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Emeralds and Raven Feathers

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Poe had always been an awkward child. From a very young age he preferred the company of random creatures he befriended to that of other people. Animals were simple and easy to understand. They were kind where people were judgmental. Humans were just too complicated and the effort it took to interact with them was exhausting. It never seemed worth the hassle or inevitable stress on his end.

It was on his thirteenth birthday that Poe found a shiny, green marble on his desk in his bedroom. It sat right next to the leather-bound journal and black-feather quill pen that he’d just gotten as a gift from his parents. How strange. He hadn’t put it there. In fact, he’d never seen the shiny object before. He picked it up and examined it only to find that it had a strangely comforting presence. He felt soothed by it and even smiled to himself. He decided to show it to his mother since she liked pretty things.

That was the day that Poe learned about soul fragments. More specifically, the fact that everyone was born with a tiny piece of their soul missing and one day it would find its way into the hands of the person they were meant to be with. These fragments could literally take the form of anything, but they had one thing in common. That wonderful, comforting feeling they emitted. It was something only the person meant to keep the item could feel. The theory was that this happened so that these items weren’t discarded as normal objects.

His mother explained that one day he would meet his soulmate and the fragment would react. Sometimes they burned, sometimes they glowed, or various other things. That much depended on the form the fragment had taken. No matter what happened, it was a sign that the fragment was ready to return to its rightful owner, a feat that only one who currently held it could perform. To a young, impressionable Poe that sounded like quite the burden.

He took his marble and new knowledge back to his bedroom and laid across the dark sheets. He held it up so that it reflected the light in the room and studied it in awe. Poe understood the very serious meaning behind soul fragments. He was sure that he didn’t want anything to do with them. There was too much pressure on his end to find the person that was missing this marble and return it. He realized that he didn’t care about finding a soulmate. Humans were too complicated and that would mean he’d have to deal with another person a heck of a lot more. It’d probably be better if he just got rid of the thing. That would be a load off his mind.

Still, he liked the marble and the feeling it emitted quite a bit. Thus, he decided to have it put into a setting so he could wear it as a necklace. That way he would be able to carry it with him at all times. He didn’t fear running into the person that might want it back one day because he wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. His anxieties kept him away from people for the most part, and that would work in his favor. It was his special treasure and that much would never change. It wasn’t like he’d ever happen across its rightful owner, anyway.

 

Fifteen years later…

 

“It’s rather exciting to be at a book signing isn’t it, Karl?” Poe asked his pet that had its own special chair next to his. He turned towards the raccoon that was mostly hidden behind a stack of books which sat upon the table they waited at. The little beastie chittered softly in response. Poe nodded in agreement and pat its head.

Karl had been his pet and best friend for so long now that Poe couldn’t remember a time without him, and he wouldn’t want to. They understood each other on a level that others simply couldn’t comprehend. Ever since he’d rescued Karl as a baby and nursed him to full health, they’d had a bond like none other. Poe smiled at the raccoon when it whined softly as if it was asking him a question.

“No, I never imagined any of my publications would get popular enough to warrant a signing. It’s all rather incredible.” As well as nerve wracking, but he didn’t have to say that bit. It was obvious by how anxious he was simply sitting there waiting for the event to start. He was jumpier than ever and couldn’t help but twiddle his thumbs as he waited. Poe listened to the raccoon grunt a few times in response. He huffed softly to himself then said, “Well, thank you for believing in me enough for the both of us then.”

Suddenly both doors to the bookshop burst open at the same time and a boy stood between them as he yelled, “It was you! You’re the culprit!”

Poe let out the most undignified squeak as he jumped in surprise. He didn’t know what the heck was going on. He looked around quickly to see that the employees around him looked just as confused. So whatever was happening wasn’t part of some staged performance his agent had forgotten to mention. That was good, he supposed.

He turned his attention to the boy that stood still and pointed at him dramatically until the doors finally slammed shut behind him. What an entrance. It was shocking to say the least. Poe’s nerves kicked into high gear as his mind raced with a thousand and one things this kid might be referring to. One time when he was six he- no, that couldn’t possibly be it. He gasped softly as the stranger suddenly stomped over to him.

