Ranpo isn't really one to consider something like romance. The last time he remembers doing that was six years ago, and it was an utter failure.
Romance just doesn't seem all that interesting to him, is all. He doesn't understand the allure, has no clue why people crave touch, why emotions become so fickle when caught up in love. God, Ranpo remembers someone once saying to him, "People just become so stupid when they fall in love!" and he'd instantly recoiled from the notion. Why the hell would anyone intentionally pursue something that would make them lose even an ounce of their intelligence?
Sure, maybe he feels curious sometimes. Especially when love is a strong motive behind a case, because he wonders how great the emotion must be if it drives people to do such crazy things.
And when Fukuzawa would go out on extremely sparse dates when Ranpo was growing up, Ranpo would wonder what was making Fukuzawa have that extra spring in his usually very grave and serious step. Though if Ranpo were to ever ask about it, Fukuzawa would just shake his head (while turning a little red) and tap Ranpo's nose with a lollipop just for him which was so awesome that Ranpo would forget about the question for the next few minutes.
When liking people and dating seemed to become the norm when Ranpo became a certain age, he'd tried to investigate it a little. He'd see if there was anyone he could like a little more than usual, but heck, he usually didn't even find people interesting enough to be his friend let alone anything more. See, most things bored him, and still do. People aren't really an exception.
He didn't want to waste his time thinking of what his 'type' might be, but he deduced that they had to be intelligent. But not just intelligent. In order to take Ranpo's heart, they would have to be on par with his intelligence. It's not that they have to be as smart as him - just smart enough to surprise him a little. To rival him. To make his brain that's always filled with thoughts go blank for a singular moment.
That's a thrill Ranpo's always wanted to experience.
And, amazingly, one day he did. Ranpo still remembers that one day six years ago, when he'd reached the last two in an investigation competition without much trouble at all. In the stages before the very last, he hadn't really seen nor conferred with any of his fellow contestants, but things were different at the final stage. That was exciting, because Ranpo had honestly been planning to quit because of how boring this thing was becoming, though he might have felt a little guilty if he did that because Fukuzawa seemed to be very excited and proud of him in his own gravelly way.
It turned out that the last stage was investigating a murder, and his opponent was right opposite him. Right there for Ranpo to analyse and pick apart without so much of a flicker of his eyes. And...
Ranpo knows when things are cute. Fukuzawa's been a massive contributor to that on the subjective side that has Ranpo cooing just a tiny bit in his mind over things like cats and bunnies - but objectively, he knows just why his pupils might dilate or his fingers might itch to pet something cute.
But this boy. This boy wasn't quite cat or bunny cute. He was boy cute. Thick black hair covered his eyes, tied in a tiny ponytail with the sweetest ribbon, and he was wearing clothes that seemed a little too small but that just might be because the boy himself stood tall like a giant. But a lanky one who looked like he wanted to wrap his sweater tighter around his body.
Wow. Ranpo knew he was only giving this guy a specifically high amount of attention because he was his opponent, but it was also because Ranpo knew he had to be clever. He definitely had to be clever to get to this stage in this competition, right? Maybe not quite the clever Ranpo wanted, but he couldn't be sure yet.
But he definitely became sure when the boy's bangs brushed to the side revealing a big, sharp eye wielding so much sheer power, with a crude smile to match it that sent chills through Ranpo.
He could sense it. He didn't need any deduction to know that this guy, an Ability user no less, had to be someone priceless.
And with these two pieces of knowledge, that this boy was terrifyingly smart and unpredictably cute, Ranpo felt a little...dizzy.
Was this what everyone talked about, when it came to romance?
Ranpo had already solved the murder a few minutes after the clock started ticking but he watched the boy a moment longer, trying to figure out how he might ask him out, before he announced, "I've solved it."
The guy (Ranpo wished he cared a bit earlier to learn his name) stared at him in shock as the clock stopped ticking. "B-But...but how- when- I only got to-"
"It's simple," Ranpo started, like he always does. He explained everything he found in detail, trying to keep his gaze on the judges out of courtesy even though he really wanted to see the look on his opponent's face (in a good way!), and smiled absently when they showered him in praise. Then he finally turned to the boy once more, opening his mouth to maybe...congratulate him for getting this far? Would that be a good way to start? Gah, suddenly he wished he was more experienced in this...
But he paused in his tracks when he noticed that the guy had fallen to his knees, hands trembling where they were clenched into fists at his thighs. Ranpo had no clue what was going on for a moment, which was really rare for him, until he realised with a start that of course. Of course the guy would be upset that he'd lost the competition!
Well, as someone who was hopefully planning to smooch this cute boy's face off one day, Ranpo knew he had to remedy that.
"Hey, congrats for getting this far! You're definitely super smart. I just happened to get there first."
Everything Ranpo said was pure fact, so he had no idea why the guy whipped his head up and stared at him with those intelligent pretty eyes filled with fury, angry tears welling up in them. "How dare you?! I don't need your PITY!"
Ranpo tilted his head to the side, whilst noting that the boy had an adorable accent. Not familiar with Japanese, maybe? Though his grammar seemed perfect. "I'm not pitying you? Actually, I think you're great, and I was wondering if you might want to-"
"Mark my words, Ranpo Edogawa," the guy hissed, and now Ranpo definitely felt bad about not knowing his name. "I'll make you rue this day!"
"...sure? But is it okay if we do that over din-"
Ranpo was cut off by the guy making a wrangled sob, before he turned on his heel and ran straight out of the room.
"That...that wasn't a yes, was it?" Ranpo asked confusedly, mostly to himself, but a judge got up to pat his back sympathetically and that definitely answered his question.
He left the building feeling very varying emotions, though he momentarily got distracted when Fukuzawa greeted him with a wonderful poster that said 'WELL DONE, RANPO' in black block kanji and a cake from his favourite bakery. He sat slumped in the back of the car, munching on the cake thoughtfully, before he told Fukuzawa what happened.
"What did I do wrong?" Ranpo asked, because Fukuzawa's the only person who'll ever hear Ranpo admit that he was wrong about something. Fukuzawa had the smallest of smiles on his face as he looked out on the road while he drove.
