Though the icy rain pattered harmlessly off the windows of their latest apartment, Jigen’s skin prickled with a chill he couldn’t shake. He paced restlessly in the darkness of the living room, looking down at the city outside without really seeing it. His dark eyes flicked over the neon lights without recognition, save for the glow that pierced straight into his aching skull, making his head pound in time with his racing heart.
He scratched absentmindedly at the puckered flesh around his collarbone where his latest scar was still healing. A fresh new reminder of the stakes they faced in the field; a reminder that there was always more to lose.
And that is exactly what had happened.
He couldn’t sleep for fear of what lay behind his lids. Every time the gunman closed his eyes, he saw only crimson. He watched the shot that tore through his best friend’s heart, reminding him of the fragility of human life and the inevitability that he would one day fail his partner. Wrong place, wrong time. Felled by recklessness, the thrill of the challenge, and the lucky bark of a gun. Fate was bound to catch up eventually, and it had, leaving his beloved partner trampled under the rage of those he had dare mocked, like an irritating insect to be crushed and forgotten.
Jigen paused at the window for a moment, hugging his arms around himself protectively as he stared at the runnels of water that made their way down the window panes. The water cast soft shadows on his face from the glow of the city below, tracing patterns of the tears he could not bring himself to shed. He could feel his limbs trembling as he huddled to himself, the silence driving him mad with pain and frustration. It was so hard to focus, as though he were trying to think his way through a thick fog. His mind, like his sight, passed over objects and ideas with the same inability to remember only moments later.
The well trained and analytical side of his mind watched with a detached curiosity. It recognized the signs of depression and anxiety that gripped his gut and left him feeling numb. He wondered if the other two could hear the silent scream that had lodged in his throat and burned his thoughts. If their absence and muffled chatter from the room over was any indication, they knew enough.
He wasn’t certain if he had thought his name or spoken it aloud, but it carried with it such a heavy weight. Gone. No more would he hear his fearless laughter, his irritating arrogance, nor yet another foolish plan. Never again find inspiration in the glint of his eyes, or redemption in walking at his side. No more inventions, no more late nights planning, no more racing away in the cramped little Fiat, and no more gathering intel for another job.
But even worse, were the smaller things. No more tolerating Lupin busting through the bathroom door because he just had to talk to someone. No more sharing meals and kicking each other’s feet as they fought over the best pieces. No more late nights on the road, just spending time together in comfortable silence. And no more victory naps after a successful heist, sprawled out together, laughing with exhaustion as their adrenaline faded and they fell asleep side by side.
Stumbling to the couch, he collapsed on the cushions, unable to bear his own weight beneath his suffering any longer. He turned to stare at the windows, haunted by the old memories of times spent sprawled out here before, watching Lupin from across the room and chastising him yet again for another foolhardy idea. He had gotten so caught up in the irrepressible thief’s endless optimism, that he had begun to believe they were untouchable as well. So many things were left unsaid because it always felt like there would be a better time. He never really told him how much his life had changed by joining Lupin’s side. He never told him how many times he helped him fight back his own personal demons. He never told him why he had vowed to follow him until their last breath.
“I never told him how I friggin felt…” He whispered into the darkened room. A rumble of thunder rolled in from outside and he pressed his hands to his eyes, his nails digging into his hair with agony. He couldn’t even fully finish the thought as the ache in his chest swelled until he thought his heart would simply burst. He could feel the flood of emotions barely holding behind the damn of his rib cage. He dug his nails in harder, scraping at his skin, clawing at his beard, trying to find an outlet for the panic that was growing.
The gunman’s tired eyes drifted to the coffee table where his trusty magnum lay. His signature gun that was as much a powerful tool, as it was a reminder of who he had been and what he had done. So that he would never go back to that life, the very life that Lupin had rescued him from.
Finally something snapped.
All the tears he had been holding at bay finally spilled. There was nothing graceful or noble about it. It was sheer ugly pain. His body shook, long limbs coiled in as he sobbed, brokenhearted. Snot trailed down his face alongside tears and stuck in his beard as he cried aloud, the broken sounds echoing in the silent room and silencing the muffled voices next door. His chest ached, his wound ached, but nothing so painful as how much his heart ached. A raw howl broke from his sore throat as he wept for everything he had lost. He cried until he simply couldn’t anymore, until he subsided to tiny whimpers, his body and mind spent. He cried until he couldn’t keep his aching eyes open any longer, until his limbs lay lifelessly slumped over the couch.
