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Brueghel's Icarus

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A slow day; the first in a while. Someone has left a cup of coffee on the desk. Kyouya would prefer a cigarette, but the coffee is there and waiting, so he takes a sip and decides that the cigarette would have been the better choice.

He sets the cup back down and switches the computer on. Aizawa is not the sort to leave congealing cups of coffee on his desk -- at least, Kyouya doesn't think she is. But the death of an acquaintance can do strange things to people. Perhaps he'll ask her about it after he writes the report. He listens to the slight whine of the computer stirring to life, organises the facts in his head while waiting: date, time, place. The mousepad is scuffed. He should probably get a new one from the supply office. To his left, the air-conditioning unit's thermostat adjusts itself with an audible click. He can still feel the last slow beats of Atsuko's heart against the palm of his hand; the warmth of blood (not quite hers) between his fingers.

But blood is always warm, and there is paperwork to do. He drinks the coffee for the sake of emptying the cup, throws the empty cup into the wastepaper basket by his desk. Begins to write his report.


Kyouya is usually competent at speaking to the dead; but Yamaki had nothing to say three years ago, and today it is the same. He kneels by the body, rests an elbow on the edge of the bed. Maybe he says something like: "So it came to this, old man." Maybe he just thinks it. But either way there is no reply: just the clean antiseptic smell of the hospital floor, and the dull-scented smoke of joss-sticks, which tastes different from cigarette smoke and is a darker colour.

The robe is folded the wrong way, left-over-right in the style reserved for the living. He remembers that some hours later, when they are back in the office and he is observing the shadow that his hand leaves across the computer keyboard. (The darkest shadows are the ones that the keys themselves cast, and the office lighting is too weak for his own shadow to make much of a difference.) He thinks the old man might have appreciated the mistake.


He notices these things, which is not the same as saying that he cares about them: that Aizawa never needs him to drive her home; that Aizawa never suggests that he should visit; that Aizawa calls him 'Iida', sans any honorific.

(And: that Aizawa never ducks her head in that slight, embarrassed way; that Aizawa's fiancé is always just the right shade of polite; that Aizawa knows exactly what she is risking.)


Married life has been good for Yamaki. His shirts are neatly pressed, at least when he arrives to the office in the morning; his cuffs are carefully buttoned, though one or both of them will come loose at some point in the day. His smile is beginning to take on a comfortable complacence. To the extent that it can replace Yamaki's nervous awkwardness, Kyouya approves. He wishes Yamaki would quit the force before the job ruins his happy domestic life.


"Hm? I'm not up to treating you and the old man to another round of drinks tonight, before you ask."

"What? No, I-- Won't you come over for dinner tomorrow? Yukari-chan keeps asking me when you'll accept an invitation, and you know I hate to disappoint her..."

Yamaki has the usual embarrassed smile on his face, the usual sheepish tone in his voice. Kyouya just grins, like he always does; pats Yamaki on the shoulder, says: "Hey, Hachimaki. If you want a free ride home, just say so."

Which, although not a real answer, is the only one that the both of them expect. Yamaki should know better than to bother asking. But optimism in the face of futility is what characterises Yamaki, after all -- why else would he stay in the force after marriage, despite what statistics and common sense have told him?

Soon the boss chases them out of the office. Yamaki goes home. Kyouya goes to his own house, at least for tonight. Presumably life at Hotel Kameyama continues without him, and the old newsvendor has someone else to whom she can offer a warm dinner and packets of cigarettes. Several other people, even; informants always have a range of customers, just as they have their range of sources. It is nice to know that if 'Kyouya-chan' stepped out of the newsvendor's life and out of existence, the shady ecosystem of Hotel Kameyama would continue to flourish.

Kyouya drives more recklessly when he's not ferrying a family man home. Soon he is at the parking lot of his apartment, soon he is climbing the stairs to his door. The door clicks open with a sound that is a shade duller than the click of a old-fashioned Chinese pistol and far too loud to be a tape recorder coming to a halt.

He slips his shoes off and closes the door behind him. Possibly he will draw the curtains and let the night glow through his window. More possibly he will not bother. Outside are the lights of the city -- neon lines and squares of stale fluorescence, shining on dead-end lives and bloodstained deals and possibly a quiet murder or two in a dark alley somewhere, politely out of sight. The city that does not sleep eats itself alive to pass the time; by the next morning it will be, if not exactly reborn, then at least resurrected. Kyouya notes these things and dismisses them, automatically: the damp patch on his ceiling, the hum of the radiator, a worn patch on the floorboards, muffled curses two or three doors down. The whine of a police siren rises and fades several floors below, irrelevant for the moment. Maybe he should eat breakfast tomorrow. Maybe he should get a new jacket. Kyouya gets out his lighter, prepares to burn another packet of Hopes. It is going to be a slow night.