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“Hey, Date! Wake up!”

 

Floating in a sea of nothingness, Date tried to find the source of the voice. It's familiar, and he couldn't help but feel he should be awake to see them.

 

“C’mon, wake UP!”

 

His head began to pound and his eye stung.

 

“You promised me you would go!!!”

 

Go where? Didn’t he promise to go take her to get unagi? That doesn't make sense, they went last week. What?

 

“That's not fair Date, WAKE UP!!!”

 

Ever so slowly, he woke up, brain and body alike lagging behind in waking. He blinked sluggishly and squinted against the light streaming in through the windows. “Ugh, what is it Mizuki? Its-”

 

[ It is 8:00 am. ]

 

“It's eight in the morning, aren’t you on break for today? What's the deal, kid.”

 

“Stupid!! You need to go talk to that shrink at ABIS, remember? You PROMISED you’d go to one after taking me to see one of those stupid doctors.” She grumbled and grabbed Date’s arm, bodily dragging him off of the couch. He just barely caught himself before he fell to the floor. 

 

“Oh yeah. Well, get off me then. I need to head over and check in with Boss regardless.” He stood slowly into a stretch from his half-collapsed state and shuffled towards the coat rack near the back of the apartment. 

 

[ I would recommend not trying to deceive Mizuki. I will not cover for you. It will be nothing but beneficial to try and talk to someone about the trauma you have endured.

 

Some partner you are. He shoved his hand blindly towards the coat rack and grabbed the first piece of clothing that wasn’t Mizuki’s. All his clothes were just about the same anyways.

 

[ Hey, you agreed to this, and the turnabout of it is not harmful. At the very least you should try going once. If it makes you feel better, if it does not work for you, Mizuki will likely cease asking you about seeing a therapist. ]

 

Yea, sure, she might. You and Boss? Not a chance.

 

[ Glad to see you are still capable of logical deductions. ]

 

Hm. Whatever, I need to shower. You staying here or going with me?

 

[ I believe Mizuki wishes to talk with me, so I will stay for now. Let me know if I am needed elsewhere.

 

He nodded and walked towards the shower, handing Aiba to Mizuki as he moved past. “Don’t squish her while I'm in the shower.”

 

“Yeah, yeah stupid.”



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Date pointedly avoided looking at the mirror on the wall as he finished getting dressed. A moment later, he walked back into the main apartment, idly rubbing his neck. He watched as Mizuki slipped her shoes on and picked up Aiba. 

 

[ If you keep rubbing your neck like that it will become irritated and red. Is it bothering you right now? ]

 

“Just. Feels weird I guess, like the air is touching my neck funny? I don't know how to explain it, Aiba.”

 

A long strip of knitted cloth assaulted his face. “Just put on a scarf or something if you're not gonna touch the purple clothes anymore, dummy. Easy, c’mon, you’re not allowed to skip this stuff.”

 

Once again Mizuki dragged Date, though this time with the intent to leave the apartment. He quickly threw the scarf around his neck and snagged Aiba from Mizuki’s shoulder as he let her drag him out the door.



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A ‘quick’ stroll through the lobby of HQ and down the high-security elevator to the 6th-floor basement led him to Boss’s office. He was unsurprisingly met with the woman herself, seated on top of her desk as always. Slightly more surprisingly, there was another woman in the office, presumably the therapist. 

 

Boss gave a slight wave as he entered. “Hey, Date. This is Dr. Sakamoto. She’s probably the best specialist we have at MPD, and she works with ABIS and all that so she's cleared to hear some of the more sensitive details. If you actually like her, she can fill out some stuff to be privy to one or two things. Otherwise keep it shut on the details of say, the New Cyclops case, yea?” 

 

Date just nodded, and Boss shifted on her spot on top of her desk.

 

 “Cool. Have fun. Me and Mizuki will hang out here.”

 

The therapist, Dr. Sakamoto, motioned to greet him. “Good morning, Date, it's nice to meet you. My name is Dr. Sakamoto, as Ms. Shizue just said.” 

 

Date nodded in return. “Kaname Date, and likewise.”

 

“My office is just down the hall, hope you don't mind the walk.” She grinned wryly and motioned for him to follow her out of the office he’d just arrived in only a few minutes ago. 

 

Here goes nothing.

 

[ Why do you act like this will be such a trial? It is only the first session, and as such it is unlikely that Dr. Sakamoto will ask any ‘hard’ questions .]

 

Boss saluted, and Mizuki waved, as he went through the door. “Have fun at therapy!”

 

Down the hall, past the office where he and his fellow psyncers did paperwork, and past the offices that held other professionals that worked in confidence. Mostly because if someone knew about the full workings of ABIS the higher-ups didn’t want to run the risk of anything slipping in casual conversation. Three down from the end of the hall, a door with a simple label stating “Dr. Sakamoto” was printed on the door. The door itself was a rather striking light cyan door, unlike the heavy grey of the rest of the floor.

 

Date looked at the door with what definitely wasn’t curiosity. Definitely wasn’t. “How’d you manage to convince the higher-ups to paint it? Boss told me she’s been tryna do that for years now.”

 

She smiled, a conspiratory look appeared on her face. “See, unlike Ms. Kuranushi, I have the ability to tell the people up top that it's ‘relevant to my job,’ since, I mean, something as simple as the colors of a room can affect how someone feels.” She gestured towards the long end of the hall that they'd just walked through. “I mean, look at my door versus the rest of them in this hall. Which looks more inviting? The nice blue, or the tens of boring grey?”

 

Date glanced around a moment and eventually came to the conclusion that, yeah, he’d prefer to take the blue door in a horror movie. “Yea makes sense. Gunna guess the rest of the room is  probably a bit more colorful too then, huh.”

 

“Not by too much, you’ll see.”

 

She opened the door and invited him inside the office.

 

Inside was a fairly normal-looking office. If not for the added colors, softer furniture, and what looked like puzzle toys in a large dish and scattered across the desk, he'd assume it was just a regular office. She shut the door behind him and moved to her chair.

 

She waved a hand at the various soft pieces of furniture around the room. “Feel free to take a seat or stand wherever you wish. Additionally, if your partner would like to be present outside of your eye, that is up to the both of you. I had hoped to do a partial session with the two of you, and continue the session with just Date. Mostly to give him the chance to bring up anything he may not be comfortable discussing with you present, Aiba, but if Date decides he would rather have you present the whole session that's okay too.”

 

Well, you heard her. You wanna pop out for this or not?

 

[ Yes, that would be good. It is also good to hear that she has considered letting you have a session ‘alone’ from me. The issue still stands that I can hear you regardless. Should I bring that up? I believe that it may be something to address. ]

 

Do what you want, like you said it’s something that she probably would want to talk about or whatever.

 

He walked to one of the couches near the desk and sat down in his normal hunched-over pose, level with her face, and began to examine the desk. While where she was sitting was fairly organized, the rest of the desk was practically covered in various items. 

 

“Oh, are you looking at the sensory gadgets? They're pretty nifty, huh?” She picked up one that looked like several rings interconnected as if to demonstrate.  “If you feel like you need to fidget, or do something with your hands feel free to try it out. I find the stress balls and puzzle rings to be pretty fun.” 

 

She adjusted her chair and shuffled a few papers around. “I am ready to begin when you feel ready. If you don't want to talk about something, or do not feel like breaching certain topics today, let me know. I’d rather discuss it another time, or not at all, than breaching a boundary unnecessarily.”

 

Holding out his hand, Aiba popped out of his eye socket and quickly assumed her autonomous, hamster-like form as Date let her hop down onto his shoulder.

 

She settled on her perch and spoke. [“ Good Morning, Dr. Sakamoto. While I for one, am excited to be here for this session and hope that it is to the benefit of my partner, there is something to be addressed. ”]

 

Dr. Sakamoto directed her attention to Aiba, which to Date just looked like she was switching which eye she was looking at. That was nothing new though. “Hello, Aiba. It’s nice to meet you. If you have any concerns, please feel free to voice them. I would assume that after six years of partnership you would know Date fairly well.”

 

Aiba waved a tiny paw as she spoke, and Date could feel her weight shifting slightly on his shoulder as she did. [ “While I can physically leave the room while Date is present, the neural link between the two of us is still connected. Other than enquiring Pewter for a solution to temporarily ‘block’ the connection, I cannot think of a way to keep me out of the entire conversation on Date’s end. Do you have any recommendations? ”]

 

Sakamoto rested the back of her pen on her chin and thought for a few moments. “Hmm. Good point. I only know the basics of how you and Date are connected as of right now, so my suggestions may not work. I would say for one, physically being in a separate room, as well as either disabling the function or powering off? Those would probably work.”

 

An idle spin of her pen. “Although I doubt you would want the latter option to be the go-to every time you may visit.”

 

Aiba brought her paw up closer to her eye, similar to how one would bring their hand to their chin while they were thinking. That wouldn’t work because she technically doesn’t have a chin, but the gesture was still there. [ “I do not believe as of right now I can shut off that function. That will be something I will address with Pewter moving forward. Perhaps until then-” ]

 

Date cut in before she could even finish. “Nope, not shutting you off, just move in another room and distract yourself somehow. You can turn off your viewing function, so just do that instead. Just don't talk back and we'll be peachy. Won't even think about it.”

 

Aiba turned to look at him, giving him a weird view of his own face from the shoulder. [ “Date I would much prefer that-” ]

 

He interrupted again. “Aiba, it’s fine. It’s not like I've had a fully private thought for more than 6 years now. It’s not the end of the world if you hear me thinking some more other private shit.”

 

Aiba huffed as well as an AI without physical lungs could huff. [ “While that is true, I would at least like to know that you can talk to someone else in confidence without anyone else to hear it. Research results from several sources confirm that it is beneficial to have someone, a professional, or in this case your therapist, to discuss matters that are personal and wholly unrelated to them.” ]

 

Date rolled his eye. “I’m not powering you off, or letting you power yourself off, or whatever. I will make that an order if I need to.”

 

He watched his view tilt as Aiba rolled her eye in return. [“Very well. We will discuss this with Pewter later then.”]

 

Date had almost forgotten Dr. Sakamoto was in the room until she quietly coughed into her hand. “With that as settled as it can be for now, would you like to start? Since this is the first session, getting to know you and what you may want to achieve by talking with me going forward.  Although I understand that you yourself did not set this appointment up, it's still worth a shot to try.”

 

She tapped her pen on top of a paper quietly as she spoke. “Something I find as well is that many people think therapists are only for ‘severe cases’ and that they don't ‘really need one’. To be frank, anyone can need a therapist. While most of my cases are, of course, employees here or witnesses, plenty of people from different walks of life come here for anything, even something as simple as stress management from work. Just a few days ago I had someone from accounting come in to vent. Quite literally anyone can see a therapist, and it's not a bad thing to do so.” 

 

Date spun his hand for a moment. “So uh, how exactly does this work? I'm under the impression that this stuff is usually more ‘therapist directed’ than just me blabbing about nothing.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto ‘hmmed’ for a moment. “Well, for one, anything you tell me isn't nothing, Date. What you wish to contribute to the conversation is important, and, at the very least, the way I work is more patient-motivated. If you’d like I can talk about me a bit to get it started? Unless you or Aiba would like to start instead.”

 

Aiba raised a paw to bring the attention back to herself. [ “I can begin. I am Aiba. I enjoy observing insects, and am currently 94% charged and feeling well!” ]

 

Sakamoto appeared to almost light up the moment Aiba mentioned bugs. “Oh, insects? I think bugs are pretty fun too! Have you gone to the gardens in Shinjuku? They're fairly packed with bugs this time of year.”

 

Oh great, another one. He let out a put upon sigh. “How many people am I going to meet with a fascination with bugs?

 

“Oh? You know another person who likes bugs?”

 

“Oh, yea, Iris, she's uh… how do I explain it.” He paused, trying to find the right descriptor. “She's kind of my niece? She calls me Uncle, anyways. She's Hitomi's kid, met her when she was younger and ran into her again last year on the case.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto scribbled something onto a paper. What the hell did she get from that? “Could I ask who Hitomi is to you?” 

 

That was a weird divergence from talking about bugs and Iris, but he wasn’t the therapist here, so… “I guess you could say she's a friend? Old friend, not as old as Boss though. We haven't really sorted out that whole ‘relationship’ business so I'm just gonna go with friends for now. Used to be a thing with her, but I doubt that's happening again, I think I blew that chance.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto frowned slightly. “Oh, did you break up?”

 

Date grimaced slightly. “Not really? Though I think almost getting her and her kid killed twice and then getting thrown around with the whole ‘six years of amnesia’ stuff kinda changes things.”

 

The doctor flicked her pen back and forth across the paper quickly. “Well, was that intentional? Does she resent you for it? It doesn't sound like it, especially if she still lets you around her daughter so casually.”

 

Date huffed a laugh. “Well for one, Iris is 18 so she can't exactly stop her from going places and doing things, trust me on that. Second, yea, sure I didn't directly put her in the situation, but me being associated with her-”

 

Dr. Sakamoto cut in. “Then it wouldn't be your fault, correct? Sorry to interrupt, but from what it sounds like, past a certain point those events were not in your control, and to my knowledge, you did what you could to save them both times, yes?” Flickerings of… something echoed in his mind. He was certain he saw Hitomi there, but… He didn’t like what little he saw next. He shook his head slightly to clear it.

 

Aiba shifted on his shoulder quickly, almost tilting off as she did so. [ “I can confirm. Date immediately moved to save both of the Sagans when they were captured, as well as in the events of 6 years ago. Additionally, he was not directly responsible for either act. Rather, it was the serial killer who was.”

 

Technically, Date was also a serial killer.

 

[ Not relevant to the topic at hand, Date. ]

 

The therapist scribbled down something else, speaking while she did. “I thought so. Date, have you ever considered that she may still feel the same way towards you that you may feel towards her? It may be good to discuss that with her before jumping immediately to the conclusion that she ‘hates you’ or does not like you anymore. Worst comes to worst, you are both still friends at this point, yes? I would assume that would not change regardless.”

 

“Ehhhhhhhhhh I guess.” He did a see-sawing motion with his hand. He didn’t elaborate.


“Perhaps at least think about addressing it in the future with her? You have nothing but time.”

 

Date shrugged.

 

Sakamoto shrugged in return. “Okay, well, let's move onto something else then. ABIS is usually pretty tight on security, so, may I ask who the blue-haired girl who was with you in Ms. Shizue’s office is?”

“Oh, Mizuki?” Date shrugged. “She lives with me, I’m her legal guardian.”

 

Aiba gave the longest eye roll he’d ever seen from his own perspective. [“ She is, as of current, his adopted daughter. Both of them simply refuse to admit that they care about another familialy .”]

 

Dr. Sakamoto smiled. “Oh! How nice, what's she like?”

 

Date snorted. “She's a brat. I’ve been trying to negotiate with her on clione population density this week. She's got over half the fridge taken up and doesn't want to buy a new fridge or get an actual tank.”

 

A puzzled look came over Dr. Sakamoto’s face. “Cliones? Like sea angels? Interesting, sounds like she has a lot.”

 

“You don't know the half of it. She's got something like 56 right now. All of them have names and everything.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto scribbled some more. “Do you know any of them?”

“Sure. There's deli meat, Mizuki jr., eel face, Aiba 2, dog, ramune, stew, fidget cube, bonito…”



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“Then she dared me to eat a spoonful of brown cinnamon powder for a ‘cinnamon challenge,’ which was a thing like two years ago so I'm not sure why she had me do it now.” Date dropped his arm from where it had been gesturing dramatically. “But yeah I ate it.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto blinked, perhaps in shock. “...You ate it?”

 

Date shrugged. “Yeah I mean, it was just a tablespoon of cinnamon. Wasn’t the worst thing I've ever eaten, though it was kinda dry.”

 

If Aiba had to describe the look on Dr. Sakamoto’s face right now, it would be slightly manic as she scribbled quickly. “Huh! From what I knew that challenge was a major choking hazard, but good on you for not inhaling it. Some tolerance you have, impressive. Additionally, as a health professional, it's my job to tell you not to do or encourage that going forward, yea?”

 

Another shrug from Date. “Sure, wasn't planning on it anyways”

 

Dr. Sakamoto glanced almost imperceptibly at something up and behind Date for a moment. “Good! As of right now, you both have been with me for about an hour. Would you like to try the rest of the session alone? If you would prefer Aiba to stay, again I won't stop you, but I do recommend having an opportunity to talk about more personal matters that you may not want to discuss with Aiba present.”

 

Aiba raised her paw from her spot on Dr. Sakamoto’s desk. [ “I for one, will not be offended if you choose the latter, Date. It may be good to get certain things ‘off your chest’ so to say.” ]

 

She felt a wave of what could only be described as ‘mixed feelings’ from Date, though his face remained mostly neutral. “If that's what you wanna do, I guess. Hasn't been too bad so far.”

 

“That's good to hear! Aiba, do I need to contact someone to come get you, or are you able to contact someone?”

 

Aiba moved slightly closer to the edge of the desk as she sent a quick text to Boss. [ “I have contacted the Boss to pick me up for the time being. I will ask her to send my inquiries about disabling the listening function while I am away from the room.” ]

 

There was a knock on the door.

 

That was fast.

 

[ It is to be expected. I will return to you when you have finished the rest of your session, just ask for me, or have Dr. Sakamoto contact Boss. ]

 

Got it.

 

Dr. Sakamoto called a ‘come in!’ towards the door, which Boss promptly responded to by opening it. “Yo. I'm here to pick up Aiba.” 

 

Mizuki smugly stuck her tongue out at Date from behind the safety of Boss. 

 

Cheeky brat. Aiba was going to choose to ignore that comment, as always. It helped that she could feel the affection hidden under the thought.

 

Boss strode over to where Aiba had made herself at home in Dr. Sakamoto’s various ‘sensory gadgets’ strewn across the desk and offered a hand for her to climb onto. Aiba promptly accepted and climbed aboard, shutting off the sight input to Date as she did so. She received a sense of dull surprise from him while she moved. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it, even today, but somehow he never stopped being surprised by it.

 

Boss lifted her hand further from the table. “Aiba will hang out with the two of us while you finish up here. Let me know when you're done and I'll hand her over. Enjoy the rest of it, I can tell you've been having a great time. By the way, you're holding the puzzle wrong.”

 

A sense of slight indignance from Date, mixed with doubt and stubbornness. “Wh- no, I'm not.”

 

“Yes you are, I’ve done that one before. It goes this way.” She gently took it from Date’s hand and spun it into the correct orientation before pressing it back into his hands.

 

Date looked back at Boss with a look of betrayal, though Aiba sensed nothing but slight annoyance. Perhaps he was exaggerating his expression for effect. “Anyways, see ya.”

 

As Boss turned towards the door, Aiba shifted to ensure she would not fall off her current perch on Boss’s hand. Aiba looked behind as the door swung shut, catching a final glimpse of Date as it did.

 

“So, how’d it go? Date freak out too bad?”

 

Aiba turned so she was facing Boss more directly. [ “While I will not share the specific details, I do believe it has gone ‘well’ so far. There have been no serious ‘freak outs’, nor have there been any serious issues. Dr. Sakamoto knows what she is talking about, and was able to communicate ‘healthy’ solutions and commentary towards Date and his ‘problems.’” ]

 

Aiba allowed her ears to droop slightly for a moment. [ “I do however worry how much of it is actually being taken into consideration. As we both know, he is quite stubborn and good at missing the point of a dialogue to lead someone on. After all, it has come to use in his job.” ]

 

Boss sighed. “You got that right. If he doesn't figure it out, me and Mizuki'll knock some real sense into him.”

 

Mizuki threw a fist up into the air. “YEA! I’ll kick his ass if he doesn't listen to her!”

 

[ “Language, Mizuki.” ]

 

Mizuki dropped the fist pump and stared disappointedly at Aiba. “You yell at me when I swear, but never at Date or Iris.”

 

Boss snickered slightly. “To be fair, kid, Date and Iris are adults. Plus I don't think I’ve ever heard Iris swear anyways. Ever.”

 

[ “In addition, Date is… Date.” ]

 

The Boss shrugged. “He has no filter.”

 

[ “Succinctly put, Boss.” ]

 

Mizuki moved onto pouting, crossing her arms and looking away from Boss, and subsequently Aiba, as they walked. “Still…”

 

[ “You may feel free to take up the rest of this debate with Date later. For now, it is as it stands . ]

 

Mizuki made no move to drop her crossed arms, but she did look in their direction again. “Fine. Still not fair though.”

 

Someone’s phone chimed. It sounded like Mizuki’s Nile app. This theory was quickly confirmed when Mizuki pulled it out of her pocket and swiped it open. 

 

“Oh hey, Aiba, Iris wants to know if we can meet her over at Kouen park later? Something about having something ‘extremely important’ to tell us. I don't know what though.”

 

Aiba put a paw to her ‘chin.’ [ “Hm. We can ask Date about it when he leaves his session. It would mostly depend on how Date is feeling once he is finished with Dr. Sakamoto. However, given Date’s track record of simply saying ‘yes’ to people's requests regardless of his emotional state, I would assume he will simply agree.” ]

 

Mizuki tapped away on her phone. “Sweet, I’ll tell Iris.”

 

Boss opened the door to the office with her free hand and ushered a semi-distracted Mizuki in. A moment later Aiba was seated upon the Boss's desk.

 

Boss jabbed a thumb back at the door. “Hey, so one of the other psyncers, Tantei, has a witness he needs to psync this afternoon, so I gotta get that setup. Are you both ok waiting in my office for a lil bit?”

 

[ “Affirmative.” ] “Yea, sure.”

 

Mizuki slipped her phone back in her pocket as Boss moved to leave. 

 

“Cool, try not to break anything while I'm gone, be back in about 30 or so.” Boss walked out of her office. Almost immediately, Mizuki turned to face Aiba.

 

Mizuki quickly placed her hands on the desk and slowly leaned forward towards Aiba. “Sooooooooooooooooo. What did Date talk about?”

 

Aiba rolled her eye. [ “I will not reveal what he said. That would both be rude and break confidentiality. I doubt you would like someone to tell Date what you discussed about him with your therapist.” ]

 

Mizuki tilted her head and pouted. “Doesn't matter, I know he talked some crap about me in there, you gotta tell me what he said.”


[ “No.” ]

 

“Aw, C’mooooon.”



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Date pushed the door open to leave Dr. Sakamoto’s office. “Next Wednesday, right?”

 

Sakamoto flicked her pen slightly as she spoke and smiled. “Yes! I'm glad you decided to continue. I hope to see you next week.”

 

Date shrugged. “Eh, if it’ll get everyone else off my back about it.”

 

“That, and I would like to think that you can get something from this as well. Whatever it may be.”

 

“Yea, see ya.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto waved a hand as Date let the door swing shut. “Bye!”

 

Date started down the hall towards where he was pretty sure Boss’s office was. This part of ABIS wasn’t one he was too familiar with, so he wouldn’t be surprised if he took a few wrong turns on his way back. 

 

[ Did you finish? Boss notified me that Sakamoto just dismissed you. ]

 

Yea, but don't say it like that. You're making it sound like she's my teacher.

 

[In a way, she is, but that's not relevant. Iris texted Mizuki asking if we could meet her at Kouen park for lunch. Is that amicable for you? ]

 

Date glanced down a hall to the left for a moment before continuing on. Wrong hallway. Yea, sure. Works for me. She give us a reason or are we just hanging out with her?

 

[ Something about wanting to tell us something ‘extremely important.’ It is likely not, but she would like us to hear what it is regardless. ]

 

Was that Boss’s office door? He was pretty sure it was. She probably just wants to get us, or at least me, to play Shovel Forge. Again. Though why ask at a park, I don't know.

 

[ Neither do I. We shall have to find out and see. ]

 

Date pushed open the door that had probably an 85% chance of being the door to Boss’s office. It was, in fact, Boss’s office. Mizuki was tapping furiously at her phone, and Boss was tapping similarly at her computer. Aiba, who was sitting on the desk and was the first one to notice his entrance with a wave.

 

Boss glanced up a moment later. “Oh hey you're back, how'd it go?”

 

Date poked Mizuki in the shoulder to get her attention. He wanted his chair. “Wasn't horrible. You gonna shut up about dragging me to talk to someone now?”

 

Boss watched with amusement as Mizuki just glared at him. “Only if you keep going.”

 

Date decided he wanted to keep his bones intact and resolved himself to standing. “Hm.”

 

“Hey, Date!” Mizuki waved her phone at him from her seat on his chair. “Iris wants to go to Kouen park for lunch, you wanna go?”

 

Date tried and failed to actually read the screen while Mizuki was waving it around. “Aiba told me. I can’t find a reason not to go, so why not. She said she wanted to tell us something, yea?”

 

Mizuki finally stopped waving the phone around, glancing over at Aiba. “Oh, I forget she could do that even when she's not in your skull. And yeah, she said it was ‘extremely important,’ but knowing Iris it's fifty-fifty on actually being important.”

 

“Exactly. Might as well head off then. She's already there right? I can pick up whatever you need from me later, right Boss?” Date spoke as he held out a hand for Aiba. She quickly switched back into a ‘regular’ eyeball and he placed her back into his empty eye socket. He blinked a few times as Aiba turned back on the sight feature and readjusted to match his vision.

 

Boss glanced over at her computer, which Date was certain had a bunch of paperwork open on it. “Sure, most of this shits’ not exactly in a rush to get turned in. You're a week ahead right now anyways.”

 

“Sweet!” Mizuki hopped out of Date’s chair and headed towards the door, with Date following.

 

Date waved lazily and held the door open for Mizuki, who thankfully didn’t kick him in the shin for the gesture this time. “Cool, see you tomorrow then.”

 

Boss waved lazily in return. “See ya. Have fun with Iris, tell her I said hi.”

 

Date let the door swing closed and headed down the hall towards the elevator with Mizuki.

 

They should really do something about the lighting in here. We’re six stories underground, the least they could do is give us some better light bulbs.

 

[ We could ask the Boss, though chances of any changes being made are slim unless something is damaged. ]

 

Yeah, that's kinda what I figured.



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Iris waved aggressively from across the park. She knows we can see her, right?

 

[ Almost certainly. The park is mostly empty, and she only started waving once we were close enough to see. ]

 

They quickly made their way across the park to where Iris was sitting on a picnic blanket. Iris only stopped waving when they were within speaking distance.

 

“Hey guys!!!!!” She gestured to the blanket and patted it rapidly.

 

“Hi, Iris!” Mizuki quickly followed suit and claimed a corner.

 

Date sat as he greeted her. “Heya, Iris.”

 

Iris opened up possibly the most stereotypical-looking picnic basket Date had ever seen and started pulling things out. “Here, mom made lunch for both of you and me. It’s gyudon and leftover katsu from yesterday.”

 

The food was quickly passed around, Date securing himself a serving of the leftover katsu and practically devouring it. Mizuki had kind of shoved him out the door before he could have breakfast. 

 

Iris laughed with a hint of nerves that most people had when they saw someone doing something they weren’t sure was exactly safe. “Uncle, slow down or you’re gonna get sick.”

 

Date quickly swallowed his current mouthful of katsu. “Kid, Hitomi’s cooking is great and Mizuki made me skip breakfast today, I am starving.” 

 

Mizuki jabbed her chopsticks in his direction as he shoveled more food into his mouth. “Hey, it’s not my fault you didn’t wake up early enough to actually make food before we left. I was trying for like 30 minutes, you were really out of it.” 

 

There was a pause as he finished chewing. “Kid, you shoved us out of the house at like 8:20. You barely gave me enough time to shower.”

 

Mizuki just glared and shoved more food in her own mouth as an excuse to not continue. 

 

Coward.  

 

Date turned his attention to Iris instead. “So, Iris, what was the ‘super important thing’ you wanted to mention?”

 

Iris almost instantly lit up. “Oh!! Yeah! Ok so Uncle, we should totally do another round of the Okonomiyaki War now that you're back!! It'd be fun to bring in Aiba and Mizuki too!!”

 

Date raised an eyebrow. “Hitomi ok with that?”

 

She grinned. “Yep!! I asked her this morning about it! She said if we get the ingredients this afternoon we can do it tomorrow!!”

 

Date played up considering it, though he already knew what his answer was. “Sure I guess. Sounds like fun.”

 

Mizuki looked between him and Iris with a look of curiosity on her face. “What's an Okonomiyaki war??”

 

Iris lit up, excited to retell the tale of the ‘Great Okonomiyaki War.’ “It was a dramatic battle between me, Uncle, and Mom a long long time ago! Uncle somehow flipped okonomiyaki on Mom's head, and after that Mom put one on his head.” 

 

She pantomimed putting an Okonomiyaki on her head. “We ended up throwing all the ingredients and laughing at each other for the rest of the night!”

 

Mizuki let out an ‘Oooh.’ “Is that what the drawing on the wall is?”

 

Iris grinned. “Yep! I drew that myself!”

 

Suddenly, Iris straightened up and clapped her hands together. "Well! Let's not stick around too much longer!! We’ve got food to buy!"

 

Mizuki startled, almost dropping her chopsticks. "Wh- Iris, I’m still eating!!" 

 

"Man you eat so slow!! Uncle is already done, you slowpoke!" Iris whined.

 

Dated glanced down at his plate and discovered that, yes, he had already finished his food. Bummer. Maybe he should have slowed down and taken the time to enjoy Hitomi’s cooking more.



-.. .- - . / .---- ---... ----- --... .--. -- / ... ..- .--. . .-. -- .- .-. -.- . -



Iris pulled a piece of paper from the bag she always seemed to have on her. “Okay!! I got the list of the ingredients. Aiba, you have it too right?”

 

[ Affirmative. ] Date opened his mouth to relay this, but Iris spoke first.

 

“Awesome! Date, you can get the ingredients for the batter and the meat, we’ll get the toppings!” Iris held the list towards Mizuki so she could take a look at it. 

 

She can hear you?  He responded out loud anyways. “Works for me. Let me know if you need me to grab anything else from the list.” For once Date was thankful for his default expressionless face. Just this once though.

 

Iris gave a big thumbs up. “Okie Dokie!! Meet here to pay when you’re done!”

 

[ Yes. Did you forget that her headset now possesses the bluetooth device that allows me to speak without leaving your orbital socket? ]

 

To be honest I didn't really think about it too hard. Interesting.

 

[ Date, she has had that feature available since I returned. How did you forget? ]

 

No idea. Anyways, the list, what do I need to get? I know the basics but what did Iris want exactly?

 

[ On the section of the list Iris indicated to me, we need to get: cabbage, eggs, shallots, tenkasu, pork belly, as well as a bag of flour. The rest on the list have been allocated towards Iris and Mizuki as of current. ]

 

Got it. He started heading towards the nearest aisle with an item on his list.

 

Closet to him currently was the deli counter, which worked for him. The list says we need pork belly right?

 

[ Affirmative. ] He snagged a ticket from the deli counter to take a place in ‘line’. 

 

Hmm. The pre-cut pork is slightly more expensive, and I can just cut it myself. We’ll just buy uncut pork belly. Hope Hitomi likes pork.

 

[ Just how much do you plan on buying?? ]

 

Not too much, just a kilogram or two. I can take the scraps for stew or something if Hitomi doesn't want the leftovers.

 

It didn’t take long for the number on the wall to flick to match his. Made sense, it was the middle of the day, on a Wednesday for god's sake. There was almost nobody else in the store. “Hey, can I get a 2kg cut of pork belly? Don't need to cut it, I can do that at home.”

 

“Just 2kg? Alright. What’re you making with it, if I can ask?” The worker slid the access to the pork belly open and grabbed a slab.

 

Date leaned slightly onto the glass of the counter. “My friend's kid wants to make some okonomiyaki, so we're cooking it together, it's a whole event.” 

 

The woman at the deli counter placed the slab of meat onto the scale. “Sounds fun! Here ya go, just about 2kg, this good?”

 

Date examined the cut before they wrapped it. “Yep.”

 

She quickly wrapped the cut into a bundle and stuck a price sticker on to hold it closed. “Here ya go.”

 

“Thanks.” Date just stuck it under his arm and continued on deeper into the store. 

 

Next is… produce, so, cabbage and shallots?

 

[ Affirmative, the produce section is down the back of the store, straight to your left. ] Date turned towards the aisle Aiba highlighted. He snagged two produce bags as he entered the aisle.

 

He started scanning the produce for cabbage and shallots. He came across a small patch of cabbage and snagged one that looked nice enough. As long as it wasn’t moldy, he was cutting it up so appearance didn’t matter as much. He tossed it in the first bag, tying it off.

 

Next was shallots, which took a moment to locate because it looked like they’d been raided earlier. He grabbed the last bundle on the shelf. It was a little dinged up, but again he was cutting it up, so. That went into the second bag and was tied off.

 

Up next is the flour and breading, right?

 

[ Mhm. Both are located 2 aisles down. ]

 

Varying your responses? Fun.

 

[ Oh shush, just get the ingredients and move to the cashier. ]

 

Date turned into the aisle with the breading a little too sharply and accidentally brushed shoulders with someone leaving the aisle. 

 

He took a step back slightly out of politeness.“Oh, sorry about that.”

 

He glanced over to the person as they passed, seemingly ignoring him. Date’s eyes skimmed over them and caught on an odd marking on his neck. Date’s first thought was a tattoo, but it was way too natural looking to be one. It was too… seamless.

 

There was something inexplicable about it that just reminded him of something. 

 

It had to be important...

 

He just didn't know what it was.

 

What...

 

What did it mean?

 



.- .. -... .- / .---- ---... ..--- ..--- .--. -- / ... ..- .--. . .-. -- .- .-. -.- . -



Date turned the corner and bumped shoulders with someone. Aiba could practically feel the moment that his consciousness… shifted. Almost like he wasn’t really present.

 

[ Date? ]

 

She ran a quick scan to check and make sure nothing was physically wrong. Strange. Her first ‘instinct’ was to call it a flashback, but every other instance of one she had experienced in the presence of Date had involved emotional responses. This was almost the complete absence of emotional response. 

 

[ Date, is something the matter? ]

 

The best word for it was perhaps dissociation, though she was unsure. 

 

[ Date! ]

 

Date was currently just standing in the aisle, so Aiba decided the best course of action would probably be to text Mizuki and Iris to come over.

 

She sent a message explaining Date’s current state as well as she could describe at the moment, and asked them to come over and perhaps ground him in some way.

 

[ Date, please respond in some fashion, or I will have Mizuki physically carry you until we arrive home. ]

 

[ Date!!!!!!!!!!! ] Iris and Mizuki took that moment to skid to a halt at the end of the aisle. Mizuki must’ve restrained herself to Iris’s speed.

 

Mizuki rapidly approached and waved a hand in front of his face at the lack of reaction. “Date? Date?? Hellooooo, you in there?”

 

Date’s grip on the bags tightened, but he did not move otherwise. Aiba couldn’t see it, but she could feel it in the faint, second-hand fashion that came along whenever a physical sensation was particularly strong.



 -- .. --.. ..- -.- ..



Mizuki grimaced as Date continued to be unresponsive despite the fact that she was standing and rapidly waving her arms in front of him. “Well, this is worse than normal.” 

 

“Normal?” Iris walked closer, a worried look on her face. “Has this happened before?”