"I agree that it's mostly about the fact that he was upset about losing the competition. It's a very prestigious one, you know? But saying 'I just happened to get there first' definitely didn't help your case, Ranpo."
Ranpo blinked. He hadn't expected that to be where he went wrong. "How so? It was true."
"It sounds patronising, Ranpo. It was also rubbing salt into a very fresh wound. Also, for everything else you said, hearing praise from the person who defeated you will always seem like pity in the moment. He just needs time."
"But how can I give him time when I'm not sure if I'll ever see him again?" Ranpo wonders out loud, looking sullenly at his empty cake box. Fukuzawa sighs, and pats Ranpo's head when they eventually get back to the Agency.
So after that one single shot at romance in his entire twenty-six years of living, imagine his utter and complete embarrassment when the only person who ever caught his heart's attention shows up six years later out of nowhere with an elaborate plan to get revenge?
All I ever wanted was to get a date, you gorgeous insane man, Ranpo thinks miserably as Poe stares at him with a maniacal smirk behind bangs that are even thicker than before. Why are you doing this to me? Did I really mess up that bad?
It's stupid, but Ranpo pretends not to remember him at first. It's the only way to preserve his dignity and keep a straight face while he's actually trying not to crumble under the weight of his stupid twenty year old self, and usually he'd rather DIE than call himself stupid.
But slowly, the embarrassment fades. Because Ranpo realises something that day, something that makes his brain stir with a very unfamiliar emotion that he thinks is called 'longing'.
Poe is so much more brilliant than Ranpo could have ever imagined.
He can't remember the last time something like Poe's mystery novel had challenged his brain like this. And he can remember the last time someone's Ability had given him a thrilling sense of doubt like this, but that's only because the last time had also been because of Poe. At that competition, six years ago.
Ranpo feels a mixture of pain and ultimate pride when he jumps out of the book with Yosano and sees Poe's shocked and terrified face stare at him. Which is why Ranpo decides he's going to do the best he can to make Poe know just how amazing this piece of work is. Just how amazing Ranpo thinks Poe is.
He pulls out all the stops - or at least all the stops when it comes to Ranpo's way of speaking - when he explains how he figured out the plot. His heart skips the tiniest of beats when Poe's eyes shimmer while Ranpo uses the words 'truly ingenious', which even has Yosano eyeing Ranpo oddly.
But a tiny slither of fear cuts through Ranpo's euphoria when Poe cries out a hoarse, "Damn it," and he falls to his knees just like he did six years ago. "I spent six years on this..."
Yes you did, and it was incredible. It's not your fault that you happened to need to go up against me.
"And your intellectual devices were much more beautiful this time," Ranpo says instead, walking past Poe so he can hide his face that might be showing more emotion than he wants it to. "I just saw through them."
Wait. No, that doesn't sound right. It sounds too similar to his old 'I just happened to get there first' and Fukuzawa said that was bad, so Ranpo's breath hitches inaudibly as he tries to figure out how he can fix that and fast - but thankfully his panic is interrupted.
"Hold on," Poe breathes. "Then you do remember your battle against me?"
Shit. Ranpo hadn't meant to reveal that. Well, nothing he could do about it now.
"There's no way I'd be able to forget about a mystery I cracked open," Ranpo says calmly as he turns around, a smile lighting up his face at the memory because that had definitely been a nice one to solve. "I remember it well. It was just the two of us. Pitting one mind against the other, it was the first time another detective's ability gave me chills.
"It was the last time as well," he says, staring directly at Poe hoping he'd get the hint, even though Poe can't quite see him right now. But the author does stare ahead with bright realised eyes, hands quivering. God's sake, he's adorable.
"I look forward to seeing what you come up with for me next!" Ranpo says cheerfully, hopping past Poe back to Yosano. "You better work hard now, you hear me?"
Ranpo doesn't hear an answer, and he's definitely glad for that because he needs to get out of here before humiliation and infatuation swallows him whole. It's all fine and dandy being able to act cool and suave, but inside Ranpo's battling all kinds of feelings that he doesn't know the first way to deal with and it's such an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing something. But he almost goes stock still when he hears something.
"I promise," the accented voice says softly, laced with emotions so deep that Ranpo can't recognise them in words, "I will."
And just before the door between them closes, Ranpo looks back to see Poe lower his eyes to the floor, while the sweetest, genuinely happy smile plays on his lips.
Ranpo barely snaps back into his normal composure before Yosano might start asking questions, but his heart keeps racing wildly for the next ten minutes.
I don't think I did something wrong this time.
Despite how embarrassing that whole encounter was, it shines a new light on Poe and Ranpo's relationship (which had formerly been rivals to the death (Ranpo to Poe) and the one who got away (Poe to Ranpo)).
Ranpo even manages to snag the guy's number the first time they bump into each other while Poe is walking mindlessly around town with his nose in a book.
Ranpo had already deduced that Poe would still be in Yokohama, probably by himself, since the man didn't seem to have any loyalty towards the Guild and didn't seem to mind what his location was otherwise - but he also notes that the dark circles around Poe's eyes are a lot better, and his formerly pasty complexion even has a tiny bit of colour in it. Karl curls around his shoulders peacefully, and Ranpo watches in amusement as everyone in the area curiously watches this tall foreign racooned man muttering to himself.
"Poe!" Ranpo calls, raising a hand, and Poe startles out of his own little world as he jerks his head up and catches sight of Ranpo, who genuinely almost goes 'aww' out loud (how embarrassing) when Poe perks up, a small surprised but delighted smile gracing his face.
"Ranpo!" Poe says, rushing over before he pauses, looking sheepish, then he closes his book so he can clutch it shyly. "H-Hello."
"How are things?" Ranpo asks, and it does way too much to his already massive ego that Poe looks so awed to be making small talk with him.
"Oh- good, very good! I think I'm just taking a little bit of a break now...I feel like I've been working so hard for six years that even taking a breath of fresh air feels amazing."
"That's good," Ranpo nods. "But don't take too long, alright? You're the only thing I can rely on to cure my neverending boredom!"