It was when the odd person finally stood on the other side of the table that Poe realized he wasn’t a boy at all. He was just a short man with a flare for the dramatic. That was odd. Poe’s gaze traveled over the matching outfit he wore that included a brown hat and half-cape. He might’ve considered that look to be quirky if he didn’t also usually sport a cape. Though his was a full length one because stopping at half didn’t make sense to him. He wondered if this man also got described as ‘eccentric’ by others.

His gaze landed upon the Ramune in the other man’s hand. A sweet tooth wasn’t much of a surprise. It only added to the guy’s already childish vibe. Poe hadn’t even heard a word of what the man had begun to ramble on about the moment he reached the table. He still wasn’t over his initial shock. He jumped when the man slammed his hands upon the table.

“You are Edgar Allan Poe, world-renowned author!” The stranger exclaimed.

“Y-yes… do you want an autograph o-or…?” Poe did his best not to stumble over his words. He wasn’t sure what else to do in the situation. If this guy was a fan he sure was an intense one. He leaned away slightly from the crazy man. Karl took the opportunity to squeak then skitter over to his lap and onto his shoulders. The raccoon hissed softly at the stranger in disapproval.

“Absolutely not! In fact, you should be asking me for my autograph!” The crazy guy yelled.

Poe looked down at his hands in his lap and mumbled, “Oh. Well, the thing about that is this is my book signing so maybe I can visit you at yours, m-mister-”

The man slapped his left hand atop the stack of books on the table. The abrupt noise made Poe jump and look up at him. The man held his chin in the air and declared, “I’m Edogawa Ranpo and I’m here to tell you the thousand and one things wrong or predictable about this book.”

As promised, Ranpo began to do just that. Poe could barely keep up with all the things he ranted about. He had to admit the ones he could follow actually made sense. It was strange, though. Usually someone attacking him or his work would send Poe into an anxious spiral. With this man, it only made him curious to hear all that he had to say. It was almost as if he wanted to have an actual conversation with the guy. He’d never experienced anything like it.

Suddenly Poe felt a searing pain in the middle of his chest. He hissed and doubled over as he clutched at the fabric of his clothes. He made sure to grab the necklace that he wore beneath his shirt, which was the source of the pain. He lifted it so that it no longer touched his bare skin, but it was almost too hot to hold even through his clothes. What the heck? His treasure had never done anything like this before.

One day you’ll meet your soulmate, and the fragment will react… Poe’s breath hitched in his throat and his eyes widened as his mother’s words echoed in his head. That had been so long ago he’d forgotten all about it. The marble had been his silly little treasure and nothing more all this time.

“You all right?” Ranpo stopped his rambling to ask.

Poe looked up at him in response. It struck him like lightning when he noticed that this man’s eyes were the exact shade of emerald as the marble he’d worn around his neck since he was a teenager. The thought made him shake with nerves. It couldn’t be. There was simply no way that this chance meeting could be what he’d been happy to avoid for more than half of his life. He watched Ranpo raise a curious eyebrow at him and realized that he was waiting for a response. Poe stiffened in his seat and yelped, “Y-yeah! Fine!”

Karl jumped off of his owner’s shoulders and onto the table. He sniffed at the hand that Ranpo offered him curiously. It wasn’t until the man offered him a bit of cookie from his pocket that the raccoon decided that he was all right in his book. Karl sat there happily with his snack as Ranpo pat him on the head and said, “Good, ‘cause I’m not done with my critique. Now, let’s talk predictable characters with boring motivations–”

Poe simply sat there and marveled at the man with the eyes that shined as brilliantly as his treasure. He nodded as he listened to Ranpo tear into the story he’d worked so hard on. Part of him could hardly believe that this all made so much sense to him. He wasn’t mad about it, but a little disappointed in himself for not having caught it. Where had this guy been when he’d pitched the idea in the first place? What did he have to do to find an editor half as good as him?

Once Ranpo finished his little rant he popped the top of the Ramune he held and chugged it before anyone could tell him that it wasn’t allowed. Poe’s eyes were immediately drawn to the marble in the empty bottle when he placed it onto the table. It didn’t shine nearly as brilliantly as his own and his hand instinctively squeezed his necklace just a bit tighter. He only managed to look away when he heard a book slam shut.

Ranpo placed the book he held onto the table then slid it towards Poe and said, “Anyway, if you have any stories that are real challenges for a genius like myself, I’d be interested in hearing about them.”