 

Mizuki see-sawed a hand. “Er, not like this. Usually, he just spaces out when he’s just waking up or trails off when we're talking. But nothing like this. I thought it was just old people stuff, but this is…”

 

“...Should we try and move him, or?”

 

Mizuki grabbed one of Date’s arms and started pulling him forward. He walked forward to keep pace with her few steps but otherwise didn’t respond. “Should be fine? Unless Aiba is telling you otherwise?”



.. .-. .. ...



[ As of right now, we can still pay and leave. If he does not recover by then, finding a quiet place to wait would be a good idea. Again, he does not appear to be in any distress, nor are there any physical markers for an issue. I would be able to detect if there was. ]

 

Iris nodded. Aiba could definitely see her right now, given she was standing near Uncle, so it wasn’t a pointless gesture. “Yeah, Aiba says it's fine. If he's not better by the time we leave the store she said we should find a quiet place to wait and see if it goes away.”

 

Mizuki shrugged and started dragging Uncle towards the self-checkout area. Luckily, it was clear of most people. It was probably a weird sight, a blue-haired 12-year-old dragging a full-grown and mostly unresponsive man towards the self-checkout.

 

[ Iris, it would save time to grab the flour and tenkasu as we go through the aisle. Seeing as Mizuki is currently occupied, could you please do so? ]

 

“Yea, good idea, let me get it.” She turned back and grabbed the ingredients while Mizuki continued to the self-checkout, with Uncle in tow.

 

She bounded back to the three of them as they quickly converged at an empty checkout counter. Mizuki didn’t waste time in scanning the various items, including the meat currently held under Date’s arm. The veggies took an extra second of menuing to get them ‘scanned.’

 

Eventually, they had all the items scanned in and they came to the realization that Uncle was supposed to pay. 

 

“...So who’s paying?” Mizuki just reached into Uncle’s back pocket and grabbed his wallet in response. 

 

Iris stared incredulously. “Mizuki, are you really just gonna use his card?”

 

“What?” She said indignantly. “He was gonna pay anyway.” 

 

Iris paused and quickly thought of a reason why she wouldn’t be able to use his card anyways. “Yeah, but don’t you need his PIN code?”

 

Mizuki snorted. “What kind of amateur do you take me for? Of course I know it.”

 

“... Why am I not surprised?” Mizuki shrugged in response and slid the card in. 



-.. .- - .



Almost distantly he could feel the sensations from outside of his mind. A loud voice, familiar and urgent, echoed in and out of his awareness.

 

Flickers of scenes and people passed his awareness, so fast he could barely feel it.

 

He heard yet another voice. His neck began to itch and distantly, he could feel himself grasp something. Hard. It was all he could do to even keep himself centered.

 

More foreign sensation. Was it even real? What is it from? When is-

 

Someone tugged him forward.

 

The air changed. Now there were three voices. What were they saying? He couldn’t tell.

 

Yet again, more movement, although to where he is not sure. 

 

His hand felt empty. The bag had not been dropped.

Someone took it from his hand.

 

Another sensation flew past, something overwhelmingly fond, yet still excruciatingly somber.

 

Slowly, awareness trickled in, intervals of nothing, and sudden awareness randomly passed instead.

 

Time passed.

 

How much?

 

He didn't know.



.- .. -... .-



Aiba directed Iris to tell Mizuki to bring Date to the car. She would say she did it distractedly but seeing as she was an AI, being distracted was physically impossible. However, a decent chunk of her processing power was going towards recording and analyzing just about the whole of Date’s state at this moment, so the effect was somewhat similar. So far she had found no cause for Date’s current state, which didn’t make sense. There was always a cause for things.

 

But she could not find anything. Nothing at all could tell her why this had happened. She flicked through her previous records of moments where a similar, but less extreme form of this state had happened like Mizuki had mentioned to Iris earlier. They had been concerning, but ultimately, Aiba could not find a cause for them and the moment passed fairly quickly, leading her to believe it was not of major consequence to Date.

 

Those had only been momentary, however, and this had lasted more than 5 minutes already. Aiba processed Date being led into the back seat of the car but paid it no mind. She turned to the internet to see if there were any other descriptions of anything similar to what she was observing. Every site that displayed results appeared to either be disreputable or completely off the mark. The closest approximation she could make was that Date was likely experiencing a dissociative state, yet, disregarding emotional distance, his physical reaction reads slightly more towards a flashback. 

 

[ Strange. ]

 

Iris tilted her head, visible at the edge of Aiba’s vision. “Hm? What's up Aiba? Did you find something about this?”

 

[ Not conclusively, no. What I can be certain of though is that this will likely wear off. While it is subtle, I ran another scan when we entered the car, as of right now he has gained a bit of awareness. He just reacted to what I assume was your voice just now. ]

 

Iris waved her hand slightly in front of Date’s face. Aiba detected some reaction, but nothing physical. “So you're saying if we keep talking he’ll get better?”

 

[ Possibly. It seems that at the moment it is working as a grounding mechanism. ]

 

Mizuki huffed and crossed her arms. “Jeez, even when he’s out of it the old man is cheesy.”



-.. .- - .



Ever so slowly, awareness ebbed in. Leading right into a borderline migraine.

 

[ Date- Ah, you’re responsive now, can you hear me? ]

 

Loud and clear. A little too loud actually, ugh, my head hurts.

 

Mizuki spoke, leaning over the passenger seat. “You back?”

 

Date glanced around and found he was in the back of the car. When...? “Think so at least. I'm not talking to open air so I'm probably good, yea Aiba?”

 

[ If that is your concept of ‘ok,’ I worry for you. ]

 

He rolled his eyes, though he could guess Aiba didn’t approve of being used for an eye-roll directed at herself. “Oh hell. I'm fine Aiba, stuff it.” Just ask me later if you really wanna dig, I’m beat.

 

[ Date, while I doubt you have noticed, this is the fifth time this week an ‘episode’ of a similar quality has occurred, although this one has been by far the longest, at just under 25 minutes. It is worrying, and you have yet to explain what exactly is causing it.]

 

Mizuki interrupted before he got the chance to tell Aiba off again. “Hey, Date, what was all of that?”

 

Iris was sitting in the back with him, and he only just noticed that. He must’ve been, unsurprisingly, still out of it. “Yea, you sure you're ok?”

 

He snorted. “No, the universe keeps trying to send me cryptic messages, the likes of which any poor mortal mind cannot comprehend.”

 

Any concern on Mizuki’s face, not that there was much, to begin with, vanished at his half-joke. “Bullshit.”

 

Iris, in contrast, leaned forward excitedly. “Oh wow really?! What have they been sending you?”

 

Date held his hands up with a nervous grin. “I'm just kidding. Though it sure feels like something was tryna cram something too big into my head.”

 

[ I will be driving them both home. I do not trust your state at this moment to be properly aware of the road. ]

 

He could understand that. Sure, yea.

 

 

-.. .- - ./ --... ---... ...-- ..... .--. -- / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Date finished serving dinner onto plates and called to say that it was ready. Not that there was much point considering Mizuki was already in her favorite chair, and the coffee table still served as the dinner table. But still.

 

Mizuki grabbed her chopsticks from the plate and glanced over at him while he took a bite of his own food. “Date, your chopstick skills still look like crap.”

 

He finished chewing his bite of food before speaking. Mizuki hated it when he talked with his mouth full, more than his awesome chopstick cleanliness. “Oh, like you're one to talk. Your fingers are all in the wrong spots!”

 

Mizuki clicked her chopsticks loudly. “No, they're not! You just hold them exactly like those dumb kiddie manuals. Did no one ever teach you?”

 

“No, actually. I’m self-taught, twice .” Date allowed his expression to settle into his (patent pending) smug face.

 

Mizuki just looked at him, unimpressed. “Well, that explains a lot.”

 

“Hey-!” Mizuki just continued looking unimpressed while she took another bite of dinner. 

 

...He couldn’t think of a retort, so he glared at her. “...Just finish your damn dinner.”

 

She smirked in victory. “Heh.”

 

Aiba chimed in from her charging platform. [ “Must you both have this argument every time you eat food together?” ]

 

Date turned up the whine to his voice for (mostly) comedic effect. “Mizuki is the one who starts it every time! That's not my fault!”

 

Aiba’s tone lowered. [ “And which of you is the adult in this conversation?” ]

 

Date grumbled. “I am.”

 

[ “Exactly. Please act like it?” ]

 

Mizuki snickered at him as he sighed.



---.. ---... ----- ....- .--. --



Dinner was finished, so it was time to wash the dishes. There wasn’t space for a dishwasher, so they had to hand wash them.

 

Mizuki moved to rinse off her plate after Date finished rinsing his own. “By the way, Date, what the fuck was that this afternoon?”

 

Date barely heard Aiba’s call of ‘Language,’ over the running water. 

 

Mizuki scrubbed her plate more harshly for a moment. “Whatever Aiba. Date, you gonna tell me or what?”

 

Date shrugged and kept drying his own plate. “Told ya before, no clue. Best guess is whatever Aiba came up with.”

 

Aiba wasn’t going to let him get away with that though, nooo, of course not. [“ Date, principally the issue is that I can't find anything that matches what I detected, and you have not been very forthcoming with your own personal experience during these ‘episodes.'’” ]

 

Mizuki flicked a slightly damp chopstick she’d been cleaning back at where Aiba was. “See? She agrees with me! C'mon, you gotta tell us something!”

 

Date rolled his eyes and didn’t say anything. Not out loud, at least. It's really not much. At least, I can't exactly remember what was happening during all that. Every time I try to remember, my head starts to pound, so I was kind of trying to avoid that, y'know?

 

[ It is perhaps pertinent that we address this with Dr. Sakamoto, and see if she has an inkling as to what this is. If not her, then maybe psyncing would-]

 

That's a last resort. It’s too much of a hassle. Plus it would limit the others for what they can do that day.

 

After what probably looked like a too long pause to Mizuki, he spoke aloud. “I'll ask Dr. Sakamoto when I see her again, yea? It's probably nothing, no need to be so worried Mizuki.”

 

Mizuki looked a little confused but covered it with her trademark sassiness. “Why do you think that would help? Aiba said it wasn’t like flashbacks or anything. Besides, isn’t Dr. Sakamoto a therapist, not a psychologist?”

 

[“She has a degree in psychology, Mizuki, among a few other accolades related to her career. She did need to take a few specialties to be able to work for ABIS.”] Aiba defended. Probably because it was her idea.

 

Mizuki paused where she was putting her plate back in the cupboard and thought for a moment. “Oh. Huh.” 

 

Aiba continued their silent conversation. [ If that's what you wish, I will make sure to bring it up with Dr. Sakamoto come next we meet. For now, it’s time to get ready for bed. ]

 

Yeah yeah, teeth brushing and all that.

 

He jabbed a thumb towards the door and he put his chopsticks in the drawer. “Mizuki, Aiba says it's time for teeth brushing and bed.”

 

“Boo, Aiba! Boo!!!” Despite her protests, she started heading towards the door. Angrily. He wasn’t sure how someone could walk angrily but she did it.

 

[“Maintaining good dental health is crucial, Mizuki-”] The door swung open and closed just quieter than a slam.

 

Date stood in the little nook he called a kitchen for a second. Then he spun on his heel to head towards where he stored his own blanket and pillow. “Might as well go to bed then-”

 

[ You're brushing your teeth after her as well Date. Do not think you can skip out either. ]

 

He stopped in the middle of the room and turned a disappointed stare at Aiba. Ugh, can't even let it slide once?

 

[ That will be one time too many. Go after her and then sleep. ]

 

Date pressed his lips together and gave Aiba ‘the look that could not be described as anything other than -_-’. Mizuki stalked back into the apartment while he was practically engaged in a staring contest with Aiba..

 

[ Go brush your teeth, Date. ]

 

He sighed and turned to go brush them, not deigning Aiba with a response. Was he doing it purely for comedic effect at this point? Yeah. Still though.



-.. .- - . / ....- ---... .---- ..--- .- -- / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Date was lying awake, staring at the ceiling blankly, just like he had been for the past few hours. He could hear Mizuki’s quiet breathing over in the corner, and the whizz of cars passing by on the street below. He could see the ever so faint glow from Aiba’s charging over at his desk. It wasn’t quiet and it wasn't pitch black, but it all was familiar. He’d had his fair share of sleepless nights before this, and he found comfort in the familiarity.

 

This didn’t change the fact that it was currently ass o'clock in the morning, again, and he would rather actually be asleep right now. But no. He was stuck awake. 

 

[ If you cannot sleep, at the very least rest, perhaps get a warm beverage or- ]

 

Date glanced over at where Aiba’s charging dock had brightened slightly at her exiting sleep mode and huffed. Whatever it’s, what, 4 am now? I'll just get more shit done on the pc and get dressed early.

 

[ You will not, you have not slept more than 4 hours in one period for over two weeks, Date. It’s concerning. ]

 

He rolled his eye and shifted on the couch under his blanket. Fine, knock me out then or something. I just need to like, not dream right now.

 

There was a pause before Aiba responded, but Date was already flipping the blanket away to get up. [ What do you mean by that Date? ]

 

He stood with a quiet stretch. Accidentally waking up Mizuki in the middle of the night usually resulted in him getting a kick to the gut, which wasn't exactly something he wanted at any point of his day. Eh, you probably can't do that other than tazing my head. I'll just take a shower, be out in 10.

 

[ Date. Date What. What? ]

 

It's fine, I didn't mean to think it ‘out loud.’ I'll try sleeping after I shower if it makes you feel better, just gotta wash the weird feeling off or whatever. His footsteps towards the door were quiet enough where it probably wouldn’t wake Mizuki, but the door was a fifty-fifty chance. He concentrated on turning the handle in as smooth and quiet a motion as possible. The lock disengaged silently, and swung the door to the hall open enough to slip through.

 

He stepped into the dark hallway.

 

-.-. .... .- .--. - . .-. / . -. -.. / -... --- -. ..- ... / -.-. --- -. - . -. -

(post chapter snippet:


Mizuki: Hey Iris, what the hell is a shallot??
Iris: Uh… It's like a tiny onion? But it's got legs.
Iris: Lemme ask Aiba actually.

Iris: [Hey Aiba, what's a shallot?]

Aiba: [ A shallot is a bulbous perennial onion that produces small clustered bulbs which resemble those of garlic and are used in seasoning. ]

Iris: [huh! Thanks, I guess!]

Iris: so yea, it's kinda like a tiny onion

Mizuki: Uh, okay then.)

Chapter Text

-.. .- - . / --... ---... ....- ..... .- -- / .. -. / - .... . / -.-. .- .-.



Someday, Date would strangle whoever decided school needed to start at 8 AM. Waking up Mizuki was a nightmare in and of itself, but getting her to go through a morning routine half asleep without accidentally breaking anything was somehow worse. He’d just allowed her to use wooden chopsticks, but not in the mornings. Too many broken sets from when she was younger had taught him that lesson. But for now, he’d succeeded and was driving Mizuki to school.

 

Before, Renju… He’d handled making sure Mizuki had gotten to school on time, through whatever means. Date wasn’t sure exactly how she got to school, but he thinks Mizuki mentioned taking a train at one point. But apparently, her train pass had expired, so here Date was. 

 

Date was half spaced out while navigating the route over to Mizuki’s school when Aiba spoke. [ Iris has just sent a text, would you like me to read it? ]

 

He snapped back to full focus. Sure, what's up? She want to check up on meeting time?

 

Aiba flashed the exact text message as an overlay in his vision as she spoke. [ Essentially yes. In her words, ‘We fight at dusk.’ I assume this means we will have to be at the Sagan’s by sundown in order to participate. ]

 

He turned off the freeway and onto the surface streets. Easy enough.

 

He briefly flicked his gaze over to Mizuki, who was sitting in the passenger seat. “The War Part Two is tonight, are you ready Mizuki?” 

 

Aiba let him watch as she turned from where she’d been staring out the window and grinned viciously at him. “I'm gonna kick your ass.”

 

He snorted. “You wish.”

 

Mizuki looked at him, unimpressed. “You're sleep-deprived, and Aiba’s not helping you. It'll be easy.”

 

He rolled his eyes at her. Or rather, eye. Aiba held still to keep Mizuki in his sights. “And you're going to have your brain melted from sitting in school all day.”

 

She hefted her backpack, which was laden with textbooks she was supposed to be returning today. “No I won’t. Unlike you, I can sit through someone talking without spacing out.”

 

He took his eyes off the road to glare at her straight on, but turned back before either Mizuki or Aiba could comment. “Hey, it’s not like I’ve been doing it intentionally.”

 

She exaggeratedly rolled her eyes. “Well, it's annoying.”

 

A huff. “That's the first thing you've said today that I actually agree with.”

 

“Hey!”

 

Date just chuckled at her indignance. 

 

The car ride slipped back into silence, but Mizuki fidgeting gave away that she had something she wanted to say. He didn’t bother asking her to speak. Either she would speak, or she’d decide not to. Pressuring her to talk wouldn’t help.

 

Eventually, she seemed to figure out exactly what she wanted to say. “You should talk to that therapist lady sooner. It keeps happening.“

 

He raised an eyebrow vaguely in her direction. “What's the rush? Thought once a week was fine.”

 

Mizuki went quiet for a second, before continuing as if he hadn’t spoken. “You should go today. If you end up a vegetable I'll kill you.”

 

Oh. She was worried, huh? He sighed. “She has other clients, you know. Look, I’ll ask if she can take me earlier, that work?”

 

She crossed her arms and turned her gaze back out the car window. “Hmph.”

 

A few moments of quiet passed before Aiba spoke again, apparently deciding she wasn’t going to be interrupting any conversation. [ While you two were ‘arguing,’ I contacted Dr Sakamoto. She said she has an open spot available Friday morning, does that work? ]

 

As in tomorrow? How early?

 

[ 9:30 AM. ]

 

He quickly did the math. He was already going to be up early to get Mizuki to school, and he’d have roughly an hour and a half to get to ABIS from there so…

 

Yeah, that works.

 

[ Confirmed. You have been registered for the timeslot. ]

 

He glanced toward Mizuki again, mostly to try and get her attention. “Apparently Aiba already moved me to Friday, so I guess I’ll be going then.”

 

She didn’t shift her gaze off the window this time. “Good.”

 

The rest of the car ride was quiet. Date was tempted to put on some music, but Mizuki didn’t seem like she was in the mood to listen to the CD Boss had given him. Which happened to be the only CD with music on it in the car. And was currently in the glovebox.

 

Yeah, no music.

 

Eventually, he pulled up in front of Mizuki’s elementary school. She barely waited for him to stop the car completely before she opened the door and slung her backpack over her shoulders.

 

He rolled down his window and waved as she headed in. “Have a good day at school, kid.”

 

“Have an awful day at work, old man!” She gave a single backwards wave before she vanished into the gates.



 -.. .- - . / ---.. ---... .---- ..... .- -- / .- -... .. ... / .... --.-



The first thing Date did when he got to Boss’s office was steal some of her coffee. The second thing he did was greet her.

 

Boss snickered as he continued chugging the simultaneous bane and savior of his existence. “That tired, huh? Been a while since I saw you go after the coffee.”

 

Date glowered at her and finished his cup before speaking. “Yea, Aiba doesn't want me to drink it anymore, so I figured I'd just drop the habit so she didn't bother me everytime I grabbed it.”

 

[ That is because you drank more than 3 cups per sitting, multiple times, everyday. It's not healthy!! ]

 

Hasn’t killed me yet.

 

[ You say that about every bad habit you have. ]

 

Boss flicked her attention back to her computer screen. “By the way, Shiru wanted you for something. Best guess is crime scene and witness overview or he wants to dump some paperwork on you. Probably the latter, so don't get your hopes up.”

 

He couldn’t resist sighing when he heard that. Not again… “Wouldn't be surprised either way. Pretty sure him and Sameru are the only people who figured out the whole ‘Falco’ thing all the way.”

 

Date grabbed another cup of coffee while Boss continued. “He said he'd be in around 8:30, so enjoy the coffee while you can.”

 

He took a sip as he turned to face Boss and grimaced. “I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘enjoying’ it. Y’know I'll eat or drink whatever, but this shit really does taste like crap.”

 

She folded her hands and put a smug look on her face. “Yet you still drink it.”

 

He rolled his eyes and took another sip. “Give me a break, I slept like shit. It's this or those five-hour energy drinks you get at convenience stores.”

 

Boss shrugged. “Fair enough. What kept you up? You usually pass out immediately. Made yourself stay up doing paperwork? Or was it something else that kept you up all night?” And now she was doing her ‘suggestive’ face, gross.

 

“Oh shut up, I don't have time for that right now. Been having some weird shit going on in here.” he gestured vaguely to his head.

 

Boss dropped the suggestive face, finally, replacing it with something akin to curiosity. “Yea? Care to elaborate, or are you leaving that to Aiba?”

 

Date shrugged. “She's the one who can probably give you an actual answer, so, here.” He held out a hand for Aiba to hop out onto, which she did promptly.

 

He’d only just set Aiba down on the table when there was a knock on the door. Boss didn’t even get the chance to say ‘Come in’ before Shiru strolled in like he owned the place.

 

“Mornin’ Kaname,” Shiru’s eyes glossed over him to land on Boss before doing a double take back to him. “Damn, who ran your ass over?”

 

Date took another sip of the awful bean water. “‘God’, probably. It sure feels like they did at least.”

 

Shiru huffed and rolled his eyes. Wasn’t the first time Date had come in looking like shit, and Shiru had been there to see just about all of those times. “Well, I’m stealing you for scene analysis and some testimony paper shit I can't read. Shizue, you know you could help an old man out a bit, my vision is shit you know.”

 

Boss gave him a flat look. “No it's not. You just want other people to do your paperwork.”

 

Shriu had a shit-eating grin on his face as he strolled over to Date. “Can't prove that definitively. Anyways, vamos. I'm sure you want to be done before lunch so let's haul ass.”

 

Date didn’t even bother resisting as Shiru grabbed an arm and started dragging him off. “Alright, fine, let's go.”

 

[ Don’t forget me, you just handed me off a moment ago! ] Okay, now he started resisting. He needed to grab Aiba.

 

He slid his arm out of Shiru’s hand. I didn’t, you finished talking to Boss?

 

He stepped back over to Aiba and let her hop onto his hand before she went back to her eye state. [ Of course not. There was barely enough time to explain, even if it was through the headset. ]

 

She has one too?? Jeez, did everyone just pick one up while he wasn’t looking?

 

[ Date, everyone in ABIS was offered one once Pewter developed it. Granted, most have to request it on a case by case basis, but Boss has complete access to it. Why wouldn't she have one? ]

 

He slipped Aiba back into his eye socket and blinked a few times. Good point. If anything I'll be back by lunch, I'm sure she'll bother me for more details then.

 

Shriu spoke from where he was waiting impatiently by the door. “Alright, move it. We don't got all day.”

 

Date turned and started walking back towards the door. “Alright alright, I'm moving. Y'know for a guy who asked for my help, you're really making yourself sound like someone I don’t want to help.”

 

Shiru slung an arm over his shoulders and opened the door. “Aw, cute. You'll help me anyways, so tough shit. Now move it.”



-.. .- - . / .---- .---- ---... .---- ..--- .- -- / .- -... .. ... / .... --.-



Date swung Boss’s door open holding his lunch, giving her a borderline glare. 

 

Boss just turned to face him properly in her chair, away from her computer where she was probably playing mahjong while she ate her lunch. “Oh hey, you're back. Shiru work you good?”

 

Date jabbed a finger at her as he practically fell into his chair. “You're terrible. If he asks for me again for that case tell him to shove it. Also he totally fucking knows about my whole ‘assassin’ schtick.”

 

Boss smirked. “What clued you in there?”

 

Date looked away from her and focused on opening up his lunch of leftovers. Stupid smug Boss. “Don't start with that, he's been here since before we both joined, he'd have been fired if he didn't figure that shit out.”

 

“True. By the way, here's your reward.” Boss tossed a container at him. “I had some extra yakitori from yesterday, figured I’d toss em.”

 

He sighed, but caught the container anyways. “That joke never gets old to you huh.”

 

She snickered and took a bite of her food, speaking with her mouth full in a way that would definitely get Mizuki to punch her if she’d been here to see it. “Won't until you stop eating like a garbage disposal.”

 

Aiba decided then that she was done being in his eye socket and wiggled her way out. [“ Which will never happen at this point.” ]

 

Date quickly moved his bowl of combined leftovers out of the way as she dropped down. You almost fell in the bowl! Least give a guy some warning.

 

[ I will not apologize, you would not have moved otherwise, and your hands are occupied at the moment.

 

Date glowered at her in response.

 

Boss set down her fork and looked over at Aiba. “By the way Aiba, you didn't finish what you were talking about earlier this morning, but I sort of pieced it together a little. What I don't understand is what it adds up to.”

 

Aiba tilted her head. [“ So you don't know either?” ]

 

Boss shrugged. “Well, not exactly a mental health professional, but if I had to guess, something definitely triggers it. You said that it's sort of sudden right?”

 

“Yup, sometimes I don't even notice what's up until like 10 minutes passed.” Date shoved a bite of yakitori in his mouth. Wasn’t bad for something Boss had given him. Could use more spice though.

 

Boss leaned forward onto her desk. Actually now that he thought about it, was Boss sitting behind the desk for once? Wild. “Was there anything at the store that could have triggered it?”

 

Aiba responded before Date could finish chewing. [ “Now that you mention it, there was only one thing that happened at the store that might have set it off, though I don’t understand how it correlates to the other episodes.”]

 

Boss shoved more food in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. “Could just be more than one trigger. What was it by the way?”

 

Date shrugged and swallowed his bite of food. “Yea, I don't remember half of that shopping trip too clearly. What even happened?”

 

Aiba turned on his knee to somehow look at him incredulously despite lacking an actual face. [ “You don't remember what happened?” ]

 

He rolled his eye. “I told you Aiba, it makes my head hurt just thinking about it. It feels like I shouldn't know whatever the hell it was.”

 

Aiba apparently took that as her cue to tell him what happened. [ “Well, you managed to bump into someone entering the aisle. You turned to look at the person, and then froze. I would assume it was not the act of colliding with the person, but rather a visual aspect or something else sensory that I could not detect. You not being able to recall it well at the moment makes it hard to confirm.” ]

 

Now it was Date’s turn to take a bite of his food and chew thoughtfully. Though doing this finished off the yakitori Boss had given him. “I think I saw something on them, maybe a symbol? Or a marking? Something like that. I can't remember more than that without stabbing my brain right now, so I'll stick with that.”

 

Boss put a hand to her chin. “Well then, following that logic, it's probably either an organization, or a yakuza tattoo that you're familiar with. Hell, it could be some ‘fun’ repressed childhood memory, those fuckers were horrible to you.”

 

“Whatever.” He rapidly shoveled the rest of his leftovers into his mouth. “I’d rather not talk about literally any of this right now. My head hurts enough as it is.”

 

Boss shrugged. “Fair enough. By the way, figured I'd tell you since I know you've been wanting to see him, Pewter is in the psync room working on something if you'd like to go chat, Aiba.”

 

[“That seems amicable. What do you say, Date?”]

 

Well, seeing as he didn’t plan on going back to helping Shiru for the rest of the day if he could help it, which meant avoiding the Psyncers office… “Sure, why not. Still got some time to kill.”

 

[ “Excellent.” ]

 

He stuck the last piece of leftovers in his mouth and stood with a stretch. Man, Mizuki was right, he really did have old man bones. Not that he’d ever tell her that.

 

Boss, who still hadn’t finished her food despite starting before him, took another bite. “You're in tomorrow for Dr. Sakamoto right?”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “What, did she tell you? “

 

Boss spun her fork in the air for a second as she spoke. “Not directly, but she told me her last open Friday spot got taken for this week. Figured that after what happened yesterday, Aiba probably would be making you come again early.”

 

He stepped over to the trash can and dropped the empty containers in it. “Why did you need to know?”

 

Boss turned back to her computer, and probably her game of mahjong. “Eh, no reason exactly, just curious. Enjoy that war thing tonight by the way, sounds like fun.”

 

He huffed a breath as he opened the door. Of course Boss knew about that already. “It's fun till it's over, but yea thanks. See you tomorrow.”

 

Boss waved absently, focused intently on her computer now. “See ya.”

 

Date let the door fall closed behind him and set off for the psync room. 



.---- .---- ---... ....- ..... .- --



Date pushed open the unlocked door of the psync room with a familiarity that came from entering a room often. Since the Cyclops case, Pewter’s lab access time had been restricted, but that didn’t stop the man from accidentally transforming the back half of the psync observation room into a makeshift one. At least he didn’t have any chemicals here.

 

Pewter had a tablet, hooked up to several mechanical parts, in his hand and appeared to have been fiddling with them when Date walked in. “Oh, Date, good morning.”

 

Date pantomimed looking at a watch, despite the fact that, no, he was not wearing one. “It's basically noon at this point, but yea, mornin’.”

 

Pewter looked at his own watch with a slight look of surprise before he turned his full attention towards him. “Did you need me for something? Or are you just here for friendly conversation?”

 

Date made a back and forth motion with his hand. “Bit of both. Aiba wanted to ask about enabling a ‘disable’ function on the link between the two of us. I think she's getting tired of hearing me.”

 

[ I am not. Though you do annoy me sometimes, I am not so discontent that that is my motive. ]

 

Pewter huffed a laugh. “After six years? I doubt that's the case. But I do not know if making it possible to disable the function is a good idea. I can implement it, but there is always a chance that it could be used nefariously.”

 

Ha, like anybody but Pewter himself would be able to hack Aiba. And even when he did try and delete her, it took a whole four hours of hacking to do it. Not to mention that it didn’t even work in the end. “Doubt it, but sure.”

 

Aiba once again decided she was done hanging out in his socket when she could be involved in the conversation, popped out and onto Pewter’s desk. [“ If not to add a disabling function, perhaps make it so Date would have to direct his thoughts ‘towards me’ to achieve me receiving it. ”]

 

That reminded him… “Oh yea, I wanted to ask about that myself. It used to be like that, when did you change it?”

 

“Oh! The last time you were here I upgraded some of Aiba’s functions, remember?”

 

“Upgraded functions?”

 

“Yes, you don't remember?” 

 

“Vaguely.”

 

Pewter looked vaguely disgruntled at the admittance. “I can explain again then. In order to achieve the most optimal connection between the two of you for psyncing, I had to connect the neural link more closely. In addition, Aiba may find it easier to remotely trigger a somnium state or send imagery back, as well as forth directly, without the need to display it on your eye.”

 

He gave Pewter a flat look. “So basically you made it so she can hear all of my thoughts so our psyncs are better, and I can show her what I've seen if she wasn’t there to see it herself.”

 

“Yes, in essence.”

 

“When did you add this shit again?”

 

“About a week and a half ago. I can have it so Aiba can adjust the connection when outside of psyncing and the likes if you want. I am surprised you didn't ask when I changed it initially.”

 

Date shrugged. “To be honest, I probably missed half you were talking about, so, sorry.”

 

“It's fine, the apology should be on me. It's part of my job to make sure there is properly informed consent before I begin to work. That's my bad.”

 

[ “Either way, a method for me to manually adjust our connection and some of my functions would be appreciated.” ]

 

“Right, yes. Let me set that up and I can add that program, Aiba. It won't take more than 10 minutes.” Pewter picked up his tablet and started rapidly flicking his fingers across it.

 

[“ Affirmative .”]

 

“By the way, Date, you requested I make one more of those bluetooth pieces last week, yes? I left it on the table over there if you would like to have it now.” He gestured towards a mostly clear spot on the mess of the back table where a bluetooth earpiece sat.

 

“Oh, great. Thanks Pewter.” Date picked it up and inspected it. Unlike the generic versions of it, the casing on this was colored a brown similar to Hitomi’s hair color. Probably to try and help make it less obvious. Though the gently pulsing pink stripes running down it would probably negate that anyways. How Pewter figured out he planned to give it to Hitomi was anyone’s guess.

 

Meaning it was probably Boss who told him.

 

Pewter, who still hadn’t glanced up from his tablet, continued. “Once again, it is not a problem.”

 

Date nodded in thanks.

 

There were a few minutes of quiet as Date let Pewter do whatever he was doing. He examined a few of the mechanisms on the tables but couldn’t really make heads or tails of what they were supposed to be.

 

A few final taps and Pewter turned to face him again. “Here, this should do the trick. Would you like to test it out, Aiba?”

 

[ “Program received. Testing.” ]

 

[ Date, as of current I have temporarily disabled the listening function. Try to ‘think’ something my way. ]

 

Uh, sure. Is my response ‘adequate’ or-

 

[ “I believe it is working. Thank you Pewter.” ]

 

Oh, cool.

 

“Not a problem.” Pewter gave him a thumbs up and a grin.

 

“Alright, I'll get out of your hair, gotta get ready to prepare for tonight.” He held a hand out for Aiba and placed her back in his eye socket. 

 

“Ah yes, the Okonomiyaki War. Enjoy.” Pewter turned his attention back to his tablet, and some of the mechanisms on the desk started to move again.

 

He knows about it too??

 

[ It is most likely Boss told him about it. ]

 

“Thanks, see ya.” Date headed off towards the door.

 

He waved at Kagami as he passed him on the way out into the hall. 




-.. .- - . / ....- ---... ....- --... .--. -- / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Date had spent the afternoon trudging through the paperwork and red tape involved with giving Mizuki, Iris, and Hitomi the bluetooth headphones that allowed them to talk to Aiba. None of them were working at ABIS, and they’d only found out about it during a case, so the higher-ups were giving him a ton of shit for it. Not like they could stop him, but they could, in fact, cut his pay, which would suck. Technically he could just tell them to ‘fuck off’ (Boss’s words, not his) but that had bit him in the ass a few times in the past, so he was willing to do the paperwork.

 

...seeing as I regularly interact with all three of them, and they are all aware of the AI-Ball known as ‘Aiba’, allowing them the headsets is a safer alternative than ‘Aiba’ spending more time out in the open and risking discovery...

 

… He should probably get a hobby other than doing paperwork.

 

He was startled from his paperwork reverie as Aiba spoke. [ Mizuki has sent a NILE message stating that she is at the Sagan’s right now. Are we going to head there before ‘dusk’? ]

 

He took a glance out the window to see if he could tell how close it was to dusk. He still had some time though… Might as well, all I have to do right now is bring some of the groceries from yesterday over and start prepping. I guess I can process the pork belly here to kill some time though.

 

[ That may be a good idea. ]



Chapter Text

 

-.. .- - . / -.... ---... ...-- ..... .--. -- / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .

 

Date knocked on the door of the Sagan household about an hour before the sun was set to go down (according to Aiba). Which meant it was definitely ‘dusk.’ He heard conversation inside—probably Mizuki and Iris—and then footsteps. A moment of waiting later, and the door swung open.

 

Standing in the doorway was Hitomi. She looked tired, but in the way most people do after a long day of work. She was smiling though, which Date took as a good sign. “Hey, hope I'm not too early.”

 

Hitomi waved a hand and stepped back to let him inside. “No, not at all, come in! Iris has been really excited for tonight.”

