Edit: I have fixed whatever terrible formatting this had urgh I am never posting things at 5am again.

It has been a long day at work and you decide to head home, waving to your colleagues before you leave. Shuusei calls out his goodbyes when he's done chewing his mouthful of jelly beans. He hasn't changed much in this life. Ginoza smiles and waves before going back to his conversation with his father. It's good to see that in this life, Ginoza never hated Masaoka or blamed him for anything. Yayoi has already left with Shion, and it's good to see that some things never change. Akane beams at you as you leave, saying that she hopes you have a good weekend.

In this life without Sybil, everything is different but the same. You work with the same people, do the same things every day. The one major difference is that you are free. However, there is still one thing on your mind as you pull on your outer jacket.

Makishima Shougo.

You haven't yet encountered him in this life, but you dread having to hunt him down again. You'll do anything to protect your unit from facing the same fate as before but you wonder if Makishima will even have the motivation to act as he did before since there is no more system to fight against. A soft sound distracts you from your thoughts and you turn in the direction of the sound, seeing a small child no older than five stumble towards you. He reaches out to tug at your coat as he looks up at you with amber eyes that are more familiar than they should be. You hardly register his plea for money or food as it starts to sink in that this is the encounter you have been waiting for, but hardly the one you expect. It is completely plausible, however, since the age gaps you know have changed around slightly.

The boy gives a soft, startled cry as you kneel down and pull him into a warm hug. The streets are no place for a child in winter and he looks chilled to the bone. When you ask where his parents are, he replies that he has none. This more than anything stirs up pity and if what you know applies to him, this is how he started out in his past life as well and you start to wonder if this time, instead of letting him grow up filled with hate, you can raise him differently. Soon, you are carrying the child who was once the bane of your existence bundled up in your coat back to your apartment. A smile comes unbidden to your lips as he clutches at the collar of your shirt and snuggles closer to the warmth of your chest.

It seems like you're going to spend your life preoccupied with Makishima Shougo all over again but there is a fine line between love and hate. And this time, you're on the other side of the line.

You don't really have anything that's the right size for him to wear, so you call in reinforcements. Shuusei has three younger brothers and you're pretty sure they have something that will roughly fit this child. One phone call later, Shuusei promises he'll be at your place in an hour with clothes. You look down at the child in your arms, studying his features. He's thin, with hardly any baby fat on his cheeks, and you can see sharp cheekbones and the beginnings of a well-defined sharp jaw. His eyes are now closed, but you know how they will look when he's grown up. It's the first time you've seen him with shorter hair, though. The silvery strands are just brushing his shoulders and you wonder if he will ever go back to his old hairstyle. Then you think of Ginoza and how he's still insisted on having his bangs past his chin even though Shuusei's taken playful snips at them with the office scissors and think that maybe Makishima will look exactly the same as he used to.

When you reach your apartment and set Makishima down on the couch, you are surprised when he immediately reaches out to clutch at your shirt, unwilling to let go even though he probably knows you can break his frail grip. There is a hint of fear in those wide amber eyes and you know it is probably the fear of being abandoned again, so you sit down beside him and hold him close. You tell him to call you Shinya and the first time he calls your name with wonder makes your heart bleed we you wonder when the last time he'd called someone's name was.

Your queries for a name draw a blank as he tells you he's only ever been called Makishima and has no first name. Without hesitation, you tell him that from now on, he will be Shougo. It's fitting, you think as you consider the way your first names fit. Your name means the one who watches and his means divine protection. It's as if this seals the bond between you and him as you silently promise him that you will be the one to watch over and protect him from now on.

The doorbell rings and you answer it, Shougo following you. Shuusei passes you a rather large bag, explaining it's exact contents as he kneels down to ruffle Shougo's hair. Unlike you, he has no recollection of who Makishima Shougo used to be. It seems you are the only one who remembers those days. Shuusei soon straightens and bids you goodbye, wishing you luck in raising Shougo.

The first thing you do once you unpack the clothes and pick out a set that Shougo can fit is give him a warm shower. You smile at his wide eyes as he takes his new surroundings in. He must have been extremely cute as a child and now you'll get to experience it first-hand. Once he's done eating the warm meal you served him, you notice him stifling a small yawn and you immediately scoop him up and prepare him for bed. It's been a tiring day for him and you want to make sure he's well rested. You only have one bed for now, having turned the other bedroom into a study, but you make plans to convert it back into a bedroom for Shougo. He clutches the hem of your shirt as you tuck him in and you have to reassure him that you won't leave him. You stroke his hair until he falls asleep anyway, smiling at his attempts to stay awake and make sure you keep your promise.

When you finally do get into bed an hour later, you hug him against your chest and nuzzle his hair, feeling him snuggle up to you in his sleep and you wonder if this is what it feels like to be complete.

