Disclaimer: Kazuya Minekura owns Wild Adapter. I however, own lots of strawberry pocky, and I like to eat it in Geology lab. Helps me think.
Warning: Language, of course. References to violence. The usual.
Note: In response to the great response I got from "Glock" I've decided to try another perspective fic, but I picked a rather unlikely source this time around. Also, minor creative license was taken by myself concerning the events in Dice 38-39 of the English manga.
You laugh when he tells you he's named the kid after a TV personality. It seems like something your nephew would do, and although you've only known 'Tokitoh' a handful of months it has gotten old, calling him "the kid", and you appreciate being able to address him with a name, however borrowed.
He's grown on you, like a bad rash that no over-the-counter medicine can get rid of. He scratched the shit out of you the first time your paths crossed in Makoto's living room, but video games and your nephew's saint-like patience for his antics have tamed him since then. He still refuses to address you by your own name, but then again you've started to realize that "Old Man" isn't an insult so much as an endearment coming from him.
Like "Kubo-chan." He likes playing with people's names, and perhaps that stems from not knowing his own. You and Makoto both know that his actual given name is 'Minoru,' but you won't tell him that. Better for him to forget whatever cruel and sordid past he had before your nephew found him in that alley. His childhood was stolen from him, and maybe that's why you've grown so damned attached to him. He and Makoto have a lot more in common than they realize.
If your nephew has always been an anomaly to you, a book written in a language that you just barely do not understand, then the newly-christened Tokitoh is your translator. He accepts Makoto's taciturn quiet and unyielding oddness with easy acceptance, as if your nephew makes perfect sense and always has. It strikes you as ironic, watching them interact, that Makoto could be capable of raising anything, anyone. He has practically raised himself, but that subtle edge of lethal promise that comprises his very existence makes you nervous; will Tokitoh turn out just as frustratingly unreachable, unshakable?
It turns out that your nephew isn't as immune to fear or anger as you once expected.
When you learn of the violent attack on the Izumo headquarters every shred of common sense in your trained mind screams 'Makoto', because the seemingly random and indiscriminate pattern fits his MO perfectly. It occurs to you as you stepped over body after body after body after body at the crime scene that your nephew has an MO and you recognize it, and something in your chest breaks and shatters in that knowledge.
You have never been the greatest role model, but you are still a fucking cop, and sometime in the last few years Makoto has stopped being distantly family and instead intimately suspect. You don't want to shoulder the responsibility for that change in his existence because you had honestly, silently never wanted to be responsible for the kid in the first place. And it isn't your fault that Makoto is a killer.
Makoto is a killer.
These are words that you have never before allowed your chronically tired and caffeine-driven mind to string together in the same sentence. Makoto has shot people. He has come under the microscope for homicide. But not in the decade that he has been a real and cumbersome part of your life have you acknowledged that he has committed cold-blooded murder.
You walk the two or three or eleven blocks from the Izumo headquarters--or what's left of it--and head to Chinatown, because you know that he had to have been injured during that rampage and he's not one for the sterility of a hospital. He would have gone to that quack doctor that Tokitoh loathes so damned much.
Where the hell is he? Sitting at home in front of the Playstation while Makoto is running through a Yakuza office, gun blazing? Part of your gut blossoms with a newfound protectiveness, an outrage at how reckless Makoto is acting. If he died, who would take in his stray?
But Makoto doesn't think like that, never has. And you mentioned it in front of Tokitoh once. Just once. You had been talking to your nephew about how risky his side job was getting, about Sanada and the surveillance equipment they'd found in the apartment. You had grudgingly suggested that Tokitoh come stay with you for a while, until Makoto could sort things out, and the kid had accidentally put his gloved hand through the bedroom door, he was so fucking upset. He swore loudly and tried to laugh it off, but the brief gleam of overwhelming terror in his odd violet eyes had been real.
Because Need for Speed and Seven Stars and Playstation and curry are all that Tokitoh knows. Makoto is all he really understands, and the absence of any one of these things in his daily life would scare the living shit out of him. He isn't afraid of Sanada or the Izumo because he hasn't learned to be. He isn't scared of guns or bullets or fighting because no one's told him he should be. He isn't terrified of anything because Makoto hasn't taught him to be.
Your nephew has shaped Tokitoh's entire world from the relative sanctuary of that meager apartment, but the paralyzing fear in that kid's eyes at the prospect of leaving Makoto is not a learned behavior, because he's never seen Makoto exhibit that emotion before. It's pure and unadulterated instinct.
You push through the door to the quack's storefront and ignore the bell clanging overhead. In Chinese mythology the crisp, light jingling is supposed to drive away evil spirits, but the drops of blood leading into the back of the store do nothing to restore your faith in superstition. Makoto is here, and his soul isn't any cleaner than your own.
