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Your mind likes to suppress itself from the details of how things came to be, but you know you were much, much worse before than you are now. Warm house, food on the table and of course, Shuichi – it was more than you could have asked for.

“I’m back.” Shuichi opened the door to the apartment you two shared. He was still a student in college, studying during the day, solving cases (and by that meaning working under his uncle) by night. With how busy his life was and the stress to get by each month you have no idea how or why he decided to take in a therapy case.

Aka, you.

You rolled out from your position on the couch, wiping bits of dried glue from your hand before helping Shuichi carry in the bags of groceries to the kitchen. He tried to wave you off when you first started doing this, but the distraught look on your face the first time signed a silent vow and he just went along with it from then on.

“What do you want to eat today?” He asked, removing his blazer off. That panicked you when you first arrived as well. Everything did, it was like taming a feral cat.

Yet slowly, slowly, he had gotten you to calm down bit by bit.

“It’s up to you.” You mumbled, resuming your project on the coffee table.

The radio was playing music as the two of you worked in silence, the only songs being the dull strokes of glue on paper and the low whine of the microwave.

Shuichi warned you that the food was almost ready so you slid the contents on the table into a cardboard box beside the couch. You rinsed your hands in the sink before returning to Shuichi setting your food and his down on the table.

You took your spot on the couch, slowly chewing the food while feeling the presence of his leg so close to yours.

“What are you working on, if you don’t mind me asking?” He asked softly, coaxing answers out gently.

“Cards.” You took a long drink. “I’m using a thick paper and cutting them into equal rectangles, then drawing out the details and then adding on rolled up newspapers before coloring and glazing everything.”  Art was something you enjoyed doing mostly because it was calming and there was no pressure to fail, the only bad thing that could come out of art was hurting yourself.

Which, you weren’t a stranger to.

He nodded, and smiled when you talked. How much of that, was fake, surely he couldn’t smile all day. “Sounds fun.”

You helped Shuichi clean up dinner before changing into pajamas. Nothing fancy, just loose fitting clothing that ruffled around you, it was nice, it made you feel like Royalty.

Shuichi read a book on the couch under a lamp for 10 minutes before he kept flipping back to pages and his head kept lolling forward.

“You should rest.” You said, taking the book from him.

He smiled at you, “Only if you join me.”

His back faced you in the bed, he never forced you into any physical contact of any sort and never pushed you past your comfort zone, if what little bit of sanity could be called a comfort zone. He never wanted you in the bed with any impure desires, he just wanted to make sure you were resting in a safe place.

You fell asleep in the tub, once, during your childhood. There was ugly, painful moment where water rushed into your lungs and you were quite literally drowning but when you broke the surface you thought about doing it again and staying under.

“Hey, you’re shaking.” He whispered, turning to face you in the dark.

“I know.” You curled into a ball, shaking the memory. “I know…”

He let out a deep breath, before slowly running his hand on top of your head. “Hey, remember what I said?”

“Yeah.”

“You can do it, you know.”

You hesitated. “I want to, I just, I….”

Shuichi waited a minute, before he finally worked up the nerve to place a hand on your shoulder. You grabbed his hand and used it for leverage to pull yourself out of your position.

He scooped you up, bringing your head back above the covers to the bed. “Just breath.”

And so you did. In for 4, out for 4.

‘I have a bed, a warm house and food in my stomach’ you thought, continuing to list off the things you currently had for hours until you finally fell asleep

“This is Kaede.” He introduced you to the bright cheery girl, who smelled like flowers and contained the sun in her eyes.

Your inferiority complex kicked in like a punch to the stomach. “Hello.”

“Shuichi’s told me all about you! Nice to finally meet you!” She extended her hand, you shook it robotically.

Jazz music played through the speakers of the café, par your decision and with a bit of coxing from Shuichi, you decided to meet one of his friends from school. The two had met in high school, surprisingly, during drama. Kaede was part of the music cast and Shuichi was assisting behind the scenes.

“You’re studying…music?” You choked, taking a sip of the drink with a dozen different syllables and whipped cream- you don’t even know what it is you just choose something from the menu.

“Yeah, Music performance, Ear training, that type of stuff, all of it is under the ‘art’ category.” She laughed, twirling her hair. It was done up in a pony-tail with spare locks falling at the sides of her face.

You tightened your grip on your mug.

“You do art, right? Shuichi was telling me about it.”

“Oh.” Saihara paled. “Sorry, I- probably should have told you before-”

“It’s fine.” You waved him off. “I just make things, from time to time.”