“W-wh… huh?” Poe was at a loss for words. He looked down at the copy of his own book then up at the strange man again. Ranpo had already started to walk off, evidently having accomplished his goal for the day. Poe looked back down at his book and scrunched his face. He spun it around so that it was the right side up then noticed something sticking out of the bottom.

He carefully removed what he found to be a business card and examined it. His eyes traveled over the words about a dozen times before they finally registered in his brain. Karl tried to grab at the card with his little paws and Poe turned to the side so he couldn’t reach. He could barely comprehend the words as he mumbled, “He’s a detective?”

Poe reached into his shirt and removed the necklace beneath. He examined the marble that sat in what looked like a silver raven’s foot. Nothing had changed. It was still the same marble he’d always owned, no matter what angle he held it. There was no sign that it had just been so hot he was sure it’d burn a hole right through his clothes. It was such a curious object. He couldn’t possibly have imagined the feeling, though. Unless the power of his imagination was even greater than he’d ever known. Perhaps…

“Less than ten minutes till we open for the event, Mr. Poe.”

The sound of a woman’s voice made Poe jump. He stuffed his necklace back into his shirt where it belonged then looked at her. Even through his long bangs he could see that she had an apologetic look upon her face. That was probably because no one had any idea what had just happened. Either way, now wasn’t the time to dwell on it. He stuffed the business card into his vest pocket then cleared his throat and nodded. He’d spent a month and a half preparing himself for this event. Now was the time to show himself that he could get through it. Everything else that was on his mind would have to wait.

 

︵‿︵‿୨♡୧‿︵‿︵

 

Poe managed to get along just fine for the better part of three weeks after that strange occurrence at the book signing. He returned to his normal, boring life and resumed his daily activities. The only difference now was whenever he looked at his marble he didn’t just feel the usual comforting feeling. Now he also thought of a certain detective that had come into and walked out of his life like a hurricane.

He’d looked at the business card he’d been given on more than one occasion as he wondered what the heck he was supposed to do with it. Sure, there was a number but what was he supposed to say? He didn’t have the proper training for something so terribly… social. He was at a loss and considered throwing the card away more than once. Yet each time he ended up putting it back into his desk for safe keeping. Maybe one day he’d know what to do with the thing.

Three days later he found himself in that same bookstore where his signing had been. This time he was there to support a friend. Well, an acquaintance that he was supposed to act like he was friends with. The man was odd to say the least, but they shared an agent and since the guy had always been good to him Poe couldn’t refuse when he asked for a favor. Their agent aside, that didn’t make Lovecraft any easier to deal with. No matter what he tried, he just couldn’t wrap his head around the guy. Even Karl didn’t seem too keen on him, and the raccoon was easy enough to please.

In the end, Poe supposed he didn’t mind helping out. At least he had a chance to check out the mystery section of the bookstore again before the reading began. He did love to see what his competition were up to. He reached up to his shoulder and scratched under Karl’s chin then meandered over to the section in question. He froze in place and let out a soft gasp when he saw Ranpo there with a book in one hand and a bag of Konpeito in the other. He watched the shorter man shake his head and flip through the book he held.

Ranpo popped a few candies into his mouth and mumbled, “Butler. Too cliché.” Poe’s eyes widened when the other man tossed the book aside and looked at him. Impossibly green eyes widened when he finally seemed to realize who he was and then Ranpo gasped, “What are you doing here?”

“Me? I’m supporting a friend. What are you doing here?” Poe’s response was mostly instinctual.

“Being disappointed by so called ‘authors’,” Ranpo scoffed as he made quotes in the air. He shook his head and rolled his eyes then turned his attention back to the taller man.

Poe was glad that he’d decided to put his necklace between his shirt and vest today because he could feel it as it got hotter when the other man approached him. He took a single step back as he wondered what the heck he should say. He knew that he’d trip over his words whatever they attempted to be. For someone so observant this guy sure didn’t see when someone wanted a bit more personal space.

Ranpo was much closer than necessary before he finally stopped. He narrowed his eyes at the taller man and said, “You never called me.”

“I-I… uhh…” Poe had no idea what to say. He simply looked down at the ground and shifted nervously in place. He only looked up again once he heard Karl chitter happily. He watched in disbelief as his raccoon leaped from his shoulders and right at the green-eyed man. Poe was about to apologize but he forgot how to form words when Ranpo caught the raccoon and chuckled softly. He’d never heard such a lovely sound before. He didn’t know that sounds could even be lovely before that moment. He watched in amazement as his pet crawled onto the other man’s shoulders and made himself comfortable.