Shougo gets used to this new way of life unexpectedly fast and you're discovering that some of his old traits haven't changed. He's young for a tea addict, but you swear he drinks at least five cups of green tea a day. He's sneakily manipulative and he soon finds out that giving you that innocent wide-eyed look will drive you to move mountains for him. He's grown confident since you took him in and it's starting to show. You know he's going to burn a hole in your pocket because of his reading habit but you couldn't care less as long as he's happy. There is another side that you've never known about, though. All Shougo really craves is affection and you readily shower him with it. Maybe it's because he never had anyone to relate to in his past life that drove him to crime and you're determined to raise him right this time around. There's no more System to dictate his every choice or to pass over him as if he didn't matter. In this life, he's getting all the acknowledgement he needs to be a healthy child. He's doing well in his classes and you couldn't be happier about his progress.

He's also met all the members of your unit and they all dote on him as well. Even Ginoza isn't complaining about being called Gino-chan, though you swear he nearly murdered you for calling him that once when you were both in high school. Shuusei feeds his sweet tooth while Akane makes sure that he doesn't go overboard. Yayoi and Shion sometimes buy him clothes and you've seen him asleep in Masaoka's lap more than once. Sometimes you think it's amusing that a unit that was once so intent on bringing Shougo to justice is now doting on him so much.

It's no surprise to you that Shougo refuses to cut his hair short, preferring the same style as he used to have. You used to worry about him being brought up for disciplinary action because of his long hair until Yayoi teaches him how to conceal the longer strands under his collar. The smile Shougo gives her is one of the widest you've ever seen on his face. You discover how adorable Shougo can be when he pouts. He's put on some weight and the baby fat on his cheeks makes him so much more adorable. Maybe it's because you've seen him at his most vulnerable this time around that makes you want to protect him with your life. Shougo has an unexpectedly soft side that he only shows to you, insisting on sleeping in your bed even though you've offered multiple times to buy him his own. You think it will change as he grows older but at twelve, he still curls up to you when he sleeps.

Puberty is kind to him, sharpening his features into what you knew they would be. You can't stop laughing when his voice breaks, though, and his pout has somewhat lost its effectiveness as every ounce of baby fat melts off his cheeks. He turns to glares instead, which do effectively silence you until he opens his mouth again. He gives up after three days.

Shougo is still as affectionate towards you as ever, sometimes clinging on to you as you try to get out of bed on weekends, whining when you drag him out of bed and push him into the shower. It's surprising how different he is from the adult you knew and you realise that over the ten years you've had him by your side, you've truly grown to love him and all his little quirks. It seems that it does make a difference that you took him in and raised him the way you did. He's still as mischievous as ever, but this time, his amber eyes don't have the same malicious light as they held in a previous lifetime and you can honestly say that he's a completely different person than before.

Shougo is still a tea addict, but he's now expanded beyond green tea to herbal teas and a whole long list that you can't remember off hand, though he won't say no to delicately brewed coffee. He inhales books and you've given up more than half your study to turn into his personal library. He's still curious about the meaning of life and the value of souls, but this time, he immerses himself in psychology books rather than turning to crime. Overall, you couldn't be more pleased with the adult he's growing into.

You also have to tell yourself every day that you can't fall in love with the person you've practically raised as your son.

Of course, Shougo makes if difficult for you. He still falls asleep on you sometimes, forcing you to carry him to bed and tuck him in. He's clingier than you ever though he could be and it's become the norm for him to silently demand to be hugged every time both of you end up on the couch together. Warm amber eyes and that small smile reserved only for you practically challenge you not to fall for him. You do.

You keep your emotions to yourself and you think you're doing a pretty good job of it as you struggle to see yourself as a loving parent and nothing more. You feel the pride of a parent swell in your chest as you watch him graduate high school and be accepted into one of the top ranking universities. He'll be leaving home soon and you can't seem to figure out that strange reluctance to let him go. The night before he leaves, everything changes. As per usual, Shougo insists on curling up to you as he sleeps, humming contentedly as you stroke through his hair. What you don't expect is what he says next.

"Shinya, I love you," comes the soft murmur.

You freeze. He's never said anything like that to you before and you meet his warm amber eyes as he explains how he's felt this way for a while and how he's waited this long to say it just in case he faces rejection so he can leave and sort out his feelings before facing you again. You just bury your nose in his hair, taking in his scent as you allow everything to click into place. The relief on Shougo's features as you tell him that his feelings are reciprocated brings a smile to your face. He smiles up at you as he hugs you tightly and nothing else matters.

It is this life that has truly tied his fate and yours together, not with the fire of hate, but with the gentle warmth of love and you couldn't have hoped for better.