Jigen was only dimly aware of light entering as the door to the next room over opened as the others checked in on him. He thought he might have heard his name, but he was so exhausted. Tired, spent, and broken, he found relief only as the silent oblivion of sleep took over him.
Rousing from his restless sleep, Jigen turned his head to peer out from under his hat and immediately wished he hadn’t. By the time he had finally peeled his eyes open from the crust that had gummed up his lashes, his headache had returned in full force. Everything hurt. His eyes were puffy and sore, face numb and covered in drool, and every limb felt like it had been run over by a truck.
He had no idea how long he’d been out, distantly remembering waking and passing out multiple times, but he wasn’t certain if that was reality or just part of his endless nightmares. He lay there for a long moment, drifting in and out of consciousness as he felt the aching dryness from his dehydration and his stomach growled in hunger. Apathetically, he ignored his body’s wordless cries for attention, unable to bring himself to care. It wasn’t until he was finally forced with the choice of using the bathroom or fucking pissing the couch, he finally relented. He was enough of a mess without having to further shame himself.
Sliding off the couch with an agonized groan, he stumbled and fell back to the cushions as his exhausted limbs protested. He lay there again, staring at the ceiling for a few moments before trying again. This time his limbs held, albeit shakily, and he managed to stumble his way to the bathroom.
Moving as though in a daze, Jigen went through the motions of taking a leak and washing his hands. Leaving the water on, the gunman shuddered as he threw a few icy handfuls on his face and neck. Setting his elbows on the edge, he leaned against the sink for a moment, gathering his wits and the strength to meet his own reflection. Two dark eyes stared back at him as he stood, dull and hollow-looking. A hand slammed against the glass, obscuring himself from view as he snatched up the towel with aggressive force and toweled off before tossing it over his shoulder. With a groan, he leaned his forehead against his hand on the mirror and blasted a heavy sigh through his nose. He stood there for awhile, staring sightlessly at the running water below him as he felt a numbness creeping over his body, debating if it were worth it to do anything other than just let his body collapse on the floor right there.
He had survived so much before. He had run when the challenge was too great, fired back when his life was on the line, and gone into hiding when he was hunted. He was a survivor, stoically refusing a bullet to his own head out of sheer stubbornness if nothing else. Lupin had given him something more. Something he could believe in that was worth getting up each day for. A purpose that helped him bear the ghosts of his past, and the mistakes that haunted him even now.
But what was left? He couldn’t go on any more. He didn’t want to go on anymore. Goemon and Fujiko were survivors as well. They could go on without him, if they had ever even really needed him in the first place.
Dwelling on that depressive thought, he heard a sudden round of shouting in the far room where he’d last seen Goemon and Fujiko. Between the water and two doors, he couldn’t make out much more than the obvious sounds of Fujiko yelling loudly before clattering told him that something had been thrown in the room, followed by even louder yelling. More things were thrown and then he heard the sound of the front door slamming.
Another slam. They had both left. Jigen struggled to find the energy to care.
When his tired legs finally began to tremble again, he finally turned off the water and turned towards the bathroom door. Ignoring his body begging for a shower and food, he shuffled forwards to open the door. Maybe if he slept on the couch just a little longer, he could just fade away, or find the strength to finally end it.
Shoulders slumped, he shuffled towards the door, pausing as his eyes began to water again. He just simply closed them, letting the tears run down his face again. There was no point trying to hold them in and he could at least find his way back to the couch without looking. Pushing the door open, he stepped out into the living room.
And ran straight into Lupin.
“Hey Jigen, I-- geez man you look like shit!” Lupin piped up in his usual cheerful manner, for all the world as though he hadn’t just died a few nights back. Hands on his hips, he smiled back as Jigen stared back at him.
Had he finally lost it? Was he fucking hallucinating? Was this just another sick joke? The gunman’s pupils dilated to pinheads as a million emotions ran through him at once. Shock, fear, anger, pain, confusion, frustration, relief, and ---
“H-hey man, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Lupin’s laugh was slightly high pitched, a sign that he was slightly uncertain as to why Jigen wasn’t responding to him. He flashed his most winning smile, and all the emotions in Jigen finally made up their mind.
