The first time Toma came to his apartment, Sebumi stepped out of the way before she rolled over his toes and stared, even though he couldn't actually see her properly. "How did you find me?"
She just looked at him in response. He didn't have the energy to explain that he wasn't asking how she could find his apartment but rather which of the many ways she had chosen; it wasn't particularly important. She answered anyway. "The easy way. I hacked your personnel file. Chief Nonomura tried to give it to me, too."
"What will you do now?" she asked, and he wished so fiercely that he could see her, even though seeing her had never really helped him to read her before.
"Heal," he answered. "There's a temple where I'll be welcome, and, no, I won't tell you where it is. You'll find out easily enough, I know."
"Mean." Her voice was mild, but her sling rustled as she resettled her arm in it, and her skirt swished as she shifted on her feet.
"You're the one who doesn't understand privacy." He couldn't manage to put venom into the words, and she almost laughed, just a brief huff of air that wasn't quite dismissive. "Maybe I should ask your grandmother for details, even the odds."
"She wouldn't remember you." There was a wince in the way that Toma bit off the last word, her voice losing the obnoxious and somehow bizarrely charming confrontational tone she'd begun with. Chii Satoshi was dead, but the memories he took were only restored if someone sensed something was wrong enough to try. At least, that was what Sebumi could guess from the shadows in his mind and Toma's voice. He probably hadn't been memorable enough to inspire that reaction in her grandmother when Chii tried to wipe him away.
He let the thought go. They didn't need to talk about Chii, not when he still didn't know what questions he wanted to ask. "I'm sure your loud and garlic-stinking presence distracted her from me. She probably didn't hear my introduction over your rude voice."
"Do you have a problem with my voice?" Toma demanded. The cheerful argument was back in her voice; he was pretty sure she saw the smile he swallowed. "What's your fixation on garlic anyway?"
"My fixation? You're the one who's always eating it."
"I should have brought gyoza with me," she muttered. "This conversation is boring."
Sebumi reached out to the sound of her voice and shoved. She squacked indignantly and stumbled on the floor, stockings sliding. "Go sit down," he said. "I'll get us something to drink."
* * *
The second time Toma visited Sebumi's apartment, he closed his eyes for a moment before opening them again, stepping around her, and locking the door behind her. "This is a single occupancy apartment," he said once he was finished and looking straight at her. "You'll get me in trouble dragging that suitcase in with you."
"What's wrong with my suitcase?" Toma barked automatically, more interested in looking around. It was two rooms, at least, so if he had anything besides the most basic furnishing and bland monastic paraphernalia it was hidden away inside his bedroom. She'd bet he did; he looked ready to drop her ruthlessly to the ground if she so much as feinted towards that door.
"What's wrong with it?" he asked flatly, glaring. "It's disgusting, probably toxic, and you might as well not have taken off your shoes if you're just going to haul those wheels over everything."
"Next time I won't, then." For just a second, she thought he was going to take the suitcase away from her and throw it, but he restrained himself. As a reward, she smirked and very carefully placed it to the side of his entryway. "Happy?"
His hands flexed and tightened; if he'd been anyone else he would have been pacing. "Not at all."
She shook her head and clicked her tongue. "Never satisfied. Why did you move, anyway? You knew you would be back."
"A year is a long time to let an apartment stand empty." He still wasn't moving, stiff and straight like she was a review board.
So she moved for him, going over to try his kitchen taps. The water heated quickly, so at least the plumbing was good, and she made her scoff just loud enough to be heard over the splash. "You were a police officer wounded in the line of duty. Even if your landlord didn't normally allow subletting, he would have made an exception."
Sebumi didn't try to argue, which was good, because she knew for a fact that there were subletters in his old building. He was too smart to take that bait, even after a year of rusticating away.
"The temple preferred that we come as unencumbered by outside distractions as possible. They had people run home before, when the healing became too difficult." Watching him here, now, too straight and tense for the flimsy residence around him, Toma thought that the senior priest must not have been a very good judge of character.
"How did that work for you?" she asked, trailing her fingers over the shelves that she recognized from his old apartment.
He watched her silently. "Not well," he said finally. "I always knew I would be back."
* * *
By the time Toma barged in with a bag of half-combined ingredients for toaster-oven scones, she had stopped counting the times she visited Sebumi's apartment. (That was a lie. She would never stop counting, but that didn't mean she had to admit it to anyone, much less herself.) She let her suitcase handle slap against the wall of his entryway and thrust the bag resting atop it at Sebumi before she went scrounging for the miniature cooking sheet.
"Welcome," he said dryly. "Of course you can use anything in my kitchen."
"Shut up," she said. "You can eat them. Just don't tell me how to make them." She meant to ignore him and keep looking under his sink, but she wound up glancing back. Pans were easier to find by feel anyway.
Sebumi looked in the bag. "Why would I know how to make--is that garlic and mayonnaise cookies? That's disgusting."
"Scones," she corrected, slapping the cooking sheet onto the counter and marching over to grab the bag away from him. "It's garlic and basil scones, and the mayonnaise is to go on top. Since I know your policeman's masculinity won't let you eat sweet things anyway."
"Why are you doing this in my apartment rather than your own house?" His arms hung loose at his sides, though, not tense and stiff, so it wasn't a real question. "I'm sure you have counter space there. And a proper oven."
Toma concentrated on working the lid off of her chopped garlic. Sebumi made no move to help, even when her cast slipped and she snarled. "My grandmother won't stop trying to give me advice," she muttered.
"That definitely means you should drag everything over here." His counter was well-shined, as expected. It threw off scattered reflections of his black suit. "And why are you opening the garlic first, you idiot? You still need to make the dough; all that will do is stink up my apartment."
She finished peeling off the garlic lid and dropped it to brandish another plastic container at Sebumi. "Already done. Now stop talking."
"It's my apartment," Sebumi retorted. "Have you done this before, at least? You'd better not break my kitchen."
"Of course I have," she snapped back. "I think." She wasn't sure whether she wanted him to have heard her last words or not, but of course he did.
"How can you think you've baked before?"
"I remember making them with my father. We'd break open the finished scones and talk about what constellation the seasonings looked like."
The basil bounced as she pulled open its container.
Sebumi's hands thumped against the wall, accompanied by the heavier sound of his shoulders being propped up, too. "So you have."
"I had memories of making them with Chii, until I ripped those out. I don't know whether he took my father's scones and used them or added my father to make his hobby more special, and I want the memories too much to get rid of them. I don't think he was that creative, but I can't know." There was no sound behind her, and only not having heard any door open or close told her that Sebumi was still there. "I can't be certain he's dead, you know. Unless I want to keep his dead head where I can see it at all times, which would be hard considering Unit Zero already disappeared his body."
She refused to look at Sebumi, but she heard the frown in his voice. "I thought... your SPEC..."
"You think I could call him?" she asked, mashing garlic and chopped basil into her dough far more violently than it deserved. "Some dead I never want to see."
Sebumi stepped forward and reached out to steady the cutting board when she would have accidentally sent it skidding away. "Better to live as though he's gone," he said. "I can make my memories my own."
"Yes," Toma agreed. She turned back to her scones, and they stood together. Sebumi didn't offer any more words or any help beyond holding the cutting board steady while she kneaded and made balls of dough, even when she covered his hand in flour.
When Toma put the first little pan into the toaster oven, her reward was a large flour handprint, slapped onto the back of her head. She smiled.