“At least you’re happy to see me,” Ranpo hummed then offered the raccoon a quick scratch beneath its chin. He got a happy coo in response. He turned his back to Poe and talked to Karl softly about the weather lately.

Poe was too shocked to remember how to form words. He looked from his pet to the other man and back again. He probably should’ve spent that time coming up with an excuse, but he was distracted. Not to mention the marble around his neck was so hot it was nearly unbearable. He did the only thing he could and tilted his head so that his bangs covered his face then muttered, “Sorry, I’ve been really busy thinking up plot twists for my next story.”

“Really!” Ranpo exclaimed and spun around to look at him. It had been so abrupt that poor Karl clung to him for dear life so he didn’t get dislodged. Ranpo stepped even closer to Poe and then stood on his tippy toes as he demanded, “Tell me!”

The excitement in the other man’s eyes was an incredible sight. Poe was glad that he actually did have a story in the works and would be able to comply. He vaguely mentioned a few of the details as he avoided eye contact with the other man. He could feel the weight of his focused gaze and it made him want to squirm where he stood.

Ranpo held up his hand and shook his head as he cut Poe off mid sentence and said, “You’ve said a whole thirteen words and I already know who the killer is.”

“That’s impossible,” Poe replied as he blinked at the shorter man. His jaw dropped as Ranpo muttered what was essentially the entire plot he’d decided as well as the twist ending. He shook his head and asked, “How?”

“I’m a genius,” Ranpo declared. He popped another handful of candy into his mouth.

Poe's mind raced a mile a minute. If he sat down and talked with this guy he might really be able to improve his writing. Then maybe he could write such a good novel that it would stump even a genius like him. He made up his mind. Poe wasn’t too proud of the way that his voice squeaked when he exclaimed, “Let's do lunch!”

“Oh?” Ranpo simply blinked at him.

“A-after this event, I mean. So you can, um, give me more writing advice. The tips you share are all very valuable.” Poe clarified as he twiddled his thumbs nervously. For some reason he hadn’t thought about his actions at all. Normally he’d never be so bold. Though there really wasn’t anything normal about this situation. Not by his personal definition, anyway.

“That’s true.” Ranpo scratched at his cheek as he thought to himself. Eventually he nodded and hummed, “I guess I can clear my schedule for you. I just need to make a quick call.”

Knowing that the guy was making time for him made Poe much happier than he cared to admit. He smiled to himself and tilted his head so that his bangs shifted to the side and one of his eyes peeked through. Ranpo was too busy trying to find his phone to look at him. That suited Poe just fine. He reached out and took his pet raccoon from the other man’s shoulders then hugged it to his chest and mumbled, “You can pick the place we go to eat. Just make sure it’s pet friendly.”

Poe watched as the shorter man finally found his phone and removed it from his pocket. He waited until the guy was out of sight and completely distracted before he finally reached beneath his vest and pulled his necklace free. He studied the green marble for a moment. It had completely cooled off again as if it had never gotten hot in the first place. There was no way he could’ve imagined that twice. He frowned to himself.

He removed the necklace and then held the chain in his mouth so he could do the same with the scarf he wore. He held the silk fabric in the palm of his hand then took the time to carefully drop the necklace onto it. He wrapped his treasure up so that it would be nice and safe then he placed it into his pants pocket. Not a moment afterwards, Ranpo reappeared.

“My ride said to keep me for as long as you’d like. Pretty sure it wasn’t a joke going by the tone of their voice.” Ranpo muttered mostly to himself. He looked around the store and saw that people had begun to take their seats for the reading. He grabbed Poe by the hand and pulled him over to the very front row. That was where the VIPs usually sat.

Poe sat down and pulled his hand away from the other man. For some reason his pulse had started to race as soon as they’d touched. It was inconvenient at best. He put both hands in his lap and twiddled his thumbs nervously as he willed it to calm down. Even through the fabric of his pants and the silk scarf he could feel the marble in his pocket had heated up again. It really was incomprehensible that this guy could be the one he was meant to be with. His mind refused to fathom the information. There had to be another explanation. The odds of this whole situation had to be astronomical at best.