Snapping his arm out, Jigen grabbed Lupin’s shirt, dragging him up to his face as his lips curled back over his teeth in a silent snarl before he spun them both around, driving Lupin to the wall with a single, furious palm to his chest.
“Easy there, buddy, Fujicakes just threw like half the kitchen at me before she stormed off and I’m still a little sor---”
“Lupin!” Jigen hissed through his teeth, as though he was struggling to spit his name out from how much he wanted to savage the word. Lupin held his hands up in defense, his smile faltering as he tried to placate his friend.
“Heeeey, Jiji, it’s fine, see, I’m here and mostly in one -”
The palm that pinned Lupin to the wall clenched as Jigen dug his nails into his suit angrily. Lupin instantly fell silent.
Jigen opened his mouth to speak but slammed his teeth shut with an audible click as he sucked in a deep breath through his nose. Lupin’s dark eyes watched him intensely with a mixture of worry and confusion, his hands still up which only made his partner angrier. Did he really fucking think that after everything they had been through that he would actually, truly hurt him!?
Even more frightening than his fury, was the whispered demand, and Lupin made sure to keep his mouth firmly shut, lest he provoke him further.
“WHY!?” Jigen roared in his face as his arm began to shake. He swept his tongue over his parched lips as his heart raced frantically in his chest, desperately trying to make sense of everything.
“Fuck. Lupin…” The fury disappeared so swiftly that Jigen’s entire face felt like it had been stabbed by a thousand pins and needles. His skin was numb and on fire, and he felt ill from the sudden lightheadedness that filled his skull. If it weren’t for his fist still balled in Lupin’s clothing, he was certain he would have collapsed to the floor by now.
“Why do you keep doing this to us?” He asked as tears welled at the corner of his eyes. A half smile tugged at the edges of Lupin’s lips as he searched for the words to lighten the mood, lowering his hands slowly. But Jigen refused to give him the time to talk his way out.
“Why do you keep doing this to me!?”
Lupin stared in silent shock as his partner’s voice cracked with the rawest pain he had ever heard from his lips. He had seen the man wounded by countless weapons, betrayed, mocked, and insulted. But never had he heard so much agony as he heard in his voice right now. Never had he seen him look so pained and vulnerable.
“...hey Jigen…” He started gently, setting a hand on his partner’s shoulder. “It’s alright man. I’m here now.”
Jigen’s forehead struck his best friend’s shoulder with an audible thud, knocking his hat to the floor as he clung to him, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to know that he was really there, that if he opened his eyes again, he wouldn’t be lying alone on the couch. Broken sobs rattled from his throat as his tears flowed freely, soaking his face, his beard, and Lupin’s jacket. He wanted to punch the bastard, or kiss him, or both, then fucking punch him again for everything.
“You’re such a fucking-” he began, interrupted by a hiccough, “such a fucking asshole.”
There was an awkward pause, pregnant with the tension that filled the air around them, and Jigen felt his heart drop. He had Lupin back, and he was happy, but when he finally looked up he saw the bewilderment covering the thief’s face and knew it was only a matter of time before he was pushed back at arms length. The whole thing would be laughed off and he’d be running off to apologize to Fujiko.
Sighing, Jigen took the last opportunity to bury his face against Lupin’s jacket, mumbling an apology as he slowly pulled back and bent down to pick up his hat. He caught a blur of movement out of the corner of his eye and then suddenly he was yanked up by his tie. He rolled his eyes aside, trying to avoid meeting the thief’s gaze as his heart began pounding in preparation for his anger.
“Daisuke. Look at me.”
He froze, slowly turning his dark eyes to meet Lupin’s gaze, who stared back exasperatedly.
“You know, for all your skills and your ‘tough guy’ act, you really are stupid.” Lupin grunted and Jigen contemplated if it was too late to simply leap out the window and hide somewhere out of shame.
Both of Lupin’s hands moved to the back of his head and he automatically fumbled for his magnum, realizing belatedly that he had left it on the coffee table and resigned himself to his fate.
Rolling his eyes at his partner’s obvious panic, Lupin yanked him in and kissed him roughly.
