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I've lost to you. I've lost completely.

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Bars were never one of Edgar’s favorite places to go. Not when he had a stock of fine wines from all around the world at home which he could partake in whenever he pleased. In his opinion this place was just a bit too crowded, the lights a miniscule too dim, and the television was far too loud. The rowdiness that occurred whenever something happened on the screen which the patrons liked was far too much if you asked him.

Edgar was of the opinion that drinking should be done in a comfortable atmosphere so one could savor it. Whatever look this place was going for could only be described as the opposite of that. Loud color schemes. Flashy art on the walls. It didn’t suit his tastes at all. So why was he here, then? What could possibly compel him to stay instead of head back to his humble abode?

His gaze shifted to the person on the barstool to his left. Edgar watched the dark-haired man finish off his drink through his special twisty straw (that he’d brought himself) then wave at the bartender and hold up two fingers to signal that he wanted another round. The answer to all of those earlier questions was simple, really. The only reason that Edgar was in this place that he didn’t find to be palatable in the least was because Ranpo had asked him to come along.

Edgar muttered a soft thanks as the bartender returned and set down a pair of martini glasses in front of them. He could already smell the sickeningly sweet drink within before the glass was anywhere near his nose. Edgar was sure he could feel his teeth beginning to rot from the sugary concoctions that Ranpo had been ordering them both nonstop since they’d arrived.

He was usually more of a single glass of red wine kind of guy, but tonight he found himself content to join in the drinking festivities as long as it made his companion happy. He took a sip of the new drink since it’d be impolite to simply leave it there. Man, that was sweet. He had no idea how his companion stomached such crazy drinks.

“So then the trainee tried to question my methods, like all the newbies do,” Ranpo continued his story from earlier. He paused to take a sip of his drink, the liquid going on quite a loopy journey before it ever reached his mouth. He set his glass down. “But he quickly shut up when I solved the case–”

“In under a minute.” Edgar chimed in at the same time that Ranpo finished up his tale. The green-eyed man blinked at him then shouted ‘yep!’ and snickered to himself.

Edgar smiled as he watched him take another sip of his drink. Ranpo was so incredible. He could solve a case like that in his sleep. That police officer had no idea what he was capable of. There was an odd sense of pride swelling inside of Edgar. It couldn’t be helped. That kind of thing happened when others saw just how amazing the detective was. It was almost like they could see him through his eyes.

“You must be very close if you can finish each other’s sentences like that,” An unfamiliar voice sounded from the other side of Edgar.

He turned to see another bar patron. Not someone he’d ever seen before. This was another risk of going to bars that he wasn’t exactly fond of… random human interaction. That was something best avoided in his mind. But his anxiety about that was soothed a bit when he realized that they had a friendly enough smile upon their face. Edgar nodded once in agreement. He certainly liked to think that he and Ranpo were quite close. At least as close as a pair in their circumstance could be.

The patron took a sip of their beer then glanced at Ranpo before looking back at Edgar. They motioned to each of them in turn, tilted their head, and muttered, “The two of you are…?” The question trailed off, leaving it up for interpretation as the pair saw fit. They both answered at the same time.

“Rivals.”

“Dating.”

Wait. What did Ranpo just say? Surely Edgar was hearing things. He’d never been one to hold his alcohol very well. Perhaps bits of other people’s conversations were drowning out his own. Not that something like that made any sense. However, when faced with the alternative, well… that managed to make even less than no sense. So he had no choice but to believe something beyond improbable.

“You seriously still think that?” Ranpo asked, knocking him out of his thoughts.

Edgar turned to look at him. The pout on the detective’s face was beyond adorable. Though not exactly what he needed to focus on right now. Edgar opened his mouth to respond but didn’t get a chance to make a sound before the other man spoke again.

For the first time since they’d gotten to the bar, Ranpo’s drink was completely ignored in favor of studying the expression on Edgar’s face as he asked, “What about all the dates we’ve been on?”