Poe's pale skin colours a bit more as he nods quickly, and that's when he suggests exchanging numbers. Ranpo gladly does so, not caring one bit if it's just so Poe can message him when he has a new trick up his sleeve, because his skin tingles a little when Poe's fingers brush against his while handing his phone back after putting the contact in. Poe pulls his hand back like he's been electrocuted, squeaking out an apology, and Ranpo almost considers grabbing hold of his hand completely to show that it's definitely more than okay.
He shakes the thought out of his head, and waves Poe goodbye.
- Ranpo, I have a new idea for a mystery novel! I'll get it to you as soon as possible!!
that sounds great but how bout you put that off for a second to come to the agency tomorrow? -
...poe, we're texting, do you really want me to repeat myself? -
- Oh, no, no!! Sorry! I was simply...shocked. What is happening at the Agency tomorrow?
that's for me to know and you to find out, dear rival ;) -
Ranpo doesn't get a reply for a good five minutes, and amazingly, he can't figure out why. He has a few theories, most of them including the fact that Poe is currently busy and simply texting Ranpo on the side, but he can't be sure that any of them are certain.
- Oh...oh dear...I'm not very good with surprises
hahha i'm just joking! but come give me that book i saw you reading it looked interesting! -
- ...Really? YOU really thought that book seemed interesting?
Ranpo laughs to himself. Poe seriously knows him far too well, and that makes Ranpo feel curiously happy.
I'll be waiting ~ -
- RANPO!! YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THIS WAS A PARTY!!!
why are you texting me when you're just on the other side of the room!! -
- You're surrounded by people...I thought you asked me to come to hand you the piece you were talking about!
hm. well i was sure you would have already figured out this would be a party -
- Yes, but! I still wanted to come...because Ranpo asked me to...but
- secluded myself for the past six years, you see
- I barely even communicated with anyone from the Guild outside of orders and passing on work and information
- I don't really know how to deal with people anymore
Ranpo disagrees with that. Sure, Poe is a bit stuck in his own bubble half the time and he's very shy, but he can speak when he needs to, and becomes very confident when it comes to his own work or things he's interested in. Ranpo imagines he must've been a really delightfully educated and perhaps even a tiny bit outgoing man six years ago.
Ranpo really tries not to think about it, but lately he can't stop feeling terrible about the fact that the competition had made Poe this way. He dregged up as much information as he could and discovered that it was only after the defeat that Poe stopped seeing people, stopped leaving his home, and became a recluse.
The guy had a life, he was a young prodigy, he was in university, he had friends, he had light in his eyes and then...Ranpo really ruined all that.
God, why couldn't Poe have just heard him out when he wanted a stupid dinner date?!
All of this is so frustrating and Ranpo hates being frustrated, because that means that he regrets something, and regretting something means he did something wrong. It's the same feeling as a bug crawling up his skin.
i know all that -
- Ah yes, of course Ranpo would!
it's ok. you don't need to talk to anyone. i told everyone not to bother you too much! just eat lots of food and i'll come talk to you soon -
and I can see that you look quite happy seeing everyone having fun ^^ -
- Ah!! Is Ranpo watching me?!
don't make it sound creepy you're just cute!! ok bear with it for a second then i 'll come say hi -
- Alright ...
Ranpo looks up just a little, and sees Poe smiling down at his phone where he's occupied an empty corner of the room. Ranpo feels his skin prickle with warmth, and he stocks Atsushi's arms up with food to send over to Poe.
In the end, Ranpo doesn't get to spend time with Poe at the party. The guy hurriedly gets up in a panic at some point, and rushes over to Ranpo regardless of the people around him to apologise profusely and say, "It seems I have a meeting with a publisher that I had forgotten about! I am so sorry for taking my leave so early, Ranpo!"
"Ooooooh, this your hot American boy, Ran?" Yosano slurs from where she's very drunk and close to flopping face-first into Ranpo's lap, and while Ranpo tries to find a way to say 'I never called him hot' without actually saying that, Poe seizes up when Yosano drapes herself over his arm. "Oh my my my, he's cute!"
"W-What is going on?" Poe stammers out, face burning, but Ranpo's too sulky about the fact that Poe has to leave early to say anything more than a dismissive, "She's just had a few too many glasses. You can go, Poe, don't worry about it."
Poe nods hurriedly, gently prying Yosano off him then he bows at least five times to Ranpo before scurrying off, with Karl yawning on top of his head.
Ranpo only huffs after him, squishing his fist against his cheek. But a few minutes later, his phone buzzes.
- I'll be back so soon with the manuscript of my new novel !! Please await my return, please do not forget about me!
Ranpo immediately discards the fact that he was ever upset, a grin lighting up his face. Poe has the sweetest way of speaking.
Like Ranpo could ever forget about him.
Ranpo doesn't consider people friends very often. The only person who might fit the mould is Yosano and maybe Kunikida, and Dazai might come close but he's more a person who exercises Ranpo's brain a little. That's better than most people since Ranpo can usually figure anyone out in an instant.
But as time passes, Ranpo realises that each time he hangs out with Poe, he learns something new about him. Usually Ranpo discovers most things about a person within a mere day of knowing them - and it's not like that's much different with Poe. It's just that, Poe makes him interested in the little things too.
Usually Ranpo really couldn't care less about someone's favourite colour, but he hastily records in his mind that Poe's is a deep crimson red.
He finds out that Poe is a really big fan of shaved ice, because they walk past a shaved ice place and Ranpo notices Poe's eyes sparkle as he presses his hands up against the windows of the shop.
"I tried some the other day for the first time. Truly a delicacy that the West have failed to tap into enough yet!"
'I'll get you some', is what Ranpo would say if he hadn't blown most of his money on snacks, but Poe just gently clasps Ranpo's inverness cape between his thumb and forefinger and walks merrily into the shop, so Ranpo can't do anything but follow him.
Now Ranpo knows Poe is rich, like rich-rich, but it's always a depressingly damning sight to see the guy flaunt his money the way he does.
"I guess it's good that we're friends 'cause I can use it to my advantage," Ranpo concedes, slumping in his seat as he judgingly but amusedly watches Poe eat his fifth shaved ice bowl (Ranpo loves sweets, but shaved ice is too cold for him so he's content watching Poe eat for the most part) - then he blinks when he sees Poe choke and slam a hand on the table in surprise. "You alright?"