Jigen froze, his heart stopped, and time itself ceased to exist. This was it. He was definitely hallucinating and had finally lost it. Maybe he had actually died in the field or on the couch and these were the last vestiges of existence before he finally shed his mortal shell.
He finally took a breath. And then another. Time caught back up and his shocked gaze was met by those same dark, laughing eyes that had enchanted him so long ago. He felt elated, confused, and overwhelmed all at once as he threw his arms around his best friend’s shoulders, crushing him to his chest as though he’d never let him go again.
When he finally pulled back, Lupin settled his forehead to Jigen’s, while he kept his hands on his shoulders. The gunman was very thankful for the support as his body trembled from the sheer overwhelming stress of everything that had happened. He thought he might have laughed and cried at the same time, but it was all a dizzying blur. Not twenty minutes ago, he had believed his friend was dead and gone. And now…
“You know, you could have said something sooner.” Lupin chastised, though his voice held no bite to it.
Jigen nodded numbly, unable to speak around the wad of cotton balls that had suddenly lodged in his throat. He simply stood, trying to get his breathing under control as his mind rushed around at a million miles an hour, trying to make sense of things.
“I’m not totally oblivious but you don’t really like to talk about yourself that much. I didn’t want to accuse you or invade your personal space, but uh, I suppose that’s not all this is about I am really--”
“A total fucking asshole, I know.” Jigen croaked, finally looking back up, a crooked grin ghosting over his lips.
“Sure we can go with that.” Lupin chuckled, thumping his partner on the shoulder. “Let me go wash up and let’s get some fucking sleep. But tomorrow we can talk more, alright?”
“Yeah. Yeah, alright.” Jigen nodded, stepping back and scratching absentmindedly at his beard. He felt a flush creep over his face as Lupin looked him over but whether it was from blushing or from sobbing his eyes out, he had no idea. Probably both.
As Lupin entered the bathroom and turned on the water, Jigen picked up his hat, stumbled back to the couch, and collapsed on the cushions with a sigh. It was storming again, or maybe still? He still hadn’t checked the day or time and definitely didn’t have the energy to do so now. But at least this time the room felt a lot less cold. Pulling his hat over his eyes, he snatched up one of the blankets that had been wadded up at the end of the couch and tried to settle down enough to rest.
Pale light slipped under his hat briefly as Lupin opened the bathroom door. Eyes mostly closed, Jigen followed his partner’s movements with his ears, reassuring himself with the simple sound of the master thief clearing his throat. But instead of his footsteps fading off into his room, they grew closer, pausing beside the couch.
“What are you doing out here?” Lupin asked, plucking the hat off Jigen’s face and plopping it on his own head with a grin. Jigen looked up with confusion.
“Uh, trying to get some sleep?”
Lupin snorted. “Fujiko stole my blanket when she stormed out. You really going to let me freeze after I just cheated death?”
Jigen stared, his mouth agape at the sheer audacity of his partner to both invite him and make fun of everything all at the same time.
Twirling around on his foot, Lupin strode off, Jigen’s hat still on his head as he tossed his parting words over his shoulder. “Ha! You look like you can’t decide whether to kiss me or kill me.”
Rolling back to his feet with a groan, Jigen muttered moodily under his breath as he stomped after him. “...I know which one you friggin deserve more…”
Pushing his door open, he nearly tripped over the piles of clothing on the floor that Lupin had haphazardly tossed around. The thief himself was already face down on his plethora of blankets that most definitely had not been stolen, wearing nothing but his striped boxers. He rolled over when he heard Jigen enter, grinning at him as he patted the space beside him.
“I’ll even let you keep the hat on~” He offered in an annoyingly sing-song voice.
“Yeah, definitely going to kill.” Jigen huffed as he carefully folded his clothing on the back of Lupin’s chair and made his way over to settle down beside him.
The second his back touched the blankets, Lupin rolled over and instantly wrapped his arms over his partner like the clingy creature he’d always been. Heaving a sign, Jigen tolerantly let his partner sprawl how he desired. Lupin wore the same cologne, clung to the same side, and snored his same snores that he had every time they’d passed out together after a successful heist. The familiarity was comforting even if it wasn’t perfectly the same. This time it was a little different. A little bit better.
Pulling his hat down over his eyes to hide the smile that crept over his face, Jigen listened to his best friend snoring peacefully away before he too drifted off to sleep.