A/N: In this story's world everyone has a clock that counts down to the day they meet their soulmate. It's tied to their genes so cannot be altered, and everyone has a soulmate. Everything else about the world is the same as ours. This is completely AU.

The story is written in second person, with "you" being Kanda's POV. The main characters are in their early 20s. I aged up Daisya to be in his late 20s for plot's sake.

Thank you, Vicious Ventriloquist, for beta-ing this work.

Warnings: Ho boy. Graphic violence, crass language, fairly explicit sex, death of minor characters, this fic has it all (but absolutely no rape). It's a pretty dark story, especially toward the end, so brace yourselves.

Takes place in a medium-sized town, USA, in modern times (with the addition of soulmate timers).

Una Memoria Mecánica

00. 00. 00. 00. 00. 00

You don't fucking believe in soulmates.

-03. 08. 23. 04. 18. 53

You stare at the contraption on the table and think: what a crock of shit.

You've had the stupid thing since you were born. Your father kept it in a box in your late mother's room until your sixteenth birthday, because he thought it would be "improper" to bestow on you such an object before the age of consent. You asked him immediately what would happen if the timer had run out before then and he said, with a distinct sniffle, "Well, Yu dear, it hasn't, has it?"

It's been ten years since then and the timer has now gone down accordingly and you find yourself getting more pissed about it every day. Everyone has one, even orphaned kids without birth certificates. You've been to the Institute like every other child during grade school trips and you've seen the whole process. The needles they used to take DNA samples did not faze the seven-year-old you one bit, unlike all the wimps in your class. Also unlike those wimps, you didn't believe it works. Not even when you were in your most gullible years.

"You mean to tell me some ugly clock shows how long I have 'til I meet the person I love?" you asked in a snooty voice.

The girl who was explaining tried harder to convince you but you just shrugged her off as soft-headed and starry-eyed as the rest of them. Just to be mean you asked her "what if it's wrong?" and she looked momentarily horrified before stating vehemently: "It's never wrong. All throughout history there's never been a wrong case."

"What if you hate that person then?"

"That's impossible. They're your soulmate. You will always love them. Always!"

"What if they die before you meet?"

"You'll know." She finally seemed to be tired of you. "It'll stop counting down. Sometimes that happens. Those poor people - never knowing real love. Why, I would rather die instead."

-03. 08. 23. 04. 13. 14

You're staring at the contraption today of all days because you just punched someone in the face a few hours ago and this stupid blue clock is the reason why.

Well, not exactly. You dating a lying piece of shit is the reason why, but without the whole soulmate thing you'd never have gone out with that piece of shit in the first place. Your knuckles still hurt from being busted open on his no-longer-perfect teeth, and you still can't believe you've fallen for such a stupid gimmick, especially since your older brother had warned you about shit like this before.

"Careful out there, Yu," Daisya had said when you were leaving for college. "Girls – and boys – will try a lot to get in your pants. And you ain't got your big bro to help you out no more."

"What the fuck are you talking about? Since when did I ever need your help?"

Daisya had laughed and ruffled your hair, and you had let him because he was staying to take over your father's shop while you were on your way to higher education a thousand miles away. He told you about people who'd fiddle with their clocks so it counts down faster, or slower, or reach zero, because they want to pretend to be someone else's soulmate. When you asked him why would anyone ever do such a self-delusional thing he answered, much like your father, "Well, lil bro, some people's timers say fifty years and they get real lonely. Some people give up and settle. And some people are just plain assholes."

You put your hand (the uninjured one) to your face. Congratulations, Kanda Yu, you have just wasted three months on an asshole who was only interested in your mouth and your cock and you, you dumb fuck, willingly gave it to him because you let a piece of machinery falsely convince you that you were with someone who gave a fuck about you, because you're his fucking soulmate and not just a pretty thing to play with. And you were just starting to think that maybe those white numbers can mean something after all, and even took the stupid shit out to look at it again.

Well, so much for that. You shake your head and shove the clock back down into the depth of your closet. Tomorrow you have a shift at the soba shop and you're pretty damn sure the rumors are already spreading. That white-haired pipsqueak is going to have a fucking field day. You sigh. Fuck this shit. You don't fucking believe in soulmates, so why the fuck would this make you unhappy?

-03. 08. 08. 06. 42. 36

Your co-workers at the soba shop stopped pestering you after the first few days, although the white-haired shrimp had the gall to say to you "at least you know he's not your soulmate from the start, right?" You responded by smacking his head with a hand towel and saying "yeah unlike some people" and he predictably yelled back at you for being a dick. You did feel kind of bad for saying it, because he had lost his clock to a fire when he was little and bouncing between foster homes. Unfortunately his foster parents were like your father and thought it was "improper" to show him the clock before he was of age so he has no idea how much time is left. You asked him why doesn't he just go to the Institute and get a replacement and he said, in all seriousness, that he actually prefer it this way.

"I think it makes life better," he explained. "More adventurous, you know? We don't want to know when we're going to die. How is this any different?"

You called him an idiot then and that sort of cemented the kind of relationship you two ended up having. It's not a bad one, although no amount of torture can make you admit that out loud. You work well with each other and occasionally you go out for drinks together. Sometimes you even talk about things, like what it felt like when his clock was destroyed.

He paused wolfing down chili fries and stared thoughtfully for a moment before answering. "It's like a part of you just…up and combusted. It's quick and not really painful but you feel like you got hollowed out, like a chunk of your heart broke off. I don't remember much from when I was a kid but that, that part I'll never forget."

You changed the subject quickly afterwards because his expression made you uncomfortable. Much like how you structure your life you prefer everything simple and straightforward. It's why you hate nebulous concepts like soulmates, or destiny, or a slew of other things that you've learned at university but found little practical application for in the real world. It's why you're in a soba shop instead of academia, and you're only living one day at a time, for now.

-03. 02. 29. 02. 01. 48

In addition to your soba job near where you live you also teach kendo in a dojo across town. The rent's reasonable and you get enough students to fill classes three times a week. The kids are a rabble but since you're tough but fair they respect you greatly. There are four shinais and an ebony bokken that you imported from overseas stacked against the corner of your bed. You practice suburi in your spare living room almost every morning before sunrise.

You go on more dates and sleep with more people, even a girl once, but don't call anyone a second time. Your coworkers resume their teasing of you breaking hearts left and right with your pretty face and you just scoff. What do they know? Most of them are holding themselves back to wait for "the one". Plus, all of your dates know they're not your soulmate up front so you doubt you left any dents in their hearts. Meanwhile your life is simple and routine, and you like that, very much.