“Uhh…” Dates? Since when had any of their outings been dates? They were much simpler than that, weren’t they? Edgar couldn’t help but feel sheepish as he muttered, “Weren’t those, um… rival meet ups...?”

“That’s not a thing, Poe-kun!” Ranpo immediately exclaimed.

The shout was enough to get a few heads to turn their way. Edgar looked around and gave them apologetic glances. He barely noticed the patron behind him excuse themselves and leave the bar to find someone else to chat with. That didn’t matter. Not when he felt like his heart might burst from the way it was racing as he was scolded like a mere dog.

He bowed his head so his wavy bangs fell forward to cover his face and attempted to reply, but only managed some embarrassed, nonsensical stutters. The silence after that was deafening. Edgar gulped then looked up just enough to peek between a part in his hair. Nothing could’ve prepared him for what he saw next. Ranpo’s expression had hardened into something totally unreadable. It was like nothing he’d ever seen on the detective’s face before. He couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Edgar stared at him wide-eyed, unblinking, in total shock.

“Another one, hon?” The bartender asked upon their return.

Ranpo snapped out of his momentary daze. He looked at his unfinished drink and shook his head. “No. I’m going home.”

Edgar watched as Ranpo hopped off the barstool and marched over towards the exit. It was all he could do to slap some money on the counter then scurry after him without tripping over his own two feet in the process. “W-wait up!”

The walk back to Ranpo’s home was hauntingly silent. Other than the occasional car that drove by them, as well as the chirp of nocturnal bugs here and there, there was nothing. Neither of them said a word. Edgar didn’t know what he could possibly say. His mind was racing a mile a minute, and there was nothing he could do to get it to focus on one thought. He couldn’t comprehend a thing that’d happened in the last few minutes of their outing.

Edgar stayed two steps behind Ranpo the whole time, ready to speak up only if the guy went in the wrong direction. He felt terrible. He might just throw up. What was it about that expression he’d seen on the other man’s face that made him feel like he kind of wanted to cry? His throat was so dry that even if he attempted to speak he was sure no sound would come out. Edgar’s chest hurt so much it was a struggle to breathe.

What Ranpo said earlier echoed in his brain. He’d been talking up a storm beforehand. Now, the screaming silence was a surefire sign of one thing. Ranpo was thinking. Lost in the brilliant thoughts that plagued his mind, he couldn’t be bothered with the world around him. Edgar had seen it before. Maybe it was more accurate to say he’d worshiped it before.

Because Ranpo was amazing in every possible way. Edgar would never tire of him or his quirks. He’d sing the man’s praises until he was hoarse. That feeling was something he only harbored towards the detective. Did that make it special? Probably. Did he think that Ranpo would ever see him as anything more than someone to bounce ideas off of when he needed to get out of his own head for a bit? Absolutely not. And that hadn’t ever bothered him in the slightest. Simply being able to be near enough to the man to observe his brilliance firsthand was enough for Edgar.

You seriously still think that?

Ranpo’s words from earlier echoed in his head, in the most overtly mocking tone he’d ever heard. That wasn’t how Ranpo had actually said it, right? Edgar could admit that he found it easy to get lost in his own thoughts at times. He very well might’ve misjudged a thing or two. As to the severity of the problem that caused, well, that was a case-by-case thing and remained to be seen.

When they finally arrived at their destination, Ranpo didn’t invite him in as he usually would’ve. No light conversation and sobering up together over a warm cup of tea. Instead, the detective muttered something that was probably a form of ‘goodnight’ and went inside. Edgar didn’t have the chance to try and respond even if he wanted to because as soon as he opened his mouth to do so, the door clicked shut.

Suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of dejection, Edgar simply turned and left. He only made it about twenty paces before thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance, threatening him with the promise of rain. He removed his phone from his pocket so he could call for a car to pick him up. He had a raccoon to feed at home, after all. He’d just have to focus on that.

