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The Only Song I Know

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“One large dark roast, no room for cream or sugar, correct?”

Guren stared at his barista, a silver haired smiley guy who obviously had nothing better to do than smile and be cheerful all day, every day. Well, technically the guy only started yesterday, so... Regardless! No one should be allowed to be that bright and cheerful at four in the afternoon. And gods forbid he ever thought the blue eyed, silver haired man was akin to an angel... He must have been especially tired yesterday for those sorts of thoughts to even cross his mind.

No, he had this sneaking suspicion that this man was anything but good. After all, he was armed with a face that women would flock to (if he wasn’t holed up in this dingy coffee shop, obviously) as well as a charming smile, and-

Well, damn, he definitely needed to get his afternoon coffee and to stop staring. And to get back on the case that he was working on.

“I’ve only ordered once from you. How do you know that’s my regular?” Guren asked, his purple eyes challenging, even as he handed over his credit card and travel mug. “...And you don’t even need to leave room for sugar!”

The blue eyed barista gave him an easy smile, taking his payment and filling his mug. “You seemed to be a bitter person, that’s all,” The bastard barista finally replied, his smile unchanging.

“...I should have you arrested for slander,” Guren muttered under his breath as he elbowed the man behind him who sniggered loudly at the barista’s comment. “I am not a bitter person.”

“But Guren, it’s only slander if it wasn’t true,” Goshi said innocently, earning himself a death glare from the dark haired man.

“Shut up Goshi, and hurry up or I’ll leave you here.”

Goshi merely grinned as he watched Guren make his way out, before turning back to the barista. “Well-“

“A large medium roast with room for cream?” The barista asked with a knowing smile, even though he already entered the order into the till.

The taller man nodded, handing over his mug and card. “Do you make it a habit to remember everyone’s orders, or just people who have a tendency of dropping in at this time of day?” Goshi asked with a grin as he took back his mug, and headed over to the counter with the cream jugs and sugar packets. “Should I be worried about my coffee being spiked one day?”

“It’s only my second day here, so obviously your ‘usuals’ were only assumptions. I do try to remember anyone who is interesting... there’s not much else to do at four in the afternoon,” The barista replied, gesturing to the empty shop around them.

“Interesting, you say?” Goshi asked raising a brow and looking out to Guren as he stirred a generous amount of cream and sugar into his coffee. “I’m surprised that Ferid let the new guy work here alone on his second day. I’m surprised that he let anyone work here alone after what happened last week. I heard the poor kid got sent to the hospital with a few broken bones. How’s he doing, do you know?”

The barista shrugged, looking downcast but didn’t drop his smile. “The owner said something like that hasn’t happened in years. But the kid was released from the hospital yesterday and should be coming back in about two weeks. I was told that the culprits were gone by the time the cops got here and that he – Yuuichirou, I think that was his name - got a few fractured ribs, a broken arm, and plenty of bruises and cuts. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?” The barista paused, looking past him and out the window. “I think Guren may really be leaving you.”

“Aha... Of course he would. Take care, and I’ll see you tomorrow!” Goshi called as he sprinted out, crossing in front of the car then getting into the passenger side.

“Don’t tell me it seriously took you that long to just order a coffee and pour in all that shit that you usually pour into it,” Guren growled, pulling the car out and taking the usual route back to their small office.

Goshi chose to ignore him, sipping his coffee and letting out an exaggerated, blissful sigh. He snuck a peek at his superior who merely rolled his eyes before he continued in a more serious manner. “He told me that Yuu’s out of the hospital and should be back to work in two weeks. Have you seen him yet?”

“Report said that he was stable, so I went to see him in the hospital the night after we were assigned to this case,” Guren replied almost smugly.

Cases were rarely assigned to anyone who had a personal investment, just to minimize the chance that the case, and the team working on the case, could be compromised. However, Guren just happened to turn in the final report for their previous case on the day that it occurred and coincidentally volunteered them on the basis that they were already operating in the area.

The director really should have known something was up the moment that it took Guren less than a day to turn in a report.

“As soon as I get my hands on those bastards...”

His superior was most definitely a professional, Goshi thought, wincing for the guys who they were after. “I don’t like how Ferid’s still running the place with one worker in the later parts of the day. Apparently he told the new guy that nothing like that happened in the past few years – Didn’t Ferid move to that location because his old place burned down last year or something?”

“He’s not breaking any laws, there isn’t anything we can do about it,” Guren pointed out. “If anything, we’re supposed to be catching the culprits. And yes, Yuu was out of work for the three weeks that it took Ferid to get things figured out.”

"There should be a law made,” Goshi mused, as his thoughts went back to the ever smiling new barista. “So, considering how that new barista sticks out like a sore thumb, how long do you think until someone beats that smile clear off his face?”

“Tomorrow by me, and everyone else best get in line,” Guren growled in reply.

Goshi swore he heard Guren mutter something along the lines of “how dare he call me bitter, who does he think he is”.

Yup, his superior was still obviously very bitter.

 


 

“Yuu, it’s me, let me in.”

The door opened, but rather than a mop of black hair coming to greet him, it was a blond teen around Yuu’s age who answered the door. The teen looked at him up and down, then frowned. “Are you Guren? You don’t look like a cop.”

“That’s because I’m not a cop. You’re Mika, the one Yuu keeps talking about, aren’t you?” Guren asked as the blonde boy stood aside to let him in. “How is he-“

Upon entering the small apartment, he was blindsided into the hallway wall by something-

No, someone-

“Stupid Guren!!”

“Ow! Ugh! Forget me ever worrying about you!” Guren snapped, prying the boy off of him. By boy, he really meant a young man who was almost seventeen. He watched as the boy groaned, and his blond friend dutifully came and supported him with an arm.

“You seem lively enough for someone who was beat to a pulp a week ago. Look, I even brought you food, be more thankful.”

“Yes, I’m Mika. And Yuu, you’re not going to heal any faster at this rate,” Mika said, rolling his eyes.

“It was five against one, it wasn’t fair,” Yuu whined, reaching to take the grocery bags from the older man with the hand that wasn’t in a cast and sling.

“I’ll just put them on the kitchen counter,” Guren wisely decided, upon getting a good look at the boy’s state. “You should be in bed.”

“That’s what Mika keeps saying!” Yuu attempted to throw his hands up in the air, then let out a groan as his body let him know how bad of an idea it was. “If I had a weapon or something...”

“You could have thrown cups of hot water at them,” Mika suggested thoughtfully. “Or shot them with the gun that Ferid keeps under the counter.”

“Ferid keeps a what under the counter?!” Guren turned to stare at the blonde haired boy, Yuu only half a second behind him.

“No, of course he doesn’t,” Mika replied, giving them both a no shit expression. “I’m not sure why he bothers to keep that shop around considering how much he complained about it all the time. It’s not like he doesn’t have five more around town, honestly.”

Guren shook his head, feeling a headache starting to develop. Why did this always happen every time he decided to be nice enough to visit... He let out a sigh, rubbing his temples. “Are you related to Ferid?”

Mika smiled thinly. “He saved me from a bad situation once, and I had nowhere to go... So I ended up moving in with him for a couple years. All I’m going to say is that I got a free place to stay, was well fed, and there’s really nothing more you need to know, officer. Well, other than that I’m now living with Yuu.”

Guren decided not to pry, despite his professional instincts screamed at him. He told himself that he was off and that someone else could open this can of worms. Maybe he could tip Goshi off, as soon as they were finished with this case. He was sure the other man would be more than happy to open a case on Ferid due to the rumors that had sprung up concerning the wily and flamboyant man.

“He’s undercover, you’re not supposed to call him, ‘Officer’,” Yuu scolded, correcting the other boy. “Just call him Stupid Guren, or something.”

“Have fun taking care of him,” Guren solemnly told Mika, deciding to ignore Yuu, who was now grumbling about being able to take care of himself. “We’re still working on catching those guys who attacked you – my team is assigned to it, and we’ve got a few leads. I don’t have time to hang out to-“

“You never have time to hang out,” Yuu muttered rebelliously. “When are you going to have time again?”

Guren paused, staring at the boy with a frown. It was true, since he was promoted a year ago, he was assigned to cases rather than patrol routes, and he knew he spent much more time on them than he had to. But the longer he worked on them, the sooner that the culprits could be caught and... His eyes focused back on Yuu who was pouting at him.

The boy had no blood relation to him – he was merely a victim who he had saved four years ago on one of his first calls fresh out of the academy. It was a domestic violence call when the neighbours heard shouting coming from the suite next door. Guren had thrown the door open to reveal a child screaming and fighting against his parents. The boy had been bleeding from various wounds and he was defending himself with one of the kitchen chairs but his eyes were wide with terror.

Between Mito, Shigure, Goshi, and himself they arrested his parents, and Sayuri tended to the boy’s wounds as the ambulance arrived.

The boy was moved from foster to foster home in the area with each previous foster home complaining about his rowdiness. Guren found himself visiting the boy from time to time for a reason that he couldn’t pin, much to his squad’s amusement.

“Maybe it’s because you know what it’s like to grow up without parents,” Sayuri had suggested kindly.

“I don’t want to be his dad!” Guren quickly snapped.

“Maybe he reminds you of yourself? I mean, he reminded me of you...” Goshi had commented.

“I’m not a brat!” Guren had thrown up his hands in exasperation. “I- Is it wrong for me to check up on the kid every now and then?”

However if there was one thing he knew, it was that there was no way that he could make a good father, not now, not back then.

“As soon as we catch these guys, I’ll take a day off and we can all hang out,” Guren promised as Yuu watched him skeptically.

“Fine, but only if you teach me something cool,” Yuu replied, arms crossed. "Sure thing." Guren nodded, tousling the boy’s dark hair as he left the two.

He took the stairs down from the fourth floor, pausing as he approached the second floor when the door swung open to let someone into the stairwell. He cursed inwardly at his luck when the stranger turned to look up at him, smiling. “You again.”

“Hello, Guren, fancy meeting you here.” It was the barista from earlier, out of his work clothes and dressed casually in faded slim jeans and a plain black jacket. He carried a rather large guitar case off of one shoulder with a combination lock dangling off of it, and a helmet in his other hand. “You live here too?” The man asked, following him as he walked past and continued down the stairs.

“I don’t, thank all the lords,” Guren replied, his headache threatening to returning.

“That’s unfortunate, I thought I’d have an interesting neighbour,” the man said with a sigh. “I suppose I’ll just have to wait for you to visit me in the shop every afternoon.”

“I go there for coffee, not to visit you. I should think about going to another coffee shop,” Guren growled. “Stop following me.”

“You shouldn’t get angry at innocent civilians, you know,” was the cheerful comment that he received for his troubles.

“Then maybe you should stop following me.”

“But I feel safer following you down the only flight of stairs in this building.” Guren winced at the sarcastic comment delivered in a cheerful tone, knowing that he had walked right into it. The other man was right; the building was small and only had this one flight of stairs. It didn’t even have an elevator, despite being a 5 floor building. “Especially since I feel that something terrible might occur tonight.”

“Then maybe you should stay home.”

“Unfortunately I cannot. My eldest brother asked me to play for him.”

"Tell him to hire a better guitar player.”

“How rude, this isn’t even a guitar. It’s a bass,” came the mock indignant reply.

