sort of just…stares at her. Mostly in disbelief in the fact that she’s even here, but partly because he’s reached the worst possible outcome save from Amakata actually dismembering him, and yet she’s still here. To laugh at him, not to help him, and a tiny bubble of hysteria shoves its way past the part of his brain labelled anxiety and into the part labelled slightly blinding rage.

“If you’re going to smother me with a pillow or something, you might as well just do it,” he says somewhat testily. Smiles at her in a frankly ugly fashion, skin still blotchy and swollen from having his head beaten in. “Otherwise I don’t think there’s much point in you lecturing me. I’m already going to jail,” he rattles the handcuffs. “For a while. And everything hurts. And I’m guessing I no longer have a job, so I find that I really don’t care anymore what you have to say.”

Amakata stares at him like a rattlesnake staring down a mouse. Head tilted to the side a little, less offended than intrigued, searching for god-knows-what. Kisumi stares back, even as his heart beat beats a staccato rhythm on the machine.

“I’ve been arrested. I’ve been beaten up – twice, in fact, with a blunt weapon, have you ever been hit with a bat? Or a brick? — I’ve been shoved out into the streets on a crazy errand by a crazy lady when I should have been wearing nice shoes and doing a desk job. Everything’s gone to shit,” Kisumi says levelly. “I’m not in the mood for your shit too.”

 

 

Silence, save for the quiet beeping of the heart monitor, two white collar criminals (one recently unemployed) waiting for the other one to speak.

She laughs, suddenly, a bit louder than she usually does. “Oh, this is a pity. I’ll be sorry to lose you, Kisumi.” Still smiling, she sets her unfinished tea on his bedside table and stands. She’s graceful in her soft yellow pea coat, hair shifting over her shoulders as she reaches down to kiss him kindly on the cheek. “I’ll put in a good word for you, hmm?”

“A good word with who?” Kisumi asks, but she walks out of the room without looking back.

 

 


 

 

 

“I should suspend you,” Sasabe says. There are three empty mugs on his desk, all stained with coffee, and one smells a little bit like whiskey. Rin stares at one of the tacky kitten posters on the wall, its colours faded and stained with years of nicotine. He almost wants to go out and buy a new one, one that’s not so depressing. “You were way out of line there, Matsuoka. You know better than to go leaking information to the press without orders. Not to mention running off by yourself and giving Yamazaki reason to believe you were losing your grip on things.”

Rin takes a deep breath and meets Sasabe’s gaze, faltering only slightly. “I’m sorry,” he says sincerely. “I shouldn’t have gone behind you like that. But my method worked, Sir. I figured out where they went before anyone else did.”

“And decided to go to the press about it.”

“With false information,” Rin replies. His voice is calm. He feels somehow hollow and leaden at the same time, empty like new earth after heavy rain. “I had a plan. I didn’t want you to take me off the case, so I made myself look like an authority, but kept my guess wrong enough that Ma…Tachibana and Nanase wouldn’t get too spooked.”

“That’s underhanded, Matsuoka,” Sasabe says, chin resting on his hand as he watches Rin fidget. “I didn’t peg you for a liar.”

The jab stings like it was meant to, but Rin can’t bring himself to feel regret. “Yes. I lied. I was….close to the case. Sousuke was right. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Yeah, that tends to happen with you,” Sasabe sighs. He drums his fingers against the table top, a nervous habit Rin’s noticed he does when he’s heading for a caffeine crash. “I should never have let you on the case. You’re lucky you’re normally better than this. And you’re very lucky these guys were small-time. If your friends hadn’t been so harmless, we’d have bigger consequences to deal with.”

“They aren’t my friends anymore,” Rin says quietly, and then clears his throat. “I thought I could catch them. I almost did, but then…”

“They got away.” Sasabe nods, straightens up a pile of papers which slouch right back into disorder. “Sousuke told me that Kisumi fella showed up and fucked things up for you.”

“We had to split up,” Rin agrees, too tired to be ashamed when Sasabe looks at him with trust. “I went after them, but they overpowered me and ran. I have the chipped tooth to prove it.”

