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End of the night

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Blood pulsates- a heavy, pounding ache pressed to Yashiki’s forehead. The adrenaline runs deep. It lingers in the hammering of his chest, the tingle that reaches down to the tips of his fingers, and his foot tapping out against the car floorboard. The engine resonates loudly beneath the dull patter of rain against the windshield. He watches the streets pass by. The neon reflected in the asphalt more vivid that he’s ever seen.

Yashiki thinks Mashita is talking to him. That sardonic drawl layered over the low hum of late-night radio. He can’t quite parse it together. Not with his mind running so fast. The terrible things that happened at that hotel, to his own daringly close brush with death. Even now, it feels so surreal. A little ironic, coming from a man in the business of death.

“Oi-“ Mashita hits the breaks. Hard. Yahsiki is slung forward against his seatbelt, gasping out a breath. His eyes shoot to the detective. The glint says it was entirely intentional. “You still in there or did that ghost girl get you too?”

“I’m fine.” Yashiki coughs, catching his breath.

“Bullshit. Don’t think I can’t tell.”

Yashiki’s mouth closes thoughtfully. Eyes screwed shut, he still feels the weightlessness of being pulled from that window. The breath knocked out of him, the speed of plummeting to the ground. Its not a sensation he’s soon to forget.

The old leather creaks as he slinks back against the seat. A long-repressed sigh escapes him. “Thank you.” He says quietly. He can almost hear the sneer on Mashita’s face. Not a man that appreciates ample, sappy praise. At least, so he protests. Yashiki knows he’s more amicable than he lets on.

“Don’t thank me. I-“ Mashita grumbles. The car turns sharp onto a narrow street, still busy with the midnight drinking crowd. “We’re stopping. You look like you’re going to pass out, and I need a drink.”


 

It’s not long after when Mashita is urging him from the car. His legs steadier than half an hour ago, and he follows the man out of sheer habit more than anything.

Yashiki sits across him in the dimly lit okonomiyaki joint tucked down the stairs of a dark alley. The grill between them radiates a heat that’s almost comforting after being soaked through. It smells of fried batter and the lingering scent of cigarette smoke caked into the wood. His stomach growls, and he realizes he hasn’t eaten all day.

Preoccupied. He had a good excuse with his friends’ lives on the line and a case near its climax. Though his body is not overly appreciative. Mashita’s shoes thud onto the bench seat next to him, propped up under the table. Terribly rude, not that he cares.

He hits the button for the waitstaff. Mashita orders a highball. Yashiki orders a melon soda.

‘Childish.’ He thinks Mashita will tease him for it but he’s uncannily quiet. Almost introspective. It eats at his nerves.

“I really have to tell you-“

“No. No, don’t even start with that.”

“But you-“

“What, hm?” There’s a condescending slant to his words, the self-deprecation dry and acrid. It shuts him up quick. “Almost got you killed on a case I dragged you into?

“I chose to be here. I would be whether or not you asked.”

“Selflessly noble or idiotically masochistic. Which are you, Yashiki? “ He groans. “Ugh, that’s beside the point.”

“You saved me. More than once, you know, back during the Mark business.” Gathering clues to push on, showing up full deus ex machina in the forest. Mashita has helped more than he’ll admit to. Its only natural Yashiki wishes to return the favor.

And maybe, he finds some enjoyment in this. Exorcising spirits. Solving mysteries. Working with Mashita.

“Gross, are you getting sentimental on me?” He prods at the pancake absently. Mashita’s tongue clicks against his teeth. “I called you in on this. Even if I blame you for this awful case. I took it. I can’t have my partner dying on me. Not-“

Not again. Yashiki can put the pieces together. Not after the first time. The self-perceived failure Mashita wore after the death of his mentor. He’s right. He can tell when Mashita’s mouth shuts tight, furrow formed deep in his brow. He pours over Yashiki’s face, eyes so very, very tired.

Mashita’s always one to push. To push people away despite the fact he inadvertently draws them in. The kids like him, everyone was so quick to work together with him. And himself, well, obviously he’s attached. The first person to stick around when he became Yashiki Kazuo, and the first person to show back up at the Kujo Mansion in the aftermath.

Did Mashita even realize what he let slip? He’d be appalled at the sheer casualness of it.

Yashiki smiles, and Mashita immediately grasps his faux pas.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You did.” Yashiki teases. It’s almost fun.

Mashita kicks him in the shin under the table.

“OW.”

“Quit looking at me like that. It’s creepy.”

“You can’t take it back. Really, Mashita, I’m flattered you value me enough to consider me a partner.”

Mashita downs the rest of his drink. The glass clinks against the veneer tabletop. “You’re driving back.” He mutters before shaking his head. He bites out a terribly begrudging- dare he say fond?- sigh. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Yeah, sure.” He says in clear disbelief.

Yashiki doesn’t mind. He thinks he’s grown accustomed to the other man. The fact that they are merely sitting here together- that he is comfortable enough to let his guard slip this little bit- is enough. Even if Mashita is so reluctant to acknowledge that, heaven forbid, he might actually like him. That they might be something close to friends.

Yashiki rests his head in his hands. There’s shouting down at the other end of the restaurant, a drunken, enthusiastic ‘Kanpai!’ followed by laughter.

Mashita focuses on the food, lest it burn amidst their conversation, prying under the side of it with the spatula. He flips it successfully, landing perfect on the hot grill. He shoots him a smug grin. Like he had any doubts.

“Tonight’s events aside, I have a few annoying cases benched. Yasuoka is a very diligent woman.”

“Ah, sorry again about that.”

“It’s done. Spirits and the occult are far from my expertise. I’m considering hiring on a consultant. Since it appears, I’m gaining a reputation for it.” Mashita rolls his eyes. Not terribly bent out of shape about it considering the complaining.

“You know, I’m always happy to help.”

“I do know that.” He gestures with his glass. “Selfless and masochistic.” Mashita snorts. “You’re lucky I’m here to watch your back. You’re too quick to get in over your head.”

There’s some truth to what Mashita says. He thinks of the spider tucked in his pocket.

Yashiki turns. The rain has begun to finally let up outside. He feels calmer somehow. There’s something comfortable about this. A casualness that’s nearly foreign, a closeness he hasn’t felt since Saya and the life he’s long since tried to wipe from his mind.

Partners, huh? That could work.