Collar x Malice Unlimited Yanagi Aiji SS Day After Talk
I’d assume that this story came in one of the booklets that were bundled with the game... but I have no idea which one.
as always, my translation may not be 100% as I do not translate from Japanese.
Collar x Malice Unlimited Yanagi AIji SS Day After Talk
translation by KumoriYami
"I'm full, dinner was delicious today."
"Hehe, it was just some simple food, ah, let me clear up the table."
"You made almost the entirety of dinner, so the dishes again be cleaned up by you."
"...Thank you, then we'll do it together."
Seeing her shy smile, the corner of my mouth also curled upward unconsciously.
——At this time, we normally have dinner at my house or the office, but today Ichika said that her parents sent wine from her hometown, so I came to trouble Ichika's house.
"Anyway, is it really okay for me to take the rest of the wine back?"
"Of course, I don't usually drink by myself, so if it's at Aiji-san's place, I can accompany you for a few drinks when I go there for dinner."
"In that case, I'll take it then. It's great that your parents' attitudes changed too."
"Well....Perhaps that's thanks to Ajii-san, because my parents really care about saving face, so maybe they're intending to curry favour.. "
"Well, don't belittle yourself, things will be fine."
"It's as you say, sorry, I tend to do that without realizing when talking about home/family."
"I understand what you're thinking, but it doesn't matter since I'm here."
I handed the dishes I washed to Ichika, and she wiped them dry with a towel.
Seeing her solid [the term here is more "secured "] smile, I once again felt that it wonderful for me to be my girlfriend's moral support.
——It wasn't that long ago, that I formally proposed to Ichika. After completing the marriage application, we went to her hometown to visit her parents to ask for their permission.
Her parents were more respectful/earnest than I expected but they didn't appear to be superficial.
Besides, I wanted to prioritise Ichika's mood, so as long she and her parents were able to decently get along, there was no need to force them together. After all, the way the two of us spend our days peacefully was more precious to me than anything else.
"Um, tonight.... do you want to stay over?"
"Nn... He's staying at Isshiki-san's place today."
"Then there's no reason for me to refuse."
"That's great! I'll make some dishes that go well with alcohol later, would you like to try some other flavours of nihonshu [Japanese sake]?"
"That's a good idea, sake from Niigata [a prefecture in Japan] taste good, and the one we drank over dinner wasn't satisfying."
"Ah, then you need to take a bath first, I'll get the hot water ready!"
"Hm... but there's no need for you to be in such a hurry...."
Before I could finish speaking, she slipped on her slippers and ran away excitedly.
…….Although it was a common occurrence, her adorable reactions always made me want more.
(This was really challenging my rationality.)
Rather than what's hinted at from staying overnight, it would be better to say that I was looking forward to certain things.
But not all the time since if she found out what I was thinking, I'd feel extremely embarrassed.
Which is why I try to act as indifferently as much as possible.
(.......However, as things stand right now, I'm afraid that that the fact of how I'm not a rational person has been exposed long ago.)
It would be better to say that recently, she's been exploiting my entanglements and desires to tease me more often...
Although we've been dating for so long... No, it's precisely because of how long our relationship has gone on for, that there's this offensive and defensive battle everyday.
(To others, we're probably lovestruck fools, but this process of seizing the initiative is also quite fun.)
While I was thinking about this, I finished washing the dishes and sorted out the seasonings to put back on the shelf, I suddenly thought of something.
"Aiji-san, the hot water will be ready in ten minutes, and as for the snacks that go well with sake——"
"? What is it?"
"Let's take a bath together."
Once I finished saying that, as I expected, her eyes widened and her face looked shocked.
Although I was already satisfied from seeing her expression that like that, as these opportunities seldom came, I still wanted to try it.
"You're quite shocked, wasn't your proposal earlier like this."
"Eh... this... um..."
"The bathroom here is quite spacious."
"Aiji-san, are you drunk?"
Ichika's face turned scarlet, and she lifted her head to fiercely stare at me.
......This was a bit unexpected, and her adorable expression made me feel wonderfully jealous——I absolutely could not let any other man see it.
I smiled as I slowly approached her, but the way she kept taking steps to retreat somewhat made me feel heart-broken.
After retreating all the way to the wall like this, I gently approached her.
"It's impossible to get drunk with that amount of alcohol. If you're not willing, it's fine to forget it?"
"That sort of question is too unfair... just wait you, let me think...!"
After saying that, she pushed me out of the way and ran out of the kitchen to sit down on her bed, and stared at the sheets in anguish.
Seeing her serious expression, I truly sympathized, since I had a similar experience, which was from the "suffering" that came from choosing between reasoning and desire.
(Did I overdo it with the bullying...)
However since she didn't immediately reject my proposal, that was already a large enough opening.
But since I was feeling somewhat embarrassed, I was lost in thought as I sat in the living room and stared at the TV. About five minutes later, she stood in front of me.
"Sorry, as expected, I'm still... feeling shy..."
"Nn...I always feel a bit sorry for Kazuki."
"Speaking of which... Aiji-san, are you deliberately teasing me?"
"How could that be? I truly do want to take a bath with you."
"Ugh... Although I really do want to challenge myself..."
From the way she was whispering, I smiled and comforted her by saying "don't force it." At this time, the thermometer on the wall made a pleasant sound. It was the beeped to indicate the hot water was ready.
"The water's ready, I'll wash up first."
At the same time, to express my apologies, I gently patted her head.
Seeing how Ichika had a bit of regret on her face I went into the bathroom.
(......I got carried away again.)
After slapping my face with water, I let out a loud sigh.
I've really had less in control in these sort of situations lately, and while I still had some self-awareness, I however would always get carried away, and needed to reflect on it for now.
I told her before that I was originally a conservative person, and didn't like trying anything new.
It could be said that I was a complete blockhead, even if someone asked "what do you want to do with your love", I wouldn't have any special answers for that sort of question.
But now... if there's something that she wants to do, or if there's something that will make her happy, I want to do it for her without having any regrets.
After all, my intention for doing these sorts of things, was just to see more of her various expressions.
(To get over this.... No, although it's a bit strange to evaluate myself that way, I guess that I've started doing things that match my age.)
But even so, if I do something that distresses my lover, I still need to reflect on it.
While I was thinking about this, I lowered myself into the bathtub full of hot water, and tried to wash my troubles away in the water——
Suddenly, I heard her voice in my ears, and at the same time, I shifted my gaze towards the bathroom door.
——The bathroom door slowly opened.
"......Can we take a bath together?"
I lost to her.
That surrender-like word passed through my mind.
Her tempting figure wrapped in a bath towel appeared outside the door, and she secretly glanced at me.
The long hair which was coiled behind her head, her bare shoulders, and her fair legs, all caught my attention.
"....Is it no good?"
She would have rushed in without saying anything, this was definitely revenge for my earlier actions...
"No, don't worry about those trivial things, hurry up and come in, you'll catch a cold just standing there."
"Nn, thank you."
Did she get rid of her feelings of embarrassment? Or did the reason for her hesitation disappear while I was in the bath?
I don't know what she thinking, but she appeared very calm, and obediently waled in and closed the door behind her.
"Um...can you stop staring at me so much?"
"No, since you've already come in, just give up."
"I'll take a bath first, so please turn around and don't look!"
"I understand, I'll pretend I didn't see anything, don't worry."
"...Are you upset?"
"Hehe, this is payback for your ill intentions just now."
"I think that's...."
As I spoke, she turned her back to me and unscrewed the switch on the shower head.
If I keep staring at Ichika's back, as I've always thought of myself as a pervert in this aspect, I had to move my gaze towards the ceiling to fight against my secret desires.
Ichika re-wrapped herself in her bath towel and sat down in the tub. And since there was one more person, a lot of the water in the tub overflowed.
"This is a bit embarrassing/shameful [the word I have here is "to lose face"]..."
"Whenever the water spills over, I always feel that it exposes my body's weight, and it might be better to say that it's because I'm too fat..."
"Pfft... no, you, that..."
"Why are you laughing at this!!"
"Rather than that, why aren't you worrying about something else?"
"Eh... do you mean like skin care or something?"
"Why did the topic change to this..."
A woman's heart is really complicated. Perhaps, when I invited her, she was worrying about things that I could not understand as a man.
"Also, don't you think you're too unfair?"
"In what way?"
"Only you are covered."
"Uhm... even if you say that..."
I deliberately showed her a dissatisfied expression, and Ichika lowered her gaze in a panic. The bathroom immediately became silent.
In this silent bathroom, I heard her response.
".....Aiji-san, even though I didn't resist my curiosity and rushed in like this...."
"I however have absolutely no idea about what should come after..."
"You... it's obvious that I can't resist you at all..."
"Even if nothing happens in the bathroom, it won't change what the next location is."
However, since things have reached this point/stage, there was nothing to worry about.
Anyway since there was no one else here, and there was only me and her, only we could see each other.
(In fact, we had already been interested in each other for quite a while, haven't we.
In this narrow bathtub with nowhere to escape to, I slowly extended my arm towards Ichika.
When my wet fingers touched her cheek, she trembled like a frightened deer, and I chuckled at the way she looked.
"Alright, will you obediently come over here?"
Even if my brain was still thinking rationally before I touched her lips, we couldn't soak in the bathtub for too long.
——But, once you feel the warmth of the other party, the string called reason/rationality in my mind instantly snapped.
I think this offensive and defensive battle will likely never end.
Ambivalence [Yanagi Aiji x Detective!Reader]
Summary: A mishap and unrequited communication leaves you without a team to work with when Yanagi hands you your punishment. Four months later, he's back and asking for your cooperation on a case you've been chasing but things don't go quite as planned. When do they ever when you're involved?
CW: Light spoilers (intro to game), brief mention of a kidnapping case that leads to sexual assault and death (unrelated to the reader), physical assault, implied stabbing/blood (to reader).
[08.16 10:22 AM
The tension in the room was thick. Everyone held baited breaths, unsure of what to do or say next. In the middle of the detective agency stood you and Yanagi, chests rising and falling rapidly from the heated argument between the two of you.
Shiraishi, who had just happened to stop by on his way to work, couldn’t help the twisted smirk from settling on his lips, meanwhile, Sasazuka—someone who usually had a permanent look of disdain—seemed shocked for once. Enomoto was on the verge of tears, unsure of how to settle the fight because everything he had tried up until this point either added fuel to the fire or fell upon deaf ears. He was praying for Okazaki to let himself through the window for once, maybe he would know what to do.