 

*

 

The next few days dragged by slower than Edgar knew was even possible. He spent most of them moping around his home lying in bed, or perhaps on the couch, and muttering to himself about being foolish. Karl reminded him to eat because of his own selfish desire to do so as well. Such a simple task as making sure they didn’t starve felt like the most insurmountable event to Edgar when he was in this kind of mood. Still, he powered through to the best of his ability.

Other than that, Edgar was completely unproductive. He couldn’t get any writing done. The words that once flowed from the tip of his fingers effortlessly now refused to come to him. That which he’d once found inspiring now seemed dull, uninteresting. His motivation had vanished entirely. Perhaps he was being punished.

It didn’t seem to matter if he was awake or asleep, he constantly found himself thinking about that expression he’d seen on Ranpo’s face. The meaning of it perplexed him. Edgar felt like the answers to the burning questions he had about it were just out of reach. If he could only use whatever energy he had to crawl just enough to inch himself a bit further, he’d be able to grasp hold of the understanding he desperately wanted.

They hadn’t talked in days. Ranpo and he. Edgar was far too nervous to try and start a conversation, so he was left with no other option but to wait until Ranpo contacted him first. And wait. And wait. Edgar flopped onto his back. This couch wasn’t the most comfortable one he had, but it’d have to do for now. His mind wandered back to that evening at the bar, as it had done every single day since.

“The two of you are…?”

“Dating.”

In his memory, his own response was always omitted. All he could hear was Ranpo. He shut his eyes and draped his right arm across them. He respected Ranpo. He strove to reach a greatness which could be considered a mere fraction of the other man’s. But perhaps studying to better himself wasn’t the only reason he’d let himself grow so close with his rival. What if it was something more and he’d simply never allowed himself to see it?

Dating, though? Was that… something he wanted? He’d never been very interested in the subject before. Perhaps a better question would’ve been whether or not it was something he wanted to do with Ranpo. The sudden onset of butterflies fluttering like mad in his stomach made him nauseous for a second, causing him to grit his teeth.

Ranpo smiled warmly and tousled Edgar’s dark locks with his free hand. The sun reflected brightly off the lollipop he held near his face, drawing attention to the fond look in his incredibly beautiful eyes as he hummed, “Don’t worry, I like that about you, Poe-kun.”

Edgar let his arm fall away from his face and opened his eyes. He blinked at the ceiling. That memory just now. What had it been from? What were they even talking about at the time? He had no idea. It was just another moment in a sea of a million similar ones he’d experienced while he spent time with Ranpo. And yet, thinking about the sweet smile upon the other man’s face– the one Edgar knew for a fact was for his eyes only– made his heart skip a beat. It was special. It would always be special. Because it was Ranpo and he chose to share that moment, that precious bit of himself, with him.

In that sense, every moment with Ranpo was a one-of-a-kind event that Edgar should probably be grateful for. Granted, he was, but… He put his hand over his racing heart and squeezed his shirt. He supposed he never quite realized just how much it meant to him that Ranpo spent the time with him and partook in the million little moments that turned into fond memories he could cherish.

And cherish them he would. Because every second spent with Ranpo was a gift. No matter how mundane they’d be to anyone else, to Edgar they were precious. Each one lead to him falling even harder for the guy. He was in a hole so deep now that there was no way he’d ever be able to find his way back out. Edgar’s hands slid up his face then into his hair and gripped tightly as he had the most shocking epiphany of his life.

He’d never loved anyone as deeply as he did Ranpo. Heck, he probably never would again. This wasn’t the kind of feeling that tended to happen more than once in a lifetime. Edgar’s breath hitched in his throat. He stared unblinking at the ceiling, eyes starting to dry and ache. It all made so much sense when he wasn’t actively ignoring it. Edgar couldn’t say if it was the mental clarity from such an explosive epiphany or what, but he also suddenly had a theory about the expression he’d seen on Ranpo’s face now.

