August 16, 2116
Kogami turns a year older on the road, with the last of the southern rain disappearing over the horizon and the first wisps of cold wind from the north vaporizing the traces of dewdrops over the land. With a pause, he tries to recall the last time he aged consciously, and found it mildly alarming that it took him longer than usual to actually remember the numbers.
He feels so much older than 33, and Cambodia already feels like a lifetime ago.
Four weeks, he thinks. Four weeks, and everything was already starting to become a blur.
Everything, except for the shadow of an old friend in her distraught eyes and the hope in her voice and the desperation in his prayers as he sent her away for safety. Their closest brush with death together, and how truly terrified he was for the first time in a long time.
Trying to hold on to the remnants of memory before they completely fade away almost feels like grasping at invisible straws; all he could clearly recall was the soft relief and resigned farewell on her face as they turned their backs to each other once again, with no certainty of another reunion despite his bold declaration only a few hours before.
This one, he’ll do everything to keep. Yet another memory to be sealed like a bottle of sunshine, only to be taken out on days when the skies are dark and the rain is pouring relentlessly.
Kogami closes his eyes and hopes that his old age would be merciful enough to let him cling to these reminders a little longer.
August 16, 2118
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building, Dejima, Nagasaki, Japan
Eleven fucking requests.
Twelve, he notes with seething rage as he eyes the fresh godforsaken dossier on the table as he enters his cubicle.
Twelve visitation requests, all swiftly rejected by whoever clown was in charge of processing these documents. Kogami even doubts if his requests were processed properly ; he’d bet his right arm it was actually the system who automatically throws his papers to the bin the moment it sees his name on the file.
Sibyl fucking System.
It’s still a mystery to him why it allowed his return in the first place. With Sibyl, it could not have been just a simple act of mercy because computers do not do mercy; he could only conclude that whatever its reason was, it trumps his transgressions enough to actually overturn the standing execution order against him, if it was actually overturned in the first place.
Kogami does not actually give a shit. He was only too happy to set foot in Japan once again, and he suspects that the system knows the number one reason why he would even attempt to go back to a country that he was so quick to abandon several years ago.
Imagine his fury when he landed as soon as he could, only to find out that his reason for returning was locked away under wildly suspicious circumstances. The inconsistent facts and dubious evidence were all wrapped nicely under the headline “MWPSB Inspector Goes Insane,” and the injustice almost made Kogami want to go off and happily show them what’s insane, because he of all people would know what it’s like to just snap .
Not her. It was never her.
He suspects that someone actually takes sick pleasure in watching him suffer in the irony of it all: Akane Tsunemori behind bars, with him watching helplessly from the outside. Kogami had no illusions of the world being centered around him, but he’s pretty sure that someone actually gets off in keeping the two of them apart as long as they can, just because they could .
He looks at the stamp of rejection on the paper one last time, and swallows the urge to tear the building down brick by brick, if only to see her face once again.
August 16, 2121
Akihabara Abandoned Zone, Tokyo, Japan
She smiles cheekily as she pulls him towards one of the tables. “You’re supposed to eat warm food during stakeouts, remember?”
They just officially wrapped up the operation for the day when the rain started to pour heavily on the streets. The two of them dashed to the nearest restaurant, which happened to be a ramen place she allegedly used to frequent. They take the booth on the far corner of the restaurant, where Akane slumps ungracefully and shrinks on the edge of the plastic chair, shivering as droplets of water from her hair pepper the large jacket engulfing her frame.
His large jacket.
Kogami clears his throat and looks away. “You’re right. You know, I didn’t get to eat the buns you brought the last time we were on a stakeout together.”
“Yeah, well, it’s your fault for wearing nothing but a holo suit on a rainy night.”
“I seem to remember someone appreciating the view—”
A crumpled piece of napkin hits Kogami on the head, earning a small bark of laughter from him as he peered at her reddening face.
“Stop. Just stop.”
Akane was saved from further humiliation when the waitress suddenly materialized in front of them. Akane orders a little too much for two people, making him tease her about being that hungry. She huffs and sticks out her tongue in response, earning more laughter from him.
She waves his amusement off as she pulls out more napkins to wipe the water off her face. “This is all my treat, by the way.”
Kogami opened his mouth to protest when she continued. “You forgot, didn’t you?”
He leans back into his chair, genuinely confused. “Forgot what?”
“Your birthday.” Akane huffs in disbelief at the surprise on his face, but she continues, patting his arm in mock sympathy. “But I understand. Forgetfulness is a sign of aging, isn’t it?”
He looks at her with a mix of mirth and exasperation in his eyes. “You are so rude, sometimes.”
Their orders arrive much quicker than they anticipated, turning Akane’s pout into a wide smile.