“That’s amazing! Despite what I take I’m clueless when trying to work with my hands, they’re really only good for playing the piano.” Another airy laugh, as she flattened her skirt. Shuichi smiled across the table at her. “Maybe we should introduce her to Angie!”

Maybe her hands were better for other things. Like when she was pinning Shuichi against the wall and wrapping her hands around Shuichi’s-

“I think Angie-san and her have….artistic differences.” Shuichi scratched his neck, shyly.

“Yeah, maybe.” You mumbled into your cookie. A piece of it broke off and sunk under the waves of whipping cream and chocolate. You frowned.

“Hm…maybe Iruma-San?”

No.” Shuichi begged. “That’s a nightmare waiting to happen.”

“Anything with Miu, to be honest is a nightmare waiting to happen.” Kaede pointed out, sending the two into laughing again.

Sinking under the couch and dying is sadly, not an option, you told yourself.

---

“Are you? Okay?” Shuichi gulped when you got home and instantly dug a hole under the covers.

“I’m fine.” You lied, shutting out light. You were tired, the entire day with Kaede had shattered what little of an ego you had left and stomped on your heart numerous times.

It’s not like you were dating Shuichi, so why would you be jealous. You don’t have a right to be jealous, he’s letting you stay and live off of him like a parasite for free the least you can do is go along with whoever he’s thinking of banging and support him.

Hell, if he asked you to have sex you’d give it to him just because you’ve got no right to say no.

He whispered your name, lowly, as he took a seat on the mattress. “I know you didn’t love Kaede.”

“Not true, She’s very nice, and pretty, and likable.” You argued.

“But that’s the thing, isn’t it?” Shuichi sighed. “She’s everything you feel like you don’t have.”

Well shit, should have known better than to try and hide something from a detective.

He paused, waiting for you to say something before resting a hand on the covers. “S/o. I like you a lot. A lot. What I’m doing, why I’m doing it is because I like you a lot. I want to help you recover and get better, if I can do that in any way I will.”

It’s too much, too much that you’re not worthy of.

“I’m sick, Shuichi.” You choked, pleading him not to pull at your heart, which was beating and heating you up rapidly.

“And I’m here to help you, but I can’t do it unless you want to.” He removed his hand.“Please, come out.”

If there’s one thing you regret the most, besides existing, it was falling for people who showed you decency human kindness.

---

There were a lot of rules with dating you.

No fast movements, no forceful movements, you usually always had to be in control. Failure to follow through would throw you head first into a panic attack.

It wasn’t fair for him, you thought, scanning the rack of sweaters.

“Do you like it?”

You jumped, turning around to see a sheepish Shuichi.

Shuichi was tired, he hadn’t gotten any sleep the previous night, the dark circles stood out even under his sunglasses, “You can get it if you want.”

It was a sweater, summer was approaching and you wanted something to hide your arms, Shuichi could have- should have taken a nap because he was going out again tonight for something you couldn’t remember the name to. Yet he knew you wanted to head downtown to a thrift store owned by an elderly couple. Everything could be bought at a thrift store, everything.

“I…summer is coming up I won’t need it-” you went to shove it back on the rack.

“Do you want it?” He asked again, pulling it back from the rack, looking at you for conformation.

“..uh, yea, yes.”                                                                                                     

He draped it over his arm, extending your hand for his to hold. “Then we’ll get it.”

---

“Tell me about Shuichi, he seems to be a very important person to you.” your therapist said, handing you a mug of hot chocolate.

Technically she wasn’t a psychologist, Shuichi had met her during college (What is it with that boy and meeting people). She offered to help you talk about your feelings, as she was trained in that area.

“He’s…well, I don’t know…” You frowned. Kiruimi brushed her hair out of her eye, crossing her legs on the futon you two were laying on. Her way of treating patients was to put them in their most comfortable environment. In this case, you two built a fort out of blankets and a mattress, draping pixie lights into the tent to see.

“Do you like him?” She asked.

“Well I…I’m grateful to him, eternally grateful.” You started. “He took me out of a really bad position in life and I…” You bit your lip, the words clogging in your throat. “I think, I like him.”

“You two are dating are you not? I think you should be feeling more than platonic emotions.”

“That’s not it. What I feel is more than platonic, but I’m too afraid to ever admit to it.”

“And why is that?”

You stirred the dregs of your drink. “Because once I do that, there’s nothing else to gain and everything else to lose.”

