: No Sugar, No CreamPairings/Characters
: AU, violence, cursing, mentions of euthanasia Notes
: Before anything else is said, I’d like to say: I know
: Nakamaru is a small town police officer who transfers to a branch in the city in hopes of making a real difference. He’s partnered to a senior officer whose methods fall outside the law and eventually, Nakamaru finds himself playing the good cop to Kamenashi’s bad cop. He’s determined to make their partnership work, if only to save Kamenashi from himself.Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
“Come on, don’t be a grump.”
The whine is shrill and would give Nakamaru a headache if not for the fact that this is more action than he’s gotten all week—all month if he overlooks the eighty-nine year old granny who he had apprehended for a chronic habit of shoplifting. Toothbrushes, cat food, a bar of soap, a lighter, and some gum she could hardly chew. None of the items she had tucked away in her hand bag had made any sense.
It had taken a couple months in the force for him to realise that some people didn’t follow a pattern.
Nakamaru watches the adolescent nudge his girlfriend who then promptly leans forward to give Nakamaru a clear angle of her cleavage. Nakamaru coughs. Some patterns, however, are all too obvious.
“Please, just this once,” she cajoles with a squeeze of her breasts and Nakamaru looks away before he begins to blush. It doesn’t matter if he’s interested or not; Massuda liked to joke that he should have joined the firefighters instead since the colour of his face matched well with the red uniforms. Nakamaru only had to point at Massuda’s hair to turn that joke around.
Nakamaru points to the sign across the street.
“This is a school zone.” He flashes his wristwatch just to be clear. “This is a school zone hour. I’ll need to see your license, young man.”
There’s a string of mumbled curses and pleads but Nakamaru keeps his face stern and his hand open and eventually, he gets what he needs to prescribe a speeding ticket.
When the car rolls by, this time pointedly under the speed limit, Nakamaru pretends he doesn’t see the middle finger sticking out the window. Instead, he adjusts his cap and walks to his car. No fuss, no blood, no violent drama.
A year ago, this was the cop life Nakamaru had hoped for. Now… he wishes there was more to it than parking tickets and the occasional purse snatching.
When the Chief calls him in to discuss a transfer to another branch due to a shortage of officers, Nakamaru makes a desperate lunge. One that has him wincing as his knees knock into the Chief’s desk.
“Are you sure this is for you, son?” the Chief says, eyeing him with fatherly concern. “It’s a big city you’re going into, a big city with big crimes. I’d be lying if I said our small town wouldn’t miss you.”
Nakamaru manages a smile through the wince and stretches out a hand for a good shake.
“Thank you, Sir, but you’d be lying if you said I was needed here.”*
“Officer Nakamaru, welcome!”
Nakamaru had made the extra effort to arrive at his first day at the station with his snazziest tie, his shiniest pair of shoes, and a well-creased uniform, but there is something about Chief Kimura and his flowing hair that makes Nakamaru feel as if he had just rolled out of bed without showering for weeks.
Nakamaru could swear he had never seen such a… dazzling
person. He had never even used dazzling to describe anyone before, even if just in his head. It was a word one could imagine but not really see, separate from Nakamaru’s reality where everything was muted, dull purples and charcoal greys.
Nakamaru scans the station and the officers scurrying around the maze of desks and computers confirm that Chief Kimura is indeed an anomaly. The pop-out in the storybook he’s read before.
Nakamaru gives a sharp salute that wavers and falls when he hears the snickers. He feels the nape of his neck begin to heat and Chief Kimura pats his shoulder.
“Don’t mind them,” the Chief says in a voice that’s meant to be overheard, “they’re just jealous they can’t all be upstanding officers who know how to show their chief some respect.”
The snickers are snuffed out at once, although Nakamaru can see an officer with spiky gelled hair grinning over the Chief’s shoulder.
“Thank you for welcoming me to your branch, Sir. I hope to do my best to protect the people of this city.”
“We’re all too glad to have you on board,” Kimura smiles before looking around the station, “aren’t we, boys?
” There’s an eruption of hoots and shouts and Nakamaru has the queasy sensation of being the new kid in class again. Kimura beams at him when the shouts taper off. “I’d love to stay and show you around but I have a case to cover. In the meantime, stick around and your partner should be here soon to get you going.”
Nakamaru salutes again, reflexively, and doesn’t realise until there’s another trickle of laughter.
“I just know you’ll make me proud,” Kimura says as he shrugs on his jacket and heads for the door. “Oi, Tanaka! Get away from the donuts and watch over him until Kamenashi’s here.”
Kimura disappears out the door and a smaller man with a curly mop of black hair, who Nakamaru supposes goes by Tanaka, makes a face. “Shouldn’t that be watch over him when
Kame gets here…” he trails off when he catches Nakamaru’s gaze.
Tanaka wipes the crumbs all over his pants before he makes his approach and holds out a hand. Nakamaru takes it gingerly.
“Hey there, newbie. I’m known around here as Koki but you can call me Joker, or Lord, whatever works for—”
“Koki. Hi. My name is Nakamaru—only
Nakamaru,” Nakamaru slips in before Koki can suggest him a nickname. He knows how being the new kid goes and has learned to avoid all the traps. He can do without being called Nakamarad at this station.
Koki sends him a good-natured grin. “Now there’s a mouthful. So… any questions, Only Nakamaru?”
Nakamaru tries not to frown. He face-planted into that one.
“Just one. Who’s Kame?”
For the third time, there’s a riot of laughter and Nakamaru notes how Koki’s is less amused this time and more… pained. He looks almost pitying.
“Your nightmare,” Koki answers and when Nakamaru continues to look thoroughly bewildered, pats him on the back, “also known as your beloved partner in crime.”*
Nakamaru knows most of the crew by the end of the two hours he spends waiting for Officer Kamenashi to arrive. Koki is all too happy to introduce him to everyone.