“Same differ-“

“Don’t even,” the barista cut him off, shaking his head as he stood by the curb where a bike was parked while Guren continued to walk to his car. “Alas, this is where we must part. Farewell for now~”

Relieved that the barista was finally leaving him alone, Guren turned to visually confirm that the man was indeed no longer following him. However, he ended up staring at a pair of playful blue eyes that stared back at him. Properly putting on both straps of his case, the barista smirked and winked at him, then put on his helmet, got on his bike, and drove off.

And that left him standing there like an idiot.

Chapter Text

“So remember that guy – Tora, or Tori or whatever – the son of the Sakumi family’s head? The one that Makoto Narumi’s squad was investigating for over a month?” Goshi asked as he sauntered into the small room and over to Guren’s temporary desk, his expression promising a story that was likely supposed to still be under wraps.

“Don’t tell me he was the one shot last night,” Guren replied, not looking up from what he was scrawling on his paper. Even he had heard that much while he was in the JIDA HQ earlier despite the hush around what had happened.

[[JIDA – the branch that dealt with mafia, gang, and terrorism related cases, from investigations to forcefully shutting down groups. They operated in 5 man squads as a minimum, although many squads had 6 or 7 members. A number of JIDA squads were specialized towards specific fields, but most squads were generalized and could take on most of the cases that came to them. For operations requiring more manpower, squads would be pulled from lower priority cases to bolster the main squad.]]

“Well, him and five other guys. And it had to happen just as soon as Makoto’s squad managed to finally get a lead after the past month of pulling up nothing other than false leads. But get this – apparently there were rumors that the Sakumi head mentioned how the Hiiragi were going downhill during some mafia leader get together party last Friday or whatever. So yesterday, four days later, he gets delivered a bouquet of those prickly false holly straight to his front door. A bouquet of Hiiragi. Then later that night his son gets shot dead with five of his closest buddies.”

“They didn’t put up a fight?” Guren asked, frowning as he looked up. “A case with six dead guys shouldn’t be this quiet.”

“Sniper got them. Seven clean bullet holes through their eleventh floor window,” Goshi replied. “Typical Hiiragi tactic, using snipers to instill fear in those around them.”

“And that’s why if you catch a Hiiragi sniper, you could be set for a while with how much some people in the underworld are willing to pay for a live specimen,” Guren mused. “It’s funny considering that while no one proclaims themselves as enemies of the Hiiragi, a dead body turns up every few months mutilated beyond recognition aside from the one patch of skin where their identifying tattoo is stamped.”

“For all we know it’s just the Hiiragi themselves doing it to instill loyalty,” Goshi pointed out.

Guren raised a brow. “That’s something they would come up with. Which building were they in?”

“It was the one gray apartment with the blue trim, you know, the one like ten blocks from HQ, five blocks from Yuu’s apartment and a block from the coffee shop we usually go to?” Goshi asked with a thin smile.

Guren stared at him. “That’s the building across the street from us.”

“So Makoto figures that he’d check out the place in the morning, but then he gets a call in the middle of the night from the watcher he posted. He gets his squad together, and they meet up with his watcher not even fifteen minutes later, but by then the sniper’s already gone and they have six dead guys to deal with. Makoto informs HQ and calls the cleaners, but as far as I’ve heard there have been no emergency calls regarding the incident.”

“How is this not all over the news? Last time I checked, cover up never could keep things this quiet. Seven rifle shots with six dead, and not a whisper on the news?” Guren asked, raising a brow. “Even the Hiiragi can’t bribe this many people to keep quiet.”

“One of the seven shots took out the light in the room,” Goshi added helpfully. “According to Makoto’s watcher, they wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t been staring at the window the entire time. They barely heard the shots from this building and it was over before they realized what happened. The holes in the glass were clean, apparently melted around the edge. There’s no way that could have been done with a gun available on the mass markets,” Goshi commented, his unasked question obvious to his superior.

“That’s- No, impossible. Mahiru kept all of her research in the lab, and refused to give any of it to them, or to anyone, for that matter. This should be the only thing left of her legacy,” Guren replied bitterly, his hand running along the sheathed katana that sat on his desk. “They must have found another genius to make them their weapons. Or made another genius.”

Goshi poked the weapon, and quickly withdrew his hand with a yelp as red sparks flew from where he touched it. “We know they’ve been working on human experimentation, but... You don’t think they attempted cloning?” He asked as he rubbed his finger and frowned at the otherwise normal looking blade.

“They don’t – they shouldn’t have that sort of technology,” Guren replied, feeling the blood draining from his face at the thought of the coming of a second Mahiru. His knuckles were white with his grip on the sword, the only thing that survived the explosion which destroyed her lab just over a year ago. “Did they find the sniper’s perch?”

“That particular window is facing this building so they’re guessing that the sniper shot from the roof top... Or from one of the upper suites.”

“And their watcher?”

“Was positioned on one of the upper suites,” Goshi replied with a thin smile.

Guren stared at the taller man, then shook his head. “I’ll leave Makoto to deal with his case. I have intel that the five guys that we’re after are holed up in that dingy arcade four blocks down, so we’ll all be giving them a visit. I’ll be going in with Shigure, and you’ll be covering with Mito and Sayuri. Apparently that’s where they hide out for the day, when they’re not out collecting protection taxes from the local storefronts for their gang.”

“Alright- Wait, why do you get to play in the arcade and I don’t?” Goshi asked with a whine.

“Because you look like you’re thirty-something,” Guren replied unsympathetically and finger combed his hair out of its slicked back state. “And I don’t.”

 



“Sayuri, switch with me,” Shigure said immediately after Guren gave the mission briefing. “I’ll cover.”

“What? Me? Ahh...”

“Either of you is fine,” Guren grumbled. “This is work, not a date.”

And so he and Sayuri ended up going to the arcade dressed down in casual outfits. Taking a look at Sayuri, the redness hadn’t faded from her face and he was reminded why he initially picked Shigure for the job. Shigure could keep a straight face despite what went down, perhaps too well.

“Shigure, is the camera alright?” Guren asked, looking back at Sayuri where the micro cam was located on her bag’s shoulder strap.

“I can see your face, if that’s what you wanted to know,” Shigure replied plainly over the earpiece. “Everyone is in place, Goshi and Mito will be ready to back you up as soon as you need them.”

The arcade was bigger on the inside than it seemed and probably bigger yet if his intel was correct. It was noon on Wednesday and it was sparse due to kids still being in school. He and Sayuri made a show of playing a few games as they casually made their way around the large room. Sayuri being too flustered to play coherently did help as they lost lives on the various games at an otherwise alarming rate and gave them reason to move to another game.

“Sayuri, you need to calm down. There’s no way we can beat anything with you like this,” He said meaningfully.

“I’ll do my best,” Sayuri replied quietly, still looking at a spot between her feet, body turned away from him.

He purposefully skipped the first person shooters, and was about to suggest a fighting game when something hard and cool pressed against his temple. It was a familiar feeling, and completely unpleasant as he tensed, his heartrate skyrocketing.

“Bang.”

Within moments of nothing happening, he quickly ducked, then in one swift motion grabbed the offending arm and hooked the threat’s legs from underneath him, pinning him face down with both arms behind his back.

“Ow,” groaned the person beneath him as Shigure’s voice came back over the earpiece.

“Commander, are you alright?”

Several other patrons turned and looked, but quickly turned away, as if it were a common occurrence to have fights break out in that place.

Guren’s attention was brought to the clacking to his left. It was one of the console’s toy guns suspended from a cord bouncing against the console.

“Umm...” Sayuri began, her face no longer red but had confusion written all over it. She had turned to give the camera a better look at what had happened. She looked around, giving off the aura of an embarrassed girl who was trying to see if anyone else had noticed, and turning her body hoping that if she missed anything, Shigure would catch it.

“You’re reallllly heavy,” the familiar voice drawled, and Guren looked down to see unmistakeable silver hair. He suppressed a groan. Did this barista intend to run into him everywhere? “I’m thinking that you’re the one stalking me, considering that I got here first...”

He heard Goshi’s laughter over the earpiece.

“What? I have no interest in stalking anyone,” Guren snapped, standing and letting the other man get up. He mentally smacked himself for not noticing the unmistakeable guitar-bass case resting by the console with a motorcycle helmet perched on it.

“Were you lying?” The man inquired, dusting himself off and rubbing his forearm. That was probably going to bruise. However, he didn’t let Guren answer, instead turning to Sayuri. “Hello, I’m Shinya, Guren’s friend!”

“Oh! I’m Sayuri!” She chirped in response, looking from Guren’s ominous scowl, and Shinya’s cheerful smile.

“Guren, how does your friend know that you’re stalking criminals?” Mito inquired dryly, knowing that Guren couldn’t actually respond in the situation.

“You aren’t my friend! Hell, I didn’t even know your name until now!”

“Ahh... And I even remembered your coffee order,” the man responded quietly with a small smile and downcast expression. “I keep my nametag right here, over my heart, you know.”

“Don’t try to play the pity card- Arrgggh!” At that, some of the other patrons turned to look, but again quickly resumed whatever it was they were doing as the bickering was nothing of interest to them. He was ready to leave, the only thing keeping him there was the promise of finishing his case.

Shinya looked from Sayuri then back to him, a thoughtful expression temporarily wiping the smile from his face. “Are you two on a date?”

“N-n-n-not on a d-d-d-d-date,” Sayuri stammered, face going red again.

“What I do during my time off is my business,” Guren replied coldly. “Go back to playing your game, or something.”

This game is more fun,” came the tease as the silver-haired man shook his head, picking up the console’s gun that he had held against Guren’s head earlier. “You’re not really off, are you?”

Guren frowned, his blood chilled. Did he know? “What do you mean by that?” Everyone over the radio was silent.

“You seem like you’re keeping a secret,” the barista said slowly with a lazy smile, his blue eyes seeming to know more than he let on.

“Even if I was, it’d be none of your business,” Guren replied evenly, keeping his face unchanging all the while that he scrutinized the other man. If he knew, how did he know? Was he with the group who they were after? Perhaps he took the job at the coffee shop in order to get closer to Ferid – why were those guys after that wily man to begin with?

“Aha! So you are skipping out on work, no wonder you’re being all secretive and all!” Oh boy, was he ever going to kill this barista. Why, he was ready to punch him out right on the spot, if not for the fact that the rest of the arcade’s inhabitants may actually care if he left a random unconscious body. That, and the mission. Oh yes, the case, don’t forget about the mission.

Goshi was definitely going to get it after though, spending more time laughing over the radio than actually saying anything.

Quashing all of his violent temptations, Guren settled with forcing a sheepish look and scratching the back of his head. “You caught me; I’m out at an arcade instead of working. Now, why don’t you go back to playing your game like a good kid?”

”But this game is no fun on my own, and I can’t play with both controllers,” the silver haired man said with a pout, waving the gun in his hand for effect. “And please, you can’t be that much older than me...”

“Find someone else to play with you,” Guren replied, already turning and ready to leave.

“Afraid of losing? If you beat me, I swear I’ll stop talking to you-”

“Guren just picked up a controller, didn’t he?” Goshi asked knowingly.

“He did.” Shigure confirmed. “Sayuri, remind him that he’s there for a reason.”