---

You pressed yourself against Shuichi so roughly he was knocked back into the wall. He had returned home after he had been out all day and you had spent the majority of it in the same room, washed with despair.

“Shuichi, Shuichi.” You whispered, clinging to his shirt desperately. Your body was on fire, clammy and sweaty.

He let out a startled mumble, only to be cut off by your lips again. He sinked easily into the motion, supporting you after all of your energy drained out and you could barely hold yourself up. He felt your forehead, wiping the side of your cheek with his thumb.  Even in the darkness of the apartment you could see him frown.

“I’m here, sorry I got home late.” He apologized, gently carrying/ leading you into the bathroom. You let him sit you down on closed lid of the toilet; thought you didn’t want to separate when he fetched a washcloth from the cabinet. He ran it under cool water before he crouched in front of you, wiping your face, arms and legs down. Normally someone might be embarrassed letting someone wash them (albeit just a simple washcloth bath, and you not removing any clothing.) The cool contrast of the water and Shuichi’s skin had you relishing in the feeling.

He wiped his own sweat from his eyes, before offering his arm to help you back into bed. He left the room for the briefest of moments to bring a glass of water. “Drink.” He asked, and you followed through, having barely moved all day.

He discarded his pants and blazer, only having the effort to unbutton his dress shirt before crawling into bed. You wriggled into his arms, which he opened up to immediately.

He fell asleep almost instantly, but you couldn’t blame him, with how much work he forced onto himself. You counted the breaths against your hair, like sheep, until you fell asleep.

---

The first time you had a panic attack around Shuichi was innovatively because of social interactions.

“It’s okay, everything’s going to be okay...” He assured you, one arm wrapped around you and the other pressing buttons on a phone.

It was early in the morning when you two got rudely awakened by the sound of smashing glass. Yells and cries could be heard from one of your neighbors’ door. It sounded like a couple fighting. The woman was crying and yelling as the man kept screaming endlessly.

Non-stop fighting, with nowhere to run and being stuck in the middle of it- a despair you knew too well.

The commotion continued for only 10 more minutes before there was temporary silence, you assumed the authorities were called and had arrived, though the man would yell still from time to time.

You kept trembling, wanting to smack yourself for how terrified you were. Chokes wrapped around your throat as you had buried yourself in Shuichi’s arms, pitifully.

“It’s okay, everything’s okay now.” He cooed, rubbing your back.

You stayed in the fetal position for a long time, whimpering and listening to Shuichi’s voice.

The night lasted long, it only decided to show mercy on you when exhaustion forced you into incapacitation.

---

This was a mistake coming here you thought, trying to stop Ouma from giving you a knowing look.

Shuichi’s friends had all wanted to go out for dinner, he asked if you wanted to come along so that you could meet the rest of his friends. That’s how you found yourself mid crisis with the music playing with neon lights reflecting off the black windows of night.

It was a large group, forcing the knot in your stomach down you nervously said hello to everyone, before taking refuge in a seat between Kaede and Shuichi. The girl had probably been told by Shuichi beforehand that you needed help with this sort of situation, as she talked to you the entire time and kept up a friendly, safe chat. Shuichi occasionally gave your hand a squeeze, for support, whist he was engaged in his own conversation.

The man across the table kept looking at you, it made your squirm in place. Kokichi was it? Every time your eyes met his you could see the fascination in them, refusing to let you go. It was also him who caused the whole commotion.

He ‘accidently’ knocked over a pitcher of water, the stream directly splashing Shuichi. The table gasped.

“You little- Kokichi are you kidding me?” Kaito huffed, slapping the head of the shorter boy.

“Oops, guess I spilt it, didn’t I?” he rubbed the back of his neck, not looking at all remorseful.

“I think I have a change of clothes in my car, come with me Shuichi.” Kaede piped up, tugging the arm of the almost- detective up before he could give an answer. Shuichi desperately tried to make eye contact, trying to let you know he was going to be back soon. You refused, your teeth grinding in your skull, unable to get the thoughts of Kaede and Shuichi getting down in the backseat of her car.

Stupid, you thought, digging your nails into you palm.

“Hey.” 

You released your grip on your palm, turning quickly to see Kokichi taking a seat beside you.

“Um, hi.” You spluttered, unsure of what to say.

“So you’re the girl Shuichi is always talking about.” He whistled. “You’re verrry lucky you know.”

Your face heated, refusing to look him in the eye. It was embarrassing enough whenever Shuichi would address you as his girlfriend, much less anyone else. His eyes would light up, his mouth curling into a smile as he breathed your name.

