The hauntingly familiar sight of the old mansion has its share of bad memories. Those two nights spent with the mark bearers had somewhat of a strange chain effect. It was a transition from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Yet when Mashita thought it had been over, his new job was beginning to be more than just a typical private eye.
That sly woman, dragging him into this again.
Not only that, but the number of clients showing up at his door had become more and more frequent. With the current state of unsolved cases piling up after the other, it was slowly driving him mad.
Nightly walks were never a habit for Mashita but getting away from the claustrophobic space of his office and the constant ringing of his phone was slightly easing that throbbing headache of his. It was also a good excuse to have a smoke.
And so, with wandering thoughts and the pleasure of dopamine, Mashita had unexpectedly found himself in front of the mansion.
With the combination of the dark and the soft glow of the moon, the building had never been more evocative at night. And yet at the same time, the silence surrounding it had made him feel just as alone.
A strange urge pulled him forward, and only did he feel the shocking cold of the doorknob did Mashita fully grasp what he was doing. He only ever enters this door when there was another case he needed help with, or on rare occasions, when Moe would find time to persuade him to come and visit. Though Mashita would never admit it, he thought about Yashiki's wellbeing more than he liked. The fact that the man was still alive and kicking each time he saw him had eased his conscience somewhat.
But he never visits out of work reasons by himself. Maybe he never had the time to, or maybe the idea of seeing Yashiki out of some sort of self-desire creates an intimacy that was in no way he would be comfortable with. Of course, Mashita had refused to acknowledge this irrational fear, whatever it meant. And at that moment this unnamed doubt was making him stand in front of the door like a fool. No paranormal phenomena had ever made him freeze and be so unsure of himself.
Scowling, Mashita stubbornly knocked on the door to prove to himself that he wasn't a coward. Only a few seconds later, no one had answered on the other side. A knock seemed enough to notify that he was here, so without a second thought the ex-detective barged into the quiet of the manor.
He hadn't expected Yashiki to be lingering around the main hall, but the empty space devoid of a soul made Mashita a little unsettled. It had been a few months since the night he first entered this room, yet his eyes still strangely drew himself to the red cushioned furniture where Mary used to sit. Even though the doll wasn't his problem anymore (it never was, really), knowing Yashiki was exhausting himself trying to get rid of Mary brought a foreboding feeling. With no success in his reach, Mashita could almost feel his frustration.
Nevertheless, there was nothing he could do, but now he has made himself a guest, he didn’t really have a choice to go back. The most likely place Yashiki would be was his own study. He had seen it a few times. Compared to before, it had become littered with books and newspaper clippings, whatever clues that may lead him to figuring out the truth. It was rather a miserable sight, telling Mashita the sleepless night he had staying up. However, when he knocked and peeked into the mess, he didn’t find Yashiki buried in it.
The manor now had been awfully quiet. There would be some noise around if it was occupied, as big as this place was. A sinking sense of dread surfaced, and Mashita began to search every room upstairs. And with each room he expected Mary to be sitting there, as ominous and telling as ever. It wasn’t until he reached the kitchen downstairs did he feel his muscle numb and his breath shaking. He found Yashiki resting against the dining table, face buried between his arms. In some way, Mashita was glad he wasn’t able to see his panicked state, he didn’t want to give him something to think about.
Seemingly annoyed at the fact that he made him worry, the ex-detective roughly shook Yashiki awake. The man stirred and grumbled slightly as he uncovered his face. His tilted glasses reveal heavy bags under his eyes, and the unshaven state of his stubble had made him worse for wear. Still half asleep, his eyes hazily focused on Mashita.
“M-Mashita? What are you doing here…?” he rubbed his face before adjusting his glasses to make himself somewhat presentable, “Is it about it a case?”
Now that Yashiki was awake, he had no idea what to respond with. That stupid part of him didn’t even think before coming in.
“I was right to drop by,” he replied, trying to cover that particular stumble “you look like shit.”
A rough laugh escaped the tired man.
“I’ve had better days,” awkwardly getting up from his seat, Yashiki walked to the kitchen counter, “I was making coffee, but I must have fallen asleep. Would you like any?”
It was awfully late to be drinking coffee, and it was never Mashita’s favourite drink, yet on that particular night, he accepted his offer without a thought. Perhaps it was a good way to keep his mouth occupied in case Yashiki was too curious about his presence here. When taking a sip, he unsurprisingly found it cold.