Guren scowled at his team’s remarks, but his sanity was on the line here. There was no denying that he had indeed plucked the gun out of the other man’s hands and put his coins in the machine, ready to play. He stared at Shinya expectantly. “Well, hurry it up now. Let’s make this fast.”

“Aww It’s not fair, you have a full sized handgun, but I have a mini rifle,” the other man complained, awkwardly hefting the remaining toy sized rifle after he put in his coins. The console was one of the few where the two gun controllers were different, with one handgun and one rifle. While the game was a co-op where the goal was for both players to escape, each had a separate point count which was based on how many kills one got.

“Just hold it in one hand, it’s not like these guns have simulated recoil.” Guren shrugged, it really didn’t matter to him. Then again, if his irritating opponent was having a hard time, that was all the better for him.

Shinya gave up on trying to hold his small rifle with two hands and instead held it in one hand.

Damn, that kind of looked cool.

“By the way, if you lose all of your lives, that’s an automatic loss.”

“I don’t need you to tell me how to play,” Guren growled, having been around arcades with Yuu every now and then. That and he’d been in arcades with Goshi back in the day more frequently than he’d like to admit. He could hardly compare shooting games to real life, but he could confidently say that he was good at both. “You better be ready to leave me alone when you lose."

“...Umm... G-guren, maybe it’s best if we...” Sayuri began, but her pleas fell upon deaf ears as the game started.

The screen was split in two, duplicating the same view from two different perspectives. The player with the rifle was slightly further back, and while they scored more points per shot, they had slower shots and couldn’t move their character position while the player with the hand gun was up front, had a higher shooting rate, and could move his character left and right, but he got fewer points per kill.

“Ah! You just let that one get past,” The silver haired man commented as one of the monsters slashed across his side of the screen, painting it red. He killed it in one shot point blank, but his health bar flashed red as it diminished.

“The game ends if one of us dies, right?” Guren asked with a smirk, letting another monster past him.

“That’s cold,” The silver haired man retorted with a grin, shooting at a glowing box that appeared on their screens. “I hope you won’t mind me snagging these upgrades, then.” He shot at another one, moments before it even flashed onto the screen.

Up max ammo

Up shooting speed

The messages flashed on the screen above where the boxes had been. He easily dealt with the monster that Guren had let passed just as it managed to reach him, slashing at his screen as it died and faded away.

“Shigure, who’s winning?” Mito asked dryly, trying to feign disinterest. “Should I go in and drag him away?”

“Guren’s winning in points – Oh, he just got Shinya killed. Guren still has 3 lives, Shinya has two.”

Upon respawning, the silver-haired man snagged another two of the same upgrades, shooting before they even appeared. So his opponent memorized the game’s pattern, ugh...

Guren’s character slid left out of the way as a mob of four monsters spawned from the same spot. Three were taken out before the remaining one killed the barista’s character again.

That was strangely satisfying.

“You’re terrible!” Shinya whined, his character already respawning on his last life.

He smirked, revelling in the barista’s frustrations. Whatever, as long as he won.

“Well... That’s alright.” His voice lost all traces of the earlier whine as he shot another the third sets of light boxes, upgrading his weapon even further. “You know, at this point I could solo the rest of the game.”

Guren bit his lip, his own character only able to get the defense and movement speed upgrades – the ones that Shinya had purposely left him. Shit, he thought as his character was suddenly overwhelmed. Well, he still had two lives-

Irritably, Shinya managed to clear the wave that had killed him.

“You could keep dodging,” the barista said in his usual cheer, single-handedly, literally and figuratively, taking out the monsters as they spawned. “But then I’d get all the kills. And all the points. Oh, I wouldn’t stand on the ri- Nevermind.”

Guren swore as his character was suddenly massacred by a group of monsters that basically appeared on top of him on the right side of the screen. He watched in annoyance as Shinya easily took them out as his character respawned. So now they both were on their last lives. But he had more points, so unless the boss monster was worth more than half of his accumulated points, he was the victor here.

Speaking of which, the boss monster spawned in the center of their respective screens. It was some kind of tentacle thing that was sure to be popular with some rather peculiar people. He moved his rather agile character around, hoping to avoid the thing, and-

“It also won’t attack me unless I shoot at it,” Shinya said lazily from the side, his arms crossed. His rifle was resting in its default position on the console. “Let me know when you need help, Guren ~”

Chapter Text

Kite: When you attack(usually using a ranged attack), run before you get hit back, attack, run... I’m sure all you gamers are familiar with this term haha.

It was hard - no impossible - to kite things when you were limited to moving between five positions from side to side. Guren bit his lip as the boss monster went for his character, trying to ignore the smug man to his side. He shot at the monster, barely doing any damage as a tentacle slammed against his screen. His character’s health bar flashed red.

A sudden beeping noise startled him as he looked over to Shinya who was checking his watch.

“I supposed it’s time that I to get to work. It was fun, Guren,” the silver haired man said almost teasingly as he picked up his things. Bass case slung over one shoulder, bike helmet under the other arm, and a bag in the same hand, he looked up just as Guren’s character was killed, and his own met a similar demise within seconds. For a brief moment, he seemed thoughtful. Then his grin returned to his face as the points came up.

Guren scowled as the game tallied their bonuses. He had been leading in points until that moment, his expression not getting any better as Shinya’s point total quickly over took his own.

“Guren lost,” came the flat comment by Shigure over the earpiece. For some reason, her announcing it made it feel so much more worse than it already did.

And boy, was he going to kill Goshi . The other man literally said only one sentence since they entered the arcade-

“Mannn, I can't believe I lost to you in those kinds of games before...” Goshi finally said, knowing that even if Guren could speak, saying that the silver haired man was better than he was at the game was the last thing that he would say.

Alright, so two sentences didn’t make it any better.

“Fine, you won, so you can leave for work now,” Guren said through gritted teeth, making a shooing motion.

“I’ll see you later when you come for your afternoon coffee,” Shinya replied, waving with his one free hand as he left.

Resist the urge to hit. Resist. Guren, you must resist. The mission. Remember the mission.

Sayuri stared from her leader, to the other man as he left. “Um, Guren-“

She stopped and turned to look as a group of people entered the Arcade from the back entrance- no, that was an entrance from a back room, the entrance leading to the back parking lot was over there, further to the left. One of the arcade attendants stood by the door that they had exited from and watched the other patrons as the group of six men and one woman quickly made their way to the other door. The lone woman stood out like a sore thumb in the arcade. Sayuri casually looked away, and back to Guren. “Was there something else you wanted to try?”

“The five that we want are in that group,” Shigure confirmed. “They're heading out the back door. It seems that they were waiting until the arcade was clear of any suspicious non-usuals before they made their way out, so we were lucky that guy dragged you into that game and made you two seem like regular guests.”

“I’m taking a ‘smoke break’ over in the back lot here,” Goshi added. “Should we follow them?”

“Yeah, you and Mito follow them. We’ll come after ten more minutes, we can’t just leave as soon as they do. And Shigure, can you identify that woman?” Guren said quietly as he lazily looked around the room, taking in the faces of the attendants and other patrons. “Oi, Sayuri, let’s play this one.”

“A-ah, yes!”

 


 

“See you!” Shinya waved his co-worker off, leaving him as the sole worker in the café. Well, there was only so many times that he could wipe the spotless counters, and tables, and mugs before he got bored of it.

His phone vibrated in his pocket, and didn’t stop. Someone was calling him – well, no one was around to care if he was on his phone anyways. Glancing at the “Nii-san” that flashed across the screen, he picked up. “Hello, brother. How may I help you today?”

“Where are you?”

“At my part-time job,” Shinya replied.

“Come back immediately.”

“But my shift isn’t over yet. As a matter of fact, it only just started.”

“You don’t need the money.”

“I’ve found things more interesting than money while working here,” Shinya replied, watching as two cars pulled up to the cafe and a group of seven approached the café. “Ahh, I have customers. Good bye, brother.”

“Wa-“

He pocketed his phone, ignoring the persistent vibrating of his brother calling again.

The door chimed as the group filtered in, the lone woman looking obviously important in the otherwise ragged group. She was in her early thirties, and wore a black blazer with a matching pencil skirt, looking very much like a stereotypical business woman, complete with glasses and a leather folder in one hand. Her lackeys on the other hand, looked as if she had picked them up off the streets on the drive to the cafe from the downtown office buildings. Each one of them walked in scanning the interior of the small establishment as if they were looking for something.

Or someone, for that matter.

“Welcome, our menu is up there if you'd like one of our specialty drinks,” Shinya said a little louder, gesturing to the sign above his head when his initial 'welcome' had gone ignored.

Two of the men went to close the blinds on the cafe windows.

“Yer new here,” One of the guys in the group said slowly, looking him over.

“No shit,” muttered one of the ones in the back. “The kid from last time would have to be a special brand of dumb to come back after what you did to him last time.”

“We're looking for Ferid,” The lone woman cut in impatiently. “But he evidently never visits this cafe of his as he's never here.”

“He was here when he interviewed me four days ago,” Shinya replied with a shrug. “Would you like a coffee, miss?”

"I'm not here for coffee," came the cool reply.

“This one looks like Ferid though,” the man who first commented continued. “Same hair and all. Maybe they're related.”

“Alas, I'm not related to him, as far I know. But I was adopted... so perhaps we are? My adopted brothers don't have silver hair,” Shinya replied, back turned to them as he fiddled with several things. Within a minute, he placed a mug on the counter. “Extra-sweet macha latte?”

“I didn't come for coffee,” the woman repeated sharply. “ I came to find out where Ferid is. If he thinks he can get away with slighting my mother...”

The silver-haired man gave her the look of a wounded puppy. “It's not coffee. It's a extra-sweet matcha latte.”

She hastily picked up the cup and left a pristine five dollar bill on the counter, nearly gagging at the amount of sugar in the drink. “Why in the world would you add so much sweetener?”

“A little more sugar to make you a little more sweeter?”

A good ten seconds of silence met the barista's comment. The barista had already gone back to the machines, all but ignoring the group at the counter.

“...Impudent little man, do you not know who you're addressing?” Demanded the muttering man from earlier. “Asthea, let me deal with him - And Ferid will come running, like he did last time when that kid was roughed up.”

“And the cops too,” muttered one of the others under his breath.

So these were the thugs who attacked the one co-worker who he was filling in for. He hadn't even met the kid yet, even though he apparently lived at the same building. He set another steaming mug on the counter. “Half-sweet Matcha latte, on the house,” the barista said, blatantly ignoring the six men around the woman who each probably had thought up of at least three ways to make him scream uncle. “You keep very crude acquaintances. Those two sound like third-rate gangster minions from a movie if you ask me.”

The woman, Asthea, was visibly twitching even as she swapped her mug for the one on the counter. “You are either very stupid or very... confident. Do you work for Ferid?”

“He's supposed to give me a paycheque every two weeks, does that count?” The barista asked innocently, dumping and rinsing the used mug before loading it into the dishwasher. “Did your acquaintances want anything to drink?”

 


 

“They parked in front of the cafe, and they're all heading in,” Goshi reported. “And they just closed the blinds, should we call for back up? We can't exactly go in 2 to 7 here, even if Mito could flatten them all – ow!”

