this story's set (yet again) in the drama-verse, (the first part) taking place essentially immediately after the S2 finale, before the movie (which, incidentally, I WANT TO SEE LIKE BURNING -i swear, if Akiyama doesn't kiss Nao, i will DEVOUR JAPAN). i do love the manga, so this fic does retain some manga sensibilities (such as trannie!Fukunaga), but dammit am i weak for the cheap-hooker-thrills of the drama; matsuda shota is just so gottdamn GRIM AND PRETTY.
also. the precise chronology this fic is...non-existent.
[in the name of the fanfic, the original author, and the disclaimer, amen.]
He wishes she'd stop looking at him like that.
"Akiyama-san, beat the Final, and end this game for good."
She's got more faith in him than she should, and by half more than he's ever had in himself. It's deeply unsettling.
"I'll leave everything to you."
It makes him self-conscious, in an inane, exasperating sort of way; it strains his Calm and threatens to overwhelm him, this insufferable awareness of her confidence, categorical, unequivocal. It makes him feel obliged to meet her outrageous expectations of him. More alarmingly still; it makes him want to win –not for the sake of his revenge or the thin pretense of justice or even the simple satisfaction of lording his superior intelligence over his would-be oppressors. It makes him want to win for her, and for her alone.
He forces himself to look away from her wide smile, but it does little to diminish the potency of her quiet certitude.
It puts him in a Very Bad Mood.
After the last round ends and the contestants all go their separate ways, Akiyama keeps his distance for as long as he's able, which turns out to not be very long at all.
Maybe forty-five minutes pass before he finds himself compelled to check in on her. Obviously, in anticipation of some Unforeseen Calamity or other attaching itself to her person and following her home. Like a mugger, or some other miscellaneous and otherwise dangerous vagrant.
Or worse –Fukunaga.
It's weeks later before it occurs to him he's become something of a fixture in her little one-room efficiency (a blight of toneless composure in her world of brilliant volatility); he's staring with a kind of dull horror at the toothbrush she'd made a point to buy for him the last time she'd gone out grocery shopping, realizing in slow, mind-snapping stages that this qualifies as some weirdly functional –albeit inadvertent—cohabitation (if, perhaps, only in the loosest sense of the word).
He doesn't think he can pinpoint the decisive Moment of Transition (that nebulous juncture where his life had melded so seamlessly, so completely, with hers); his only (frightening, intractable) certainty is that, somewhere along the way, all of his paradigms had shifted to accommodate Kanzaki Nao, rendering an existence without her senseless, untenable, in every way inconceivable.
Peripherally, while he's thumbing through Jung on her bed or idly revising her taxes at the kitchen table (more to keep his mind busy and The System firmly under his thumb than for her having done them wrong), he watches her move about her tiny apartment, bouncing from place to place, tidying and fixing snacks and chattering a million miles an hour, arguably the brightest object in a unit bursting with vibrant color.
Without his needing to ask, she smilingly refills his cup of tea, automatically clicks off the television in favor of quiet jazz or elegant classical music when he settles in for a read, wordlessly lays out a sleeping mat for him at the foot of her bed as evening stretches into night, just in case he decides to stay (–and these days, more often than not, he does). Akiyama rarely deigns to acknowledge her efforts –not to be purposefully disrespectful, necessarily; mostly, his ostensible lack of manners stems from his inability to deal with the crushing, crippling, irrepressible joy her instinctive consideration inspires.
To atone, he makes breakfast most mornings, prepares lunches for her on days she has class –two on days she goes to visit her father; he voluntarily helps her study when he senses she's having difficulty, makes himself scarce when friends from University stop by for social calls, forces himself to tolerate Fukunaga when she pops over (uninvited), usually with alcohol, always with wicked designs.
Unaccountably, Nao seems to enjoy having him around, and while she's fast becoming the Prime Mover in his life, he's slowly fitting himself evermore comfortably into the contours that define hers.
They don't talk about the Liar Game. She doesn't ask him if he's nervous, and he makes no effort to volunteer his trepidations. There are conspicuous lulls in conversation every now and again, heavy with what they aren't saying, where he's sure she's going to try and fit a less-than-casual, probably fumbling reassurance or other some such little token of encouragement oh-so-typical of her character.
Instead, she's taken to filling these charged silences with anxious fidgeting and an utter refusal to meet his eyes or look anywhere near him.
He isn't sure what this means beyond its infuriating ability to bewilder and exasperate him, and he's consistently at a loss about what to do with the odd paranoia and uncomfortable anger these behaviors provoke. Grudgingly, he ticks off another point in her favor for Maddening Inscrutability.