“You had a gun.”

Rin falters. “I…couldn’t shoot.”

Another sigh. Weary, Sasabe sits back in his uncomfortable swivel chair and pinches the bridge of his nose. “You used to care for them,” he says, not unkindly. “And I can respect you not wanting to open fire when there are civilians around. I don’t blame you for that. I’m benching you for six months, after that stunt, but we can fly with the rest of that story. Say that your press thing was a ruse that would have worked if not for the,” he waves a hand vaguely. “Rogue element.”

“Thank you, Sir.” He means it. Sasabe speaks with so much resignation that Rin already knows he’ll spend the rest of his career making it up to him. “I appreciate it. This will never happen again.”

“If it does you’re fired,” Sasabe says matter-of-factly, and Rin blanches. “You’re on sick leave for a week, go see a damned therapist. And no pay. That’ll teach you to do stupid shit like this.”

Rin stand up to leave, and bows. “Yes, Sir. I’ll, uh. See you next week, I guess.”

“Hang on.” One eyebrow raised, Sasabe stares Rin down, calculating. That’s another thing he does, they all know it. Pretends to be a jovial old beach bum right up until he isn’t. “How’d you know we were taking you off the case?”

Fuck. “I…know Sousuke well, Sir. We had something of a falling out. He threatened me, and I guessed he might be serious. So I acted pre-emptively.”

“Did you now,” Sasabe says flatly, a statement instead of a question. “The only other person who knew was Nitori.”

Rin stares back at his boss very intently. “Is that so?”

The corner of Sasabe’s mouth twitches up very slightly, and then he flaps a hand in Rin’s general direction. “Fine. I don’t want to deal with this anymore. If I didn’t have such good genes, you idiots would be turning me grey prematurely. Now get out of my office, I got shit to do.”

Rin high-tails it out of there, and doesn’t let the door hit him on the way out.

 

 


 

 

 

The last of Nagisa’s things go into a box, squishing the mass of badly-folded origami cranes thrown in at the bottom. The plastic cactus sits right on top, balancing precariously and doing a rather brave job of not falling over. He lifts it to test its weight, humming with satisfaction when he doesn’t immediately sprain something.

“I told you, you should have gotten a bigger box,” Rei says, one hip leaning against the receptionist’s desk. “I’d like to see you get all this to the taxi without dropping anything.”

“You’ll catch it for me,” Nagisa says with unwavering confidence, promptly stumbling over an untied shoelace. The cactus wobbles and tips out of the box, right into the palm of Rei’s waiting hand. “See? Best boyfriend ever.”

Rei sighs. It’s just after closing time of what is technically Nagisa’s last day. Only technically, because they both know Nagisa’s going to be visiting all the time because he has nothing else to do. “It’s going to be strange not working with you anymore.”

Nagisa sets the box down. “Aw, don’t be like that. Now you get to have me as a customer! Not that I can afford to buy anything, but I’ll come by for moral support.”

After you start applying for new jobs,” Rei says, trying and failing to be stern. “I still think you’re being remarkably irresponsible, you know. You’re in Tokyo, and unemployment isn’t fun. You should have started looking earlier.”

“I only decided to quit last week,” Nagisa says flippantly. “Besides, I have enough saved from my parents to last me a while.”

“And what will you do once that runs out?”

Nagisa turns to face him properly. “I will be fine,” he says, voice soft and soothing, coming forward to plaster himself against Rei’s chest. Reluctantly, Rei unfolds his arms to admit him, relaxing despite himself at Nagisa’s bubbly warmth. “Besides, I met the most interesting girl the other day at that fancy café you like. A red-head. Pretty ponytail and a cute bow in her hair.”

Rei narrows his eyes into slits. “Excuse me?”

“I’m taken,” Nagisa grins. “And so is she. But she did tell me all about her job at Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank. She’s a lawyer there. And the bank is looking to expand their market.”

“And?”

And,” Nagisa says slowly, “they need analysts. Teams of people to go and explore new markets in new places, survey the population and see what kind of services they’re likely to need.”

