although we've come to the end of the road
It was late when Touya called Shindou. He had finished the book he was reading (A translation of The Sun Also Rises Touya had lent him the last time they were together; his collection of books was extensive, and so far he had somehow foisted upon Shindou everything from Julius Caesar to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett - choices Shindou found ironic for more than one reason, and not only because he hated to read), and the solitary candle he had left burning in his library had tapered almost down to the wick.
It was too late for Touya to be calling on the pretense of a casual invitation. He didn't even bother, saying only in that clipped, curt accent he used when he meant business that he wanted Shindou to come over.
"Can't sleep?" Shindou murmured, though they both knew that this was a polite way of saying that Touya had been up all night working on the case. "I was just about to have a nightcap and turn in."
Touya's voice softened to the tone Shindou liked best, warm and bitter and rich, the aural equivalent of dark chocolate. "I'll put a pot of coffee on," he said, and if Shindou hadn't known before, he would have known from the sad smile he heard there.
Outside it had begun to rain. "Are you all right?" Shindou heard himself asking. When he looked down his fists were clenched, but he couldn't remember closing them.
"As to that, Shindou," Touya said with a faint laugh, "I won't know until I see you."
"Then I'll take the train."
still i can't let go
The ride to the Meijin residence was brief, but the whirring of the train against the rails was deafening to Shindou, and the jostling of the cars seemed to dislodge something weighty and final within him and send it rattling around deep within his chest.
Touya was sitting at the grand piano in the middle of his family's redoubtable ballroom when Shindou arrived. He sat framed by two antique cathedral windows on either side of the far end of the room, casting waves of moonlight like dark tides through the tinted panes and coloring his hair a particularly breathtaking shade of indigo. True to his word, the coffee sat bubbling in a pot and an oven mit on the closed lid of the piano, typically incongruous. He didn't appear to have had any for himself from what Shindou could tell - his eyes were tired and he had yet to change out of his favorite lavender suit. Shindou noted absently that the tie was still mismatched as ever, and despite everything he smiled as he crossed to where Touya sat, fingers curved rigidly over the keys, and took a seat beside him.
Touya didn't look at him, and again, if Shindou had needed a sign, that would have been it. Shindou wanted to kiss him, but when he leaned in Touya bowed his head and unsteadily, slowly began to play. Shindou settled for leaning his head on Touya's shoulder, and letting the jerky, uneven rhythm of the music form a familiar melody in his mind. At length they did, and he almost laughed aloud.
the long and winding road
that leads to your door
will never disappear
He did kiss Touya, then, a brief press of his lips against Touya's pale cheek. "How did you find out?" he said at last, because someone had to break the silence.
The notes faded away. Touya stared at some distant object, still not meeting Shindou's eyes. "It was the painting," he said at last.
"Yes." Touya tilted his head back reflectively. "It was a code. The whole time I had been searching for a literal meaning for the note we found with the third victim. Sorry, your victim."
"The Institute's," Shindou clarified, because he was nothing if not pedantic.
Touya ignored this. "I thought all along that the words 'time running' were intended to be 'Time running out' - some sort of indication that the killer was going to strike again and that the victim had known, was trying to issue a warning.'
"An assumption anyone would have made,' Shindou agreed. He had never second-guessed this particular detail of that crime before this moment. Touya had lingered long over all the details, but that was his job. Sherlock Holmes never overlooked the tiniest piece of information. Shindou, it seemed, had not been as far ahead of him as he had thought.
it's so natural
"It made sense, too," Touya said, that the victim would have been describing a method of killing, or a clue as to the identity of the killers. That first pointed me toward the Institute."
"The buzzers used in the go matches," Shindou said softly. "Time running out."
"Of course," Touya said. He was speaking in that low, quiet voice he had used over the phone - deliberately neutral, but still with a trace of sadness. "But also the fact that the major title matches all coincided with surges in the pattern of syndicate-related crime around the district and the visits of high-ranking Yakuza to Tokyo."
"Only you, my dear, would look at the flight plans of Go Pros and crime lords and draw a connection," Shindou said, his admiration very real.
"It just made sense," Touya said reasonably. "Go was the perfect international sport with little to no government regulation. If a crime syndicate were to organize a betting ring they could walk away with millions on one tournament alone, provided they could convince the right pro to throw the match at the right time. The Meijin final, for example - when the Ouza was killed."
Shindou said nothing. Killing the Ouza had been a pleasure. Shindou had never liked his Go.
"But that only gave me a motive," Touya continued thoughtfully. "It didn't tell me how the victims were being killed, or where. Or by who."
"So you looked for someone with connections to the Institute who had the opportunity to commit the killings," Shindou said. "But my alibi was air tight."