“Meet Ueda, our offense player.” The officer with the spiky gelled hair who had been grinning earlier pauses from assembling a gun at his desk and sends Nakamaru a lazy wave. Koki whispers in his ear. “He’s not much use for investigation or recon or anything that requires a thought process really. He knows explosives like the back of his hand though and could snipe down a soda can three buildings away. Not that he needs a weapon… get my drift?”
“Don’t get on his bad side without a bullet vest and an ambulance at the ready?” Nakamaru tries.
Koki smirks. “You’re a smart one.”
“What about him?” Nakamaru asks, gesturing at the officer whose fingers are whizzing over the keyboard so fast it’s dizzying to watch. The officer’s brows are furrowed in deep concentration in a way that Nakamaru finds admirable.
“Oh,” Koki says with an easy shrug without sparing the officer a glance, “we ignore that one.”
“Hey!” the officer interjects, his fingers still moving. There’s a beeping sound that’s accompanied by a shout of joy and suddenly the officer is standing and smiling so wide that his eyes are sealed. Taguchi
, his name plaque reads.
As they shake hands, Nakamaru realises that Taguchi is the tallest among them.
“Call me Junno,” Taguchi says with that giant smile.
Koki rolls his eyes. “No one calls him Junno.”
“Are you in the middle of an investigation?” Nakamaru asks. Taguchi seems like the one solid touchstone at the station and Nakamaru hopes he can trade Koki for him as his mentor.
“I’m the tech whizz here,” Taguchi explains. “If you need any information or a way around a password, I’m your man.”
“You’re… a hacker? Isn’t that illegal?”
“Not when the law’s on your side,” Taguchi singsongs and does a playful salute. “I promise to use my skills for good and not evil.”
“Uh huh,” Koki interrupts and stalks forward to swivel Taguchi’s monitor to the side. Where Nakamaru was expecting a high-tech database or a profile of some mob leader, there’s a window reading Game Over, You WIN
taking up the screen. Nakamaru is hoping that it’s some type of simulation program when Koki scoffs, “Tetris. Not even Flappy Bird but Tetris
. I feel so safe knowing that our officers are well prepared to protect us from raining blocks.”
“It sharpens my ability to spatially organize objects,” Taguchi says and dodges a kick from Koki with a, see?
The splintered admiration must show on Nakamaru’s face because Taguchi turns to him with a damper smile. “The crime can’t keep up with me. I need something to do in the meanwhile.”
“Let Kame hear you say that and he’ll stab you with an envelope opener.”
“I thought we had those confiscated from his office,” Ueda adds from the next desk over. He’s assembled the gun now and is twirling it around his finger like a lock of hair. There’s no way it could be loaded, Nakamaru thinks, but there’s something about Ueda that makes him step back behind Koki just in case. “After the last time, I mean.”
“He’s a resourceful one. Don’t ask. It’s long and messy,” Koki explains before Nakamaru can ask what happened last time?
Two-and-a-half hours later, Kamenashi still hasn’t arrived but there’s a picture of him Nakamaru has managed to piece together. Kamenashi is a man without a family—divorced or single, Nakamaru can’t guess—because he’s married to his work. He’s the sort of reckless officer who prefers to handle cases on his own when he has a perfectly able, shiny new partner waiting for him at the station. He’s violent enough to be restricted from accessing sharp objects at the station. He’s a man with a temperament and little patience.
He’s been warned not to, but Nakamaru turns the knob and enters Kamenashi’s office. It’s dark and Nakamaru has the foreboding sensation that he’s entered a lion’s den but a flick of the light switch chases that fearful thought away. A gust of melancholy makes him shiver.
There are two desks in Kamenashi’s office. One is buried under papers, coloured files and folders making a patchwork out of the surface. The other is untouched and entirely barren save for an empty name plaque. Nakamaru runs a hand over it; there’s no dust.
There’s not much to see so he walks around to Kamenashi’s desk. There’s a mug filled three quarters of the way with coffee that’s the colour of tar. It’s cold. Nakamaru imagines a balding middle-aged man demanding his regular—keep your sugar and cream; I need the good stuff to get me through this damn day
—and forgetting about it two sips later as the papers and calls come crashing in. Nakamaru toes aside a crumpled box of cigarettes and imagines that Kamenashi is a man who perpetually smells of smoke when he doesn’t have coffee breath.
The lack of photos of loved ones confirms for him that Kamenashi is alone. Nakamaru lays his bets on a divorcee embittered by human relations. There’s a black jacket hanging over the chair that erases the image of a large, paunch-bellied man to replace it with one of a smaller, ragged man with greying hairs at his temples. A sharp-tongued cynic who, judging by a glance at the garbage can that’s full of take-out menus and cartons, lives in his office.
Except, of course, when he has a new partner to avoid like the plague.
Nakamaru takes a seat at the empty desk, the unbroken leather of the chair squeaking under his weight. He drums his hand on the surface and looks around the blank walls of drawers and license certificates and wonders at how he can feel so unwelcome while being the only person in the room.
He reminds himself that first impressions, second-hand ones at that, are almost never true.
It’s now five hours later. Nakamaru knows this by glancing at his wristwatch; the clock hanging above the office door has paused at twenty past one. Kamenashi is a man who lives at his own pace or no pace at all. He’s someone without time to spare for himself or anyone else.
The sun has set and the number of officers at the station continues to dwindle away and Nakamaru knows that Kamenashi isn’t coming. At least not today.*
No one at the new branch wears their uniform but Nakamaru insists on it, if only because the crisp cloth and the badge pinned to his chest empower him with a strength and resolution he lacks without them. The Nakamaru in the uniform is different from the Nakamaru outside it. His steps are surer, his shoulders stand straight and stiff, his knees don’t buckle. The uniform grounds him to his duty, reminds him of why he entered the police force in the first place.