Yanagi’s usually bright periwinkle eyes seemed dark and uninviting as they stared you down, his face taut with frustration at your stubbornness. “Your incompetence might not just get you in trouble next time, it might get us all killed.”
“I already told you that it wasn’t my intention! I was following the damn lead—”
“Go home, [Y/L/N],” was all he had said, voice cold and unwavering.
Enomoto made a sound of protest that was instantly cut short by Sasazuka, who pulled him back. Your eyebrows furrowed in confusion at the words. “What do you mean ‘go home?’ I just got here.”
“I mean, you’re off the team,” Yanagi clarified, emphasizing your immediate dismissal. “You’re too turbulent to be a team player and I need to consider the safety of everyone else here.”
What he meant was that you were too driven by your emotions, that you were a hazard. Even in the middle of a fight, Yanagi couldn’t bear to utter the very word you’ve hated since you were a kid. He had remembered a time when you told him out of the blue why it was the word you despised the most out of the dictionary. Yet, his choice of words remained synonymous with the very one you didn’t want to hear. Especially not from someone of his status in your life.
Shiraishi adjusted the cat-shaped clip in his hair, waiting for you to stubbornly stand your ground against Yanagi—the leader of the agency and your former partner from your days as an officer—but you didn’t. Instead, you took a shaky breath and turned your cheek away from all the eyes on you.
“Fine,” you mumbled quietly, walking towards the door, hand snagging your jacket off the back of the couch on your way out. The door slammed behind you, shaking Enomoto out of his confused state.
With a jump and a yelp, the eccentric man rushed to Yanagi. “What the hell did you do that for? We need her on the team! We can’t do this without [Y/L/N]!”
He couldn't do it with you.
The stern gaze that Yanagi gave his teammate sent a chill down his spine, stopping him from saying anything else, “We can and we will. We have no other choice. I’m going for a smoke.”
Yanagi was gone out the door before Enomoto could argue any further, only able to look back at Sasazuka and Shiraishi helplessly.
Repeatedly cursing Yanagi below your breath, you angrily waded through the busy sidewalk towards the train station. It was an accident, and Yanagi was usually rather forgiving but he suddenly decided to draw the line on you, today of all times.
The X-Day incidents had taken a brief pause. Enomoto was falling behind on the investigation, dealing with his own feelings about the case he had called dibs on so you had taken it upon yourself to help, offloading some of his other files into your own pile of work. Yanagi had given you the green light, so you spent countless nights sorting through all the evidence, reading and re-reading the formal reports, the interviews and the media reports.
Between all the red threads you were connecting, a suspicious connection to a recent kidnapping passed under your nose. You had been blasting the radio in the shower when you caught wind of the case. It wasn’t X-Day related, so the reporter had said, but it felt eerily familiar to one of Enomoto’s files you had been looking at. Reporting to Yanagi and consulting with the rest of the team had slipped your mind. You fell into the rabbit hole of further investigating the new kidnapping, going as far as staking out and casually speaking to some of the witnesses on your own.
A week went by, not a word from you. Text messages from Yanagi, Okazaki and Enomoto went unread which started to worry the team, but then late last night, or early this morning, Yanagi finally got a response from you, with only a location and a time. You had intended to finish the follow-up text with further information, but your attention had been cut short when one of the suspects from an X-Day incident passed you on the train.
With the time you had to spare before going to the intended meeting place of the kidnappers you had been targeting, you followed the X-Day suspect for about half an hour before he disappeared into a shady club in some alley tucked away in Kabukicho.
While everyone else was at the location you had given them, you were caught eyeing the suspect in the club. While Yanagi was making sure Okazaki was good on the report to give to the police, you were being backed into a wall in the sketchy club, the suspect now spewing vulgar comments. Your phone was on silent, but the buzzing in your pocket from Yanagi’s incoming call didn’t go unnoticed. The suspect and his friends were now huddled around you in the dim hallway, you had nothing on hand that could potentially be a weapon and you weren’t exactly in the spot to just pick up the phone either.
Had Okazaki not seen you walking into the club on the way to the meeting place, Yanagi might never have gotten to you in time.
“Oi, she’s clearly not interested in you scumbags,” a deep voice interrupted the lot around you. His eyes settled on you from down the hall. “What are you doing here? I thought we were meeting.”
Sheepishly smiling from your vulnerable spot, you waved at your partner. “I got caught up. Look who I found!”
Pointing up at the X-Day suspect, you seemed almost unaware of the situation you had gotten yourself in. Yanagi prayed you would keep your mouth shut further, following his lead on being elusive about who the two of you were, but of course, that never goes as planned.
“It’s Mizuno Tatsuya, and I have reasons to believe he’s related to the June 2nd incident.”
“Excuse me?” the victim at the end of your finger cocked his head, offended by the comment.
Yanagi withheld your name once more, only eliciting a clipped noise of warning from his throat, but you blatantly ignored it as you blinked up at the suspect. “Mizuno Tatsuya. There was footage of you within the area on the night of the X-Day incident. I won’t tell you where, but considering what I just heard, it’s quite clear you’re tied to Adonis somehow. Care to spill the deets?”
Yanagi caught the knife being brandished by one of the other lackeys next to the Mizuno. He had disarmed them within the blink of the eye, but your suspect already started for you. Yanagi took care of the rest, but you had the audacity to laugh as you dodged Mizuno’s attack. Yanagi cleared the other men onto the floor before body-slamming Mizuno away from you, his hand firmly gripping yours as he urgently tugged you through the busy crowd to flee the scene.
“What the fuck were you thinking, have you actually gone insane?! First, you don’t pick up for days, you go MIA and suddenly I get a text with a random location, no explanation, no details, only to arrive at a fucking hideout. And where were you during all of this?!”
You were about to respond, unaware it was a rhetorical question that only fuelled Yanagi’s disappointment, “I was here, following Mizuno.”
“YOU WERE ABSENT FROM THE TEAM, FOLLOWING ANOTHER LEAD WITHOUT TELLING ME—WITHOUT TELLING US!”
His grip on you tightened when a bottle was thrown over your heads, smashing on the sidewalk as the two of you ran down the stairs of the club, followed by two of the men. Mizuno was absent.
That was only the start of the reprimanding. Yanagi went awfully silent as the two of you ripped through the streets of Shinjuku trying to shake the men off your tails. Taking some extreme detours and roundabout paths, the two of you stifled your pants in a dark part of an alley, about a block away from the agency.
In hindsight, you should have stayed quiet, but you just had to ask if the coast was clear, earning a glare from Yanagi who was watching the street. You wanted to shrivel up into a raisin under his scrutinizing eyes.
In hindsight, you should have gotten back to everyone’s messages. You should have finished sending that text so that they were aware of what they were getting themselves into, before following Mizuno off the train. You should have given them some heads up about your new self-appointed mission with Mizuno in the first place. You should’ve, you should’ve, you should’ve.
Maybe Yanagi was right, you were too turbulent. Too much of a hazard; a liability. As you waited on the platform for the next train home, you couldn’t help but finally tear up about everything that had transpired in the last three hours.
[10.05 8:47 PM
Rooftop of Detective Agency]
Yanagi was down to the last cigarette in his box, one he had only purchased earlier in the afternoon. The blinking red light atop one of the highrises in the skyline held his attention, reminding him to breathe in matching intervals. It had been two months since he forcibly removed you from the agency’s team—one and a half since he last saw you. Now down to only four detectives, it took a toll on them as they balanced regular cases and X-Day investigations. Enomoto had been worse off, feeling even more reluctant to take on the case he had originally promised to work on. Sasakuza seemed more agitated not having you around to help him with the archival stuff.
Despite wanting to convince himself that things were better off this way, it didn’t help that Shiraishi liked to ask Yanagi if things had been mended between the both of you at every chance he got. If it wasn’t a direct question, it was an off-hand comment about you. There was no doubt that Shiraishi had taken the matter between you and Yanagi as entertainment.
Cursing under his breath, Yanagi snuffed out his cigarette, freeing his hands enough to rustle his hair. He had been agitated, more so in the later hours when it had gotten quiet in the agency. Cigarettes were starting to worsen his mood than help it, but there was a longing sense to keep at the toxic habit. Perhaps it was actually the longing for your unimpressed looks and the sound of you clicking your tongue when you found him smoking on his “errand runs”. There was an odd feeling deep within the pit of Yanagi’s stomach that itched to suppress any thoughts about you or the regret in his words, but another part of him wanted to check in on you. To invite you back to the team. He wanted to at least apologize to you—that was the bare minimum—yet the part that wanted to suppress his thoughts also told him that you wouldn’t accept such pleasantries so easily.
“You know, smoking takes years off your life, and it makes you smell weird, right?”
At the mere sound of his voice, Yanagi’s eyes lidded half-closed, a look of annoyance washing over for a brief moment before he recollected himself. “What do you need, Okazaki?”
“I know I haven’t said anything up until this point, and I know it’s also not really my place to say, but it’s clearly bothering you so why don’t you just talk to [Y/L/N]-chan?”
Yanagi turned to look at the officer dead on, a brow raised pensively at his words. Okazaki shrugged, choosing to look away from the intimidating leader. “I don’t think you’re as worried about the team as you may lead on. I think… that the mere idea of her recklessness is starting to bother you because of your unspoken feelings.”
There wasn’t a need to say much else. It was quite clear between them that Okazaki was pointing out the very obvious issue sitting on Yanagi’s conscience. The not-so-subtle glances and longing gazes, light touches and protective behaviours were evident enough to everyone else that there was a romantic air between you. Yet, neither of you ever confronted the apparent feelings. What Yanagi was hoping for, was actually the team's lack of knowledge (or ignorance) that the two of you had done much more behind the wooden divider separating the main office from the kitchen, which Yanagi had partially repurposed as his room so he could give up the only room for Enomoto.
A hand came up to his lips as he brushed it at the reminder of soft kisses after long days or behind the team’s back at outings. Had he pressed any harder, he would be reminded of the nights of passion and unyielding energy under the sheets at your dainty studio apartment.
Okazaki sighed with a smile, adjusting the jacket on his shoulders before turning away. “Plus, we all know you both work best together. It’s been that way since the academy, hasn’t it?”
Yanagi watched Okazaki take the door for once, not miraculously scaling the building like some daunting superhero in the dead of night. His eyes lost focus as the door closed, briefly losing himself in the memories he had tucked away. He let them remain tucked away, reminding himself he had a mountain of work waiting for him back in the office downstairs.