“Instructions to proceed,” Mito's voice was professional as if she didn't just hit her colleague.

“Asthea Inoue, daughter to Asmaranthe Inoue, current head of the Inoue clan. They used to hold a large portion of the narcotics trade but that crackdown five years ago by JIDA wiped them from the map.” Shigure's voice came coolly over the radio. “They apparently deal with small local businesses in the least lucrative part of town now.”

“How unfortunate for them,” Guren commented dryly. “We're heading out now, just go in pretending to be customers or something. I doubt they'll pull a stunt when there are other witnesses, and from the looks of it, they're gangster wannabes with baseball bats and crowbars.”

“Have you been hit on the head with a crowbar?” Goshi demanded. “They hurt.”

“No, and that's why I'm not missing half of my brain cells.”

“...Goshi, let's go,” Mito was already out of the car, rolling her eyes at their banter. Her eyes then trailed to another pair of cars that parked alongside the cafe sidewalk, both black and the exact same model. “Eight more guys approaching the cafe, these ones actually look like they mean business.”

 


 

Retrieve the silver-haired barista, take him back to base with force if necessary. Don't kill him. Any injuries must heal within a week. To be completed as soon as possible by the squad closest to the location. That was the order sent out by Kureto, along with the address of the cafe.

The blinds were strangely closed despite the open sign being brightly lit. Unfortunately, that impeded their sight, but their mission was to capture a barista, not some powerful member of some high ranking mafia family. Who was he kidding? He was employed by most powerful group in the nation.

Although Kureto did have the habit of withholding information on small tasks such as this one to keep them all on their toes...

And thus, he led his squad into the small cafe.

There were six men seated at two tables, and a woman in her early thirties sitting on her own on one of the bar chairs by the counter. She seemed to have been having a conversation with the lone barista.

“Ahahaha... Have you checked his house?” the barista asked as the woman just stared at him.

So that was their target.

“My, it's got so busy all of a sudden. Welcome, what can I get for everyone today?” The silver-haired barista asked, now standing behind the till.

“We didn't come for coffee. We are here for you. Come with us peacefully, or...”

Six of the seated men stood up suddenly as they entered, one of them knocking over his mug in the process. It hit the ground and broke, the owner of the mug briefly looking forlorn. “Look buddy, we were here first.”

The barista blinked, looking from one group to the other. He then shook his head. “I know that I'm good looking and everyone wants me, but this is too much attention, even for me,” He drawled, tapping buttons on the till as he spoke. He rang up a series of items and paid for the total with a bill from his own wallet.

“If you've hired them in order to deter us from completing our mission, I'm afraid you've wasted whatever coin they've demanded from you,” the man replied, frowning at the flippant attitude that he was given. “I'll give you one more-”

Hackles were raised, and the situation in the cafe became much more volatile.

“This is for your boss, this is for the loud ass, and this is for the dad,” Shinya said, rolling his eyes as he put the drink tray down on the counter with three large paper mugs. He added a bag of grounds on the fourth slot of the tray, scrawling something on the bag with his sharpie. “Look, next time your boss wants coffee, he can make it himself, m'kay?”

 


 

“...Nevermind, the second group just left with a drink tray,” Mito said, doing her best to keep the sheepishness out of her voice. Guren's car pulled up behind them and Shigure hopped out of the utility van that she parked down the street.

“Well, let's go get some coffee,” Guren sighed, running a hand through his hair. He felt his headache returning upon the thought that the barista – Shinya – would know exactly what he did as a living within the next hour. God, he hated how life played out sometimes.

They entered to find Shinya mopping up a spill, and their targets all seated with mugs at various levels of fullness.

“Wooow, it's barely been half an hour since we last saw each other. Did you miss me that much, Guren~?” the silver-haired barista commented, making a show of checking his watch as put the mop back in its container and propped it against the wall. “And hello Goshi, Sayuri, and...?”

“We're not here for coffee right now-” Guren began.

“No one has been here for coffee today,” Shinya replied, cutting him off before he could contradict what he just said before entering the cafe.

Guren raised a brow, looking at the current patrons of the cafe, all sipping away at various concoctions crafted by the barista. “Why else would anyone come to this dingy place for?”

“See, first these guys wanted Ferid, then when he wasn't around, they were about to settle for me. Then that second group came in looking for me, but they left after I gave them coffee for their boss... Basically, everyone’s been coming here for me. And now you-”

He let out a groan. “I'm not here for you. We're here for them-” He waved to the group of five in particular. “By the way, you, you, you, you, and you, are all under arrest. The other two can leave... for now.”

No one ended up leaving, and the six men ended up in handcuffs, some with more bruises than others. The three of the six tables were flipped, the mugs were shattered on the ground, and chairs were strewn about. The windows were miraculously intact, and the 'fight' barely lasted more than a minute as one-sided as it was. Three of them were out cold, two of them knocked out deftly by a baton wielding Sayuri, still dressed in the same casual clothes as earlier.

“Did you call them?” Asthea asked, eyes narrowed.

“I haven't actually thought of asking Guren for his number yet.. Hmm, that's a good idea,” Shinya replied. “You know, they're going to have to arrest you now.”

“Are you shitting me...” Guren muttered under his breath, finally taking in the scene behind the counter.

“Let them go, or you can arrest me after this one gets a hole through his pretty face.”

“...I do have a name. It's Shinya. S-H-I-N-Y-A. Shinya. By the way, Guren, aren't you going to save me or something?”

“I can't believe him,” Mito muttered, as no one else in the cafe moved. Not that the six guys on the ground could actually get up, even if they were released, courtesy of Guren and Sayuri mostly.

“...I'll take that as a no,” Shinya continued, sighing.

He moved.

A shot rang out, and blew a hole in the shelf of mugs, shattering a few of them.

“So many mugs to replace today,” Shinya lamented, as if people hadn't been forcefully arrested right in front of him, and as if he hadn't nearly just nearly gotten shot in a hostage situation. Not to mention the currently unconscious woman lying at his feet, or the gun that he just flipped the safety on and placed on the counter.

“It hasn't even been an hour into my shift,” He continued to whine, then looked over to the five still standing people. “You guys are going to help me clean, right?”

“Who are you?” Guren demanded. “Why are you here?”

“My name is Shinya, as I've been saying. It might not be apparent with my presence in a cafe, but I'm employed here as a barista.”

 


 

Omake:

“Where is he?” Kureto demanded, scanning the eight faces. “He isn't with you.”

“N-no, he sent this though. He said 'This is for your boss, this is for the loud ass, and this is for the dad' and that next time you should make your own coffee,” The man stammered, putting the tray down on the desk.

Kureto frowned, taking the cup clearly marked 'Boss', and the bag of grounds. He took a sip, pausing as he let the coffee slowly make its way down his throat. “...Leave him be then. Take those to the other two. Let them know I sent them.”

After they left, he stared at the scrawl bag of dark roast grounds. Then squinted. Did that say 'almost darker than ur soul'?

Moments later, he heard screaming from down the hall.

“THIS IS SO NASTY, KURETO WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS IT'S LIKE STRAIGHT WATER AND CARBON ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?! AND WHO THE FUCK IS A LOUD ASS?!”

Chapter Text

“We have a week from today to clear out,” Guren announced as the rest of his squad filtered in, not looking up from his desk where he was scrawling quickly across several pages laid out in front of him. There wasn't much to 'clear out', in actuality. The apartment belonged to JIDA, and would be used again as needed. There weren't any personal effects other than what they brought there specifically for the task they were working on, and Guren's katana that he kept around as a good luck charm.

It did keep ill intentioned intruders at bay, that was a proven fact.

“I thought you said that we had another case lined up,” Mito frowned even as she started to help take down their paperwork off of the walls. It was two days since the incident, and each of them had completed their own personal reports and submitted them before coming in that day.

“It was assigned to a newer group; we are to remain on standby for a large-scale operation in a week's time,” Guren responded simply. It was evident that his focus was mainly on the paperwork that he was currently blazing through. His to-do pile was only a few pages deep now, he'd be done in less than an hour. It was strange – their leader was rarely this efficient, but he was working at 150% capacity as if he were trying to put something out of his mind.

It had been a long time since he and his squad had more than a day's worth of time off, mainly because of their insistence. If anything, the office staff probably realized that they were about to break employment laws (again) and gave him a week to 'clear out' before he could attempt to persuade them to break those rules (again).

But he could see the fatigue in the others, if not himself. No matter how normal they all seemed outwardly, he knew they were reaching their limits. And that meant they would be more prone to making mistakes, mistakes that could cost more than just their own lives.

He also knew that Yuu would be pleased that he had time to hang out for a bit, but the notion of free time... He stopped writing to rub his hand as it started to cramp up. Why was he even writing so fast? Besides spending some time with Yuu, what else would he do? He could call up any of his squadmates, but they deserved the time off, and he wasn't about to call them just because he was lonely. To be perfectly honest, he wasn't exactly looking forward to having so much time to spend doing nothing.

Or thinking.

As soon as he finished his paperwork, he immediately went to help with the packing of things. “Anything of note from Headquarters?” Guren asked, breaking the silence. If there was one thing that all of his subordinates did better than he did, it was acquiring information and gossip from others. Sure, he was a natural leader, he knew how to get people to do as he wanted, but getting people to speak casually wasn't his forte.

“Two Hiiragi snipers turned up dead yesterday, within three hours of each other,” Shigure reported dutifully. “Their targets were successfully sniped before they were sniped themselves. Meirin Junpei, the eldest daughter of the head of the Junpei Trading company, and her husband, Takeshi Junpei, were the victims.”

“Apparently their marriage hadn't being going so well, and there were rumours that they were living in different houses with different partners,” Goshi added helpfully. “They hadn't crossed the Hiiragi recently; it's likely that they were paid hits.”

“Leave it to the Hiiragi to cash in on both sides,” Mito muttered distastefully as she put a lid on a full box and stacked it by the door.

“But from what I heard, the bodies of the Hiiragi snipers were pretty much intact, except for the gaping holes in their bodies which killed them. The forensic teams were able to run a basic facial scan for once,” Goshi continued over the buzz of the shredder that he continued to feed with their discarded documents. “Cleanly cauterized holes almost half a foot in diameter – you can see the exit wounds... on the side of the buildings.”

Now Guren was definitely disturbed. This, and the sniper from the other day, both attacks were carried out with weapons similar to the ones that Mahiru had developed. But they were all destroyed – he had made sure of that. “As much as I don't like the sounds of how close those weapons seem to be to Mahiru's work, if HQ doesn't do something soon, we'll have a full blown gang war /with/ those weapons involved.” Inwardly, he groaned, thinking of the implications of that.

“Th-this is the last one,” Sayuri stammered, getting up from where she had been once surrounded by a wall of paperwork to hand Goshi a stack of papers which he threw into the shredder a few sheets at a time.

They quickly wrapped out, and the women left in another car after the last box was loaded into their van.

Guren took the driver's side as Goshi jumped into the passenger seat. Neither said anything, with Guren was deep in thought while driving as Goshi fiddled on his phone as they headed for HQ.

“Are you crazy?” Guren had demanded of the silver haired man who looked none the worse for wear. They were outside now, having been cleared by the 'official' investigation team. Asthea was currently being led out to a transport van that had just arrived. “Why would you do something so stupid? This isn't a game where you can restart, you know. Aren't you afraid of dying?”