He was knocked out of his own thoughts by the sound of clapping around himself. Poe blinked a few times and then joined in when he saw that Lovecraft had taken his seat at the designated table. The guy was as eccentric as ever, but his writing was popular, so Poe was happy for him in that aspect. He paid close attention during the reading since he always strived to learn what he could about other authors writing processes.

 

After the reading came to an end, Poe waited patiently in his seat for everyone else to clear out. Somehow he’d calmed down enough and managed not to think about the man next to himself or the marble in his pocket during the whole thing. Now that he remembered those things again, he felt the familiar hands of anxiety creeping along his skin.

Poe felt a tap on his shoulder and turned towards it. Suddenly he was nose to nose with Ranpo and he stiffened. He felt like his brain stopped working and he couldn’t do anything but blink. Karl saw a chance and took it, traveling from his owner’s shoulders to the other man’s with ease.

Ranpo pet the raccoon and sat back in his chair. He glanced at the other man out of the corner of his eye then asked, “Ready to get going?”

“Oh! Right!” Poe had managed to forget that they had lunch plans after this too. He was hit with a wave of nervousness unlike any other. He fidgeted in his seat as he weighed his chances of getting away scot-free if he said something came up.

Ranpo stood up and stretched. He popped a few candies into his mouth and then offered one to the raccoon on his shoulder. He looked left and then right and said, “There’s a place nearby that gives me a free dessert with my order. Let’s go, Ed.”

Just like that Poe was helpless to refuse. Having someone speak to him so casually as if they were the best of friends made his gut flutter. It wasn’t in the usual anxious way, either. In fact, compared to that he’d say it was kind of nice. He smiled to himself and stood up so he could follow the other man to the exit. They stepped out of the building and paused. Poe looked around and then asked, “Which way is it?”

“No idea,” Ranpo admitted.

“Huh?”

“Come on, if we just start walking something interesting is bound to happen,” Ranpo declared as he began to walk away.

“W-wait!” Poe trotted after him. Had he not been an anxious mess he might’ve asked someone for directions. As it stood, he was willing to follow Ranpo and see where they ended up. Only because he currently had his pet raccoon hostage… yeah. Even Poe didn’t believe his own excuse with the happy little coos he heard Karl making. He didn’t have time to dwell on that since he had to reach out and grab Ranpo’s shoulder so he didn’t step off the sidewalk and waltz right into traffic.

He immediately let go afterwards and apologized profusely for grabbing him like that. Poe’s heart skipped a beat when Ranpo blinked at him and then a smile spread across his face. The shorter man laughed it off and pat him on the shoulder. Poe bowed his head so that his bangs covered his face when he felt his cheeks darken. Then they waited for the light to change so they could cross together. Right afterwards Ranpo got distracted by a street vendor selling crepes. As Poe watched the guy eat his snack without a care in the world there was only one thought running through his head… What had he gotten himself into?

︵‿︵‿୨♡୧‿︵‿︵

 

After that initial not-date, because it absolutely wasn’t such, Poe did keep in touch with Ranpo. Mostly because the guy nagged him about not doing so the first time. That and he’d offered to help him flesh out ideas he had for potential stories. That was incredibly helpful. Though it had been quite a hassle that afternoon, and he quickly found out that Ranpo had absolutely no sense of direction, they’d eventually reached their destination.

He had to admit that the guy had been right and interesting things had happened along the way. He’d never stopped to pet so many dogs before. It even made Karl a little jealous, which was a bit funny. They’d made it to the café by some miracle Poe still couldn’t explain. There they talked for hours. Well, Ranpo talked. Poe mostly listened in absolute awe. Everything the guy said was amazing and he didn’t know how it was possible to fit so much incredible into one tiny body. The more he learned about Ranpo the more fascinated he became.

Before they parted ways for the evening Ranpo asked for his information so he wouldn’t disappear on him again. Poe couldn’t explain why he had no reservations about handing it over. In fact, he’d say it had felt like the right thing to do. And now, a month and a half later, it was common for him to spend at least an hour a day talking to the guy. That certainly wasn’t something he would’ve predicted back when they’d met.

Whether it was via skype or texts or just a simple phone call, Poe always ended up in touch with Ranpo. It didn’t really bother him. Actually, he rather enjoyed it. He liked listening to him ramble on about his day. It was especially interesting to hear stories about how he solved cases at work so quickly and never received nearly enough praise. Poe took notes when he listened, intent on writing a character just as amazing as the other man one day.