 

He snorted as he stepped inside and pulled his shoes off. “Great. She's just excited to kick my ass. Other than that I'm sure it’ll be fun. I got the stuff I bought yesterday here,” he lifted the bag of ingredients slightly. “Processed the pork and all that to save some time.”

 

Hitomi shut the door and turned to face him again. “Oh, you cut it yourself? I forgot you knew how to butcher.”

 

He shrugged. “Eh, only a little. I took a class in school once and had a job at a shop in college. Made some decent money, though they shouldn't have hired me to be honest.”


“You know how to butcher meat?” Date turned to face Mizuki, who was draped over the back of the couch. From behind it. Why.

 

“Ooo, did you learn that for your ‘secret business’?” Iris was next to her, but unlike Mizuki, she was actually sitting on the couch.

 

He gave Iris a flat look. “No, I did not. Though some of the stuff I learned in the class was pretty useful for-”

 

Mizuki, probably impatient from waiting for him to get here, interrupted him. “Don't care, bring the food to the kitchen, idiot.” 

 

He rolled his eyes and started heading towards the small kitchen, placing the bag on the counter. “By the way, Hitomi, I got one of the bluetooth things for Aiba from Pewter today for you.”

 

He dug around in his pockets for a second and pulled out the bluetooth, offering it to Hitomi.

 

She looked slightly surprised, but smiled after a moment. “Oh! Thank you, really you didn't have to.”

 

He shrugged, still holding out the bluetooth. “Neither of us mind. Honestly, he seemed to like the project. And if it'll help you talk to Aiba without making me the middle man, I don't mind either.”

 

Hitomi took the earpiece. “Well, let me put this away, and we can get started!”

 

Iris cheered. “Yay!!”

 

Mizuki rolled her eyes, and then her whole body onto the couch proper. “Finally.”

 

Hitomi laughed quietly at their dramatics and left through the door at the back of the room, presumably to put the earpiece somewhere safe.

 

The room was quiet. Date decided that he didn’t want it to be quiet, but he didn’t have many conversation starters on hand. Maybe he could ask Mizuki about school…? Worth a shot anyways.

 

“Hey Mizuki, say hi to anyone at school today?”

 

She flopped over the back of the couch again, this time with her knees on the cushions, and glared at him. “No, why would I? Everyone in school sucks.”

 

Okay, conversation starter failed, plan B, which was whatever happened to fall out of his mouth next. “Did you throw a brick at them then?”

 

The look on Mizuki’s face was of utter bafflement. Win. “Wh- no?? Should I have?”

 

He leaned on the counter and raised an eyebrow. “Should you?”

 

[ She should not. Don't encourage that behavior, Date. If she really threw something at someone- ]

 

Yea, I know. With her strength she’d probably pulverize them.

 

The door at the back of the room opened, and Hitomi re-entered the living room. Date tilted his head at her. “Ready to prep?”

 

Mizuki, still looking slightly confused, agreed. “Yup.”

 

Hitomi’s face lit up, excited, and headed for the other side of the counter where Date had been standing. “Yes!”

 

Aiba popped out of his eye and onto the counter, startling him slightly. [“ Affirmative!” ]

 

“YEA!” Iris yelled, rather loudly.

 

Date huffed a quiet laugh. “Someones excited.”

 

She threw her hands in the air. “Who isn't??? It's the Okonomiyaki War REMATCH!”

 

Date started pulling things out of the bag and setting them on the counter. “Did you prep the batter beforehand? Or am I gonna need to make that too?” 

 

Hitomi opened up one of the cupboards and started pulling out a large griddle. “Yes, we made the batter a little while ago so it’d be ready when you both get here. All that's left is adding the cabbage and pork.”

 

“Alright, easy enough. Mizuki, you like mixing shit right? Here.” He passed a spatula from the cooking utensils drawer to her.

 

“Hey! I didn't say I wanted to, idiot!” She snatched the spatula from his hand as violently as one could grab such an implement.

 

Yet she still takes the spatula. It was honestly a miracle she didn’t break it doing that, though considering it was the Sagan’s and not his, she might actually care if it was broken.

 

Iris joined them in the kitchen, which was getting a little cramped with four people in it. “C’mon chop chop Date!!! Hurry up!”

 

He slid the drawer closed and opened the fridge just enough to pull out the bowl of batter. “Patience is a virtue, Iris, consider it a little more.”


[ It is not as if you are much of a patient man either, Date. ]

 

I can be patient! Here, look, I'm exuding perfect patience by not yelling at Mizuki for trying to stab me right now. Which was true. She was standing next to him, pantomiming stabbing him in the side repeatedly. 

 

[ Actually, it may be wise to speak on that. ]

 

Nah, she won't hurt me. He turned to Mizuki and gave her a disapproving look before taking the knife away from her. Thankfully, she didn’t try and yoink it away, because someone could have gotten hurt if she’d done that.

 

He held the knife up slightly above his head, out of her reach. “Nope, try again another time.”

 

She pouted in response. “Aw.”

 

At some point, someone had put the now damp cabbage on a cutting board, which was helpful, considering he needed to dice it.

 

He started by chopping the whole cabbage head in half. “Here, I'll add it in, you fold it. You remember how I told you to do it yea?”

 

Mizuki presumably rolled her eyes where she was standing besides him, the bowl of batter in front of her. “Yes, stop repeating yourself, I get it. Gimme the cabbage!”

 

Date had finished dicing the first half of the cabbage, because he was awesome with knives at this point. “Alright alright, cabbage: incoming.” He dropped his voice an octave for dramatic effect as he dropped some cabbage into the batter.

 

Mizuki stuck her tongue out at him but started mixing anyway. “You are so lame, Date.”

 

He pouted in an exaggerated fashion as he finished adding the cabbage to the bowl.

 

Once all the needed cabbage was in the bowl and Mizuki was stubbornly trying to fold it in properly, he turned to take stock of what everyone else was doing.

 

“Hey, Hitomi, is the griddle out already? Might be good to heat it up if-”

 

She took a whole stick of butter out and started rubbing it over the griddle. Seconds after, the griddle started sizzling. “One step ahead of you, don't worry.”

 

That was one way to grease the thing, he guessed. “Awesome.”

 

[ Date, It might be wise to remove your scarf before we begin. I do not think removing the stains from it will be an easy process ]

 

Oh, true. He pulled his scarf off, but then paused. He… didn’t really have any place to put it. It wasn’t like he could just leave it on the couch.

 

He stood there for a solid minute before Iris noticed him standing there holding his scarf. “Oh, right! Uncle, I'll take your scarf somewhere safe, don't worry!”

 

He was a little suspicious. Knowing Iris, she might actually be able to find a way to blackmail him with his scarf. “Can I hold you to that?”

 

She smiled brightly. “Yes! Of course!”

 

He sighed and handed it over. Hopefully Hitomi would keep her from using it to blackmail him into doing something stupid again. “Alright.”

 

She zipped off through the door at the back of the room, presumably to hide it somewhere where it wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire.

 

He jolted slightly when Mizuki called over to him over the sizzling. “Hey! Date, this what you wanted?”

 

He turned to look at her and the bowl. “Hm? Oh yea that's good.”

 

She nodded and shoved the spatula into the mix. “Now what.”

 

He leaned against the counter where Mizuki had been mixing the batter. “And now we wait. Gotta cook one for all of us you know.”

 

Mizuki huffed and crossed her arms. “Boring.”

 

That was about what he expected from Mizuki. “Well tough, you wanna help or are you just gonna stand there?”

 

She stuck her tongue out at him briefly. “I did my part of the cooking, you go help.”

 

Hitomi held her hand just above the griddle to test if it was hot enough to start cooking. “Date, do you want to cook the okonomiyaki, or would you rather I do it?”

 

He grimaced, remembering the original reason the okonomiyaki war had happened in the first place. There was a reason he didn’t make pancakes, or anything that needed to be flipped, really. “I think you're the pro on the okonomiyaki making, Hitomi. Me and Mizuki are just gonna set out the toppings. Fairly.”

 

Mizuki jabbed a finger at him. “Hey! Who said I would help you?!”

 

Cue shit eating grin. “I just did.”

 

“I’ll help!” Iris reappeared, thankfully just in time to stop a dumb and petty augument that would have lasted three days if uninterrupted. 

 

Iris grabbed some more bowls out of a cupboard, and Date grabbed the rest of the ingredients out of the fridge and off the counter. The three of them set about filling the bowls with said ingredients and scattering them around the living room table. The sauce stayed in the bottle though. Putting it in a bowl would make even more of a mess than they were already going to make.

 

“Date, could you hand the bowl over? The griddle is hot enough now.”

 

“Oh yea, here.” He grabbed the bowl of thoroughly mixed ingredients and placed it on the counter beside the griddle for easy access.

 

Hitomi put some of the mix on the griddle, where it started sizzling quietly. “You ready?”

 

Iris cheered from the other side of the counter. “You bet!”

 

Date rolled his eyes. “Cool it, we got like 3 more okonomiyaki left.”

 

Iris let out an exaggerated, “Hmph.”

 

Mizuki smirked at him. “Though, you'd prefer we run ourselves out early so you actually have a chance of winning, wouldn’t you, Date?”

 

He jabbed a finger at Mizuki in response. “Oh yea? We-”

 

Aiba interrupted his would-have-been-excellent-retort. [ “Date, they are clearly egging you on. Of course as well, you are not the only contender these two must defeat.” ]

 

He dropped his hand back to his side. “Good point.”

 

Iris leaned towards Aiba, a curious look in her eye. “Does that mean you want to join in separately, Aiba?”

 

Aiba raised a paw in response. [ “Of course. I can't let you all leave me out of the fun of decimating Date.” ]

 

The betrayal! “Hey!”

 

Hitomi called from the griddle as she poured the last of the okonomiyaki batter on the pan. “Last okonomiyaki! Be ready!”

 

“Alright!” 



After a few moments, everyone stood at a different side of the kitchen table, adorned with various toppings and left over components from the prep, like eggs and batter. 

 

Date saw a flicker of movement off to his left but ignored it in favor of trying to plot out which ingredients he wanted to grab first. 

 

Mizuki looked at the bowls and scratched the back of her head. “So, uh, when do we start?” 

 

Date saw a blur of white and pink to his left as Iris shouted, “Now!”

 

Suddenly, there was flour being launched directly at Mizuki and scattered through the air. He instinctively shut his eye to keep it clear of the powder, and saw Aiba get half blinded by the makeshift smokescreen through their shared vision. 

 

“Hey! Not fair!!” He heard Mizuki shout off to his right, before the sound of a bowl clattering to the floor and feet thudding against the wood. Likely sprinting after what must be Iris. He swore he heard a few ‘splat’s here and there as Mizuki chased her.

When the flour settled enough to see, Date watched, almost in awe, as the two raced around the room, Mizuki rapid firing Okonomiyaki sauce at Iris from behind. This was quickly changed when something whapped against the side of his face.

 

He glanced down at where the thing had fallen and discovered it was a scallion. Quickly, he turned his gaze to the must-be culprit and saw Hitomi smiling faux-innocently at him. 

 

“Aren't you supposed to be good at dodging, Special Agent? ” 

 

Date felt himself flush, despite the fact that they were in the middle of a pseudo-war, and she had just thrown a scallion at him.“Hey! Who knows, maybe I wanted you to hit me.”

 

That was a bold-faced lie however, and now he was being forced to try and dodge cannonball-esque handfuls of cabbage from the counter that Hitomi had evidently marked out as her territory. 

 

He grabbed the first plate he could from the table as he ran. It was fried pork belly scraps. 

 

Shit.

 

He took his shitty plate of fried pork and hid behind the couch, out of the line of fire. As soon as he was out of sight, she changed targets. To Iris, if the surprised yelp and spattering of cabbage hitting the floor indicated anything.  

 

[ Hm. Date, if you can grant me ease of passage to Hitomi, I will grant you a free shot of Mizuki. ]

 

He thought about it, keeping an eye on the other three as he did so. Make it two and I’ll think about it.

 

[ My plan will not work twice, but you may have an opening for Iris if it goes correctly. ]

 

He half whispered his response under his breath. “Yea, alright, what do you need me to do?”

 

He glanced around the couch and watched as Hitomi got flour lobbed at her by Iris. She snatched the tenkasu off the table and retreated just as quick.

 

Aiba had apparently finished formulating her plan and spoke. [ Get Mizuki to move towards the counter, you can hit her while I escape, and following that, I can distract Iris for you. ]

 

He nodded. Sounds like a plan.

 

He waited for Aiba to give him the signal. [ Wait for it… Wait… Go! ] He jumped out from his hiding spot and nailed Mizuki in the back of the head with the pork. 

 

She turned towards him slowly, fury burning in her eyes.

 

Aiba wisely chose that moment to make her escape to Hitomi.

 

Mizuki launched herself at him. “OH YOU’RE DEAD DATE!” 

 

Date’s expression was almost certainly regret as he sprinted away from her as fast as physically possible.

 

Well, I lived a good life . He would close his eyes and send a mock prayer up but that would just increase the likelihood of Mizuki actually killing him. Plus, it's not like he really believed in any of that crap anyways.

 

Aiba had shut off their shared view at some point, but turned it on again briefly to show him where Iris was currently. [ You’re not even going to try and get Iris? ]

 

I mean, I will, but not without Mizuki eviscerating me while I do so. C’est la vie or whatever. She was still lobbing okonomiyaki sauce at him at speeds faster than should be physically possible.

 

He jumped away from Mizuki’s path of destruction and scanned the room for Iris. 

 

She was currently running from Hitomi, who now had the raw eggs. 

 

You gonna tell me when that opening is, Aiba?

 

He continued to attempt to avoid Mizuki’s wrath while waiting for a response. It was soon obvious none was forthcoming. 

 

Traitor.

 

[ I don’t know what you're talking about, Date. ]

 

He glared at her, where she was perched on Hitomi’s shoulder, happy as a clam and almost definitely helping Hitomi aim.

 

A moment later, the shared sight returned and he saw his opportunity to strike. He launched the pork in what must've been a perfect shot, until Iris inexplicably turned around and perfectly caught it in her mouth. 

 

Mizuki stopped in her charge of violence to compliment Iris. “Nice catch, Iris!”

 

Iris finished chewing before responding with a bright, “Thanks!”

 

Mizuki took advantage of his state of shock to get him with the sauce three times before sprinting off. 

 

He sighed as it dripped onto the floor and looked at his plate of pork. There wasn’t much left. He would need to get a new set of ingredients. Unfortunately, Hitomi had relocated them all behind the counter at some point and he would need to figure out a way to steal one—

 

He involuntarily stiffened as several somethings smashed against his back. He spun around to face whoever was launching eggs at him. “When the hell did you get eggs?!?!”

 

Mizuki stuck her tongue out at him, clutching an egg carton. “Aren’t you a detective, stupid? Figure it out!”

 

[ Did you or did you not want an opening, Date? ]

 

Oh shit, right, that.

 

Mizuki lobbed another egg at him and he rolled to the ground and took cover behind the couch again. Hitomi was under attack from Iris again. This was his chance to get some more ammunition!

 

He snuck forward as quickly as possible and grabbed the closest bowl before retreating back behind the couch. He watched as an egg splattered on the ground where he had been moments before.

 

A glance down in the bowl told him he had a bowl full of aonori. Better than the pork he guessed. He watched for an opening…

 

[ Now, Date! ]

 

He launched a handful of aonori at Iris, “Agh!” she cried as the topping made its mark.

 

“Got ya!” He cheered. 

 

Iris turned around and gave him a dark look. “No, I got you.

 

Date blinked. “What?”



Suddenly, there was an egg in Iris’s hand, and then just as suddenly it was smashed into his face. “YES!”

 

Date stood there for a moment, egg dripping from his hair. This clearly was a mistake because a moment later he’d been covered liberally in cabbage from one of Hitomi’s throws. 

 

And then suddenly it was raining toppings.

 

Date was certain he was being ganged up on. He couldn’t even tell who was throwing what now, only that he was almost completely covered in okonomiyaki related toppings and ingredients. 

 

He tried to run out of the rain of cabbage and flour only to go straight into the lobbing range of Mizuki and her sauce. When had she swapped it for the eggs? Point was he now also had sauce all over him.

 

Then he saw Mizuki get nailed with a raw egg from Iris. “Hey! I thought we were tag teaming here!”

 

“Oh, we are! I just wanted to get back at you for earlier” She smiled sweetly, but the kind of sweet that promised pain and suffering.


Date took the opportunity to hide behind the couch. He was covered in ingredients. “Hey! I thought this was supposed to be an even fight!”

 

[ When has it ever been? ]

 

“All's fair in love and war Date!” She nailed him with another egg. Where was she even keeping that one?

 

And then the rain of ingredients started again and Date was forced to try and flee the onslaught. 



-.. .- - . / --... ---... .---- ----- .--. -- / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Aiba posed on top of Hitomi’s clean and not topping covered okonomiyaki. [ “Bow down to your superiors, for we have defeated the three of you!” ]

 

Iris huffed and crossed her arms. “Fine! But we HAVE to do this again sometime!! That cheap shot earlier wasn't fair!”

 

Date, who was literally dripping okonomiyaki ingredients, glared at Iris.“Says one of the ones who all decided to tag team me at the same damn time.”

 

Mizuki, egg dripping from her bangs and a slice of pork in her ponytail, glared at Date in Iris’s stead. “Your take doesnt count, Date, we have to beat you in this war.”

 

Betrayed by his own roommate. Again! “Thanks, feeling the love with that one Mizuki.”

 

She peeled the piece of pork out of her hair and shoved in his direction. “Oh shut up, like you didn't throw pork in my face!”

 

Ah yeah, that was gratifying. He hoped Aiba got it on video, actually. It had been like watching a cat who got a piece of cheese dropped on its face. “It was a love toss, I thought you'd like some bacon.”

 

She threw the pork at him, and it stuck to his shirt. “Not like that!!”

 

Hitomi giggled behind her flour sprinkled hand at their antics. “Well, you both can get cleaned up here if you want, the showers open.”

 

“Sure!” Mizuki didn’t hesitate to beeline for the nearest shower.

 

Date shrugged in response. “Eh, I don't really have a change of clothes on me. I can just shower back at the apartment, don't wanna be a bother.”

 

He called down the hall towards Mizuki before she completely vanished into the depths of the house. “Hey Mizuki! You want to stay here or are you coming with me?”

 

He received a slightly muffled call back. “Stay here, it's been a while!”

 

It really hasn't.

 

Hitomi looked at him with a slightly amused look in her eye. “Are you sure Date? You have so many ingredients on you it looks like we could just put you on the griddle and make another whole okonomiyaki.”

 

He peeled the pork off his shirt with a sticking sound, grimacing slightly at it. “Pretty sure I wouldn't taste as good as the normal ones.”

 

[ Date, you have a spare uniform in the trunk of your car. Why did you lie? ]

 

I don't want to impose, and it'd probably end up with the kids making me stay late. Driving back at god knows when doesn't sound like fun.

 

[ Why not ask to sleep here then? ]

 

I'm trying not to impose Aiba, that is literally the opposite of that.

 

He glanced around at the now extremely messy living room. “Alright, I can help clean up a bit more before I go if you want?”

 

Hitomi waved her hand dismissively and gestured at the kitchen sink, where a decently clean Iris was prepping cleaning supplies. “That's not needed, Iris already volunteered.”

 

“Ah, I see. That's her payment for the war, huh.” It was her request to do this, afterall.

 

“Not necessarily, she offered to do it.”

 

There was an awkward pause where they both stood there, the sound of the faucet the only sound. Date coughed into his hand and took a step towards the door.

 

Hitomi broke the silence first. “Are you sure you can drive home like that? It's really ok if you need to shower here, I'm sure we can find some spare clothes-”

 

Aiba interjected before Hitomi could finish. [“ Fear not, I made sure that he brought an ample amount of towels should the need arise to drive to the apartment.” ]

 

Hitomi spoke, hesitantly this time. “If you're sure. Have a good night, Date. We'll talk tomorrow?”

 

Date rubbed a hand against the back of his neck. “Sure.”

 

He opened the door, and stepped out into the cool dark of the evening.



-.. .- - . / --... ---... ....- ..... .--. -- / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Date felt his nose scrunch up as he looked over himself. Eugh, I'm all sticky. The remaining okonomiyaki ingredients had congealed into a sticky mess on the way over. He was glad he’d put towels over his seat and on the floor of the car.

 

He didn’t even bother heading towards the apartment proper, instead beelining to the bathroom in the small hall. “Ok, first order of business is taking a shower.”

 

[ You do realize you could have at the very least accepted Hitomi’s offer of a shower before you left. I do not understand why you did not. ]

 

“Nah, I couldn't have. I'd rather not take up space over there. Plus I'm sure they wanted to have some sort of post-war girls night, I cant infringe on that.” He shut the door behind him, turning the lock.

 

[ I am certain they would not mind you joining in, Date, but I understand you dont like ‘imposing.’ Even if the invitation is insistent. ]

 

“What's that supposed to mean? I go places when I get invited! Hell, I just went today on an invitation basis.” He reached into the shower to turn it on and let it start warming up. He shucked his clothes into a pile in the corner and set Aiba on the bathroom counter while he was waiting.

 

[ Mizuki and Iris made you come. ]

 

“They didn't make me… Y'know what, whatever.” He stepped into the shower and didn’t wait very long for his hair to get wet before grabbing one of the bottles in the shower.

 

He scrubbed at his face and hair vigorously, trying to get congealed egg and flour off when his empty eye started stinging. “Ow! Shit!”

 

[ Perhaps you should not wash your hair and face with your eyes partially open. ]

 

He grimaced as he squeezed his socket shut and stuck his face under the spray. “Ugh, yea whatever, they can’t make a soap that doesnt burn your fucking eyes?”

 

[ I feel that it is also in part the fact that you are using your shampoo as a face wash right now. ]

 

“Oh, I am?” He glanced at the bottle he’d set back down. It was the 20-in-1 shampoo Mizuki had bought online. He shrugged. “Eh, it's all soap. Besides, I put enough crap on my skin, it wont do anything.”

 

[ Whatever you say, Date. ]

 

He finished rinsing the soap and egg residue off his face and went back to scrubbing it out of his hair instead. Which still didn’t get it all, so he lathered it up with soap again which finally got rid of the rest of it. Luckily, the rest of him was mostly clean of ingredients because he’d been wearing clothes, so he didn’t need to scrub okonomiyaki ingredients off of anywhere else. The water did get rid of the vague sticky feeling from the sauces that had soaked through though, which was nice. Laundry later was going to be hell though.

 

He turned the shower off and stepped out, grabbing a towel and drying his hair off as he did so. Honestly, past him was a genius for just keeping a spare change of clothes here. Well, the first time he’d needed them after he swapped back had been a bit… uncomfortable, because they were the ones he wore when he was in Saito’s body, but that wasn’t an issue now. He’d had enough instances where he’d forgotten to grab clothes before getting into the bathroom, or Mizuki was asleep, or whatever else since then where they'd long been swapped for his more recent wardrobe choices.

 

Unlike the spare set in the car, at least.

 

After throwing the spare change of clothes on, he moved for his shaving supplies. He’d forgotten to do it earlier after getting sucked into paperwork again, and he would probably forget it until next time he showered if he didn’t do it now. He moved to open the mirror cabinet when he caught sight of his reflection.

 

He felt himself focus in on the mirror, everything else falling away. It wasn’t the reflection he’d been expecting. Platinum blonde hair, plastered to his head by dampness, and a pale green eye looked back at him. 

 

He didn’t know why he hadn’t been expecting his own face though. That was what he looked like, right? He couldn’t remember ever looking like anybody else.

 

[ Date? ]

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been staring when he heard Aiba. [ Date, I would recommend looking away from the mirror. ]

 

He blinked. It was just his reflection. Damp, scruffy black hair and a single grey-brown eye. No platinum blonde or green to be seen. Right.  

 

He tore his eyes away from the mirror. ... Guess I'll shave tomorrow, don't feel like trying that without the mirror.

 

[ Date… ]

 

Bother me about it later, not in the mood right now. He grabbed her off the counter, but didn’t bother putting her back in. She needed to charge, so he’d have to take her out soon anyways. He set her down on his desk to let her plug herself in. 

 

He could feel a headache coming on, so he moved to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water. He didn’t want to try and grab painkillers from behind the mirror right now.

 

[ You received a text from Mizuki a minute ago, would you like me to read it to you? ]

 

He took a sip of water before responding. “Go ahead.”

 

[ The message reads ‘Hey, stupid, why’d you leave?’ ]

 

He snorted. “Tell her I wanted to take a shower and steal the bed for a night.”

 

[ Understood. Although, she certainly knows you are lying. ]

 

He shrugged wryly. “Eh, it's partially true.”

 

He took another sip from his glass. The headache was only getting worse. His empty eye socket felt like it was ringing from an impact.

 

He winced as the feeling only got worse. 

 

[ Is something the matter? ]

 

He pressed a hand to his eye socket and grit his teeth slightly. “Feels like someone shot me in the head.”

 

[ That is… concerning, as I do not detect anything that suggests as such. Are you certain you are not having a migraine of some sort? ]

 

This was such bullshit. “Nope. Definitely not a migraine.”

 

He hissed out a sigh. 

 

The pain didn’t lessen over the next few minutes where he stood there, but it stopped getting worse. “No fucking clue what its from but I can deal with it. I’m going to bed, night Aiba.”

 

[ Date, I- ...Good night. ]

 

Date let himself fall onto the couch, and hopefully into a dreamless sleep.

 

Chapter Text

-.. .- - . / ..--- ---... ....- ----- .- -- / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Date sighed and closed his eye, blocking his view of the darkened ceiling. Ugh, I can't sleep anymore, I've been laying here for like 2 hours already.

 

[ I am aware. However, it is still beneficial to ‘rest’ physically, sleep or not. ]

 

He opened his eye and glanced over at where Aiba was charging. The light had brightened slightly. Yea, I know. Though, the headache is gone and I feel a little less like shit, so might as well get over with your questioning, yea?

 

[ You actually intended to listen to me? ]

 

He huffed and looked at the curtains instead. They were drawn to block the light from passing cars, but he could still hear them below. Wow. You think that little of me? 

 

[ It was more an assumption based on your own lack of self-care rather than one on your reliability. ]

 

He glanced back at Aiba again. She was still just in her charging state, not as her little hamster self. Fair enough. Anyways, do you just want like, my take on this or do you have a whole interrogation?

 

[ A mix of both. Could you begin with a summary, so that I can narrow down my inquiries? ]

 

He slid into a sitting position, the blanket falling into his lap. The conveniences of sleeping on a couch. “Well, uh.”

 

He thought for a second, fiddling with the edge of the blanket. “I guess, basically I keep having these weird feelings? Like, it feels like my body isn't mine, or I'm in the wrong body somehow. More than when I was just back from Saito’s body.”

 

His brow furrowed, trying to find the words. “I keep... remembering weird shit too. Stuff that feels like it happened, but it didn't. It's as if I experienced it. But somewhere else? I don't know how else to explain it other than some sort of super realistic ‘fake memory’. It's distracting and disorienting as shit. I dont think it's been too obvious outside of one or two times but it fucks with me at the weirdest times.”

 

[ That appears to align with what we were aware of. ]

 

“We?”

 

[ Yes, the Boss explicitly mentioned it to me about you acting weird, and in addition Mizuki has definitely noticed a couple times you have experienced these ‘episodes’. ]

 

He grimaced. “...great.”

 

[ Frankly, I would be disappointed if anyone else did not notice, Date. It is generally brief, yes, but it happens fairly often, according to what I detect from you.]

 

He couldn’t help but sigh. He’d thought he’d gotten decent at hiding it from everyone but Aiba, who didn’t count because she was literally in his head at all times. Still, I didn't mean to make it such a big issue. Is there anything else you wanna dig from me?”

 

[ For one, when you say that it ‘feels like it happened, but didn’t,’ are you referring to a sensation of a false present experience or a false recollection? ]

 

He lifted a hand to his chin and hummed to himself for a moment. “Feels sorta like I'm there, so I’d say the first one. It doesn't feel like I'm remembering it, unless memory really is that accurate to the senses for someone.”

 

[ Hm. So rather than a ‘false memory’, it is more of a ‘false experience’.] 

 

Aiba, despite just being in her eyeball state, rolled slightly in the charger to look at him. At least, he thought so. It was hard to see in the dark, and Aiba had turned off the vision function. [ Secondly, what do you mean by your body feeling wrong? I understand a feeling of dysphoria in relation to Saito's body, as that had been where you were present for over half a decade, but from the way you are phrasing it, I assume there is more to it than that? ]

 

Date idly scratched at his neck. “Mm yea... it's hard to explain? Like, the Saito parts make sense, it either comes up or the ‘episodes’ get me thinking about when I was in Saito's body and it makes me feel weird.”

 

He glanced at Aiba. “Like looking in the mirror feels wrong, and my neck feels weird. Little things like that. Same thing goes for say, Rohan and when I was in his body, though that's probably only happened once? So it's not something that happens much.”

 

[ Hm. ]

 

“What’s weird is sometimes I get that same ‘wrong’ feeling but for someone else.” He frowned. “I don't know if it's the ‘fake’ me messing with like my ‘perception of self’ or some weird shit, but I have no idea where it could be coming from other than that. Though even saying that feels like I'm wrong.”

 

[ So, to clarify, you sometimes experience a sense of wrongness in your body, and they are usually associated with your memories of other bodies that you have inhabited. However, there is an exception. Does it happen often? I am not sure if I can detect that as reliably. ]

 

Another shrug. “Yea, that's about the size of it. It's usually just like, brief things? Like a quick glimpse or when I wake up. It's only happened a handful of times for longer than a few minutes or out of those specific moments I think.” He shifted in his spot on the couch. ”And uh, it's not too often? Though the ‘unknown’ ones have been for sure. ‘Saito’ is the most often right now, which makes sense.”

 

[ As stated previously, I feel that this would be something to address with Dr. Sakamoto. I could request that the Boss ask permission to let her be privy to the secret? However, I do not know how that will play out. ]

 

He raised an eyebrow. Getting Boss to do the paperwork to reveal information was always a nightmare. Aiba must actually think this whole thing was important then. “If you want to. I don't wanna trouble her with more of my shit.”

 

[ If anything, Date, it would help her too, as she could talk to someone about her issues regarding the entire endeavor as well. ]

 

He sighed, and flopped back into a more comfortable position on the couch. As comfortable as the couch could get anyways. “Yea yea, whatever you say.”



.... .. - --- -- .. / --... ---... .---- ..... .- -- / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. .



Hitomi glanced up from the pan as Mizuki stepped into the living room. “Good morning, Mizuki. Sleep well?”

 

Mizuki rubbed her eyes and plopped onto the couch before responding with a half mumbled, “Yea.”

 

Hitomi turned most of her attention back to the pan, but kept some of it one the still half asleep Mizuki. She knew well from numerous sleepovers that Mizuki definitely wasn’t a morning person like her or Iris. “Good to hear. Breakfast is at the table if you would like some, let me know if it got cold and I’ll give you this portion instead.”

 

Mizuki blinked and stayed silent for a moment, visibly processing before nodding. “It's fine, really, I’ll eat the one at the table.”

 

Iris skipped through the door, already dressed and ready for the day. “Mornin’ Mizuki!”

 

“Hey, Iris.”

 

The butter had finally melted into the pan, so Hitomi started frying the egg for her own omurice.

 

At some point while Hitomi was finishing with that, Iris must’ve dragged Mizuki to the table, because they were both eating. Well, Iris was eating. Mizuki was more picking at her food due to the majority of her focus being on her phone.

 

Hitomi sat down next to Iris with her own plate, and apparently her curiosity was plain on her face because Iris stage-whispered to her. “Mizuki’s texting date, said she wants to make sure hes not ‘being stupid’ right now.”

 

Hitomi set about cutting up her omurice with her chopsticks. “Wouldn't he just be waking up around now too? He’s been taking Mizuki to school right?”

 

Mizuki cut in, obviously having heard them talking. “Yeah, he does, that's why I’m texting him.”

 

Was she texting him to come pick her up? Or… “Is something wrong?”

 

Mizuki shrugged and continued tapping away at her phone with one hand, the other wandering half blind around the plate looking for the omurice. “Not yet. Aiba says they are going to see the shrink today though.”

 

That was odd. “Didn’t he say he was going on Tuesdays?” At least, that was what Iris had told her a few days ago.

 

Mizuki shrugged absently again. “I dont know.” Her chopsticks finally found the omurice and clumsily pinched a piece off. 

 

Iris continued to eat her breakfast before jolting like she’d remembered something. “Hey Mizuki! Didn’t you say you had a writing thing due today? I think you left it in my room last night.”

 

Mizuki looked up from her phone, and stared at Iris blankly for a moment before she realized what she was saying. “Oh! Did I? Sh- crud. Aw crud, let me get it, thanks Iris.”

 

Mizuki half dropped, half set her chopsticks down as she quickly started shoving the chair back and out of the way.

 

Iris smiled at Mizuki as she stood. “No problem!”

 

Hitomi glanced at Mizuki’s mostly uneaten and rapidly cooling plate of omurice with some hesitance. “Mizuki, you can finish your breakfast if you want, the paper isn’t going anywhere.”

 

Mizuki waved as she passed through the door to the rest of the house. “I'll forget! Be right back!”

 

Hitomi listened to Mizuki’s footsteps going up the stairs in silence for a few moments before turning to Iris. “Did Mizuki tell you if anything was wrong?”

 

Iris swallowed her bite of omurice before responding with a shrug. “Not too much, but she mentioned stuff like what happened at the store has happened before. I don’t know much either, sorry.”

 

She waved her hand at Iris in a soothing gesture. “It’s alright, I’ll talk to Date about it if I get the chance. I’m sure he just doesn’t want you two to worry about him.”

 

They ate in silence for a few moments before Hitomi remembered something of her own. “Oh, by the way, Iris, I almost forgot to tell you. The game you ordered on Tuesday came in the mail this morning. It’s in the office right now.”

 

Iris lit up at the statement. “It is? Sweet!”

 

“You’re streaming it this weekend right? It's the new… Kingdom of Hearts game right? That's what it was called, right?”

 

Iris pointed a finger at nothing in particular. “Yup! The game company finally released the DLC a month or so ago, and I’ve been playing the series on and off stream.”

 

Mizuki’s footsteps down the stairs resonated through the quiet house, and she came back through the door with a few sheets of paper in hand. She looked a little more awake now, which was good. 

 

“I'm back, what happened?”

 

“The new Kingdom of Hearts game came in the mail!”

 

Mizuki made her way back to the table. “Oh, that super long series with like the same dude 8 times over, right? Fun!”

 

“Yea! I'm playing it this week's stream. Do you want to join?”

 

“Sure!”

 

They spent a few more minutes chatting about the game before quiet resumed, Mizuki focused on her phone once more.

 

Mizuki wrinkled her nose in what was probably annoyance at the screen. Hitomi was about to ask what was wrong when there was a loud ‘SNAP’ from Mizuki’s hands.

 

There was a pause as everyone looked at Mizuki’s hands to see what happened. The wooden chopsticks had broken where Mizuki had been pressing her fingers against them.

 

Mizuki flushed and set the broken remains of the chopsticks down. “...Whoops.”