It makes him fearless, to a degree. Which is fine, he thinks, because he’s always thought that someone who lacks fear is someone who lacks sense. Fear of the law is what keeps the world from spilling into chaos after all.
“You look scared,” Koki happily observes when Nakamaru enters the station and freezes when he sees that the door to Kamenashi’s office is hanging open.
“He’s here?” Nakamaru asks and he realises he’s whispering because no one else is talking. “What’s going on?”
There’s a huddle of officers by the Chief’s office which is just perpendicular to Kamenashi’s. The door is shut and the blinds are closed.
“He’s in there,” Koki mouths but it’s unnecessary because the voice from within carries loud and clear in the hushed silence of the station.
“I don’t need a partner
.” The hissed syllables are exactly what Nakamaru imagined Kamenashi to sound like. The tight, controlled fury.
The other officers turn to him, curious of his reaction. Nakamaru finds it easy to keep his face impassive; it’s not like this was unexpected from what he’d learned the other day. Disappointed, the heads turn back to the door as Chief Kimura’s voice seeps out from the cracks.
“You’re an outstanding officer, Kazuya, and I won’t hesitate to say one of our best, but even you have a biased assessment of your own abilities.”
There’s a low hum of impressed ooohs
which makes Nakamaru guess that the Chief might be the only one who can put Kamenashi in his place.
” Nakamaru pictures Kamenashi’s features bunching together as if he’s tasted something horrid. “You gave me a newbie. I’m not a babysitter, Chief.”
There’s another round of ooohs
and swivelling heads and Nakamaru doesn’t need to hear the rest of the diatribe when he’s sure he’ll be hearing it again face to face when Kamenashi finally deigns to meet him.
“Hey,” Koki says as he’s turning, “don’t go. Trust me, this is mild. Kame can be a bit of a di—”
“I’m not leaving,” Nakamaru says curtly and knows that there are gaping eyes pinned to his back as he walks into Kamenashi’s office and takes a seat at the empty desk.
His ears are hot but his hands are steady as he unpacks his things and arranges them on his new desk, setting up camp. He slips his favourite pen into the drawer along with a bag of caramel cubes that he likes to chew on when he gets busy. The picture with his sister on the day he and Massuda graduated from the police academy is propped on the corner of the desk, just by the computer monitor.
It can’t be long now, he thinks. His hands are clammy more from the anticipation of a battle than fright because Kamenashi doesn’t know him. Nakamaru won’t be chased off by cutting disdain without having a chance to prove himself. His partner owes him at least that.
From outside the office, there’s a sound of scurrying feet as everyone scrambles to settle back in their places, followed by the click of a door being opened. The footsteps that make their way towards him are clipped and fast, and Nakamaru holds his breath when they come to an abrupt halt in the doorway of the office.
Nakamaru can see Kamenashi’s shoes from his periphery and slowly lifts his gaze.
Whatever opening line he had been rehearsing in his head shrivels into a short, unimpressive, “Hi... a-are you Kamenashi?”
Nakamaru had spent all night imagining how this meeting would go and it falls apart on him the second his eyes land on the man narrowing his eyes at him in the doorway.
Kamenashi is… smaller than he imagined. Much
smaller. From a lion to a house cat. He’s younger too. There’s weariness around his eyes, creased in the furrow between his arched eyebrows, but Nakamaru wouldn’t be surprised if the man was still in his early thirties… Only he would
be because Nakamaru was expecting Kamenashi to have greying temples and not deep dark bangs framing a narrow face with thin lips and a strong chin. From a house cat to a panther.
Kamenashi is something close to pretty
and Nakamaru can feel himself staring, his jaw falling a little loose as he does a double take and then a triple.
Kamenashi, in return, gives him a withering look over and sneers, “I see you have no trouble making yourself at home. They don’t teach you about showing respect to your seniors back at the academy anymore?”
Nakamaru manages to bang his knees as he jumps to give a standing salute.
“Nakamaru Yuichi, sir. I look forward to being your partner.”
Kamenashi blinks at him slowly in a way that makes Nakamaru feel ridiculous.
“Right,” Kamenashi says with another sneer curling his lips. He walks to his desk and hunts for a black folder under the clutter. Once he has it tucked under his arm, he grabs his jacket from his chair and makes for the door without so much as another glance.
“Wait,” Nakamaru says and Kamenashi makes a brief pause, “where are you going?”
“To do my job. You sit back and decorate the rest of the room, paint the walls a nice shade of blue.” Kamenashi sends him a two-fingered parody of his salute. “Catch you later, partner
And then he’s gone.
Nakamaru stands behind his desk feeling more useless than he did back when he was writing parking tickets in his hometown.
Koki’s head pops in from the door frame and Nakamaru only then realises that everyone had been watching.
“Well that could have gone worse.”
Nakamaru wants to ask him how
but bites his tongue.*
Since Kamenashi left him in his office with full intention, Nakamaru assumes he has permission to peruse the files littering Kamenashi’s desk. He carries half of them and dumps them onto his own. He’ll show Kamenashi he can pull his load. Nothing is more mortifying to him than proving Kamenashi right by becoming a burden, a dead weight Kamenashi can toss aside without a second thought.
The red folder holds information on robberies. Not the petty shoplifting kind that Nakamaru is used to dealing with or house break-ins, but heists. There’s a grainy photo of men with black masks and guns standing in the Central City Bank. Nakamaru remembers watching the story on the news a month ago. The culprits hadn’t been apprehended and had gotten away with nearly four million dollars.
He flips through the yellow folder next. It’s too cheery a colour to hold profiles of the city’s biggest street drug entrepreneurs. Hamaguchi, Funaki, Oguwa, Yajima. Nakamaru flips through them and wonders how these men are still running free when there’s this much evidence stacked up against them.