Rei tilts his head, considering this. “And how qualified would you have to be?”

“Bachelors at least, preferably in business. Which, incidentally, I have. A pretty good one, in fact, plus a few years of work experience and a couple of internships from university.”

“Huh.” Rei gazes slightly to the left, considering the news with characteristic thoughtfulness. “You would get to travel. And meet people, and see things.”

“That’s right.” Slowly, Nagisa’s fingers make their way up Rei’s chest, miming a walk until they hook themselves around Rei's topmost button. “You’ll never guess what else she told me.”

“Do tell,” Rei says, enraptured by the soft fingertips investigating the dip of his collarbone.

“Do you know what a risk analyst is?”

“I do,” Rei hums. “A financial mathematician. They predict trends and market patterns.”

“Mhm. And they can go out exploring with the other analysists too. And you,” Nagisa says, “are the best mathematician problem-solver in Japan.”

“That is a very bold claim,” Rei says, letting Nagisa reach up to play with his hair. “And it seems like you’re trying to get me to leave my perfectly good job to go gallivanting with you in a field I know nothing about.”

“Your very boring job,” Nagisa bats his eyes, actually bats them. “Which you’re overqualified and underpaid for, when you could be exploring Japan, maybe the world, with your very cute and eternally loving boyfriend.”

“The extra income would be very handy,” Rei concedes. “I’ve been wanting to buy my own property outside of Tokyo. And I suppose I am wasting my degree…”

Nagisa clutches at his shirt, eyes wide and starry and pink. “So you’ll do it?”

“I’ll do some research,” Rei says, and Nagisa, quite rightly, chalks that up to a win.

 

 

 


 

 

 

The good news, Kisumi supposes, is that Japanese prisons aren’t big on prisoner violence.

The bad news, of course, is that guards aren’t held to the same standards.

It’s like boot camp, he’s heard. Rules for eating. Rules for talking. Rules for sleeping (on your back, no exceptions, or the guards will wake you up). There are worse places to be, maybe; three square meals a day, however insubstantial, recreation time, which can be revoked, other inmates to talk to, when talking is allowed. Jumpsuits in a magnificently hideous shade of blue, and no Italian leather shoes.

The uniform chafes. Kisumi focuses on the sensation as he’s led through the prison compound by a surly guard who had not responded well to small talk. A few men stare at him. He ignores them, chin raised, jaw tense, bruises still healing and nose probably crooked forever.

The guard deposits him in front of a bare-walled cell with a bunk bed and sadly exposed toilet. Kisumi’s lip curls in distaste as the handcuffs are taken off and the guard stomps off; there are no windows and no privacy, every corner exposed should someone decide to look in on their way past.

There’s a man lying in the lower bunk, arms folded behind his head and feet bare. He doesn’t bother turning until Kisumi clears his throat.

“Hi,” Kisumi says, the kind of chipper he used to reserve for talking to Amakata’s terrifying bodyguards. “I’m your new cell mate.”

The man turns. His hair has been buzzed down on one side, the other hacked into a messy fuzz that probably used to be some sort of undercut. It’s no secret the way he looks Kiusmi up and down, sizing him up as though wondering if it’s worth trying to pull rank. “Name’s Uozumi. In for forging some shit. You?”

Attempted murder. Assaulting a police officer with a weapon. Involvement with organized crime. “The usual,” Kisumi chirps. “You can call me Kisumi.”

Uozumi blinks. “Kisumi? Like, Shigino?”

Kisumi’s grin falters. “Yes?”

“Holy shit.” Uozumi sits up and swings his feet off the bed, padding over to look at Kisumi up close. He only comes up to about the bridge of Kisumi’s broken nose. “Holy shit. I heard about you. Kisumi Shigino. Tall, pretty – faced fella with pink hair. You shanked that fucker Yamazaki.”

No I didn’t, Kisumi wisely doesn’t say. “How’d you know about that?”