 

Iris’s eyes were fixed on the broken chopsticks on the table, eyebrows looking close to floating off her face with incredulity. “Did you just snap the chopsticks???”

 

Mizuki flushed further and avoided eye contact. “I didn’t bring mine from home... I’m sorry, Sensei.”

 

Hitomi gave Iris a look before standing to get Mizuki another pair from the drawer. “It’s alright, I’ve been meaning to look into getting some nicer chopsticks anyways.”

 

Which was true. She could look into getting some nicer kitchen supplies now that she had a bit of extra cash supplementing her teacher’s income. 

 

“Do you have a different kind at home? Where did you get them? They must be pretty durable if you snapped that pair by accident.” Hitomi pulled the drawer open and grabbed a pair of chopsticks from it, turning back to the table to hand them to Mizuki.

 

As Hitomi handed Mizuki the new set of chopsticks she grasped them delicately, like one would hold a fragile flower. “I, Uh... Actually, I don’t know. Date brought them home one day, and they’re the only ones that never broke when I used them”

 

Hitomi took her seat again and shrugged with a reassuring smile. “I guess I’ll have to ask him then.”

 

Mizuki looked consideringly at the chopsticks. “Mhm.”

 

Hitomi glanced at her phone to check the time. They still had a few minutes before they had to get out the door, but they needed to wrap up breakfast soon. “Alright, Iris, do you mind doing the dishes while I finish getting ready?”

 

Iris, who had just finished her breakfast, hopped to her feet at the request. “Nope! I don’t mind! I'll get it done.”

 

“Thank you.” Hitomi stood, moving to retrieve her bag of school supplies from the office. She paused to consider grabbing Iris’s game to give to her, but ultimately decided against it. She can grab it when she wants it, and this way it wont get misplaced. 

 

She headed back out into the living room to make sure the kids were ready, bag over her shoulder.“Ready to go?”

 

“Yep!” “Yes.”

 

Iris was finishing putting some papers in her bag when she called a reminder to Mizuki. “Don't forget your homework Mizuki!”

 

Mizuki glanced at the table from where she was yanking her shoes on. “Oh right! Thanks Iris.”

  

Mizuki finished pulling her shoes on and grabbed the papers from the table before shoving them in her backpack. Hitomi suppressed a grimace, knowing there was no way the papers weren’t going to be crumpled. Iris had done the same thing when she was younger.

 

“Alright, I’ll go pull out the car. You two wait outside?” Iris and Mizuki nodded and headed out the front door. Hitomi back tracked past the office and to the garage. She started the car and pulled out of the garage where Mizuki and Iris were standing beside the driveway.

 

She put the car into park and unlocked the doors with a loud ‘CLICK’ noise. Iris took this as the signal to get in the car, and Mizuki followed close behind. The door to the passenger seat and the back seat swung open moments apart from each other.

 

She glanced out the back window and started backing the car out. “Double check you have everything?”

 

She could practically feel the eyeroll coming from Iris beside her in the passenger seat. “Yes, mom, we double, triple and quadruple checked!”

 

“Alright.” A turn of the wheel, and they were on the road toward school.



-.. .- - . / .- -... .. ... / .... . .- -.. --.- ..- .- .-. - . .-. ... / ----. ---... ..--- -.... .- --



Date was slightly annoyed at Mizuki for choosing to stay over at the Sagan’s for a sleepover. Mostly because he’d scheduled the appointment with Dr. Sakamoto so early on the assumption that he’d already be awake and in the car by then. Unfortunately, he’d slept in after passing out at some unreasonable time in the morning and now was racing against the clock to get there before 9:30. Currently, it was 9:26 and he was impatiently waiting for the elevator to make it to the floor ABIS operated out of.

 

“Shit shit shit shit shit shit-” Curse this stupidly slow elevator!

 

[ Date, I highly doubt that you have to be exactly on time for the appointment. I am sure that Dr. Sakamoto will not mind waiting one extra minute. ]

 

If Aiba had been out of his eye socket, he would have given her a flat look. But seeing as she was currently in it, he just did it to the air in front of him. “What? I can't be late to shit.”

 

[ You can't? Why, pray tell, not? ] The elevator door opened and rushed down the hall in the direction he was pretty sure Dr. Sakamoto’s office was. 

 

“It's just not how it works, alright?” Ugh, almost there. REALLY shouldn't have woken up so late. Damn, hope she doesn't mind-

 

[ Date, did I not just say that- ] There was Dr. Sakamoto’s nameplate.

 

He opened the door with a minute to spare. “Oh! Date, just on time! Good to see you.”

 

Date did his best to pretend he hadn’t just run down the halls to get here on time. “Likewise.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto gestured to a couple of papers she had on her desk. “I need to fix some papers on file, but if you want to settle in while I do that you can go ahead.”

 

Date nodded, moving toward the same seat he’d been in last time. He took a seat and settled in to wait.

 

Dr. Sakamoto clicked away at her keyboard, typing in whatever was on the papers. “How have the past few days been holding up for you? Good? Bad?”

 

Oh, were they starting now? He still had no idea how this therapy thing worked. He shrugged. “Eh, its been alright, had one really shit day and one decent one so I think it balances out.”

 

[ That is Not how it works. ]

 

Date gave a flat look to the beanbag off to the left in place of Aiba. Yes it is.

 

[No it-] He felt the mental equivalent of a sigh from Aiba. [Whatever you say Date.]

 

More keyboard clacking, and she put one of the papers in a tray. “Hm! An interesting way to put it at least.”

 

He gave a sardonic smile. “Can't say it's been too bad, you know, hasn't killed me yet at least. How about you? Or uh, am I not supposed to ask that?…”

 

Clack clack, and another paper put away. She typed fast. “I don't mind! My partner and I went out to a restaurant in Koto. Other than that it's been life as usual for me.”

 

Oh, a restaurant? “Anything on the menu of note?”

 

“Ah, the curry was pretty good, I ended up ordering a second portion to take home.”

 

… He was going to have to consider trying this place out. “You said it was in Koto, yea?”

 

“Mhm, over by the Kiyosumi-shirakawa Station going right. Are you planning on going?”

 

Aiba, make a note please? “Any place that has good curry is a place worth going to.”

 

Sakamoto nodded as if they were the wisest words she’d ever heard. “Well said.” 

 

She gave a decisive sounding clack on the keyboard and put the last paper in the tray. “Alright! I'm all set up, would you like to start? Or do you need a few minutes?”

 

He shrugged again. “I'm fine to start I guess, came here early for it and all. Aiba, you hopping out?”

 

[ Yes, one moment. ]

 

“Uh, alright.” Weird. Normally she hopped out as soon as she got permission.

 

There was silence for a few moments before Date felt Aiba wiggle her way out of his eye and plop onto his open palm. He set her down on the table.

 

Aiba gave a little wave to Dr. Sakamoto. [“ Good morning, Dr. Sakamoto.” ]

 

Aiba still hadn’t turned off the vision function, and he had to admit it was weird seeing Dr. Sakamoto from table height. “Good morning to you too, Aiba. You are doing well I assume?”

 

A tiny nod. [“ Yes. ”]

 

“Good to hear!”

 

Dr. Sakamoto pulled a presumably blank piece of paper from another tray and readied her pen over it. “Is there a specific reason that you decided to come earlier than planned? Or did you just want to meet sooner? It’s fine if it's neither, I would just like to know if there’s something you’d like to address first and foremost today.”

 

Date hesitated, so Aiba took the lead from him. [ “It was something briefly mentioned during the last session that has further come to my understanding. it is a more frequent issue than I was aware of. The ‘episodes’ that Date has been experiencing.” ]

 

Dr. Sakamoto paused for a second, and then nodded. “Oh yes, you described it as a dissociative state? Or, at least, the one major episode. If I can ask, do you mind explaining a bit more about the episodes, Date? Or would you rather not discuss it?”

 

Another shrug. Date was the king of shrugs today.“It's kinda why we're here this early, so I guess, yea. I told Aiba about it a bit earlier today.“

 

He quietly snapped his fingers as he tried to recall Aiba’s exact wording. ”What did you call it? ‘False experiences?’ It feels sort of like that a lot of the time when it's brief.”

 

He scrunched his face up in thought a little. Trying to remember the specifics wasn’t pleasant, so he tried to just remember the general feeling. “Especially when I’m, like, sleeping or they're really bad, it's way too real to be a nightmare. Feels kinda like an exact memory rather than something fake.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto scribbled something down before turning her attention back on him.“By ‘exact’ you mean...?”

 

“Pretty much picture perfect, it's almost as if I'm experiencing it, even if it's only for a flicker of a moment.” He was definitely sure about that.

 

More scribbling. “Hm. Are all of your memories like this? Or is it just these ‘episodes’? I just want to clarify if it's different from your normal recollection.”

 

“My memory is scrapped to shit, I don't think I can even remember what I did two hours ago that vividly. With the ‘episodes,’ it's like something implanted the shit right into my brain.”

 

Aiba lifted a paw for attention. [ “I would also like to mention, although I am uncertain in the relation to this, they seem to have some correlation. There have been moments where you seem to express a different memory than what has actually happened. Some are minor distortions, but there have been a few that were very different from the actual event.” ]

 

He nodded. Made sense to him. “Yea, I think that's connected.”

[ For one, I am still curious as to how you ascertained who Saito was, despite lacking the necessary information at the time. ]

 

He jolted, and then glared at Aiba.“Hey, that's confidential Aiba!”

 

[“ I did not speak it aloud. ”]

 

Oh. He flushed for a second before forcing it away. “Oh, whoops.”

 

He turned back to Dr. Sakamoto. “If you can't share the details I understand, but could you provide an example of a distortion? It doesn't have to be major.”

 

“Hmm.” He thought about it for a moment. There was one instance that he remembered pretty well... “About a month ago, me and Mizuki had this argument about eggs. It was weird.”

 

He shifted in his seat. “I have this almost perfect memory of Mizuki making eggs and burning the hell out of them. I liked them though, and she promised to make them like that for me. But, she made them over easy. I was confused. I mean, it’s kind of a dumb thing to get upset over, but she didn’t remember what I did. Not to mention I remembered going to the hospital, but I didn't, even though I remember laying on the damn hospital bed.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto scribbled some more before looking at Aiba. “Aiba, just to make sure—and I'm not assuming anything of you negatively, Date,” She glanced at him briefly before turning her attention back to Aiba, “This is something I need to make sure of, alright? Has he had any physical health issues as of late that could incur this state of thinking? Any substances, any large disturbances?”

 

[ “Aside from additional trauma, I do not believe so, no. If he has, it had to have occured when I was… away. From my perspective, I can confirm that in the times that he has had ‘episodes’ after my reinstallation, it has gone similarly.” ]

 

Dr. Sakamoto nodded and scratched at the paper with her pen. After about a minute of this, she tapped the back end of it in thought. “Hm. I think it might be a good idea to keep a log on these episodes when you can if you have not. Identifying triggers and what is happening during these episodes would be useful. You being able to cope with them is my first priority, and knowing what causes them will help with that. Of course, if you know any of those already we can talk about it, or we can save it for another time.”

 

[“ Affirmative .”]

 

She placed one hand on the desk. “Ok, I understand that this is a lot to discuss.” 

 

Date see-sawed a hand. He’d been writing what happened during cases enough times that elaborating on certain things when asked wouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

 

“Do you still want to delve into this, or would you rather take a break and shift topics for now?” Oh. He could just… Stop now? 

 

He was a little torn. He wanted to know what was causing these ‘false experiences,’ but he… Didn’t really want to talk about them. Not right now anyways.

 

Either he hesitated a moment too long, or Aiba had heard his thoughts. Either way, she made a call. [ “A shift in the topic may be apt.” ]

 

Dr. Sakamoto nodded. “Alright, how about you tell me about Mizuki and the other two? Ms. Kuranushi mentioned something like a war to me offhandedly. How did that go?”



-.. .- - . / .- -... .. ... / .... . .- -.. --.- ..- .- .-. - . .-. ... / .---- .---- ---... .---- ---.. / .- --

 

Boss glanced up from her paperwork as Date walked in. “Yo.” 

 

He gave a half wave and a, “Mornin’,” before sliding into his usual seat.

 

Boss slid her paperwork out of the way, probably glad to have an excuse to put off working on it again. “Sakamoto session go well?”

 

He snorted. “Well enough, I mean. Still haven't figured out what the hell is wrong with me.” He snorted.

 

“Same stuff you told Aiba to mention to me?”

 

“Yup.”

 

Boss put a hand to her chin in thought. “I had noticed something was up a while back, but I didn't look too much into it. It's not my business. Though, it might be good to see if it's some effect from the psync machine.”

 

Date gave Boss a half incredulous look. “That could cause it?”

 

She shrugged. “I’m not sure, I don't know exactly what's happening in there, Date.” She motioned towards her head.

 

He sighed and leaned further back into his chair. “Yea, I don't really know either.”

 

Boss snickered before continuing. “I'm gonna do some digging around the effects and see if that's what's causing it. Might have to run a few scans on ya if anything shows up.”

 

Aiba spoke from where she was sitting on the desk. Boss must’ve put her there when she left for the latter half of the session. [ “It may be best to test for that, especially if this is something that could happen to any psynce r. ]

 

Boss gave a wry glance to one of the filing cabinets. There was only one label on the thing, and it read ‘Kaname Date.’  “Pretty sure he's a special case.”

 

“Hey!” He had no idea what was in the filing cabinet but he knew it was probably nothing good.

 

She turned her eyes back on him. “But yeah, if the machine is doing that to you we need to get it checked.”

 

He shrugged. “Makes sense. There anything you need me for today?”

 

She waved him off and turned back to the papers on her desk. “If I do, I'll call you. You know the drill. Go pick up your kid or something.”

 

He stood at the motion, holding a hand out for Aiba to hop into. “Alright, alright. Mizuki doesn’t even get out till three… Call me if you need me.”

 

Aiba hopped into his hand and he moved to the door. “Cya.”

 

He pushed the door open and started down the hall, putting Aiba back into his socket as he went. 

 

[ You received a text from Hitomi while you were with Dr. Sakamoto. Would you like me to read it to you? ]

 

Go for it.

 

She read the text out. [ ‘Good morning Date, I was wondering what time you'd like to pick up Mizuki this afternoon. Additionally, may I ask what chopsticks you bought her? She told us both this morning that they are the only pair that haven't broken.’ sent at 10:05 am. ]

 

I'll head on over at around 3:30, that's around when she gets out yea?

 

[ Yes, her school releases at 3:20pm. ]

 

He paused to consider the best way to respond to the inquiry into Mizuki’s chopsticks. And uh, just tell her the chopsticks were a custom set. Better to say that than some industrial steel we had to get cut to size, right?

 

[ It may be better to be honest in this case, if she is looking for something durable for Mizuki at her house. ]

 

Fair point. He wondered if Mizuki had told Hitomi about her ability to just absolutely smash things. He almost wished he’d been there to see her expression.

 

[ I have relayed your message over text. ]

 

Great. Well, any chance to say something else was gone now, so.

 

He stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby, heading straight for the door out. He sighed at the task of finding enough things to occupy his afternoon until he had to pick up Mizuki.  



-.. .- - . / .. -. / - .... . / -.-. .- .-. / ...-- ---... ..--- ..... .--. --



Date kept his real eye fixed on the road, glancing at the passenger seat where Aiba was overlaying herself with only his left eye. It was weird, but he had practice.

 

[ Date, if I may. ]

 

He’d say he turned his attention towards her, but it’d already been on her. “Hm? What’s up?”

 

[ I'm certain you remember last night. What was that all about? ]

 

His hands tightened around the steering wheel. “Which part? A couple of things happened last night.”

 

She jabbed a finger in his direction. [ Don't dodge the question! It is very concerning to hear that you felt like you had been shot in the head! Especially following whatever that was with the mirror! ]

 

He rolled his eye, singular. Aiba wasn’t letting him move her. “What if I was just exaggerating, and it was just a headache?”

 

She crossed her arms. [ That is still concerning! Additionally, your pain sensors were definitely firing at a more severe level than a ‘headache’ would cause, despite there being no source to it other than the ‘episode’. ]

 

He started, or as much as he could safely while driving a car. “Wait. so, I was actually in pain? I wasn't like. Imagining it?”

 

She pulled one arm just enough from where they were crossed to gesture with it. [ Whatever it was, your body was definitely interpreting it as pain. So ‘being shot in the head’ is an apt enough description. I would just like more context so I can note this, and be better prepared to handle it if it happens again. ]

 

His mouth twisted into a frown. “Well, I mean, I said what I said, that's what it felt like to me. I don't remember most of what happened during the whole thing with the mirror, but it probably triggered that whole thing?”

 

Now it was Aiba’s turn to give him a flat look. [ Probably? ]

 

Definitely.

 

Aiba moved her hand to her chin in a fashion similar to how Boss had earlier. [ Interesting. I think I would like to do some research myself into the matter further. I will inform you if I encounter any leads. ]

 

Cool. Keep me updated.

 

[ Affirmative .] The overlayed image of Aiba vanished from his vision. 

 

After another moment, the Sagan house came into view. He pulled up to the curb and parked to wait.

Chapter Text

Date swung the door open once Hitomi’s car finished parking in the driveway. The best reason he could come up with for waiting in the car was that it was cold outside, even though it's not really very cold. But hey, they were here, finally.

 

“Hey, got here in the nick of time, eh?”

 

Mizuki gave him a look . “Why’d you wait in your car?”

 

He shrugged.  He would be unfaltering in the face of a 12 year-old’s questioning. He’d been a (more or less) detective for 20 years, he could handle a punk kid. “I didn't want to break and enter the house. It's bad practice breaking the law as an officer.”

 

She crossed her arms and continued giving him the look. “It's even worse practice to sit around in your car like a creep.”

 

While Mizuki continued to stare him down with her usual disapproval, Hitomi approached him to talk. “Don't you have a spare key Date? At least, I thought I gave you and Mizuki one. She didn't give it to you?”

 

He pulled out his key ring, which did, in fact, have a key to the Sagan household on it. “Yeah, I have it. Still didn’t wanna go in your house when no ones home. Felt weird to do.”

 

Mizuki, apparently sensing that the adults were going to have a boring adult conversation, stalked off towards the house, grumbling. “Whatever, I'm getting my stuff. See ya.”

 

She opened the door and slipped inside, thankfully not slamming the door on the way. He’d had to get the apartment door reinforced because of how often Mizuki had accidentally ripped out the hinges or smashed the doorframe doing that. 

 

He turned his attention back to Hitomi, who was holding her phone now. “Date, if I could ask where specifically you got Mizuki’s chopsticks? I did some research during my break, and I just want to make sure. Did you mean industrial steel? Or did you mean stainless steel? Because I haven't seen any for sale for the former, even online.”

 

The chopsticks again? “Yeah, I meant industrial steel, she bent the regular steel ones as easily as she broke the wooden ones sometimes. I had to get a custom order for a pair a long time ago. She has 2 pairs, I'll give you one of them if you want?”

 

Hitomi thought for a moment. “Hm. I think it's better for you to keep the backup. Where specifically did you get the order from?”

 

He shrugged. “Someone Renju knew, he gave me a number—Aiba, can you send it over to Hitomi?”

 

[ Yes. It has been sent .]

 

Hitomi’s phone pinged, and she glanced at what was probably the text Aiba sent. “Oh perfect, she even put the measurements that you had cut. Thank you, Date.”

 

He waved a hand in dismissal. “It’s no problem really, I doubt anyones happy to snap chopsticks.”

 

Hitomi smiled. “It’s good to see you care so much about her.”

 

He felt himself flush. “Well… I just don't want her to waste my money on any more property damage, that's all.”

 

Iris grinned at him. “Oh stop it Uncle! You care about her sooooooo much don't you. Just like you care about me and mo-”

 

He slapped a hand over Iris’s mouth. “PSH.” 

 

Iris licked his hand. He shuddered, but didn’t move his hand. He’d been through grosser shit.

 

Hitomi laughed at Date’s apparent misfortune. 

 

One he was sure Iris wasn’t going to keep saying embarrassing nonsense, he pulled his hand off her face. “Gross, don't lick my hand.”

 

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Don't cover my mouth then.”

 

Date wiped his hand off on her jacket while Iris gave him an indignant look.

 

They had an intense stare-down for a moment before Iris decided she was done and wanted to move on with their lives by asking a question. “By the way! I wanted to invite Mizuki to stream with me on Saturday night! Does that work?”

 

He shrugged. “She can, sure, as long as her homework is done I don't care. What time do you want me to bring her?”

 

Iris made an exaggerated thinking face. “You can come before or after dinner!”

 

“Alright, you mind if we come before dinner then?”  

 

Iris cheered. “That works!”

 

Aiba, please make a note of that.

 

[ Already added to your reminders list. ]

 

Thanks.

 

Mizuki came back out the front door with her overnight bag. “I’m back! Lets go already, stupid!” 

 

He sighed. If she would just go one interaction without calling him stupid or old… “Alright, c’mon. See you both next time.”

 

He slid back into the driver’s seat as Hitomi gave a wave. “Goodbye, Date.” 

 

Mizuki shut the passenger side door. “Bye Uncle! Remember tomorrow!” Iris waved in a dramatic fashion.

 

He raised a hand back to the two of them as he started the car and pulled out of the driveway. “I will.”



-.. .- - . / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / ....- ---... ..--- ----- .--. --



Date had been briefly hopeful that Mizuki interrogating him after his therapy sessions wasn't going to become a regular thing, but alas, it was not to be.

 

After about 2 minutes of him sitting and doing paperwork, she jabbed her finger into the back of his head and started asking questions. “Hey, what did the shrink tell you?” 

 

He exaggeratedly rolled his eyes. “She said I'm dying, I have ‘my kid won't mind her business disease’. It's terminal.”

 

She rolled her eyes back at him. “Oh, shut up! What did she say?”

 

He sighed and turned his head back towards his paperwork. Maybe she’d leave him alone if he ignored her enough. “It's a work in progress, nothing for sure.”

 

He heard her step away. “Great, don't die, you hear me?!”

 

“Loud and clear.” There was a loud ‘foowf’ sound as Mizuki presumably flopped onto her bed.

 

He glanced over to see that indeed she was flopped on the bed. “Hey, what do you want for dinner? We need to go shopping again so it's takeout tonight.”

 

She shifted to a sitting position on her bed, attentive in an instant. “Ramen.”

 

…Not surprising. “Alright, you want the corn slop one?”

 

“Yes!”

 

“Cool. Aiba, can you pull up the restaurant for me?”

 

[“ Here you go.” ] The menu for the restaurant overlayed his vision on his left eye.

 

“Cool. Let me give a call— Oh shit curry ramen? That's new.” And definitely something he wanted to try.

 

[“ Evidently so.” ]

 

Doesn't look too bad, alright. There's dinner I guess. Can you dial the restaurant? I'll call the order so I can get it in 40.

 

[ Dialing now. ]



-.. .- - . / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / ..... ---... .---- ..--- .--. --



Date swung the door to the apartment proper with a loud call of, “Delivery!”

 

Mizuki hopped up and out of her seat, pointing accusatorily at him.“About time! What took you so long?”

 

He set the food down on the coffee table, where Mizuki had already set out the bowls, evidently. “There’s this horrible thing called ‘rush hour’ on a Friday evening. It's killer. Makes every place packed and slow as hell.”

 

“Dont care. Food now.” She started digging through the bags for her ramen.

 

He sighed. Man, the manners on this kid.

 

[ You are not much better. ]

 

Just as I was about to so kindly offer to take you out so you can talk to Mizuki. Maybe I won't then.

 

[ I guess I will simply just have to fall out of your eye socket into your ramen, then. ]

 

He just couldn’t win, huh? Well, he was pretty sure he didn’t want to find out what putting a curry-coated Aiba back into his eye would feel like, so he just sighed and held out a hand for her. She hopped out and used his hand as a step down to the table.

 

Mizuki found her container of ramen and poured it carefully into her bowl before digging in. Date sat and followed suit, though less voraciously than Mizuki. She was flicking broth all over the table. 

 

After a few minutes of eating in silence, Date remembered a certain detail. “Hey, Iris was asking me something about a stream tomorrow night? Did she ask you already or was I supposed to just drop you over there?”

 

Mizuki finished swallowing her mouthful of noodles before responding. “Yea, she asked me yesterday, I said I wanted to. You're taking me?”

 

“After your weekend homework is done, yea. Said I'd come by with you before dinner, so you’ll have until 6-ish to do whatever you have due.”

 

Mizuki sputtered, jabbing her chopsticks in his direction. “That's not fair!”

 

He shrugged. She did need to get her homework done. “You can ask me for help if you want.”

 

She scowled at him. “You're doing my Lit homework…”

 

Oh, something he could actually help with? “I'll help you with it. What's the story?”

 

“It's… uhh.” She put down her chopsticks and went over to her bag, digging through it for a moment.

 

She held up a battered looking book that was probably from the school library. “It's this one.”

 

It took him a moment, but he recognized the title. “Oh, I remember that one from elementary school. It's that old folktale with the fisherman right?”

 

Mizuki looked at the cover like it would tell her if it was. “I think so?”

 

He gave her a flat look. “You haven't read it.”

 

“I haven't read it.” Yeah that seemed about right. He’d never even seen her with the book before, so he was willing to bet she’d just shoved it in there and forgotten about it.

 

He sighed exaggeratedly. “Yeah, I’ll help, but you gotta at least read it once, capiche?”

 

There was a pause before Mizuki responded.

 

“I'll skim it.”

 

“If you can’t answer what I ask while I do it, I won't help you.” He stuck some more noodles in his mouth to punctate his statement.

 

“Fine! Fine! I’ll read the stupid thing!” She tossed the book across the room and onto the bed.

 

Date smiled, satisfied. “Good.”

 

Mizuki sat back down at the table and started eating her ramen again. Date finished another mouthful of noodles before continuing the conversation. “By the way, what are you guys doing for the stream tomorrow? Did she tell you?”

 

There was a brief wait where Mizuki finished slurping her noodles. “That one game with the funny swords and spiky kid.”

 

Date tried to remember what game that was probably referring to. “That ‘Heart of the Kingdom’ stuff?”

 

She rolled her eyes, probably at his clear lack of video game names. “It's Kingdom of Hearts.”

 

He rolled his eyes back at her. “Same thing. You streamed it with her like a month ago right? Which game is it?”

 

She shrugged. “It's the twelfth game, but it's called the third one for some reason.” Mizuki gave him an odd look. “I’ve never streamed with Iris though?”

 

“You haven't? I thought you went over to play the one that came out in like February.” He was sure she’d played on stream with Iris before though.

 

She squinted at him. “The game JUST came out? Iris told me it's been forever since the last one came out.”

 

“...Huh.”

 

Mizuki shrugged and ate some more noodles before continuing. “I mean, I've been in some podcasts and shown up in a stream? But I never streamed with her.”

 

His face twisted into a frown. “Could have sworn you did a while back.”

 

“Nope.” Now it was her turn to punctuate with noodle slurping.

 

[ Noting this down. ]

 

This is another distortion? I guess, but like, it's a little thing I could've missed. He sipped some of the broth in his now noodleless bowl.

 

[ Yet it could be the same thing, any memory distortions are being noted in addition to see if there is a relevance to both. ]

 

Mizuki squinted at him. “Are you sure you're ok, Date?”

 

He gave her a flat look over his bowl.

 

She jabbed a finger at him. “You better tell me! Or I'll kick your ass.”

 

Aiba spoke up from her spot on the table. [ “Language.” ]

 

Date put down his bowl and sighed. “I’m fine, Mizuki.”

 

She continued to squint at him for another solid and silent minute before finally letting up and turning her focus back to her food.

 

They finished the food a few minutes later and put the dishes in the sink to be washed. 



-- .. --.. ..- -.- .. / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / .---- ----- ---... .---- ...-- .- --



“So, when the guy gets back from the underwater palace, he turns into an old guy and DIES??”

 

Date shook his head and gestured at her open book again. “No, when he leaves the sacred palace, he realizes that it wasn’t 3 days that he was there, but actually 300 years. The reason the princess told him not to open the tamatebako was because it had all of those 300 years of aging in it.”

 

Mizuki felt her brow furrow in frustration. Adults were so stupid sometimes. “Why didn't she tell him?”

 

Date shrugged. “Good question. Maybe it was some test of will or something. I mean, the story’s got a few morals tied into it.”

 

She dryly raised an eyebrow. She’d been practicing, it was pretty effective on her classmates when they were giving dumb answers. “Yea? What?”

 

The idiot old man ‘hmmed’ for a moment. “Well for one, while it's good to be kind, don't expect the exact same kindness in return. Additionally, some people say it's about not leaving other loved ones behind for pleasure, or even-”

 

Mizuki cut him off. Too much old man musing, none of which would be useful for her homework. “Ok, ok whatever, I get it, it's really deep and profound storytelling.”

 

He see-sawed a hand. “Eh, it's alright. Now, the question was asking you what the story wanted you to take from it. What did you take from it?”

 

She rolled her eyes and then mockingly mimicked his ‘hmm’ing. “Not to accept strange turtle lady’s invitations.”

 

Date snickered. “Sure, we'll go with that. Maybe make it sound a little less, straight from the text. Like, ‘Remember to stay humble when offered gifts for your kindness.’ Or something”

 

Mizuki groaned. Too many words. “God, you make it sound so cheesy.”

 

He leaned back in his chair.  “Yeah, well, that's what gets you good grades in literature, so take it how you will.”

 

Mizuki stuck out her tongue and went back to scribbling at her papers. Despite her mocking, he did actually get her a good grade in lit, so she tried to copy it as close to word for word as she could get. She didn’t understand why when she turned in shorter versions of the same thing she got a worse grade, they were the same thing! Hers just took less time to read.

 

She read the next question on the paper out loud. “What was the other version of the story like?”

 

Date paused for a second. “Same basic thing but he was gone longer and he gets turned into a crane.”

 

Mizuki turned to stare at him disbelievingly for a moment. “What???”

 

He nodded. “Yup. He and the turtle princess go to the mountain of eternal life after. It's why both animals symbolize that stuff.”

 

That sounded like an entirely different story! In the first version he dies, and in the other he lives? As a crane, sure, but he's not dead, so.

 

Mizuki looked at the book, considering it again. “Huh!”

 

She could practically feel Date’s smug face from behind her. She’d made the mistake of sounding interested, oh no. “Pretty interesting stuff.”

 

She whipped back around to face him with a sardonic smile on and book held loosely in her hand. “No, you're just a nerd.”

 

Date sputtered indignantly.“Wh- Hey!” 

 

Mizuki turned back to her homework and wrote down Date’s response anyways. Good grades and all that.

 

With a decisive pencil mark, she was finally finished. “Done!”

 

“Cool, any other homework?” And her temporary feeling of victory flopped out of existence. Of course he couldn’t just let her celebrate having her literature homework finally finished. Stupid Date.

 

Regardless she sighed and checked her list of homework assignments. “One more, and you can't help me. You suck at math.”

 

She watched him grimace. Yeah, she knew what she was talking about. Last time he’d tried she’d spent more time explaining to him the method they were supposed to do it in than actually doing the work. “Fair point. Aiba, do you want to tag in here?” 

 

Aiba called and lifted a paw from where she sat on her charger on Date’s desk.  [“I would be happy to help Mizuki.”]



-.. .- - . / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / -.... ---... ....- ..... .--. --



“So, the game you're streaming tonight, Kingdom Hearts, was it?” He leaned forward elbow on the table, propping his head up on his hand and fingers pressing on his neck.

 

Mizuki half heartedly swatted at him and he leaned away from her reach in response. “Kingdom OF Hearts, Date.”

 

He really didn’t understand what the big deal was about forgetting the ‘of’ in the title, but whatever. “Yea, that. What's it actually about? Aiba tried to give me a synopsis but, I'm pretty sure a wiki page summarized isn't really an accurate description.”

 

[ “It is not as if I have played the game either, Date. I had to answer your question somehow.” ]

 

He gave Aiba an exasperated look. “You've played other games before!”

 

[ “Just because I have played video games before, does not mean that I have played this specific series Date.” ]

 

“Yea whatever.” He shoved another piece of Hitomi’s cooking in his mouth and rubbed at his neck with his other hand. 

 

Iris leaned forward, barely remembering to keep her elbows off the table. “You play games Aiba? Which ones have you played??”

 

Aiba raised a paw. [ “Mostly what I have found recommended in lists. However, I have found that playing a puzzle or strategy game while Date is doing something that requires less of my processing power is entertaining.” ]

 

Iris’s curiosity was obviously piqued. Looks like she wouldn’t be answering his question any time soon. “So you just play puzzle games?”

 

[ “Mostly, yes.” ]

 

“Have you ever played other games?”

 

Aiba’s paw moved to her chin, but she didn’t actually have to pause to think. [ “Occasionally. I have played one or two while Date was asleep. Most notably being an attempted satire of the justice system, as well as a cooking simulator that did not end up teaching me about cooking.” ]

 

Iris mimicked the motion, though Date wasn’t sure it was on purpose. She actually did have to pause to think about it though, because she wasn’t an AI with the power of a supercomputer behind her. “Oh! The second one sounds familiar! If you're interested in puzzle games, there's this series of games from like five years ago about people getting stuck in rooms! They say that the games perfectly match the events of some current police cases, despite them being made half a decade ago!”

 

[ “Interesting. I might look into it.” ] That was Aiba speak for ‘I’m googling it right now but I’m only going to talk about it if you bring it up again.’ He was like, 90% sure of this.

 

Iris continued, oblivious of that fact.  “I'll send you the details later if you want!”

 

[ “Sure.” ]

 

Date jumped in before Iris could recommend Aiba too many games. He had no idea what too much of that would do to her, and he didn’t want her to drain his wallet without him knowing either. “You still haven't said what the game you guys are playing is about, yknow.”

 

Iris rolled her eyes. “Just watch my stream, why don't you! I'm going to give a wholeeeee recap before we start!”

 

Eh, Aiba would probably be watching it. He’ll just ask her for a recap, since he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to keep his attention on it for very long. Still, he responded while running a hand across the back of his neck. “I'll think about it.”

 

Iris clasped her hands together and gave him a pleading look. “Pleaaaasseeeeee, even Boss watches my streams!”

 

Date wrinkled his nose a bit. “Boss is just like that, she’ll watch anything for background noise.”

 

Iris dropped the pleading look, but only in exchange for a stubborn one. “A view is a view!”

 

Hitomi interrupted the argument before Iris could start figuring out ways to blackmail him, thankfully. “Iris, your stream is supposed to start in about 15 minutes, I can take care of the dishes if you don't have time.”

 

“Oh is it?” She glanced at the clock on the wall. “OH! Yeah it is! Thanks Mom!”

 

Hitomi smiled as Iris and Mizuki hurried out of their seats. “No problem.”

 

Iris rushed toward the door at the back of the living room. “Cmon, Mizuki! We have to set up for the stream!!”

 

Mizuki clumsily pushed her chair in, where Iris had left hers out, before hurrying after Iris. “I'm coming!”

 

Date glanced at the half eaten bowls on the table, left behind in the girl’s rush to get ready for the stream. 