You ignore the bandaging around his shoulder and swing first, like Makoto always does, without thinking, without words. For one brief moment you understand on a primal level what it's like to act with reckless disregard to your own safety or the rules of proper etiquette and restraint. For a moment you allow yourself that fleeting heartbeat of total disregard for caution, for tact, for discretion. The sickening wet crack that echoes through this dimly-lit black market weapons shop almost brings a twisted smile to your perpetually-frowning old face; it feels so fucking good to unleash your frustration, your disappointment on this kid. You don't wince when your knuckles creak in protest because it's been years since you've hauled off and decked anyone.
As you stare down at your nephew sprawled across the floor below you, you are no longer certain if you are controlling the course of this confrontation, or if he has somehow managed to provoke you into knocking the living shit out of him, but either way you don't regret it.
"Makoto, what the hell did you do?!"
The gun in his hand is an afterthought. You don't want to know why he's bleeding, who shot him, why he's being cleaned up by a hack doctor with questionable Triad connections. You want him to understand that he has turned your life upside down and you are fucking angry. It shouldn't matter that you are no longer responsible for this kid.
Man, you correct yourself. Kubota Makoto is twenty-two years old and very much an adult.
So why then are you experiencing this strangled sense of defeat, of failure, of disappointment? If there was ever a word in the English language that summarized your nephew it would be 'disappointment.' So why are you standing over him with your bleeding hand still fisted and trembling at your side, drawing harsh breath through gritted teeth?
And why the fuck is he just laying there?! "You can't tell me, can you?" The rage coursing through you is overwhelming. This guy has a fucking death wish, and the Izumo will now be more than happy to deliver. He's pulled a lot of really stupid stunts before, but this one takes the cake. He wiped out an entire office building, again, and he's already lucky enough to have survived quitting the Yakuza in the first place. Everyone in this cluttered, dusty room is well aware that Sanada is watching Makoto, and by default Tokitoh, and anything that your suicidal nephew does to draw attention to himself puts that stray cat of his closer to being exposed for what he is.
Sanada and the Izumo want Wild Adapter. Tokitoh would just be the icing on the cake. But your idiot nephew isn't thinking about anything but himself, as usual. "I don't know what the hell happened but it's not suddenly okay to go kill Yakuza members!"
You're shouting at him now like your dad always yelled at you when you had done something incredibly moronic. Makoto isn't your son, but you still feel an annoying sense of obligation, if for no other reason than because of his responsibility to that kid waiting for him in his apartment. Toki-boy didn't have a choice in who dragged him out of that alley.
The man who did is slowly levering himself into a crouched sitting position on the floor. His right arm is useless, and the blood is still seeping through the gauze around his shoulder. He won't meet your eyes.
"They took Tokitoh."
The anger drains from your system in the wake of the cold dread that floods your gut.
They--the Izumo, and that bastard Sanada.
Took--kidnapped, tortured, or killed.
"We don't know is identity. How could the police help me search for someone who doesn't exist in the system? I had to act."
Makoto's voice is tired. He's never sounded so god-damned worn out and tired before. The velvet-laced steel in his tone is gone, and you start to notice that there are other changes in his demeanor. His eyes have lost the distant and cool light in them; the brown depths are glazed, lifeless, defeated.
If Makoto is a soulless killer, reckless and destructive, Tokitoh is the thin thread of humanity that keeps him grounded in reality. He is what makes Makoto real and not one of the ghosts that prowls through Yokohama's network of dirty alleys and seedy underground. If they've done something to Tokitoh...
You shake your head as you look down at your nephew with an odd sense of pity. Sanada and the Izumo have ripped his heart from his chest and taunted him with it one too many times. It isn't a game anymore; you know that to be as true as your own name. You aren't sure when Tokitoh became more than just a stray novelty, when he managed to scale the proverbial wall around Makoto's self-imposed barrier against feeling, or how he chipped away at your nephew's sharp and armor-like mind, but that stray means something to Makoto.
Nothing has ever meant anything to Makoto, and as you help him up from the ground you take a moment to fully appreciate the full scope of what this means. If he took out an entire office building for information, you feel very fucking sorry for the poor bastards that stand between this former Yakuza and his cat. God help them if they've laid a hand on Tokitoh, because it will take divine intervention to stop Makoto now.
"What can I do?" you ask, not as a favor, but because you're afraid of that dead gleam in his eyes and what it means for Izumo. He's already pissed off more gang members than the entire Yokohama police force.
It's the scariest fucking thing you've ever had the misfortune to witness. You've been to more Wild Adapter crime scenes than you care to think about, dingy apartments and crack houses where people have literally imploded, redecorated peeling walls and rotted plaster with their insides, and that doesn't shake you. You deal with rapes, homicides while cramming down your breakfast. The smile on your nephew's face could put Death himself to shame.
"Just stay out of my way," is what he says.
Because once I start shooting I'm not stopping, is what remains unspoken but understood as he brushes past you. The good old doctor follows behind him and you're left to stare down at the dusty wooden floor, trying to wrap your rusty old mind around what the fuck just happened here. There's blood on your knuckles and blood on the floor, and you sigh heavily with the weight of so much blood on your conscience.
Because Makoto doesn't have one. You have to feel remorse for him; whatever part of the human brain that controls morals and ethics was taken from him a long time ago.
Like Tokitoh, it was stolen.