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after the foxes have known our taste

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21

It started with a single meeting; with both everything and nothing to gain. Satoru still couldn’t justify it, not truly; he’d risked his life, the lives of others, by willingly entangling himself with a monster.

Satoru had yelled until his throat was hoarse, and Yashiro didn’t bother to hide his enjoyment of it. As it turns out, it wasn’t unusual for a politician to have a highly soundproofed office, as weird and obviously suspicious as that was.

According to the man himself, he merely wanted Satoru to express his honest emotions, and watched gleefully with bated breath as he did.

Their chosen roles reversed soon enough, once Satoru didn’t know what to say anymore, once he’d screamed his emotions out. It was then, in those quiet moments of uncertainty that the man opposite him began to reassure him, his air of amusement cracking and leaving nothing but vulnerability and god-honest truth.

Satoru tried to ignore his body when Yashiro later confessed his sins like a dying man held revered, begging for forgiveness on his knees, holding onto the fabric of Yashiro’s shirt. Satoru pretended not to feel the rush of blood when Yashiro told him that since him, he’d never found his bloodlust sated- that without Satoru, he was an addict craving an impossible fix. That there may have been others, but they could never be him.

After all, a crime of necessity had nothing on a crime of passion.

After hours of talking, yelling, crying, they reached a new understanding of each other. Another strange intimacy that should never have been allowed to exist.

Yashiro had wished him a wonderful evening, and escorted him out of the building personally with a promise of a nicer setting, next time.

Exactly three months after their reunion, down to the day, Satoru meets him again.

Those three months were filled with a lot of self-hatred and ice cream. A lot of Kayo hugging him and a lot of Hiromi looking confused. Hiromi spent a lot of time at their apartment, and it only took Satoru a month to realise and call them out. Apparently they’d been dating for a little while. Satoru felt a little hurt that Kayo never told him.

He didn’t leave the apartment much, apart from for his job, and later for a few social events, which meant that the couple never really got the, well, couple time that they needed.

So when his phone pinged with an email from one Nishizono Manabu, he agreed to meet at a ramen place later that night.

Kayo seemed suspicious, but Hiromi seemed way too grateful and apparently the promise of alone time was enough for her to hold her tongue for now.

(Satoru didn’t doubt he’d be nagged at least a little tomorrow, though.)

He dressed nicely and so did Yashiro and conversation flowed and it was pretty undeniable that they had some kind of chemistry, for better or for worse.

Yashiro (“Please, Satoru, I’m not your teacher anymore. Gaku, I insist,”) liked to flirt, and Satoru liked to act like his heart wasn’t secretly fluttering. He gave as good as he got, even when he got flustered or, though it was growing less and less common, blurred out his thoughts. They already knew each other well enough that there didn’t seem to be many awkward moments.

Well, apart from the moments that dwelled a little too long on the uncomfortable knowledge of what they were, really.

They’d spoken in quiet tones, spitting subtle venom passers by might mistake for a serenade. Harsh accusations spoken in intimate looks, hidden meanings scattered throughout pleasant exchanges.

A murderer and the man he tried to kill. Yeah, that was a little awkward.

22

After a few dates, they made it official. Neither of them had seen others anyway, but they now had a promise to be exclusive.

Satoru doubted Yashiro would ever be with anyone else, anyway. Nobody else could ever see him, the real him, not like Satoru could. Nobody else could see his jagged edges and broken pieces and love him in the way he did.

Likewise, nobody could ever measure up to Gaku. Nobody could know him so intimately, know the truth of His Old Future and Revival and believe, love him so wholeheartedly as he did.

The first time they made love, it was anything but what Satoru had come to expect. Nothing of a predator in his lover’s eyes, nothing of that depraved craving for ruin. Instead, Yashiro had held him in his arms as though he was something infinitely precious, something he held so high above everything. He’d wept from thejoy, and Satoru had smiled.

When a person is always on your mind, always a constant presence in your thoughts, it’s hard not to love every inch of them, even the parts that are fucked up. Yashiro might be something some would call a demon, but all Satoru could see was a man, painfully human and trying. Maybe they were codependent and inherently wrong, but they were a set perfectly suited, down to the cracks and breaks.

If Satoru were a romantic, he’d say there were no soulmates greater than him and Gaku.

On their one year anniversary, Gaku asked him to move in with him. He agreed. Kayo made him promise to check in daily, and Satoru kept that promise up.