“No, I mean you’re really lucky.” Ouma reaches over and grips your wrist, the movement startles you, and the growl for him to let go is almost out before it’s cut off by him leaning closer to you, his face inches from yours.

“To be loved by Shuichi.” His voice is low, there’s a thin layer of rage bubbling to the surface of his eyes. “After all, you’re just like me.”

He pulls the hem of his sleeve up. You shove down the urge to vomit.

“How can someone like you be so special, I asked.” He continues, lowering his shirt. “After all, I’ve known Shuichi way longer than you ever had but he gave me no special treatment. I resented you, after all, you’re just the same as me- so what made you any different?”

He lets the air hang thickly for a few moments, before releasing your arm and hopping out of his chair. “Well, that could all be a lie, Shuichi just doesn’t swing that way, in any case- nice to meet you!” with a twirl of his hair he walks away, leaving you shaking.

He’s…not serious is he? Is that what everyone thinks of you? Looking around the table, the various people laughing and talking, but their eyes always quickly moving past you.

So that’s what it is, you realize with a heavy heart. These people couldn’t give less of a shit about some looser who has to resort to digging their pain out of them. No, they all just tolerate you because you’re Shuichi’s girlfriend. That’s all there is and will ever be to it, because no matter what you’ll do in the future there will always be a barrier there all because of your past and the things you’ve done.

Pathetic.

Shuichi and Kaede finally come back; they both take their appropriate seats and Shuichi ruffles his hair with a small handkerchief, rose pink and assumedly Kaede’s. Just another tally for you to check off.

No no no, you don’t want to fall back into the same rhythm. No matter how much it stings or makes you feel nothing you can’t- not after coming this far.

“You alright?” Shuichi asks, his hand resting on your thigh in concern.

“I just ate something bad.” You mumble, getting up. “I’m going to the bathroom.

You look directly at Ouma as you turn to walk away, he gives his knowing look.

This was a mistake. Your heartbeat is faster and louder than the steps you take, floating in the sea of bodies and laughter and happiness. All joy that bounces off of you like two ends of a magnet.

You stall of the bathroom closed, sitting down on the seat and cupping your face in your hands, breathing in and out like Shuichi and Kiruimi taught you to.

But it’s not working, every time you close your eyes all you can hear is Ouma’s voice.
“We’re both the same.”

You didn’t bring a purse with you, or anything for that matter, you realize, hands scrabbling for something, anything to relieve the pain. Your eyes frantically look around the stall, scanning every area for a dropped needle or bobby pin yet all you find is the smooth mucky plastic of the door, round metal of the hinges and tacky tiles on the floor.

With nowhere else to run and not being able to do anything you curl your hand into a fist and bang it over your head, cursing your existence, cursing breathing and living and taking up the space that someone else could have.

You hit until your head rings, and you’re crying for two reasons. A sob finally overtakes you and you sit like that, rocking back and forth with whispers of the life outside drifting in through the vents for a long, long time.

---

“What’s the matter, please.” Shuichi begs, kneeling beside you on the couch. “I want to help you.”

“It’s nothing.” You insist, flipping through your phone idly. The incident at the restaurant had put you in a slump for the past few days.

Shuichi’s brows were furrowed, he was in pain seeing you suffer wordlessly like this and he desperately wanted to help.

“I won’t force you to say anything, but please tell me if you need help.” He took a seat beside you, your body itched to envelop him, but each time you wanted to a tiny Ouma circled around your head, tapping, tapping and whispering You don’t deserve any of this.

He let the t.v do all the talking for a better half of an hour before he decided to talk. “Kiruimi wanted to know when you wanted to go talk with her again.”

“I’m not sure.”

“I know, just keep it in mind.”

“Right.”

“She really enjoys it you know? We all enjoy helping you, we want to see you get better, and we’re here to help-“

“Jesus Christ, Shuichi.” You snapped, throwing yourself off of the couch. “That’s all that ever happens, that’s all that anyone ever talks about!”

He whispered your name, “Hey, I-”

“I get it already!” anger was rushing through you, anger at yourself and everyone else. “You all want to help me, help me become better and be this healthy person I never was but you know what- Nothing has happened! Through all of his time and the effort everyone puts in doesn’t matter how nice they all are to me or how they say they car and you know why?! Because in the end whenever my back is turned all they ever have and will talk about is how fucked up I am.”

It was Shuichi’s turn to get up, “That’s not true, I-”

Bullshit!” You roared. “You can’t look me dead in the eye and tell me you wanted to be with someone like me, because it’s not true! Stop fooling yourself- no one truly loves someone, only the things they can do for them.