He bolted upright with a shout. This was bad. Really bad. He had to do whatever it took to fix things! Edgar scurried around his home, gathering things then tossing them aside. No, no. Nothing he had would do. He’d have to show up with the perfect apology gift or there was no point. That brought one place to mind. He glanced at a nearby bookshelf, where there was a small clock cradled in the wings of a raven statue, and realized that he had just enough time if he left right now.

He hurried to the foyer, ignoring Karl’s annoyed squeak as he was grabbed along the way. Edgar wasted no time in leaving. He’d get something for the raccoon to make up for interrupting his nap. All would be well. It had to be.

 

Edgar’s mouth was dry as he stood outside of the familiar door.  It had already been a few minutes and he still hadn’t psyched himself up enough to actually knock. Karl seemed fed up with how long he was taking and jumped from his shoulders to scratch at the door himself. Though that must not have been quite loud enough since no one answered, which was a bit of a relief. He needed these few minutes to gather his composure.

Edgar clutched at the plastic bag he held. He couldn’t remember ever being so darn nervous in his life. Man, he really hoped this went well. If it didn’t, he certainly had no idea what he’d do with himself. Maybe move back to America so he could drown in his shame without the risk of running into Ranpo. Edgar despised the thought. He shoved that aside and shook his head.

Finally, after what felt like an hour, he worked up the nerve to knock on the door. All the while the key in his pocket felt like it was somehow getting heavier. Though Ranpo had given him that a while back, it didn’t seem appropriate to use just to allow himself the chance to apologize. There was nothing he could do about the way he stiffened when the door unlocked. While it slowly creaked open he found himself wondering if Ranpo was still upset.

Once the door opened enough Karl trilled happily and dashed inside. Edgar didn’t even have a chance to tell him not to. Oops. Ranpo looked up from the ground and their eyes met. The two of them blinked at one another before Ranpo asked flatly, “Why didn’t you use your ‘rival key’ to let yourself in?”

That certainly was a yes if Edgar had ever heard one. Ranpo absolutely was still upset. Edgar cleared his throat then muttered, “I thought it’d be rude.”

After that there was silence. Clearly, Ranpo was waiting for him to state his business. The fact that he needed to have business at all stung in a way that made him want to shift his weight nervously. He’d come over countless times with no other purpose than to listen to Ranpo talk about his day. But Edgar couldn’t let himself get distracted. He’d come over to apologize properly and he would, dammit. Even if it killed him.

Edgar finally remembered his peace offering. He held up the bag and explained, “I brought you tea cakes from that place across town that you like so much. You know, the one with those cute cat designs you’re so fond of.”

Ranpo’s eyes widened so slightly that Edgar would’ve missed it entirely had he not been staring directly at them. He snatched the bag away, spun on his heels, and marched towards the kitchen without shutting the door.

That was as close to an invitation to come in as he’d probably get, so Edgar took it. He shut the door behind himself, kicked off his shoes, and stepped into the waiting slippers. The ones that Ranpo kept in his specific size. Edgar gritted his teeth. No time to dwell on all the obvious things he’d ignored. His task wasn’t accomplished yet.

Edgar reached the kitchen and found Ranpo already busy unboxing the treats he’d brought over. Karl was seated on a countertop nearby, quite interested in what he was doing. Edgar didn’t say a word. He simply watched Ranpo off in his own little world. All he could think about was wrapping his arms around the other man and never letting go. His chest tightened at the thought.

That probably wouldn’t go over well until he fixed what he’d carelessly broken. Ranpo looked up from what he was doing and Edgar immediately bowed. He held nothing back as he shouted, “I’m sorry that I’ve been so dense about the nature of our relationship! Just the thought that I hurt your feelings has kept me up these past few nights! I’d never do something like that on purpose!”

After a brief pause, Ranpo’s gaze fell back to the tea cakes. He offered one to Karl, waited for him to scurry off happily, then continued to transfer the rest to a plate as he muttered, “My feelings are fine.”