They were a good couple, they worked well. Sometimes Satoru would mention wanting a certain food, and a few hours later it would be served up for him. Satoru would draw Gaku a bath when he could tell he’d had a stressful day. They were considerate of each other, in small ways, like that.

He’d reintroduced Gaku to his friends, and- after the initial shock- they mostly seemed to like him. Kayo regarded him with a cold, knowing look, but she didn’t cause issues, apart from pulling Satoru to the side and warning him.

His mom was... not so understanding. He could understand why- their age gap, for one, he was a twenty-two year old dating a forty-one year old. He was his ex teacher, too.

They’d argued. It was a bad fight, and, though they made up, it was never quite the same.

Satoru knew he could never tell his mum the half of it. He suspected that she knew, at least that his memories were back, but... he didn’t speak to her all that much. Somewhere along the way he’d drifted away from her, stopped calling as much or arranging visits. It hurt his heart, but he didn’t want her to know more than she already did because he’d already hurt Kayo.

He didn’t need to drag another person into his mess. They’d never understand what he had, anyway.

23

They fight, just like every couple. They grate and grate and grate at each other some days until there’s nothing but anger and hatred and violence left, until they’re stripped of their affection and left with threats and horrible words.

Some days it is all Satoru can do to yell and fight and bare his teeth. Some days, he remembers exactly what the man he loves has done and he thinks about the innocent children dead at his feet and he thinks of Kayo and Hiromi and Aya and his mom and they’re only the people he knows and what kind of person loves a fucking murderer?

When he yells this at Yashiro, it angers the man and it pushes him to yell back even when he’s trying his hardest to keep composed.

“I never even laid hands on any of them! You spoke to Kayo and Hiromi on the phone earlier, for fucks sakes!”

Sometimes Satoru doesn’t know when to stop or calm down and he pushes and pushes and pushes just to see Gaku explode and to remind himself of the danger he is in at all times.

“Maybe I’ll give you a reason to keep throwing this in my face, hmm, Satoru? How do you feel about visiting your mother? Her address is the same as all those years back, right?” Yashiro threatens, and Satoru knows he wouldn’t but he knows that he could. He could and has killed and there’s so much blood on his hands.

Gaku is a shell of a man outside of his desire and he is self serving before everything else. Even before taking murder as his vice he was aiding in the rape of children. Even if he didn’t directly rape them, he knew and he lured them and silenced them.

Satoru knows which knife in the block is sharpest- because he keeps it ready and waiting- and he pulls it out and he thinks that he could do it, he could rid the world of this evil. He remembers stairs in Ishikari and being so ready to kill, and Kenya isn’t here to stop him.

Yashiro laughs, and he just prowls over to Satoru and pulls his hand close, blade brought to his chest, and his whispers, “It’s over my heart. I’ll die quickly, it’ll be barely any work.”

Satoru is crying and when he whispers back, questions why, why is Yashiro letting him and why is he helping?

“You own me, Satoru. There’s no way I’d rather die.”

Satoru drops the knife and sobs, and Yashiro holds him close.

24

They go away together, on a holiday to Hawaii. The flights are cheap- though money isn't a limiting factor, thanks to Yashiro's fancy new job- and Japanese is spoken pretty commonly there, since it was pretty much a go-to holiday destination. They spend a bit of time in both the popular tourist-traps and in the quiter, more intimate areas. Gaku takes Satoru out for dinner every night, in some place where they can watch the sun set. It... tends to send Satoru a bit dizzy, with the romance of it all.

His friends have been demanding, lately- they were always begging for updates, pictures of the beaches and of him and Gaku to be taken. It makes him sigh, to see the spam of messages, but it makes Gaku smile fondly. Somehow, he's become ever-so-fond of their circle. Somehow, he'd become a part of it. If it weren't for the fact that Gaku is rarely ever actually on his phone, outside of business, he'd probably be as common-place in the texting chains as Satoru himself. They all speak of something happening on the holiday- always sending "LOL" and "You're too oblivious" whenever he questioned what the hell they were talking about.

One evening, the night before they catch a flight back to Tokyo, they don't go to a restaurant. Instead, Gaku takes Satoru's hand and leads him, takes him along a hiking path. They end up on top of a cliff, and Yashiro sits him down. He'd brought a backpack, which he revealed to be holding their meal for evening and a blanket. It's some kind of stew, by the looks of it- no doubt brought earlier, while Satoru had been off snapping different photos of the architecture and landscapes.

"What, watching the sun set every night wasn't romantic enough for you?" he jokes, settling down on the blanket. "Now, we have a picnic on a cliff? Are you planning to push me off, or something?" 