 

Date glanced at his own empty bowl. “...I can get the dishes if you want?”

 

Hitomi, still eating her own food, gave a one shouldered shrug, accompanied by a crinkle of her eyes in a slight smile. “If you’d like. I certainly won't mind someone else doing the dishes for me.”

 

He awkwardly placed a hand on the back of his neck for a moment before he stood. “Cool, I’ll go… Do that.”

 

He gathered the bowls and chopsticks from the table and took them to the sink, running the tap and rolling his sleeves up before he started the dishwashing process.  

 

A few minutes of washing passed, and Hitomi handed him her own dishes. “Here, thank you for washing the dishes, Date.”

 

He took the bowl and chopsticks carefully from her hands and started washing them. “It's no problem, really. Not like it's any difficult. Plus, you were still eating.”

 

Hitomi looked at him consideringly, though not unkindly. He was pretty sure the look wasn’t an unkind one, anyways. “That’s true. I’ll be right back, I'm going to go grab something.”

 

Date blinked as she headed towards the same door Mizuki and Iris had headed through earlier. “Alright.”

 

He went back to dishwashing as Hitomi vanished out of sight, leaving just him and Aiba. Aiba, of course, decided that now would be a good time to lecture him about his poor social skills.

 

[ You do not have to feel so awkward around her, you know. It is not as if anything will happen if you act the slightest bit familiar. ]

 

The water was cold on his hands as it ran over the bowl. His neck prickled. Yeah. It just feels like I'm not supposed to be here though, y’know?

 

She continued, disapproving. Or at least, as disapproving as Aiba ever got when it wasn’t about porno mags. [ I do not, ‘know’, Date. Hitomi and Iris have both made it fairly clear that we are both welcome here. Not to mention, she did give you a spare key to her house. If that is not ‘welcoming’ I do not know what is. ]

 

The soap foamed and clung to the inside of the bowl, and he could still see some food residue clinging under it. He scrubbed at it a bit more. He ignored the staticky feeling as it continued along his neck. Still, it feels like I’m intruding on something. Like, I mean, the key is just for emergencies right?

 

[ Date- ]

 

He stiffened as he felt a sudden soft weight against his neck. The prickly feeling all but vanished under the soft fabric. 

 

He heard Hitomi speak from beside him. When had she gotten back? “You looked like you were getting a little cold in here—I know it gets drafty around this time—and you left your scarf here before.”

 

Date could feel himself ‘blue-screening,’ as Aiba would put it. 

 

Hitomi’s voice took on a nervous tone when he took too long to respond. “Did you not want it? You can take it off if I was wrong.”

 

He forced his voice to work. He didn’t want to upset Hitomi, ever. “...Was wondering where that went, thanks.”

 

He placed the bowl on the drying rack and turned to face her properly. Her smile looked relieved, and Date felt guilt prickle at his heart like needles. But at least she was smiling. “It’s no problem. It would be bad of me to have not returned it to you anyways.“

 

He took an end of the scarf and tossed it over his shoulder, completing the loop, simultaneously forcing a wry grin. “To be honest, I half expected Iris to jump me with it later when I wasn't paying attention.”

 

Rather this than being strangled with the damn thing, I guess.

 

Hitomi snickered, and Date felt his smile turn genuine. Any prickling feeling that had remained was gone now. 

 

[ Where did that come from? ]

 

What?

 

[... Nevermind. ]

 

Hitomi’s snickers trailed off after a few moments, leaving an amused smile behind. “She probably would have, but I figured I would spare you from it just this once.”

 

“I appreciate it.” He really did, Iris with a mission for blackmail material was downright scary sometimes.

 

The room seemed even quieter than it had before Hitomi’s amusement, now that neither of them were speaking. Date glanced to the side awkwardly.  

 

Hitomi coughed into her hand before gesturing towards the couch. “Would you like to go sit? I’m sure the girls will be busy for a while.”

 

Date blinked. “Oh, uh... yea, sure.”

 

They moved out of the kitchen and settled on the couch, on opposite sides. But hey, he wasn’t sitting across from her at least. Take that, AIba. 

 

Both of them looked at each other, then away, and then back again, waiting for the other to start a conversation.

 

“Date-” He straightened up slightly, turning his head back to Hitomi from where it had been staring at the weirdly shaped object on the drawers near the door.

 

“Do you remember Sawblade 13? It was-”

 

He cut her off. “That's the horror film you dragged me to watch right? The foreign film with the reanimated machines? You scarred me for life, taking me to see that one, and I've seen some shit Hitomi.” 

 

He shuddered. The movie had been such a gorey bloodbath that despite his memories of things being a bit like swiss cheese he could recall it almost perfectly. Sliced limbs, everywhere. The repeated revving of a chainsaw as it spun blood into the ceiling. The screams from the actors… He swears he didn’t sleep for a week after the damn thing. 

 

Hitomi smiled brightly. “Yes! I saw the other day that they were making another film, and it reminded me of when we both went, it was fun!”

 

He grimaced. “For you it was.” For him, not so much.

 

She laughed at his apparent suffering from the movie. He was surrounded by sadists. “Yes, I know, I'm sure my hand went numb from how hard you gripped my arm!”

 

“I wasn’t that scared…” He fiddled with the end of his scarf, glancing away in an attempt to hide his embarrassed flushing. 

 

“Oh! Do you want to go watch the next film with me then?” She tilted her head at him, mocking curiosity in her eyes. ”I was planning on having a marathon of the movies the week before it releases.”

 

Date felt himself sweat. He was going to pretend it was because of the scarf and not the fact that the idea of doing a horror movie marathon was about as unappealing as several other things he was not going to even think about. Yeah, definitely the scarf. 

 

Aiba, who either heard all of that or was more than adeptly reading Date’s facial expressions from over at the table, ‘saved’ him. [ “Apologies, Hitomi, but it appears that the films are a little too scary for Date.” ]

 

Hey! I'll have you know those movies were terrifying! He stared Aiba down. Those movies were horrific on a scale he could barely comprehend. Being scared of them did not make him a coward!

 

He leaned back into the sofa. He was definitely not nervous about the idea of marathoning horror movies. “I mean, I don't know if I have any big cases in the next two weeks, obviously, but uh, if I’m free I cou-”

 

He was cut off by Aiba. [“ Granted our schedule is free, we will attend. ”]

 

Hitomi smiled and Date was certain it was tinged with bloodlust. Yeah, he was going to die. “Oh good! I won't force you to watch all the movies if you don't want to Date, I understand it's not for everyone.”

 

Her words were kind and forgiving but he would know nothing but shame if he didn’t now. Mizuki and Iris would never let him live it down if they found out about this. “I'll do it, don't worry.”

 

“If you're sure.”

 

They settled into the couch, Date taking a proper look around at the room. They sat like that for a few more minutes until Hitomi spoke again.

 

“By the way, Date, I know that it’s still a bit of an adjustment for you, but you’re always welcome here. I didn't just give you a spare key for the heck of it you know.” She gave a genuine smile, eyes crinkling at the corners.

 

“I appreciate it... still, it's a lot to get used to, so...” He scratched at the back of his head awkwardly. “I guess I'll try to bother you a bit more often, yea?”

 

“I'd love that.”



.. .-. .. ... / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / ---.. ---... ..... ----- .--. --



Iris pulled the triggers on her controller in quick succession, firing off several laser blasts at an asteroid. As it exploded in a mix of blue and red orbs, she directed the ship around to catch as many items as she could before they vanished. “Hey, chat? I really like this space section, so I think I'm gonna play around here more before we progress, sorry!”

 

She glanced at the chat on her other monitor, still moving the ship towards the next asteroid as she did so. 

 

Chat:

Come on!!!
You’re gonna really like this next world!
The next word is so fun!!
I wanna see what happens next tesa!! :tessasad:
:asetencourage: :asetencourage: :asetencourage:

Just let her have fun guys!

Why don't you look for the other worlds too! That way you stay in space and progress a bit?

^^^^

^^^^

 

She had to refocus her attention back on the game before she could respond, because an enemy just appeared on screen! Thankfully, Mizuki was there to save the day. “One of them says to just look for other worlds while you're out here.”

 

“Oh! Good idea, chat! I’ll do that.” She grinned at the camera and fired a few more shots at the enemy ships. Boom! Pow! And it was vanquished in an explosion of health orbs and Monies!

 

The space on screen was absolutely filled with asteroids and items, and she had mostly been flying over to whatever item caught her attention next. The ship (‘Excalibur’, according to the game dialogue) had slightly wonky controls, but she could generally just point and shoot and things would die. So all in all, it was pretty fun!

 

But chat was right, she should probably progress a bit, so she started heading in a direction with purpose as opposed to just wandering. 

 

She glanced at her stream monitor just in time to catch a donation message. It was a big one too! “Oh! Galoushious3425 thanks for the 5000 shards! It means a lot!”

 

Mizuki suddenly yelled. “Watch out!”

 

She jerked her head back to the game, and saw she was heading straight for an asteroid! “Oh shoot!”

 

She quickly turned the ship away, barely dodging it at the last second.

 

Once that crisis was over with, she glanced back at the stream monitor, trying to check and see if she’d missed any other messages or donations. This game was hard to play on stream! 

 

Mizuki came to her rescue again. “I can read the donations if you want, Tesa, not like it’s that hard.”

 

“Thanks Mizuki! It'll pop up on the screen rightttt here!” She pointed a finger at the area she’d designated for donations to pop up on her stream monitor. A second later, she heard a crashing sound effect and whipped her head back towards the game. 

 

“Aw!” Her ship had crashed! Thankfully the ship's health was still pretty good, so she probably had nothing to worry about. Hopefully it wouldn’t happen again, since now she had Mizuki reading her stream donations.

 

Iris allowed herself to laser focus in on navigating the asteroids, squinting her eyes and sticking her tongue out a little. She was the picture of concentration!

 

Mizuki read out a stream donation a minute or so into her Focus. “Oh hey, here's one. Thanks Dodonga15 for the 5 gift subs!”

 

Iris heard a quiet knocking on her door over the decently loud game music. She turned her head to look and saw as Uncle poked his head in through the door, one hand holding a plate of snacks! 

 

“Hey, Mizuki, I- A-set, got snacks over here.”

 

Mizuki glared and yelled at him. Which was about their usual interaction, honestly. “Don’t stick your head in, they can hear you dummy!!”

 

Uncle looked a little bewildered at the statement. He probably thought he was being quiet. “They can?”

 

Iris glanced quickly at chat, because she had no doubt they were finding this extremely funny. 

 

Chat:

:pog: :pog: :pog:

Who is that :pog:

A-sets dad?????????

:Pog:

Get your snacks!!!!!!

:Pog:

 

She glanced back at the game and dodged a couple of asteroids again. “Hey Uncle! Thanks for the snacks, can you put them over here? My hands are a little full...” She gestured with her controller toward an empty spot of her desk between her and Mizuki, so they could share the snacks. 

 

She didn’t hear a verbal response, but a glance at the stream monitor showed him walking over, so he had probably just nodded. 

 

Mizuki was still grumbling, just barely quiet enough that the mic didn’t pick up on it. “Stupid Date, stupid snacks………..”

 

Uncle set the snack plate down on the table between them, barely showing his face to the camera as he leaned down to do so. “Here ya go, enjoy your Heart Kingdom game or whatever”

 

Mizuki spun and aggressively jabbed a finger in his direction as he walked back towards the door. “ITS KINGDOM OF HEARTS, STUPID!”

 

“Yea, that.” He gave a, probably sarcastic— knowing Uncle and Mizuki’s interactions —peace sign as he stepped out the door.

 

Iris risked looking at chat again briefly while in a slightly clear spot in space. 

 

Chat: 

who was that?????????????

Uncle??:pog::pog: :pog: ????????????????????????

:pog: :pog:

Nice snacks! What'd you get??
Why are you so mean to the snack man???

Be nice to snack uncle :sadaset:

:pog: :pog:

 

Mizuki scrunched up her face in distaste. “Cus hes stupid, thats why.”

 

Iris gave an exaggerated pout, the exaggeration mostly out of habit. “Aw, he's not that bad, he brought snacks!”

 

Mizuki gave an eye roll so big she tilted her entire head with it! “Yea, probably cuz your mom told him to.”

 

Iris sighed and shot another enemy and grabbed one of the items floating through space. Mizuki was so stubborn. It really was obvious Uncle cared!

 

“Oh hey Blu3Helli0n thanks for the donation! Oh, and it comes with a question for you, Tesa…..” Mizuki trailed off.

 

“....I'm not reading that.”

 

Iris turned to look. “What's it say?”

 

Blu3Helli0n (3000 shards) asked: Hey is your “uncle” single? Cus :eyes: :eyes: he's a snacccccccccc (DILF amirite)

 

Iris squinted her eyes and stared for a moment, processing the absolute weirdness on her screen. “Hey, chat? Try and keep this PG13 guys! That means no cat calling people on stream please.”

 

Mizuki pressed her palms into her eyes as if doing so would remove the memory of what she had seen. “If I ever have to read something like that again about him you will never see the light of day. Ota, can you put them in time out?”

 

Iris saw Ota’s message of ‘Can do! :thumbsup:’ appear briefly in chat before getting erased by an influx of other messages.

 

“Anyways! Back to the game, and for the chat that was curious, he brought apple slices!”

 

Mizuki rolled her eyes. “He could have brought anything but fruit, who gives someone peeled fruit for a snack?”

 

Iris gave Mizuki a surprised look. Mizuki didn’t know about fruit peeling?! And not only were they apple slices, they were cut to have little bunny ears!! It was obvious Uncle had put a lot of work into making a very nice snack! “Aw, but Mizuki, it’s so cuteeee!”

 

She grimaced. “Yea but now hes gonna try to do that stuff in my bentos, its stupid and weird.”

 

Chat:

OMG WAIT IS HE YOUR DAD :pog: :pog: :pog:

MIZUKI FATHER??????????

(wait isn't Mr. Okiura dead……..)

Lol more likely he’s her butler or something

THATS HER DAD NOW STFU

Maybe he’s a housemaid?

Could just be A-sets uncle though

:pog: :pog: :pog:

Why the bento box comment then??

point^

 

Mizuki’s tone sounded very much like it did whenever she rolled her eyes. “Whoever he is doesn't matter. He's just an annoyance.”

 

Iris leaned over and bumped shoulders with Mizuki, eyes still trained on the asteroids on screen. “Aw you don't mean that.”

 

“Yes I do! You try living with him!”

 

I mean, I kinda did at one point. But… it definitely wasn’t for as long as Mizuki’s been living with him. Still though... “He can't be that bad.”

 

Iris glanced over at Mizuki just in time to catch a glare before she sheepishly turned her attention back to the game. Yeah, she should have expected that. 

 

Iris’s momentary distraction was apparently enough to be her downfall, however. On screen there was a massive dust (?) storm she was running right into. And then, on screen flashed a difficulty level of five stars, and a giant robot appeared on screen. 

 

Iris felt like her eyes were gonna boggle out of her skull, it was HUGE! “WHOA! What's this?!?”

 

Mizuk’s voice went into a deadpan. “We're so dead…”

 

Iris started rapidly pressing the controller triggers. “Don't give up hope yet!” She was determined to give it her best shot!

 

About 3 minutes of flailing around the boss later, and the ship's health hit zero.

“Darn it.”



.. .-. .. ... / ... .- --. .- -. / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / .---- .---- ---... ----- ----- .--. --



Mizuki leaned forward, elbows on her knees as she sat on Iris’s bed next to her. “So, what’s that world with Rapunzel from?”

 

Iris almost asked her how she couldn’t know before remembering! Mizuki is only 12! She was barely a baby when the movie came out! “Oh it's this movie from, like, 10 years ago, it was called Entwined! The plot is kinda the same? Just without Aozora and the other two.”

 

Mizuki looked interested! Yes! Or, well, the Mizuki equivalent of the look. “I've never heard of it. I know the toy world though.”

 

Iris nodded. “Yea, that movie is pretty popular. So far the game has been pretty fun! I just wish they made Sundown Town more explorable like the other games, the train station tunnels are so fun to run through in the other versions!”

 

Mizuki leaned back a little, a slightly befuddled expression on her face. “By the way, I still don't get it. Why did that big monster show up in the town? Isn't the whole place safe?”

 

Iris shook her head slightly. “Not there no, though yea, it is kinda weird. Maybe it'll make sense later?”

 

“It better.”

 

There was a brief pause before Iris remembered a detail from the stream. “Speaking of mysteries, what's up with you and Uncle? I thought he was officially your dad and everything now.”

 

Mizuki crossed her arms with a huff. “He's not my dad! He's just Date.”

 

She glanced away from Iris, out the window where Iris knew she could see Uncle’s car. “ He's my guardian or whatever. It's not the same.”

 

Iris tried to and almost managed to suppress a smirk. Almost. “If you're sure.”

 

“I am!” Mizuki half-yelled, “And if he starts doing the dumb cutesy stuff in my lunch I’m going to kill him!”

 

“Awwww but wouldn't it be so cute?”

 

“Exactly. I hate that.”

 

“You're no fun! They look really nice! You can see how much effort went into these apple slices!”

 

Mizuki’s expression was that of a standard creeped out anime character. It was almost uncanny. “Nah, he's like, weirdly good with a knife, it's creepy.”

 

Iris shrugged. “I mean, he knows how to butcher, so it kinda makes sense.”

 

She now directed at Iris a remarkably good replication of Uncle’s deadpan look. “Iris, butchering meat and precisely cutting an apple slice are two different things.”

 

“I mean, isn’t meat harder to cut than apples? If anything it should be easier for him!”

 

“That's not how that works.

 

She flopped dramatically back onto the covers of her bed. “Boooo, you’re no fun.”




..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. / ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. / ..--.. / ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--..



Tick.

 

Tick.

 

Tick.

 

A mechanical ticking resounded through an empty expanse.

 

“So that's where you ran off to…” The voice crackled, distorted ever so slightly by static.

 

A single screen cast light out into what appeared to be a void, catching on no surfaces but itself. The screen was so bright in contrast to the darkness that whatever was on it appeared only as blinding white light.

 

“Falco.”

Chapter Text

-.. .- - . / -.. .-. / ... .- -.- .- -- --- - --- ... / --- ..-. ..-. .. -.-. . / ----. ---... .---- ..... .- --



Date squished the weird, clear putty between his fingers as he sat in Dr. Sakamoto’s office. He had no idea what the stuff was, but it gave him an excuse to avoid eye contact, so he’d take it.

 

“So, just to clarify, Aiba, you detected his pain receptors going off at the time?”

 

Aiba’s voice was calm and collected as usual. [“ Yes. While it seems it would add up to being some sort of flashback due to trauma, there is no evidence in his body or on record that he has ever sustained an injury to the head in that region. ”] He heard Dr. Sakamoto’s pen scribble against paper. 

 

“Is that true, Date?”

 

He shrugged with a glance up from where he’d been staring at the putty. “Pretty sure I've never been shot in the head before so, yea. Boss has all my injuries on record anyways, and none of them match up, which is why this whole confusion is happening.”

 

He thinks he might be able to mould the putty into a cube if he tried… Dr. Sakamoto kept talking. “Hm, have there been other times where that has happened?”

 

“I've had a few moments where my eye hurts. The left one does,-” He let the putty fall into one hand and gestured with the other at his currently empty eye socket, “-When Aiba is out for a while. It's never like, bad per se? But it's noticeable. Figured it wasn't relevant, but it's different from the headache.”

 

[ Why didn't you tell me that Date? ] Her tone was worried, and slightly annoyed. He’d know that tone for sure.

 

I mean, it's not like I was actually in pain, it's just annoying, but manageable

 

Dr. Sakamoto continued, oblivious to the little internal conversation. “How did it differ?”

 

He idly squished the putty, thinking. “The head pain felt more, I don't know... vivid? Real? It's hard to describe.”

 

“Are you sure that you've never had previous head trauma? Outside of any psync-related trauma.”

 

He furrowed his brow and tried to call upon his spotty memories for anything head injury related. “I think once? When I was younger, high school maybe? It was before college. Got a mild concussion from something. Thing is, I got hit like, over here,” He gestured to the back of the right side of his head, “And the pain we were just talking about was over here.” He once again pointed to his head, near the empty eye socket to the left. 

 

“There’s nothing else that's on record that you don't remember?”

 

He wouldn’t be surprised if he’d gotten a concussion once or twice while he was working for the Kumakuras, but if he had he definitely didn’t remember it. “Nothing head related that's for sure, the concussion was one of the few big injuries I got before I got on the job, but other than that, anything major was like a broken arm or gunshot wound, nothing too serious.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto nodded before going quiet and scribbling furiously. After a few moments of this she turned her attention back to him. 

 

“Date, the psync machine enters through your left eye socket, no?”

 

Okay, not exactly sure where this was going but… “Uh, yea it does, the nanocables go in through there.”

 

She gestured loosely at him with her pen. “Is there a chance that the machine is causing the pain?”

 

“Maybe? I mean, maybe the soreness stuff, Boss said she was going to look into it, so I guess we'll send the results over after?”

 

Aiba raised a paw to bring Dr. Sakamoto’s attention to her. [ ''The main issue with the theory of it being the psync machine that caused that specific pain is the location. The nanocables do not expand outwards into the skull, but rather towards the brain. If it is the cause of the pain, that would mean that the psync machine is malfunctioning, and has possibly afflicted other psyncers.” ]

 

“No other reports have been made similarly?”

 

“Nope, just me apparently. Could be the missing eye is messing with it or something.” He was pretty sure Boss would have mentioned it if the other psyncers had been having similar issues.

 

Dr. Sakamoto scribbled something else down. “Possibly. Please let me know when the results of the diagnostics come back, it would be good to know if it is something more physical that is causing the issue, rather than something purely psychological.”


He nodded. “Got it.”

 

[ “I believe that it is most likely that the mirror had somehow triggered the event, as it was subsequently before the pain, and seemed to escalate as time progressed.” ]

 

“Has there been other times that a mirror, or rather, your reflection triggered anything? Other than this reaction from the other day.”

 

“Eh, kinda?” He tugged at his scarf a little, “Like I said that other time, it's mostly based around my appearance with the reflection. But, it might just set something off because it's setting me off for something else? Like, one thing connecting to another, even if it's barely related.”

 

The therapist gave him a confused look. “I don't really understand what you mean by that.”

 

“Like, uh.” He finished squishing the putty into a cube shape, and now worked on flattening the surfaces while he fished through his memories for something helpful. “Now that I think about it, there is something similar that happens? Though it's backwards.”

 

Aiba gave him a curious look. [“ Something else triggers you, and therefore causes you to react to your reflection? Or some other trigger?” ]

 

He see-sawed a hand. “Sort of.”

 

Dr. Sakamoto leaned forward, pen readied over her paper. “Do you mind elaborating?”

 

He stared back down at the now cube shaped piece of putty. It wasn’t very clear anymore, probably because he’d been messing with it so much. “I'm usually checking the mirror in the morning, so it's usually when I just got out of bed, or I'm trying to go to sleep. Sleep fucks up my brain and then the mirror fucks it up more, you know?”

 

“I can see where you're going with this, but I need a little more clarification. What distresses you? Nightmares?”

 

He squished the putty flat between his palms. “Think so at least. I don't remember my dreams much at all. But a lot of times I wake up and there's this weird...dread. It's like that feeling when you know that something is about to happen, but not when, so you just sorta tense and wait for it to happen. Kind of like that. I have no idea what causes it outside of whatever the hell I'm dreaming about.”

 

“And you don't remember any of your dreams?”

 

Maybe he could roll it into a ball? “Nope, not really. I mean I remember snippets of a few, but none from the days where I wake up like that. I pretty much forget whatever happened there the second I wake up.”

 

“Do you think this is relevant to your recovery from amnesia?”

 

He started rolling the putty between his hands. “Maybe? In the sense that it started after I got some of my memories back, but-” His mouth twisted up in a slight frown. “I don't know, something feels off about the whole thing, yknow?”

 

[ No, neither of us really ‘know’ Date. ] Oh, wait, maybe he could make the putty Aiba shaped? 

 

Dr. Sakamoto kept talking. Hm, if it is something that is recoverable in sleep only, why not have someone psync you, Date? I mean, that sounds like an easy method. Granted, I don't recommend actually doing that until you're certain that the psync machine isn't what is doing this to you.”

 

He rolled it into a vague cylinder. [“ That may be the best diagnostic tool on short notice, I agree. ”]

 

Her head was kind of like a sphere, so he tried rolling part of and pinching it to give it ears. “What do you think about that Date?”

 

He stopped pinching the putty into vague approximations of Aiba’s limbs. “...Hm? Oh, yea, I mean. If Boss gives the greenlight, I'm alright to do it. Hell, if it'll help get rid of this shit, I'm happy to.”

 

He looked back down at the putty-Aiba, which was already drooping in his hands. He frowned, disappointed. “Additionally, Date?”

 

He glanced back up at Sakamoto. “Yea?”

 

“I'm not sure if Aiba can detect what is happening to you, and even so, that should not be how she relies on gauging you every time, but it may be good to discuss these topics with her as well, if even to a lesser extent.”

 

He squished the no-longer AIba shaped putty between his palms again. “Uh, sure? Though, I'm pretty sure she can tell when all that stuff is happening?”

 

Aiba approximated an eyeroll. [ “Not precisely, no. I am in the dark about most of what cycles in the innermost corners of your mind. I am able to access it, but that is more of a breach of respect and privacy than I would like to do often, Date.” ]

 

His hands paused in squishing the putty. “Oh.”

 

[ You would not have to tell me everything, but it would be appreciated at the very least if you could communicate when you do not feel well to me. ]

 

...sure. I can try and do that, Aiba. Sorry.

 

[ It is alright, I just want to be able to help. I cannot do much but ask after you as you face your inner turmoil.

 

He nodded slightly. “I'll try, then.”

 

[ That's all I can ask for. ]

 

Dr. Sakamoto waited a little longer than the actual conversation took before speaking. “I assume you’ve both talked it out then?”

 

[“ Yes.” ]

 

Date saw her eyes flick to the clock behind him. “Alright, well, I think we got a lot more done today, and we're a little over the first half of the session. Aiba, would you like to head out now?.”

 

[“ Yes.” ]

 

Date opened his mouth, ready to… say something. He wasn’t sure what. Either way he didn’t have the chance to actually say anything before Aiba spoke in his head. 

 

[ Date, I would like you to try and speak with Dr. Sakamoto alone for at least some time, please. If not for anything other than peace of mind. ]

 

Fine. “ You'll be at Boss’s office, yea?”

 

She waved a paw, and there was a knock on the door. [ “Affirmative. ”]

 

“I'll see you there, then.”



.- .. -... .- / .- -... .. ... / .... --.- / .---- .---- ---... ----- ----- .- --



Date stepped into Boss’s office a few minutes after finishing his therapy session with Dr. Sakamoto. Aiba could feel he felt a little awkward, but was less stressed than he had been earlier, so she would take that as the session going well. She gave him a tiny wave from her spot on the desk as he sat in his usual chair. He gave her a half-wave back as he waited for Boss to finish her current task.

 

Boss finished typing in whatever she was working on before turning to face Date. “Yo, how was getting your brain picked apart?”

 

Date rolled his single eye at Boss’s joke. “Ha. Ha. Very funny, Boss. Nice to see you too.”



Boss leaned forward on the desk, chin propped up on her hand. “By the way, I got the results back from the psync machine diagnostics. Triple checked and everything.”

 

Aiba felt curiosity and a little… dread? Nerves? From Date, but he did a good job of keeping it from showing. “And? What's the verdict?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“What?”

 

Boss glanced over at her computer monitor, eyes flicking across it as if she was reading something. “Whatever's happening to you, it’s pretty likely not from the psync machine.”

 

Well, there was one other machine it could have been. [ “Could the prototype psync machine have done it?” ]

 

Boss shook her head. “Had the base coding checked on that one too, it’s pretty much the same thing. Nothing suggests any damage caused to the psyche in the way you are experiencing.”

 

Boss gave an exaggerated shrug. “Honestly, if nothing comes up in a regular ass medical scan, I’m willing to bet it’s some type of quantum crap.”

 

Date raised an eyebrow, and while Aiba could feel that while he was just playing along, there was some curiosity there. “Like?”

 

Boss rolled her hand in a circle. “I don’t know, some type of sci-fi esque bullshit. Humanity has already fucked around so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if some other stuff we thought wasn’t real actually was.”

 

That was ridiculous. She gave Boss the flattest look she could while being in her ambulatory motion form. [“ Are you implying that what is happening to Date is something out of our control?” ]

 

“To be honest with you Aiba, could be.” Boss shrugged again.“But I’m not gonna make shit up. I’ll look into it either way, better to look more realistically.”

 

There was a pause, and Aiba figured that they had come to the end of that particular train of thought, so she brought up an earlier topic. [“ By the way, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that it may be beneficial to perform a psync on Date, as so to assess the issue in regards to his dreams and the effects thereafter.” ]

 

Boss gave her a confused look. “You need the machine? Thought Pewter set you up.”

 

[“ He did “set me up’, however, I felt it prudent to inform you that we had planned to do that, rather than tell you afterwards with no context.” ]

 

She paused and thought, before nodding. “Fair. Keep me posted.”

 

[“ I plan to. ”]

 

Date’s thoughts flowed in, accompanied by faint surprise and no small amount of interest. Really? You can psync me now?

 

[ I technically could before, but Pewter recently made it so I could possibly manually trigger it. I have yet to test it however. ]

 

Damn, I completely missed that.

 

[ He told both of us this! ]

 

There was a pause, and more thoughts trickled in. This time they were tinged with embarrassment. Wasn’t listening, sorry.

 

Boss interrupted, though perhaps that was the wrong descriptor given she did not know about the conversation in the first place. “By the way, I got some shit I need you to fill out, it should only take an hour.”

 

Date gave her a flat look, and Aiba could feel his suspicion. “ Only an hour?”

 

Boss gave him a smug look while sliding over the papers. “Wouldn't want you to miss Mizuki’s graduation party later, no?”

 

A jolt of surprise ran through her partner. “Oh shit! That's today?”

 

Aiba would sigh if she was physically capable of it. Date could be rather forgetful, but she supposed that was one of the reasons she was here for. [ “Yes, it is. Boss, are you chaperoning as well? Or did someone else tell you?” ]

 

Boss nodded and held up her phone, which had a rather bubbly looking digital invitation on it. “Yea, Mizuki sent an invite over after streaming with Iris. Speaking of which, your ‘cameo’ managed to cause a small frenzy online.”

 

Date gave her a look, finally taking the papers off her desk. “You still watch those?”

 

“Yea, they're entertaining. Plus, where else will I get to see people on the internet call you a DILF?”

 

[“ What.” ] “What?” Aiba felt confusion from Date, and she was fairly bewildered herself.

 

Boss’s grinned in amusement. “Oh, you missed that Aiba? Highlight of the stream lemme tell ya.”

 

[“ I do not usually read the chat when I ‘tune in.’ Not to mention I was multitasking at the time.” ] Unfortunately she knew what the acronym meant.

 

Date was still confused, and apparently watched the exchange like someone would a tennis match. “I’m sorry, what the hell is a ‘DILF.’”

 

Aiba is unsure how it was physically possible for the Boss to look even more amused, but she had done it. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

 

“I am 9 months younger than you, that is really not that much. You’re just calling yourself old.”

 

Boss suddenly had a dark look on her face. “Hm? Did I hear that right?”

 

A spike of fear ran through Date and he quickly mumbled a, “Nevermind.” It is probably best that he doesn’t know. It would only encourage Boss to tease him more.  

 

Date hastily bid a retreat by looking at the papers in his hands. “...What’s with all the medical papers? I thought all this stuff was sorted out already.”

 

Boss sighed and glanced at her monitor. “There's a few more that need to be sorted out, and I need to fake a few things. Aiba, could you send whatever levels Date was at the last time you did a full check normally?”

 

Aiba tilted her head in inquiry at Boss. [“ I have not done one in some time outside of stress. I can perform one now, and send the results after.” ]

 

“Works for me.”

 

The room was quiet as both Date and Boss proceeded to work on the paperwork. After a few minutes of the silence, Aiba asked her partner a question. 

 

[ I have been meaning to ask, Date. Have either of you talked to one another recently? ]

 

Date raised his head from where he was staring at the paperwork and looked at Aiba instead, confusion trickling it's way over to her. I just did?

 

[ You know what I mean. ]

 

He sighed quietly aloud. I don’t think either of us are ready to have that sort of conversation, Aiba. Alright? Lots of shit happened the last 6 years. Hell, the last decade or so.

 

[ It would still be beneficial to try at least. Perhaps invite her to lunch, or something that isn’t work or family related? ]

 

Family? The thought only flicked over for a second, before he continued. Possibly he didn’t mean to send the question over, so she would let it be. I mean, I can try I guess? 

 

[ Go ahead then .]

 

“You mean right now ?” Boss glanced up from her monitor over at Date, eyebrow raised. Date had accidentally spoken aloud again. They would need to work on that.

 

[ What better time than the present? ]

 

Fuck it, whatever.

 

Date put the paperwork down fully and trained his eye on Boss. AIba could feel his nervousness. “Hey, When was the last time we went out together?”

 

Boss gave him an odd look. “On a date?”

 

Date exaggeratedly sighed. “ No . For lunch.”

 

Boss paused and thought for a moment. And then another moment. And then she answered. “Long ass time, why?”

 

“Well you want to? I’ll pay.” Boss looked a lot more interested at that, and Aiba quietly started calculating exactly how much of a hit Date’s wallet was going to take from this.

 

She leaned forward, paperwork momentarily discarded. “Sure, but why are you asking all of a sudden?”

 

Date half glanced at Aiba before shrugging. “Like you said, it’s been a long ass time.”

 

“True. How about that one soba place?”

 

“The one in…” Date paused, and Aiba could feel him trying to remember which place Boss was referring to. “Chiyoda right?”

 

Boss smiled. “Yup.”

 

Date gave Boss a flat look, and Aiba decided to try and look up whatever restaurant this place was to more accurately calculate how much Date’s wallet would be regretting this. “You just want to go there cause I’ll pay the damn bill.”

 

Boss smirked. “Maybe.”

 

It’s been years since we went there, damn. The thought was laced heavy with nostalgia. 

 

[ You used to go to a soba restaurant regularly? ]

 

A mental shrug instead of a physical one, this time. I kinda remember it? Went there with Boss a lot in the early days of the job.

 

“I think it’s fitting to go there, I mean, talk heavy shit at the same restaurant right? Just like in your cheesy romance novels.”

 

Aiba felt Date’s indignancy at that comment. “I’ll have you know, those ‘cheesy’ novels are actually pretty good!”

 

Aiba shook her head. [ “They really aren’t .”] She would know, she had to read some of them with him after all.

 

“Betrayed by my own  partner!”

 

[ “I am just simply telling the honest truth, Date.” ]

 

“She’s right, you know.”

 

Date crossed his arms, leaning back into the chair. “Not like your taste is any better.” 

 

“Least I acknowledge it.”

 

“Whatever.”