For the first time since he had entered the ballroom, Touya looked at him. "Only if one assumes that the killer had to be in the same room at the time death occurred," he said evenly, his eyes darkening. "And I never did."
Shindou waited for the rest. Touya took a deep breath and went on, his eyes narrowing into slits that could have been anger, could have been intense concentration.
"If we assume that the killer could have been nowhere near the victim at the actual time of death, then you had both opportunity and motive," he said. "I knew about your deal with my father," he said. "To throw your matches on command."
Shindou couldn't help the surprise that crossed his face. "For how long," he said.
"Since the beginning," Touya answered perfunctorily. "But you'd never throw a match against me - you couldn't, and you didn't. So the only option you had after losing the Meijin family one-point-two million yen was to offer them your services."
Shindou whistled appreciatively.
"You became a hired hit-man, my father let you live, and the crimes were perfect," Touya said. "Unsolveable."
"Except for the one person, the third victim. Waya Yoshitaka was the brightest and most perceptive out of all the early victims before the killing spree increased. He had enough foresight to leave a clue, only he was also suffering severe mental lapses at the time due to the shortage of oxygen flow to his brain. 'Time running' was his way of communicating to us his location at the time of his death. He was the only one whose body had to be moved." Shindou sucked in his breath. "From your library," Touya said. "Where you have a copy of The Persistence of Memory on your wall. 'Time running' was Waya's failing brain's attempt at saying 'melting clocks.'
"He didn't know that he was in my house," Shindou offered, and Touya suddenly exhaled heavily, as if Shindou had both confirmed and denied all his hopes at once. He was drugged and blindfolded and brought there to tell what he knew. He'd never seen the inside of the house and he never saw the face of his interrogator."
"Who, I assume," said Touya, anger noticeably lacing his voice, "was you."
"Actually," said Shindou as gently as he could, "It was your father."
Touya leaned back and closed his eyes for a long moment. When he opened them again, they were pure distilled steel.
"I know," he said with cold solemnity. "About the book."
you belong to me
It was the last thing Shindou had been expecting to hear. He stared at Touya for a long moment, and then stood up as calmly as he could.
"I think I'll have some of that coffee now," he said with a forced laugh.
He moved around the piano bench, but Touya caught his hand in a movement and held it tightly.
"Shindou," he said, his voice both a plea and a prayer of mourning, "Just tell me that you weren't the one. The one who performed the rest of the killings."
Shindou took a deep breath. "Touya," he said. "Are you asking me to give you an official statement?"
Touya's grip grew tighter. "I'm asking you to tell me it wasn't you. If it was my father, I can handle it - I'll go after him anyway." Shindou's fist clenched involuntarily in his pocket. "Just tell me that it wasn't you, that you aren't the one I've been chasing all this time."
Shindou gently released Touya's hand and poured them both mugs of coffee. He handed one to Touya and took a long, calming sip before he spoke.
"I've never lied to you, Touya," he said. "And I won't start now."
The mug in Touya's hands started to shake uncontrollably. Touya's eyes went wide and frantic on Shindou's face, and when Shindou leaned over to steady Touya's hands, he flinched so hard he nearly knocked coffee everywhere. Carefully, Shindou retrieved the mug and set it on the piano. Touya, trembling all over, stood up.
"Akira," Shindou said.
"You told me," Touya said in a hoarse, faint whisper. "You told me to come after you. The whole time. You knew I suspected you at the beginning, and -" he closed his eyes. "When you kissed me, the first time. What you said then..."
Shindou leaned in and cupped Touya's cheek in his hand. Touya leaned into the touch automatically, but with a shudder. 'Thy firmness makes my circle just,' Shindou whispered, kissing his forehead. 'And makes me end where I begun.'
"You always did like symbols," Touya muttered, running his hand through Shindou's hair.
"I liked more than that," Shindou said, taking Touya's mouth in his. Touya kissed back frantically, arms winding around Shindou's neck, thin body pressing against Shindou's own. Shindou closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, his watch beeped 2 am exactly.
i belong to you
"There is one thing," Shindou said to the mouthful of Touya's hair that Touya was currently offering him with his head against Shindou's shoulder. "That you don't know."
"The book, as you call it," Shindou said. "The death note? It's not the only one."
Touya straightened and looked at him levelly.
"How many are there?" he said.
"I don't know," Shindou said. "As many as there are people willing to use them, I suspect."
Touya said calmly, "As of today there will be one less."
"I'm afraid, my dear," Shindou said, "your timing is off."
"No, Hikaru," Akira said sadly, a hint of a smile playing about his pale, drawn mouth. "You never could count during yose--" and Shindou saw the glint of metal, heard as much as felt the explosion against his chest, in precisely the same moment as the gun fell to the floor, and he doubled forward against the first violent convulsions of Akira's heart.