“Evidence?” Kamenashi snorts when Nakamaru asks him the next day. “If the world ran on such evidence
we’d all be in jail.”
Nakamaru watches Kamenashi reach for his coffee mug and gag. He tries not to smile.
“It’s been there for a couple days,” Nakamaru says and continues. “There are photos of Hamaguchi at the train station where last week’s drug exchange took place. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
Kamenashi ignores him in favour of walking out the door. Nakamaru ducks his head and pretends as if he was speaking to himself all along when Kamenashi returns a few minutes later with his mug now steaming with a fresh batch of coffee.
“You’re back,” Nakamaru says, unable to hide his surprise.
Kamenashi pauses before sinking into his own chair, like he had forgotten Nakamaru was there. That they had been talking, not quite civilly, but talking
just a couple minutes ago.
“This is my
office,” Kamenashi returns and Nakamaru hears the mumble of still here, huh
before he takes a slow sip from his mug. Nakamaru watches Kamenashi roll back his shoulders and notes how he doesn’t wear his uniform either. With his white collared shirt and black slacks, Kamenashi looks more like the average salary man than a police officer. The only thing missing is the tie.
“I asked you a question,” Nakamaru says once he’s allowed Kamenashi to have another sip.
“I heard,” Kamenashi replies even though Nakamaru can tell he’s trying to remember it. He turns to Nakamaru sharply and the direct attention is so unexpected that he drops his pen.
“S-sorry,” he says as he picks it up. A part of him is thankful for the distraction because there is something prickly and dissecting about Kamenashi’s gaze that makes it difficult for him to look back.
“For dropping your pen? I don’t think the floor is touchy enough to take any offense.”
Nakamaru glances up at the sound of amusement and wishes he hadn’t. The tips of his ears warm under Kamenashi’s mocking smirk and he looks away again.
“How long have you been in the police force, Officer Nakamaru?”
Ah, the inquisition. Nakamaru had been wondering when it would come.
“Almost two years now.”
“Huh, not as raw as I expected. Tell me about some of your encounters.”
“Your cases. Tell me what you have under your belt,” Kame says and Nakamaru can feel his gaze, hot and probing, against his cheek.
He doesn’t think he’ll pass Kamenashi’s test anyway so he chooses to answer with honesty, as humiliating as it is when sidled beside the folders he had perused earlier.
“Some robberies. Mostly I handed out tickets, for speeding and the like,” he adds before Kamenashi can embarrass him by asking what kind. Kamenashi manages anyway.
“Robberies, huh. Banks? Museums? Jewl—”
“Convenience stores, usually.”
It’s a single syllable, a breath. It makes Nakamaru feel like a gum stuck to the underside of Kamenashi’s shoe and his fists curls as he looks up at last. The cool weight of his badge against his chest grounds him.
“It’s my duty to protect the people, sir, in all the ways that I can. My hometown and its residents are safe and that’s all that matters.”
Kamenashi nods slowly and leans back in his chair, his ankle coming rest on the kneecap of his other leg. He takes another sip of his coffee and watches Nakamaru over the rim.
“No doubt thanks to valiant officers like yourself.”
The heat has spread across his cheeks by now and Nakamaru takes a moment to breathe through the onslaught of sarcasm before he asks, “Was there a point to all these questions, sir?”
Kamenashi puts down his mug and kneads his knuckles in a way that’s meant to be casual but intimidates nevertheless.
“Yes. It goes back to your own question. You’ve never dealt with organised crime.”
“And,” Kamenashi’s smirk is cold, “it takes one phone call and a wad of cash to buy an alibi, one phone call and a whisper of a threat to make the witnesses forget that they ever saw anything. There’s a reason why it’s called organised crime, Officer Nakamaru. These people are connected. They know what they’re doing. They know how to bend the law to their advantage and they have the resources to do so. Our so-called ‘evidence’ is a bread crumb that can be flicked away with a finger.”
“So… what do we do then?”
Kamenashi’s hand falls to the black folder and his eyes follow, breaking contact with Nakamaru’s. Nakamaru suddenly finds himself breathing much easier.
“We keep our eyes open and make the crumbs into a damning trail.” He stands suddenly and Nakamaru follows suit. Kamenashi eyes him. “Heading to the washroom?”
“I’m going where you’re going,” Nakamaru answers with a firm set of his lips.
Kamenashi’s laugh is raspy and doesn’t reach his eyes. He tosses another folder from his pile onto Nakamaru’s. “Sit. Summarise the information in there into a report. I haven’t written any for months and they’re beginning to clog.”
“My duty is to—”
“—protect the people in all the ways that you can
,” Kamenashi finishes. “I remember, and look, I just gave you another way. Enjoy, Officer Nakamaru, and know that you’re doing your city proud one report at a time.”
The door closes behind Kamenashi with a click and Nakamaru admits that he just might hate him a little.*
Nakamaru has most of the city’s biggest out-and-about criminals memorised in the next days that Kamenashi continues to appear and disappear, leaving Nakamaru at his desk with a withering look that he doesn’t dare to challenge… yet. Kamenashi is right that Nakamaru is diving into the deep end of a pool he’s never swam in before but the principles of investigation he had learned still apply, he hopes, so all he has to do is study. Study and show Kamenashi that where his lack of experience cuts short, he has knowledge to stand on.
Nakamaru is flipping through a file on the Magpie, a high profile thief whose activity over the years has been sporadic with a sudden peak in the last few months, when he notices something and frowns. Slowly, he unwraps a caramel cube, rolls it around in his mouth, and after a half hour of thoughts and some key searches, he walks the file over to Taguchi.
“There’s a pattern,” Nakamaru says when Taguchi looks up after pausing his game. “The Magpie. I think we can figure out what he’ll have his eyes on next.”
He gives Taguchi some time to look over the file.