-.. .- - . / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / .---- .---- ---... ....- ..... .--. --



The apartment was dark and quiet. Mizuki had all but exhausted herself at the graduation party with Iris, (who had tagged along with a wink) and was out cold on the bed. Date was pretty tired himself, but the party had been fun and he didn’t regret going. Somehow, nobody had questioned him showing up with Mizuki to help chaperone. And, Mizuki had actually been smiling by the end of the evening.

 

He sipped the last of his water and spoke quietly. “So, somnium. You’re doing that tonight?”

 

[ It is better to do it sooner than later if I can, yes. If you do not want me to attempt to psync you however, I will not. ]

 

He set the glass down and flipped his blankets over himself. “Nah, it’s fine. Just, you sure it’s gonna work?”

 

[ Not with 100% certainty, but I trust in Pewter's skill to amend it if an almost 90% chance of psyncing is not high enough. ]

Chapter Text

.--. ... -.-- -. -.-. .. -. .----. / .. -. / - .... . / --- -... - .- .. -. 



Aiba ‘felt’ the press of cool metal on her back as she appeared in the somnium world. She stretched her arms straight up and rose from the surface as if she were Frankenstein. 

 

She heard Date exclaim, “IT'S ALIVE!”

 

She slid off it and walked forward, arms still outstretched, shambling forward. [“Brains……’]

 

“Oh, it's hideous. Go back! Burn it with fire!

 

She pouted. [“So cruel.”]

 

Now that that was finished with, she took a look around the somnium. The room was dim and sterile-looking, like a hospital with the lights off. The walls were a shade of green, and the cabinets an off-white that contrasted with shiny steel fixtures. She looked back towards the surface she’d appeared on, revealing it was a steel examination table. 

 

[“Somnium scan! Activate!”] 

 

3 locks appeared. The first appeared on the counter, the second appeared on a cabinet, and the third in the middle of the room. 

 

“Where is this place?”

 

[“I should be asking you that. I don't recognize it either.”]

 

LOCK #1 Memory Fragments

 

Aiba saw a few items of interest scattered about the room.  The examination table, a model of the brain with an odd quality, a scalpel, the sink, and a door

 

Since there was no time limit to this somnium, in theory, they could look at everything before proceeding. [“What to look at first?”]

 

She felt idle curiosity from Date, though it was muddled in the way it often was in somniums. “How about the table here, I mean, you woke up on it. Give it a good ole looksie.”

 

She took a closer look at the table. [“It appears to be a standard examination table. One that is likely seen in medical or laboratory settings.”]

 

“But there's no cushion on it.” She felt a mixture of surprise and annoyance from Date. 

 

She put a hand to her chin. [“Perhaps the things put on the table are not alive.”]

 

“Maybe.”

 

There was a pause and then, “Hey, try to rip the table off. Maybe there's stuff under it!”

 

Aiba sighed. [“Would it not make more sense to just check the cabinet underneath?”]

 

Despite being unable to see Date in somniums, she could tell he was giving her a half pleading look. “Where's the fun in that?”

 

She acquiesced and started trying to yank the top of the examination table off. She braced her leg against the side and gave it another yank, and then a third, and then-

 

The tabletop of the table popped off and launched across the room, slamming into the wall with a loud clang. She winced at the sound. Then she glanced down into the space underneath. It… looked like a fridge? It looked like a fridge, and the inside of it was full of ‘food.’ In quotes because 9/10ths of it did not look like actual edible food someone could possibly eat. 

 

“Oh, yum.” Slight delight and surprise filtered through to her.

 

She grimaced. Of course he thought the dubious-looking food looked appetizing. It was his somnium, after all. [“I am not eating any of that.”]

 

“Boooo.”

 

She stepped back from the table and surveyed the room again. 

 

“What's up with that model over there? Looks like... a brain?”

 

She turned towards the counter where it rested. [“Yes, it seems like a bisection of the brain.”]

 

“Go take a look at it.”

 

[“Alright.”]

 

She approached it and tried to look closely at it. However, the whole thing looked… Fuzzy. Like when Date forgot to blink and her surface got dry. Except this time, it was localized only to the object. 

 

[“It seems to be a standard model of the human brain. However, I cannot see it clearly. It is hard to discern the exact locations of each structure.”]

 

“Why not just try to take it apart then? Pick it up and separate the pieces.”

 

She hesitated. [“Would that not just destroy the model?”]

 

Date gave a mental shrug. “Eh, you can put it back together if not.”

 

[“If you're sure.”] She supposed it made sense. This was a somnium, after all. 

 

She picked up the model, and was surprised when it squished slightly under her hands. [“Its weirdly...squishy.”]

 

She started pulling the model apart. First, the cerebral cortex, then the fornix, the cerebellum, and so on.

 

“Maybe it's a real brain.”

 

She shivered. [“I hope not.”]

 

Most of the brain was taken apart by this point, so she set about to pull the larger pieces into smaller subdivisions. She started by separating the cerebral cortex into the main lobes. Temporal, frontal, parietal and on. 

 

She felt something very distinctly non-squishy within the cortex. [“There appears to be something inside the model?”]

 

“Take it out.”

 

[“Alright.”]

 

She pulled the object out of the temporal lobe. It was a large shard of glass, slightly curved inwards near the end.  



[UNLOCKED] Removed the glass from the brain.

------------------------

LOCK #2 Smoke screen



[“It's... glass?”]

 

“Good thing we got it out then, poor brain.”

 

She gave a flat look to the air, knowing that Date would see it, however he perceived somniums. [“It's not even a real brain!”]

 

He put on a mock teary tone. “It was real to me.”

 

The room began to warp slightly, stretching. The counter and its contents stretched and warped, becoming more reminiscent of a kitchen. The brain vanished from in front of her, and the floor changed to wood from the tile it was previously. A moment longer, and it stopped shifting. 

 

She surveyed the room again. The things she now deemed items of interest were the sink, the cabinet, a gun that just appeared on the counter, and… The exam table, which had remained despite the room shift.

 

She felt the equivalent of Date pointing at something. “What's in that cabinet on top of the counter?”

 

[“I will take a look.”]

 

She approached the counter and opened up the cabinet. It was primarily full of dubious-looking food, but some were actually recognizable as edible foods this time.

 

 [“What do I do?”]

 

“Why not take that big bag? It looks like it's an ingredient for something.”

 

She rolled her eyes. [“If you are that hungry in your sleep, perhaps you should look into eating more often.”]

 

“There's a lot of food here, ok! It's got me thinking about it!”

 

She carefully removed the bag, holding it with two hands so as not to drop it. It was… 

 

[“A bag of flour?”]

 

Date felt amused, and his next comment was quietly excited. “We're making a cake. Obviously.”

 

She glanced around at the kitchen, setting down the flour as she did. [“Where are the other ingredients then? That was the only object that did not appear to be ‘food.’”] She put air quotes around the ‘food’ part of her comment. She would stand by her assessment that almost none of this was edible.

 

“Maybe it's outside this room? Try to open the door.” Well, it was as good an idea as any.

 

[“Alright.”]

 

She walked around the counter and to the door, and attempted to open it. It held fast against a gentle tug.

 

[“I do not think-”] She gave the door handle a significantly harder tug, but it still didn’t budge.  [“-That this door will open.”]

 

“Yea probably, not. Your stick arms can't pull open such a heavy door.”

 

[“Hey! I’m plenty strong!”] And it is a dream, after all. Her strength is as much or as little as is needed to suit the dream.

 

She could feel his amusement at her comment anyways. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”

 

[“That is what we are trying to do here for you Date!”]

 

She felt it click when he actually remembered that fact. “Oh, yea, right.” 

 

She always neglected to remember that Date rarely remembered even this much in his own somniums. Though perhaps it was because she had triggered the somnium on purpose as opposed to the accidental somniums of the past.

 

She focused back on the now, and glanced back over at the bag of flour on the counter. 

 

“Hey, Aiba. Why not try to eat the flour?”

 

… what? [“You want me to eat it?”]

 

“Makes sense to me.”

 

She supposed it was edible by itself in a technical sense. [“...fine. If I get ill from eating raw flour I will be contacting the authorities.”]

 

“It's not like it'll kill you, you're an AI!”

 

She put the back of her hand on her forehead dramatically. [“The lack of empathy you show, heartbreaking.”]

 

She opened the bag of flour, taking a small handful out and quickly shoving it in her mouth. The texture was awful, and she grimaced at it. She was unable to find a flavor described online, unfortunately. Regardless, the experience was not ideal.

 

The feeling she got from Date was akin to amusement. “It's not that bad, it's just flour!”

 

She chewed the now paste some more and swallowed. Awful.

 

[“The texture is wholly unpleasant.”] A little flour puffed out of her breath like fog on a cold morning. 

 

She looked tiredly at the flour, sincerely hoping Date would say yes to this next question. [“Would you like me to do anything else with the flour OTHER than eating it?”]

 

“You sure you don't want seconds?”

 

[“Date.”] It was flour! It was not meant to be eaten in this state!

 

“Why not just look at the bag then, see what it says.”

 

She hurried to comply, picking up the bag of flour and examining it. [“It seems like a generic bag of flour, what one would find at a grocery store.”]

 

She turned it around to look at the back. On the back, instead of any nutritional value labeling or ingredient sourcing as expected, there was a large red circle.

 

[“However, there appears to be a marking on the back.”]

 

There was a brief pause. “Looks kinda like a target.”

 

[“In a way, yes.”]

 

She set the bag down and set her eyes on the one thing that could possibly be used in tandem with a target in the room.

 

[“Shall I look at the gun?”]

 

She felt more than heard his hesitance. “If we have to, give it a look.”

 

She picked up and examined the gun. It appeared to simply be Date’s ‘standard issue’ evolver. 

 

[“I believe that this is your evolver Date. It does not appear to be tampered with.”]

 

“Eh, maybe we don't need it. Throw it away.”

 

[“ ...If you say so.”] She was pretty sure that throwing a gun would normally be dangerous, but perhaps because this is a dream it won’t apply?

 

She wound up for a throw like the baseball pitchers she had seen in videos online, and then she let it fly from her fingertips. It tumbled toward the wall, and in the instant it made contact with the wall, it exploded and filled the room with white.

 

Ears ringing, she sat up on the repaired exam table, but the room remained a kitchen.

 

She could not feel pain herself, but she could feel it from Date, and it felt like he had been clocked with a rock to the back of the head. At least, in the context of the dream. “Ok...bad idea.”

 

[“Yes, I do not think we should do that again.”]

 

She got up off the examination table after a moment and moved back toward the counter. [“Date, a suggestion. Perhaps we’re meant to shoot at the flour.”]

 

She could feel Date’s ‘lightbulb’ moment. “Oh yea, it's got a target and everything!”

 

[“Yes.”]

 

The gun had returned to the counter, but the flour bag remained where she had left it. She picked up the gun and approached the flour.

 

[“Should I just shoot it here?”]

 

“Maybe line up a better shot? Oh! Go for a trick shot! Throw it into the air and shoot!”

 

That sounded a little fun, even! [“Alright!”]

 

She tossed the bag up into the air, where it appeared to almost slow down, and then fired the shot.

 

[UNLOCKED]: Shot the flour bag.

----------------------------------------------------

LOCK#3 The End

 

The flour obscured the room, but when it faded it was a very familiar place indeed. 

 

[“We’re in the psync room?”] The only thing of interest Aiba could see in the room were 2 mannequins seated in the psync chairs. The one on the left had a band of yellow over where its left eye would go, and the one on the right had stripes of red running up its arms.

 

“Do you think they want you to psync me in a somnium?”

 

He dropped his voice an octave, probably for dramatic effect. “Psync-ception.” 

 

She shook her head. [“I highly doubt it. Although what it would entail is interesting.”]

 

“Wanna try to open the door, see if we can leave somehow?”

 

[“Alright.”] She headed over to the door out of the psync room.

 

She tried to slide it open, but it wouldn’t budge, no matter how hard she tried.

 

“No dice?”

 

She tried again, though simply to punctuate her point. [“No, not at all.”]

 

“Guess we gotta try something else first.”

 

There was a pause, and Aiba could feel him puzzling things out again. “Go take a look at the psync machine, see if it's been messed with.”

 

[“The only thing that could have is technically you, Date. This is your somnium.”]

 

His voice took on a slightly bitter tone. “It's not like I know what I did with the place either.”

 

[“That much is obvious.”]

 

She looked at the psync machine. Other than the dolls, it simply looked like the psync machine at the real ABIS.

 

[“Other than the ‘people’ linked into the psync machine, I do not see what could be different about the machine. It looks accurate to life.”]

 

“Cool.”

 

She looked around the room while Date thought. 

 

“Why not punch the doll on the left? Looks like it deserves to have its lights knocked out.”

 

She nodded and approached the doll with the yellow marking, preparing to deck it. She wound up, and launched a heavy punch. [“HI-YAH!”] 

 

She felt the ringing of somnium-based pain through Date seconds later. “Ow! Hey, I said punch the doll, not me!”

 

Huh? [“But I did punch the doll?”]

 

“Weird…”

 

Aiba hmmed for a moment. [“Perhaps you are the doll Date.”]

 

The mental equivalent of a shrug from her partner. “Maybe.”

 

[“Perhaps I should punch it again, just to be certain.”]

 

“No don't! Message received, I’m the doll!”

 

There was a brief pause. “... Okay but what about the other doll?”

 

Aiba glanced over at it. [“Hm?”]

 

“If this one represents me, then the other one must represent someone else, right?”

 

She nodded, putting a hand to her chin. [“A logical deduction. Shall we try it?”]

 

“Sure. but uh… On the off chance that it might also be me, punch it gently?”

 

[“... no promises.”] She was definitely going to knock its lights out.

 

She walked over to the other doll with the red stripes, and ‘beat the shit out of it,’ as Mizuki would say.

 

She felt tension fall out of Date moments after. “Okay, I didn't feel that. Guess that’s not me then?”

 

[“Interesting.”]

 

She felt more than heard a hand clap from Date. “Ok! switching gears, let's just shoot the windows and go through the glass.”

 

[“Are the windows not bulletproof?”]

 

“...They are in real life?”  He sounded almost surprised.

 

She gave the air another deadpan look. [“I recommend that we do not shoot the bulletproof windows.”]

 

“Buzzkill.”

 

[“Besides, it appears the gun has been swapped out for a… Stun gun?”]

 

She could feel his confusion. “Huh? When did that happen?”

 

[“Possibly when the room changed. Regardless, there is not much we can do about it.”]

 

There was some period of silence, though time was relative in a somnium. It could have been a few minutes as easily as it could have been a few hours. Aiba still needed his instructions to proceed though, so she waited.

 

Date broke the silence with, “What if we zap the doll?”

 

She rolled her eyes. [“I would rather not ‘zap’ the doll that we just deduced represents you in this scenario.”]

 

“It's not like it'll kill me!”

 

[“I'd rather not find out.”] She would rather not accidentally trigger something in real life because he was electrocuted in a dream.

 

“And hey, why’d you assume I was talking about the one that represents me? Talk about harsh.”

 

She shrugged. [“You did not specify.”]

 

“Lets just turn on the machine, yea? See if we can get psync-ception happening.”

 

[“Fine.”]

 

She placed the headsets on each of the dummies. A moment later, colored smoke appeared over them. The dummy on the left had yellow-green smoke, and the dummy on the right had blue smoke. Almost as soon as she noted the detail, the smoke started to move, winding its way through the loop of the psync machine and to the other dummy. The smoke settled, the blue smoke in the left dummy and the yellow-green smoke now in the right dummy. Then, the smoke faded entirely.

 

“What was that colored smoke?”

 

[“Unknown.”]

 

She cast a glance around the rest of the room, looking to see if there was anything else to interact with. [“Nothing else seems to have changed.”]

 

She felt hesitance be squashed by Date a moment before he spoke. “Can you shoot the doll with the stun gun then?”

 

She squinted in confusion. [“Why.”]

 

“Well there's really nothing else to do, plus I want to see what happens.”

 

She held the stun-gun up. [“Which one then?”]

 

“The one on the left…?” The one that represented him? How odd...

 

She aimed the stun gun at the dummy’s head, and pressed the trigger. The shock rippled through, and a scene resolved itself. 

 

[UNLOCKED] Annihilation 

---------------------------------------------------------

 

As her surroundings faded from the blackness that she associated with completing a somnium, she watched as Date’s memory fragment played out.

 

Fading in from the black, what appeared to be Boss and Date were laying on the psync machine chairs. The visors lifted from their heads, signifying a completed psync. Date lifted himself out of the psync chair swiftly and looked down at his hands. He laughed and spread his arms out, looking out, and that's when it clicked. That wasn’t Date . Date didn’t move like that, and his expressions were all wrong. They did, however, match the original owner of that body’s expressions. It… It had to be Saito. But how?

 

Boss- no, that must be Date in Boss’s body, slowly lifted from her (his?) seat, and holding his shoulder, turned to face Saito. He looked pained, the expression foreign on Boss’s face. Every movement he made in Boss’s body seemed to hurt, and it showed in every movement. In a stern expression Date yelled an unknown demand. Satio turned to face her, a snide expression on his face. He seemed to answer Date’s question, and judging from the look on his face, it wasn't a good one. Date in Boss’s body turned to look at a laptop placed on the floor next to the psync machine. On the screen was Hitomi, seemingly strapped to a multitude of pipe bombs around her torso. The feed shuttered and flashed, covering the screen in bright yellows and oranges as the bombs were presumably set off.

 

When the dust settled in the feed, Date moved back, in shock. He shook his head and glared at the ground despondently.

 

After a moment of pause, he looked back up, and tried to run towards Saito’s grinning visage. But whatever injuries Boss’s body had sustained earlier were enough to force him to the ground after not even one step. He was flat on the floor, struggling to stand again, blood flowing sluggishly out of Boss’s shoulder.

 

Saito gave a cursory wave, grin manic, and turned to leave. He stopped, though, as a shock ran through his body. He grasped at his eye, and fell to the floor, presumably unconscious.

 

Aiba watched as this other version of herself hopped out and ran towards Date, still on the floor, and the world faded to black again.



-.. .- - . / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / --... ---... ....- ..... .- --



Date sat up on the couch, sunlight peaking in past the blinds over the windows. He felt an odd, yet familiar dread settle over him, and took a deep breath, prepared to try and ignore the feeling for the rest of the day. 

 

He spoke quietly aloud. His mind felt too muddled to think properly. “...Did it work?” Aiba wiggled around in his socket before popping out to stand on his knee. She turned off the vision function almost immediately, so there wasn’t even the opportunity to see his own face.

 

When she didn’t immediately respond, he spoke again. “Aiba?”

 

When she spoke, it was also aloud, and set to probably the lowest volume the speaker system in her body could reach. [ “...I believe so. It has certainly posed some interesting questions, that is for sure.” ]

 

He raised an eyebrow, but still kept his voice low. It was early. “There a way I can see what happened in there?”

 

Aiba nodded. [ “Yes. I can show it to you. Would you like just the recovered memory or the entire somnium?” ]

 

He felt too… off-kilter right now to properly dissect a psync, so... “Stick with the end, I can go over it with Boss or you later today, yea? I don't have the energy right now to analyze my own somnium just after waking up.”

 

[“ That is understandable. Would you like me to send it now? Or share it with her later?” ]

 

He held out a hand, an offering to put her back in his eye socket. “Lemme watch it first, see what's on it.”

 

[“ Alright. I will warn you, it is concerning.” ] She hopped onto his hand and he started to raise it to his empty eye socket.

 

Aiba turned back into her ‘just an eye’ state and he placed her in his socket. “Noted. I'll get comfy then.”

 

Aiba showed him Saito and himself (how did he know it was himself? It was Boss’s body on screen-) swapping bodies, and then… Hitomi got blown up on video feed, and his body- no, Saito’s body was electrocuted into unconsciousness.  

 

 

What.

 

Aiba popped back out of his eye socket to continue talking aloud. [“ Date?” ]

 

....

 

Why do I… Why do I remember that?

 

Aiba straightened in shock, or at least as much as she could, being an eyeball hamster. [“ What!? Date what do you mean? ]

 

“I. I don't know. That just. What .” His words came out in a rush of quiet breath.

 

Aiba’s voice, while still quiet, was incredulous. [“ Are you implying that that actually happened? That's impossible!” ]

 

It definitely did. Not here though. Not now. But it did happen.

 

Date pressed a hand to his empty eye socket. “Why can I remember…”

 

[“ We are going to ABIS, Date, this is highly concerning.” ]

 

He cast a look over at the bed, where there was a slowly rising and falling lump of blankets. “What about Mizuki?”

 

[“ You do remember she is on break from school, yes? She just had her graduation party last night.’ ]

 

Oh shit, right. He really was out of it if he didn’t remember that.

 

[ “It will still be good to notify her however. I do not think it would be wise to wake her up right now.” ]

 

He grimaced at the memory of the last time he tried waking Mizuki up before 9 on a weekend. Yea, kid’s worse than me in the mornings. I'll write up a sticky note before I go.

 

He’d fallen asleep in his clothes, scarf not included, so all he really had to do was put on his shoes and run his fingers through his hair to make it somewhat presentable and grab the scarf off the coat rack. Boss usually didn’t give much of a shit so she probably wouldn’t bug him about it.

 

[ Do not forget to leave a note. ]

 

“I won't, I won't,” He murmured. Mizuki may sleep like the dead, but she sure didn’t throw pillows like them. 

 

He snagged a sticky note off his desk and scribbled a short ‘be back later’ on it before (gently) sticking it to her forehead. 

 

Aiba sighed. [ Must you really put it on her face? ]

 

Where else would I put it?  

 

[ Nevermind. Let's go. ]

 

...Right. He headed toward the door, car keys in hand.



-... --- ... ... / .- -... .. ... / .... . .- -.. --.- ..- .- .-. - . .-. ... / ---.. ---... ...-- -.... .- --



Shizue could tell as soon as she laid eyes on Date that something was… off. Other than him being here when she hadn’t called him here, anyways. There was something about him that seemed almost hazy, like he was only half-seeing what was in front of him.

 

Also, he looked like he’d slept in his clothes from yesterday and then come straight here without even bothering to shower, which probably contributed a little bit to the whole look, but that was normal half the time anyways.

 

She gave him a pointed up and down look. “You look like shit, Date.”

 

Her friend scrubbed the back of his head with his hand. “Yea. Rough morning you could say.”

 

They didn’t even get the chance to do their usual banter before Aiba had hopped out and was on her desk. 

 

Date’s little companion waved at her, though her tone was surprisingly serious. [“Good morning, Boss. I have just forwarded you the data from the somnium performed yesterday.”]

 

“It worked?” She had to admit, she was a little surprised. But the real question here was if it revealed anything. “Get anything substantial from it, or is this just for official review?”

 

Shizue started opening the file Aiba had sent her. It still needed a minute to decrypt though. [“The somnium has definitely uncovered curtain truths that none of us were aware of. Or at least I had thought so. Date seems to ‘remember it’ after watching the end of the somnium. I must warn you however, the contents are. Off-putting.”]

 

“Noted.” She looked towards the subject of the somnium. “You actually know what the hell happened in there, Date?”

 

He blinked, and then squinted, as if trying to remember something. “From the somnium? No… At least, I don't think I remember it that well anymore?”

 

Shizue watched as he reacted to something she couldn’t hear, almost certainly Aiba talking to him. 

 

“Hey! I'm not lying! Whatever I said before, I don't know. It’s hazy? I remember the video. Don't remember much after that. Dont have to shout at me…”

 

[“I feel it an understandable reaction given the contradictory statements in such short notice.”]

 

That’s a confusing statement to be sure. “So you don't remember it, but you also do? That doesn't make sense, Date.”

 

“I know, I know, I don't get it either. Just… Let's watch the somnium.” He pressed a hand to his head, as if he were fighting off a headache. Though Shizue was pretty sure by the end of this she’d have one to match.

 

“Alright, Aiba can you set it up? I'm gonna grab something to write with before you play it.” She gestured for Date to move behind the desk as she stood.

 

[“Affirmative.”]

 

She moved to one of the cabinets by the door where she stored her spare paper and pens. She grabbed a fresh notebook and pen. She had a sinking (heh, sinking, psyncing) feeling that this was gonna fill at least one fresh notebook. As she made her way back to behind the desk, she put the Bluetooth in. She needed to get in the habit of wearing it anyways, so what better time than when Aiba might want to tell her something?

 

[“Date?”]

 

Shizue watched as he continued staring for a moment, making a half mumbled affirmative noise, before actually turning to Aiba. 

 

Somehow, during the literal moments she had turned her back to Date, he’d gotten even more off. His eyes were glassy, and before Aiba had called his attention, he’d been staring at the computer like there was vital evidence playing on it.

 

She got behind the desk and dropped the notebook open to the second page and uncapped the fresh pen. “You ready?”

 

He gave her a look, like she was one acting odd here. “Why wouldn't I be?”

 

She sighed. “...Nevermind.”

 

[“Playing recorded somnium now.”] Aiba started the video.

 

The first place in the somnium was somewhere Shizue had certainly never seen before. And she definitely hadn’t seen any reports from Date about some place like this. But maybe he’d been there during his assassin days. She couldn’t be sure. 

 

She watched as Aiba futzed around with a few things before eventually pulling apart the fuzzed out object on the counter. “What was that that you took apart?”

 

[“It was a model of a human brain.”] A second later, a piece of glass was revealed from inside the brain, and the room shifted.

 

Now it looked more like… “The Sagan’s kitchen?” 

 

[“It is fairly similar to the Sagan household’s kitchen, yes.”]

 

The somnium continued, and she watched as Date had Aiba investigate everything of interest before finally acknowledging the gun. And considering the first thing he had Aiba do with it was throw it at a wall, she had a feeling she was going to have to run over firearm safety with him again.

 

Aiba tossed the bag of flour, and shot it, and the room changed again. Now, it was the psync room. The only odd thing she could see was that there were two dummies in the psync chairs.

 

Aiba punched one of the dummies, and apparently Date felt it, so yeah, probably represented him in this somnium. The next thing of interest they did was turning on the psync machine. The colored smoke rising from the dummies… She had a feeling that she knew that it was representing.

 

Surprisingly, that didn’t end the somnium, but Aiba using the stun gun on the dummy that had represented Date did.

 

As it faded to black, Aiba spoke. [“This is what I am most concerned about, Boss.”]

 

“I'm paying attention, don't worry.”

 

Shizue watched as a scene came into view of Saito’s body (or was it Date here? It was his somium, after all) in the psync chair, opposite of… Her?

 

She felt herself stiffen. She knew for a fact that she’d never been in the psync chair with Date. So where had this come from? 

 

Aiba spoke through the Bluetooth, snapping her from whatever one would call that. [“ It may be good to note somewhere that Date is responding again to this in a similar manner to this morning. His hippocampal and parahippocampal regions are highly active as well.” ]

 

Doesn't that mean…” She half-covered her mouth, mumbling quietly back to the Bluetooth.

 

The psync footage continued, showing… No, that wasn’t Date. Whoever it was was too manic-looking. That must’ve been the swap they’d seen acted out earlier in the somnium. But didn’t that mean it was her in there?  

 

Aiba continued, unaware of her thoughts. [“ Yes, it can suggest that his brain really is interpreting this as a past memory. However, what also confuses me is that sections of the parietal lobe are active as well. Suggesting that something is actually processing as sensory stimuli to him.” ]

 

She cast a glance at Date, whose eyes were fixed dead on the monitor. “So it really does feel like it's happened to him.”

 

He gave her a glance, slightly confused. “...Wha?”

 

She shook her head and turned back to the monitor. “Oh nothing, Aiba told me something she noticed. No biggie.”

 

“You have a Bluetooth in?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Huh...didn't notice.” She turned her attention back to the screen and watched... herself? In Satio’s body react to Date in her body’s yelling. A laptop showing Hitomi tied up with pipe bombs appeared on screen. And then the bombs went off, and she was gone.

 

That's when it clicked that it wasn’t her in Saito’s body. That was Saito Sejima himself. He’d taken Hitomi hostage in the real-life situation in much the same way he evidently had here. But… That would mean Saito had been in her body. Which certainly had never happened.

 

She watched him out of the corner of her eye for a long moment. He… was shaking, ever so slightly. He was leaning forward heavily on the desk, as if he would fall if didn’t. She rolled her eyes, and hooked her rolling chair with her foot, and gently nudged it into the back of his legs. His legs gave out from under him and he half collapsed back into the chair. He froze, and Shizue carefully kept her eyes trained on the screen. 

 

Aiba had just zapped Saito, who’d collapsed on the floor. She was running towards a collapsed… Date, in her body. Yeah, this is why she hated body swapping. 

 

And then the screen faded back to black, the somnium evidently over.

 

Shizue looked at the black screen for a few more moments before turning to Date. “Any comments for this one?”

 

He only jerked his head away from the screen when she spoke to him. “I don't know…”

 

She raised an eyebrow. “You don't know anything about this. You're sure?”

 

[“ Earlier this morning you said that you had remembered it. Do you not now? ”]

 

He leaned back in the chair slightly. “I mean, it feels real . But there's no way it actually happened, right?”

 

Shizue shrugged and took a seat on top of her desk, facing Date. “At the very least, it feels like it's real to you, yea? Aiba said something about weird brain activity. You interpreted the information like you were remembering something. But I mean, I for one can tell you I've never psynced with you. Ever.”

 

[“ Date, I feel it important to mention in addition. This morning you insisted that the events shown in the somnium did in fact happen. Despite you appearing to be uncertain now, the fact that you were certain of this earlier is cause for concern.“ ]

 

She rested her chin on her hand. “So basically, you either have the most active imagination known to man, or something else is going on here that none of us actually know about.”

 

Date groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “...I'd wager on the second one.”

 

She smirked. “Yea, we both know your memory isn't sharp enough for this, old man.”

 

He glared at her. “You're the same age as me, old-timer.”

 

“Not my point.” She grabbed her new notebook off the desk and scribbled down a few notes. “Ok. I'm gonna try to do some digging into this, yea? I have some guesses. And I'd like it if you could let me or Aiba know if you remember something, so we can use it in this weird ass puzzle.”

 

A glance at Date revealed a slightly puzzled look. “Not gonna involve me in it fully?”

 

“Not when you can barely remember half the shit that gets cooked up in there.” Plus, he would definitely be biased in the investigation. It was about him. “I’ll keep you posted regardless though, ok? I’ll send back and forth and you can answer shit. I’ll have an answer or two that might fit before Sunday.”

 

He raised an eyebrow and gave her a rather dry look. “You want that to be the lunch topic?”

 

“It'll be a good time to mention it too, in addition to everything else.” There was so much to talk about, after all.

 

“...gonna be a long-ass lunch.”

 

She smiled smugly. “That's why you're paying, not me.”

 

“So cruel.”

 

[“By the way, would it be possible to have Dr. Sakamoto be privy to the more confidential details of the psync machine? Not only would it be good for her to know for Date’s treatment, but she will likely be a good deal of help in narrowing down the root of the issue.”]

 

Shizue sighed as the mental image of just how much paperwork that would take appeared in her mind. “No promises, it's gonna take a lot of convincing.”

 

Date, her absolute favorite person in the world now, she swears, spoke up.“I'll get the paperwork done for you if you do it.”

 

Rule number one though was to play hard to get. All the time, yes, even if you’ve known them for 20 years. “You drive a hard bargain.”

 

He glanced at the rather tall tower of paperwork on her desk. “And you have a shit ton of papers you hate doing.”

 

Okay, maybe she’d been slacking a little bit. “True. Gotta get 'em done at some point though.”

 

There was quiet for a few moments, and Shizue ran over the things she’d seen in Date’s somnium. Or, well, the recording of it anyways. 

 

“Well for now I can ask you, what the hell do you think just happened?”

 

“What, like, in here?” Date gestured vaguely at his head. 

 

She rolled her eyes. He could be really dense sometimes. “I meant the somnium recording.”

 

She swore she saw him blush for a moment. “Oh.”

 

“Uh, I mean, it is what it is on the tin yea? I...switched bodies with you. But it wasn't you, it was-” He moved to rub a hand across his neck, but slipped it up to the back of his head when it touched fabric instead of skin.

 

She nodded. “Saito, yea.” Who else could it be?

 

“Does that mean...?” Was she dead wherever or whenever that had happened? If it had happened at all?

 

“Yea... Probably.”

 

They were quiet for a long moment. For some reason, the thought struck her that she was lucky. She wasn’t sure why though. 

 

Aiba moved closer to the edge of the desk. [“Query. Date?”]

 

He glanced up at Aiba from where he’d been staring at his lap. “...yes?”

 

[“Could this perhaps be the third ‘unknown’ trigger? To your...body struggles.”]

 

Date’s brow furrowed. “Maybe? I think so. It's the only lead I have on that one at least.”

 

Okay, wait, now she was lost. “Body struggles?”

 

Date switched his attention back to Shizue. He looked like he was more aware now than he was earlier. “Like, agh. I still feel like the previous bodies I inhabited at one point? Usually Saito.”

 

He felt like that sometimes? She scribbled it down quickly before pointing a finger loosely at his scarf. “That why you got the new neckwear?”

 

He touched it and glanced down at the part that hung in front of his chest. “Hm? Uh. Actually, Aiba suggested it?”

 

Aiba raised a paw and spoke in her ‘I’m being informative!’ voice. [“It appears to alleviate some of the discomfort for some reason.”]

 

He looked genuinely surprised. “Huh! Did not notice that.”

 

Now it was her turn to raise an eyebrow and give him a dry look. “You've been wearing that scarf and the other one for weeks now and you just put that together?”

 

His voice turned defensive. “I wasn't really thinking about it, ok?”

 

She rolled her eyes and decided to drop it. They’d gotten off topic anyways. “So, following your logic, you also have moments where you feel like, say, ‘Rohan’?”

 

He shrugged. “Not often, but it's happened once or twice. Had a dream or something else triggered it and it just. Happened?”

 

Date scrunched up his face in thought. “There was one other though, couldn't figure it out, I mean. I've only swapped with two other bodies, right?”

 

Realization as to what he was getting to dawned on Shizue. “But if you did somehow swap with me…”

 

“Then that's the third one. Again, that one doesn't happen much, but it sucks . No offense.”

 

She snickered. “That insecure about your gender, Date?” 

He shook his head. “I mean, it's just as different a feeling as ‘Rohan’ is. Most of the problem with them is how I react? I don't know how to explain it, but when I have the whole feeling like ‘you’ stuff, I just get like, sad.”

 

[“Ah, I think I can identify those. That was what triggered that?”]

 

Date turned his attention properly back to Aiba. “Triggered what?”

 

[“Certain depressive episodes. I have noticed that you are still prone to them even now.”]

 

Annnnd now Date looked annoyed. “I'm not depressed! Everyone gets like that sometimes.”

 

Boss turned her own focus on Aiba, because he was spilling the tea right now and she was all for it. “Oh, you noticed it too Aiba? I had a suspicion, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.”

 

[“It would be hard not to notice, from my perspective. It would be good to bring that up to Dr. Sakamoto if you have not already, Date.”] 

 

“I'm telling you I'm not-” He shoved his face in his hands and let out a muffled groan. “Will it get you both off my ass?”

 

Shizue could not believe he cracked that easily. Still better to toss in a little bonus for him. “I'll even give you an extra sick day, how about that.”