On the days when Ranpo didn’t feel like talking about himself he would ask Poe to pitch ideas for new stories. Poe would do as asked, only to have Ranpo figure them out so quickly it made him question whether or not he was even human. It was as infuriating as it was fascinating. Not to mention a bit educational. One day he’d write a perfect story and even Ranpo wouldn’t be able to deny it.

Sometimes when they were on the phone and not a video chat Poe would lie in bed and play with his necklace as he listened. He would roll his marble between his thumb and pointer, watching as it gleamed brightly when it caught the light. He’d come to the conclusion that the thing had to be faulty. There was no way someone as amazing as Ranpo could possibly be fated to be with him, even if the thought did give him butterflies in his stomach.

That was just his admiration for the guy. The very idea of soul fragments and there being one perfect person for everyone was wonky at best. He didn’t know that it wasn’t just a story his mother had made up when he was younger. Maybe the marble had always had the potential to heat up and there was something else that was the catalyst. He was sure Ranpo could figure it out within sixty seconds if he ever told him about it. The guy was just that amazing.

 

It didn’t really come as a surprise when Ranpo asked if he wanted to get together one chilly afternoon. They’d met up numerous times over the past six months. Six to the day, actually. Poe wondered if that was just a coincidence. He ignored the little flip flop his stomach did and assured himself that it was. Ranpo wouldn’t keep up with something as meaningless as the date they’d met. While he may have admired everything about the guy, that was a one-sided thing. Poe was fine with that. In fact, he thought it was wonderful.

He got dressed and then headed to the same café that they’d been to that day six months ago. To someone else that might seem like a suspicious coincidence, but Poe knew it was simply one of Ranpo’s favorite places. He would frequent any establishment that offered him free dessert. Poe squashed the little part of himself that was happy to be going back to that café today of all days. He reminded himself that he would be happy to spend time with Ranpo no matter what day it was.

He and Karl arrived at their destination about fifteen minutes early. It wasn’t a surprise to see that Ranpo was already there and had himself a dessert. He did like to get that first before he had any other food a lot of the time. In fact, Poe had to remind him on more than one occasion to actually get the regular food afterwards. He smiled to himself when the other man noticed him then removed the spoon from his mouth and used it to wave him over.

“Good afternoon, Ranpo-san.” Poe hummed as he took a seat at the other end of the half circle booth.

“You don’t have to be so formal with me, Ed.” Ranpo assured him before he took another bite of his dessert.

Poe looked down at the menu in front of himself. He didn’t know what he should order. That seemed like a really big decision and he didn’t want any part of it. Maybe he’d just get something that he knew Karl would like. That usually made the most sense at a time like this. They chatted idly until a waitress came to take their orders. After that Poe sat there and did his best not to draw too much attention to himself. Karl had already meandered over to Ranpo’s lap since he had some food. Poe simply waited patiently in silence and did his best not to stare at the other man. It was oddly comforting just being able to sit so close to him. Poe didn’t question it. He didn’t need to. The fact that the guy made time for him at all was nothing short of a gift.

“There’s something we need to talk about,” Ranpo said, breaking the silence between them.

“Oh? I didn’t bring any new manuscripts today,” Poe muttered apologetically. He would’ve if he’d known, but alas he hadn’t thought to.

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Ranpo shook his head then licked his spoon clean. He scooped up another bite of his dessert and explained, “I’m talking about the fact that we’re soulmates.”

Poe jumped and gasped in surprise at that blunt response. He turned to look at the other man and choked on whatever words he’d planned to say. The guy had said that so casually and was back to eating his dessert like it was nothing. Well it wasn’t nothing. It also wasn’t possible. Poe shrank into himself a bit and shook his head. His voice was barely above a whisper as he muttered, “You’re wrong.”

Ranpo dropped the spoon he held right before he put it back into his mouth again. The contents splattered onto the table and Karl was more than happy to lick them up. His wide-eyed gaze was unblinking and fixed upon Poe as he asked, “What’d you just say to me?”

Poe bowed his head in shame and mumbled, “S-sorry, Ranpo-san. Something like that is just not possible.”