“He’s a connoisseur for big, sparkly jewels. I’d say it’s a pretty ordinary pattern, Detective. We’ve been after him for ages.”
“That’s not it,” Nakamaru says with a shake of his head and points to his notes as he explains. “Eight months ago the Magpie stole a ruby broche from the Central City Museum. The year before it was diamond bracelet from the wife of a company head. And months before that it was a set of emerald earrings.”
“I don’t think I’m following,” Taguchi says with an easy laugh like it’s alright if Nakamaru is flubbing; he’s a newbie after all.
Nakamaru chews hard on the caramel until it dissolves in his mouth. He could be wrong, but he’s sure that he’s not.
“I searched for incidents outside our city where the Magpie has struck and the stolen items don’t fit the theme.” Nakamaru flips to his print-out. “In March 2010, the Magpie took a watch from an antique showcase. The year after, it was an embroidered gown from a historical museum and then three years prior, a pawn shop reported a missing pistol that was estimated to sell for close to thirty thousand.”
“I thought our friend had his eyes on the millions,” Taguchi says with a thoughtful downturn of his lips and reads the file more closely, murmuring, “He’s not going for jewels alone… he’s going for—”
“Heirlooms,” Nakamaru finishes with a nod of success. “Specifically, heirlooms from the 1500s. I did some background research on the stolen items and the Magpie has a particular fascination with the European Renaissance period.”
Taguchi looks up with a smile that knows what’s coming next. “And you want me to…”
“Figure out the rest,” Nakamaru returns. “You know the people in this city better than I do and you know how to find your way to more information. If you can track down any buyers or sellers of Renaissance heirlooms, I think we can plan a trap and nab our mystery thief.”
“Leave it to me!” Taguchi holds out a fist and Nakamaru blinks at it.
Taguchi shakes his fist impatiently and whines, “Come on
, Nakamaru. This is how we salute around here.”
Nakamaru rolls his eyes and completes the fist-bump with as little enthusiasm as he can. *
Kamenashi looks about the same level of enthused when Nakamaru debriefs him on his theory. Admittedly, Nakamaru has only seen him sporadically, dropping by the station for a few hours between absences of days, but Kamenashi looks more ragged each time. There’s a tightness in his face and in the way he moves that reminds Nakamaru of a rubber band being stretched ever so slowly. He doesn’t want to be around when Kamenashi snaps.
But that’s impossible considering Nakamaru is somewhat of an allergen where Kamenashi is concerned.
“The Magpie is my
assignment,” Kamenashi says at the end which, Nakamaru wants to point out, is really not the point. “You’re supposed to be keeping up with the reports.”
“I’m good at multi-tasking, sir,” Nakamaru says and tries not to blink away from Kamenashi’s stare. “And I believe this matter is more pressing. Taguchi is looking into the case as well and we should have the Magpie’s next target figured out soon.” Nakamaru lays the file on Kamenashi’s desk. “Please have a look through it.”
There’s a pause in which Nakamaru holds his breath, waiting to see if Kamenashi will throw the file back in his face or reach over and stab him with his ballpoint pen. Instead, Kamenashi calmly flips it open.
Nakamaru breathes. Okay, he’s entered the safe zone.
Kamenashi waits until Nakamaru has walked back to his desk and taken a seat to say, “Since you’re so good at multi-tasking, get me a coffee while you file those reports. I like mine—”
“Black. No sugar or cream.”
Nakamaru sees Kamenashi’s eyebrows lift from his periphery as he exits the office and takes it as a small victory. *
He pretends to not notice that all eyes snap onto him the second he steps into the lunch room. It’s fairly cozy with three round tables and a wide window at the back with sunlight pouring through. It feels as if half the staff has filed into the room in advance as if knowing that Nakamaru would come. As casually as he can, Nakamaru walks to the coffee machine and fills Kamenashi’s mug.
“You can spit in it if you want.” Nakamaru turns to Ueda with a deadpan stare. Ueda shrugs. “It was just a suggestion.”
There’s a slap at his back that makes him jolt and nearly spill Kamenashi’s coffee. Koki doesn’t notice.
“I give you props for hanging in there, man. Don’t mind Ueda. He’s just trying to sabotage you to win the bet.”
Koki smiles up at him cheerily.
“Wait,” Nakamaru says and looks between them with a chill crawling up his back as the coffee warms his hands. “What?”
“Let’s just say if you stick around for another two hours, the three weeks will be over and my buddy Ueda over there will be sponsoring all my beer.”
Nakamaru watches Ueda send Koki a finger. Koki returns it with a blow-kiss.
“You’re… betting to see how long I’ll stay?” Nakamaru asks and the humour doesn’t skim him.
Ueda winces a bit, like he’s sorry Nakamaru found out about everyone’s meagre expectations of him, but then he follows it up with, “Three weeks is a long time to be Kame’s monkey,” and Nakamaru reminds himself that Ueda and tact do not mix.
Nakamaru gives a terse nod and leaves the room before he upends Kamenashi’s mug all over the floor. He makes a brief pause at Taguchi’s desk as he walks by.
“So, how long?” Taguchi squints up at him behind metal-framed spectacles. Nakamaru has learned that they only come into use when Taguchi decides to come out and actually do his job. “How long did you bet I’d stay?”
Taguchi’s gaze lands on Kamenashi’s mug and he beams. “Ah! You got it right. You should have seen Kazuya’s face when I had poured in cream. Homicidal murderers have looked kinder.”
When he’s met with silence, Taguchi returns his attention at last and says with that unfailing smile, “My bet is that you’ll stay, Detective Nakamaru.”
“Why?” Nakamaru asks. I’m just a monkey.
“Because you’re needed here.”*
Nakamaru had thought that Kamenashi’s random absences were the reason why their partnership wasn’t taking off—asides from the fact that Kamenashi didn’t want one, of course—and that a little time together would show Kamenashi how he had misjudged Nakamaru and accept him as a partner after all.