 

“Fine. Other than whatever this shit is though, I'm fine.”

 

Shizue barely restrained herself to a snicker. “I've known you 24 years and we've been friends for over 23 of them, that shit won't work on me.”

 

Date gave her a comically confused look. “What?”

 

Don’t tell me I have to start from scratch… I already had to do that once, I don't think I can take doing it again. 

 

He must’ve seen something on her face, because he dropped the confused look for a joking one. “Kidding. I think I'm better than I was back then.”

 

She rolled her eyes. Just better at being subtle about it, more like. “Sure.”

 

A moment later, Date was straightening up and looking over at Aiba again.

 

“Just got a text from Iris, one second.”

 

Shizue leaned back a bit. Aiba must’ve waited until there was a lull in conversation to tell him. “Alright, she's asking about the stream?”

 

He half-heartedly swatted at her. “Enough of that already. Yea, she wants me to go on this weekend. I don't know why, I don't play video games.”

 

Shizue remembered trying to get him to play games on the M64 with her, and him being absolutely awful at it. “Maybe to laugh at you sucking shit?”

 

“Oh, shut up.” He turned his focus back on Aiba almost immediately after. 

 

[“Message sent.”]

 

“Cool.”

 

...Okay, she was curious now. “What’d you say?”

 

“20 minutes or so, that's all I'm staying. I don't feel like being on camera for over an hour.”

 

“Sounds about right. I'll be sure to say hi over the chat.” She grinned at him.

 

Date gave her a flat look. “Please don't.”

 

“I'll send in a donation and everything, so you can read it out.” She winked in the way she knew made people think she was implying things.

 

“Ughhh.”

 

“She streams on Sundays though. I thought we were going to lunch?” Though she would gladly put their plans on hold if he decided to stream for longer. She would get so much blackmail material out of it. The other psyncers would never let him live it down if she told them, perfect to hold over him.

 

Date continued, oblivious to her scheming. “T’s why I'm only on for 20 or so, I can still make it there with time. She's doing a morning stream for some god awful reason.”

 

Shizue glanced at her coffee machine, the only reason she was coherent right now. “I don't know how she's so chipper in the morning.”

 

“I ask myself that every time I see her. It's uncanny.”

 

[“Some people are just not caffeine addicts who have poor sleep schedules like both of you.”]

 

“Ouch.” Aiba really wasn’t pulling punches today, was she?

 

Date grimaced. “Just call me old or something next time Aiba, jeez.” Oh yeah, he still hated coffee didn’t he? And yet even he fell prey to it...

 

[“Noted, ‘old man.’”]

“Hey!”

 

Shizue glanced at the computer clock. Aiba had closed the recording at some point. “Speaking of late risers, is Mizuki not up by now?”

 

Date glanced at it too. “Yea, probably. I left her a sticky note though.”

 

[“You did say you would be back soon after she woke up.”]

 

He winced. “Oh, right. Guess I should…”

 

Yeah, Shizue had met Mizuki enough times to know he needed to get going or he risked something broken. “Go check on your kid. Call me if you need me, alright? I'll keep you posted.”

 

He stood from her chair and headed for the door with a nod. “Alright. See you Sunday?”

 

She waved at him. “See ya Sunday.” The door clicked shut behind him.



-.. .- - . / -.. .- - . / .-. . ... .. -.. . -. -.-. . / .---- ----- ---... ..--- ---.. .- --



Date walked back into the apartment with the full intention of showering as soon as possible. Which required him checking if Mizuki was awake yet. She was, in fact, awake, and was munching on lightly crisped toast in her chair. 

 

He gave her a half-wave as he shut the door behind him. “Morning.”

 

Mizuki just glared at him in the way that was only possible when she had just woken up. “Why’d you get up so early? It's already early as hell right now.”

 

He gave her a look. “Why are you up then?”

 

She shrugged and ate another bite of toast before responding. “Got tired of sleeping”

 

He couldn’t really think of a rebuttal for that. “Makes sense.”

 

She rolled her eyes at his lackluster response. “Oh shut up. You didn't say crap on the sticky note, ‘be back later’, how was I supposed to know when later was!”

 

“Well, now you know when later was. Plus, it was kinda something I couldn't wait for.”

 

She looked at him curiously. “What’d you need?”

 

He grimaced a bit. “Did a psync last night, and the results were a bit… Messy.”

 

“So you went to see Boss?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“What'd she say?”

 

He decided to give her the short version, because every time he tried to give her the long version she got annoyed at him. “She's looking into it. I'm the new case file for the week, I guess.”

 

Mizuki nodded, and they fell into silence. Date took the moment to start grabbing clothes for a shower.

 

[ Date, you received a message from Hitomi. Would you like me to read it to you? ]

 

“Sure, what's she need?” Mizuki gave him an odd look, but he ignored her for the moment.

 

[‘ Good morning! Sorry if I'm texting you too early, but I had forgotten to ask yesterday, what with the party and all. The Bluetooth device you had given to me is fitted wrong. Would you be able to get it readjusted? If you cannot, I understand.’ Message sent at 10:27 am. ]

 

Date tried to remember when Pewter would be in next while grabbing a fresh shirt. “Uh, tell her I can take her, this week when Pewters allowed in, Thursday? Yea, Thursday. Whenever I go to the office.”

 

[ Message sent. ]

 

“Cool.”



Chapter Text

-.. .- - . / .-.. . -- -. .. ... -.-. .- - . / .---- ..--- ---... ...-- ----- .--. --



“Alright, starting up the stream in 5! Any last questions?” Iris turned to face the four of them. 

 

Date raised his hand where he was seated in a rolling chair. “Yea, why do I have to be here.”

 

Iris pouted at him. “Oh come on Uncle! It'll be fun! We finally get to play Shovelforge together!”

 

Mizuki gave him a side eye from her own rolling chair next to him. “I agree with Date, why does he have to be here.”

 

“Hey!”

 

“You said it first!”

 

Aiba’s voice came out of the speaker from the computer. [“Just to clarify, me and Ota will be on a ‘voice call’ with the three of you as we play?”]

 

Iris nodded enthusiastically. “Yup! That way you don't have to be ‘on camera’ but still be able to play, Aiba!”

 

[“Perfect.”]

 

Date grimaced at his controller while Iris was looking away. Awful.

 

[ You only have to play for a half hour, Date. It is really not that bad. ]

 

He glanced at the menu of the game. He had no idea what any of the options meant. All four of you are going to purposely make me suffer in this game, I’m not stupid. 

 

[ I would never out of ill will. It is simply for fun.]

 

Sure. Everyone found it fun to make him suffer, of course they did.

 

Iris called out. “Ready?”

 

“Much as I can be.”

 

“Yup!”

 

“Yes!”

 

[“Affirmative!”]

 

The screen that showed what the stream looked like to viewers apparently had a countdown on it. “Alright! Stream starting in... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!”

 

The cameras flipped on, and Iris waved enthusiastically to the camera. “Good evening! Good morning! And hello! It's me, Tesa, aka, A-set, you bet! Today, we’re playing Shovelforge, with a lot of friends! Including two VERY special guests! Give it up for my uncle, and our super secret guest I'm not allowed to tell you the name of!”

 

Aiba’s voice rang out of the speakers again. [“You may call me…”] 

 

There was a slightly awkward pause. [“Aika.”]

 

He restrained a full-on laugh to a snort. Okay, maybe this could be fun. A little too on the nose there.

 

[ I panicked, ok?! ]

 

Iris waved at the camera again. “Everybody say hi!!!!”

 

Ota’s voice called through the speaker at her prompting. “Hi everybody!”

 

Mizuki kept it short and sweet, as always. “Yo.”

 

Aiba, who was probably a little too enthusiastic for this, called a rather loud, [“Hello!”]

 

He just said, “Hey,” quietly, hopefully letting his call be covered by the more lively ones.

 

Iris spun in her chair once before stopping it with a ‘skrrt.’ “Now, Uncle is kinda new to the game, so we're gonna keep it simple for him, but don't worry! We got a long stream planned today!”

 

He couldn’t help but roll his eyes at her dramatics. “It can't be that hard to learn.”

 

Mizuki turned to him and gave him a flat look. “You can't even play the flash games on the computer well.”

 

He returned the look. “Correction, I don't play them.”

 

She jabbed a finger in his direction. “Yea, cus you suck at them!”

 

“Sure.”

 

Iris clapped her hands loudly, silencing their squabbling. “Moving on! Let's get this show on the road! I'm opening up a multiplayer server for the five of us. I'll start it out on a lower difficulty, unless you wanna start hard, Uncle?”

 

There was a joke to be made there, but this was supposed to be pg-13. “Sure, don't wanna make it too easy on everyone.”

 

Mizuki looked at him with… he couldn’t tell if it was amusement at his future fate or pity, honestly. “You're gonna eat your words later, Date…”

 

Iris was watching the chat window for a moment while the game loaded. 

 

Or at least, she was trying to. “Whoa! I know you guys are excited to see Uncle on stream, trust me, I am too! But you're sending a lot of messages in! I can only read so many!”

 

Date let out an amused huff. He wouldn’t be surprised if she was playing up how many messages there were. “Just let ‘em, I'm not here for too long, let them have their fun.”

 

Mizuki and Iris both turned to him with a look that said he was going to regret saying that. 

 

Iris turned back to the chat quickly, reading off a message. Okay, he actually couldn’t even read them now, they were moving so fast. Uh, oops. “Chat wants to know why you're leaving early, Uncle. I mean, why can't you stay?”

 

He glanced at the clock on the computer. “I got work in like, 45 minutes. You asked me to join, I can't exactly call off work, I- A-set.”

 

She looked slightly disappointed by this. “I guess…”

 

Then she perked up like she’d just had the best idea. Oh no. “How about this! What if you come back another time too? That way we can have a longer stream together!”

 

He gave her an incredulous look, stunned into silence. “.......”

 

[ Just say yes, Date. ]

 

He took a deep breath, held it while regretting several life decisions, and let it out. “Fine. Just once though. I'm not really an on-camera guy.”

 

She threw her hands excitedly in the air. “Thank you thank you thank you!!!!! You wont regret it!”

 

I already am.

 

[ Oh hush! ]

 

At some point, the game had finished loading, and now Date’s screen was filled with green-ish colored blocks. Aiba spoke again over the speaker. [“A-set, is that you on the mountain over there? We seemed to have spawned in different locations.”]

 

Date glanced at Iris’s screen for a moment. She was, in fact, on top of a large pile of green blocks.“Hm? Oh yea I’m over here! I can see you too haha!”

 

Mizuki batted at his arm, and he turned to face her. “Stupid! Pay attention to me! I'm only gonna show you how to play once.”

 

“Ok, ok, I'm paying attention!”

 

She held her controller up to his face and pointed at his screen. Oh, she was in front of him in the game too? “Use this controller stick to move, and this one to move the camera.”

 

“Camera?” He tried to copy her button presses on his own controller.

 

She showed him again. “Like this.”

 

“Ohh got it.” His thumb slipped, and a cracking noise played. Mizuki’s character briefly flashed red.

 

“HEY!” A glance at her screen and the red bar at the bottom had gone down. He was pretty sure that was the health bar.

 

He winced. “Oh shi- whoops. Didn't mean to do that.”

 

And now her character was running at his, swinging it's rectangle of an arm rather threateningly. “SURE YOU DIDN'T!” 

 

He decided to use his newly acquired movement button skills to try and get the hell out of dodge.

 

Aiba came to his defense over the speaker, but Mizuki was too focused on trying to murder him in a video game, evidently. [“I truly doubt that he had any way of knowing that would happen.”]

 

Iris’s voice sounded resigned, but he could really spare a moment to look at her face. “I don't think we can really stop them though, I mean, aren't they always like that?”

 

[ True .” ] Aiba, you traitor.

 

Suddenly Date heard several more cracking noises, and his screen was suddenly tinged red with some text and two buttons on it.

 

Mizuki pointed at him in real life now. “That's what you get!”

 

“I told you already I didn't do it on purpose!” He was literally just trying to figure out what the buttons did! And that one wasn’t even one he pressed on purpose!

 

“I'm not showing you how to play anymore.“ She turned her attention back to her monitor pointedly.

 

“Fine, I'll figure it out myself.” Once he could figure out how to get back into the game anyways...

 

Mizuki still didn’t turn to look at him. “Sure, like that'll ever happen.”

 

...He still didn’t know how to play the game. Aiba, a little help?

 

[ ...Fine. ]

 

She first told him how to make his character ‘respawn’ and then walked him through each of the button functions. She told him to try gathering some blocks while he made his way back to them.

 

“Ok, I think I got it.”

 

Mizuki gave him a disapproving look. “Yea, only cus Aib-Aika helped you!”

 

“No she didn't, I figured it out by myself!” It was a blatant lie, but hey, Mizuki wouldn’t need to know that.

 

“She totally did!”

 

Wait, he could use the fact that he was on stream to his advantage here. “How could she help exactly? She's with A-set right now, I'm in the middle of nowhere.”

 

“Actually, Uncle, turn around!”

 

“Wh?” It took him a second but eventually he spun his character around. “Oh, hey that's you both!”

 

Iris’s character swung her fist, but Date didn’t take any damage. Was there a range to it then? “Yep! Ota and Mizuki are a little further back, but we're all here! Cmon!” Her character spun around and walked away, probably expecting Date to follow.

 

Well, at least he knew how to do that. “Alright.” He followed close after her.

 

Ota’s voice came from the same speaker Aiba’s had earlier. “Hey Date, a lot of the chat keeps asking what your job is. They also keep asking about the whole Uncle thing, but you don't have to answer that.”

 

He gave the camera a knowing smirk. “It's a secret.”

 

Mizuki rolled her eyes next to him. He could hear it in her voice. “A really badly kept one.”

 

“Hey! Those were extenuating circumstances, I'll have you know!’

 

Ota’s voice came through the speaker again, snide. “Nnnnnot really? You did kind of just tell two of us without really needing to.”

 

Mizuki nodded. “Ota has a point, for once.”

 

Apparently Ota took offense to that, because he yelped a, “Hey!” mere seconds later.

 

Date continued on as if none of their interjections had even happened.“The Uncle thing is just a nickname though, nothing more.”

 

“Actually, now that I think about it, Tesa, you never did tell me why you call him Uncle…” Ota’s voice was curious but that was a long ass story. Oh, hey, there was Mizuki. May as well follow her around for a bit.

 

Aiba, apparently having come to the same conclusion, interjected. [“Irrelevant. I do however find it relevant to mention that I have discovered a cat!”]

 

Iris immediately got excited. “Oh! Do you have fish?”

 

[“I do not. Do I need some? ]

 

“If you want a pet cat, yea!” That would explain the excitement.

 

[“Do you have any?”]

 

Ota, apparently unbothered by the whole talking over him thing, happily volunteered. “I do, Aika!”

 

[“Please bring me some!”]

 

Date just kept following Mizuki, as he had no fish to offer. 

 

“Stop following me already idiot!”

 

“I'm just trying to figure out where the hell the house is. It's not like anyones shown me where sh-stuff is.”

 

“It's over there!” Her character swung it's arm in the direction she was facing “It's glowing and everything, geez.”

 

There was, in fact, a small mountain well lit by … something? “Oh! Cool. Alright, I'll just… head on over there…”

 

There was a huge chasm in front of his character. Mizuki gave him a look when he stopped. “You don't know how to get up there.”

 

He nodded his head in agreement. “I don't know how to get up there.”

 

“Aikaaaa can you take Date back to the base? I don't feel like towing him around anymore.”

 

[“Where are you both? I cannot locate you from where I am right now.”]

 

Mizuki pressed a button on her controller that covered her screen in strings of numbers. 

 

“We’re at-”She listed off a string of numbers,“-right now, I don't know where you are though.”

 

[“Not to worry, i will be there momentarily.”] ...How??? It was a seemingly random string of numbers?

 

Mizuki nodded, satisfied. “Good.” Was it some kind of code?? It sounded like gibberish to him.

 

“Thanks for the donation BlastOffToTheStars1! I appreciate it! Oh! There's a message! ‘You should do a stream with just Mizuki and ‘Uncle’, I think it'd be really funny!’ Good idea!”

 

Mizuki and Date cut in at the same time. “No.” “No way.”

 

[“To be fair, they would probably kill each other if placed like that. Not to mention, many games with multiplayer are competitive.”]

 

Iris tapped her chin with her finger. “Good point.” However, she wasn’t one to be discouraged. Evidently. “We should still try this sort of stream again when you have more time though, Uncle!”

 

He gave her a bit of a look. “I already said ‘yea’ earlier, does that not count?”

 

“You have to promise!”

 

“Ye- no! Don't!” Mizuki cut herself off mid word, apparently realizing exactly what Iris was asking.

 

...Okay maybe it’d be fun if he could mess with her a bit. “Yes, I promise.”

 

“Promise what?” She pressed.

 

“I'll do another stream with you at some point.”

 

Iris leaned over and held out her pinky. Oh no. “Pinky promise?”

 

He let out the most world weary sigh he’d ever sighed, and held her pinky with his own. “Pinky promise.”

 

[ I will hold you to that, Date. ]

 

Yeah he kinda expected that… “Of course you will.”

 

Mizuki gave him a pointed look and whispered harshly, just barely in hearing range. “Date!” 

 

Whoops.

 

Aiba had finally found him in the game, and started leading him back to the house. [ You really have to get over that habit, Date. ]

 

Okay, how did she do that jump… I just forget sometimes ok!

 

[“Yes, I know.”]

 

Oh whatever he’d just. Run forward. Maybe hit the jump button when he did? See now you did it too!

 

Iris, either trying to cover for Aiba, or genuinely curious, asked Aiba, “What do you know about Aika?”

 

[“Ah, nothing of importance. I just received a direct message about something, don't mind me.”] Real smooth, Aiba. Real smooth.

 

Iris accepted the excuse with grace. “If you say so!”

 

By now, they’d gotten to the house. It was a small structure made of light brown blocks. Date gave Aiba’s character a look, knowing she would understand it was meant for her. “Now who's gotta work on it, huh?”

 

Mizuki pointedly whispered at him again. “Date! Sh!” He really needed to break this habit...

 

Iris glanced over at the chat. “A lot of the chat is asking about your eye, Uncle.”

 

He raised an eyebrow. “Which one?” He opened a chest inside the house. There wasn’t much in it, but there was a shovel.

 

Mizuki gave him her patent ‘are you stupid?’ look. “The bright yellow one? Duh? Stupid.“

 

He chose to ignore that and turn his attention to Iris, who was actively reading the chat while… wandering a dark cave? “What do they want to know?”

 

“Well, some are asking if you have contacts in.”

 

He shook his head and looked back at his own screen. “Nope, no contacts. My vision is pretty good, you know.” Maybe he should try digging something? The game was called Shovel forge.

 

Mizuki scoffed. “Sure it is.”

 

Okay, that was mean to him and Aiba. “It is! In fact some people say my vision is so good it's 30/20!”

 

“That's a lie.”

 

“Is it?”

 

Iris once again broke up their squabble with another question. “Chats asking if you have ‘heterochromia’ That's when you have two different colored eyes, right?”

 

Mizuki and Aiba’s response was simultaneous. [“ Yes, that is what it is.”] “Yup.” 

 

Date had gotten this question a surprising amount of times. He wanted to be a little snarky about it. “Well wouldn't they like to know.”

 

Mizuki murmured something just out of his hearing range. Something about… A weatherman?

 

Iris continued with pep. “They would! They keep asking in the chat!”

 

He rolled said eyes. “Yeah, I have two different colored eyes.”

 

Mizuki elbowed him in the side, gently. Which still actually hurt a decent amount but at least she didn’t crack one of his ribs.“One of thems not your real eye, dont lie.”

 

“Which one is real and which one is fake then?” He tried digging at the ground with the shovel.

 

“The yellow one is obviously not your real eye.”

“Yea, but don't ruin the fun for the chat. What if they wanted to guess?” Wow, this was way faster with the shovel, what the hell?

 

Mizuki stuck her tongue out at him and went back to whatever she was doing. “Who cares.” It looked like she was… punching a tree?

 

Iris scanned chat again, before summarizing the questions. “Now they all want to know about your eye again….”

 

He paused in his digging to point at Aiba. “Work related injury. That's about the size of it. It's not too bad? Though it was an adjustment for sure.”

 

...He should probably give a disclaimer because he’d heard several comments at bars about it looking cool as hell. “Definitely don't recommend losing an eye anytime soon. Do not lose an eye because you think it’d look cool-”

 

“DIAMOND!” Iris sounded absolutely elated.

 

“Diamond?”

 

Ota’s voice came through the speaker, and Date was…  pretty sure he was being mocked for his question. Or maybe admonished? He wasn’t sure. “Best gem in the game to get overworld, It's pretty hard to find this early on. Where'd you find it, Tesa?”

 

“In the ravine by the base! I'm coming back, don't worry!” Was that what he and Aiba had hopped over to get here?

 

[ You have five minutes before you have to go, Date. ]

 

He glanced at the computer clock on the stream window. AIba was right, of course, but he had to make a show of it. “Hm. Actually, I might need to head off soon.”

 

Iris sounded almost surprised. “You're leaving????”

 

He nodded, and went back to digging in the game. He had like 30 pieces of ground now. They turned brown when he picked them up.“In about 5 I gotta go, sorry to disappoint.”

 

“Aw, it's ok! You can join next time for longer!” She was going to keep reminding him of that huh?

 

“If I'm available.”

 

She gave him a smile that was perfectly sweet but read like a wolf grinning at its prey. “You will be.”

 

Ominous.

 

“Think you can answer one more question from chat before you go?”

 

...He had enough time for that, right? “If it's not too convoluted, sure.”

 

“They want to know what your workout routine is??? Do you actually have a workout routine?”

 

Oh, easy question. “Yea, nothing structured, but I have to be pretty in shape for work.“

 

“I don't do anything special, eat well enough, and works got a gym I go to sometimes. Not to mention my job is a real workout sometimes, you know.” Not like he could be all that structured when cases had him running around at all hours.

 

Mizuki spun her entire chair towards him on a dime. “You're telling me. You have a gym at work, and you NEVER took me?”

 

He sweat dropped and looked away. “Not like I could. Not to mention you'd just break half the machines…”

 

She spun back to her screen with a huff. “Whatever.”

 

[ It may be in good taste to take her once the next time you go to ABIS with her. ]

 

Good idea. 

 

He set his controller down on a table and stood. “Alright, I gotta head out. Have fun with the stream!”

 

Iris waved to him as he headed towards the door, off camera. “Tell Boss I said hi!”

 

He gave a half wave back. “I will.”

 

Knowing her though, she's in the chat right now, making fun of me

 

[ Oh, she is. I have received 4 messages in the past 2 minutes from her. ]

 

Great.

 

He let the door close behind him with a ‘click.’ 



-.. .- - . / ... --- -... .- / .-. . ... - .- ..- .-. .- -. - / .---- ---... .---- ..--- .--. --



“You still on stream with them all?”

 

[ Why wouldn't I be? ]

 

“Have fun. I'll be at lunch.”

 

[ I know. Enjoy! ]

 

Date shut the door on his car with a ‘thunk’ and started walking towards the soba place. 

 

He took a deep breath as the restaurant came into view, and let it out as a sigh.

 

Time for a long ass lunch.

Chapter Text

Date pushed open the door, the bell tinkling to signal a customer had entered. The inside of the building looked… Surprisingly, mostly unchanged. The light fixtures had been swapped out for LEDs at some point, and the chairs had new upholstery, but everything else... All the tables were in the same spots, and the warm atmosphere of the restaurant remained. 

 

It was nice for someplace to still be familiar.

 

Hope she's here already. 

 

[ It would be unlike Boss to be late, despite what her attitude suggests. ]

 

Yea, I know. 

 

He glanced around, looking to spot Boss in the half-full restaurant. It didn’t take long to find her. She’d gotten a table in the back of the restaurant, and appeared to be watching something on her phone. Probably Iris’s stream.

 

...Actually, now that he thought about it, wasn’t that the same table they used to sit at?  

 

Wonder how she managed to get the exact table…

 

Shaking himself out of nostalgia, he made his way over to the table. She noticed him approaching and put her phone down, smiling and giving him a half-wave.

 

“Hey.” He slid into the seat across from her, just like he had years ago.

 

“Yo.”

 

He cast a glance around at the restaurant. Yeah, definitely the same spot. “How’d you manage to snag the same table?”

 

“Oh, the owners know me by now. Managed to reserve the table in advance. They said they were happy to let me take it.” She gave him a sly smile.

 

Probably because they know she's gonna run my wallet dry. And judging by Boss’s smile, she knew it too.

 

She slid him one of the menus. “I ordered some water and one of the appetizers on the menu before you got here, they should be here soon.”

 

Huh, most of the items were the same. “Not going straight for the noodles?”

 

Boss shrugged and glanced at her own menu. “Well, we're gonna be here a while, right? Figured I’d get it later, since there's time.”

 

And it was more money out of his wallet. “True.”

 

-.-- . .- .-. ... / .- --. ---

 

Date, a year and a half into his job as a detective, leaned forward over his soba noodles. “Okay, okay, but did you hear about how-”

 

Shizue, similarly fresh to the job, cut in. “The head officer slipped and fell on his ass at a crime scene yesterday?”

 

“Yes!” He was almost laughing just thinking about it! “That! It was so hard not to laugh, you have no idea! He didn’t even just slip, he slid halfway down the street while flailing around!”

 

Shizue grinned. “Really? Holy shit-”

“And then!” He said, around a mouthful of noodles, “And then he tried to order us all to stay quiet about it, like that could ever happen.”

 

.--. .-. . ... . -. -

 

Date blinked, and the memory faded. Yet here they were again, years later, in the same spot, in the same restaurant, in the same seats. 

 

Date shifted in his chair. 

 

He placed the menu down flat on the table and looked at Boss. “Sooo, are we gonna get right into it, or is this just a normal ass lunch?”

 

She shrugged. “Might as well, we're both free for the day.”

 

There was a pause. She was obviously waiting for him to go first, but he needed a second to work out… exactly how to say it. 

 

He took a deep breath. “First off, I wanted to apologize. You carried my pathetic ass for years, and then still helped me even after it started blowing up in both of our faces. You don't deserve to get hurt from my messes. I-”

 

She didn’t let him continue, holding up a finger. “One, I do what I want, and I wanted to help, Date. You would do the same thing for me, wouldn't you?”

 

He blinked. Wasn’t the answer obvious? “Of course I would.”

 

She gave him a look that was dangerously close to infringing on Mizuki’s trademarked ‘are you stupid?’ look. “Then why expect something different from me?”

 

“I guess, but-”

 

This time she didn’t even let him finish his sentence. “I'm not done.”  

 

She held up two fingers now. “Two! I'm only going to say this once right now, ok? You're my best friend, Date. Full stop. I don't care if you think you're ‘pathetic’ or ‘useless’ or whatever the hell you've managed to convince yourself you are. You are the same dumbass with his heart on his sleeve from 20 years ago. You are important to me. So important. I'd do this shit all over again if it meant keeping you alive and happy, even if you never remembered me, got it?”

 

“I-....” He- he didn’t know- he was at a loss for words. 

 

“I’ll accept your apology, but I'm not going to take the rest of that statement, it's all bullshit anyways.”

 

He was so off-kilter, but he needed to say something. “Yeah… I guess you're right. And, uh. I probably won't say it again either, but… I care about you too, Boss.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Shizue is fine you know, I don't mind.”

 

He should return the favor, right? He really wouldn’t mind anyways. “Shizue, right. Yea, so-”

 

“Save yourself the awkwardness, I get it, Kaname.” ...It was almost weird to hear his own name come out of someone else’s mouth.

 

She smiled, a little more softly than normal. Or at least, he thought it was softer. 

 

The waiter stepped over with a serving tray covered in plates. “Two waters and meat and vegetable tempura?”

 

Bos- Shizue gave them a half-wave and a polite smile. “Yup, that's us.”

 

The server set the plate of tempura and the waters down on the table, turning to leave with a, “Hope you enjoy!”

 

Date glanced at the familiar dish. It looked almost the same from the last time they’d gotten it. Probably still tasted just as good too. “Getting the usual then?”

 

Boss- Shizue, literally just went over this -picked up one of the pieces of tempura, an odd look on her face. “You still remember?”

 

He shrugged and grabbed his own piece. He knew she’d just eat the whole thing without him. “Kinda. Was I not supposed to?”

 

“It's not that, it's just. How much do you remember?”

 

Ah, so that's what that look was for. “Not too much to be honest with you. I don't remember everything. Though from what I can remember, I've never been too good at that anyways. So I think it's not too bad.” 

 

She sniggered around her mouthful of food. “You're right about that. I couldn't even get you to tell me what day it was half the damn time!”

 

He rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t completely suppress a smile. “Yet I was the one who remembered deadlines.”

 

She leaned forward, taking another bite of the food. “For some strange reason. And hey, I didn't need to remember it if my friend would panic exactly the same way two days before any test.”

 

He cocked an eyebrow. “Did I really?”

 

She spoke around her food, covering her mouth with her hand while she did at least. “Yes, every single time. Especially second year. With that-”

 

He cut in, fairly certain he remembered what B- Shizue was talking about. “With the mean old math professor? He was horrible! I swear I almost failed that class.”

 

She nodded with a grin. “You almost did. I saved your ass on that final.”

 

Ah, yes, the whole sneaking him the answers thing. That had been an endeavor. “Yea, you did.”

 

She leaned forward, half whispering like a person gossiping. Which, he supposed they were. “Speaking of that professor, I heard that the guy got fired a few years after we graduated. Something about ‘disorderly conduct’ in front of a lecture.”

 

“Oh?” That was a nice surprise. He thought the guy had been tenured.



-- .. --.. ..- -.- .. / .-.. . -- -. .. ... -.-. .- - . / ..--- ---... ----- ....- / .--. --



Mizuki held the sprint button down until she reached the front door of the house, which had expanded considerably since they started. She needed to grab her pickaxe before heading to the ether, and drop off the wood she’d collected for Ota’s house expanding endeavors.

 

She dropped the wood off in its designated chest, before turning to her chest and opening it. She stared for a solid 30 seconds, looking for her pickaxe among the unorganized mess when she realized it wasn’t there. “Hey, who took my pickaxe?”

 

Iris glanced over at her screen. “Which one?”

 

She closed the chest and started flicking through the others on the off chance she’d misplaced it. “MY pickaxe, the level 50 one? With all the enchantments.”

 

Iris turned back to her own screen, thoughtful. “Um, I think I saw Aika with it? Right?”

 

[“No, but I have a similar pickaxe. Mine is level 30, however.”]

 

Mizuki continued flipping through the chests. “You sure it’s not mine?”

 

[“I would like to think so. I did craft it.”]

 

Knowing Aiba would definitely see it over the stream, she squinted suspiciously at the camera. 

 

“If you're sure…” She flipped open Aiba’s chest.

 

Inside was a pickaxe that looked very similar to hers. She flicked her cursor over to it and read the stats. This one was level 30, and had different enchantments… Wait, was this Aiba’s pickaxe?!

 

She yelled into her mic, probably blowing out someone’s speakers as she did. “AIKA, you did take my pickaxe! Yours is in here!”

 

AIba’s voice came over the speaker, half apologetic. [“Oh, apologies, you can use mine, if you wish.”]

 

She scrunched her nose up at the concept, but unless she wanted to find Aiba and get her stuff back, there weren't many other options. She reluctantly grabbed the pickaxe from the chest. “This one doesn't have all the enchantments I had. I'm taking some of your sodalite and adding it back to this one.”

 

[“That is fine by me. Though I ask you not to put the bane of arthopoda on your equipment anymore.”]

 

She rolled her eyes. Like anyone would put bane of arthopoda on their equipment on purpose. She’d just gotten unlucky with the altar. “It won't be a problem if you don't steal my cool stuff anymore.”

 

[“I will be sure to double check next time, apologies.”]

 

“It's fine.”

 

She grabbed the sodalite out of Aiba’s chest and some parchment out of Ota’s. She knew he wouldn’t mind, he had tons of the stuff, and she needed it to have more than one enchantment on the pickaxe.



-.. .- - . / ... --- -... .- / .-. . ... - .- ..- .-. .- -. - / ..--- ---... ...-- ....- .--. --



B- Shizue leaned forward on her elbows. “By the way, I got a couple ideas about your whole situation.”

 

Date snagged the very last piece of tempura. The waiter had taken their order just a few minutes ago, so he wasn’t worried about making it last. “As in what it is, or what to do?”

 

She shrugged. “Bit of both, really.”

 

She switched to leaning back in her chair, balancing it at the tipping point. “Obviously, I'm not going to tell you that my guess is the definite truth, nor am I going to say so unless there's definitive proof outside of the somnium. For all we both know, there really could just be something up in your head.”

 

He rolled his eyes. “Just get to the point.”

 

She looked up from the table, and at Date. “You know how computers work, yea?”

 

He returned the glance with a flat look. He has an AI partner in his brain that she asked to be made for him. “In a basic sense of the word, yes. Can't exactly work at ABIS without a few tech literacy skills.”

 

She gave him a considering look. “True. This is going to be a bit abstract, but I'm dumbing it down. Let's say, you are the most sheltered person, ever. And you have no idea how computers work.”

 

He grimaced a little. That was definitely a jab at his lack of technology know-how in college. 

 

She continued, ignoring his reaction. “In front of you is a wireless monitor, which is connected to a main PC somewhere in the room. Lets say, you pull up a calculator app, and ask it what 1+1 is. Of course, the monitor will show you that the answer is 2. This person would probably assume that the monitor is what solved the math problem.”

 

He gave her an odd look. That probably wasn’t a jab at him, because he had at least known the difference between a monitor and a computer. “But wouldn't the PC itself be what solves it?”

 

She rolled her eyes. “I just said, this person has zero idea how computers work. They don't even know that the monitor is connected to the PC.”

 

Her chair tipped forward into a less precariously balanced position. “Of course, following this, they'd be curious, and run tests. ‘What happens if I do this?’ they might ask. Eventually, they would still reach the same conclusion as before, believing the monitor is the main processing unit of the computer.”

 

“I don't see where you're going with this.”

 

Boss held up a finger, obviously telling him to be quiet. “The real truth, of course, is that the PC is what has been doing all the work, and the monitor only displayed it. But because the person has no idea how computers work, they have no way of knowing that.”

 

He rolled a hand in a gesture that was commonly referred to as ‘get to the damn point.’ Thankfully, she caught it. “There's this theory that poses a similar question, but for the human consciousness.”

 

...What??? “What, that we’re like, controlled by some higher power?”

 

She shrugged. “In a sense. Think of the human brain being like a monitor, and this ‘higher plane’ as the PC.”

 

He tilted his head to the side and thought for a moment. “So you're saying…”

 

“I'm saying that, maybe, on some other level of consciousness is where the issue actually is. I mean, it could make sense in a weird sort of way if it was, say, this whole field is what's causing you problems.” 

 

Aiba chimed in for the first time since he’d sat down. [ I believe that she is describing the morphogenetic field theory. Interesting. ]

 

He relayed the thought to Boss. “Aiba says youre talking about a ‘morphic field’?”