Under the warm lights of the agency, Enomoto had been sifting through your makeshift workspace in the corner of the office. You had textbooks and maps, a random telephone book, several loosely strewn papers and haphazard manila folders. Yanagi pursed his lips at the eccentric man from the doorway, noticing how he seemed to struggle with keeping everything from falling off your messy desk.
“How the heck does [Y/L/N] work like this? It’s a mess!”
Yanagi briefly smiled to himself before reverting to his usual, stoic composure, striding over next to Enomoto to offer him some help. “It’s an organized mess. What are you trying to find?”
“There were some news articles from outside of Tokyo that [Y/L/N] said she had. I don’t think she left with it because it wasn’t one of the cases she had been actively working on since it had to do with the July incident.”
Without another breath, Yanagi reached for the envelope tucked between the pages of the phonebook, all too familiar with how you preferred to store your supplementary materials for cases. Enomoto muttered in shock as he stared at the envelope between his leader’s fingers. “How’d you know?”
Yanagi simply shrugged, walking away from your desk and into the kitchen. “I just do. Now if you moved anything, I’d suggest you put it back, otherwise, she’ll wring your neck.”
Enomoto shuffled your stuff back around, trying his best to remember what he had moved and where it was originally supposed to be. Hidden from behind the divider, Yanagi sighed, ruffling his hair as he tried to console his thoughts. He had glanced at your desk a few times since your dismissal, and he was well aware that the May files were missing. You had snuck into the agency through the window one night about two weeks after your dismissal, trying to find something on your desk under a dim light while everyone else was out grabbing dinner together. Yanagi had left the bar early, wanting to call it a night. His soul nearly left his body when he opened the door to see your hunched form over in the corner, while you, on the other hand, seemed unperturbed by his sudden arrival.
“Trespassing is a crime, you do remember right?”
Without looking up, you jutted a thumb towards the window behind Sasazuka’s usual spot. “I do, but it’s actually breaking and entering considering I used the window that Okazaki left unlocked.”
Yanagi was left speechless, but you continued sifting through some papers as if B&E was any lesser a crime than trespassing. “I’ll be out in a minute; carry on as you please.”
He remained still, unsure of what to do. An apology sat on his tongue, but by the time he had mustered up the courage to speak up, you were brushing past him out the door of the agency with some things in your hands. Yanagi felt frustrated when his feet refused to move, remaining planted on the hardwood floor beneath him. Only when your footsteps had descended the hallway completely did he saunter over to your desk, turning off the lamp you neglected.
[12.12 1:09 PM
“Shit,” you muttered, reflexes running on a moment of adrenaline as you caught the mug before it completely turned over on the kotatsu riddled with files and paperwork. As your fingers brushed off the droplet of tea from the sheet, a steady knock caused you to jump, swearing once more under your breath.
You had fallen too comfortable with the lack of interruption and need to socialize in your days as a lone detective, especially since it had gotten colder. Now December, two new incidents were pinned up to your corkboard, none officially taken from any formal reports as you had no access to any. Whatever X-Day-related reports you had on hand were from the agency—ones you had still yet to give back due to your lack of communication with anyone. Unsure if you were just being too bitter, you didn’t reach out to remind them, but it wasn’t as if they had come to ask for it back either. You assumed they just reprinted whatever they could with the help of Sasazuka.
Quietly tiptoeing over to the door, you looked out the peephole with a nervous shiver. On the other side of your door stood the devil of the hour, and an unfamiliar face.
Maybe the agency is finally here for collection…
With a deflated sigh, you slowly tugged away the safety guard and unlocked the door. The feeling of unease and the lack of motivation to face your problems head-on was now more prominent than ever, clenching you jaw at the sight of Yanagi and an unfamiliar woman at his side.
There was a moment of silence, neither party dared to speak up. Maybe if you failed to acknowledge them, they’ll just leave. Your unmoving and insouciance attitude was usually enough to have the old church ladies waddling away when they would try to spew some biblical nonsense to you in hopes you’d take their flyer and go to one of their weekly bible studies. You noticed the girl tilt her head up at Yanagi, waiting for him to say something, but he too remained silent as he stared at the side of your face.
“This is Officer Hoshino, she’s been assigned to look into the X-Day incidents from May.”
All you could muster in response was a sigh, eyes finally meeting the familiar periwinkle ones you had subconsciously missed for the last four months. Yanagi stared at you expectantly, the officer at his side shifting the weight between her feet uncomfortably.
“We would like the files back,” Yanagi quirked an eyebrow at your lack of response or movement.
“I’m already working on the case,” you tone cold, eyes slit with irritation. Yanagi had expected your response, fingers coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose as he sighed. He hadn’t expected this to go smoothly. Perhaps a part of him was also hoping you would make it harder for him so he’d have an excuse to extend the conversation, to extend his offer to you.
“How much have you gotten done since you left?”
“Since you kicked me out? Plenty,” you emphasized, near smirking to yourself with pride at the amount of work you’ve managed to do, but of course, you had no plans to share that. “Like I said, I’m already working on it, so I’ll hand over everything when I can close the case.”
Hoshino seemed confused, her eyes darting between the two of you as Yanagi chewed on the inside of his cheek. You knew you were dancing on a thin line of his patience. Perhaps this was the petty side of you trying to get back at him for the humiliation of kicking you out of the agency. He half-expected you to put up some sort of fight, but he didn’t think you would have actually been able to get very far with the investigation given the resources the agency held over you as an advantage.
Hoshino’s eyes lit up, eyes big and bright like a fawn. “Perhaps I can assist? I’m still new to the team but I’d like to help where I can, especially if it means I can start following the trail from the beginning.”
Your eyes moved back to Yanagi with a scoff, face scrunching up in disbelief at the words you were hearing. “Oh, so I see you guys found a new replacement.”
Yanagi was about to quip back, but you blatantly ignored him, turning back to Hoshino with a wry smile instead. “Sorry, but I’m not allowed to work with others because I’m too much of a liability.”
If you had just played nice, would you have had some chance to return to the agency? Maybe, but it seemed too late now that the backhanded comments had left your mouth.
Hoshino seemed confused, her mouth agape as she tried to register your words. The malice seemed to go unnoticed as she offered some semblance of a smile instead, ready to add something but Yanagi beat her to it.
“Hoshino here is tied to Adonis,” gesturing to the collar peeking out from Hoshino’s scarf, and here you thought it was some gaudy new trend on the choker market. “We’re still unsure why, but we want to use it to our advantage. Having her on the team is both for her safety and benefit us, so would you please reconsider working the case with her at least?”
A part of you itched to smile with satisfaction at the way Yanagi was begging you to hand over the precious file, but you remained still as your eyes gauged his expression.
“All I ask is that you do all the work from the agency… for safety reasons.”
Bitterness overwhelmed your tastebuds, forcing you to grimace. Even after all these years, the sudden betrayal of Yanagi’s distrust hurt you to the core. The urge to cry started to boil over, replacing the one to smile with a scowl. Yanagi could only catch a glimpse of that sudden change before you left them at the door.
Haphazardly shoving all the loose bits into the folder, you returned with the May file for Hoshino. “Take in what you can, I’ll brief you on the rest of the updates tomorrow night at the agency.”
Peeved by the social interaction aspect of unexpected visitors, you closed the door rudely before Hoshino could even thank you or ask for an exact time. Yanagi seemed unphased on the receiving end of your cold behaviour, turning around to leave after a moment of silence. If anything, it felt like a just treatment after what he had done; he deserved as much. The implication behind his last words to you wasn’t so much because he doubted your abilities. Rather, he couldn’t promise your safety of Hoshino and Adonis were with you alone in your apartment, but you didn’t need to know that. Nor was he able to voice his concerns when the collar actively listened in on Hoshino’s conversations...
[12.13 6:30 PM
The following night, as promised, Hoshino showed up at the agency with a small bag of snacks and some bottles of assorted drinks she found at the nearby 7-Eleven. There was still no clarification on your end regarding a meeting time, so she took Yanagi’s advice and booked it over after her shift at the precinct. Yanagi had stepped out to run some errands, leaving Sasazuka and Hoshino to quietly occupy the space.
The only sounds came from Sasazuka’s laptop as he typed away and Hoshino’s chewing. Clearing her throat, she caught the attention of the mint-haired man, his only form of acknowledgment was the raising of an eyebrow.
“Is there anything you can tell me about [Y/L/N]-san before I start working with her? We didn’t really get a chance to properly greet each other yesterday.”
Sasazuka’s eyes stopped darting around his screen, momentarily pausing before he looked over to Hoshino. The blue glow from his laptop screen dimmed as he let it go idle.
“[Y/L/N]... She’s a studious person. Always has something new to talk about, but never completely meaningless like Enomoto. She can be a little all over the place sometimes and forgets to communicate when she’s really focused on stuff. I haven’t known her for as long as Yanagi, but I trust her because Yanagi trusts her.”
Hoshino perked up, placing her snack down on the table. “How long has Yanagi and [Y/L/N]-san known each other?”
His eyes rested on the divider separating the office from the kitchen, where Yanagi’s bed was hidden from view. “Since their days at the academy. They didn’t really officially work together until after she was reassigned to his unit in investigations.”
“For good friends, they seem to be at a rift… There was a lot of tension yesterday when we went over to pick up the file from her apartment.”
“I wouldn’t put it past her to act like that,” Sasazuka slumped a little in his seat, finger tapping away at his laptop once more. “He did kick her off the team after all, but it was kind of over something trivial.”
Hoshino waited expectantly for Sasazuka to explain, but seeing as this was the second time she’s heard about you being kicked off the team with little explanation, perhaps it wasn’t something meant for a new member to know about.
Briefly glancing over at the clock on the wall, Hoshino returned to picking at her puffed crisps, waiting for you to arrive.
The clock struck seven, then seven-thirty. By around eight o’clock, Yanagi returned with some bags of groceries and a newspaper tucked under his arm. “[Y/L/N] still not here yet?”
The brunette shook her head, getting up to help Yanagi with the bags when he declined, walking into the kitchen himself.
“She’s like that sometimes,” he continued. Hoshino thought he would be exasperated by her tardiness, not that you had promised a time. Upon remembering the brief conversation she had with Sasazuka, there seemed to be a sense of fondness behind his words. “If you want to start yourself, you’re more than welcome.”