“Dude. Everyone knows,” Uozumi spreads his arms as if to encompass the whole prison, then drops his voice so no patrolling guards can hear. “Half of us poor bastards are only in here because of Yamazaki. You know, the dickbag said he’d cut a deal with me, right, said he’d let me walk if I snitched on some of the bigger guys. And then he turns around and fucking sends the cops after my ass, and now I’m in here praying nobody finds out I ratted them out.”

“Ah.”

“But you,” he grins, eyes glinting with glee. “You did what the rest of us been wanting to do for ages, you jumped the motherfucker and stabbed him in the shoulder like a badass.”

“Sure,” Kisumi says, grabbing onto a thread of the story and pulling. “At a construction site in Nagasaki somewhere. He tried to push me in a concrete mixer.”

“Fuck,” Uozumi whistles. “You get those shiners from him?”

“Just the nose. The rest of it’s from another fight. Some dealer. Mikoshiba, you heard of him?”

“No shit,” Uozumi cackles. “I heard he got sent to the hospital.”

“He’d be dead if his lady hadn’t shown up and called the cops.” And cracked my ribs with a bat.

Bizarrely, Uozumi grabs him by the shoulders and steers him around with considerable enthusiasm. “Fuck my dickhole with a cactus, I gotta tell Kazuki about this. Hell, I gotta tell everyone, they’re gonna be wanting to meet you. Shake your hand or some shit, I bet.”

Kisumi allows himself to be led to the bunk, where Uozumi rummages around under the mattress for a battered box of Pocky he’d smuggled in somehow. “So everyone knows?”

“Everyone who matters. Even if they don’t know Yamazaki personally, they’ll be glad to see you fucked up a cop.” He offers Kisumi a Pocky, which Kisumi takes automatically. It’s expired. “You’re gonna have a great time here.”

Leaning back, Kisumi chews on his chocolate Pocky and grins. Tomorrow, he’s going to send Amakata a thank-you note.

 

 


 

 

 

The sound of the ship’s foghorn wakes Haru out of restless sleep, deep and reverberating through the walls of their tiny metal cabin. He grunts and rolls over, squinting at the early morning sunlight filtering through the circular window. It’s early. Early enough that the sun’s only just starting to rise, red rays spectacular against the horizon.

Yawning, he wobbles to his feet and to the bathroom to clean up, only just making himself presentable enough to drag himself onto the deck. They’ve been surrounded by men in a finite area for a week; nobody really cares much for appearances anymore.

The ship lurches in a way that Haru’s only just used to, probably enough to make him walk funny on land. Makoto’s watching the sunrise. He’s leaning against the railings in a thick woolen sweater, chatting with a dockhand in broken Vietnamese. His silhouette is illuminated by weak sunlight.

He’s lost weight, over the past couple of weeks. Haru has too, although it’s a little less obvious when he has less weight to lose. Makoto used to look like a supermodel, all rippling muscle and pretty face. Now he’s a little ropey, still strong but in the way of a man who’s used to hard times. Which makes no sense, Haru knows, because they left their cushy lives a little more than a month ago, hardly enough time to change things so drastically.

But the stubble on Makoto’s face makes him look a little haggard when he turns away from his friend to look at Haru. Caught, Haru has no choice but to stop staring at him, instead drawing forward to nod at the retreating dockhand and lean companionably against Makoto’s side. Wouldn’t do to display affection too publicly, not that he was really prone to in the first place. They’re trying to be as discreet as possible.

“Your roots are showing,” he says in lieu of a greeting. “Looks funny in the sunlight.”

Makoto smiles. “I’ll dye it once we reach land. Did you hear the horn? It means were close.”

“It woke me up.” Yawning again, Haru lets his eyes fall half-shut against the brisk sea breeze and tries to memories the colours of the sky. His fingers itch for a paintbrush. “You’ve been out here all night.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Makoto admits. “Too anxious. Cot didn’t feel right, so I came up here instead.”

It’s odd that they’ve been at sea all this time, and they haven’t seen a single fish. Shame, really. Haru had half-formed a plan to leave one on Makoto’s bed to cheer him up. Or annoy him, more likely, but at least get that awful kicked-puppy look off his face. “We’ll get a hotel later and sleep there.”