 

“That's where the basis of it comes from, yes.” She paused as the waiter stopped by with their bowls of soba. They both thanked the waiter and the waiter left with an ‘enjoy your meal!’

 

Date continued their conversation. “So, basically, what you're saying is. I’m getting memories from other me’s? Like alternate timelines?”

 

“Technically it's plausible, in a theoretical sense.” She picked up and dipped some of her noodles, shoving them in her mouth as soon as she finished speaking. 

 

“And absolutely crazy! How the hell did you get to that?”

 

He had to wait for her to finish the noodles, which honestly didn’t take long. “I told you, I didn't think it's actually the case here! It's just a theory. If Sakamoto can't figure it out, and if it's not the psync machines or anything else medically related, I'm willing to believe in a little bit of sci-fi.”

 

Aiba’s voice in his head was considering. [ It is possible, in a way. She has a point. It could add up to it being related to the field. Not to mention, it would make sense as to how these ‘memories’ have been so vivid. ]

 

Everyone around him must’ve gone crazy overnight, including Aiba. Whatever. “You're gonna look into it then?”

 

[ I might as well explore that avenue of research, even if it is highly improbable. ]

 

Alright. Okay, Aiba was at least still partially sane.

 

He again relayed to Boss what Aiba had said. “Aiba says she'll look more into it.”

 

“Alright.” She slurped some more noodles before speaking again. “I'd hate for it to be something like that, but to be honest with you, I can't think of anything else that could do that to you that I haven't ruled out yet.”

 

Yeah, he didn’t think she would suggest something like that as seriously as she was unless she'd eliminated everything else first. “Makes sense. I'd expect to hear this sort of thing from Iris, not you.”

 

She tapped the back of her chopsticks to her chin. “Might be good to ask her actually. She's pretty into this sort of thing, no?”

 

“I'll think about it. I don't want to sit for hours listening to stuff I barely understand.” It was interesting, sure, but he did have work he needed to get done.

 

She smiled at him teasingly. “Aw, but you did that all through university!”

 

...He would never escape his college self, huh. “Oh shut up.”

 

He pointedly dipped a noodle in the sauce and stuck it in his mouth, cutting off any ability to continue that conversation. Boss- wait, Shizue, seemed to get the hint. But man, he’d forgotten how good the noodles at this place were. He practically inhaled half the plate before he noticed Shizue making a face of barely restrained laughter.

 

He finished his noodles before speaking. If he dropped the habit Mizuki would kill him. “What's wrong with m’ face?”

 

“Not your face.” She pointed at his hand. Or rather, the chopsticks in his hand. “You still hold your chopsticks like that?”

 

Oh, not this again. “What does everyone have against how I hold them!”

 

[ I for one, have no issue with it, Date. You are holding them in the most efficient manner. ]

 

Thank you! Finally, someone with sense! “Aiba agrees with me, what's wrong with it??”

 

“No offense, Aiba, but of course you’d like it.” She mulled over her words while she ate some more noodles. “It just looks odd, that's all. I’ve never seen anyone hold them like that other than you and those really stiff instructions for tourists.”

 

He huffed. It worked, didn’t it?

 

He continued eating his noodles in his completely normal and regular manner.

 

“By the way, while I can't think of anything much for helping with ‘my’ weird stuff you're stuck with, I did have this spare practice piece I finished a week ago.” She shuffled around in the bag she’d brought. “Figured it'd be in better hands with someone who’d actually wear it more than a few times a year.”  She held a bundle of crocheted fabric out to him across the table. 

 

He took it and unwound it, revealing a red-brown scarf, with a rather complicated stitch pattern. “Oh, uh, thanks! Looks great. I appreciate it.”

 

“You better. I used some good ass yarn on that one.” She pointed her chopsticks at the scarf again for emphasis.

 

Upon further inspection, it was very soft. Which was surprising, because usually crochet ended up being very stiff. 

 

He wrapped it around his neck, seeing as he didn’t exactly have anywhere to stow it away. Also, it was a very nice scarf, so he may as well wear it. Thankfully, it wasn’t so long that he had to wrap it an excessive amount of times, and it wasn’t so short he couldn’t wrap it at all. “Looks like it fits. Thanks Bo-Shizue.”

 

“No problem.” She nodded and shoved more noodles in her mouth.

 

He’d finished up his own noodles before Shizue had handed him the scarf, so for now, he inspected the scarf to keep himself occupied. It was rather nice for a practice piece, and the stitches were all even. He didn’t think he could spot one that wasn’t the right size in the part of the scarf he was looking at. 

 

Eventually, she finished her noodles and started trying to get the attention of a waiter. “Are you ready for the check?” 

 

He rolled his eyes. “Not like I can postpone it much. You calling them over, or me?” The answer was obvious, but eh.

 

“I got it.” She finally succeeded in getting one’s attention and they hurried over. 

 

She grinned at him in that way she did when she expected him to squirm. “Ready for the check?”

 

“Yup.” The waiter came over and put down the checkbook. He placed his already ready card inside, handing it back to them. The waiter nodded and headed back to charge his poor bank account.

 

Shizue gave him a surprised look. “Wow, I didn't even have to double down on you paying. I should have you invite me out more.”

 

He gave her a flat look. “You're paying for the next one, then.”

 

She leaned back in her chair, again tipping it dangerously.  “Maybe. Where do you want to go next time?”

 

He shrugged. “I like keeping things the same, but if you want somewhere new, I heard about this restaurant in Koto with good curry.”

 

Her chair swayed dangerously back and forth as she considered it. “Sounds good to me. We can talk about specifics later, yea?”

 

The chair clacked safely back in place, and Date nodded. “Sounds good.”

 

The waiter came back with the check, and he quickly stowed his card away and signed the bill. Boss stood waiting for him when he finished, and he quickly followed suit.

 

They headed out of the restaurant together.

 

In front of the building, they stood facing each other. “So, I'll see you tomorrow?”

 

She smiled sharply at him. “Bright and early.”

 

He groaned. “Ugh, don't make me get up, Mizuki is on break. Can't I come in later?”

 

She pointed a finger at him sternly. “10am. Sharp. No later.”

 

You know what, he’d take it. Better than 9. “Deal.”

 

She bumped shoulders with him and her smile turned more genuine, but only for a moment. “Hey, thanks for taking me out. It was nice.”

 

He nodded. “Of course.”

 

They turned their separate ways with a wave, and Date started heading back to where he’d parked his car.

 

His footsteps were quiet in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the city around him. Hey, Aiba, does Mizuki need me to pick her up?

 

[ Not at the moment. I can ask Hitomi to send her home later if you wish. ]

 

He reached the car and pulled the door open, sliding into the driver’s seat. That’d be good, thanks.

 

[ I'm glad you could talk with Boss today. It seemed to be a good outing. ]

 

He started the car and pulled out and onto the street. “Yeah, it was.”



Chapter Text

Date walked through the lobby of his apartment building and pushed the elevator call button. He waited for it to come down, like usual. When it finally came down, he scanned his keycard and pushed his floor. There was some jazz playing as the elevator music for once, which was nice. It slowed to a stop and the doors opened to the hall for his floor.

 

He stopped. Something felt… Off.

 

[ What's wrong? ]

 

I don't know. I just. Something's up. I can't say for sure.

 

He stepped out of the elevator, cautious. The hall was empty. He felt like he was being watched.

 

[ I will try to keep a steady lookout, then. ]

 

Continuing to the end of the hall, he walked to his suite’s door. He put his key into the door, and went to open it. 

 

As he reached towards the door handle, he heard quiet footsteps quickly approaching behind him. He turned to face a person running towards him, clad full in black, and tensed.

 

Yet again, he had no fucking idea who this person was. But something about them just screamed bad news, even more than the obvious.

 

As quickly as he turned, he ripped the door open and ran in, dodging the swipe of a blade. What he did not, however, notice, was the figure behind the door as well.

 

He felt himself getting grabbed and pulled violently into the hall of his apartment. 

 

Shit.

 

He motioned to retaliate, and thrashed in the vice grip. This was obviously a bad idea, as all it got him was the person growing tired of it and launching him into the adjacent wall. Ow.

 

[ DATE! ]

 

I'm alright. What are we dealing with here?

 

He turned back to the figure and aimed a punch to the throat. The figure dodged, missing the hit by barely a centimeter. Damn.

 

Aiba turned on her thermograph, displaying multiple figures both in and out of the hallway. [ Date, from what I can see there appear to be 4 attackers. Two are armed with knives, one has a pistol, and the other, an aluminum bat. I've tagged each of them accordingly.

 

Sidestepping the second punch thrown at him, he patted his holster. Good. Still armed. He turned back to meet the second figure's knife, and grabbed their wrist. Slamming them into the wall, he roughly pulled the knife out of their grip and threw it to the ground, a few meters away.

 

Thanks.

 

He gave one last glance across the hall, and moved to get rid of the extra person. One down, three to go. 

 

[ Behind you, Date! ]

 

I got it.

 

He threw the unarmed attacker across the hall, not unlike how they had thrown him earlier, and turned towards the other figure, who seemed to have gotten their hands on the knife from the floor. Great, he had to disarm them again. Of course. Hopefully it would be easier as the second person was now across the hall and still on the ground, unconscious. Maybe. He thought they were, at least.

 

Grabbing the one with the knife by the arm, he turned and threw them over his shoulder, hard. While they were still on the ground, he picked them up and knocked them in the head with the butt of his gun, knocking them out clean. The knife silently dropped to the floor, along with the body, as he let go of them.

 

He stalked towards the bathroom door, activating the thermograph as he did, to assuage where the third figure was. Right in front of the door. Perfect.

 

Quickly, he yanked the door open, roughly pulling the person from the room. They struggled, trying to swing their aluminum bat. It ended up clipping the wall, losing momentum mid swing. 

 

The figure on the floor stirred. Time to get rid of this one fast, then. He tightened his hold on them and slammed their face into the reinforced door to the bathroom, their face making an impact with the doorknob on the way down.

 

The body dropped, face absolutely covered in blood. He picked them up and dragged them down the hall, next to the other one, and picked up the knife. 

 

[ Move, Date! ]

 

He felt a faint rush of air next to him, and whatever passed by hit the first unconscious figure. They seem to collapse further, utterly dead weight.

 

Looking back down the hall, he sees the apartment door open, with the muzzle of a gun stuck out of the door.

 

[ It appears to be loaded with darts of some kind. Be careful. ]

 

Got it.

 

The door opened fully, and the last person stepped out, gun lowered, and a familiar kitchen knife in the opposite hand. Motherfucker. 

 

They rushed out of the doorway, running directly towards Date. He steadied his own stolen knife in hand and turned out of the way of the blade coming for his torso. 

 

They flowed out of the stabbing motion and converted their momentum into a harsh kick to his shins. Date pulled back and directed a punch straight to the throat. The angle was a little off, and instead he managed to land a nice hit to the jaw. Yet again the stolen kitchen knife made its reappearance as the person attempted to stab him in the face. He already lost one eye, that was enough thank you very much. He quickly darted back to avoid a poorly executed opthalectemy.

 

He heard movement from behind him, and glanced behind him briefly to see one of the people advancing towards him. What? Didn't he just knock that one out? Shit.

 

His current, more pressing attacker swung the knife at an unexpected angle to his right, probably trying to get him in the shoulder. He moved his hand up in an attempt to redirect their arm away from him, but instead he ended up with a handful of the blade. Literally. Ow. It pierced through the back of his hand and his nerves burned, causing him to involuntarily jerk back. A moment later the guy who had just stabbed him tried to pull the knife back, probably to try for another swing. The knife twisted slightly as it pulled out and Date felt something shift out of place.

 

He needed to end this, and fast.  

 

Not thinking, he pulled back and landed a full force punch into the knife-guy with his busted hand. Bad idea. He gasped, gripping his hand into a tighter fist and pulling it towards him. 

 

New idea, don't try punching things anymore. He proceeded to follow that intelligent train of thought and kicked the approaching person in the stomach, knocking them into the one with the knife.

 

With both on the ground he made sure to properly knock their asses out. No more surprise attacks. Procedurally, he restrained all 4 and one-handedly dragged them to one area in the hall. He made sure to check for extra weapons too. 

 

By the end he was one good hand poorer, and three small knives plus a gun richer. He’ll save the bat for Mizuki, if she wants it after it's been cleaned.

 

Now, to try to patch up the mess that was his left hand right now.

 

He stumbled into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him. 

 

[ I notified ABIS of the assault when it began. There should be assistance on their way. ]

 

Pretty sure I just handled it

 

Locking the door, he turned towards the sink and gave it a considering look. His vision was starting to grey out. Shit.

 

[ For now you did. And that was not a smart move! Why would you punch someone with an injured hand? ]

 

He shook his head roughly. All it did was make him more dizzy. “Wasn’t really thinking to be honest with you. Where do we keep the gauze?”

 

[ Lower cabinet, in the red box. There is spare underneath the first aid kit. ]

 

“Thanks…”

 

He fumbled with the cabinet, pulling it open and grabbing the first red thing in sight. Shit, he was dizzy, where the hell was the latch? 

 

He found it eventually, and hastily flipped the kit open, shoving the contents around in an attempt to find the gauze. Why the hell did they make everything in medical kits white again? There's the gauze. 

 

He grabbed a handful and did his best to stuff the damn hole in his hand with it, but it fucking burned every time he moved it. The adrenaline must’ve been wearing off, he needed to… He needed to apply pressure, yeah.

 

He only had one good hand so he placed his currently bleeding hand on the cold tile of the floor and sandwiched it under his uninjured one in a shitty attempt to keep it from bleeding more. 

 

[ Help will be here soon. ]

 

“Cool. He slid down to the floor from kneeling, maintaining pressure on his hand. They cut his shoulder too, didn't they? He looked over to the side and saw the gash in his shirt, blood slowly soaking into the fabric.  It was almost hypnotizing, watching the grey slowly darken into a warm red...

 

[ Do not pass out Date! I mean it. ]

 

He blinked back into focus. I know, I know, bleeding is bad. I'm holding the gauze, aren't I?

 

He didn’t have another hand to press the wound on his shoulder, so he just tried to press it into the cabinet. He wished he could have avoided the whole getting stabbed thing, but they’d been… He couldn’t exactly articulate it but there’d been something notably off about the guys who jumped him. They’d been weirdly... synchronized. That and they’d never made a sound aside from footsteps. It was eerie. Wait, what was he thinking about again? 

 

He heard footsteps in the hall. Finally. He unlocked the bathroom door, still keeping an eye on it.

 

Boss thundered down the hall, finally stopping at the bathroom door. She threw the door open and was met with his lovely self leaning against the bathroom cabinet, hand squished to the ground and slowly making a puddle. Wait, that last thing probably wasn’t very good, shit.

 

Whatever, Boss- wait, didn’t she want him to call her Shizue? Shizue was here. “Date!”

 

“Hey, B- Shizue. Long time no see, eh?”

 

She quickly approached him and knelt down, face level just above level with his. “Oh shut up. What happened?”

 

How was he supposed to shut up and tell her what happened at the same time…? Wait, she probably meant to just get to the point. He was pretty sure. “Don't know, a bunch of people tried to jump me in the hall. I think I recognize ‘em…” He winced, wound twinging in time with a blossoming headache. Probably shouldn't try thinking about it right now. Good idea.

 

“You do?”

 

He shrugged about as well as he could in his current position. Which was almost not at all. Ow, his shoulder was not happy about him doing that. “Maybe? I think so. Aiba thinks it might be because of the rest of my brain shit, I don't know.” He shifted the weight on his hand, applying more pressure.

 

“Good a theory as any. Let me see your hand.” She held her hands out.

 

He hesitated. The gauze had already bled through, he didn’t want to move it in case it started bleeding more.

 

She shook her hand in his direction in a gesture he'd come to associate with her losing her patience. “C’mon!”

 

“T’s not pretty, I'll tell you that.” He lifted both hands and moved them towards Boss, leaving a large dripping trail of red on the white tile.

 

She gave his hand a hard look as she moved to apply proper pressure on the wound, adding more gauze as she did so. When’d she grab more gauze? “Shit. How did you get this?”

 

Again, he tried to shrug, sort of hard to do with one shoulder crushed against the cabinet. Also, it hurt, why did he keep doing that? “Knife. Got stabbed. Got another one on my shoulder, not deep though.”

 

She looked up from his hand and looked at his shoulders. She looked at the wound, and after a moment passed, looked back down to the more pressing injury at hand. Ha, hand. “It better not be. Paramedics are right behind me, ok?”

 

He nodded, wavering momentarily as a wave of dizziness passed over him at the motion. Right, not gonna. Move that anymore. Yikes. “Yup.”

 

Another look of concern washed over B- Shizue’s face. It was so weird, seeing her like this. Wait, no it wasn’t, she looked like this all the time. Or did she? He was confused now. What was he talking about? Wait, he hadn’t been talking at all. Shizue pressed the injury on his hand a little harder to get his attention back. “Hey, look at me. No passing out.”

 

He blinked slowly, listening to what she was saying. Everything was weird right now. Probably the blood loss. Was the light supposed to be spinning? He didn’t remember putting in a strobe light. Wait, Shizue had said something. Oh, right, not passing out. “Right, got it.”

 

The last thing he remembered was more people entering the bathroom and escorting him outside and into an ambulance before he passed out.

Chapter Text

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The hospital was quiet. Mizuki wasn’t sure if it was just the atmosphere of the place, or if this wing of the hospital had soundproofing, but it was quiet. The whole thing was a little eerie. Worse was the reason she was here in the first place. 

 

Hitomi had been driving her back to the apartment when she’d gotten the text. Date had been attacked in their own, heavily secured apartment. The whole thing had put her on edge, and when they got to the hospital she insisted they let her stay overnight. Not that she cared about him or whatever, but… What if they came back to finish the job?

 

Mizuki wasn’t exactly sure how long she’d been awake now, but the sun was coming through the window now.

 

The door to her left swung open, and Boss stepped inside.

 

She turned immediately to Mizuki as soon as the door was shut behind her. Mizuki wouldn’t have been able to place the look on her face even if she wasn’t half asleep. “Doctor said he'll be out of surgery in a few. The injury was pretty bad, but since he didn't cut anything too major, he's in no immediate danger.”

 

She needed to know, she needed to know what had happened. “What’d they do to him?”

 

Boss must’ve misunderstood her question, because she listed what the doctors had done instead. “Cleaned up the cut, stitched it shut, all that. They had to reset one of the bones in his hand, but other than that it was just putting it all back together.”

 

...She’d leave it for now. Boss probably didn’t want to talk about it. What she did get from that was more important anyways. “So he's ok?”

 

Boss gave her a firm nod. “Yep, he'll live. Probably needs physical therapy after the stitches are out, but other than that he's fine.”

 

She curled up in her seat a bit more. The hospital was cold. “Good.”

 

Boss continued standing for a few more moments before sitting in the empty chair beside her. 

 

Eventually she started again. “Are the Sagans here?”

 

Mizuki nodded. Sensei had come back earlier this morning with Iris, after being politely made to leave last night due to not being registered as family on Date’s medical info or whatever. “Yea. Iris wanted to get breakfast from the food court so they went out to get something to eat.”

 

Boss gave her an odd look. Mizuki might call it concern. Maybe. “You didn't want to go?”

 

Mizuki shrugged. “Wasn't hungry.”

 

“I get it.”

 

There was a gentle knock on the door. Mizuki had heard it several times through the night as well-intentioned nurses came to check on her. 

 

The person, evidently a doctor a moment later from her demeanor, stepped inside. “Hello, you must be Mr. Dates' relatives? We’re bringing him out from the OR now. Surgery went well, and he should make a full recovery, granted some possible loss of sensitivity in his hand.”

 

Boss stood and nodded. “Yea, I'd expect that.”

 

The doctor nodded and turned around to wave someone inside. A moment later, they rolled a stiff looking gurney with Date on it inside the room. Mizuki froze. He was right there, being moved carefully to the hospital bed, making sure none of the weird wires or tubes were tangled before turning to leave. 

 

The doctor turned back to face her and Boss. Mostly Boss. “He should be awake soon. When he does, please page one of the nurses with the button over here.” He pointed to a large button next to the heart rate monitor.

 

Boss nodded again. There really wasn’t much else to do though. “Alright.”

 

The doctor nodded back (Again. What the hell was with hospitals and nodding?) and stepped out of the room, sliding the door closed behind him with a click.

 

Boss tilted her head to the bed. “See? He’s fine.”

 

Mizuki pointedly kept her eyes off it. She was worried but… She really, really didn’t want to look. This whole situation already felt too familiar for her liking. “Is Aiba still in there?”

 

“Yup.” Boss said, popping the ‘p.’

 

“Why hasn’t she popped out yet then?” Mizuki’s phone pinged less than a moment later. She slid it out of her pocket and took a look. It was… From Date’s number?

 

Boss raised an eyebrow. “She text you?”

 

“Uh. Yea.” The text must’ve been from Aiba then… Didn't know she could hear me. “She says, ‘As much as I would like to join in on the conversation, it is safer that I stay in place until Date is awake.’”

 

“Makes sense. She's probably monitoring his vitals too.” Mizuki guessed it made sense. Who better to monitor his vitals than the AI directly hooked up to his brain?

 

She fiddled with her phone, still not looking over at Date. “He better wake up soon.”

 

Boss huffed a laugh. “Am I not good enough of a conversation partner?” She returned to the seat beside Mizuki. “Relax, he'll be up in a minute or two. Anaesthetics always worked weird on him.”

 

Huh? “It did?”

 

“Was one of the only good things about the body swaps. He had an actual metabolism.”

 

There was the sound of rustling fabric over on the bed, and Mizuki finally looked over at the bed. Date was shifting around on the bed, blinking groggily. 

 

Mizuki could hear the smirk in Boss’s voice. “Speak of the devil.”



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Date blinked a couple of times, eyes adjusting to the bright ceiling lights, and the brightness of the room in general. Hadn’t it been dark out when he’d gone to So’s…? 

 

“About time you woke up, stupid!”

 

He did his best to sit up, squinting. It didn’t work too well. “Ngh, wha?”

 

Boss’s voice came from somewhere beside him. “You're in the hospital, Kaname. Do you remember what happened?”

 

“Do I..?” The flash of a gunshot and blue hair flickered through his mind’s eye. “Mizuki! Is Mizuki ok?”

 

He thrashed, trying to sit up. He needed to know if Mizuki was okay, did she get away from So-

 

The EKG was going wild with his heart rate, and he could feel IV’s tugging against his skin but he needed to know

 

He felt small hands on his shoulders, pushing him back towards the bed with more strength behind them than there had any right to be. “I'm right here! Stop moving, you're pulling the cords!”

 

He blinked, eyes focusing in on the person in front of him. It was Mizuki. She was okay. “You're- Oh. Oh, good.” He stopped his flailing and blinked. Wait… why had he been flailing again? Wait, Boss had said something, right? “Sorry. What?”

 

“You're at the hospital. A group of people broke into your apartment and attacked you.” He turned his head to look at Boss as best he could, being more or less flat on the bed.

 

He squinted, trying to think. That… “Oh. Yea, I remember now.”

 

[ Date, would you mind moving slightly? I would like to speak with the both of them as well. ]

 

“Yea, here.” He sat up more slowly this time and held out a hand for Aiba to hop into. Or at least, he was going to until it pulsed with a faint pain. Oh yeah. He’d been stabbed, hadn’t he? 

 

“Or, uh. Here.” He switched hands, holding his right hand out instead.

 

She bounced out of his eye, off his palm, and onto the small bedside table. 

 

Boss pulled the chair closer to the bedside and sat down. “I hate to do this now, but it's better to ask while the memories are still fresh. Do you mind if I ask you some questions about what happened?”

 

“Nope, shoot away.” It was probably for the best anyways, his memory was shitty enough where he might forget most of the details if they waited too long.

 

She pulled out her phone and pressed a few buttons before starting. “Alright. Did you recognize any of the people attacking you?”

 

He tried to think about it, if he knew them at all, but all it did was give him a headache. “...No, not really.”

 

“I'm sensing a ‘but’ here.”

 

Well, she was right. “But, they seemed familiar. It reminded me of the feeling I got a week ago? With that dude at the grocery store.”

 

Mizuki chimed in. When had she moved her chair? “From when we went ingredients shopping?”

 

He nodded. “Yup. Same feeling. There's gotta be something up with them I’m recognizing, but I really don't know what.”

 

Aiba gave her 2 cents. [ “I have been reviewing the recording of my perspective of the events, and I cannot say that I recognize them from anything specific either. However, Date is correct in that he recognizes them. But yet again, I do not know how.” ]

 

Boss nodded and tapped something out on her phone. “Sounds about right. Anything of note about the attackers?”

 

What was that other thing… He’d noticed it while he was bleeding out on his bathroom floor… Oh, right. “All of them were pretty synchronized. Two of them got up after I knocked them over too. Hell, I smacked one of them with my gun and they got up a minute or so later.”

 

[“ It was exactly 1 minute and 36 seconds. However, I did detect movement behind you before that. So I cannot conclusively say that they were unconscious. ]

 

He coulda sworn he hit them with enough force to concuss. He wasn’t exactly pulling his punches. “Hm.”

 

Mizuki must’ve been having similar thoughts. “You should’ve hit them harder then.” 

 

He gave her a flat look. “I hit those guys hard enough to knock their skulls in, trust me.”

 

Boss nodded in agreement. “Can confirm, you broke one of their faces in, apparently.”

 

Nice .

 

Mizuki scrunched up her face in disgust at the thought. “Ew.”

 

Wait… He broke their face on the door. In his apartment. Aw, man. He sighed. “Yea, I know, it's gonna be a pain in the ass to clean up.”

 

Boss put her phone away, apparently done with her interrogation for now. “I can have CSI clean it for you if you want,” She offered. 

 

He scoffed. “I don't trust those guys with cleanup at my place. They can do normal sweeps, sure. But I'm cleaning it properly after.”

 

“Don't make it too clean.”

 

“I know how to do proper cleanup, c’mon Shizue.” He wasn’t going to use bleach to clean everything, that’d just make more of a mess.

 

“Yea, I know.”

 

There was a knock on the door, seemingly carefully balanced between excitement and hesitation.

 

“Is Uncle up yet? We brought food!”

 

There was a silent kerfuffle as Boss quickly handed him Aiba to be placed back into his eye socket. He managed it right as the door slid open, and in walked Iris and Hitomi carrying a few trays of food, and a nurse in tow. 

 

Hospital food. Yum.

 

[ Only you would say that so honestly. ]

 

You can't even taste food!

 

The nurse, all business, walked over to the patient monitor and started writing things down and checking the IV drips. 

 

[ Yet even I know it does not deserve that response. ]

 

Hitomi approached the bed, placing the tray on the bedside table. “Date, you’re awake! How are you feeling?”

 

He shrugged, immediately followed by a wince as he was rudely reminded he’d gotten sliced up on the shoulder. He must be on a lot of painkillers right now with how little he felt the pain. “Been better, been worse. I'm sure you know the feeling.”

 

Hitomi brushed her hand against her arm with a frown. “Yes, I do. Though, do try not to match with me like that. You scared all of us with that.”

 

He grimaced slightly. Right… “I Didn't mean to- sorry. I'm alive, though, I think I just got myself into another case.”

 

Boss leaned forward, face somehow playful and serious at the same time. He's not sure how she did it. “Looks like it. Though, you're not pulling the same stuff you did on the last major one, you hear me?”

 

He turned his head to her and smirked. “Not without you in tow I won't.”

 

She grinned back. “Better. Still, I'm not going to test how far I can push higher ups more than once a year after all that shit,”

 

“Noted.” Or at least, he hoped Aiba noted it. He was only half sure he was going to remember most of this later, what with drugs and all.

 

Hitomi had acquired a chair at some point, and was now sitting on the opposite side of the bed with Iris. “Is there anything we can do to help?”

 

Boss stepped in before he could even say ‘no, not right now.’ “Best thing you both can offer is somewhere for these two to stay. CSI is going to be crowding the apartment for a few days to collect any evidence.”

 

...Oh yeah. The apartment was the crime scene. And Boss’s apartment was tiny as hell, meaning there was no way both him and Mizuki would be able to stay there. The chance that Mizuki would hit him over the head with her pipe on the first day was more than likely.

 

Iris clapped her hands enthusiastically. “Oh, that's easy! Mizuki is already over pretty often, and we have a spare bedroom!”

 

Date raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”

 

Hitomi chimed in, confirming that Iris’s offer was, in fact, not just her being excited. “We wouldn't offer if we were not sure.”

 

Boss, once again, chimed in before he could even get a word in. “Good point.”

 

Iris leaned forward, hands pressing into the mattress. “Does this mean we're finally going to have a proper sleepover?”

 

Mizuki gave her an odd look. “We always have sleepovers though?”

 

Iris rolled her eyes, but the grin didn’t leave her face. “Well, yea. But now it’s with everyone!”

 

She started rocking back and forth on her heels, and, yeah Iris was wound up now, great combo for him and painkillers. “Mom! We should totally do that sawblade movie marathon you were talking about! That would be so fun!”

 

Oh no.

 

Hitomi raised her hand to her mouth, half hiding her smile. “Oh, that sounds like a great idea.”

 

Boss tapped her chin in thought. “Sawblade… Those were the android horror movies from a few years ago, right? They were pretty good.”

 

Iris flipped her focus to Boss across the bed. “Oh, Boss, do you want to come over for it too?”

 

She glanced at Date, grinning slyly. “I'll think about it, sounds like it might be fun.”

 

She just wants to come and watch me squirm.

 

[ Most likely, yes. ]

 

“Oooh, Mizuki, would you be able to bring over some of the cool equipment from Lemniscate? That way it's like, super realistic.”

 

“Oh, good idea. I should be able to.”

 

This is getting worse and worse.

 

[“ I can help you calibrate the tech, should you need it .”]

 

“Thanks Aiba!”

 

Not you too!



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Date sat on the edge of the hospital bed, waiting for the doctor to explain whatever he was there to explain before he was officially allowed to leave. Probably stuff about how to take care of his injuries, and maybe a painkiller prescription. Actually, he’d definitely need the painkillers. He’d been on pretty strong ones since he got here and he could still feel the injuries sometimes, so he’d hate to discover what it felt like without the painkillers.

 

The doctor flipped through a few sheets on a clipboard. “Now, just to make sure you know how to take care of the wound after leaving here, I printed out instructions on post-op aftercare. The same document has been forwarded in your account under the hospital. If you start to experience any of the symptoms listed, the wound gets infected, or you just have a question. Please give us a call or come back.”

 

They pulled a small packet of paper off the clipboard and handed it to him. Date took it with a nod. It wasn’t terribly thick, and the font was a few points larger than normal. “Sounds good.”

 

The doctor continued. “Secondly, your scripts. There are two I have sent to your pharmacy, which according to here, is connected to the hospital, correct?”

 

It is?  

 

[ Yes, I changed it for convenience, since it is right here. Hitomi is picking up your prescriptions right now. ]

 

Got it.

 

He nodded to the doctor again. “Yep.”

 

They flipped through a few more sheets before turning their attention back on him. “For the first few days it's expected that the pain will be more severe. There are instructions on the bottle, but I like to be thorough. The first one is a pain drug. The pills are an extended release tablet. Take them once a day, with or without food. When the pain is less, you can take the ibuprofen. That one is a take as needed, but don't take more than two a day. If the pain still isn't easing by that amount, let us know.”

 

Hell yes, painkillers.

 

“Sounds good, Doctor…” He glanced at the name tag on the doctor’s coat, “Makoto.”

 

They gave him a bright and almost certainly practiced smile. “Great. Then you're good to go. You’ll need to come back in about a week or so, we’ll give you a call.”

 

Well, there go his hopes of avoiding ever setting foot in a hospital again. “Alright.”

 

Dr. Makoto slid the door open, and outside was Iris, rocking back and forth on her heels with a grin. The doctor gave her a slight nod before heading off down the hall and Iris stepped inside. 

 

“You ready to go then Uncle?”

 

Date stood from the bed, a little off kilter from the painkillers and being in bed for 2 days, but it only took him a moment to get his balance back. “Let's get outta here.”

 

They stepped out the door and headed down the hall to the elevator, and pressed the button for the ground floor. Mizuki and Hitomi were waiting for them a little ways away from the elevator. 

 

Date turned to Hitomi for the moment. “So, we’re really going with the ‘crashing at the Sagan’s’ plan?”

 

Hitomi snickered a little. “Yes, the girls are quite excited for what they are interpreting as an ‘extended sleepover.’”

 

Date gave a one shouldered shrug. “Guess we should get going then. wouldn’t want to keep these two waiting for much longer.” He placed his good hand on Mizuki’s head and ruffled it, much to her complaint.



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Iris hopped ahead of them into the Sagan’s house and turned to spread her arms out in a dramatic gesture. “Aaaaand welcome back!”

 

Date turned to Hitomi and rubbed his good hand awkwardly across the back of his neck. “Thanks for letting us both stay here, Hitomi. You really didn’t have to.”

 

“Oh, of course.” She gave him a soft smile, before turning to the kitchen counter.  I’m going to go put the meds on the counter over there, ok? The doctor didn’t say you needed to take them yet, right?”

 

He shook his head. “Nope, they said to start tomorrow. They gave me something before taking the IV out apparently.”

 

Hitomi set the bag down on the counter. “Alright.”

 

Date was hit by a wave of dizziness, and he swayed on his feet. [ I believe it may be wise to sit back down, Date. ]

 

He nodded, mumbling while carefully making his way to the couch. “Yea, good idea.”

 

When the dizziness eased, Aiba spoke again. [ Boss sent a message earlier this morning. She said that you are on paid time off until your stitches are out, and I quote, she ‘will not let you come into the fucking office without a chaperone.’ ]

 

He rolled his eyes. “Great, tell her thanks, and that I'm not a five year old.” Seriously, a chaperone? I already have one.

 

[ I am not a chaperone, I am a highly advanced AI. ]

 

He huffed a quiet laugh. Close enough.

 

[ No it isn't! Although, I do feel like one sometimes. ]

 

Hey!

 

He blinked sluggishly. Man, he hadn’t even done anything and he was exhausted. Maybe he could just… Close his eyes for a second. Yeah, that sounded good. Was the couch always this comfortable?



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Hitomi flipped the tabs for the medicine case open one by one. Actually opening pill bottles with one hand was always a pain, even with practice, so she figured Date would appreciate not having to figure it out. She should probably figure out what she was going to make for dinner. Oh, and for lunch. Mizuki and Iris would just come and ask, she was sure, but she doubted Date would. She glanced over at the couch sitting up, where he’d sat down just a few minutes after getting home.

 

She was only half surprised to see him completely out cold on the couch. He always had been able to sleep just about anywhere. But maybe he’d appreciate a blanket. 

 

She dried off her hand and then made her way to the laundry room. She was pretty sure she had a few blankets that were stored in one of the cabinets… There they were! She pulled a soft, but light one out of the blanket pile and made her way back to the living room. Date was still out cold on the couch, and even looked like he’d started to slowly slide toward the cushions instead of sitting up against the back of the couch. He’d probably end up flat on the couch in a bit, if she was being honest.

 

She shook the blanket out and carefully draped it over him before heading back to the counter.