The officer nodded to herself, pulling out the file once more to read over all the notes and the compilation of evidence you had gathered during your time investigating the incident. There was certainly a lot to unpack within the manila folder, and the overwhelming mess it was in from the handover had Hoshino sifting through and reorganizing it before bed. Now that it was sorted, Hoshino could see what Sasazuka had meant about you being studious yet all over the place.
Every page had colourful tabs and transparent sticky notes to follow with personal commentary, ideas or clues. Clippings were dated, and your penmanship was a neat scribble that remained legible. Retracing the steps and trying to fill herself in as much as possible, another hour had gone by. Yanagi was the first to comment on it this time, glancing at the time on his phone before Shiraishi interrupted, followed closely by Enomoto and Okazaki who were bickering over good options at the nearby restaurant as they walked in.
“We’re still missing a stray kitten it seems,” Shiraishi noted when he surveyed the office.
Yanagi stood up, sliding his winter jacket. “I was about to head out, she might still be holed up in her apartment.”
Hoshino took that as her queue to go with Yanagi, seeing as how the two of you were supposed to be partners for the case. Okazaki nodded, quietly taking his leave—probably to make a report or to search for your whereabouts himself. Enomoto yawned, taking a seat on the sofa instead, offering to wait at the agency with Sasazuka in case you turned up. Shiraishi on the other hand, shrugged, following Hoshino and Yanagi out the door, a silent offer to help find you.
Upon arriving at your apartment, Yanagi couldn’t help but look up and down the hallways, observing all the apartment doors while Shiraishi eyed the cars below in the parking lot. It was almost eight-thirty, most residents in your complex were home by this hour.
Yanagi knew you hated the sound of the doorbell, so he avoided it, knuckles rapping at your door a few times and then once more when there was no answer. When the doorbell also went unanswered, Shiraishi took it upon himself to test the handle. To everyone’s surprise, it opened.
Yanagi took the lead, slowly pushing the rest of the door open, a hand on the holster of his gun as he peeked around. The ceiling light in your studio was on, the place itself a mess at that, but nothing that signalled a fight. Shiraishi reached up to sense the heat radiating from the light fixture and then down at the evidently full cup of tea which had now gone cold.
“The light’s been on for a while but the tea’s cold, she left a while ago for sure.”
Yanagi grimaced, pulling out his phone as he looked around your studio some more. Hoshino walked up to the corkboard that hung next to your balcony, taking in the evidence map you had set up. It looked like you had been following the December incidents too.
“Sasazuka, can you see if there’s been any activity from [Y/L/N]’s phone in the last few hours? She was definitely home, but her door was unlocked.”
Hoshino turned around, watching as Yanagi impatiently tapped his socked foot on the floor. Shiraishi made a small noise from where he stood next to Hoshino, his fingers holding apart the blinds to look out onto your small balcony. An agitated sigh erupted from Yanagi as he hung up with a curt thank you.
“Her phone turned off about eight blocks away. It’s not that far from the chapel we found you at,” his voice seemed rigid, eyes directing over to the newest member of the team. Just as Hoshino’s fingers brushed the collar out in response to the memory, a loud static emanated from the collar, stilling everyone from their movements.
A sick feeling settled into the pit of Yanagi’s stomach, his eyes glaring at the collar around Hoshino’s neck. There was uncertainty surrounding the collar and the static eruptions but the timing and notion that Adonis was listening in on Hoshino only seemed to egg Yanagi further into worry.
One look and it was all Shiraishi needed to confirm the plan his leader was silently laying out in his mind. “Stop. This could be a trap.”
“I can understand that [Y/L/N] may be a bit scatterbrained, but she wouldn’t leave her door unlocked and the lights on even if she was in a rush to go somewhere.”
The blond tilted his head in amusement at how fast Yanagi had lost his composure. “I’m aware, but don’t you think it’s all too suspicious that the collar peeped when we mentioned the chapel? This could be an ambush.”
“If this is an ambush, then [Y/L/N] is in the middle of it, which means she’s in danger. I’m going to check it out. You can head back to the agency if you want.”
With that, Yanagi headed for the door, leaving Shiraishi to sigh to himself. He followed his leader out and Hoshino did the same, this time, flicking off the light and closing the door behind her as she tried to match their pace.
[12.13 7:56 PM
Abandoned Chapel—Back Room]
Everything felt dark, your mind stuck between consciousness and sleep, rather unsure of which it wanted more. Why were you asleep? You made tea. Tea… Your tea is gonna be cold… Your tea is gonna be cold unless you drink it before you leave for the agency. Agency?
Head heavy and swaying side to side, you woke up with a start. Your muscles ached and your mind felt hazy but quickly came to your senses when you realized your wrists were bound behind you and the sickly sour smell was emanating from the damp walls surrounding you.
A patronizing voice spoke up from behind you, matched by the heavy footsteps of boot-clad feet on old wooden floors. “Has the little lady finally woken up from her little nap?”
At the turn of your head, you were met with a sharp knife threatening to pierce your eye had you not stilled yourself in time. Looming above you with a sick smile was the very man that cost you your spot on the team, Mizuno Tatsuya.
Even in the most vulnerable state you could find yourself in, you couldn’t stop the roll of your eyes. “I fufkin knew ith.”
“Sorry, what was that, my love?”
Yanking your gag from your mouth, you did your best to spit on the man, now crouched at eye level with you. The scar down his left eye became more prominent as he scrunched up his face in disgust at the wet contact, fingers clearing the saliva from his skin.
“I fucking knew it! No one would take me seriously, but I knew it was you.”
Mizuno flicked his hand, wiping it on the leg of his pants before slapping you at full force. The searing pain on your cheek stunned you, but God did it still feel fucking good to know you were right.
“So what if you’re right, you got nothing and no one to help you,” Mizuno spat, forcefully gripping your jaw to make you look him in the eyes. “I know for a fact that the detective team of yours kicked you out. You’ve gone independent for a while, and no one’s gonna even knows you went missing.”
At the menacing tone behind his words, you bit down on the inside of your cheek, suddenly aware that your bad habit of being late and getting distracted without properly communicating your plans may very well mean your absence would just be something Yanagi shrugs off again.
Stupid, you didn’t even promise a time to meet with Officer Hoshino.
Even if all odds were against you as a result of your dumb decision-making, you had to buy time, and you had to try to get yourself out of here. Harshly tugging your face away from his dirty grip, you swallowed thickly. “You work for Adonis; tell me what you know.”
Eyes danced across the room, searching for something that could get you unbound or to act as a weapon; both if you had the luck. When your meagre words registered in Mizuno’s head, the man broke out into a cacophony, hand coming down to slap at his thighs as if you had just given the greatest jest of the century. His actions annoyed you, so you brushed up on repeating yourself with firmness.
“I did. Adonis—he, they, I don’t fucking know—reached out to me with some weird letter. They brought up some dirt from my past, offering to help me reconcile.”
“I wasn’t aware reconciliation meant murdering police officers and broadcasting it live for the entire prefecture to see.”
“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY DID TO MY DAUGHTER!”
Mizuno took your wide eyes and lacklustre retort as his opportunity to continue. “YOU DON’T KNOW THE PAIN THEY PUT MY WIFE AND I THROUGH, ALL BECAUSE OF THEIR CARELESSNESS. THEY NEGLECTED HER AND SHOVED OUR CASE ASIDE LIKE IT MEANT NOTHING TO THEM!”
Despite flinching at the volume of his words, your eyes watched softly as Mizuno grabbed at his tear-stained face. The knife he had threatened you with earlier, a little too close to his own eye for your liking. Before you could even say anything to console him, the man grabbed at you with both hands, bringing himself up close once again in a fit of rage.
“Stupid Adonis promised me a way to recover, to feel better about what those damn officers did, but now I have the likes of you on my tail, uncovering the shit I did for them and their X-Day bullshit—I can’t go to prison. I can’t leave my wife alone. You hear me? You’re a fucking cop, and having someone like you follow my trail of breadcrumbs is dangerous. I have to get rid of you.”
As his fingers dug further into the muscles of your neck, your vision started to dot. With as much force as you could muster, you gave Mizuno the firmest kick to his legs, using the leverage to fall over. The wooden chair you had been tied to broke on impact, causing you to wince from the pressure and wooden splinters.
With your wrists still bound behind you, there was a struggle to shift your weight in time to maneuver your arms under your legs. Mizuno recovered from the sudden attack, quickly cornering you like a small prey frantically backing away to create distance with its predator. “I’m not a cop. I’m an independent detective.”
“No, you’re all the fucking same,” Mizuno insisted, grabbing you by the collar of your sweater, hoisting you off your feet and against the wall. “It’s people like you who neglected my daughter and caused her death. There is no justice, no promise. It’s all a never-ending cycle of chasing the idea of justice through sins we cannot erase.”
Your muscles burned as you struggled against Mizuno, ears falling deaf on the rest of his words. Arms still uselessly bound behind you, there was little leverage to use now that your feet were inches off the floor.
The train of thought you had up until now started to derail, and for a moment, you couldn’t quite grasp why, until your eyes caught the repeated movement at Mizuno’s side. A new wash of pain ruptured from your side, ears ringing for a split second before it cleared enough to hear the last of Mizuno’s words.
“There can never be justice, at least not in this system.”
His grip on you loosened, the knife in his hands now soaked with blood from the repeated stab wounds you couldn’t keep track of. Your body ached, knees failing to keep you upright when Mizuno took a step back. His eyes seemed remorseful, but his face remained taut.
With a harsh thud, your body crumpled onto the dirty floorboards, unable to cushion your fall with anything but your shoulder. A groan elicited from your chest at the accumulation of pain all over. Your tongue felt dry, and you wanted to vomit all at once, your body threatening to retch as you curled into the pain.
“You’re right,” a smile graced your tired face as you tried to suppress the pain. “Once a crime is committed in a corrupt system, it’s a ripple effect that never stops, like an ocean with no shoreline. We… We’re all just drowning aren’t we?”
Mizuno watched on, scrutinizing your sorry form by his feet. He wasn’t all that far off from his claims, which was why a small part of you sympathized with his words and his loss. There was still a blurred line to understanding the reasoning behind Adonis’ list of terrorist crimes, and it didn’t seem like their calculative moves were at all ignorant.
There is no straight edge to a system without crime.
Perhaps, the rage Mizuno felt from losing his daughter blinded him from the motives Adonis had to begin with.
A metallic taste started evading your senses, causing you to sputter. “You should leave before anyone realizes I’m late to a meeting.”