“We’ll have to go to a money-changer first to get rid of our yen. And get some Vietnamese ATM cards and a bank account, actually. I wonder if any of the bank tellers will speak Japanese?”

“Don’t you speak Vietnamese now?”

“Only a tiny bit,” Makoto says mildly, attempting to sooth Haru’s sadly obvious envy. Haru wants to pinch him. “I just picked up a little from the guys here, I really don’t think it’s enough to do actual important things.”

Haru makes an irritated snuffling sound. The warmth of Makoto’s arm seeps through the cheap material of his shirt, and Haru’s grateful for it. It’s a weird sensation, having one half of his face exposed to the chill and the other protected by Makoto’s ridiculous radiator body. He’s like a portable furnace. Useful in winter, but probably not so valuable in the muggy tropics of Vietnam.

“I miss Rin,” Makoto says without prompting.

Haru sighs. Swallows the sudden rush of guilt and loss that knocks at his ribcage, the same feelings he can see on Makoto’s face in times of quiet, when they’re alone. “I know.”

“He hates us now.”

“I know.”

“We were terrible to him. We broke his heart. And I should be more worried about him but all I can think is that he hates us and we’ll never be friends again.”

Does that make them selfish? It probably does, Haru decides. Rin had said it himself. Everything they put Rin through, and they still only really worry about each other. Haru’s never thought too hard about how co-dependent he and Makoto are, how much they function as a unit, but that might mean there isn’t really space for anyone else.

“We did that to ourselves,” he says quietly. “Even if we didn’t mean to. Nothing we can do now.”

Makoto’s lips purse. Absently, he stares at the water, white bubbles breaking against the side of their run down ship.  “Maybe one day he’ll forgive us.”

“Maybe.”

“I hope so. And I hope that Yamazaki takes care of him, I guess. I don’t like him much, but he’s a better friend than we are.”

Haru says nothing. Discreetly, he reaches for Makoto’s hand and twines their fingers together, pulling them close to tuck them into the pocket of his hoodie. The chatter around them starts to grow.

“We’re docking!” the captain says over the speakers in Japanese, and Haru and Makoto reluctantly part to go gather their things. There isn’t too much to do aside from wait for land, since the ship’s cargo is only scheduled to be moved an hour from now. They’ll both be long gone by then, disappearing into the port town to travel further into Danang where nobody will recognize them as anything more than rugged tourists.

The bags are light. They get through the flurry of excited dockhands with relative ease, seeing as nobody pays too much attention to the newbies who’d been little help through this whole journey. The ramp leading to the harbour is rickety and wooden. A few officials are already boarding the ship to start the routine of checking everything out.

Casually, just like they’re sailors stretching their legs, they make their way off the ship and onto dry land. Into the teeming masses of port workers who ignore them because they have better things to do.

 

 

Later, Hiro Nakamura and Masao Takagawa will get their visas and start their backpacking holiday, before eventually realizing how much they like Vietnam and settling down in a small town somewhere.

For now, still holding hands, Haru and Makoto slip into the crowd unnoticed, and disappear behind a stall selling packets of salted squid and cold drinks.

 

 


 

 

 

Sousuke knocks on the door with his foot.

He has two six-packs of beers cradled in one arm and Snoop Dogg’s leash in the other hand. It strains at the apartment’s entrance, panting, and tries to scratch at the door until he huffs at it to sit. Rin yells back something unintelligible from inside. A second later, the door opens.

Sousuke clears his throat. “Hi.”

Rin blinks back. “Hi.”

The police dog woofs. Rin glances down, face breaking into a smile, and he automatically kneels to let it slobber all over him and whine. “Aw, c’mon, Snoopy, don't cry. You saw me three days ago.”

“She missed you,” Sousuke says nonchalantly, as though the rest of the station hadn’t missed Rin to bits too. “Dunno why. It’s not like you died.”