Working on the Magpie case makes Nakamaru reconsider that. It turns out that working with Kamenashi is almost as unbearable as sitting alone in the office and not working with him at all.
“What are you doing?” Kamenashi snaps, looking over from his desk.
Nakamaru freezes midway into unwrapping a caramel cube. He thinks it’s pretty self-explanatory but he offers a smile.
“Want one?” It’s a peace offering. If possible, Kamenashi’s glare appears to darken.
“What I want
is to do my work without you making all that noise.”
Nakamaru blinks and quickly pops the caramel in his mouth without so much as another crinkle. Kamenashi’s head snaps back down to his paperwork and the silence resumes, thick and heavy like a winter blanket. Nakamaru has never worked under so much quiet since he wrote his high school exams, with the teachers walking between the aisles and breathing down his neck.
Kamenashi’s voice breaks the silence again a couple minutes later.
“I can hear you chewing
Kamenashi doesn’t look up this time but Nakamaru can see the hold of his hand tightening around his pen. Out of his own accord, his eyes trace down Kamenashi’s side and land on the gun holster fixed to Kamenashi’s belt. He’s equipped.
Nakamaru swallows down the caramel and winces at how the audible gulp makes Kamenashi’s hand twitch.
The pattern goes on; the silence falling and breaking as Kamenashi ticks off all the things he finds offensive about Nakamaru’s existence in his office. Like the way he shifts in his chair and makes the leather squeak or the way he beats at the keyboard like a toddler who has just discovered that buttons can be pressed.
There’s sweat building under his uniform and Nakamaru only realises that he’s had his jaw clenched when he excuses himself for a washroom break, if only to escape from Kamenashi’s oppressive commands. When he closes the office door behind him, the usual buzz of life and crime in the station falls against his ears like a scream and Nakamaru takes a moment to take it in.
He doesn’t even know if this is all part of Kamenashi’s master plan to chase him away or if he really is this anally retentive.
Koki solves that mystery for him with a consoling pat to his shoulder.
“He’s just like that when it comes to work,” Koki tells him. “Why do you think he gets his own office? No one wants to deal with that. Which is why we’re all so happy to see you sticking around.”
“I’m your sacrificial lamb, aren’t I?” Nakamaru asks with a sinking feeling and looks down at Koki’s cluttered desk. “Are you sure he’s not just doing it to get rid of me?”
“Well… your New Partner status probably doesn’t help,” Koki offers wryly. He grabs a pen from his pocket and waves it under Nakamaru’s nose. “Just beware of the clicky pens.”
Koki nods. “Remember that incident with the envelope opener? It all began with this.” Koki demonstrates by thumbing down on the top of the pen. There’s an audible click
and Koki gives him a heavy, warning look. “He hears that and you’re done for.”
“Clicky pens. Got it.”
Of course Nakamaru would get saddled with the crazy man. Of course. This is karma coming back at him for arresting a little old lady.
He returns to the office with as little noise as he can manage, taking care to turn the knob slowly. Kamenashi doesn’t show any sign of acknowledging his return which he now thinks is altogether a good sign.
He sits down gingerly and gets to work.
“You’re breathing too loudly.”
Nakamaru cuts off after an inhale and wonders if wearing a mask tomorrow would dampen the noise or make it worse when he actually looks up at Kamenashi and sees a peculiar expression pinching his face.
“That was a joke,” Kamenashi explains. His lips twitch at Nakamaru’s exhale and he ducks his head back over his desk before Nakamaru can see if they’re able stretch into something that isn’t a sneer or a smirk. “Don’t be so uptight, Detective. Relax.”
“… Right,” Nakamaru returns. “Hahaha.”
If only he had a clicky pen on him.*
Taguchi may not be the overzealous chain-myself-to-my-desk-and-inhale-nothi
ng-but-work type of officer, but he’s good at what he does. Very
good, Nakamaru grudgingly admits as he flips through the file Taguchi hands him.
“Tegoshi Yuya. Chances are that’s who the Magpie will target next,” Taguchi says with a brilliant smile.
Nakamaru just barely stops himself from jumping when Kamenashi leans over his shoulder to look at the file. “The only son and heir of the NEWS Enterprise…” Kamenashi’s voice is a low rumble as he reads out loud. Nakamaru can smell the wisp of smoke that clings to his clothes even under his sweet cologne. He feels crowded and confused as Kamenashi’s shoulder presses against his back and he tries to angle the file in a way that will make the sudden invasion of his personal space unnecessary.
Kamenashi doesn’t budge. His eyes are narrowed in a way that’s now familiar to Nakamaru. A grenade could be tossed in from the office window at this very moment and Kamenashi wouldn’t even blink. His lips move as he whispers the words from Taguchi’s report to himself, unmindful of the fact that his hair is tickling Nakamaru’s cheek.
Taguchi’s expression is serene when Nakamaru glances up and Nakamaru guesses that Kamenashi getting too close for comfort is a normal thing. Finally, Kamenashi moves back into a stand and gives Nakamaru enough room to take a deep lungful without being mistaken for sniffing his senior detective.
“He sounds like he can afford to blow off money on useless old knickknacks. Anything specific the Magpie will be interested in?”
?” Nakamaru interjects, his mind catching up slowly. He looks back at the picture in the profile. Tegoshi Yuya is even prettier than Kamenashi.
Kamenashi snorts. “You can ask for his phone number later, on your own time.”
“T-that’s not what I meant,” he stutters although he knows the warmth in his cheeks doesn’t help.