Poe quickly nods, coughing quietly into a napkin before he sets it down with a slightly shaky hand. For someone so tall, he somehow has this habit of hiding completely behind those massive bangs of his, and he's doing it now as he asks a soft, "Are we really...friends?"
Ranpo hesitates for a moment, surprised by the question. But he wishes he didn't, because he's not unsure about the answer at all. He wants Poe to be his friend, so he hopes he already is. He hopes Poe thinks of him as one, too.
"Yeah. Is that alright?"
"Of course!" Poe says immediately, flicking his head up to show his curiously pink face as his bangs swish about to show his wide determined eyes for a moment. Ranpo finds it amazingly sweet that such a thing makes Poe feel determined. "I will be the bestest friend you could possibly have, Ranpo! I will try my hardest!"
Ranpo rests his chin in his hands as he grins at Poe, who's turned even redder after saying that. "I'm looking forward to it."
Poe smiles shyly down at the table. "I think...you will be the first friend I've had in a while. Please forgive me if I don't live up to expectations."
Ranpo is really itching to take hold of Poe's hand. "Hey now, didn't you say you were going to try your best? No excuses for slacking!"
Ranpo's only joking, but Poe barks a loud, "Of course!"
Ranpo chuckles as Poe eats more shaved ice with renewed vigour.
"But what do you want to use to your advantage?"
"Your money," Ranpo explains with a wink, and Poe perks up in realisation before he nods.
"I'll buy you anything!"
"Ah, you're no fun..."
So as outings build up, as well as Ranpo's happiness and frustration meters, Ranpo finds out all kinds of things about his new friend that are so utterly useless but he still hoards them in his mind. Things like:
i. Ranpo hates reading, but Poe's reading voice is incredible and he might actually like to listen to it forever.
ii. Poe adores animals, and Ranpo doesn't really but he becomes fond of Poe's sweet shy racoon.
iii. Poe is terrified of heights, and Ranpo has to hold his hand on escalators (Ranpo's definitely not complaining).
iv. Poe only wears heeled shoes, usually boots, and they make him look amazing (Poe’s legs are stellar, okay) but seeing him take them off when they go to Poe’s apartment and have him be a few inches shorter than usual as he melts exhaustedly into his sofa, cuddling into a cushion - it’s too much for Ranpo to handle.
v. In all the extensive games they play against each other in their free time, where they either draw (which, Ranpo can seriously not stress this enough, thrills him more than anything in his entire life) or Ranpo wins, the one thing that Poe defeats him in is...sudoku?!
"Is this seriously your first time playing?" Ranpo asks in disbelief as Poe laughs maniacally on his sofa, looking like he'd just won the damn lottery as he throws his pencil and finished grid into the air and cheers.
"I WON! AGAINST RANPO! RANPO EDOGAWA! THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!"
Now Ranpo hates losing, more than pretty much, anything, but seeing Poe look so happy evokes a very different feeling to hatred. An almost opposite one, in fact.
He sulks some more to put on a show, but he smiles behind his hand when Poe runs through his apartment waving his arms about excitedly as he goes to grab a bottle of celebratory wine.
"I love looking at shapes in the clouds," Poe says dreamily when they're lying on grass watching the sky one day during Ranpo's lunch break, and Ranpo notes that down as another wonderful useless fact about Poe. "It is a peaceful type of fun, having your mind try to twist these shapes into something recognisable."
"Fukuzawa likes that, too," Ranpo says, watching Poe draw shapes in the sky with his long fingers. "He goes to the roof every morning to do it."
"You and Mr Fukuzawa are close, aren't you?" Poe says, his voice as light and wispy as the clouds above them, and Ranpo notices that Poe has turned on his side to look at Ranpo. His hands are clasped together sweetly in front of his chest, and his bangs are falling to the side to reveal one of his pretty eyes.
"I guess. I mean, he's basically a dad to me, so probably."
"A father figure? How nice," Poe says with a smile, but Ranpo clarifies, "No, I mean literally. He took me in when I was fourteen."
"O-Oh!" Poe gasps. Then he shies away behind his hands. "Oh my, I'm going to be even more frightened when seeing him now..."
"Don't be," Ranpo says amusedly. "He likes you, you know."
Poe immediately pulls his hands away, eyes twinkling as he asks Ranpo an eager, "Really?!"
"Yeah. He kinda wants you to join the Agency, he says this place was created exactly for minds like yours."
"Ah," Poe says, a bittersweet smile playing on his lips. "Please tell him that it's a truly lovely offer...however, I think I need to be free for a little while longer, just to explore and live how I want to. But I will always help Ranpo when he needs me, I hope I've proved that fact already!"
Ranpo nods, having already known all that because if he didn't then he would have asked Poe to join himself. But for some reason, hearing what Poe just said is making him feel a little sick.
"Oh, look! That cloud looks like a knife!" Poe cries, clutching Ranpo's arm with one hand and pointing at the sky with another. "How remarkable! This simply must be a sign that the first of the murders in my new novel should involve a knife..."
Ranpo watches Poe fondly as the guy mutters to himself, while sincerely hoping that the sick feeling goes away, and far too quickly they're heading back to the Agency. Poe holds onto the doorway timidly, waving a goodbye at Ranpo who salutes back, then Ranpo walks back into the office and jumps into his chair with a sigh.
He expects Poe to be gone. But he can still smell lavender and ink, and when he opens his eyes, he sees Poe and Fukuzawa talking in the corner of the room outside Fukuzawa's office. Fukuzawa is just a little taller, but he's practically towering over Poe who's hunched over shyly and stammering over his words. But Fukuzawa listens to him with a kind fond smile, and Poe jolts when Fukuzawa reaches out to pat his head. Ranpo almost laughs because he knows Fukuzawa’s wanted to do that for a while (and Fukuzawa has a habit of wanting to pet cute things but getting too caught up in their cuteness to actually do it).
"I understand completely," Fukuzawa says, and Poe looks up to beam at the man gratefully.
It's probably just Poe telling Fukuzawa what he had told Ranpo, about why he can't join the Agency (though it's surprising that Poe is actually doing that in person, especially after admitting that he's scared of Fukuzawa). But Ranpo's imagination runs wild thinking about all the things his current love interest and father figure could talk about, and his ears burn.