You get a call from your brother, who tells you his timer is up and he has met her. You perfunctorily ask him details and he launches into a thirty-minute recount of how he started with sourcing some parts for the shop but ended up with coffee spilled all over his overalls by a new barista in the café on 3rd street. You jab at him for finally finding someone clumsier than he is but you are secretly happy for him. He tells you they're thinking of taking it slow and you agree – there're no rules saying your soulmate can't be some psycho or that you're compatible living together, just because you're supposedly in love.

Before he hangs up Daisya tells you to be careful. "Just heard some shit's going down where you are. Pops wants you to move back home but I talked him out of it. Don't make me waste my spit." You laugh and tell him that if anyone's trying to rob a man with a bokken who's also broke as fuck, then they are stupider than a bag of bricks. Your brother ends with a "just sayin', lil bro" before you cut him off.

-03. 02. 14. 20. 31. 17

You start to think that Daisya is some sort of bad luck prophet because your apartment gets broken into one night while you were at work. You close up the soba shop and come home to an open front door and a ransacked living room. There are broken pieces of glass under the window and your TV's gone. Fortunately the thieves were idiots and never thought of checking the bedside drawers and missed the box of emergency funds. They also left all of your expensive kendo gear alone, but you still curse up a storm as you jab at your phone to dial 911.

You are still cursing when the beat cops show up and start with the yellow tapes. They lecture you about not touching a crime scene and you barely restrain from cursing them out, too, because goddamn it it's not like you invited all this shit. There's a commotion while they're dusting for fingerprints and one of the cops is replaced by two plainclothes detectives. Or so they say, since to you they look like movie stars play-acting because you've never seen less detective-like detectives in your life. The woman looks like a model with mile-high legs clad in a dark pantsuit. The man has hair so brightly red you're sure he won't ever be assigned undercover anything because no one'll be able to forget seeing that shade for a while, if ever.

They ask you the same questions the beat cops asked and confirm the existence of a group of unsavory individuals recently operating in your area. The man gives you his card and says to call if you remember more and you sloppily write down his badge number. It isn't until the fuzz clears out that you bother to look at the fine print. Lavi Bookman, Jr. - Detective. You roll your eyes at the moronic name and flip the card over, then discover something handwritten on the back in blue ink.

Say, the scrawl reads, are you single?

-02. 07. 27. 01. 19. 04

The detectives show up at your dojo a few times to take additional statements. You answers are cold and curt and you make sure to wholeheartedly ignore the man and only look at the female model. Your father calls you every day for a month before you finally manage to convince him that yes, you are perfectly alright, no, you probably won't get your stuff back, and Christ, can he please stop freaking out every time he calls because you don't answer for a few hours between your two jobs and all the shit involved post a fucking burglary.

You are wrapping up class for the day when the male detective waltzes through the dojo door, alone. You suppress an annoyed groan and hope this'll be quick because the kids were being difficult and you really have no energy left to deal with him. He patiently waits until the dojo empties out before approaching you. You don't bother changing out of your gi or put down the shinai in your hand. He smiles.

"Got some good news," he says. "We caught the perps who did it. But unfortunately we recovered very little missing items so, sorry, but we couldn't get your properties back."

It's what you expected so you shrug. However, you are a little surprised that the case is already solved, since you know investigations like this tend to go on for years. You express the sentiment and his grin grows wider. "Well," he explains. "We've already been on their tail for a while. Yours just happened to be one of the last places they struck. Paperwork's still a mile long but I managed to rush it through."

"Why?" You narrow your eyes.

He looks sideways for a moment before meeting your gaze. "So, you got any plans tomorrow? Want to go out to dinner with me?"

You stand there flabbergasted for a good minute before recovering from the shock and spit out, "Isn't this fucking unethical?"

"Perhaps," he shrugs. "If you are still the victim in my case. But this case is closed as of yesterday – report came through this morning. So now it's just me, a lowly salaried detective, asking you, a kendo instructor, out on a date, which, last I checked, is perfectly legal."

"You're not my soulmate," you decide to be brisk.

"Wonderful! You're not mine, either. Come on," he held out a hand, "it's just dinner. I promise I'll back off if you think it's a mistake."

You slowly give him a once over as he stand there like a puppy waiting for a treat. Perhaps it's the mischievous glint in his green eyes that finally convinces you, but you nod, once, and watch the smile light up the rest of his face.

-02. 07. 26. 06. 01. 35

He takes you to a donut shop, of all places. You despise sweets – sticky sugary ones especially, so you don't eat anything but watch him wolf down crispy crème and coffee like it's his job. Also like his job, people keep on dropping by to chat since it's a local cop hangout well within his precinct. You're not too annoyed; obviously you two look like buddies just chilling because who the hell takes a first date to a fucking donut shop for dinner? You are not comfortable, however, with the sheer number of people he jovially talks to, mostly because it's been forever since you've gone out with a blatant extrovert and you're just not used to casual conversations anymore.

He finishes his last donut and licks sprinkles off his fingers. You do not miss the innuendo but you're a bit too hungry to appreciate it. He grins unabashedly at your deliberate avoidance and asks where you want to go for dinner. You give him a sideways glance and say, "Isn't this it?"

"What, this? Of course not! Well, I guess it can be but I was just hungry so I figure I'd drop by for a snack. I mean you didn't even eat anything."

You almost make a comment comparing him to the bottomless pit that is the albino shrimp but you hold your tongue. No need to offer extraneous information to someone you will not see again after tonight. In fact, you're contemplating just ditching him right then and even start to look for opportunities to do so. Unfortunately he takes your silence as assent and heads for the door, dragging you up by your wrists. You sigh inwardly but follow, because, really, how much worse can it get?

-02. 07. 26. 04. 29. 07

It gets worse, so much worse. You are actually having trouble believing just how in the hell it got to this – this being you sitting on the counter at the soba shop where you currently work with him chatting up the waitress about the menu. The cook is trying hard not to snicker while he steals glances at you, and you've never been closer to thanking a rogue deity that a certain shrimp's on vacation until Monday.

As soon as the waitress leaves with your orders you turn toward him and blurt out: "Are you a fucking idiot?"

"Huh?" he looks innocently at you. "I heard this place's got the most legit soba in town. Always wanted to try it, you know? What, you got something against buckwheat noodles?"

And that's when you realize he's absolutely messing with you because he couldn't keep a straight face through the end of that exchange. Fuck this, you decide, and push away from the counter. This has been a terrible mistake and it's time for you to cut your losses. But before you can leave your seat he stops you. His hands are on top of yours and his expression purged of all teasing.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't've said – please don't go. Or if you want to go somewhere else, we totally can. I just thought this'd be more comfortable for you since you'd know everyone. Clearly I was wrong."