“Well... Even if a person is terribly afraid of spiders, they'd have to get used to them after being locked in a room full of them, wouldn't they?”

Guren stared, barely able to comprehend such simple thinking. “... I don't think fears work like that for everyone. What if they didn't get over it?”

“They'd break,” Shinya replied, as if explaining everything.

Before Guren could press further, a investigator intervened to speak with the sole witness aside from his squad. As much as he wanted to ask what the other man meant by that, his squad was waiting for him and he couldn't just stand around and wait for the investigator to finish asking all of his questions. And from how things were going thus far, he'd likely run into the -bastard- barista soon enough anyways.

“...Guren, you missed the turn,” Goshi commented nonchalantly.

“...I meant to do that,” Guren shot back, as he took the next right turn, then turned again as he had overshot.

“Thinking about that cute silver haired barista?” Goshi asked teasingly, looking over in a attempt to catch even a glimpse of a reaction.

“No- Well, yes,” Guren replied distractedly, obviously still thinking as he missed the teasing and was subsequently not offended to Goshi's dismay. “Could you do a background check on him? I want to know everything about him.”

At that, even Goshi was almost at a loss for words. “Uh, Guren, you do remember that we can't just look up people's backgrounds because we're bored right? And especially not just because you have a crush on him.”

“I know-What?!” Guren slammed the breaks unnecessarily hard after they glided into a parking spot and stared over to his friend and squadmate with a horrified expression. It was quite comical actually. “Where in the seven hells did you draw that conclusion from?”

“'Could you do a background check on him? I want to know everything about him.'?” Goshi mimicked with a shrug.

Guren rubbed his temples, then actually put the car into park and turned off the engine before continuing slowly and calmly, “He caught me and Sayuri unawares in the arcade when we should have been paying attention to everyone and everything. He disarmed Asthea, who isn't exactly a wallflower who stays in the shadows when things need to be done according to the rumours. From what I've seen of him, I don't like him. He also lives in the same apartment complex as Yuu.”

“You're not going to mention that he was too good at that game?” Goshi couldn't help but ask, earning another glower. He raised a hand for peace before Guren could snap at him again. “How am I supposed to get this search done if we aren't assigned to anything right now? We really aren't supposed to, you know.”

“Ask one of your ladyfriends,” Guren responded unsympathetically, for all that he was asking for a favour. And with that, he opened the door and got out of the van.

The sooner they got everything into its proper place in HQ, the sooner he could leave.

 


 

It was early evening by the time that he made it to Yuu's apartment again. He had gotten lunch, then gone home first, showered, changed into something more casual, and tried to find something in his apartment that would entertain the boy. His place was much more spacious than Yuu's, despite being on the 25th floor of a 30-something floor tower, but so much more sparse in terms of belongings.

Everything was minimalist – ironically enough, the most decorated thing was Mahiru's shrine, if only due to the flowers that were in the vase.

He told himself that it was to keep appearances, if anyone were to visit, they would expect to see a shrine of his deceased wife. That's why he replaced the flowers as regularly as he could, just to keep up the image of a grieving husband who had lost his wife of barely a year in a tragic work accident.

The more he told himself that, the less his guilt would eat away at him. Even though he knew that there was no saving her at that point, sometimes he caught himself wondering if there had been any other way.

Finding nothing other than the bare essentials in his 'home', he then turned to thinking about what he could pick up from a store on his way to the kid's apartment. Maybe something for Mika, the boy who he mentally dubbed as Yuu's caretaker. That must have been a exhausting task.

He ended up picking up a gift card from the grocery store and made a note to hand it to Mika. The boy seemed sensible enough, and he didn't need Yuu squawking in his ear about being too old for allowance and how he was an adult and made his own money now. He reached the outside door to the stairwell of Yuu's apartment, and reached to turn the knob.

It didn't budge.

He frowned at it for a moment, before trying again only to meet the same resistance as before.

Guren took a step back to scrutinize the door. Besides the fact that it was never locked, the door couldn't actually be locked. It was just a simple knob with no locks or anything.

Suddenly, the door opened and Shinya's puzzled look met his scrutinizing ones. Then the other man just burst into laughter. “Hahahaha... You just tried to open the door twice didn't you?”

“Real mature. Were you waiting for me to try an open the door?” Guren asked in annoyance, suddenly finding it difficult to even think of the other man as a threat to anything but his remaining sanity.

“We likely just tried to open the door at the same time. As omnipotent as you think I am, even I can't see through that solid metal door,” Shinya replied, glancing back at the very opaque door. “I can't stay to chat though, unfortunately. Gotta go play a tune for my brother. I'll spend some time with you another day!” He left with a wink, walking around Guren to his motor bike.

Guren shook his head, but the action only aggravated his headache.

The door now easily opened as usual, and he headed up to Yuu's apartment. Mika opened the door after he knocked, and said a neutral hello before announcing to Yuu who their sudden guest was. “It's Guren,” the blonde boy called down the hall. He beckoned for a wary Guren to follow him down the hall.

Strange, Yuu didn't greet him with some form of physical assault.

“He wasn't staying in bed and resting so I had to take... preventive measures,” Mika said mildly as he led Guren to Yuu's room, and pushed open the door.

“Hi stupid Guren,” Yuu greeted pleasantly, before his tone turned pleading. “Can you please tell Mika to untie me, I swear I'll be good and just rest. I've been tied up for over four hours!”

Mika glowered at the other boy, his aura suddenly menacing. “You lied to me the last four times. You were down the stairs before I could catch you that last time!” the blonde boy snapped, angrily. “Dinner will be ready soon,” Mika added coldly before he left to return to the kitchen.

Guren merely looked from Yuu's predicament then out to the hall to the kitchen.

“Oh, Guren, please stay for dinner. I'm making curry,” Mika called down the hall.

“Err... Sure thing,” Guren replied, rather distractedly despite his favourite dish being mentioned. He looked back to Yuu. “Soo... Why do you kids have handcuffs?”

Yuu's less injured wrist was bound by the cuffs and attached to the bed post above his head. A rope was wrapped around his cast, and tied to the other bedpost so that his hands couldn't meet. Both of his ankles were tied to a bedpost at the foot of his bed. The boy grinned at him in embarrassment. “Ahaha...Well... They're fake - sometimes we like to play... Errm, cops and robbers? Like playing pretend, you know?”

Guren frowned, but made no further comment on it. Who was he to judge children who barely had a proper childhood for wanting to play pretend?

“Soooo... Can you at least untie me? It's not like I can run away with you here. And Mika will untie me for dinner in a bit anyways, so you'll be saving him the trouble.” Yuu was being awfully thoughtful, uncharacteristically thoughtful, if anything. The boy looked up at him pleadingly.

Guren gave in, and began to undo the boy's restraints. “We've caught the guys who attacked you, by the way. They went back to the cafe and were harassing your new co-worker. Also, you should get a new job.”

“But that means I have to apply for jobs,” Yuu whined. “Do you know how hard it is for a highschooler to get a job? Ferid's weird, but he's never actually there and I don't mind this job."

“Look, I know, but the new guy almost got shot when we apprehended the group. They had a gun, and if it was you instead of him, you would have gotten shoot,” Guren said seriously, picking up a small key that was on the nightstand. “You wouldn't be here whining, you'd be dead.”

At that, Yuu went silent, and all they could hear was the noises from the kitchen as Mika worked on dinner. Then the click of the handcuffs as they were unlocked.

“Why don't you work with Mika? Where does he work?” Guren asked.

“...At a tutoring centre,” Yuu replied, shaking his head as he sat up. “He's dumb sometimes-”

There was a loud noise of a pot being put down unnecessarily hard on the counter.

“But he gets straight A's, and he's good at teaching. I can at least get some B's now,” Yuu continued proudly. “There's no way they'd hire me though.”

“True,” Guren conceded unsympathetically. “Can't you apply for McDic- McDonalds? Don't they accept everyone?”

“But my job at the cafe is soooo chill!” Yuu whined. “Just because some thugs decided to beat me up one time doesn't make it dangerous. And you even said they were all caught, so they should be locked away and off the streets!”

Guren pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, I'm gonna explain it in simple terms. These 'thugs' didn't attack you just because you were in the area and they randomly wanted to rob you. They attacked that cafe twice, specifically because it's owned by Ferid. We've nabbed this bunch, but I'm inclined to believe that Ferid pissed off more people than just them. Can't you understand that you could be killed?”

Yuu clutched the sheets with his hand, not meeting Guren's gaze. “That's the thing. What if I quit and someone else gets hired – what if that new guy gets killed instead?”

Good riddance, was the first thing that came across Guren's mind.

“I can't do that, Guren. I can't let someone else die in my place,” Yuu finished seriously.

“Dinner's ready,” Mika announced as he reentered the room, his gaze scrutinizing the unrestrained Yuu, but he made no comments. “Let's get to the kitchen,” he opted instead, going over to the other boy's bedside in order to help him to the other room.

“You know what, Mika,” Guren began, suddenly coming to a conclusion. “You're a really good friend. It's incredible that you're able to live and deal with this blockhead, honestly. I probably would have killed him myself a week ago. You know, to spare myself from the pain and suffering of worrying about him.”

“I thought about that a few times,” Mika admitted, cracking a small smile.

“H-hey, what's that supposed to mean-”

“But I also had a few lapses in judgement and so he's still alive and here with us. For now.”

 


 

Guren left shortly after dinner, but not before giving Mika the gift card for the grocery store and promising to spend time with Yuu on Monday, after Mika vetoed tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow.

“If you don't take it easy for the next two days, you're not allowed to go,” Mika threatened sternly not half a second after thanking Guren politely and putting the card away. Over the course of the visit, Guren's view of the boy changed from caretaker-of-annoying-child to scary-overprotective-mother-hen. Yuu mumbled something about not needing charity to quickly assuring that he would be on his best behaviour for the next two days.

Guren came home to find that someone was already sprawled across this couch, idly flipping through a magazine. His brow twitched as he shut the door.

“Yo! I was hoping you'd be home within the hour,” Goshi said, putting his magazine down.

“Why did I give him my spare keys for safekeeping again?” Guren asked the ceiling tiredly, before looking back at Goshi. He noticed that a second vase of flowers was now present on Mahiru's shrine.“Can't you just go home and read your porn? Why are you even here?”

“You asked me to find out everything I could about your crush, so I did. They wouldn't let me print anything out, so I'm here to give you a verbal report,” The blonde man said with a shrug. “Shinya Hirase, 26, 183cm, blood type B. His resume is longer than your list of credentials. He hasn't kept a job for more than 6 months and hasn't lived in a single place for more than eight months since he turned 13. His parents were both killed in the subway accident in that same year. Custody changed from relative to relative until he moved out on his own at 16. Currently lives in unit 205 of Yuu's building.”

“What about his older brother?” Guren asked, frowning. “Were they separated after their parents were killed?”

“...There was no other child registered under either of his parents,” Goshi replied. “Are you sure he wasn't just talking about a friend or something?”

“Possibly. Anything of note on his resume? Did he go to post-secondary? Any convictions? Jail time?”