“I…” Edgar stood upright and his brow furrowed. He could do this. No, he would do this. His gaze fell to the ground and he finally mumbled, “I don’t believe you, sorry.”

Edgar could feel the weight of Ranpo’s unblinking stare as it tried to bore a hole right through him. Because his words were unexpected. Anyone that didn’t believe the things which slipped past Ranpo’s lips was an idiot. This was an established fact. Yet there he was, practically yelling that he fell into that category. He might as well don a full jester outfit at this point.

“I’ve never seen you make a face like the one you did that day,” Edgar explained. It was best for him to continue instead of await a response. “It was dripping with something that you clearly weren’t used to expressing.” Edgar gulped audibly. It was a bold statement for sure and could absolutely be taken badly but it needed stating.

When he wasn’t met with any backlash he continued, “I’ve seen you happy when you solved cold cases that had police stumped. I’ve seen you annoyed at people for not understanding what was the simplest problem in your eyes. I’ve even seen you sorrowful on the rare occasion that your mind wandered to the parents you never had the chance to get to know as well as you would’ve liked. Not to mention I’ve seen you outraged when the sweets shop didn’t restock your new favorite candy.”

Edgar paused to chew on his bottom lip. He finally added, “But the one thing I can say for a fact is that I’ve never seen you hurt before.” At least not before that moment in the bar. He chose not to add that part. It was heavily implied. “I consider myself well-versed in Ranpo-isms and–”

“All right, I get it already. Just stop.” Ranpo grumbled his interruption. His voice was softer, almost a whisper when he added, “Besides, it wasn’t entirely your fault. Neither of us ever technically asked the other out or tried anything particularly lovey-dovey so maybe you weren’t as wrong as I made it seem.”

Edgar’s eyes widened. That was true. And he hated it. He finally looked up from the ground, to see what kind of expression Ranpo might be making right now. To his surprise, Ranpo looked a bit defeated. Edgar couldn’t stand the sight. He should only ever grin triumphantly as he looked down upon all those that never had a hope of keeping up with his brilliance. Edgar was shouting before he could do anything to stop himself.

“Then! I’ll correct that error immediately!” He was fueled by something he couldn’t put a name to at this point. Please, make any other expression. He would do anything for that to happen. “Mar–! I mean–! Date me, Ranpo-kun! Make it official and say you’ll be my boyfriend!”

“What were you about to say just then?” Ranpo asked. When he saw just how red Edgar’s face was he burst into a fit of laughter. This continued until he had to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. He smiled fondly at the flustered man and hummed, “You’re hilarious, Poe-kun. You sure do go from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye.”

Edgar’s heart skipped far too many beats to count. He was probably dying. And that was just fine if it was caused by the combination that was the lovely sight of Ranpo’s smile and sweet sound of his laughter. Eventually he had to look anywhere else or he might actually pass out. Edgar bowed his head and let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. His pulse continued to race as the sound of that wonderful laugh echoed in his head. He really loved being the cause of it.

He gulped, still very aware of the fact that Ranpo hadn’t actually answered him. He’d laughed, which was beautiful, but also a bit disheartening in the current situation. Edgar continued to wait, head bowed and nerves frazzled. To think he’d end up confessing so loudly and aggressively. Past him would’ve bet money on the thought that if he ever felt the urge to confess to anyone it’d be through a poem or letter. Was that growth? Or just the unpredictability of life?

“Chin up, Poe-kun.” Ranpo demanded. He was given what he wanted and Edgar lifted his head. “If I wasn’t going to date you I’d still remain your friend since no one else has the overseas connections you do and can get those special sweets.”

“I see…” Edgar sighed. His shoulders slumped and he bowed his head once again. It was mostly a reflex at this point. His bangs fell forward to cover the disappointment that he knew was written all over his face. So he’d broken things beyond repair. Part of him already knew that. Frankly, it was merciful of Ranpo to offer what he did. He wouldn’t complain. Things could be much worse.