“She appreciates how much work I do because you’re all incompetent,” Rin says, a funny note to his voice. This is how he’s sounded ever since that day at the harbour. Strained, kind of subdued. Not the way he was at first, back when the case first started— he’d been barely holding it together that time. Now he just seems kind of empty.

Maybe not a bad kind of empty, though, Sousuke privately thinks as Rin gets to his feet. The police dog head-butts his legs, and he steps aside for Sousuke to enter. “You coming in?”

And just like that, he’s allowed back into Rin’s life, trailing after him and the dog into a sparse, neat studio apartment in the middle of Tokyo with condensation from the beer dripping down one arm. Rin takes a pack from him, says he’s going to the kitchen, tells Sousuke to put the other pack on the living room table. The TV plays some stupid rom-com he’s never heard of before.

Kou’s sitting on the couch. She’s got her phone in one hand but she pays it no attention. Sousuke waves. She doesn’t wave back, but the coolness of her gaze lessens somewhat, and she obligingly moves her feet so he can sit. He deliberates, for a second, wondering if he’s given up his right to be so close. Maybe he can go sit in the armchair instead.

The police dog, weirdly enough, makes that decision for him, tugging at his pants and then padding over to curl up with its head on Kou’s stomach.

That’s that, then. Mentally shrugging, he sprawls himself on the couch, using the dog as a backrest and letting Kou put her feet on his lap. Rin bustles about in the kitchen putting on a fresh pot of coffee for Kou because she doesn’t much fancy beer. “Who’re you texting?” Sousuke nudges her quietly.

“Some guy,” she says flippantly, and Sousuke would point out that there’s no need to be secretive because he’s nowhere near as protective as Rin, but that would probably actually come off as sounding over protective anyway.

“A cute guy?”

“Cuter than you.”

“Nobody’s cuter than me.”

She ignores him and scratches Snoop’s ear. Rin comes out of the kitchen with a coffee, dark and sweet, and tells Sousuke to scoot. He does. The coffee goes to Kou, who rests it on the dog’s back, and Rin squeezes onto the other end of the loveseat. Sousuke hands him a beer. Rin clinks their bottles together and takes a deep swig.

It’s only been a few weeks since Sousuke’s been squished between the Matsuoka siblings like this, but it somehow feels like longer. Cautiously, Rin rests his head on Sousuke’s shoulder, and Sousuke lets him.

 

 

They don’t speak for a while. Kou sips at her coffee and watches the movie, curled up against the arm rest like a cat. Sousuke finishes his beer and reaches for another. Rin straightens his posture, but keeps his shoulder pressed to Sousuke’s.

The movie’s sort of shit. Kou fell asleep before the credits started, one hand buried in the dog’s scruff and the other curled loosely around her phone. Sousuke watches her for a second, tries to remember what she looked like as a little girl. She always used to seem so small.

“How’s Nitori?” Rin asks, voice quiet so as not to wake his sister. Sousuke turns to look at him, watches him swish the last of his beer around in its bottle.

“He’s coping. Pretty well, actually. Now you’re gone, he’s kind of taken over and everyone looks up to him now. It’s great.”

Rin rolls his eyes. “Don’t talk about me like I’m dead, idiot. I’ll be back on Monday.”

“Yeah. But I bet it feels like longer because you can’t stay still for more than two hours without stuff to do.”

“Which is why I get stuff done while you sit on your ass and drink beer.”

“That’s why we’re partners. Yin and Yang,” Sousuke says, matter of fact. “And sometimes I drink whiskey, when I’m feeling fancy.”

Rin snorts at him. It’s kind of nice, having Rin just be exasperated instead of angry and hurt and screaming at him in an empty parking lot in the bad part of town. The words falter in Sousuke’s throat.

“Are you…okay?”

A pause. Rin fidgets a little, surprised, and then bites his lip and nods. “Yeah. I’m getting therapy, once a week, just to talk about stuff. And I probably needed the week off. Even if it is boring as all hell. Uhm. Thanks for visiting, by the way.”

Sousuke shrugs. “Uozumi is in jail,” he says, because he doesn’t know how else to say it. “And Kazuki. And the rest of them. I reported them.”