Gaku doesn't laugh, or smile- he looks troubled, in fact. Maybe the joke is a little inappropriate. Especially when Satoru gazes over the water at the bottom of the cliff. "I'm joking," he explains, but it doesn't seem to lift Gaku's mood at all.

Instead, the man just opens the containers of the stew- they're quite cute, reminding him of a bento box somewhat- and Yashiro hands over cutlery for him. He spends a few minutes staring out into the ocean, and then looks at Satoru.

"... Do you want to stay with me?" he questions, looking at him with such a soft look on his face, Satoru fears his heart might melt.

"What?" he asks, though, confused. Why the Hell would he be here if he didn't want this?

"I... I'd let you go. If you wanted to go. I would let you," the man answers instead. "I wouldn't like it. I can't promise I wouldn't be angry with you. But... I'd let you go. I wouldn't hurt anybody, okay?"

That's... that's probably one of the best things that Satoru has heard in his entire life. Not because he'd been with Yashiro out of a sense of duty, or anything like that. Because really, how far they'd come. 

"... Are you an idiot?" he laughs. 

He's with Gaku for one easy reason. 

Because, despire everything, he loved him.

(He finds out, once he's back, that everyone had been expecting a proposal.)

25

Exactly nine weeks after his birthday, Satoru is called into a meeting at his workplace. He did little bits, small examples of a story he one day wanted to tell, in his down time, just doodles and story boards, really. Nothing much. But his superiors had seen, apparently, seen all his stupid little sketches.

And they liked them.

After a sudden pitch, they're interested, and they want to see more. They want an example chapter to be handed in, with a deadline a month away. He can't decde if that's genrous or strict, given that he's already got work to do, but he works hard. In the next meeting, they smile and congratulate him.

He's finally going to be working on his own manga. He's so happy that he cries in the bathroom after the meeting is over.

26

Kayo and Hiromi’s wedding is nice. It is pleasant to see his two friends living their future, fills him with a hope and optimism that he didn’t know he still had.

He wishes that he could marry, one day. Gay marriage is illegal in Japan, and Gaku isn’t just some guy, he is Nishizono the Politician and he does not talk about relationships. Satoru is not hidden by any means, but they don’t hold hands in public unless it’s in a safe place.

When Kayo calls him, yells at him to come over, Satoru runs to her place, heart pounding with dread.

She is in the bathroom and he is scared, but when she smiles and shows him the stick in her hand, he understands and cries with her.

“Don’t say anything to anyone, not even Hiromi. I want to surprise him, and it’s too early for anyone else,” she tells him, and he cries harder when he realises that he was the first person she told.

Nine months later, Mirai is born and Satoru loves the bones of him. He is small and he holds onto Satoru’s finger, and Satoru cannot help but hold him near and dear to his heart. When Kayo hands him over to Satoru, she always calls him “Uncle Satoru” and tells Mirai to be nice for his favourite uncle.

Mirai is a good name, all things considered, because the little boy reminds Satoru to look forward to the future every single day.

27

Satoru changes his last name from Fujinuma in the summer after he turns twenty-seven.

He has been with Gaku for six years, and they are married in every way except for legally. It started as a joke, Satoru playfully calling Gaku his husband, but it sticks and it’s true enough.

Gaku’s legal name may be Nishizono Manabu, but that is not his real name and it isn’t used by anybody he really knows.

No, he is Gaku Yashiro. Satoru tells him that he wants to take the name Gaku was born with, and he laughs for half a minute before reminding Satoru that he chose Yashiro, that he was born as Gaku Mikohara.

Satoru huffed at that, and told him, ‘Then I want to take your true name. The name you took for yourself and the name that made you,’ and Gaku kissed him.

Three weeks later, he is Satoru Yashiro.

28

Satoru’s twenty-eighth birthday is spent with all of his friends, remarkably. They were all busy these days- group meetings were scarce and it was impossible for everyone to be in the same place at once. But, through a miracle of days off work and babysitting, everyone takes an evening to drink and catch up and have a nice evening. Everyone crashes in the living room of Satoru’s place, because Gaku’s kitchen was probably as big as most people’s apartments in Tokyo and it’s not too tight a squeeze.

In his future, this birthday was spent alone with a bottle of cheap gin.

Everyone sleeps and Satoru looks over his friends, holds his husband tight, and wonders how his life changed so much.

Revival has yet to happen again. Maybe it’s because this was the right timeline.

He was in his future now, and he loved it.