Ah, honestly. Poe really is so smart and wonderful that Ranpo doesn't know what to do with himself anymore. And he always knows what to do.
"What's wrong, Ranpo?" a low voice asks one morning when Ranpo is slumped over his desk sullenly sucking on a lollipop. He looks up half-heartedly to see Fukuzawa frowning down at him, head a tiny bit tilted to show his worry. Kunikida closes his notebook then too to say, "If the president is okay with me asking, I have also been wondering if anything was amiss, Ranpo. You finished your reports curiously quickly, and you have even more snacks than usual today."
'I'm just...having trouble understanding something', is what Ranpo would say if he could bear to say that. But he can't, so he just sighs.
"Is Poe visiting us today?" Fukuzawa asks, and Ranpo looks up immediately at the mention of Poe's name. He wilts a little under Fukuzawa's knowing glance, and he knows he's going to crumble when Kunikida brings over a chair so Fukuzawa can take a seat next to Ranpo. "Tell us the problem, Ranpo. Anyone can use help, I've been telling you that for many years."
"I don't wanna disturb Kunikida," Ranpo mumbles as a weak excuse to get out of this, but Kunikida simply shakes his head.
"Nonsense. I will always make time in my schedule to give service to my fellow colleagues."
Ugh. Stupid nice idealistic Kunikida. Ranpo stretches out before he slowly sits up, collapsing back in his seat as he stares up at the ceiling. Then he finally manages to articulate all his scrambled thoughts into:
"Why is it that I'm so happy, happier and more interested in the world than I've been in so long, yet miserable at the same time?"
It's true. Poe makes him see different rays of the 'light' everyone talks about. His smiles fill Ranpo's tired world with colour, his intelligent words make fiery adrenaline run through Ranpo's veins, his bright eyes make Ranpo's chest go tight with warmth - but Ranpo also gets this heavy feeling when he's with Poe, like a weight on his shoulders, or weak poison tainting his stomach.
It happens when something about Poe's past comes up, like when Ranpo notes Poe's lack of friends or lifestyle in general, or when Poe mentions an anecdote from those six years he spent holed away from the world. But it also happens when there's nothing like that at all, when they're simply together and Poe does some random wonderful thing that makes Ranpo's heart beat fast. But the weight gets heavier than ever.
Kunikida looks a little confused, but Fukuzawa has a wise smile on his face when he informs him, "He's talking about Poe. The man makes Ranpo happy, but also miserable."
Kunikida frowns. "That doesn't sound like a very healthy relationship."
"It's not like that," Ranpo sighs. "He's not doing anything wrong, he never does. He's great. He actually might be my favourite person in the world right now, other than-" Ranpo makes a vague gesture at Fukuzawa who puffs up ever so slightly in pride before he coughs.
"Then may I ask what exactly is making you miserable?" Kunikida asks, in his kind but diligently calculating way, always trying to find the most efficient solution to any problem, and Ranpo keeps his face angled towards the ceiling.
"I feel...I don't feel good. When I remember. When I remember that he spent six whole years devoid of life just to get back at me. It makes everything sweet go sour."
"My my," a new amused voice says. Yosano steps over to stand next to Ranpo, resting her hand on his desk. "Are my ears failing me or is our genius detective feeling remorse?"
Ranpo's eyes snap open.
Remorse. That's regret, but worse. It's deep regret, as well as guilt, and Ranpo can't believe he hadn't figured it out earlier. That's exactly what he's feeling, he just knows it.
"You see, Ranpo," Fukuzawa says in that voice of his where you know he's going to say an undeniable universe truth, "you feel guilty that he makes you so happy when you seem to feel like you might have...well, to put it bluntly, ruined his life. Isn't that what you think? And you clearly want to make up for that, and get some closure."
"It also seems to me that the only reason you hadn't figured out any of this is because you're not very used to being wrong, right, Ranpo?" Kunikida says, and Ranpo knows that he doesn't mean that cruelly. It does cut at him a little, but it's true - when it comes to Poe, Ranpo keeps on discovering things that he doesn't know how to deal with, things he's inexperienced with. Sometimes, that's thrilling. But this?
This just makes Ranpo feel like shit.
The three people surrounding Ranpo jump when Ranpo's phone starts to ring. Ranpo regards it boredly, before blinking when he sees that it's Poe.
Poe, who never calls him and prefers to live in texts. Poe, who never calls anyone. Poe, who barely contacts Ranpo first during work hours.
Ranpo makes three deductions in the next second - either Poe is in danger, Karl is in danger, or someone's stolen his phone. Ranpo doesn't like any of those options, so he swoops up the phone and swipes right. "Poe? Are you-"
"RANPOOOOO!" Poe calls loud enough for even the other three to hear despite not being on speaker, and Ranpo tries not to wince from his almost shattered eardrum. Ranpo instantly thinks that his first deduction was correct, but then he notices Poe's high tone, laced with glee and a slight slur, finishing with something like a giggle.
Woah. It seems like the reality is a fourth possibility that Ranpo didn't even take into account, because there Poe goes always surprising Ranpo because he's brilliant. But right now, Ranpo can't feel anything but worried because...
"Are you drunk?"
"Oh my, that might be the case! Wahhhh, Ranpo's deduction is truly AMAZING!" Poe gushes in English, and Yosano and Kunikida stare at each other with wide eyes. "Ranpo, Ranpo, guess what?! This is the first time I've got drunk in six years!"
"I know that," Ranpo says warily. "You gave up drinking while working on your revenge plan for me, then-"
"I started up again when we became friends!" Poe cheers, the sloshing sound of him pouring another glass in the background. "Just a little, because I was so happy! But did you know, Ranpo? That I was an alcoholic before I started working on your novel!"
Ranpo did know that. And that's why he feels so panicked.
"Poe, you need to stop dri-"
"But did you know that, Ranpo?!"
Ranpo's hand clenches into a fist. "Yes. I could tell from how comfortable you were around alcohol the few times we would drink together, but how you'd always have to physically stop yourself at a point. But that doesn't matter right now, you-"
"WOW, the genius detective's deduction strikes again!" Poe praises delightedly, but it's the first time that praise has made Ranpo feel uncomfortable. Its also a bit more difficult to follow Poe since he isn't speaking Japanese at all, and Ranpo knows English but he's not perfect at it. "But I wanted to see if you could figure out something! Do you know what's the different between my being drunk now and all the times I would be drunk before the first time we met?"