“Please,” she sighs and pushes a bowl towards him, “you adore me.”
“I do,” he quips back, almost too quickly, but he was already tossing the bowl of noodles over his mouth before Akane could even react.
They were quiet for a while, until Akane spoke. “I wish we could have spent your special day in a nicer setting, though.”
Kogami looks at their drenched clothes and the shadows under her eyes and the tired smile on her face and the warm meal in front of them and thinks: this must be the best birthday he’s had for years.
“No,” he says, smiling down at his bowl of food, “no, this is alright.”
August 16, 2122
A shopping center in Tokyo
Today will be the day, Kogami swears.
It was entertaining at first, watching themselves move heaven and earth to get matching rest days every once in a while, just to spend them with the most mundane tasks, like watching a movie together or trying out the novelty cafe that just opened a few blocks from her apartment.
He feels like her closest friend
Kogami does not want to be her friend.
He suspects she wants something more than it too; either she looks at all her friends like that all the time and he’s just being the world’s biggest idiot for misreading her gazes, or she’s also trying to send a message like he was, and they’re just both too hesitant to actually take the first step and cross an invisible line they have been toeing for a while.
Either way, this stupid cat-and-mouse dance ends now.
Any time now, if she could just shut up about the mahogany drawers on sale.
“You should really consider making your place a little more homey, Kogami-san,” Akane rambles as she inspects the drawers meticulously, “buying a reclining chair doesn’t count as accessorizing! I swear you’re so— mmmfff.”
Much later, he looks at the tangled mop of her brown hair on his cotton pillow beside him and thinks: it would be nice to look at this view every morning until her hair is a matted tuft of grey and his cotton pillows are all worn on the sides.
He stares much longer and tells himself: let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?
Jumping her in the furniture section of a department store was not exactly the way he imagined it to go, but it sure got his point across. Or at least he hopes it did, as he notes the satisfied smile on her face as she falls into deep slumber in his arms.
August 16, 2123
Akane raises her eyebrow, too out of breath to make a proper response.
She finally managed a “what” in between her pants, already feeling the forming bruises around her body as her eyes surveyed her quickly disintegrating surroundings.
“When this is all over, marry me.”
Akane abruptly sat up and looked at Kogami as if he grew horns on his forehead. “What?”
“There’s a shrine right outside Mie that accommodates ceremonies on a short notice,” he says, with his back on the ground and his arm over his eyes, “I have my mother's ring. The professor lives near the area and we can always call him if we ever need a witness—”
“Wait,” Akane cuts him off, arms shaky as she picks herself and her jaw up from the ground, “Wait. This… this is hardly the time! Have you finally lost your mind?”
He rolls over and gets up a little more gracefully than her, then produces the aforementioned ring from his coat pocket. “That’s a no, then?”
She was still gaping at the ring and the kneeling man in front of her, when a large debris falls to the ground near them, making them scramble away and sprint for the nearest exit.
“I don’t know,” she yells as the place falls apart behind them, “ask me again if we make it out of here alive.”
They run a little longer towards the light, and when they finally reach the end, they see nothing but the ledge of the building’s twenty-first floor.
“Ye of little faith,” he grunts as he throws her over his shoulder, and jumps .
Her scream was the last thing he hears before they hit the cold water beneath them.
Kogami is forgetting something, he’s just not sure what it is.
He cracks one eye open to look at the time on the bedside clock, and decides it’s too early for anything. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, intent on going back to sleep—
—Only to be rudely awakened by an insistent tap on his shoulder.
“Come on, old man. Get up.”
His teenage daughter, the spitting image of her mother, was standing over the bed with her hands on her hips. The quiet impatience and the perpetual disgruntled look in her eyes were nothing like Akane’s, though, and he secretly grins with pride, knowing that was all him .
“‘Pa, seriously, you have to get up.”
She tugs the blanket off of him, making him groan and roll over to hide his face on the pillow. He managed to mumble “what’s wrong,” which must have sounded like a grunt more than a legitimate question.
“Mama’s out buying something so I have time to beat her to the kitchen because you know how her cooking is like, and you have to help me because I don’t have any plans of eating a spicy carrot cake for your birthday, Papa—”
Oh, right . That. He’s forgetting that.
“—There is nothing wrong with your mother’s cooking.”
His daughter makes a face and half-drags him out of the room while he scrambles to put on his glasses and his left foot gingerly adjusts the skewed slippers he grabbed on the way. She rambles on about his rotten taste buds and the old lemon cake recipe that her grandmother gave to her some time ago, and Kogami listens patiently, the last traces of drowsiness being driven away by the cheerful tangents in her voice and the clacking of pots and pans inside their kitchen.
He forgets a lot of things now, but he doesn’t mind.
Not when he’s surrounded by people who will happily remind him, anyway.