“Oh my god, Guren, just ask him on your first date,” was the first thing that came to Goshi's mind and honestly the only fitting response to his superior at the moment in his opinion. “Actually, don't ask him all that on the first date.”

Guren scowled at him. “Look, I don't have a crush on him. I'm being serious.”

“Trust me Guren, if there was anything super sketchy on his profile, I would have told you right off the bat. But this guy has been a barista at like nine different places since he was 13, he's been a librarian for a few weeks eight year ago, he taught a few martial arts classes over the years, he's been a mall cop for three months four years ago, he worked retail at a couple grocery stores and clothing stores, he was a bartender for two months last year... Literally, name it and this guy has probably done it.”

“Has he ever killed anyone?”

“....He hasn't been caught killing anyone,” Goshi replied, rolling his eyes. “For that matter, he hasn't been caught doing anything else illegal. His criminal record is as pristine as... Well, yours on paper anyways.”

Guren twitched, but didn't comment on that. His paper record was pristine after all. About to say something else, he immediately stopped as his eyes traced a small green flash of light in the distance. Goshi turned to look out the window, but by then, it was too late. The light was long gone and the cityscape looked normal. There was no pillar of smoke, no building up in flames, no proof that it actually happened.

Then a second green flash, and Goshi turned back to look at him. “We're gonna get busy real soon, aren't we?”

Chapter Text

“We're still on standby?” Guren asked slowly.

The person on the other line answered in the affirmative, and all he could do was thank them and hang up.

The clock on his wall told him it was 9:13 in the morning, and his phone told him that it wasn't wrong. Unless they were both wrong, yet somehow still showing the same time. The clock on his microwave said the same thing, as did the rest of the electronics in the kitchen as he ambled in.

His internal clock was screaming that he was late.

But he wasn't late. It was Wednesday, his first day off.

His mind wandered blankly as he put together a simple eggs and toast breakfast, trying to wrap around the notion that he had a day to do anything he wanted. Besides what he and Goshi saw last night, he had a collection of rumours, but no hard evidence, so nothing that he could go and casually look into that day. He wasn't allowed to show up at HQ as they apparently had yesterday's situation under control, so that was off the list. He could go practice shooting at the range, or visit the dojo and brush up on his hand-to-hand skills. He could go pick up some clothes to replace the ones that he destroyed the week before. He could-

His phone rang on the counter next to him as he held his knife, preparing to spread butter on his toast. Goshi’s name displayed across the screen. He made the split second decision to let it ring three more times so that he could finish spreading the butter on that one piece of toast before picking up.

“Helloooo? Guren? I know it's your first day off in a million years, but are you still alive there? Hello?”

“Yes, I am,” Guren replied exasperatedly, tempted to hang up the call already. “What do you want?”

“I'm not calling to ask for a favour, but if you're free at 12:30, come to Ichiban Sushi – I made a booth reservation under Norito. I got a guy coming who has the answers to some of your questions... If you choose to ask the right questions I mean.”

“...Today is also your day off. What's the catch? And what questions?”

“And I fully intend to enjoy my day off. See, I happened to run into this guy at the crack of dawn on a jog-”

“You got up at the crack of dawn to jog?” Guren asked, unable to hold his surprise.

“Haha, very funny. Anyways, so I strike up conversation with this guy who's on his way home, and what do you know? He literally grew up with Shinya and apparently knows everything about him. I'm talking about things that a document wouldn't be able to tell us, like his likes and dislikes, if he's single or not, if he's right or left handed-”

“Right handed. Probably. Ninety percent chance,” Guren cut in, unsure why he was still having this conversation or why Goshi even brought up Shinya to a random stranger. “And why would I care about all of this? You still haven't mentioned what the catch was.”

“Look, Guren, I'm doing this because I'm your friend, and you have curiosities to satisfy,” Goshi replied evenly, somehow managing to sound like the voice of reason. “Heck, you wanted me to look at his-” Goshi stopped before he mentioned anything illegal over the line. “You know what yesterday. Today's a day off, and you can go and get your questions answered. Are you really going to turn this opportunity down?”

“And how is this person related to him again?”

“They're very close friends and I told them that you just needed some personal questions answered regarding what happened at the coffee shop. They're being cooperative, so I asked if they were available today – did you want to meet them or not? I can call it off.”

“Fine, it's not like I have other plans.” Guren relented, instead going through the information that he wanted to know about the silver-haired man, and working through questioning scenarios. Goshi was right; he'd be a fool if he let this opportunity slip through his grasps.

 


 

By the time Guren pulled up to Ichiban Sushi at 12:25, he already hit up his few favourite clothing stores and basically refilled his wardrobe. Several large bags were crammed in the trunk, probably enough to last him another three bad months. He had long since learned from the times of being torn between popping into a store to buy clothing during work, or to bite the bullet and just ask Goshi if he had any clothes to spare... After all, wearing unwashed clothing wasn't an option if he didn't have unwashed clothing to begin with.

Man, JIDA really should cover them for the clothes that became work-related collateral damage.

The restaurant was busy during lunch as expected, with a crowd at the front waiting area. He made his way to the greeter’s desk, not without some effort on his part. “Reservation for Norito,” He told the young man working there, ignoring the otherwise irritated glares of some of the line that he pushed through.

The man looked at the line, then at Guren. The latter's stern face won over the line's irritated look, and the man beckoned for him to follow. “Right this way, sir.”

Guren knew the way to the private booths, but he didn't bother to ask Goshi just then which booth he was in or if he was even there yet. They frequented here often; the booths were walled rooms rather than thin partitions. That gave them some security, but they knew better than to speak about any ultra sensitive topics in public places.

But he was just here to talk about Shinya... So what if the world knew some dark, school-age secrets about him? All the better-

His thoughts were interrupted as the man leading him pushed the curtain aside to one of the rooms, revealing Goshi peering through the menu inside. Huh, he really should stop thinking so... maliciously... to a civilian. As a person in his position it was quite embarrassing that a civilian would rattle him so much. For that matter, he was literally coming here to ask personal questions about the guy. “Hey.”

“Oh, Guren, the guy said he was gonna be late 5 minutes, something about wrapping up a conversation before coming in,” Goshi said as he held out a menu.

“Thanks.” He took the menu and sat down across from the other man, finally thinking seriously about how far he was going with this. The guy was a civilian, said one part of his brain. The guy was dangerous, the other part of his mind yelled back. There was something... uncanny, about the white haired man, and the fact that he couldn't place it just bothered him. He poured himself tea, then picked up his chopsticks, and with a practiced move, split them evenly.

“Your face is scary again,” Goshi noted dryly. “Don't scare the poor guy when he comes in.”

“My face is not-”

“Sorry for being late, my older brother wouldn't shut up about yesterday.” The curtain was drawn again as the newcomer arrived, and for the record, only two minutes late.

“Y-YOU!” Guren whipped around, violet eyes wide and settling on the last person that he expected. “Why. Why are you here?”

Shinya tilted his head, his amicable smile present despite his obvious confusion as he looked at him, to Goshi, then back. “Well... You were the one who wanted to talk about what happened three days ago? Goshi said that you had some questions for me?” Dressed plainly in a casual navy button up shirt and jeans, he had his bass case over his shoulder as usual, so he took up most of the entrance way to the booth. He didn't have his bike helmet, and for whatever reason, he looked more tired than usual and seemed to still be blinking sleep from his eyes. “If you don't need me, I'll go home. To be honest, I’ve been up the entire night and barely got three hours just now...”

Guren blinked back at him. Was this really the same guy that made his life a pain in the ass at every turn? He seemed like... a normal person for once. That, or he was used to being surrounded by sleep deprived people. “Err, no, I just didn't get Goshi's full message apparently. You're all the way here now, so you might as well get something to eat. Here, sit down.” Turning back to Goshi, he shot the other man a look that promised pain and suffering until the end of time.

And Goshi just smiled back, unfazed. “I thought you said you were free today... Why didn't you just say that you were tired earlier? You know, you shouldn't be driving if you're that tired.”

“I took a taxi, so I'll be fine, mother,” Shinya replied cheerfully, albeit a bit forced as he rested the case against the wall, and took a seat on Goshi's left. “And so, what did you want to know, Guren?”

Guren waved him off, shoving a menu at him. “Let's get food first, you look pale. I'll pay, as thanks for coming out despite your schedule.”

“How kind of you,” Shinya teased. “And I'm always pale,” Shinya pointed out, wasting no time in flipping through the menu however.

“Sickly,” Guren amended.

At that, Shinya shrugged, making no further comments.

“And why are you so quiet now?” Guren looked at Goshi, his irritation barely hidden.

Goshi hummed for a moment, looking deep in thought. “See, I think I'm forgetting something... Like I'm supposed to be doing something else right now.”

“Did you promise to meet with someone else?” Shinya suggested, looking over as Goshi quickly skimmed through his phone. Not that he could see anything, as Goshi turned his phone away from the other two with nervous laughter.

“Ahaha....... Shit,” Goshi finally said, putting his phone away. “I just told Mito that we’re at Ichiban Sushi right now. Yesterday I said that I would meet her at noon today.”

Guren looked at him blankly as he admitted to sealing his doom just now. “You're dead.”

“...Well, I've made it this far between the lot of you guys, haven't I?” Goshi asked, barely looking as if he believed his own words.

“Girlfriend?” Shinya asked sympathetically.

Guren internally blanched at that. When had that happened?

“Err, it's a little more complicated than that, so no, we’re only co-workers right now.”

The curtain parted, and it was almost comical how both Goshi and Guren snapped their attention to the entranceway.

“Hi, are you guys ready to order?” The waitress asked, pen and paper pad in hand. She seemed unfazed by their reactions and Guren recognized her as one of the two waitresses who had been there for as long as he could remember. There was only so much shit that surprised you anymore when working any form of customer service for that long, he supposed.

Shinya nodded when the other two looked over to him, and the three gave her their orders.

“So, where were you supposed to meet her?” Guren asked conversationally, feigning concern.

“How are we even still friends?” Goshi muttered under his breath, before answering, “The café next door.”

Guren stared at the man. “Sometimes I wonder how you’re still alive.“

“Surely you could go apologize?” Shinya suggested. “Unless Mito already left.”

“Oh, I’m sure she left the café already, now that she knows she was stood up,” Guren replied unsympathetically. “I mean, you just straight up told her-“

“NORITOOOOO!”

Guren slid over to the right, putting himself across from Shinya, but also directly out of the path of the shoe that threatened to crack the wooden bench right through the cushion as it was planted firmly down. Mito came in like a storm, the curtain almost tearing from the rod with her entrance. Everything shook, and he didn't know if Mito caused it with her foot, or if Mito's anger caused a earthquake that shook everything in her wake.

“Wait! Mito, stop! I Can ex-”

“Guren, will you be fine if I take him away? I can call Sayuri or Shigure over for you if you need someone else,” Mito cut in calmly, but her eyes easily betrayed her annoyance.

Guren shook his head, doing his best to look calm. “Don't bother with calling them, we're just having lunch here. And do with Goshi as you wish,” he added, unable to keep the smugness out of his voice.

“Guren-” And with that he was literally slung over Mito's shoulder and half dragged half carried out, leaving the two remaining men in slight bewilderment. One, who barely had a notion of what Mito and Goshi were capable of, made a note to not underestimate her physical strength, and the other who knew the two for a number of years and still made the same mental note as a refresher.