His sincerity catches you off-guard because even when he was doing cop duty he looked like he'd burst into laughter any second. You hesitate for a moment before dropping back down onto the stool. He looks relieved but doesn't push further, and you give him a skeptical look but say, "Alright."

His maddening smile returns but is much more subdued. Without missing a beat he starts to talk about everything and everyone around you. He talks about Rohfa the waitress and tells you that she's had an awkward but adorable crush on you for months. He talks about the cook Jerry and the way he favors his shoulder is probably from a war injury; the dog tags he wears on his neck confirms it. He talk about the malnourished couple directly behind him and their equally malnourished baby, and the way she cries is the reason why the mother has that desperate and guilty look on her face. There's also a family of seven over by the window that he tells you to watch out for, because their teenage daughter has been eyeing the tip jar and a lady's purse the next table over for the past twenty minutes.

Your food arrives and you sit stunned as he finally stops rambling to open up his chopsticks. You're once again flabbergasted by this Lavi Bookman Jr., this time not out of horror but in awe. He looks at you from over the rim of his teacup, an almost shy smile on his face. You open your mouth to ask how in the seventh hell he knew all this but his phone goes off. The way he's turning himself to block the conversation informs you it's a work summon. When it's finished he turns back to look apologetically at you and says, "So sorry but I gotta bounce. But, um, can I give you a call later? I would really like to see you again."

You know you're going to regret your answer, but you nod anyway.

-02. 04. 18. 00. 05. 24

The next time you go out is three months later. He got wrapped up in a big case and you started teaching five days out of the week instead of three. Your car's in the shop when he calls so he volunteers to play chauffer. When he shows up at your door he's in a suit with an outrageous tie. You tell him you're beyond appalled by both the eye-searing neon and his neglect to tell you that the place has a dress code. He laughs and says cheekily that with a face like yours you can wear head-to-toe flannel and they'll let you in. You roll your eyes at his flattery and tell him to wait so you can at least change out of your jeans. He does.

The restaurant is a small hole-in-the-wall fusion place with simple but elegant dishes served tapas style. In between the plates he tries to make conversation and the subject of soulmates comes up. You tell him you haven't met yours yet and you don't care. He smiles, and you ask if he is the same.

"I've already met mine," he shrugs. "And I have no idea who it is, because I was like five when it happened. Apparently it was on a playground. My grandpa can probably tell you better than I."

You are skeptical, because the literature and various anecdotal evidences all point to that one does not simply "forget" when one meets their soulmate, no matter how young. You say so and he laughs, obviously expecting the scrutiny. "I'm a cop; trust me on this."

"What does that have to do with anything?" you ask.

"Because I couldn't enroll in the Academy unless I've already met my soulmate. Makes sense, right? What if my soulmate turns out to be the mass murderer we're pursuing? Or is assaulted viciously and I happen to be the officer on scene? Too many lives at stake, you know. So they always thoroughly run a background check, give a lie detector test, and vet my clock. It's public record."

"Oh." You mumble, feeling sheepish. He deftly changes the subject and asks you if you want to go for a drink after, which you decline. "Alright, I'll get you home then." He says, picking up the check. You start to object but he just winks and throws a "you can get it next time" and leaves it at that.

-02. 04. 17. 21. 55. 06

He drives you back to your apartment but you don't invite him up. Not because you didn't want to fuck but his stupid antic with the bill pissed you off. You hate owing people things, especially money, so you pointedly ignore him as you get out the car and stomp away.

He follows you like a shadow to the front door. You spin around, annoyed. "Come on, Yu," he says, a little exasperated, "At least let me kiss you good night."

"Don't call me that," you scoff. But you suppose he deserves a little break – the date wasn't that terrible and implications aside, he did pay. So you let him lean close, his fingers sliding alongside your jaw to tilt your chin up. His eyes are uncharacteristically nervous, and you suddenly wonder if under all that smooth façade he's actually as virgin as they come.

He kisses you and you discover that Lavi Bookman Jr. kisses very, very well. So well that you can't help but open yourself up to his lips and tongue. A pleased noise escapes your throat and your cock jumps to life. When he pulls away you instinctively follow his body, and only manage to catch yourself when you almost stumble off the front step.

His grin is so wide it's criminal. "Well, good night then," he nods to you, and turns to leave. He has barely moved before you grab his arm to stop him. You feel a little disgusted with yourself – you are a man of principle, after all. But you are aroused and he's giving you that impish look and well, sometimes an impulsive decision can be a good thing.

You end up having filthy, magnificent sex on your living room couch. His mouth is trailing the crook of your neck while your legs are slung over his shoulders, tensing with every thrust. He is buried deep inside you and hitting your spot as you moan, loud and reckless, with your head thrown back against the sofa cushions. You come on his chest in an explosive smear and he pants like a dog as he pulls out of you, condom discarded, and spurts onto the back of your thighs. It takes both of you a while to calm back down. When you do his grin is crooked and yours is a pained reminder that you've just royally messed up your brand new couch, but you just can't find it within yourself to care.

In the morning he leaves with a hasty good-bye because his phone goes off again. You think about his lips as you jerk yourself off in the shower. When you finish you are horrified that you are fantasizing about someone after one measly fuck, and you punish yourself by practicing an extra hour of suburi and furiously scrubbing the stains on your couch. Later you dig your clock out from the closet to make sure it's still counting – it is. You feel utterly stupid for thinking it could be malfunctioning and then even stupider that two dates are apparently enough to make you doubt the integrity of your soulmate timer, for fuck's sake. You put the clock away along with your phone just so you can comfortably ignore any text for the entire day, because you don't trust yourself not to answer them, or, even worse, send them yourself.

-01. 07. 01. 17. 22. 54

You go on a third and a fourth and many more dates in the months to follow. He and his partner (a brilliant young woman with a god-awkward name of Lenalee Li) have been working nonstop on a serial rape case and you are busy with a growing kendo clientele, so your dates are more akin to quick midday coffee breaks. When you do end up in each other's apartments you spend most of it fucking like rabbits. You find the perfect angle for his prostate after numerous tries, and the noise he makes when he succumbs to you is mind-blowingly intoxicating.

You finally decide to quit the soba shop job after you got enough students to teach six days out of seven with extra lessons on weekends. His case winds down in the positive and he calls you to go out and celebrate. You arrive at the police department party to a piss-drunk redhead flirting with everything and feel a vein pop in your temple. Fortunately his stone-sober partner is swapping beer out of his hands with water so quickly you miss most of the exchange. "Get him out of here," she instructs as she shoves him into your arms. "If he does any more celebrating we're going to have to lock him up for reckless endangerment." You hold back a smirk and think: she's alright.