Even if you lived, you would need to face the tough decision of reporting Mizuno—sending him into the very corrupt system he despised, where a life sentence would end his days, or to let him remain loose despite his crimes. The very corrupt system you wanted to change was in a perpetual state of chaos—one that would cast you as the very antagonist of corruption.
Is this what Adonis wanted? For you to understand how the fight to clean up a tainted system is one with a double-edged sword? As Mizuno had said, you would be no different from those who failed him and his family.
The man scurried off, leaving a small part of your conscience to hope that if you died in this dirty, old room, you wouldn’t need to face that terrible decision so heavily influenced by your conflicted feelings. Moving your arm under your thighs to fixate them in front of you hurt like a bitch so you remained still. An agonized groan passed your lips as you curled into a ball to ease the ache, unsure if you wanted to fight to stay awake or succumb to the fatigue.
[12.13 8:41 PM]
The feeling of his heart rising into his mouth was unreal. Yanagi was running low on all sense of rationality, his finger sitting over the gun in his holster as he walked up to the heavy, wooden doors of the chapel. The tall lamp right outside lit up the entry and illuminated the thick misty clouds surrounding the two detectives and the police officer.
Running here was no easy feat, but Yanagi couldn’t stop or slow down even when Shiraishi shouted at him from down the block. With a silent nod, the latter followed the leader into the old chapel. The sharp intake of air from Hoshino didn’t go unnoticed, but Yanagi couldn’t pull himself from the tunnel focus he had on the goal to find you, eyes too busy surveying the empty place. Faint colours spelled out over the cloak-covered benches from the stained glass above the altar.
Shiraishi took it upon himself to check the confession booths while Hoshino ducked up and down as she advanced behind Yanagi to check between the benches for a hidden body.
“There’s no one here,” Shiraishi’s voiced echoed from the corner of the chapel, but Yanagi ignored him, quietly ascending the steps to check behind the church organs. “Yanagi?”
A thread had snapped, head whipping around with a dark countenance when the familiar interruption from Hoshino’s collar stopped his words. Yanagi was compelled by the confirmation bias; you were in the chapel.
The blonde detective called for his leader though was yet again interrupted by the static, urging Yanagi to head towards the door he saw at the side of the chapel. The weight of his movements was of no contrast to what he believed was Adonis’ way of telling him something was very wrong—something that relied heavily on a fast response.
His hands fumbled every doorknob to every room he passed by until he stopped at the end of the corridor where another hallway intersected. Only one door was partially open, urging Yanagi towards it. There wouldn’t be an opened door for any other reason, and to his absolute horror, he was right.
Unmoving in a crimson puddle was your limp body, arms folded uncomfortably below your weight. Rushing to your side, he ignored the blood soaking through his pants where he was kneeling, frantically calling your name. He lifted your face from the floor as Hoshino and Shiraishi finally appeared, their eyes blown wide at the sight, unsure if they had been too late. Without another second to spare, Shiraishi kneeled next to you and checked for your pulse before ordering Hoshino to call for help.
“[Y/L/N], hey, look at me!”
You groaned before opening your eyes, yet it was enough to dial down Yanagi’s anxiety. He could tell by the movement behind your eyelids that you were conscious, probably too overwhelmed by the pain from your wounds to open them, but he needed you to stay awake.
Shiraishi shrugged off his jacket, pressing the fabric to your bleeding torso while Yanagi shook you. “[Y/L/N], I need you to open your eyes, please. Come on, open your eyes and look at me.”
Purposefully adding some pressure to his touch, you hissed in pain, eyes scrunching before you finally opened them to glare at the blonde detective. “Ass…hole.”
“Welcome back, kitten. Just keep your eyes open, alright?”
You grumbled incoherently, seething as you tried to shy away from the pain beneath the fabric. Even in your current state, you mustered a half-hearted smile at the worry scrunching on Yanagi’s face.
“You’re gon… gonna get wrinkles.”
Shiraishi was the only one who responded to your half-wit comment, eyes rolling as he continued to apply firm pressure to your injury. Yanagi, on the other hand, remained vexed at your current state, disregarding your attempt to make fun of him in such a pressing situation. “What happened?”
“Mizuno paid me a visit… next thing I know I woke up bound in this stinky room,” your eyes darted around the room, near sighing at the hideous state it was in. “Could you preserve some of my dignity… and at least let me d-die outside by the altar or some…thing?”
“You’re not going to die, [Y/L/N].”
Those words were supposed to bring you reassurance, but as Yangi repeated himself once more with utmost sternness, it had been clear to Shiraishi that it was more for the leader himself than anything. There was a gentle squeeze to the back of your neck where Yanagi’s hand supported you.
“Why were you in contact with Mizuno?”
“I wasn’t… He had been keeping tabs on me since the day I confronted him at the club. I quite honestly dropped his lead for a bit to focus on—hiss—the other bits of the May incident first.”
Hoshino returned, frantically informing the two detectives that police were on their way with the medics. Your eyes darted over to her before smiling. “I promise, I was trying to get to the agency for our meeting.”
“I know,” Yanagi responded instead. “We know.”
Yanagi remained quiet, his nervousness surpassing its usual threshold, now eerily unmoving from the jitters for a long pause. The lump in his throat worsened when your eyes started to blink heavily. He shook you once more to remind you to stay awake, untrusting of his voice.
A single tear trailed down towards your ear as you looked up to Yanagi, eyes trying to focus on the comfort his periwinkle ones often gave you.
The whisper almost went unnoticed, voice trailing as your mind tried to discern the words you wanted to say with enough courage. “A… h-hazard. I’m sorry.”
Sirens started to grow louder in the background, causing Shiraishi to look over his shoulder. He ordered Hoshino to wait outside so she could provide them guidance. Yanagi remained oblivious to everything else around him, too focused on the way you started to grow heavy in his arms. “You’re not a hazard, I promised, remember? I promised you I would never think of you as a hazard, and I still don’t.”
All you could do was smile, barely even flinching when one of Yanagi’s own tears landed on the skin of your cheeks, surprising you both.
“I’m sorry Yanagi.”
The medics rushed you out of the chapel, the leader insisting he rode in the ambulance with you because he was your “boyfriend.” Shiraishi and Hoshino didn’t bat an eye, only nodding in agreement before sending you both on your way to the hospital.
When they had finally met up with Yanagi once again, Sasazuka, Okazaki and Enomoto were already there, sitting next to Yanagi all deep in thought.
“If you keep scrunching your eyebrows, it’s gonna be permanent,” Shiraishi directed his words at the redhead, knowing it would elicit more of a reaction than anyone else. Hoshino made a small noise, elbowing the man in the arm as if he was truly oblivious to the current state of mind they were all in. “She’ll be fine, her stubborn nature can’t quite give up on own its own pride to let her go that easily. Especially when the May case isn’t even closed yet.”
“And if you’re wrong? Then what Shiraishi, you just gonna laugh this one off too?” Enomoto’s words were sharp, unlike anything else he has said up to date. “You were there, you saw her yet you’re able to tell us that the priority of our concerns should be our fucking eyebrows?!”
“I was only—”
“Stop it, both of you.”
Everyone fell silent at Yanagi’s orders, a cease in the growing bicker as everyone turned heads to watch as their leader stood up with a heavy sigh. No one dared to blink as they watched him leave the waiting room. Hoshino decided to follow him, despite Sasakusa’s advice to let him be.
She chased after the leader, following a few steps behind as he passed a vending machine in the hallway. He made a left into another corridor, ignoring the line of empty cots against the wall. She didn’t question him when he stopped at the particular coffee vending machine, despite it being exactly the same as the other one they had passed.
The brunette stood idly off to the side, watching Yanagi push at the buttons with a slim, shaky finger. He handed the first can over to the young officer, waiting for the next to drop loudly into the dispensary.
Hoshino thanked him for the coffee, both opening it simultaneously, but only Hoshino took the first sip. Yanagi paused, the rim of the can just barely touching his lips before he spoke in a barely-above whisper. “I shouldn’t have kicked her off the team.”
Only one question popped into Hoshino’s mind, but she dwelled on asking it, taking another pensive sip before her curiosity got the best of her. “So why did you?”
Tired eyes looked over at the officer before he tilted his head back, emptying the warm, canned beverage with one go. “Because I thought I was protecting her by teaching her a lesson. If she had just learned to communicate with the team—” he paused to wipe his lips with the back of his hand. “—then she wouldn’t ever be trapped in a situation like tonight. I didn’t think she would be so stubborn over my orders. She never really took them for face value in the first place.”
The girl exhaled, nodding her head at his words, taking another sip at the bitter drink.
“I can’t tell if I was happy it was just Mizuno or if it would have been better if it was purely Adonis.”
“Isn’t Mizuno working for Adonis? That’s what the notes in the file said.”
Yanagi shrugged in response. “I don’t know. We won’t know until [Y/L/N] recovers and can tell us more about the encounter.”
With a simple nod, the two fell into a pocket of silence. Now she knew why he picked this specific coffee machine because it overlooked the central garden the hospital surrounded and because it quelled the ambient chatter of a busy hospital.
“She’s reckless, why is she even an officer?”
“How did someone like her pass the academy?”
“Junior Officer [Y/L/N] is a liability to the team, I would like her removed effective immediately.”
“You will be temporarily assigned to the first division under investigations. You may be familiar with Detective Yanagi, he graduated from the academy with you, but he will be your partner starting today.”
“Ya-na-gi! Yanagi-san~ would you like to come with me to the arcade tonight?”
“Why? Is there a case we’re supposed to be investigating?”
“No, I just thought it would be fun for us to do some team-building exercises!”
“We did plenty of those together at the academy.”
“You’re no fun… Unless~ you’re just afraid I’ll beat all your possible high scores with my own!”
“Yes, you are.”
“... Is it because you don’t trust me?”
“No one in the station likes me or trusts me because I’m reckless and a liability. They think I’m some walking… hazard with a bright yellow sign above my head so everyone avoids working with me.”
“I don’t… think you’re a hazard.”
“It’s ok if you do, I get it. Just, if it’s possible, let’s avoid using that word from now on. I hate it. It’s the most stupid word to ever exist in the dictionary.”
“Oi, [Y/L/N]-san. [Y/L/N]-san!”
“Do you… What’s your favourite game at the arcade?”
“Maximum Tune 4.”
“What’s your high score?”
“My fastest score? 2 minutes, 50 seconds and 927 milliseconds.”
“I can beat that, let’s go to the arcade. I’ll buy us drinks.”
“Really?! Can we get some agedashi tofu too? I love agedashi tofu!”