Rin eyeballs him. “All of them?”

“Well, not all at once. That would be suspicious, I think. I’m staggering the reports to make them look normal, but some of them snitch to get less jail time, I can pretend that's how I found the others, you know how it goes.”

“I see.” The uncomfortable eye contact doesn’t waver for a while, but Sousuke stays resolute, lips pursed tight because this is as close to an apology as he’s going to get. Kou shifts a little in her sleep, curls further into a ball, and Rin relaxes a little and nods.

“Good. No more of that shit.”

“Nope,” Sousuke agrees, and goes back to his beer.

 

 

Rin puts on another movie, one with explosions and damsels, although almost on mute. Something vibrates to Souuske’s right. He turns to see the screen of Kou’s iPhone lit up by an incoming message.

 

Message from: Sei

 

Surreptitiously, he reaches over and taps on the screen, glad to see she doesn’t have a passcode to unlock it.

 

Yea, I don’t blame u. I get why u broke up with me, but thanks for giving me chance to make it up to u.

 

Sousuke scowls. They hadn’t reported Mikoshiba. Mainly on Kou’s request, although that hadn’t stopped him from paying the man a personal visit and pinching his IV tube until he’d promised never to put Kou in danger again. And also to kick the dealing habit and find a real job. Mikoshiba had glumly told him that Rin had told him something similar, except with more physical threats and the extra condition of never speaking to or coming near Kou in future.

 

Message from: Sei

I really am sorry. I’ll make it right. I really really like u and im never doing anything to hurt u again if I can help it. Promise.

 

Message from: Sei

And yeah ur brother terrifies me but if u need to tell him about us eventually then I trust u.

 

 

He puts down the phone.

Sousuke turns to look at Rin out of the corner of his eye. He seems relaxed, mostly, in a way he hasn’t been for a while. There are lines under his eyes and his smile isn’t as wide as usual when Dwayne Johnson says something amusing in badly-translated Japanese, but he does rest his beer on Sousuke’s knee without any trace of hating him still. He catches Sousuke watching him, and tilts his head as if to ask what’s wrong.

“You seem happier,” Sousuke says, which is a stupid thing to say so soon after everything that’s happened.

Rin smiles, though. Sincerely, albeit tired, which makes Sousuke want to reach out and touch his chipped tooth. “Yeah. It’s weird. Like, I’m not happy, happy, but I’m sort of…glad it’s over, I guess. It worked out okay.”

“I guess it did.” It could have been worse, he supposes. They could still hate each other. Tachibanananase could be in jail, and Rin could be tearing himself up with guilt over sending them there. Instead they’re in a shabby, comfy little apartment with a too-tame police dog, drinking cold beer and watching The Rock shoot people while Kou naps on the couch.

They're going to be alright.

Kou’s phone buzzes again and makes Snoop Dog twitch. She’s going to tell Rin, Mikoshiba said. She’ll give Mikoshiba another chance and he’ll make some extensive lifestyle changes, and when she’s ready she’ll tell her big brother all about her reformed criminal boyfriend.

Sousuke could tell him first. He could break the fragile foundation Rin’s starting to build for himself, haul him and Nitori on another mad goose chase and ruin more relationships and watch even more things go to hell.

 

He taps on the screen.

 

 

Message from: Sei

Hope ur ok. I miss u a lot.

 

Or he could just…not. He could let things take their course and trust that Kou will come clean. He could even trust Mikoshiba to do the right thing (although he’s going to keep an eye on him, he’s always going to worry about Kou’s wellbeing). Whatever Rin thinks about it, Sousuke could just wait for Rin to come to him, and act like a friend instead of a police officer.

Rin laughs out loud at the unlikely physics of a shootout, waking Kou and making her blink. She yawns and looks at her phone, rubbing one eye as she squints at her new messages. Her face breaks into a tiny smile.

He turns away. Puts his arm around Rin and cracks open a third beer, ears picking up the subtle sound of Kou’s nails clacking against her screen as she types out a message to her beloved.

 

This time, though, Sousuke decides to let it slide.