“I think… I think you’re the only person that has ever said that to me, wow.” Ranpo said mostly to himself. He looked as if he was lost in a daze. Karl squeaked and then he seemed to snap out of whatever it was. Ranpo shook his head and turned his attention back to the other man. He reached into his pocket and grumbled, “My word should be enough for you because of my level of intellect, but if you really need the proof then here.”

Poe looked up from his hands when Ranpo slid his closed fist across the table. He waited patiently as the other man slowly opened his hand to reveal an object in the middle of his palm. Poe’s eyes widened at the sight of the marble that was as black as raven feathers. That didn’t stop it from catching the light and shining in an ominous yet beautiful way. He didn’t need to be a genius to know that Ranpo was telling the truth. That marble was the same as the one he owned.

He reached behind his neck and removed his necklace then placed it down onto the table next to the other man’s hand. Ranpo also placed his marble down and the pair immediately reacted. Both marbles began to glow. Poe couldn’t take his eyes off of the wondrous sight as he asked, “H-how long have you known?”

“Since the day we met. I’ve still got a scar from where the stupid thing burned my leg.” Ranpo admitted. Of course he’d been too busy at the time to actually react. He’d only realized what had happened later at home when he saw the scar.

“W-why didn’t you say anything!” Poe shrieked. Six months was a long time not to talk about something so important. Then again, he’d been guilty of the exact same thing. He didn’t really have any room to judge.

Ranpo shrugged then picked up the black marble. He held it up to the light and shut one eye so he could stare at it as he rolled it between his thumb and pointer. “I had to give you a chance to come to terms with everything, didn’t I? You were nervous enough.”

Poe had to admit that was a fair point. He would’ve fled the moment Ranpo brought up this subject six months ago. Now, he found himself reluctant to leave. Whether that was personal growth or just him being too scared to move was a subject of no small debate. He looked back down at his precious marble and asked softly, “So what do we do now?”

“I guess that’s up to you,” Ranpo replied with a nonchalant shrug.

“Why me?” Poe asked in a slightly more panicked voice than he would’ve liked.

Ranpo closed his fist around the black marble and brought it close to his chest. His voice was soft yet serious as he said, “Because this changes things. If we return these soul fragments to each other it’s binding. Being whole again will only intensify anything we already feel towards one another.”

Oh, that meant his sense of admiration for the guy would be greater. Poe didn’t see how that would be a bad thing. The real downside was the fact that he’d be giving up a source of great comfort for him. He’d gotten through many tough times because of that precious item. On the other hand, if it could do the same for Ranpo then it would only be right to return it to him. It wouldn’t be right to deny him such a wonderful thing.

Poe glanced at the other man through the parts in his bangs and asked, “What… I mean, um, what do you want to do? Would it make you happy to have it back?”

“Can’t really say since I’ve lived without it for my entire life. I doubt it’d make me any smarter so the benefit would be purely an emotional thing. That’s not really my forte.” Ranpo considered his options out loud. He shrugged and shook his head.

That was just about the most useless response he could possibly get. Poe didn’t understand why something so important should be up to him. It was too much weight on his shoulders and he felt himself being crushed beneath it already. It continued until he felt something upon his hand. It was familiar and comforting and he was able to ground himself because of it. Suddenly the crushing weight was lifted.

Only after he regulated his breathing again did he finally look down to see Ranpo's hand atop his. Poe looked up from their hands and into the green eyes that shined even more brilliantly than his marble and had an epiphany. He wouldn’t be losing anything if he could see that look in Ranpo's eyes more often. In fact, he only stood to gain something from this ordeal. Poe nodded once then mumbled, “O-ok. Let’s do it.”

Ranpo looked surprised for a brief moment but quickly nodded back. He pulled his hand away. Poe turned his attention to the necklace on the table. He picked it up and fumbled with it for a second before he finally managed to remove the marble from its setting. He marveled at it one last time as Ranpo scooted closer to him.

The pair turned towards one another and blinked. They sat quite close together now. If the quickening of their pulses was any indication of how they felt, it was time to hurry up. They each held the marble they’d kept safe since they were teenagers in the palms of their hands. With one final exhale the both of them pressed those treasures against one another's chests.

Warmth radiated from the marbles for a mere second before they were absorbed into the bodies from whence they came. Both of them shut their eyes and gasped softly as their newly complete bodies took a moment to adjust. Poe was the first to open his eyes.