“You need to calm down.” He sighed.

“Calm down? Fuck you! Fuck this place- this home and everything that you’ve given to me because one day you’re just going to snap or- or explode and say ‘to hell with her ‘and throw me away like I’m some piece of trash!”

“That’s not-!” he sighed, stressed, running his hands through his hair. “I’m trying, I really am. I promise I won’t abandon you. I don’t think badly of you no matter what you do- you and I are just as human as everyone else. And like one, you deserve someone to love you- and I do love you.

You hesitated, an argument building up in your throat. Shuichi clasped your hands, squeezing them tightly. “I love you. God, I love you, it hurts to see you like this.” He actually looked like he was on the verge of tears. “You don’t have to be this way, you don’t have to hate yourself so much.

Now you felt like crying, or screaming and jumping off a cliff where you could endlessly fall forever and ever.

“Please.” His voice cracked as his arms brought you into his chest.“Please, I love you, please…”

And this touch, this warmth and pure love that you’ve never had all of your life is finally within your grasp and for once, god, for once there’s a chance- you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The first word is hard to find but the rest of them are attached by a thin spiders web and follow easily. You open your mouth, and let the little spider spin it’s web and tell its story to Shuichi.

---

6 months have passed since that night. Summer has come and gone where heat waves have been replaces with icicles and thick layers of frigid snow.

You sprinkle flakes of food into your fish bowl, watching the paper thin flakes barely break the surface of the water as the orange goldfish gulps water and food at the surface, it’s mouth bobbing up and down forming an ‘o’. You had taken the time to craft decorations and created small attractions for the fish in the tank, a clay made sunken ship, tassels hanging from the edge of the tank with pom-poms of red and green.

You filled a small watering can from the tap before sprinkling your house plants with water. You had made small sweaters that fit around their pots, ‘so they wouldn’t get cold’ you told Shuichi, he laughed.

It was Kiruimi’s idea to get some plants and a pet for you to take care of, and so far you had loved it, taking on a motherly role and naming everything. Shuichi found it adorable, playing along and assisting on his day’s off feeding/ watering everyone.

Your current fish was the reason you had a job, surprisingly. The pet store was hiring. While you didn’t know how well you’d fare with customer interactions, you were happy feeding all of the animals and stocking shelves for a living. It wasn’t much, but at least you could help with the bills (not that you’d need to, Shuichi is a one man army) and you even befriended your coworkers.

“I’m back.” Shuichi announced, as you bounded the door to kiss him. He smiled, dropping his bags before cupping your cheek and properly kissing you. “Did you miss me.”

“No, Richard and the others kept me busy.” You smirked, flopping back on the couch, the heater was cranked up to the max, even so you pulled a blanket over yourself. Shuichi sat beside you, undoing his tie. “Aha, pretty soon you won’t need me around here.” He teased back, scooting right up next to you. You happily flipped around and lay down on his lap.

“Nah, you’re their father- you still have to stick around at least until they’re done elementary.”
He combed your hair with his hand, making you shiver. “I suppose so.”

Snowflakes batted against the window, the apartment was quiet other than the bubbling of the fish tank.

“Hey, Shuichi.”

“Hm?”

“Thank you. For everything.” You turned your mouth to his thigh and mumbled. “I love you.” Even after all the two of you have been through, it was hard for you to say it. You could feel Shuichi tighten, his breath hitching for 2 seconds.

“I love you too.” He’s blushing and you know it, you smile to yourself.

Sometimes life has a funny way of teaching you things.

Sometimes they won’t exactly be in the way you wanted as well, god knows when Shuichi first took you in you were as approachable as a feral cat, hissing at him or anything that so much as moved.

But just like feral cats, you were tamed and taught and learned how to adapt, learned how to not spend every second of every day regretting your existence. That’s not to say you’re cured. A fairy didn’t come down from the skies and waved a magic wand and nothing was instantly better. It was rough and hard and was anything but easy, Even now it wasn’t easy.

It taught you that everyone is battling his own demons, Kokichi, masking hatred by taking it out on himself and lying. Even Kaede, you realized- the smiles that never quite met her eyes, the sincere looks just barely, barely laced with sadness whenever you two touched.

Everyone had their own demons to face, you repeated as you closed your eyes, letting Shuichi’s weight shift over you, hands gripping desperately at your shirt, hinting at something more this time.

And sometimes,

You have to break them, or break yourself, to fully heal.