You laugh at his colossal hangover the next day and he bemoans your cold, cruel heart. He is chugging cold coffee when you absentmindedly bitch about how much closer his place is to your work than yours. You hear him put the cup down, then walk into the bedroom and return with a small white envelope. He hands it to you and you frown as you open it. It's a set of spare keys.

You freeze. He ignores it and leans over to kiss your cheek. "I know I should've said something first but now seems like a good time. I mean I'm hardly here and you could use the convenience. You don't have to take it if you don't want to, though."

It's then you realize that you have been with him for almost a year when you've never called someone back after a week. You have no idea what the appropriate amount of time is for something like this but the keys sit warm in your hands all the same. You wait for a beat before slipping them into your pocket. He smiles at you, and you feel the warmth spread to the depth of your heart and think, maybe, that everything really is that simple.

-01. 01. 21. 04. 51. 43

You discover he's fiercely loyal to his friends when you have your first real fight over, ironically, soulmate clocks. It starts with his own – a garishly orange object with apple green numbers that sits like a target next to his gun safe. You acerbically ask if his parents had known he's a fruit from birth and he laughs and says "Don't judge a person by his clock, Yu." You then comment offhandedly if his partner's is a similar hue and he grows suspiciously quiet.

"I wouldn't know," he replies, and leaves it so. It's so off-color for him that you immediately begin to press. "Drop it," he reiterates, giving you a hard look. You comply but not before making a mental note to pry later. You're usually not this nosy but there's an acidic churn in your stomach. You make a point not to dwell on it, though, especially since you know perfectly well why.

You're not known for your subtlety, so the next time his partner drops by you ask her if it's true that all of police have met their soulmates. He picks up on what you're trying to do right away and kicks you under the table, which you ignore. She nods politely and you segue into asking who hers is. You watch her smile falter and know at once you've seriously fucked up.

"Excuse me," she stands, "but I think I should be going."

Lavi walks her to the door and when he comes back his face is furious. "What the hell's the matter with you?" he accuses, and you feel whatever guilt you may have had promptly vanish. You spit out that you didn't know he cared so much, His eyes are cold against yours when he tells you flatly, "She's my partner."

"Oh," you drawl. "Is that all she is?"

For someone with constant verbal diarrhea Lavi is extremely terse when he's angry. "Get out," he says, and walks away from you. The bedroom door slams shut and you stand up stiffly. Whatever, you think, picking up your jacket from a chair. He'll get over it, and it's not like you won't survive without his company.

-01. 00. 24. 10. 17. 39

You've never been more wrong in your life. You were expecting him to at least text you but three weeks pass and not a single pixel show up on your phone. He hasn't asked you for his keys back, which is somewhat telling, but it leaves you in limbo and you hate that feeling even more. Fine! you seethe. You're just as stubborn and the sky will fall before you make the first move to reconcile because it's all his fault anyway.

You hold out another week before considering possibly taking back a step. Maybe you'll just text a line to make sure he's not dead, you think, as you resolutely ignore the hollow feeling that's growing inside your heart. Before you can find the perfect time, however, your brother calls. You haven't talked for a while so you answer, hoping you can keep it short because your mind is currently occupied with only one thing.

He picks up on your distraction instantly and asks what's wrong. You know you can't hide it so you downplay it in the driest way possible. When you're finished he's silent for so long you thought the call's been dropped, until you hear the telltale intake of breath and know something awful is going to come out of the speaker.

"Holy shit, lil bro!" Daisya sputters. "I don't believe it. Twenty odd years and I never thought I'd see the day you'd feel guilty over an argument. And you're even thinking of apologizing? Who the hell is this guy and why did you hide him for this long?"

"I didn't hide him," you retort icily. "And I certainly didn't say anything about apologizing."

"Yeah, like you have to say it. I'm your big brother, kiddo, I know how you think. Look, soulmate or not I want to meet him. I'm sure pops does too. Bring him over next time, that is, if you don't do something stupid like let him go, you numbskull, 'cause this mess is straight up your fault and he has every right to be pissed at you."

You spend the rest of the conversation trading juvenile insults like brothers usually do. The thought of bring Lavi to see your family make you shiver in revulsion. But you miss him – quite terribly, in fact – and it is the one thing you realize you can't deny anymore, no matter how hard you try.

-01. 00. 20. 15. 02. 15

You cancel your classes on Sunday and ring the bell of his apartment. The floor of your room has been worn down from you pacing and extra kata practices, and there are only so many hours you can make yourself meditate a day. You hate where you've left your dignity, but you never thought complete radio silence from a single person would be enough to wear you, Kanda fucking Yu, down to a transparent shell. But, alas, here you are.

He opens the door in nothing but a pair of running shorts and a towel slung over his bare, sweet, glistening shoulders. His grin is smug and you contemplate briefly of throwing the jangling keys in your pocket at his face. You want to strangle him. You also want to knock him to the floor and kiss him until he melts underneath you and whispers your name.

"I –" you start, choking on words you've never uttered out loud in your life. "I'm, I –"

"Yes?" he prods you. You want to die.

"I shouldn't have said what I did. I'm sorry."

"There – was that so hard?" his laughter is soft and inviting, and you miss it more than you can say. "Wow, I'm impressed, Yu. Only took you 32 days. You know, any normal person would've scratched us off long before now. To be honest, I really thought that you came here to return my keys. But I'm glad you aren't."

He steps away from the door and you follow him in. You wanted to ask him why did he wait but he drops onto the sofa and looks at you coyly from under his eyelashes, and you forget how to think. You walk between his open legs, cock already hard and aching to touch, and get on your knees.

Later when you're both satisfied he chides you for being such an obtuse dick. "You owe Lenalee a much bigger apology. She's a damn saint and already forgave you because she didn't want us to fight, but I still think you need to call her."

"Once is enough," you quip, earning a solid smack in the leg. It stings but you move closer to him, resting your head on his stomach. His hands are stroking your hair. You close your eyes, drawn in by the gentle pressure of his fingers and the steady thuds of his heart, and almost forget that you are not soulmates.

-00. 09. 14. 13. 48. 21

You avoid your family's calls like they're telemarketers on steroids. It helps that you're now mostly sleeping at Lavi's place, so if they ever decide to drop by unannounced you can almost guarantee you won't be home. You leave your kendo gear in the car except for the bokken that you practice with. Lavi jokes about how jealous he is of the black wooden blade ("You named it for crying out loud!"), and you ignore him and make sure to place Mugen firmly in front of his clock, as if blocking the hideous thing from your vision is enough to eliminate it from this universe.