“Sorry,” Yashiki apologised, when he took his own drink, “I’ll make a new pot if you-”
“No, don’t,” his own eagerness to respond surprised himself, “Just…get some rest.”
Hearing those coming out of his own mouth made him cringe. Christ, when was the last time he ever showed he cared about something? (Not since when he died…) Yashiki seemed a little dumbfounded as well, staring at him with a curious gaze.
“There is a case I wanted to talk about,” a lie, he had to come up with something before the other spoke, “but clearly no words are going to go into your head at the moment.”
Yashiki gave a lazy smile, looking rather sheepish, as if all this late-night work was his own doing. In a way, yes, but anyone can accidentally release a centuries-old spirit trapped in a doll. Somehow Mashita felt he should be mad at him, damaging his own body for the purpose of saving people from Mary seemed pointless if he fell ill. It was rather counterproductive, but it felt wrong for him to say so.
With his last comment, Mashita took that as a good opportunity to make an exit and hopefully forget about this exchange. Dismissing himself rather abruptly, he decided to head back to the main hall.
“I-wait,” it was soft, like he didn’t mean for it to come out. Mashita turned to face him anyway, “stay, stay for a while.”
And suddenly Yashiki sounded more tired than he looked, like internally he was begging rather than asking. Mashita had every reason to resist, to refuse and return back to his dingy little office stuffed with work. But predictably, he didn’t. He stood there, by the kitchen door staring dumbly at Yashiki as if he had asked the impossible. Even then, he didn’t make a move to say no.
He didn’t know what expression he was making, but whatever it was, Yashiki turned his head away in regret and embarrassment.
“I’m not forcing you to,” his voice quiet, almost afraid, “It’s late anyway, it’s probably best that you go.”
Abandoning his own idea halfway through, honestly.
“I’m staying,” Mashita’s voice kept strong, like he wasn’t the one silently panicking, “since you’re an idiot who can’t even make a decision for himself.”
Yashiki flushed a dark red at that, but smiled in a way that made his heart swell.
The feeling of isolation wasn’t something new to Yashiki, but with the recent events of Mary, as well as the case with Red Riding Hood, he began to understand how terrifying it is to be alone, helpless and neglected. With his sister gone, he no longer had any connection with family other than the manor and his own name.
A name that he no longer wished to have at that. It was an effort to leave behind something that still followed him. Ironically, it was a curse of sorts.
Cursed and left to his own devices, Yashiki began to taste the loneliness the manor left him. It was darker and deeper than anything else and while time moved outside, he felt like he didn’t. The systematic ticking of the grandfather clock and otherworldly silence would have driven another person mad, but he was putting others above himself. Putting a stop Mary mattered more than his own life, and he didn’t understand how much the quiet of the manor got to him when he heard the genuine voice of another person for the first time in weeks.
No one seemed to make the effort to visit anymore. He understood, of course, that people have lives and their own problems to attend to. So, when he had stupidly asked Mashita to stay, he had never felt more desperate to converse with another human being.
The ex-detective’s answer surprised him. He expected Mashita to completely see through him, through that swirling pool of loneliness that was written on his exhaustion, and to tell him to suck it up. He of all people didn’t deserve it, not when time was so little, not when the danger was lying right inside this hollow mansion he occupied.
But even so, he appreciated the single kindness that was given to him. Smiling, Yashiki absentmindedly rubbed the back of his neck, now he had let his feelings known, he was unsure where to proceed.
It appeared he was not the only one. Mashita shifted awkwardly, looking anywhere but him.
“Is Yasuoka-san still giving you trouble?” breaking the silence was good, the ex-detective's demeanour changed immediately when Yashiki spoke.
“Yes, if only you hadn’t told her.” Mashita gave him a slight scowl, however half-heartedly.
Yashiki wasn't surprised he still held that particular grudge, though he had his doubts that Mashita didn’t mind it as much as he suggested.
“Sorry,” his expression was apologetic, “I thought it might help you with your business and all.”
Mashita stared at him with a strange look, before sipping on his cold coffee again.
Mashita was okay with conversation. When he had agreed to stay, he didn’t know what to expect. It was sudden and uncharacteristic of him, and at that moment, he wondered if Yashiki had suspected it.
But this banter between them was comfortable. Like they were back to their usual self. He talked about work, and in turn, Yashiki discussed some theories about what he had found.