While his admiration of the other man was still intact, it hadn’t been intensified as he’d believed would happen. Instead what he felt was something completely shocking. As soon as Ranpo opened his eyes Poe gasped and swiftly turned his head away from him. He pulled his hand to his own chest and panicked slightly as his heart pounded against it.

He’d been prepared for a few things, but he certainly hadn’t expected to be head over heels in love with this man when his true feelings were unlocked. He’d been so blind to his own emotions that it was actually rather embarrassing. Someone as incredible as Ranpo was actually his soulmate? It seemed too good to be true. He'd never been so lucky in his life. Now he had no idea what to do with himself and he had the urge to run and hide.

“Are you all right? You’re shaking like a leaf.” Ranpo brushed Poe's bangs aside to get a good look at him. The moment he did his eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat. The actions were so subtle that anyone not looking for them would’ve missed it. He managed to let out a soft ‘ah’.

Poe pulled away from his touch. He frowned to himself and combed his fingers through his bangs so they covered his face once more. His voice was soft and unsure as he mumbled, “I know I’m not… a-anything special but…”

“Of course you are. By default my soulmate has to be pretty great.” Ranpo wasted no time in filling the silence after Poe's voice trailed off. He waited for the shy man to turn his way then he leaned in and kissed him quickly before he could turn again. Though the brush of their lips was brief, it was incredible to say the least. Nothing had ever felt more right in his entire life. When he pulled away from the kiss the both of their faces had gone beet-red. That was an experience he looked forward to trying again. A lot, in fact. He smiled at the shocked man next to him and declared, “You should realize by now that I feel the same way you do.”

Poe felt like his heart would burst right out of his chest. He was overcome with the most wonderful, warmest emotions he’d ever felt as he cried, “Ranpo-san!”

Ranpo flicked his forehead and muttered, “I've already told you that you don't have to talk so formally. Drop the honorific.”

Poe shook his head. His cheeks darkened even more and he mumbled, “I couldn’t do something like that.”

“How long have we known each other? Not to mention the soulmates thing. You’ve earned the right to talk to me as casually as you please.” Ranpo insisted.

“I haven’t,” Poe disagreed.

Ranpo pouted and replied, “Come on, give it a try.”

“R-Ra... Ranpo...san! I can’t!” Poe finally exclaimed as he put both hands on his cheeks. He’d given it his best effort and that would just have to do.

“But you don’t mind that I call you Ed?” Ranpo asked.

Poe smiled shyly to himself and shook his head. To be honest, he rather liked the familiarity of Ranpo calling him by his first name so casually. It made them seem closer in his eyes. There was absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ranpo clicked his tongue and then wagged a finger at him. “You shouldn’t smile like that. When you do there’s a 96% chance of me falling harder for you.”

“S-sorry!” Poe immediately yelped. He thought about it for a moment then asked, “Wait. Is that really such a problem?”

“Of course! You should be the one falling harder for me!” Ranpo declared loudly. Some of the others in the café paused to glance at him but no one did so for long.

“I don’t think that’s possible. You’re amazing.” Poe hummed with a sweet smile. He was so overwhelmed with emotions right now that he couldn’t even be embarrassed. He had no idea that caring so much for someone else would feel so darn good.

“Well it’s about time someone acknowledged that fact,” Ranpo agreed haughtily.

Poe watched Karl steal one last crumb off of the table before he chittered softly to himself. The raccoon proceeded to climb onto Ranpo’s shoulders and make himself comfortable. Poe had a little half-smile on his face as he said, “It seems like two of us have acknowledged that fact.”

He watched the way that Ranpo removed Karl from his shoulders and cradled him like a baby. Poe could hear the content sounds that his pet made as the other man complimented him on his wise choice and added a sneaky comment about how he planned on kissing his dad a lot more often. Poe couldn’t help but smile to himself. He really liked the thought of that. Now he found that he completely understood why he’d decided to give up his treasure. Sure, it had been a source of comfort in his life, but it was nothing compared to this new feeling.

If this warmth in his chest was what he had to deal with from now on he had to admit that for the first time in his life he was actually looking forward to the future instead of worried about it. Any future that involved watching Ranpo smile without a care in the world as they fawned over Karl was perfection in Poe’s eyes. The both of them chuckled softly when the silly raccoon let out a particularly cute squeak. It was in that moment when Poe realized that finding his soulmate just might be the best thing that had ever happened to him.