He doesn't ask about your timer and you don't offer any details. By now you're almost 100% convinced that the system exists just to screw people over, especially after you find out the truth about Lavi's partner. You didn't ask her, of course; it's the pure hand of fate that placed the two of you at the cemetery on the same day – the day of your mother's passing.

You bring a single lotus flower to her grave every year on her birthday. It was her favorite flower and fuck as all hard to get, but you remember its fresh scent permeating the house in your childhood. Your father had filled the funeral with the plants and because of them you kept your dignity and didn't shed a single tear. You make it a point to visit as soon as the cemetery opens since the lotus blooms early in the morning. So it is quite a surprise to see a formally dressed Miss Li sitting on a stone bench, crying her pretty eyes out, on the path to the graves.

You almost decide to continue on your way, but she looks up and the grief in her huge brown eyes stops you. You awkwardly stand next to her as she wipes at her tears. "I'm sorry," she says between sniffles. "Are you here to see family, too?"

You tell her it's your mother and she nods, says she's there for her older brother. You don't say anything else and she cries a bit more. When the tears finally stop she says "thank you" and hugs you before slowly walks away. You hurriedly go the opposite direction. You don't want to have a run-in with your family later and really, you feel like you can't get away quickly enough.

Later you tell Lavi what happened and he looks up from the pasta he's cooking and sighs. "What?" you frown. He then puts the spatula aside and turns to you, a resigned look in his eyes.

"Her older brother was her soulmate. She was his, too. They tried to keep it hidden but people found out and it spread, like these things do. He ended up killing himself to protect her. It's why she wants to be a cop – so if anyone else suffers this tragedy she can get to them and help. He would've been 35 today." His expression grows stern. "And that was why I got so angry when you pried."

You are rendered speechless from horror. He turns away to resume cooking dinner and you let the disgust sweep through you. Your thoughts are scattered and you realize, very belatedly, how much of an ass you really were.

-00. 08. 21. 23. 07. 09

For your birthday he buys a pair of pink fuzzy handcuffs with a one-click release. He also digs out his old beat uniform and squeezes his ass into the ugly blue spandex. You roll your eyes at his failed attempt at stereotyping, but your hands are twitching on the sheets and your gaze never leaves the curved silhouette of his back. He sees the way you are practically vibrating and for once, skips whatever idiotic dialogue he planned and comes directly to you. You pull him forward by his belt and slide your middle finger against the crack of his fine, muscular ass, torn between ripping off the uniform or not because it's turning you on like nothing else.

You try the handcuffs and decide you don't like them, so you throw them aside and he simply holds your wrists down instead. Your legs are splayed on the floorboard as he put his whole weight on you, and you writhe beneath him and come harder than you ever thought possible. Afterwards he kisses you and jokingly laments about the wasted money. You ask him why he didn't just use his real handcuffs, to which he answers, "Yu, you know they can actually hurt, right? Plus, I don't want that part of my job to be any part of this." You accept his answer but you eye the fuzzy thing by the corner and think, it's not all a waste.

For his birthday you cuff him to a kitchen chair and squirm on his lap like a two-bit whore. His eyes are glazed as you pull his head back by a fistful of hair, throat exposed in a straight white line as he grunts against your teeth. You then cock-tease him for a solid hour until he's a quivering mess just begging, begging, for release. When he gets it he's on all fours on the bed, with you ramming into him hard enough that he has little choice but to scream out your name.

The next day you wake up, languid and content, next to him reading the news on his phone. His brows are furrowed in concentration and his lips are slightly parted, tongue caught between the glimpse of teeth. You quietly observe him in the stillness of morning and the decision simply materializes in your head.

You make a noise so he notices. "Morning," he says as he puts down the phone, his smile warm and affectionate. "What's up?"

"My brother called," you say. "A while ago, actually. I have something to ask you."

-00. 03. 30. 04. 30. 30

It's during that hated traditional holiday that you finally bring him home to see your father. When you arrive you spot your sister-in-law, now pregnant with their second child, on the front porch with Daisya's one-year-old. She stands up with a welcoming smile when she sees you approach. The child turns in her arms, takes one confused look, and squeals out a high-pitched "Yoeeee!"

"Look who's finally here," Miranda says in a sing-song voice. The toddler makes a grab for your nose with his tiny hands and you feel the corner of your mouth lift involuntarily. Lavi's behind you laughing at the butchered childish whine of you name and you shoot him a dirty look. He introduces himself to them sans your input, which you're more than fine with, and gets a shrieking earful of "Aiii?" in return.

When your father comes out of the house he immediately breaks into tears. You facepalm as he wraps you in a hug tight enough to hurt, then gushes over the new addition like an old granny. The child takes the opportunity to grip a handful of Lavi's hair, distracted by its brightness. As Miranda gingerly tries to unfurl the tiny fists while apologizing profusely you twist yourself out of the mess and make a beeline for the house.

You find Daisya out in the garage, slicing up pork next to the ancient smoker. He grins when he sees you. "Oi, lil bro, escaping already? You didn't leave your dude to fend off pops and D junior all by himself, did you?"

"He'll live," you answer. He shakes his head then hands you the meat carver. You can hear the commotion making their way inside and cringe. Daisya cackles at you, so you flip him off as best as you can while holding a sharp instrument with fingers slippery with grease. You also ignore his prodding questions and hope that Lavi'll talk enough for the both of you during dinner.

You are right in your prediction. Although dinner is livelier than it has ever been you barely have to say a full sentence throughout. Lavi's effortlessly keeping the conversation off you, and for the first time in a while you actually pay attention to Daisya's exceptional cooking. When your father starts to ramble on about the convoluted family history you feel Lavi's hand discreetly brush against your leg. You blush hard enough that your brother catches on and begins to smirk at you over the plate of mashed potatoes. Luckily Lavi segue into talking about soccer and instantly grabs Daisya's attention. You breathe a small sigh of relief and, just as discreetly, return the favor.

The evening carries on without more incidents. You're spending the night but Lavi has to go back for a stakeout shift. He says a round of jovial goodbyes to your family, causing your father to burst into tears again. Miranda has to put the kid to bed, and you use that time to finally drag him out the front door.

He kisses you chastely on the lips before he leaves. "I'll see you in a few days, yeah?" he says. "Tell your folks thanks again for me. The food was awesome and it was just lovely to meet them." You nod as he salutes goodbye, and watch him get in his car parked down the driveway.