“Though the damsel part doesn’t quite apply, Tegoshi-san will
be in great distress when the Magpie discovers his new purchase,” Taguchi interrupts smoothly and Kamenashi’s attention is snagged away from bullying Nakamaru. “I did a scan of recent transactions in this city—shipments to museums and collectors and the like—and found that Tegoshi is already known as somewhat of a collector. Only he discriminates more on the basis of the price tag than from a partiality to a specific decade in history.”
“And the Magpie has never stolen from him before?” Kamenashi questions, his arms crossed across his chest.
“Well he wouldn’t have. Before
, Tegoshi didn’t have a very pricey and very old ring dated back to 16th century Europe in his collection, did he?”
Nakamaru feels his pulse quicken from the looming excitement of closing his very first case.
“And he does now?”
Taguchi grins at them. “It should be arriving at Tegoshi’s estate anytime this week… is what I would
have said before I hacked into the transport company’s online tracking system. It will be here Friday evening, three days from now.”*
“You can’t be serious,” Nakamaru says when he finds out he’s not included in the plan to apprehend the Magpie. He tacks on a “sir” at Kamenashi’s pointed look but continues to stare back with stubborn resilience. “It’s my case too. We’re supposed to work together.”
“We are,” Kamenashi drawls from his desk. “You fight with the pen, I fight with the sword. Or gun, in this case. Divide and conquer.”
How quaint, Nakamaru thinks bitterly and calmly stands and walks over to Kamenashi’s desk. He feels stronger this way, using his height advantage to loom over Kamenashi.
“I can fight with the sword too. I’m good for more than just filing and typing reports, sir.”
Kamenashi is leaning back in his chair, sizing him up with a rake of his gaze. Nakamaru can see the calculation being punched behind his eyes, weighing the benefits of toying with the new officer in town or shutting him down completely and getting back to his work. Luckily for him, Kamenashi must be bored because he smiles slow and sharp.
“Really now? Why don’t you show me then.”
It’s the window of opportunity Nakamaru has been waiting for.*
The Glock sits heavy yet comfortably in his hand.
“So, Officer Nakamaru, how many bullets have you let loose in your honourable career?” Kamenashi asks after inspecting his own pistol. Nakamaru knows what the real question is—do you even have it in you?
—just as he knows the answer Kamenashi is expecting to hear.
“More than I can count. I mean no disrespect, sir, but maybe even more than you.”
Kamenashi’s pause, no outward sign of being taken aback save for the stilling of his movements, makes the hammering in Nakamaru’s chest slow to a steady thump, thump, thump
. He has
done this several times before. Not with Kamenashi watching and waiting for him to prove himself, but even Massuda used to say he was unnaturally good.
“That many criminals roaming your oh so safe town, huh?”
“No, but I’ve done target practice like this before. Many times,” Nakamaru returns. “And if I can speak freely, I’d say the better cop is the one who doesn’t have to shoot at all to make an arrest.”
That gets an eye quirk and a stare. Nakamaru tries hard not to fidget and do something stupid like run.
“Well said,” Kamenashi says at last and walks over to the door that opens into the row of shooting aisles. “Let’s see how many bullets you can spare, Nakamaru.”
They stand in adjacent aisles and on the count of three, they fire. The gunshots are muted by the earmuff-like hearing protection but Nakamaru can feel the recoil up the length of his arm and into his shoulder. His entire body resonates with the fire in a way that’s familiar, almost comforting.
After the first round, the cut-out figure of a silhouette hanging at the end of his shooting aisle sports a hole through the chest, just where the heart would be. Kamenashi’s carries one right between the eyes. The wires carrying their targets move like a clothing line, taking away the silhouettes and replacing them with another pair, these ones carrying a target circle.
Nakamaru takes a moment to breathe and steady his arm. There are bullets firing all around him but they’re easy to forget when he narrows his gaze onto the target. Nakamaru is good at minimizing, finds comfort in shaving off the excess of the world that’s too loud and busy and grating. Some of the officers at his old station used to name their targets, said that naming them made them more real, more corporal, more fallible. Easier to pierce with a bullet.
For Nakamaru, it’s always been the opposite. Naming brings in complications that cloud his aim. What if Hitoshi has a family? He could be a dad, a brother, a son. What if Hitoshi was coerced? What if Hitoshi is sorry and willing to change? The unnamed silhouette, on the other hand, is easy. It has just one purpose, and Nakamaru completes it with a pull of his trigger.
The bullet flies through the innermost circle and a quick glance at Kamenashi’s target shows that Kamenashi is as much a sharp shooter as he is sharp tongued. Two bullets, two targets cleared. Nakamaru sees Kamenashi signal with his hand through the plastic divider between them and the next target that rotates into his view swings from side to side.
Nakamaru smiles. Kamenashi knows how to up the game. He’ll be disappointed if he thinks Nakamaru won’t be able to keep up.
When their ammunition runs out, fourteen targets and fifteen bullets—one of Nakamaru’s hitting an outer circle and one of Kamenashi’s piercing through a boundary line—Nakamaru thinks that Kamenashi will turn to him with a handshake and an apology. He’s kept up with his senior neck to neck and he doubts Kamenashi had guessed such an outcome.
Instead, Kamenashi signals the range master to replenish their ammo. It’s then that Nakamaru notices that no shots are being fired; a glance down the sides comes with the realisation that only he and Kamenashi are occupying the row of aisles. The remaining officers have shuffled to the back, watching their competition with wide eyes and whispers.
Kamenashi meets his eyes with a tight mouth where there should be a congratulations, you’re not as completely useless as I initially pegged you as
before facing back to the target. Nakamaru does the same, almost unwillingly. He had intended to show off one of his few skills, not to enter a competition with the resident psycho of the station with an aggressive superiority complex.
But now that he had, it would only be counterproductive to back down.
Nakamaru feels his arm and shoulder begin to strain and he doesn’t know how long they’ve been at it. The targets begin to whizz by, one after the other, smaller and smaller, shot after shot. Nakamaru only realises they’re on their last bullet when the range master, who must have been keeping track like the officers watching from the back, signals the number with his hand.