“She's stronger than she looks,” Shinya noted, still gazing past Guren at the curtain where the two had just left.

Guren nodded in agreement. His nerves had just calmed as the curtain parted again. This time, there was no storm, just a mere waiter with their food. “Looks like we have a little extra today,” Guren added, looking at Goshi's combo bento order, and picking out a piece of tempura. “Help yourself.”

“Cheers,” Shinya said, also picking up a piece of tempura. He had ordered a plain udon, a simple meal. “Well, since you're feeding me and all, what kind of questions did you have for me?”

“Well... You're left handed?” Guren asked blankly, noting that Shinya was using his chopsticks in his left hand rather than his right.

“No,” Came the simple reply. “I just can't lift my right arm above the table. See, my eldest brother accidentally spilled scalding, coffee on my right shoulder and down my arm last evening. Getting that attended to took the entire night, and thank god for painkillers.” The irritation was evident in his voice.

“Waiting in the emergency room?” Guren asked sympathetically.

“One of his roommates is a doctor, and he attended to me. I just spent the rest of the night arguing with my brother,” Shinya replied blithely. He was having no problems whatsoever in using his left hand to eat.

“Your brother sounds like an idiot. He should have let you rest – you should be resting right now, actually...” Guren added, deciding to play it as if he knew nothing about Shinya's file. “Sucks that you have a blood relation like that.”

“We're not blood related,” Shinya replied between mouthfuls of soup. “I'm still unsure if that's a good or bad thing.”

“I didn't mean to pry. Let's to the task at hand. How did you find out that Ferid was hiring?”

“I recently moved to the area and was exploring on foot when I saw the help wanted poster in the window.”

“So you didn't know of Ferid before you started working for him?”

“Well, I have heard of his name in passing. He's... a character,” Shinya said, amusedly.

You are a character, Guren thought silently. “Did he ask you to do anything that was outside of your job description as a barista?”

“You mean like, any additional services?” Shinya asked, raising a brow suggestively.

“Yes, like any additional services,” Guren retorted much less suggestively.

“No, I was only hired to run the cafe as a regular barista with regular barista duties. I haven't seen him since he hired me last week, actually. Hmm.. for that matter, I don't even have his contact number.”

“Did he warn you of anyone specific? Like Asthea, for example?”

“No, he left no notes regarding anyone.”

He was jotting down the answers as Shinya spoke, neglecting his food for work. “Then I have a few questions pertaining to yourself. You may choose not to answer them. Is that alright?”

Shinya nodded, then looked to Guren's nearly full bowl of curry rice. “Do you mind if we finish eating? I think my udon noodles are going to get bloated at this rate,” he commented.

Guren frowned. “Surely udon noodles don't get bloated that fast.”

“They don't, I'm just trying to hint that you should eat your food before it gets cold,” Shinya replied, his eyes going back to Guren’s rice. “I'm perfectly willing to answer your questions; I'm not planning on running away after I finish eating.”

Guren followed his eyeline, and nodded sheepishly. Their conversation effectively halted as they ate, Shinya continuing to be strangely quiet, and Guren going over what he had learned, then what more he wanted to learn.

That, and he was unwilling to risk spitting curry rice at the other man while trying to talk and becoming indebted to him.

Empty bowls set aside, they were now picking at Goshi's already half empty bento.

“I hope Goshi is alright,” Shinya commented as he picked up a piece of the deep-fried roll that the blonde man had ordered.

“He's a grown adult, I'm sure he'll use his brains to weasel himself out of the situation, as per usual,” Guren replied, picking up one of the edamame bean pods. “As a professional, I have to say that your move back when Asthea held you hostage was perfectly executed. Where did you learn that sort of thing?”

Shinya laughed. “I'm flattered. Guren, keep praising me and maybe I'll blush. But to answer your question, I practice martial arts regularly. Self defense is important, yanno? And I used to work as security for the old mall two blocks away that was shut down early this year. You always had to be prepared, working night shifts there...”

Ignoring the first part of his answer, Guren nodded. That mall had been the rats nest of problems up until it was closed down. It was a popular meeting spot for shady trades, and at least half of the shop owners had criminal ties. Gangs would meet, and fights would break out almost regularly, straining the city's resources on quelling them. At least five people died each year from the violence in the past decade and yet it took that long to shut it down. “I'm guessing the fact that you know how to flip a safety is from job training there.”

Shinya raised a brow. “Guren, mall cops aren't allowed to carry guns here.”

“And so how did you learn? YouTube?” Guren asked, raising a brow back.

“I had a instructor who taught me how to shoot. My father was... a hunter of sorts, and he had high expectations for me, you see. I learned when I was young and I still practice at a private range. I hunt every now and then, but I don't really do competitions. Although I do like competing in shooting games.” Shinya smirked at that.

“That was unfair, you knew the game pattern,” Guren grumbled, his mind still processing the rest of Shinya's words. “And games are nothing like real life.”

“Oh? Are you challenging me to a shooting competition with live weapons?” Shinya asked, his pale blue eyes definitely interested in the prospect of a challenge.

“Sure, let me know how your non-dominant hand shoots in a accuracy contest,” Guren said blithely, smirking as Shinya scowled. “Tomorrow, noon, at the Northern Way Range.”

“I believe I will have to decline on the doctor's orders,” Shinya replied, signing dramatically. “How unfortunate. You even went to the trouble of picking a time and place for our duel as well.”

“It's the only public range here,” Guren said, rolling his eyes. “Where abouts did you live before you moved here? Why did you choose to move to your particular hell hole?”

“I lived at my brother's for a few months, in the west district. I got fed up with him and everyone else in the house so I moved out. I didn't want to leave the city and the rent at my current apartment was cheap, so yeah. But to be more specific... Like everyone else, I just want my questions answered, I suppose.” He added pointedly. “Were you hoping that I'd say that I moved here to be closer to my target so that I could kill them easier?”

 


 

Omake:

“Of course Guren would be working on his first day off,” the petite red haired woman said, rolling her eyes. She paused from eating her burger. “And why did I have to come drag you out again?”

“We wanted to make sure that Shinya was comfortable by having the two of us there, but Guren thinks that it would be far more effective to question the guy himself. So we came up with this solution of having me be there at the beginning and getting dragged out. Laughing at my misery should also break some of the ice,” Goshi said smoothly, resuming to eat his burger.

Mito nodded understanding. “I am glad to help, in any case. I hope Guren gets his answers.” She looked at her burger, then the rest of their food and drinks spread on Goshi's dash and then at the signage of the dingy building in front of them. Last Stand Dine-in. “I didn't know such a place existed.”

“To be honest, neither did I.”

Chapter Text

After confirming a negative and rolling his eyes, Guren thanked Shinya for his time, and paid for the three meals. As the other man got up and prepared to leave, Guren stopped him, offering him a ride to his apartment.

“Aren't you supposed to be busy?” Shinya asked.

“Yes, but I'm not right now,” Guren replied, lifting the bass case. “Why did you even bring this out? You shouldn't be exerting yourself if you have such horrible burns.”

“I never said I had horrible burns,” Shinya retorted, intercepting Guren's free hand from giving him a 'pat' on his injured shoulder. “Just because I'm on painkillers doesn't mean it won't hurt if you hit me there! Jeezes, I should have you arrested.”

Guren smirked, taking back his hand and leading the way to his car. His sanity was safe only if he could keep the upper hand over this guy. He could live with that. “In any case, point. I can't just let you drop dead right after meeting me. That would look bad on my records. So why are you lugging this thing around?”

“Habit,” Shinya replied, shrugging. He quit resisting, and hopped into the passenger side as Guren loaded his case into the back seat.

The beginning of the ride back was quiet, as Guren decided to think on the other man's earlier answers, and what Goshi had found in the systems. Nothing conflicted, and his answers added up. Who would have known, that the fool of a barista was qualified for a position in JIDA if he so wished? He fought a grimace as he considered his squad with another, silver haired, addition. If that happened, he would be eating the words that he tossed at Goshi a few days back. The stress would definitely make him look like a thirty-something year old.

And so, he couldn’t help but ask. “…So, would you ever step up from being just a mall cop and sign up to be a real cop or do something in law enforcement?”

There was silence, then laughter.

Guren twitched. His question really wasn't that funny. Nothing that warranted that much laughter anyways.

Finally under control, Shinya managed amused comment. “I don't think that would work out too well.”

“And why's that? Have you killed someone?” Guren asked, mildly irritated that he didn’t see how it was so funny.

“Haha... Have you killed someone?” Came the challenging reply.

At that, Guren paused, violet eyes narrowed. “I have the blood of criminals and innocents alike on my hands. The people who went against the law and stood in our way... and the people who I couldn't save in time. My wife recently became one of them,” Guren replied bitterly. Why was he thinking of Mahiru, now of all times?

“But it's never written like that... On paper, it's always an achievement. On paper, I saved future victims by putting bullets through a murderer in a gunfight. In my records, they talk about how I managed to save eighteen hostages, nevermind that three were killed off because I wasn't fast enough. My wife... I managed to save five people from her research facility when it went up in flames because I was there to check on her late in the night and called emergency as soon as I got there since I was the first person to see the flames. Eight other people died with her. So to answer your question, I have killed someone... lot's of someones.”

Shinya was quiet, thoughtful. “I'm sorry for your loss,” Shinya said finally. “You must really miss her.”

“Yes,” Guren replied, lying easily. He shuddered internally at the thought of Mahiru in her final weeks, and could only ask, how long had she been like that?

The rest of the ride was silent, and Guren still didn't know why he bothered to answer that question so seriously, to even bring up Mahiru again. Shinya never answered the question, and frankly, at that moment he could care less about it. Mahiru... how many more people would have died if she was still alive?

Guren pulled into the apartment parking lot, and parked at the visitor spot closest to the door. He could see Shinya's bike parked in it's usual spot marked 205.

“You're not going to let me carry that up, are you?” Shinya asked, making no move to take his case from the other man.

“No,” Guren replied, hefting the base case.

Shinya's apartment was only one floor up, and they were about to exit the stairwell and into the halls of the second floor when someone familiar rounded the corner coming down.

“Ah, Guren,” Mika said, startled. “Are you here to visit Yuu? I finally just got him to sleep...”

Guren shook his head, a slightly amused smile crossing his features. “I'm here to drop this one off, actually,” he said, gesturing to Shinya. “He burned his shoulder and arm badly, and should also be resting.

“Hello, I'm Mika, I live two floors up with Yuuichirou,” the boy introduced himself with a polite nod. He kept a neutral expression, and his pale blue eyes looked from one man to the other as if trying to figure something out. “Guren, I didn’t know that you had other friends in this building.”

I didn’t know he had other friends, came Goshi’s amused voice unbidden in his head. Guren forced a smile as he did his best not so scowl. Believing that Mito was still giving him grief at that moment was helpful. “Well, we’re not-“

“Guren doesn’t want to admit that we’re friends,” Shinya explained playfully. “Shinya Hirase. And Yuuichirou… Hyakuya?”

“Oh, did Guren tell you about him?” Mika asked, noticeably more interested in the other man now.