You turn around to a grinning Daisya leaning against the doorframe. You can practically feel the teasing coming so you preemptively adopt a sour expression. To your surprise your brother just tsks and shakes his head, much like he did back in the garage.

"Lil' bro," he says. "When that ticker of yours ends, man, you're gonna have a helluva decision to make."

-00. 00. 29. 08. 49. 53

You go back to your routine of class, practice, and completely ignoring your family's calls. You avoid your apartment entirely because of the claustrophobic feel you get every time you go near it, like your ribcage is collapsing onto the chambers of your heart. You've already made an adamant point to not look at your clock but you can't stop the cold sweat that breaks out every time you think about the white numbers. It makes you extra cranky, so much so that Lavi has stopped questioning your one-word responses and is letting you sulk in peace.

You feel bad for shutting him out but you are in no way ready to talk about it. Luckily he is wrapped up in another case and is almost never home. It doesn't make his place less stifling, however – the apartment isn't that small but his books and random knickknacks are strewn everywhere, and the ceiling is abysmally low. You tried to properly do a suburi one day and nearly took out the overhead light. It makes you surlier. You know you're being a pest but you need something, anything, to keep your mind off what is actually plaguing you.

One evening he's home for dinner and you start off on your rant again. He puts down his fork mid-bite and gives you a look. "What?" you growl. His face is irritating you and you can practically hear yourself grinding your teeth.

"So, you want to get a bigger place then?"


"Well, I mean, you're right." he gestures around him. "It's barely big enough for my stuff alone. We can easily find a better place elsewhere. My lease is up in a few weeks. When does yours end?"

You still haven't wrapped your head around the first thing he's asked. "You mean, together."

He blinks, then bursts into laughter. "Of course I mean together. I may love you but I'm certainly not footing your bills. Plus, with our combined pay we can get something real nice, you know?"

"You…what did you just say?"

He looks at you with a telltale glint in his eyes, but doesn't reply and instead resumes eating. You feel your face heat up and avoid his gaze the rest of the evening. That night you keep yourself on your side of his bed, and it isn't until late the next day you text his phone, and say, okay.

-00. 00. 02. 03. 22. 07

He finds the perfect two bedroom a few miles from where he works and texts you the address. You take one look at the rooftop garden and are sold on the spot. The move, however, is another matter. Lenalee lends you her van and the haul from Lavi's apartment is quick and painless. Not so much for the haul from yours.

You refuse to go into your bedroom even though you've already sold your bed and only the dresser and stuff in the closet needs packing. Unfortunately the dresser is a two-man job and Lavi's almost tearing his hair out trying to convince you to help. Just being this close to that cursed object is enough to make you want to curl into a fetal position on the floor. You know it's coming. Maybe in a few days, or even tomorrow. You can practically feel the tick tick tick of the digits and the dark blue sheen of that damn clock swarms your vision. You try hard not to hurl.

He finally gives up after half an hour more of cajoling. "Alright, alright! I guess I'll ask Johnny or someone else tomorrow. At least help me get this stuff over tonight, yeah? I got a department meeting in the morning."

You have never been gladder to get away from a room. You load the last bit of your things into the van and he gets behind the wheel. The further you drive the calmer you feel, and two thirds of the way there you can marginally move without feeling the tightness in your chest. He steals glances at you every few minutes but doesn't ask questions. You suspect he knows why, but you're in no shape to care.

When you arrive he parks the van by the curb and goes to get the boxes from the back. You're not sure if he's angry or just trying to give you space, but either way he leaves you well alone. Your stomach is still knotting itself to shreds but you force yourself out of the car and grab your bokken from the backseat. You feel slightly silly since you're with a cop with a loaded gun but an instinctual part of you is screaming. Predictably he chuckles when he sees what you're doing and says "Come on, Yu, I'm sure my bullet'll beat your stick to the bad guys" and you just huff in reply.

The street is quiet as the two of you walk toward the new apartment complex. There are few pedestrians about, and the street lamps shine faintly under the twilight. Your bokken rolls a bit on top of the boxes in your arms. You see a group of four men walking toward you, and you chalk them up to bored students taking an evening stroll until you notice that Lavi has stopped moving. His body is rigid and there's a guarded look in his eyes, and you realize something's off before the figures fan around you. The evening shadows hide their features, and you get yourself into a fighting stance just before the first punch is thrown your way.

-00. 00. 00. 00. 03. 41

You drop the boxes you were holding and roll to the ground. Lavi is backing up and reaching for his gun, but three figures swarm him and you lose them within the shadows of the streetlamps. The remaining figure swings at you again and his knuckles connect with the underside of your jaw. You hear a crack and brace yourself for pain, but the surge of adrenaline dulls it and you are nimble enough to dodge his next blow. You then twist around, bring your knee up to his stomach and watch a spittle of vomit projects out of his mouth. A follow-up punch on his head and the assailant falls like bag of stones. He stops moving thereafter.

You realize you can't see Lavi at all and the distinct lack of gunfire draws a cold pit in your stomach. Your hand's now busted open but you don't feel it as you bend down to pick up your bokken. There are flashing glint of metal in the dark so you know they come armed. You also see the lack of obvious disguise and the twitchiness usually associated with spontaneous muggings, and know that this is clearly something else.

With Mugen in hand you approach the group, falling into an almost trance. One of the figures move back to intercept you and you swing the bokken with an effortless grace. The crisp sound when it breaks the man's knees doesn't register in your head, neither does his scream when you slug him across the stomach. You then see Lavi throwing an attacker off him, while the last man dive to the side, reaching for something a few feet away. It's the gun, you realize, and quickly change course. The man spins around, fingers fumbling for the safety and you swing the bokken just in time to hit his unprotected wrist.

And a sharp ache floods your body, nearly incapacitates you as you get roughly yanked out of your trance. You stagger back a step as your head swells in inexplicable pain – so much that you first thought you've been shot, but the lack of gunfire dispels that theory. The man on the ground looks equally dazed. He stares doggedly at you, the gun forgotten at his feet. You manage to get yourself under control enough to kick it away, and watch it spins beneath the parked van.

You look at the man on the ground and see a surprisingly young face under a messy tousle of dark hair. There's a deep scar across his nose and a bruise is forming around his mouth corner. There's also something eerily familiar about him that you can't pinpoint, like you have met many times in passing but you know you've never seen him before in your life. You feel a thirst rising deep within you and you begin to panic – really panic – as the gnawing sensation quickly envelopes your racing mind.

And then your eyes meet under the fading twilight, locking onto each other like magnets, and everything just stops in limbo, and it all begins to make sense.

00. 00. 00. 00. 00. 00

You don't fucking believe in soulmates.