Ranpo stepped closer to him then crouched a bit so he could look at Edgar’s face. “What are you hiding for, rival-kun?”

Edgar let out a soft eep and jumped. He looked up, shocked to the point that he was speechless. Even more so when he realized just how close the detective was now.

Ranpo reached up and brushed Edgar’s dark bangs aside to reveal his deer-in-headlights expression. His nose crinkled with his widening smile and he said, “There you are. I have something for you.”

Edgar’s eyes widened when Ranpo leaned up on his tippy-toes and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. That. It really just happened. His own dreams would never be so wonderful to him, there was no need to even consider such. Not to mention, only the real Ranpo could possibly make his whole body suddenly feel like it was aflame from something so sweet.

Ranpo studied his expression for a moment before he asked, “Was that answer to your question clear enough for you?”

“I-I, um, think so…” Edgar tripped over his own response. His head was spinning again and his heart felt like it was trying to burst right out of his chest. He needed to sit down.

“Hmm.” Ranpo’s expression said that he didn’t believe what he heard in the slightest. “Sounds to me like you need more clarification.”

Edgar barely had a chance to squeak before Ranpo was upon him again. This time, their lips met in a flurry of passionate kisses. Dripping with emotions nearly beyond his comprehension, each one felt longer than the last. If that lead to them being stuck together like this forever, Edgar would die happy.

When they finally parted, Edgar felt the sting of tears in his eyes. This was a far better outcome than he could’ve hoped for. He might not be able to hold back his emotions. It must’ve been obvious since Ranpo’s brow furrowed almost immediately.

“Are you all right?” Ranpo asked softly.

Edgar nodded and wiped his eyes. He smiled warmly at the shorter man and then took his hands, squeezing them as he said, “I’m just so happy. I love you, Ranpo-kun.”

“It’s about time you finally admitted that,” Ranpo replied in a tone that was dripping with haughty amusement. The faintest hint of blush dusted the bridge of his nose as he mirrored the adoring smile directed at him. His gaze fell to Edgar’s lips then shifted back to his eyes. He studied what he saw there for a moment before tilting his chin upwards ever so slightly. “Kiss me.”

A far cry from a request, those two simple words were definitely a demand. One that Edgar had no desire to deny. His hands wormed around Ranpo’s waist, gripping firmly. He paused for a moment to try and calm his racing heart. Now that he was the one expected to initiate the kiss, he was suddenly super nervous.

“Don’t keep me waiting, Poe-kunnn.” Ranpo whined. He leaned up on the balls of his feet as if he’d kiss the taller man then paused just before doing so. His voice was a gravelly purr as he added, “You know how much I don’t like that.”

The way Ranpo’s lips just barely brushed against his as he spoke sent a shiver down Edgar’s spine. He knew then and there that it'd be pointless to try and resist. He was a slave to Ranpo’s desires, would gladly go along with his every whim.

As Edgar leaned in to press their lips together once more, because he was already beyond addicted to that feeling, his hand found its way to Ranpo’s warm cheek. Edgar’s heart fluttered when the detective leaned into his touch like a content cat. He was so cute. And so brilliant. Not to mention incredibly kissable.

With that thought, their lips finally met again. Ranpo chuckled into the kiss, placed his hands on Edgar’s sides and took a step closer so there was no longer any space between them. A shiver ran down Edgar’s spine. He could feel heat emanating from the body pressed against him, proving that this was reality. No dream could ever capture such a wondrous sensation.

Warmth enveloped Edgar’s entire being as he was flooded with the desire to pull him even closer. It was thick, nearly suffocating. He could drown in it at any moment. Edgar felt like he might just pass out. Even if that did happen, it’d be so very worth it as long as the two of them could continue just like this. He’d never wanted anything more in his life and surely never would.