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Red strings

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They were left alone in the meeting room, Atsushi and Issay. After Atsushi’s outburst, the silence that came after felt like a thick blanket stifling everything. The knowledge that they would be separated again weighed heavy on their minds.

Issay’s imminent departure wasn’t the only thing that affected Atsushi. The roller coaster of emotions that this one day brought was rough, to say the least. Not to mention the numerous revelations that were unveiled during the meeting. With no one else aside from Issay around, Atsushi felt the day’s events overwhelm him as he collapsed into the nearest chair.

Atsushi’s fists were still clenched in fury as he felt Issay’s presence envelop him, holding him. “Things were so simple,” he heard Issay mumble.

Forcing himself to breathe deeply, Atsushi whispered to no one in particular, “How… How could they…”

“I can see what they were betting on,” Issay said, stroking Atsushi’s hair. “No one could have guessed the turn in the old man’s health,” he added. Letting Atsushi rest his head against his stomach, Issay continued to play with Atsushi’s hair as he muttered, “At least this time we’re on the same side, sort of.”

Atsushi made a protesting noise, turning to bury his face in Issay’s shirt. “But it’s not helping…” he grumbled.

Issay rubbed Atsushi’s back in circles, choking out a bitter laugh. “If we do merge the operations, that’ll give us more reason to meet though, doesn’t it?”

“But I want you to stay ,” Atsushi carped, holding Issay tighter. “To just… stay with me. Is that too much to ask for?”

“Apparently so,” Issay answered cheerlessly, kneading the back of Atsushi’s neck with his fingers.

“I can’t even have you for one day before… this…”

Issay sighed.

“Do you think they’ll be nice enough to let me keep you for one more day?” Atsushi asked, hopeful.

“I’m afraid not,” Issay chuckled. “It’s an emergency, isn’t it?”

Atsushi made a frustrated noise.

“Besides, the sooner I leave, the sooner I can get started on things, and the sooner I can come back, right?”

Atsushi made the same noise again, shaking his head with his face still buried in Issay’s blouse.

“Just give me two months. Two months and I’ll come back,” Issay whispered to Atsushi.

“How would I know you’re not dead before that?” Atsushi asked. “And you’re probably not going to stay for good even if you do come back, are you?”

“Mmh… Well…” Issay thought it over. “I’ll call you every week?” he suggested.

“What about staying for good?”

Issay hummed, twirling Atsushi’s short hair in his fingers. “I guess that’ll have to depend on the circumstances…”

“Why must you go…” Atsushi complained, headbutting Issay lightly.

“Well, you heard them. It’s more dangerous if I don’t go than if I do,” Issay reminded. “If I do take over, I’ll at least have people watching my back for me.”

“I could do that too,” Atsushi retorted, petulant.

“No, you can’t,” Issay insisted, smiling. “Not when we’re making sweet, sweet love, you can’t."

Atsushi breathed a frustrated sigh, shifting in his seat as blood rushed to his cheeks. “You… You can’t…” He wanted counter Issay but Atsushi failed to find the words to do so.

Issay laughed as he nuzzled against Atsushi. “It’ll work out, just you see,” he promised. “If I don’t come back in two months, feel free to come for me.”

 

“So, that was two months ago,” Atsushi said, taking a swig from his beer mug. “Almost two months ago, actually.”

“And does he actually call you every week?” Yoshida, who sat next to Atsushi at the bar counter, asked.

They were at Tamori’s Bar again. Ever since Issay first disappeared, they’ve come to meet here regularly, talking about Issay while exchanging updates about their lives, albeit vague ones. They were still opponents when it came to the law, after all.

Atsushi nodded, putting his half-empty mug down. “The last call from him was almost five days ago,” he said.

“How’s he been?” Yoshida asked.

“He sounded tired, worn out,” Atsushi recalled, eyes scrutinising the alcohol shelf behind the bar as he thought. “But I think he’s fine, not in any particular danger.” Fingers drawing lines with the condensation from his mug, Atsushi lost himself in the memory of the call. “He didn’t say much about what’s going on though,” he added after a pause.

Yoshida chuckled, taking a drink of beer. “That’s quite like him, being ambiguous with things,” he commented, turning away from the bar counter and leaning against it as he observed the rest of the bar. “I still can’t believe he kept something like that under wraps for so many years though.”

“That really was… quite something,” Atsushi agreed. “But, I guess if you hated something that much, you wouldn’t even want to mention it, much less think about it. Especially with his original intention to stay in the force until he retires.”

Yoshida guffawed. “I swear, that man has the most mundane of dreams! Wanting to retire and live a quiet life out in the suburbs, by the sea something,” he said. “Though I can sort of understand why now.”

“A quiet life huh… Sounds like an impossible dream,” Atsushi mused, propping his chin up on an elbow. “Unless… we pull a disappearing act…”

“If you’re going to do that, at least give us a warning first,” Yoshida cautioned. “I’ve had enough of sudden disappearances for one lifetime.”

“I’ll definitely let you know if I ever decide to do that,” Atsushi said, chuckling.

“Anyway, are you really going to travel out and look for him if he doesn’t show up?” Yoshida asked, changing the topic.

“Of course,” Atsushi said without hesitation. “First train out tomorrow, actually.”

“Ah? Today’s the…?”

“Yeah, the last day for his deadline of two months,” Atsushi nodded, swallowing another mouthful of beer. “A few more hours and I can get my tickets for tomorrow morning’s train.”

“Huh, two months already,” Yoshida muttered. “That’s fast.”

“No, it’s not,” Atsushi retorted. “Not to me.”

“That’s probably because you’ve been counting down the days,” Yoshida surmised.

Atsushi picked up his mug and drank his beer with a sheepish smile. “You can’t blame me,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’ve been looking forward to.”

“I suppose you’ve told your associates that you intend to leave first thing tomorrow?”

“They should know,” Atsushi said briefly.

“Still not talking to them?”

“We’re talking, actually,” Atsushi corrected. "It's just that I’ve mentioned often enough what I plan to do so… it shouldn’t be a surprise to them.”

Yoshida hummed, unconvinced. “If you say so…” he muttered. Sitting up straight, Yoshida adjusted his posture as he watched patrons walk in and out of the bar. Noticing someone odd, he frowned and squinted his eyes, saying, “Some guy just walked in wearing a three-piece suit.”

Atsushi laughed. “What idiot wears a three-piece suit to a place like this?!”

“This idiot.” A familiar voice whispered into Atsushi’s ear. An arm wrapped around his shoulders. “Hello, love.”