Except you absolutely, completely, wholeheartedly fucking believe in soulmates. Everything they have ever told you is true. It's like a missing part of your heart has finally been found, and the completion you feel surpasses every orgasmic high you've ever had. The seconds stretch into hours as elation burst from every cell in your body. You're hovering on the verge of tears and yet you are so fucking happy. Content. Fulfilled. You feel nothing like yourself but you cannot be any more true to yourself, because now you know, you know, that you are finally whole.

You know this exact phenomenon is happening to your soulmate. You can see it in the jubilation in his bright eyes. There's no telepathic link but you know everything there is to know about him. His name is Alma Karma and his birthday is exactly six months off of yours. He grew up in a run-down hovel and never knew his birth parents. The scar on his nose is from a childhood fight – a hit from a stray brick and it took eight stitches to close up. You know his fears, his desires, his dreams. You know what he wants and what he lacks and what he pretends to be. You even know that, had he been brought up in a better, more stable situation he would've been a sunny, cheerful, vivacious kid who loves mayonnaise and waking up in the morning with his toes peeking from under the covers. You two would've bumped into each other, fallen in love, and spent the rest of your days together just like your brother, your co-workers, and many, many people would every, single, fucking, day.

But none of that has happened, and who you are looking at right now is a hardened criminal who's left more than two dozen bodies in his wake. He knows you are sleeping with the cop who broke up the cartel he called home for the past six years. He knows how deeply you feel about this other, this leech, who has shared the most intimate moments with you that are rightfully his. What started as a clinical revenge killing is now drenched in the righteous rage of jealousy. You belong to Alma Karma, and this other intrusion has no place in the space between you. And he, your beloved, your destined, is certainly going to make this right.

You watch him jump up and whip out the switchblade from his belt. The bokken is like lead in your hands, and you can only stand there as the man you love throws himself at the man who loves you, knife a silver streak when he plunges it into him, and then does it again, and again, and again.

+00. 00. 00. 00. 01. 01

The euphoria shatters like stained glass. Color bits crackle and crumble, as time speeds up again and the world reverts back to a blend of shadow and light. You feel a throbbing pain in your jaw and the cut on your hand is starting to burn something fierce. You see two figures struggling on the ground in front of you. There are sounds of gasped breath and the wet slither of metal entering flesh, and your heart stalls in the rhythm of its beat.

To your surprise your mind breaks through and your body lurches into action. It still takes you an eternity to move forward, to find the right moment, to steel your resolve. Your hands are shaking uncontrollably when you do take the swing, but muscle memory quickly takes over, and the strike connects solidly with Alma's ribcage.

The impact throws him cleanly off. He rolls to his side, hands holding onto his broken ribs as he stares at you, incredulous. "Yuu…?" he chokes out, and that single syllable on his lips almost kills you. You want to fall into his embrace and tell him you love him and everything is going to be okay. That you can leave together and disappear somewhere and there is going to be a happily ever after. But the hatred in his eyes silences you, and the way he still clutches to the knife shows you he is far from finished. As long as Alma Karma breaths he will not stop killing, not even for your love. You don't have a choice.

So you raise Mugen high above your head and get into the proper stance. His eyes narrow but your blow keeps him from moving quickly, which is the only reason the switchblade misses your leg as he lunges at you. You sidestep his attack and bring down the whole weight of the bokken. It lands right where the old scar is, and the dull thud is followed by the crunch of cheekbones caving into the inside of his head. In the dark you can only see a sticky black mess erupting upwards and his body falling back. The smell of rust and death doesn't hit you until you fully finish your swing.

When it does, you drop the bokken like it's on fire and throw up onto the concrete.

+00. 00. 00. 00. 05. 32

When you finally stop heaving up your already empty stomach you wipe your mouth with your sleeve and stagger to where Lavi lies. Gushes of blood seep continuously from the holes in his abdomen, and the entire right side of his face is one dark bruise. You almost throw up again from the stench but you stop yourself. You firmly press one hand atop of the wounds while the other searches for his phone. You know he carries two for emergencies. You only hope they haven't been smashed to bits.

You don't look at his face and you certainly don't concentrate on the squishy feel of his wounds under your fingers. His controlled short bursts of breath are the only sound in the now eerily quiet evening. You ignore the whole mess of liquid that's spreading from his trembling body into the ground below. There's a pain that hasn't stopped wreaking havoc on your insides since Alma's fallen. Well, that goes in the ignore pile, too.

You find a flip phone tucked deep in one of his jean pockets. Its hinge is broken but the number pad still works so you press 911. You give the address when it connects, surprised how hoarse the timbre of your voice has become. It works out since you can't scream at the operator even though the urge is unbearable.

You feel him moving one hand up to grip onto yours. "Yu…" he says, voice stuttered and soft. You press down harder to compensate, evoking a pained hiss from his lips.

"Stop that. And shut up."

He shakes his head. "Yu, I'm so, so sorry. I –"

"Stop talking –"

"If I knew this'd happen I'd never have said – I'm sorry. It's not –"

"It doesn't fucking matter now!" You try to shout. "I've already lost – not you too. Not tonight."

He falls quiet after that. You finally gather the courage to look at his face properly, and see right away that his right eye socket has collapsed in a swollen bruise of humour and blood. His left eyelid is fluttering rapidly, and you realize he's only stopped talking because he's on the verge of completely passing out.

"Lavi. Wake up! Lavi!"

"-m sorry Yu…" he mumbles, incoherent. " –I lied. You're m-"

You do not let the panic you feel overwhelm you. You are not holding back everything and you are absolutely not on the edge of bursting from within. You are not thinking about what is going to happen to Lavi when Alma's brain matter is splattered on the ground behind you. But when you hear the distant wails of sirens you absolutely do curse out loud, half in anger, half in a modicum of relief.

+00. 00. 02. 14. 21. 50

You spend the next 48 hours strapped to an IV on a hospital bed. You've broken way more bones than you thought you had, and the impact to your jaw has given you a minor case of concussion. The doctors run scans and tests and fill you up with antibiotics and painkillers. You are then left alone for "further observations," which apparently means open season for cops and attorneys to hound you with ridiculous questions. You are seriously contemplating whether the wall or the floor is a better choice of knocking yourself out with minimal additional injury when they suddenly all exit the room. Your brother has shown up with your family's lawyer and that, as they say, is that.

You ask about Lavi but the doctors refuse to tell you anything since legally you're no one, and the only other source of information – his partner – is forbidden to speak to you due to possible conflict of interest. You did kill someone after all, even though it's legitimate self-defense. The confirmation that Alma's group was targeting Lavi for revenge does help you out quite a bit, though.