[12.15 4:55 AM
Shinjuku General Hospital—Room 3011]
“To…fu…” your eyes slowly opened at the thought as you came to your surroundings. “Agedashi tofu.”
A dull pain stretched across the side of your left torso, causing you to wince. You pulled your hand towards it by instinct, but the slip of warmth into the cool air of the room caused you to look down.
Yanagi Aiji of all people was hunched over the side of your cot, sleeping rather uncomfortably from the plastic chair, a warm hand of his resting on your knee, the other had been holding your hand.
The growing realization that you were in pain and in the hospital dawned on you much later than it should, eyes following the nasal tube resting on your upper lip towards the machine it originated from. Next to it was a quiet but steady EKG, temporarily amusing your curious eyes as you watched the colourful lines periodically spike in recognition of your vitals.
Agedashi tofu, right.
Gently removing his hold on you, you carefully slipped your feet from under the thin hospital blanket, testing your strength at the side of the bed before a sting in your arm caused you to flinch. An IV drip had been assigned to you. With diligent fingers, you pulled the nasal tube from your nose, before contemplating removing the EKG attached to your finger.
You’ve seen plenty enough movies to know that the IV drip you could move with you, but not the pulse tracker. Once it was removed from your finger, the machine would flatline and cause a commotion. Unless… you turned it off first.
As you reached around the machine to find the power button, the discarded breathing tube on the cot was sending a wave of air out of the plastic and onto Yanagi’s face. The man stirred from his sleep, eyes opening to the sight of an empty bed, a discarded oxygen tube and you, fiddling with the hospital monitor under the moonlight.
The overtly-fatigued detective moved his head to rest his chin on his forearms as he watched you twist around the monitor, trying to subtly turn it off. Albeit amused, the man called out to you in his sleep-riddled voice, the low baritone causing you to jump out of your skin.
“You’ve been awake for less than a few minutes and you’re already back on your mischievous behaviour,” the man quirked an eyebrow at your guilty stance, clearly unimpressed. “What are you doing out of bed?”
Under a faint whisper, you murmured something about wanting agedashi tofu while Yanagi left the uncomfortable plastic chair to round you back into the cot.
The detective sighed, pulling the thin blanket over you before readjusting the nasal tube back into your nose and over your ears. “I’ll go buy you some agedashi tofu, okay? Just… for all things good, stay in bed and don’t reopen any wounds.”
You peered into his tired, periwinkle eyes, grinning at how they perfectly complemented the early morning skies from behind him, laced in deep purples and blues on the verge of getting lighter.
For a moment, Yanagi’s nimble fingers remained idle, his touch as light as a feather resting on your cheeks where he had adjusted the oxygen tube. There was an indescribable feeling in his chest, one between a fleeting moment of worry and a warm sentiment he couldn’t quite name, and instead of trying to figure it out, the man cleared his throat, turning away to reach his seat once more.
“I’ll be back, stay put.”
His jacket swiftly followed as he pulled it off the back of the chair, dipping between the curtains in a quiet hurry.
Once his footsteps faded out, you huddled your legs as close to your body as you could before your stitched torso complained. The memory of everything leading up to you waking up remained hazy and patchy, like a book missing its pages. You wanted to dwell on your own, to figure out the pieces but a nurse soon poked her head in, startling you from your thoughts. Yanagi must have flagged her down on his way out.
She tended to your IV, checked your vitals and gave you a little explanation of what had happened. You came in with five stab wounds on the side of your torso, missing most major organs but damaging the muscle and tissue. Your shoulder was bruised on a fall impact, but nothing else too out of the ordinary. The nurse handed you a cup of warm water and some medication, noting that she would be back with more during your next meal.
Alone once again and more awake, your brain finally connected the dots. Mizuno had been following you for a while, unnerved by the idea you had seen his face and been so bold to confront him about his suspected relations to Adonis and the May X-Day incidents. The puff of air you had been harbouring in your cheeks came out disgruntled and dejected, maybe you wouldn’t be here had you just followed through with the original lead you had given Yanagi that day.
No, c’mon, I would have totally followed it at some point anyways… But maybe I would have still been with the team when I did go up to Mizuno if I hadn’t pursued him first.
Your temple started to ache, aware that Yanagi was most likely here to get a statement from you before the police could. He didn’t seem mad but you were preparing yourself for one of his usual dad-lectures about your behaviour when he returned. How you should’ve waited to get more information first before jumping the gun. Or that you should be more careful when chasing a lead on your own.
Tired of the throbbing at your side, you flopped back into the thin pillow behind you, counting the specs on the ceiling titles until Yanagi returned.
In his hands were a white plastic bag and a dual-cardboard tray supporting two drinks. “Everything was closed so I could only find regular tofu at the convenience store.”
It was hard to withstand the urge to just tear open the bag like some savage predator who had gone too long without a fresh hunt, your stomach rumbled at the thought of tofu. You unpacked everything from the bag as Yanagi draped his jacket over your shoulders.
“You looked cold, I-uh, also got you a warm milk tea and some other soft foods. Miso too, liquids are good, you need more of those.”
Quietly thanking him as he pushed your drink closer to your shivering hands, he nodded with a small smile before sitting down in the chair. The two of you ate quietly, sharing small glances as you handed bits of food to one another. From the way the tofu had been packaged, you could tell Yanagi had made sure to heat it up in the microwave at the convenience store before bringing it back.
Although it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, the savoury flavour of soya sauce and sesame oil drizzled over warm tofu was enough to satiate your craving. He had even picked up a bowl of okayu and some tamagoyaki from the convenience store, giving you a burst of excitement as you inhaled all the food you could.
“How are you feeling?”
You shrugged, nonchalant in honesty. “‘s fine. I’m just hungry and kinda annoyed I gotta be hooked up to all of this.”
Yanagi gave a breathy chuckle in response to you waving your arm full of wires. “You should be out of here soon. Enomoto already volunteered to take care of you for the first day.”
“I would prefer if Enomoto didn’t cook all his jazzy dishes at my house. The scent lingers on all my linen for a week.”
“Not at yours,” Yanagi paused, chewing through his bite of the egg before he continued. “At the agency.”
He didn’t miss the downcast look that crossed your face, falling quiet with no rebuttal to give. Just like how he didn’t miss the way you bit on your inner cheek—something you often did to suppress the impulsive urge to say how you truly felt. It was an odd moment for an outspoken person.
“It’ll just put everyone at ease if you weren’t alone until the investigation into your case is closed.”
Your face contorted at his words, eyes darting around as you tried to make sense of his words. “What case?”
“[Y/L/N], you were kidnapped, restrained and held against your will, then violently stabbed multiple times. How are you not going to want to pursue charges against Mizuno after all that?”
“How did you know about Mizuno?”
“You told us when we found you in the chapel.”
“Who else knows?” you felt the anger bubbling inside you as Yanagi remained silent. “Yanagi. Who else knows about my encounter at the chapel with Mizuno?”
Yanagi could tell this was a sensitive topic for you, it was why he insisted on staying with you until you woke up. Whatever happened between you and Mizuno at the abandoned chapel had to do with Adonis.
A part of him worried that you would suddenly become an X-Day Sympathiser, but the other wanted a chance for you to come to terms with everything before the police got too involved. His eyes searched your face for confirmation of his initial worry, but all he could sense was stress and anxiety.
“The whole team. Shiraishi, Yoshino and I were the ones who found you, but with Adonis’ help,” at the mention of Adonis, Yanagi pointed to his neck. “Her collar sounded once at the mention of your disappearance and twice at the chapel when we couldn’t find you in the main unit.”
The food was starting to go cold but you remained indifferent about eating, fingers dancing under your thumb like you wanted to crack each of them but without the strive to fully commit. Yanagi reached for your hands, pulling them into his warmer ones as he peered up at you from his spot.
“Did something come up when Mizuno was with you? Anything about Adonis because as far as we can tell, they’re related but it’s strange Adonis would give us clues to find you.”
When you refused to meet his eyes, Yanagi sighed, “[Y/L/N], we’re not upset with you—I’m not upset with you. I want to help, but you need to tell me what happened because this case is going straight to the SPD otherwise and—”
“Mizuno no longer considers himself a member of Adonis. He was a pawn they had manipulated into doing their dirty work for them and he realized what was happening.”
“What do you mean?”
Instead of giving Yanagi a proper answer, you asked for his phone. The noiret obliged, handing you his unlocked phone. Your understanding of Mizuno was still missing a piece, but until you had it figured out, you didn’t want to lead onto much else with Yanagi.
Ignoring all the notifications and reminders, you logged into the database that Sasazuka had installed on everyone’s phone, pulling up the results of Mizuno Tatsuya. There were no mentions of a daughter in his file, but a wife. Searching the wife’s name up instead, you found a birth certificate for Inagaki Hina; the daughter.
To your displeasure, there was an incomplete file on Hina, most likely a result of poor management during the time her disappearance was first reported. There were a few public notices and announcements made in a futile attempt to help Mizuno and his wife find their missing 12-year-old, but the rest were all news articles from when Hina’s body was found. The most recent police file was the detailed forensics report that was created after the discovery, dated approximately three months before you and Yanagi both resigned from the SPD, and an incompleted case report last edited a month after your departures. Out of curiosity, you read through the forensics report, but in hindsight, you really wish you hadn’t.
Your lips started to quiver and tears welled up. Yanagi felt the oncoming urge to cry before he could see, your free hand shaking in his like you were trying to fight back the wave of emotions. He felt useless beside you as he watched on. There had only been one other time in your years together where he saw you shed some tears, but that was during a rather tough moment on a case the two of you worked on at the SPD, involving two young girls who had met a harsh and ungiving fate. This was a different situation, one that didn’t seem all that likely to be quelled by just a hug and a promise that justice and closure would be found for the family. All he could was ask you what was wrong.
“I don’t know what to do, Yanagi. All this time… All this time I thought justice was the key to a safe world. That judgement must be passed in a justified manner, but I don’t know if that’s true anymore. The system is corrupt. The pattern thus far in all of the X-Day incidents has been to right the wrongs that have come up from the very system you and I were trained to serve in. Corruption is being surfaced in all its ugliness. Mizuno had a daughter,” you paused, sucking in a shaky breath as Yanagi gave your hand a firm squeeze. You freed yourself to push your hair out of your face, resting your forehead into your palm. Curious about the new information, Yanagi took the phone that had fallen into your lap, eyes scanning over what you had been reading.