Nao finally looks up from her pudding cup, a diffident little etch of a smile twitching at either corner of her mouth. For a ponderous moment, his gaze catches, fixed on the contours of round, perfect lips, set into this finely-quivering sort of half-pout that's making a brave (albeit feeble) attempt at becoming something more heartening. Akiyama doesn't realize he's fully staring until his name drops from between them, and he clears his throat around the guilty, prickling heat tickling over his skin, shifting his eyes discreetly to a wall hanging tacked up just beyond the ridge of her shoulder, a brush painting depicting a brightly smiling old man distributing toys and sweets to laughing children.
Asinine, overly-trusting little brood, is his first thought, gaze sliding right back to Nao, drawn there by the course of his reflections; the thought never even enters their heads that the old man might intend them harm.
"If you have something to say, just say it." He prompts in a drawling tone, affecting irritation to conceal his discomfiture.
"Akiyama-san," Nao says again, eyes darting away self-consciously even before she finishes, half a beat before she sinks back into another of her increasingly exasperating pregnant pauses, and he's had just about enough of this—
"Nao," he rumbles softly, a tight declaration that stiffens his jaw, and then he's leaning across the mattress, the ocean of notes laid out between them crinkling softly under his weight as he reaches toward her, fingers curving gently against the slope of her chin, bidding her to look at him.
She does, eyes wide, and he's about to demand to know what the hell's going on already, but her fingers are settling against the bend of his knee, gentling over the taut hardness of his jaw and (barring a few choice phrases, many of which begin and end with her name) he forgets how to operate the Japanese language.
Her skin is curiously both cool and warm against his, and almost without thinking, he pulls himself closer, opposite hand twisting the elegant arch of her neck to slip back into the glossy plush of her hair.
He considers kissing her.
"Akiyama-san," wibbles out of her again, and a tear or four wins free, clearly against her wishes. Immediately serious, he brushes the tracks from her cheeks with his thumbs, holding her gaze steadily, waiting. "I…have something I need to show you."
Reluctantly, his hands fall away as she leans back, away from him, and reaches for the purse on her bedside table. If, as she's stretching, the hem of her skirt follows the line of movement and he happens to catch a distracting flash of her thigh, well, that's really not his fault. He doubts he can be held entirely responsible for the image searing itself indelibly into his brain, either. Photographic memory and all that.
And then he sees it.
Clutched to her chest like one might hold a cherished object –or, conversely, a guilty secret—is a black envelope as ominous as it is familiar.
"You're participating." Akiyama deduces, unsmiling. She nods once, affirmatively, and he finds himself again on the receiving end of a fraught silence.
"Tanimura-san was here," she reveals, after some time has passed. He grimaces, knowing immediately she'd been duped into the game. (Again.) Probably on his behalf, if his instincts are correct. "He said I…I was the only one…" Nao's hands are shaking around the lustrous paper, and between one (frighteningly empathetic) heart constriction and the next, he's got her head tucked under his chin and fingers raking gently down the length of her spine. He feels her drag in a heavy breath, tension ebbing as she sinks into his awkward embrace, and the envelope drops onto his lap with a sound, heavy slap of paper against fabric. Thin arms wind loosely around him, and suddenly he's the one on edge.
Then, almost too softly for him to hear,
"He said I was the only one who could…save you." Which is no less then he reckoned she'd been told, and no less maddening because of it. And certainly no less maddening for the truth of the claim –probably not the one Tanimura has in mind, of course, but if he's being honest with himself (and he may as well be; she's the only thing he's got left to lose anymore), then in a very real way, Nao's been his 'savior' from the very beginning.
Ultimately, she's the difference between Yokoya and himself, the dutiful moral compass guiding his calculating manipulations. The gentling warmth to the cold, hard edge of his intellect, the unselfish rhyme to his callous reason. From round to round, she's kept him grounded, merciful, steadfast, and he's done everything in his power to protect her, to win the games for reasons as much hers as his.
So even if he really, really doesn't want to see her dragged through another one of these shady, vile competitions, he'd be lying if he said he was entirely upset at this turn of events. He'd be lying if he said a part of him wasn't sickly, secretly elated she'd be by his side for the Final Stage, his conscience made flesh, made beautiful.
Whatever the (ridiculous, predictable) reason, Nao's in now, for better or worse, and he's going to see them through to the end –and before this game ends, she's probably going to save them all.
Akiyama threads his fingers through her hair, marveling at the tactile consequence of this nothing action, suddenly starved for the sensation, eager for it to continue, to never stop.
He stops immediately.
"He might be right." Akiyama says, not-quite whispering. Nao lifts her head to look at him, her expression uncertain, quizzical.
"What?" He doesn't kiss her (again), but he definitely, definitely wants to. It strikes him as being probably fairly odd, his living with her and rarely having even touched her.
Carefully, he begins disentangling himself from her, no longer trusting himself to keep this embrace innocent.
"I said, let's go get some nikuman." She blinks at him, sniffles cutely. A tentative grin tugs at her lips.
"Your treat?" She asks, hopeful. Akiyama finds an answering grin impossible to repress.
Be honest; how schizophrenic was this fic?