You manage to find out that Lavi's not dead, at least not yet, and was moved to ICU after surgery. Now you are in your hospital room with your father sniffling over you, bracing against the creeping pain as the drugs begin to wear off. The fuzziness of your head clears while the harrowing emptiness of your heart expands. You have voluntarily killed your own soulmate. You would've laughed hysterically at it if the act of moving your face didn't make you flinch every single time.

The minute you are deemed somewhat dischargeable you ask Daisya to drive you back to your old apartment. "Don't do anything stupid, lil bro," he says, and you ignore him with a scoff. When you get there you head straight for the bedroom. The debilitating fear you've experienced a lifetime ago is absent. Instead you just feel pure, unrestrained anger.

You yank your soulmate clock out of the closet and throw it against the wall. There's a plus sign in front of its numbers now, and it fills you instantly with hatred and despair. Alma's face flashes in front of your eyes – not the one crushed beneath Mugen but the lively, carefree grin from an alternate, happier universe. You grip the clock in your bandaged hand and smash it over and over on the floor. Pain shoots down your entire arm but you don't stop until Daisya restrains you from injuring yourself further. You curse and flail wildly while your brother just hugs you tight and repeats that he's sorry, little brother, but goddamnit he is. You start to cry – the real, soul-crushing kind. The hurt and the guilt and the anger and the aching void assault your heart and it spasms in retaliation. Everything has broken into pieces and you crash and burn like you've never had in your life, and never will again.

+00. 00. 03. 08. 49. 17

You go back to the hospital the next day and plant yourself in front of ICU. They still won't let you in because "critical period is reserved for family and soulmates" and short of just barging in there's not much you can do. So you just lean against a gurney and glare in its general direction. Your brother's standing casually next to you. You know he's there to make sure you don't have another meltdown because you overheard he and you father talk about sending you to a shrink last night. You absolutely despise the idea, but begrudgingly admit that it probably is sound, considering the circumstances.

You've stared hard enough to burn a hole through the ICU doors when you hear an unfamiliar voice say Lavi's name. You look over, startled, and see a shriveled old man by the nurse's station. He has a weird topknot on his head and his eyes are black-rimmed and haggard from travel. You watch him give the nurse some papers and she points toward ICU while gesturing to you. You raise an eyebrow.

The old man looks over and your eyes meet. He slowly walks toward you, hands folded inside his sleeves. When he reaches you his head is barely higher than your waist, but the way he scrutinizes you from head to toe is downright unnerving. You instinctively wish you have your bokken, but alas, Mugen is currently sitting in a bag in the police evidence room. He gives you one more perusal before stating, "Tell me, young man. Where did you grow up?"

Your expression shows exactly what you think of the question. Fortunately Daisya interrupts before something really rude leaves your mouth. "Around here," he says. "He's my brother. Uh, can we help you?"

"Ah," the old man nods. "I see he really has found you."

You blink. Daisya looks between you two in utter confusion. The old man's chuckle sounds like a dry cough. "I am Bookman. You are here for my grandson, are you not? How is he faring?"

Oh, right. Of course they would have contacted Lavi's only living family – his grandfather. The question makes your lips curl into a bitter grin, however. "I wouldn't know," you answer. "They won't let me in. Haven't since he's been admitted."

His look is one of genuine surprise. "Oh? But you are…ah. I see. Come then." He turns abruptly. "We shall pay him a visit now."

"Uh," says your brother. "Is Lavi out of critical? Because if not he still can't –"

"I wouldn't worry about that, not for your brother." The old man looks back cryptically as Daisya shrugs and pushes you forward. "He should be awake now. Come, I believe Junior will be very pleased to see you."

+00. 00. 03. 09. 15. 59

Lavi is sitting propped up against the pillow when you enter. You can see the medical gauze covering his right eye and the bruise and bandages on that side of his face. Later you learn that the eye is unsalvageable and it's pure luck that the bone shards didn't pierce his brain. Right now he looks ghastly and tired, but it doesn't stop his smile from forming when he sees you.

It falters, however, when his grandfather appears at your side. The old man walks up to him and begins to speak in a language you don't understand. Judging from the tone he is giving Lavi quite a scolding, and you watch in semi-amusement as the redhead's face grow more sheepish by the second. When the old man finishes he raps his grandson on the head and, without another word, exit the room. Lavi's face is now almost the same shade as his hair, but you feel a slight relief that he's at least alright enough to feel embarrassed.

You pull up a chair and sit down by the bed. He doesn't look at you and you are not one bit surprised. The latest sequence of events have pretty much told you why, so when he opens his mouth and says "Yu, I have something to confess" you don't bat an eye before replying, "That I'm your soulmate? Yes, I know."

His lone green eye widen comically and you'd have laughed had you the energy to spare. With the old man's questions and the fact you are actually allowed in the room, it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together. Truth be told, you are angrier that this has kept you from visiting him earlier than him keeping it a secret for two years, but you sure as hell won't let him off the hook for that.

"Did you really think I wouldn't've figured it out after meeting your grandfather? The first thing he asked me was where I grew up. You came to this town just to find me, no?"

He avoids your gaze and stares down, at his bandaged hands. "Yes. Yes I did. I mean, you…know now, right? – how it feels like you'll never be complete? I didn't know everything about you at the time, since I'm not your soulmate. The only thing I knew was where we've first met. It's worth a try."

"Idiot," you scoff. "You should've told me."

"And risk you leaving? Forgive me, Yu, but I'm not that brave. What we had…was more than enough. Plus, you had a chance to be truly happy. I didn't want to get in the way of that. I'd never have thought things would turn out the way – I'm so sorry, Yu," he leans forward, head in his hands. You can almost hear his voice break. "Are we – is there still a 'we' now?"

You want to slap him. Really, after all the shit you've done you thought it would be clear as day, but apparently idiocy has no limits. But right now he looks like your next words, and not the six stabs from the knife that perforated his intestines, are the things that'll kill him. So you squash your sarcasm and tell him to stop apologizing. "It was my choice and mine alone," you say. "And fuck, I picked you. What more do you want me to prove?"

He looks up from his hands and you don't look away. You see a flicker of a smile rise on his pale lips, and with the same expression he had when he first kissed you on your apartment steps, he says, "I love you, Yu."

And you feel something warm start to flood the empty void of your heart, and you answer, "Yeah."


P.S. The section headings are in the format of Year. Month. Day. Hour. Minute. Second, in case that wasn't clear.

The title is inspired by Salvador Dali's painting title The Persistence of Memory and the book/movie title A Clockwork Orange, both in Spanish.