“She had taken her mother’s maiden name instead of his, so it never crossed my files during the investigation. I’m sorry, but Mizuno brought it up. He took one look at me and decided to make me a target of his anger but at this point… He had every right to—”
“Don’t say that, we had no part of the missing person report or her forensics investigation.”
“No, but you know who would have? Shiraishi. I remember him telling me about it briefly, but I never looked into it. Maybe if I had paid more attention—”
“Shiraishi was only on the case after her body was found, that’s what he does, forensics. There were no other measures you could have taken then.”
“Yanagi, she was sexually assualted and brutally murdered. Left in a f*cking ditch too. That case should have crossed our desk because we were still at the SPD when it happened, but it never did! No one wrote a proper case file on it afterwards. The only completed file the SPD ever did came from Shiraishi’s forensics team to confirm the cause of death. DNA matches were never followed up on, and no one has been arrested for what they did to Inagaki Hina.”
It felt right to say her name, to acknowledge the person that the very system you believed in, had failed to serve and protect, but it also hurt so much more to know that you were a part of that very system.
A harsh sob racked through your body as you fisted your hair, nails digging into your skin, alerting Yanagi who jumped to stop your distraught movements.
“Okay, okay, breathe. Take a deep breath with me, [Y/L/N]. What happened after?”
Deep breaths filled your lungs as you breathed through your lips, trying to relax as Yanagi helped himself onto your cot, arms enveloping you as he tried to reassure you and keep you grounded.
“M-Mizuno said that Adonis recruited him, promised him vengeance and justice if he played the part of being their pawn. Things only got worse when I pursued him because it dawned on him that what he did wouldn’t do him any good if he got caught. He said something about a cycle… It’s all a never-ending cycle of chasing the idea of justice through sins we cannot erase. That’s what he said to me.”
A pocket of silence fell upon the two of you, Yanagi tucking you closer under his chin while you steadied your breathing and wiped your tears with the back of your hand. His hand reached for a clean napkin instead, briefly wiping at the snot on the tip of your nose before letting you do the rest.
The guilt was coming back to him now, one building on every revelation the two of you seemed to be having as you worked to explain yourself and the encounter with Mizuno. The guilt from kicking you off the team in the first place when everyone else had been right, you were working on the case, and it was a benefit for the team. Did he truly overreact simply because he let a moment of his feelings take hold of his mode of operation?
“I’m sorry,” Yanagi whispered, pausing your movements beneath him. “I’m sorry, [Y/L/N].”
A sniffle echoed in the room, a surprise that none of the other patients had woken up from how hard you had been crying. Not a peep from a passing nurse to make sure you were okay. Yanagi’s protective nature was starting to kick in as he questioned the safety and security of the hospital had he not been adamant about staying with you.
“Why are you sorry?”
“Because,” he started, voice dying down as he sorted out the jumble of words he wanted to say. “Because it hurts to see you so torn over something so out of your control. You’re taking on so much of the blame and I just wished you hadn’t been alone these past months. Whether it would have helped soften the blow of finding out about Hina or preventing your encounter with Mizuno, I regret not keeping you at my side.”
“No, this is good. I needed to know about Hina, I need to critically assess what I know so I can change.”
A small smile broke out on Yanagi’s face as he looked down at you, despite not being able to see your face. A firecracker from the start, one that never seemed to go out even after all the tumultuous things you go through.
Was it optimism or just determination? Ozaki was right, hell, even a brother who remained as distant as Yanagi's brother was right; he was in love with you. Always has and always will.
You were never afraid to do things your way, even if at times it was an inconvenience to others. You weren’t afraid to be outspoken and to do things differently. It still hurt to know even if it was only seemingly one small moment of vulnerability and stress, you were determined to keep improving.
Yanagi removed himself from your side, lowering off the cot to be at eye level with you as he held your hands. Brief as it may be, there was a twinkle from the way Yanagi’s soft eyes bore into yours, a thin smile set upon his face like the best thing just happened to him. Maybe he won the lottery and hadn’t told you yet.
What was happening?
“How do you want to go forward with all this now out on the table?”
Yanagi patiently waited, disregarding the burn starting to creep up his legs from how he was bent at the knees to look you in the eyes.
“Do you still want to press charges, or do you want to let this slide?”
There was no pressure to the way he phrased his question. Not an inkling of a biased opinion or a force to nudge you into a decision, no, Yanagi wasn’t making a decision for you. He truly wanted you to decide for yourself. He gave you your options with a neutral tone—no emphasis on a single choice.
That was something you always admired about him and one reason why it had hurt so much when he forced you out of the agency. Not once had Yanagi ever been someone to decide anything for anyone, especially not you.
Despite how some people would claim as being a victim of your turbulent personality, dragged into suffering the consequences of giving you freedom, Yanagi was indifferent. Even if it gave him a headache sometimes, too harsh a slap of concern, Yanagi was happy to let you approach things the way you wanted to. If he was opposed, he would calmly do what he needed his own way. That was how the partnership worked.
There were moments of compromise, but not without a chance for both parties to talk things out. The decision to kick you off the team seemed rash and a first for Yanagi to reprimand you for your actions. Not once did Yanagi think of you as a hazard. He firmly believed in your abilities and trusted your judgement all the way through.
That was what scared you the most because Yanagi putting his foot down was something to expect from a leader, but losing the one person who put their faith in you without hesitance, now that was different.
The word still stung, and it hit you, you were in love with Yanagi Aiji, but the threat of changing feelings and understandings from the person you loved made you uneasy and restless. So why was there pure trust in the very periwinkle hues that waited ever so patiently for your decision?
“I don’t know,” was all you could muster timidly before breaking your hands away from his once more. What if your indecisiveness and reasoning were the last straws for the man before you?
“What are you thinking?”
Famous words from a detective true to the teamwork model. He was engaging with you to evaluate possible options he might have never considered, but was there truly an option for you to take here?
“A part of me knows I should press charges. To give a detailed report to the precinct so they can do their job—no I have to. But this other part of me, I can’t stop thinking about Hina, Mizuno or his wife. A mother and a father lost their 12-year-old daughter to indecent people. Mizuno was only trying to do what he thought was best to feel better about what happened. Maybe it’s not justifiable, but it doesn’t seem fair.”
You didn’t have to say it for Yanagi to catch on, you were feeling sympathy.
“So do I play the part of the very people who are ruling a corrupted system by letting him off the hook, or do I play my part and risk revictimizing Hina and Mizuno’s wife?”
“You don’t have to decide right now, even if it’ll eat away at you until the officers from the precinct come down to get you whichever statement you plan to give them,” Yanagi whispered, a hand coming up to stroke your cheek.
It that he to show he was still open to letting you decide whether you wanted to be honest and relay the incident at the chapel the way it had happened or to give a false claim that you were left unaware of whatever happened—attributing it to memory loss or what have you.
“You have always been bright enough to make your own judgements, and I trust you no matter what.”
With that, Yanagi leaned in and placed a soft kiss on your lips. It was a simple one, yet the warmth from his hand on your cheek and his proximity made you wish it would last.
You pulled your bottom lips between your teeth as he leaned away to find his spot at your side again. Pensive eyes watched him pick up his chopsticks and a spoon to grab more tofu from the container, placing it gently into your empty dish.
A small and barely audible thank-you made it to his ears, but Yanagi only nodded to acknowledge that he had heard it. Whether it was for the tofu or the bubble of reassurance he was able to offer you for the first time in months would remain up to him to decide.
>> Tagging: @subtleappreciation
[ BIRTHDAY CAKE ] || yanagi aiji x fem! reader. 2.8k words. birthday fluff. spoon feeding. overuse of the words cute and adorable. minor suggestive text. spoilers for unlimited. || ☆ - poc friendly with no implications of skintone or other features!
♡ reblogs + comments highly appreciated ♡
- Aiji hasn’t had someone bake him a cake for his birthday in years. It’s nothing to take to heart, though. He’s nearly thirty, and he’s not with family often, not to mention he hasn’t had any lover in his life for a while. He can’t even recall if his last girlfriend made one, not that it mattered, especially now. It would be the first birthday spent with you. His first birthday in a long while feeling the utmost cheer and relief. In peace and in love. Things finally felt right.
On the morning of his birthday, his first wave of surprise was given.
“Moooorning~” You sang softly into his ear, layering his face with gentle kisses. The blinds were opened slightly enough to let in the morning sun and encase your body in a warm golden glow, an angel waking him. Your giggles sound musical as he groggily sits up.
“You’re awake already?” Aiji questions, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. His face felt hot. “Sorry, I’ll start breakfast in a bit…”
He loses his sentence as the scent of food hits him. He takes another sniff, deciphering the foods in the air. At this moment does he realize he was on the couch instead of the bed equipped with a pillow and blanket. He tries to recall last night.
“It’s pretty lucky that you fell asleep on the couch. Cooking breakfast quietly when you’re sleeping in the same room would be difficult.”
You take Aiji’s hand and guide him back to the kitchen. He’s fully awake upon seeing the breakfast served at the table, all neat and perfect, smelling delectable. You walk over to the table, spreading out your hands to gesture to the meal.
Aiji’s eyes go wide, but recovers with a chuckle.
“I forgot it was my birthday,” he muses, recalling all the other business that preoccupied his mind enough to wash away the memory of his own birthdate. He nearly ruins his own mood at the thought of the build up of work. “I guess I’ve been too busy. It slipped my mind.”
A dramatic gasp leaves your lips, and you pat the seat of his chair. “Well, then you should be glad you have me around. You should always feel special on your birthday.”
Aiji smiles, his cheeks filling with pink as he sits down, you follow beside him. He turns his attention to his food. It’s an ordinary meal omurice, made extremely well too. The presentation is…adorable. A large heart was drawn in ketchup, in the middle were the words “I Love you” with a small heart period. Aiji feels his own heart skip a beat. His face scrunches up, trying not to let too much of his heart reach his face; it was too embarrassing to make such expressions.
“Sorry, i-it’s just so cute, you’re so adorable,” Aiji buries his face in his hands, running his hand through his hair afterwards.
Your own face heats up. It’s not the first time he’s become speechless over your cuteness, nor bluntly admitting it, but it never ceases to fluster you either. You hold your warm cheeks, trying to cool them down. Aiji recovers before you.
He leans over to kiss your cheek. His warm breath lingers on you.
