[12. .FINALE. - infinity]

"Maybe this time, we can leave our broken world behind. We'll be together again - all just a dream in the end."

When he saw her strung up on that door, a statue held by fine, barbed wires, he felt no more anger, no more sorrow. In his mind, there was only a sense of relief, of finality. It wasn't over. She was here, and he would go back to his life, but by God, it wasn't over.

The others seemed surprised by his seeming lack of emotion, even after the loops in time were over. He went about his business as if nothing had changed, as if nothing in his life had ever gone wrong.

As if he'd never loved her.

They had no idea of the wheels that were turning in his head when he saw her that last time, in all her final glory. To everyone, he was just distant, workaholic Akihiko. College went by in a blur. Further hitting everyone's blind side, he started aiming for detective work. It came easily to him, after all. Righting wrongs and solving cases, bringing justice down to those who deserved it.

He figured she would be proud.

As a detective, he did his job well, seemed consumed by it, dedicated to it. He astonished those around him with his affinity and talent for the work. And he did it all with endless apathy.

As if he was just waiting for something.

It had only been a handful of years when he was walking down the rougher streets of the island, on another investigation. He knew this was dangerous. He knew this area could spell trouble in the dead of night. His partner, a younger woman fresh from the academy, almost ached nervousness. It was dark, and they both knew the streets were anything but deserted. The criminals around here were all suspects in a recent triple homicide, and several duos like Akihiko's had been dispatched on night watches.

It was with practiced motions that an older man stepped quietly from the shadows with three of his friends, pointing their firearms at Akihiko and his partner.

It was with a cold efficiency that they all pulled the triggers.

Akihiko was no stranger to sacrifice, no stranger to his place in the world. He was long since sick of failures, sick of others dying in his place. He knew his fate. He wouldn't run from it. He would more than welcome it. Shoving his partner to the ground behind him, he swiftly drew his own revolver like it was second nature, pulled the trigger four times in rapid succession like it was nothing, like he'd been killing men this way for all his life.

The offenders all dropped to the ground. He turned and offered a smile, devoid of mirth, to his partner who stared at him now with wide eyes - stared at the bullet holes in his neck, in his legs, in horror. He still wore that smile when he crumpled to the ground, unconscious.

He still wore that smile when he died, moments later.

More than anything in those years, Akihiko's one and only wish was to be with her, forever. To protect everyone. To at least partially shield her from the desires of humankind, forever clawing at her, trying to break her soul, her very essence. As his blood pooled around his body in the darkness, as his life drifted away, he knew that Heaven was not his destination.

His only place was by her side.

It seemed so cold, suddenly, and he opened his eyes slowly. There she was again, the same as she'd been those years ago on the door, silent and sad. He rose towards her, higher and higher, until his hand brushed lightly against that cheek, over the stone of her skin. He felt a change steadily taking hold of his form, but he was not afraid. This was what he'd always wanted.

Hand still on her cheek, he pressed his lips to hers one more time, just like he had so long ago, just as his own skin began to harden, as the wires holding her aloft crept out and twined around his figure, binding him to her. Was that a faint smile he saw? He placed his other hand on her waist, and touched his head to hers as the change took him completely.

This was his Heaven. This was his infinity. With the last of his strength, he whispered to her still form,

"Starting now... we'll never be apart."