Ranpo frowns. "Poe, this isn't the time for-"
"But it is always the time for challenges! We are rivals! Challenges are our BLOOD-"
Ranpo gets up with a start when Poe yells, and a crash reaches Ranpo's ears.
"Ohhhh dearie," Poe laughs softly a moment later, sounding winded. "I have hurt myself a little."
Ranpo is a genius. And only a genius could have noticed the tiny, tiny crack in Poe's voice, full of underlying sadness. Ranpo knows that in fifteen to twenty minutes, Poe will be in full-blown tears, and his heart breaks at the mere thought.
"Wait there. I'm coming," Ranpo says, grabbing his coat that's on the back of of chair, and Poe laughs in delight for a moment before he suddenly gasps, "WAIT NO! I DON'T WANT YOU TO SEE ME LIKE THIS-"
"I don't care! I'm going to look after you, okay?"
"...oh," Poe murmurs, so softly that Ranpo barely hears it, before the line goes dead. Ranpo sighs heavily, resting a worried hand on his head before he looks at Fukuzawa, but the man just nods understandingly at him.
"Of course you can go. Make sure he's alright, and remember what we've told you."
Ranpo nods, firmly putting on his cap before he marches out of the place. Before rushing back to grab a pack of Parma Violets, then he rushes out again.
"Isn't it remarkable, thinking that Ranpo's going to be looking after someone for once?" Yosano asks with a proud fond smile, and Fukuzawa nods.
"Poe brings out the very best in him, you see."
Ranpo uses a clip to unlock Poe's door, since he doesn't quite trust Poe in his drunk state to get to the front door safely, but it seems like Poe's body isn't all that affected when the lanky man himself peeks out of a door and brightens up at the sight of Ranpo, a beam stretching over his face. His hair's tied back, his eyes are glazed and fill with sweet happiness at the sight of Ranpo, and he's still in his flimsy white nightclothes.
Ranpo's heart beats solely for this man.
"What happened, Poe? Why did you get drunk?" Ranpo asks as Poe bounds over to take hold of Ranpo's wrist and drags him into the living room. Poe pushes Ranpo gently down onto a sofa seat, but Ranpo notes the shakiness in his hands. Ranpo curiously watches Poe for a second longer, but when he notices the man reaching for a wine bottle, Ranpo takes hold of his hands. "Hey, no more drinking."
Poe looks into the distance for a moment, eyes clouded over with an unnerving blankness, before he snaps back into his energetic state and nods. "Yes! That's why I called Ranpo! So he could stop me!"
Ranpo had thought as much. Poe seemed to have known that he needed something to ground him, so calling Ranpo was the best bet in the moment. Ranpo's also sure that all this drinking has brought up memories that are making Poe feel scared, so he called Ranpo for...comfort.
It makes Ranpo so guiltily happy, that he's a source of comfort for Poe. It's so unfair.
"Here, here," Ranpo says, patting the seat next to him, and Poe obediently sits next to him. He sways a bit too and Ranpo lets the guy lean against him. He's really all skin and bones... "I've almost figured out the answer to your question."
Poe raises his head to look at him in awe. "Really?"
Ranpo nods, and like he's always wanted to do, he brushes Poe's bangs to the side just so he can see pretty wide eyes stare at him. "I just need a bit more information. Is your injury okay?"
Poe blinks, confused by the change of subject, before he looks down at his leg. "Oh. I forgot about that! It's okay. I think...I think when I said I hurt myself a little, it was more-"
"Abstract," Ranpo finishes for him, as Poe closes his eyes sadly. "About your feelings."
"Ranpo is truly a genius," Poe says with a gentle smile, leaning into Ranpo's touch which has Ranpo realising with a start that he's resting a hand on Poe's cheek.
"Before I answer your question," Ranpo says, heart feeling heavy when Poe opens his eyes and they're glassy now, "can you answer one of mine?"
"I will try my best," Poe says slowly, trying his best to speak as coherently as he would sober, and Ranpo nods. He takes in a deep breath, takes a moment to figure out the best way to say what he wants to say, then he goes for it.
"In those six years that you were thinking about me, was any of it positive? Was it only driven by hatred for me? By revenge?"
"Oh, Ranpo," Poe breathes, resting a hand over the one Ranpo has on his face. "You wonderful oblivious man. I was not happy before the day we first met. I hadn't been happy for a long time, instead very much the opposite. Life didn't interest me, and if I found something beautiful, it would stop being beautiful once I'd learnt everything I could about it so I went through life obsessively trying to find what I wanted, needed. Then, you. You lit a fire in me. Yes, those six years definitely weren't a happy time, but they made me realise that I really had the ability to work so hard on something, to be so involved in something without losing interest. Even while I was blinded by revenge, the one thing I have always thought is that you, Ranpo Edogawa, are truly something to be admired."
Ranpo feels so warm as the weight finally starts to dissipate. This is the closure he needed. He just needed Poe to let him know that he was okay, that Ranpo hadn't ruined everything and made him become a shell of himself. Or, well...even if he had done those things, at least Poe is now getting his life back in different, more beautiful ways.
"The answer to your question. I know it now," Ranpo says, his voice slightly shaking for the first time in his life, and Poe stares at him with sparkling eyes. "You used to get drunk because you found life boring otherwise and that made you upset. Today, you got drunk because you were happy."
"Amazing," Poe says almost inaudibly, voice full of wonder, but Ranpo isn't finished.
"But you were drinking too quickly, and it made you reminisce the previous times you got drunk and you started getting confused. You were wondering if you were beginning to regress back to how you used to be. So you called me, because I'm evidence that your life is different now."
"Now you're telling me things that even I didn't realise," Poe chuckles, and that's when tears finally start rolling down his face. Ranpo frowns because that was what he had wanted to prevent. "How brilliant you are."
"Why are you crying?"
Poe looks at him in surprise, as Ranpo brings his other hand to Poe's face so he can catch all the tears. "You don't know?"
"When it comes to you," Ranpo explains, letting his thumbs brush under Poe's eyes, "I don't always know everything."