- Of course, the entire day was spent together. Not a single moment were the two of you apart. It’s just you two. The others decided to reschedule for a late celebration due to the inconsistencies in everyone’s work schedules. Enomoto nearly cried, dramatically, into the phone as he apologized. Okazaki seemed interested in joining, but nonchalantly declined also, though Aiji was more relieved than disappointed. He was still an exhausting person in his mind. Sasazuka sent a simple text, a bit annoyed that he was bothered during a rush hour, but accepted the reschedule suggestion anyways.
“Thank you. Now, let’s eat.”
Although you wish Aiji could spend his birthday surrounded by the friends he's made, after the time spent keeping himself as a lonesome island, you were just grateful he let you into his life. At least he wouldn’t be alone.
“What’s wrong?” Aiji questions, noticing the frown pulling at your lips.
The both of you were out on a date, something you haven’t been able to do in a while. Work has kept the two of you on short chains these past weeks, only able to see each other at night, and on a good day, share a bed. Right now, you were on the way to see a movie.
“Nothing,” you reply, squeezing his arm you have yourself wrapped around as you walk. “I was hoping everyone could have celebrated today.”
“Sounds like you don’t want to spend alone time with me.”
“No! That’s not true!” You gasp, shaking his arm as he laughs.
“I know, I’m just teasing.”
Aiji pulls you in closer to him, caressing the top of your head, enjoying your pouting expression. He's become meaner in a sense of wanting to pull out these different reactions from you, nothing horrible, but he’s become addicted to your cuteness, it makes him a little selfish.
Aiji takes a sigh. He internally agrees; it would have been nice to have everyone gathered (though to include Okazaki would be a bit of a stretch). Morioka had also promised him a later celebration, preferably at their usual spot, the bar. The disappointment of being unable to meet with friends was an unusual feeling now.
“Don’t worry, I’m still enjoying myself with you.”
You reply with a cheerful hum. You haven’t asked him, but, selfishly, you would like to think you were his favorite person. It’s a silly, clingy thought, so you kept it to yourself, but in your head it’s true. It doesn’t mean you want to keep him all to yourself like a crazy person.
As you pass by stores, windows filled with shelves of items and trinkets, clothes to jewelry, you pass a cake store. On display were a few different cakes of multiple sizes and decor for different occasions. One is for a birthday with frosting balloons and a Happy Birthday message written in the middle. It’s large enough to share with at least eight people. Aiji wouldn’t need a cake that size.
“I wanna make you a cake, Aiji.”
You said it faster than you could clearly think about it, though cake making is simple if you just get it in the box, but perhaps you could try it from scratch? Oh! Plus you could decorate it yourself!
“You don’t have too. I’m fine with store bought. You already made me a whole breakfast, and I saw the ingredients for grilled miso pork. You’re doing so much already for me.”
“But I want to! I promise it won’t take too much effort,” you wave it off, internally cringing at his worried tone. He wouldn’t let you make a cake from scratch if you’re already making dinner. Boxed cake it is then. “I just really wanna make you a special cake. Pleeeease?”
You give Aiji your best puppy eyes. It’s not really a skill seeing as Aiji gives in easily anyways to you. He probably likes the idea of his adorable girlfriend making him a cake. Maybe you were getting a little bit full of yourself lately. It would be his fault for always telling you how cute you were.
“Just…make sure you aren’t stressing yourself too much over today, okay?”
You nod, then release his arm to lift up his hand. You hold out your pinkie and intertwine it with his. The action has Aiji blushing, but his eyes hold steady on yours.
Aiji smiles. It’s that small, soft smile that you’ve personally melted and found under his cold exterior. Though, he wasn’t cold as in mean, he was cold as in frozen in a bad memory. Cold as in when you can’t find warmth. Cold as in a trapped in a lake threatening to freeze over. Aiji could smile like this now for you.
Aiji could find the warmth on the candle of his birthday cake lit by you.
- As you promised, the cake was boxed. All you had to do was add the extra ingredients and bake it. You had Aiji wait outside the store so you could surprise him with the decorations. The only thing he asked was for the cake to be vanilla. Everything else about it could be up to you. He had hoped you didn’t choose anything to be too childish; his limits are still apparent.
You wouldn’t let him in the kitchen the entire time after dinner. You shooed him out with a nice drink and went to work. Well, most of the work was in decorating the cake, but you pretended you made it from scratch.
Once the cake was finished, all that was left was to blow out the candles. Aiji perked up from the couch when you came carefully around the corner, eyes lighting up as bright . He holds his hands underneath the plate as caution as you set it down.
“See? No trouble at all,” you wipe some of the stray frosting on the apron you wore. It didn’t serve any purpose for a simple cake like this, you just knew Aiji thought you looked cute in it, and so did you. “Should I also sing for you?”
Aiji cringes. “Please don’t.”
“Just a little? I won’t go all out.”
You do a little clap. Aiji smiles softly, then takes out his lighter. There’s only three candles on the cake planted right in the middle. He chuckles as he notices the words being smushed around the candles, written as if you had forgotten to write them before putting down the candles, or quickly added them after realizing you wanted to write it.
‘Happy Birthday, Aiji.’
“Are you ready, Aiji?” You snuggle up to him, wrapping yourself around his arm.
Aiji nods. You take a small breath and begin singing.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday dear Aiji~ Haaaappy birrrthday to you~
Your voice was soft in his ear. It sounded more like a lullaby which he couldn’t tell if it felt more embarrassing or not, but it was sweet. The smile he had on his face before grew bigger, bigger until it was hard to control. Aiji had to close his eyes in preparation for his wish. Your head fell on his shoulder, your eyes also fluttering. The world around you was quiet except for the two of you.
After you’ve finished, you wait for Aiji to make his wish. He leans over, steady for a moment, thinking, then blowing out the candles with ease.
You hug his arm, silently cheering. You have to refrain from asking what he wished for due to the rule. Aiji deserved to have his wishes come true, even if they had to be left unspoken. You might even say you’d wish for it too, even if you didn’t know, just so he could be happy.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what I wished for…”
Your eyes jump up, expression like a dog being caught with a chewed up shoe.
“It’s written all over your face,” Aiji smirks.
You shrug your shoulders and try slumping down. You puff out your cheeks then gently blow the air out. Aiji pokes your side, still smirking.
“Well, maybe, but it won’t come true if you tell me.”
Aiji shrugs. “I don’t think it’ll affect anything. You should know by now that I’m a pretty simple man.”
You groan playfully, smacking him on his arm childishly.
“No telling!” You scold, holding up a finger to Aiji as he opens his mouth to retort. You hold stern. “I mean it!”
Aiji raises his hand in defeat. You start for the cake, continuing to watch him from the side of your vision as you reach for the cake knife you had set out earlier. The slice comes out nicely; the size was just right for after a meal and you didn’t flop it onto the plate and mess up the frosting. As you go to hand him the plate, you suddenly stop, pulling it back.
“Can I feed you?”
Aiji’s face flushes red. Now it’s his turn to be adorable. He rubs the back of his neck, eyes narrowed bashfully.
“H-Hey, you already sang to me, now you want to feed me?”
You remembered one of your dates, the one in the cafe. You had ordered a large, fruity tea drink, one for couples. It came with two straws for the both of you to drink out of. Aiji was flustered back then, and it’s a moment still burned into your memory. You want to make more of those silly memories of Aiji indulging you in cute couple things.
“C’mon, no one would see it,” you plead excitedly, already picking up the spoon. Aiji leans back. “Not even a few bites?”
Aiji has an internal war with himself. He’s told you before that doing these sorts of things with his girlfriend didn’t bother him, it’s just something new to him. It flustered him, surprised him, even. It made his heart jump for joy, but he didn’t want to let it overflow him too much. His lower lip trembles as he tries not to make a stupid face.
“S-Sure…just a couple of bites.”
Aiji scoots back over, his knees touching yours. He sits awkwardly for a moment as he waits for you to go. You scoop up a piece. You bite your cheek as you hold back from saying something silly, like doing an airplane, or the train. Aiji would definitely come full stop, and honestly the thought now has you cringing also.
Okay, you weren’t doing this without making him go a little extra, and it was something couples did anyways, sort of.
Luckily, Aiji obliges, making the sound softly. It sounds funnier in his deeper voice. He shakily takes the bite. His face reddens more as you let out little giggles. He’s quiet as he chews. He swallows heavily, mumbling something incoherent.
“Is it good?” You ask, already scooping up the next bite.
“Yeah, it’s nice. I like this brand of frosting.”
You smile at him, not a teasing one, but a genuine, satisfied one. Aiji loses the tension in his body, taking the next bite happily, even humming in content as he savors the taste. A few more bites go by, moreso an unconscious action while you chat than an embarrassing tease. The two of you are relaxed with each other.
“Oops…” The spoon was filled with more frosting than cake, and some of it ended up on the corner of Aiji’s lip. “I’ll get that.”
You lean in, softly kissing the drop of frosting away, finally tasting it for yourself. You lick your lips, humming happily. Aiji was right about the brand. It was a little more expensive, and it was undoubtedly worth the price.
Aiji’s face was more priceless. His eyes wide and blown out, his lips slacked open with a broken sound of his startled voice, and his cheeks flushed again. He lowers his head with his fingers touching the spot you kissed, his dark hair shading his eyes. The realization of your action hits you, and you find yourself in the same reaction. You didn’t regret it though. It’s not like you haven’t already kissed him before, made out with him, you’ve gone a lot farther than kissing some frosting off the corners of his lips.
Aiji clears his throat. “I think that’s enough cake. You’re getting too much for me…”
You sigh and put the spoon down on the plate. Aiji offers to help wash, but you politely decline the help from the birthday boy. You take the plate first, then come back for the cake which you’ll put in the fridge. It only takes a few minutes for everything to be cleaned and put away. You walk back to find Aiji running a hand through his black locks, the red fading into a pink. You tip-toe back to him.
Aiji makes a slightly startled noise as you slide your arms around his shoulder. You’ve leaned over to hug him from behind, your cheek touching his. You hum the birthday song again.
“No, no more singing.”
Aiji huffs, almost not believing, but instantly melts into you. He turns his head to kiss your warm cheek. You catch the sugary sweet scent of the cake on his breath. You’ve forgotten you didn’t have a slice. His lips still linger on your skin as he whispers:
You shiver as his voice vibrates on your skin, his deep voice wrapping you in a heated blanket. You lean your cheek back to his lips, and his kisses continue.
“You’re welcome, Aiji. I hope your wishes come true.”
Aiji stops his kissing again to tilt your head to face him. His cool eyes soften under you. He leans in again with his breath on your lips.
“Don’t worry, it has.”
You can confirm for yourself you did a good job on the cake. He tastes good.
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