Fourteen targets, fourteen bullets. One bullet left.
They’re matched and if Nakamaru gets this one, they’ll still be matched, but the tie will be a victory of its own. I’m as good as you,
Nakamaru thinks with a sudden ferocity and fires. The bullet leaves a hole right on the dot, in the center of the innermost circle. His target swings in defeat.
Nakamaru lets his arm drop at last with a burn of satisfaction and turns to see how Kamenashi fared. Kamenashi’s target hangs whole and unscratched and Nakamaru doesn’t for a second entertain the thought that Kamenashi missed his target completely. No, Kamenashi just hasn’t fired.
He hasn’t fired because he’s staring at Nakamaru with a dark look, a look that could bruise harder than a bullet. Nakamaru swallows and feels the flush rise in his face, his pulse beginning to quicken with panic. When Kamenashi suddenly turns and walks into Nakamaru’s aisle, Nakamaru actually expects Kamenashi to punch him square in the eye, but Kamenashi doesn’t even look at him.
Doesn’t even meet his eyes or mouth a word when he slides in front of Nakamaru so that they’re standing chest to chest, so close that Nakamaru can smell him, see the sweat beading at his temples and feel his heat like the heat of the spent gun in his palm.
“Wha—” Nakamaru asks even though it’s useless with their hearing protection on but a second later, Kamenashi lifts an outstretched arm and answers the question for him.
Nakamaru just barely hears the echo of the gunshot over the pounding in his chest and then Kamenashi is tugging off their ear muffs. For a second, Kamenashi’s hair stands at angles like a comical scarecrow before it falls flat in its usual severity. Kamenashi’s eyes however carry a greater threat than before and it’s not all due to their proximity.“Don’t fuck with me.”
The threat is almost pressed against his lips and Nakamaru is still standing, speechlessly stunned, after Kamenashi has stalked away. With the hearing protection off, he hears the murmuring at last and sees his surprise audience pointing and gaping behind him.
The target. Nakamaru turns to squint at it and it takes him a moment to figure out why there’s no sign of another bullet having pierced through it. Nakamaru had already given him a window.Anything you can do, I can do better.
The message is clear.
Nakamaru discovers that Kamenashi is the better show off among them, and not only because he’s mastered the art of a dramatic exit and leaving gaping jaws in his wake.*
His heart nearly fails on him when he walks into the locker room, thinking that Kamenashi had left the premises in a hissy fit, and instead finds himself pushed up against a locker with Kamenashi’s forearm digging under his chin.
“Wha—” he wheezes, struggling to throw Kamenashi off. What the actual bleeding fu—
“Cut the act,” Kamenashi spits, his face once again too close for comfort. Nakamaru finds himself more troubled by the arm cutting off his air supply and grapples against it but there’s just as much steel in it as Kamenashi’s words. “You don’t just learn
how to hit a bulls eye through a moving target and something tells me that your luck isn’t that good, Nakamaru Yuichi.”
If luck existed in Nakamaru’s life, he wouldn’t have been partnered with someone crazed enough to try and kill him over the fact that he knew how to use a gun.
The pressure tightens against his neck. “Who sent you?”
The jut of a lock digs into his back as he tried to push Kamenashi off him. For a man of his size, he’s unexpectedly strong. Nakamaru makes a note to never underestimate him—that is, if he survives. His nails bite into Kamenashi’s forearms and it has to hurt because Nakamaru is squeezing with all the energy he can spare but Kamenashi doesn’t even flinch. He’s waiting for an answer that Nakamaru can’t give with his throat in the process of being crushed.
Kamenashi seems to understand his dilemma and eases his grip enough to allow a sliver of air to skate its way in Nakamaru’s lungs. Nakamaru gasps, gulping in as much as he can. “Who sent you?”
Kamenashi repeats and Nakamaru doesn’t have a clue what he means.
“Gidou-san,” he manages to say and his voice sounds sore, “my chief back at my old town. I wanted to transfer and you were short—Kimura must have told you.”
Kamenashi’s eyes narrow and Nakamaru throws him off with a hard shove before the pressure returns. He’s ready to make an escape when he notes that Kamenashi isn’t making a move to attack him again. He’s just standing in his torn jeans and scuffed jacket with a sharp look in his eyes that makes Nakamaru feel as if he’s been put under a magnifying glass.
This is what hibernating at the station and not having a life outside chasing crime has done to him, Nakamaru thinks. It’s given Kamenashi a severe case of paranoia and a God complex to boot. Nakamaru really could have done without this second-hand baggage.
“What, you think I was raised with a gun in my hand instead of a rattle?” he throws out and sags back onto the wall of lockers, suddenly too tired to battle Kamenashi’s crazy. There’s an ache throbbing in his lower back and soon it will become a bruise. “Is it that hard to admit that I’m better than you thought?”
He nearly jumps when Kamenashi throws his back with a bark of laughter. Nakamaru would have been less surprised if Kamenashi had stalked up to him and punched him in the face compared to the stretch of lips he’s sporting now. It’s the first true smile
he’s seen Kamenashi wear. Nakamaru blinks rapidly to confirm that it isn’t a mirage, that he’s seeing the same man who just tried to choke him to death.
The smile transforms his face into one that’s softer, younger, and less likely to bludgeon Nakamaru over the head with the handle of his Glock. Kamenashi looks like an entirely different person.
After their shooting practice, maybe Nakamaru looks just as different in Kamenashi’s eyes.
“So…” he starts, clearing his throat and wincing at the sharp pang, “partner?”
Kamenashi’s laugh trails off but the smile is still there. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
The following day, Nakamaru sees his name included among the list of detectives who have been assigned to the Magpie case. It’s a pretty sparse list, just him and Kamenashi.part ii