Poe suddenly hiccups, then slaps his hands over his mouth as he burns red in embarrassment, and Ranpo smiles as he pulls those hands away. "S-Sorry! I just- I was so surprised about what y-you said, and then- I just-"
"Don't apologise for a hiccup, you dolt," Ranpo laughs, caressing Poe's cheek as Poe peers at him bashfully through his bangs. "You're drunk, you really think I'm judging your actions right now?"
"Maybe more heavily tipsy than drunk. I used to get a lot worse," Poe sighs, but he smiles too. "Nevertheless, in vino veritas. I'm glad you asked me that question, Ranpo. It's also surprising because I'm not...I know you're not really one to dwell on things?"
"Haven't you figured out by now that everything's different when it comes to you? Geez," Ranpo grumbles, grabbing his Parma Violets because he really needs a snack right now. Then he realises that he definitely took these just because they're the same colour as Poe's eyes, and he groans. "Stupid cute oblivious American boy who started a stupid oblivious six year revenge plan when all I wanted was to ask you out."
Poe goes stock still. "...what-"
"You'd think when I find someone smart enough and cute to top it off that everything would be awesome and fall easily into place but NO, he just had to join an enemy organisation that almost vanquished the entire city all because of me and then, guess what? Despite absolutely everything, he became my friend, and now he's torturing me every day by making my heart beat out of my chest! And why?! Because everything he does is laced with charm and intelligence and sweetness better than any snack, because he's beautiful."
Ranpo turns to the side to glare at Poe, who is currently frozen and so brick red that it's a wonder that he hasn't passed out. "You're beautiful, and it sucks."
Ranpo counts down from three in his head, and sure enough, Poe really does faint when he gets to one. Ranpo already has his arms out to catch him, and he sighs to himself as he stands up and holds Poe close to his chest. He looks down for a moment, at Poe's messy thick hair, at skin flushed from alcohol and cheeks streaked with tears. Ranpo closes his eyes to gather himself because that sight is way too much for him to handle, and he goes to Poe's bedroom to lay him down.
He almost kisses Poe's cheek before he leaves, but settles with wiping away all the tears instead. Poe's skin is so warm under his fingers, so porcelain, and Ranpo leans close to murmur, "I didn't mean to say it sucked. I'm sorry. It doesn't suck. It just sucks to not know things, or not be used to things. But the thought of you remedies all that, so it doesn't matter so much."
He brushes Poe's hair to the side, and that's when Karl hops up onto Ranpo's shoulder. Ranpo looks at him, as Karl looks back with worried eyes that clearly say, 'Is owner okay now?', and Ranpo nods, scratching Karl under the chin.
He gathers water and aspirin, then he leaves the two be to sleep in each other's arms as he silently slips out the room and heads back to the Agency.
The next morning, as he spins around in his chair at the Agency, Ranpo doesn't know how to feel. He knows Poe holds his alcohol quite well, so he's 92% sure that the guy will remember everything. But he knows near to nothing about Poe's inclination to things like romance.
In fact, he knows Poe generally doesn't like it, or at least finds it difficult to write. Ranpo remembers Poe telling him about how his publisher said that romance literature was all the rage so he should try his hand at it, and it was the most frustrating week of Poe's life before he gave up.
"I guess romance isn't for me. It's not like I know the feeling of being loved, nor vice versa!" Poe had laughed at the time, while Ranpo thought wryly, of course you don't while here I am blatantly giving you heart eyes.
But Ranpo doesn't mind that. He doesn't mind not being able to hold Poe, or kiss him, or more things that Ranpo doesn't quite know about because he always thought romance wasn't for him either. All he cares about is that he'll still have Poe by his side. That he'll still be able to see his sweet smile, receive excited texts about his mystery novels, feel thrilled by his neverending intellect.
But he's not sure, after his outburst last night, if Poe will let him have any of that anymore.
"Oh Ranpo~!" Dazai sings from the door, and Ranpo hums distractedly in reply. "It seems you have a tall handsome gentleman-caller!"
Ranpo spins around one more time, before he pauses. Because of course this 'gentleman-caller' is Poe, who else? But what Ranpo can't fathom is why Poe has this ridiculously determined face on him as he marches over to Ranpo, quite fast, to the point that Ranpo kind of wants to back up.
"Hold on," Ranpo starts, wanting to explain because if Poe's angry about last night then Ranpo really doesn't blame him. He holds his arms out, hoping he can find a way to placate the guy who doesn't even have Karl on him right now so maybe he really is looking for a fight. "Poe, just let me..."
Ranpo completely trails off when all of a sudden, Poe pauses right in front of him, then slams his hands on either side of Ranpo's chair. Ranpo almost starts sweating as he can feel the eyes of everyone in the Agency watching them waiting for a fight to break out (Kyouka's eating popcorn to fit the mood and Atsushi's trying to take it away from her).
"Poe," Ranpo says again, and it's not a plea because Ranpo doesn't plead but he thinks he'd rather go a whole year without snacks than have Poe be mad at him. Not again. "I swear-"
"Hush," Poe tells him, and Ranpo immediately shuts up, really trying not to think about how attractive that was because this is not the time.
But maybe it is the time, because Poe leans over him, then tilts Ranpo's head up by the jaw with his beautiful long fingers. One startlingly impossible deduction appears in Ranpo's mind, and it's proven correct when Poe really does lean down...to give him a kiss.
The Agency erupts into noise, as Atsushi bursts into surprised yelps as Kyouka slaps at him and Dazai yells, "YEAH, RANPO, GET IT" and most of the room holler in shock and comraderie because their genius detective seems to really have a lover. Kunikida is surprisingly silent, not enforcing the usual rules on PDA for once.
But Ranpo doesn't care about any of them, not right now, because Poe is being wonderful and forward and kissing him so sweetly that Ranpo feels like he's floating. But Ranpo can sense him shaking slightly too, so he reaches out for him, arms winding around Poe's torso so he can pull him closer and let him know that everything's okay. Everything's more than okay, everything's perfect.
Poe yelps when he stumbles a little, effectively breaking the kiss as his thighs land either side of Ranpo on his chair, but Ranpo holds onto him because he'd definitely like Poe to stay like that. Poe bites his lip, face brushing pink, but he slowly nods as his hands move to rest on Ranpo's shoulders.