The silences between them were good. It was not as suffocating as the tightness of his little office when he was working. It didn’t include moments where his head might split from the constant ringing of the phone, that in a state of utter annoyance he would disconnect the phone cord for some sort of peace. But even then the sudden quiet that swallowed the air around him was just as unbearable as before.
In those minutes where he shared a space with another person, Mashita realised that perhaps he was just as lonely as Yashiki. It was another one of those epiphanies that shocked him to the core. Was that why he was here tonight? As any other human craves, he craved the attention of someone else that didn’t look at him like he was just some tired stranger.
Breathing in rather shakily, Mashita took a long sip at his coffee. Bitter and cold, it was quite a wake-up call.
With no clue what to do with such information, he did his best to not look at Yashiki, least more terrible realisations were to surface. Instead, he just drank from his cup until he found it empty.
“Would you like some more of this terrible coffee?”
It made him smile, this awful attempt at humour.
“No, I think I’ve had enough,” he handed the mug back at him.
He flinched when their fingers met, and though he wanted to pull back, Mashita held his hand steady, refusing to drop the mug and give himself away.
He was still so unused to contact. With just the two of them in this room, it felt too intense and inappropriate. He wished he could just get over it already, but Mashita knew that wouldn’t be anytime soon.
Why else would he wear this oversized coat that didn’t fit his frame? It’s mismatched and ugly, yet he still kept his partner’s coat. The man he had actually managed to open up to, though it was without struggles and time.
Now that he was gone, and his case solved, Mashita still wore it as a reminder of him.
Instinctively, his fingers clutched onto it, like the first time he found out he was dead.
Then a horrible thought rosed to his mind. Would he mourn for Yashiki the way he had did for him? If Yashiki could not succeed in stopping Mary, would he keep a piece with him?
Yes, yes you would.
Shit, when did he get so close?
“You ok?” Yashiki's voice startled him out his thoughts, “You’ve gone pale.”
“It’s nothing,” he didn’t sound convincing, maybe he wasn’t trying to be anymore, “I’m fine.”
Yashiki didn’t believe him, it was written all over his face. A face of concern, like he had time to care about others when he himself was on the urge of breaking.
“I should be going,” the words that left his mouth tasted sour, “thanks for the coffee.”
This time, however, Yashiki didn’t stop him.
Mashita reached the hall without resistance, but when his hand was just above the doorknob, it was his own body that stopped him in his tracks.
There it was again, that strange hesitation. When had Mashita become so insecure in his own actions he didn’t know. Perhaps it was then, when all of those feelings he tried hard to suppress come spilling over the edge.
He was such a fool.
Yashiki watched Mashita almost storm out of the kitchen in a frenzy. He wasn’t sure what had transpired between them to allow the other to leave so suddenly, but the expression he caught before it melted back to neutral was a pained one.
It hurt when Mashita seemed so eager to leave. Yashiki made no move to stop him however, he had already asked for too much.
So he followed after him, hoping to at least see the man off before he was alone again. Mashita was still at door, seemly frozen in place and deep in thought. Yashiki made no attempt to catch his attention, but merely watching in curiosity.
Mashita swore harshly, loud enough that it caught Yashiki off guard. The man turned towards him, a rather intense glare on his face.
He would not deny that at that moment he was somewhat terrified. He instinctively took a step back as Mashita charged at him like an angry wolf. An embarrassing yelp left his mouth as the man grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him down into a clumsy kiss.
It was more teeth than a kiss, really. Yashiki couldn’t help but smile slightly, even though he was just as surprised at this sudden change. Kissing back, this time without teeth knocking into each other, Yashiki's hands cupped Mashita's face to deepen it.
It wasn’t until they were both became breathless did they part. Mashita’s no longer wearing that hardened expression, his eyes half-lidded and focused.
“Stay for the night.” Yashiki meant it this time, “there’s plenty of room.”
The morning was a welcoming sight. Mashita had woken to the bright sunlight peeking through the curtains. Beside him, Yashiki was still in a deep sleep, it was probably the first time he had slept properly in a while.
Between losing his memories and then defeating a near-godlike doll, Yashiki certainly deserved it more than anyone else. Those tired lines had begun to fade from his face. Though his hair is still a mess and facial hair in need of a good shave.
That would come after rest. Mashita laid next to him, grateful that he hadn’t run away the previous night. He was drunk on emotions, must have fried his brain to initiate something like this. Who knew he would be caught up in feelings at his age. It was laughable, but in that moment he couldn’t bring himself to care anymore.
At the very least one of their problems was solved, however more were still left.