Shinya shook his head, amusedly thinking about all of his interactions with Guren thus far. “I didn’t know that Guren knew him until just now, but I’m a new hire at his café. Ferid mentioned what happened to him when I was hired, is he doing better?”

At that, Mika rolled his eyes. “He’s been doing better ever since he got home from the hospital. He’s been doing too well, and driving me insane.”

“What else are friends for?” Guren commented sympathetically, still thinking of Goshi as he patted the boy on the shoulder. “So-called friends are the bane of my existence,” He added, shooting a glare at the barista, who returned the look with a lazy smile.

Mika blinked, but made no comment at them. He had a work shift to catch, after all. “I’m heading to work right now, so I’ll see you both another time?”

“Oh! The café is closed for the week for investigations and repairs, so let me know if you need any help with anything at all. I live in number 205,” Shinya added, stepping aside so that the boy could continue down the stairs.

“Same to you, we’re in 408,” Mika replied. With that, he left, and Guren let Shinya lead the way to his apartment.

“After you,” The silver-haired man said, holding his apartment door open. “Just leave that one right there, next to the others.”

The apartment furnishings were on par with his own in simplicity, and the bareness caught him unawares. He expected a homey place, filled with useless trinkets and decorations that matched the barista’s flippant attitude. Instead, like his own apartment, everything in the kitchen and living room that he could see was plain, simple, and neat. Not a thing that was unnecessary.

Well, that was with the exception of twelve bass cases lined up against one wall. At least, he assumed that they were, as they all looked basically identical.

He looked at the line of them, then back to Shinya with a raised brow.

The other man shrugged, going to the kitchen counter where his bike helmet was resting beside a couple containers of medications. “Far left, that’s where that one goes.”

“They all look the same, how do you even tell what’s inside? Are they even different?” Guren asked, unable to contain the incredulity in his voice as he inspected the case in his hands, and the other ones down the line. “Strange way to display a collection. And cases with combo locks?” He asked, as he set the case down in its spot.

“I have my ways,” Shinya replied overly dramatic, as he poured himself a glass of water, medications in hand.  “Sketchy area, remember? And my collection doesn’t exist for the public. Water?”

Guren shook his head, unable to wrap his head around why anyone would need so many of the same instruments. He wasn’t musically inclined, and he had neither the time nor the interest to start anytime soon. Crouching down, he fiddled with the lock on one case, turning the lock’s dial to random numbers and pulling at the lock experimentally.

Shinya watched as Guren tried several times, all with the same result. “You know, those are custom made to explode if you keep putting in the wrong combination,” He commented nonchalantly as he downed his medications and water.

The other man froze as he was about to pull on the lock again.

“…I’m kidding,” Shinya commented wryly, putting his empty glass back down on the counter. “You could have just asked. You know, like a normal person wanting to see someone else’s things.”

Guilty as charged, Guren stood, coughing awkwardly. However, he wasn’t about to let the other man walk all over him, and didn’t hold back his mild sarcasm. “Well, then, let me try again. Can I see what’s worth being locked in one of these secure cases without having to bring a lock cutter? Pretty please?”

Shinya walked over to the row of cases, eyes thoughtfully going up and down the line as if he was carefully making the decision of which one to open up. His eyes set on the one that Guren had been trying to open. Reaching for the case, he paused and turned to Guren.

“Nah,” he replied with a sudden lazy smirk, standing straight and putting his hands in his pockets as if to prove a point.

“You know, I’ve been wanting to punch you since the second time I’ve met you,” Guren commented, pinching the bridge of his nose. “But you know what? I’ll be professional and not hit a wounded person. Instead, I’ll ask, ‘do you need help with anything before I leave?’ and ‘Do you need help changing your bandaging or do you have someone else coming to help you?’”

“Whoa, did you just follow me home in hopes of getting me to strip for you?” Shinya asked curiously, but still smirking and peering all too closely at his face. Not waiting for a answer, his left hand started deftly unbuttoning his shirt from the neck down.

Despite his one hand still partially obscuring his vision, Guren’s eyes widened and they naturally went down to the movement at the other man’s neck. The sane part of his brain screamed at him to get out of there. “Wait- I- What-“

And the traitor part could only think, well, that’s kinda really hot, as he focused on the newly revealed collarbones, and the bit of white bandaging peeking from his right shoulder. The other part of his mind was still screaming at him to leave. His brain was in conflict, and his mouth refused to spout anything coherent.

He was flustered.

The other man got to the third button as he willed his body to move. And he took a quick step back, only to slam his leg against the coffee table, sending him toppling backwards onto it.

Dazed, and with the wind knocked out of him, Shinya was suddenly hovered over him, hands braced on either side of his head on the table. ”Liking what you’ve seen so far? Hmm?”

Internally, he was screaming, and struggling against the yesnoyesnoyesno state of his mind. Outwardly, he couldn’t force his eyes from staring at the partially unbuttoned shirt, and his face was unquestionably burning. Looking the other man in the eyes was definitely out of the question, and honestly?

Fuck Goshi and his plans, fuck Goshi for even planting the idea in his head that he had a crush on the barista. None of this would have happened if Goshi hadn’t-

“Eyes up here, Guren,” the silver-haired barista whispered, interrupting his train of thought.

He involuntarily swallowed, hesitantly meeting the other man’s eyes. Eyes that he had already seen far too often in the past week. They were a pale blue, not unlike Mika’s, and especially similar when they feigned innocence. There was none of that right now. Instead, his eyes had a look that he had seen several times on others in the past, a look that kick-started his training ingrained mind. Previously, he paid it no mind, but he had already seen this look a few times briefly on the silver-haired man.

It was the look of utmost confidence, the confidence of a predator trapping their prey exactly where they wanted. He suppressed a shiver, and could only think of one thing: If this man was sent to kill him, he was dead.

Then Shinya grinned innocently, his narrowed eyes suddenly relaxing and losing their threatening demeanor. “Unfortunately for you, I don’t put out on the first date. Even if you did pay for my food and gave me a ride home. Maybe next time, alright?”

It took Guren all of half a second to not comprehend what the other man had said, to exploit his opening and throw him onto the floor in between the coffee table and sofa. “What the fuck,” was all that Guren could utter as his mind tried in vain to process everything that just happened. His face was still burning, and only got worse as he realized. Sitting up, he peered to the side of the table where the soft groan came from, conveniently right where he had thrown the other man.

His traitor mind won out, and he couldn’t even inwardly cheer as he found the other man with his eyes closed tight, hand clutching his burned shoulder. “Look, I’m-“

“No,” The other man cut him off, eyes opening slightly and evidently still in pain. “I deserved that,” he added ruefully.

“At least you realize it,” Guren muttered, rolling his eyes as he felt the burning on his face subside. “Need a hand up?”

“Nope, I’m planning on lying here until my brother’s roommate comes to check on me in a few hours,” Shinya replied, closing his eyes again with a grimace.

Guren frowned at that. “You can’t just fall asleep on the floor.”

“My apartment, my rules,” Shinya retorted, not moving from the spot.

Guren rolled his eyes again. “Just let me help you onto your couch at least.”

Shinya cracked open an eye at that. “You’re too kind, you know. You’re going to get yourself killed one day because of that.”

“I’d rather die kind than live the life of a horrible person like you,” Guren replied as he watched the other man pull himself up and onto the couch despite his earlier words.

“I’m not horrible,” Shinya protested, as he laid on the couch, and pulled the throw over his body. “You’re just fun to tease. You should have seen your face! And I fully intend on resting as per the doctors order, so you can either stay and watch over me like the guardian angel that you are, or you can feel free to leave. The door locks when it’s closed, so don’t worry about it.” He had his left arm over his eyes and the other was weakly waving Guren away, as if already knowing his choice.

And to not disappoint, Guren took the offered olive branch, and fled.

 


 

Guren was in his apartment’s underground lot, parked in his apartment’s allocated spot. And it was ten minutes since he parked, and turned off the engine of his car, his forehead resting on his steering wheel. He lifted his head to look around, then groaned and returned it carefully to it’s resting place. If anything, he’d rather slam his face into the steering wheel, but he found within the minute of being in the parkade that it unfortunately ended up with his car horn echoing throughout the lot.

During the entirety of the short ride home, his traitor mind would not leave things alone. And there he was, clutching at his steering wheel and trying to desperately disappear into nothingness by resting his head against the steering wheel.

Because he’s hardly know the guy for a week, and over his dead body was Goshi right and he had a crush on the silver-haired barista. No, it was just a phase and his body was acting out on its own – okay, so he did find the barista physically attractive, he came to terms with that much so far. But it wasn’t illegal to think that someone was attractive, yet not want to pursue them romantically, right? Alright, so all he could see was Shinya above him, and damn if he didn’t like what he saw.

He let out another groan. Maybe this was what marrying and living with a nutcase for a few years did to a man. And nutcase was putting it in mild, mundane terms.

Thinking of Mahiru made his blood run cold, and managed to clear his mind briefly. He decided then to get out of the car while he could, before someone saw him slumped over his wheel and called emergency on him. Gathering the bags from his earlier purchases, he headed for the elevator, where he took up more than half of the space. Looking into the mirrors that surrounded him as the elevator headed for the 25th floor, he found that his face was still slightly flushed, and again, it only got redder when he realized.

Nope, he was ill because he hung out with idiots like Goshi and Shinya far too often in the past week. He held back the urge to slam his head against the wall. He needed to get back to work – it was obvious to him that a lengthy(two days so far) period of non-work was detrimental to his mental health.

Opening the door to his apartment, he found that for the second time within that week, he was greeted by Goshi. Mito also saluted him, and he eyed the two suspiciously – Goshi looked no worse for wear, much to his dismay.

However, neither of them commented on his flushed face as he set his bags down to the side of his door. “And just how long have you guys been hanging out here for?” He asked irritably, realizing that Mito was surprisingly, but likely in on Goshi’s plot.

“20 minutes,” Goshi replied, but then quickly cut to the chase. “Asthea bribed her way out.”

 


 

Omake:

“Doctor, you really need to remind Kureto that it’s his fault that I’m this injured.”

Said doctor just frowned at the casual use of Kureto’s name, but continued to carefully apply a clear gel to the silver-haired man’s burned shoulder. He didn’t know who the man was, but he was one of the Hiiragi’s top medics, so he wouldn’t have been sent out for just anyone. Either this silver-haired man was important, or he had a important job. Regardless, a botched job on his part would mean unemployment.

Quick and painless, if he had any sort of luck.

“Even with the accelerated healing gel, it’ll take another two days to heal fully, and would have healed by tomorrow if you hadn’t torn it that badly. Were you not resting as soon as you got… home?” The doctor asked, as if having trouble calling the low-class place such a thing. That and the thirteen black bass cases seemed strangely threatening and not very home-y.

“I was resting. Then I had a dream and it threw me off the table,” Shinya replied with a pout.

“I will need to report this to Kureto-” The doctor paused, staring. “Your dream- what?”

“My batshit insane fiancee left me for another guy, and I was wondering which of us was hotter." 

The doctor continued to stare before apologetically replying, "I wouldn't be able to judge 'hotness' between two men, sorry."

"Oh no, I was actually wondering between my fiancee and I. The other guy is adorable. Also, I landed on my injured shoulder after I was thrown off the table."

"...I see."