"I never answered your second question last night!" Poe suddenly seems to remember, and Ranpo can't help but smile seeing him perk up like that. "Why was I crying?"
"Why were you?"
"Because, I was so happy! Because I had found someone brilliant who understood me completely. Someone who would take the time to understand me. Someone who made me feel like I...was special. Special to someone like the genius detective Ranpo Edogawa, who is bored by most things in life!"
Ranpo nods solemnly, even as his heart beats fast under his chest. "That's some good deduction there."
"Really?" Poe beams. "And then, I was so utterly happy when you confessed that I couldn't even stay conscious anymore."
"What the hell happened with you two last night?!" Yosano yells from the other side of the room.
"You really wanted to ask me out that day?" Poe asks softly, and Ranpo sighs as he rests an embarrassed hand over his face.
"Yeah. And it went so spectacularly wrong, as you know. You're really the only person who can make me mess up that bad."
"It's okay not to get everything right, Ranpo," Poe tells him, and Ranpo watches with his ears burning as Poe pulls Ranpo's hand away from his face and gently kisses the back of it. "You could get a million things wrong, and I would still think you were absolutely amazing."
"I would never get a million things wrong," Ranpo huffs, even as his chest becomes almost painfully tight after hearing those words, and Poe laughs.
"Of course. I only speak hypothetically."
Ranpo doesn't know what's left to say or do anymore. Actually, he wants to tell Poe that he's amazing too, but he doesn't know how to say it. But then Poe squeezes his hand, and tells him with a voice so quiet, so laden with emotion, "Thank you for thinking I'm beautiful."
Ranpo blinks, remembering that he did indeed say that last night. Thank God.
"But you didn't look happy when you said it," Poe mumbles, slowly lowering their hands so they rest in his lap. "Did I- do I not make you happy the way you make me?"
Damn it. Ranpo messed up again, and he already knew he had. He shouldn't have added that 'it sucks', because the only thing that sucks is him when it comes to all these matters of the heart. He wishes he was a nicer person because that's what Poe deserves.
"You make me happier than anything ever has," Ranpo finally says, sounding just as miserable as he feels right now, but then Poe rests a warm hand on his cheek. Ranpo wants to melt against it.
"You say that like it's a bad thing. I don't want it to be a bad thing."
"It- it's not, but-"
"This is the only time that I will tell the genius detective this. Please listen," Poe says, so earnestly, as he takes both of Ranpo's hands now and holds them close to his chest. Ranpo opens his eyes to look at him and his heart thumps as Poe looks back at him so sadly, his parma violet eyes on show. "Can Ranpo stop thinking so hard, just this once?"
Ranpo freezes, while someone in the room gasps. Asking Ranpo not to think is like asking him not to breathe.
"Can he know that he doesn't need any forgiveness, and that I adore him enough to make up for all of the things that happened in the past six years?" Poe asks gently, his own hands caressing Ranpo's. "Can he simply let himself be happy with me?"
"HE CAN DEFINITELY DO THAT, AMERICAN HOTTIE!" Dazai yells into the silence that follows, before yowling when Kunikida smacks him around the head.
Poe seems jostled by the interruption, eyes big and blinking, then he looks even more surprised when Ranpo starts laughing. It's a laugh that feels like a long exhale, warming him from head to toe as he's finally able to completely let go of the weight that's been holding him back.
"Yes," Ranpo says amusedly when he's composed himself again, and Poe stares at him in anticipating awe. "I can definitely do that, American hottie."
Poe flushes a deep red, but a beam so big breaks out on his face, and Ranpo wants to laugh again when Poe throws himself forward to tackle Ranpo into another kiss. The room fills with applause and cheers because his coworkers are little shits, and Ranpo smiles when Poe burrows shyly against him at the attention.
Then Karl scurries into the room, and Poe gasps as the raccoon hops in between him and Ranpo. "Karl! I told you to stay with the nice lady at reception! Though it indeed was terrifying to have you out of my sight, oh my..."
Ranpo may like Karl, but he does get a bit jealous everytime Poe fusses over and cuddles the raccoon like that.
"A-Ah, well. I guess I have probably overstayed my welcome," Poe stammers, trying not to trip over his coat when he gets off of Ranpo and bows hastily at everyone else in the room, with Karl hanging onto his shoulders for his dear life. "I am so deeply sorry for interrupting your work...!"
"Are you kidding? That was the most entertaining thing that's happened here in like, forever," Dazai says, already looking dejected at the fact that the show is over, and Kunikida yells at him, "A lot of interesting things have happened before, Dazai, we are an Agency!"
"Yeah but not reeeeeecently-"
"I'll see you later, Poe," Ranpo says as the other two bicker, and Poe turns back to him with a quick nod. "Will you leave the door open, or should I break in like usual?"
"I-I'll just come pick you up when you're finished at work!" Poe squeaks, looking fearful and Ranpo doesn't judge him since he's scared Poe shitless before by chirping a nonchalant 'hi!' from the kitchen when Poe walks in after just having woken up.
"Aw, you're gonna go home then come back? What a waste."
"I don't live that far away-!"
"Edgar," a low voice calls. Poe blinks at the sound of his forename as he turns around, and Ranpo is already smiling, knowing exactly what Fukuzawa's up to when the older man holds the door open to his office. "I was wondering if you would like to spend the rest of the work day with me."
Poe only stares for a few minutes, skin turning redder and redder by the second, before he hugs Karl to his chest and stammers out the entire alphabet before he manages, "W-Why, sir?!"
"I'd like to get to know my future son-in-law better," Fukuzawa says solemnly, and Poe almost faints again while Ranpo flushes hard.
"OI! YOU'RE SO EMBARRASSING!" Ranpo squawks and Fukuzawa chuckles, ushering Poe inside and closing the door before Ranpo can throw a crisp packet at him.
Ranpo slumps over his desk, hiding his red face in his arms as Yosano pats his back and laughs, "Even our genius detective can get flustered."
She's right. Because Poe makes him feel things he's never felt before, and Ranpo can't wait to explore the rest of this rose-tinted world that's now full of new, beautiful things.