notes:
+ can be read as a follow up to episode 5 or independently.
+ title & cut-text from wild strawberries' i don't want to think about it.

x

"Is it true then?"

"Is what true?"

Inga frowns. "That you keep me around because you're afraid?" He's sulking by the television, pulling the front of the hat low over his eyes. "Afraid of what I'll do."

Shinjuurou wonders if it's just a childish cry for attention now that the RAI is around. Somehow, he doubts it. Inga is a lot of things but petty and jealous is not usually part of it, even in this body, where he so loves to mimic what he calls silly human sentiments. Mostly, it is because Inga is a lot of things that Shinjuurou believes Inga has no use for such human sentiments.

"You know better than that," Shinjuurou says at length, distracted by the darkening sky outside, flashes of lightning but no rain in days.

He's met with a woman's arms, long and pale and far more familiar than they have any right to be as they encircle his neck from behind.

"A little warning," he mumbles, forehead pressed against the glass, and, as always, it falls upon deaf ears.

She hooks her chin over his shoulder. "Hush, you love it," and her smile, reflected in the window pane, is a sharp curve next to his own.

He's long since stopped holding his breath, waiting for her to return to decency. Personal space became an illusion when Inga came around regardless of her form. He's pretty sure that he used to take issue with it once but that feels like another lifetime now.

"You know how I get sometimes," she says, close to his ear.

The rain comes at last and it hits the window hard. "Unfortunately," he starts, "I do," but he doesn't think to push her away. Not yet, at least. Maybe not for a while.

He has things to do, paperwork spilling out of his ears, and they have rent to pay and he hasn't opened his fridge in weeks and is afraid to do so now. For all of that, he would need to move, and moving would mean leaving and, in spite of everything, it's almost an effort.

Inga does not let him go, not when the rain becomes deafening and Shinjuurou is about to say, Remember when we met, but catches himself in time. It feels foolish and sentimental in his head and they are many things but they are not that, have never been, will never be. He can't imagine how it would sound out loud. Inga would probably laugh, a musical sound, a frightening sound, like windchimes and death knells echoing out of her lungs, and it would maybe, just maybe, be reason enough.

Her arms drop to his sides and then leave him altogether. If the room feels suddenly cold, he blames it on the weather.

She says his name like a whisper in the dark, and sometimes, it blindsides him that he is, in fact, playing with fire.

"You're thinking about the day we met." It should be terrifying, how well she reads him without having to call upon any of that ghastly soul-seeking business of hers. Her smile takes an even sharper turn now. "What? You don't think I pick up on your tricks, Detective-san? You spend a lot of time with someone and it rubs off you know."

He tries not to wonder what that makes him.

"The world was on fire when we first met." She says it like a story, and he supposes that in a way it was. One for the books.

"Sometimes," he says, "I don't think it stopped."

She shrugs a bare shoulder, eyes never leaving him. "And still, you keep trying to put it out."

There is nothing but pitch black outside now and so he steps away from the window, lets the back of his head hit the wall. "Someone has to."

"And is that why you keep me around?" It's difficult to tell if she's toying with him. Rather, if he's being honest with himself as he seldom is, it's difficult to tell when she isn't.

"Maybe." He is an excellent liar, or, at least, has the potential to be when he isn't living with a walking, talking polygraph. In truth, he doesn't understand why she is being like this now. He wants to say, You know full well that we had a deal. And that it wasn't like I really had a choice.

But you always have a choice, he knows she will say. You can back out of anything. Duck your head and run. Unleash me upon the human race. But can you live with that, Yuuki Shinjuurou?

And it's funny how the reasons change. Once, that would have been enough: keep the monster inside and save the world, but he is not the hero they make him out to be, not even the shadow of the failure they make him out to be.

Humans are selfish, don't you know? Though I suppose you do. You wouldn't have stayed if you didn't know. Wouldn't have used it to your advantage so well.

(There was a time in between where he had tried to look more closely at Kaishou Rie, never mind that she was Rinroku's daughter. Objectively, he'd always known she was a pretty girl. A normal girl. She was feisty and headstrong and best of all, she didn't eat souls for a living, didn't have the world wrapped around her little finger.

She was the kind of girl his mother would have liked him to bring home.

And, of course, it was no use at all.

Inga noticed-of course he did, saw everything from the vantage point of that pint-sized body. He'd hid his twittering laughter behind a glove. He might as well have been saying, You are hopeless, Shinjuurou,but there was no need.)

And sometimes, Shinjuurou wants it all. He can barely remember life before this and so, he feels weak for the smallest of wonders, the mysteries in spoken words and senseless violence and human touch and the mundane. He feels enchanted by the way the world is built and broken and surviving, endless and crumbling and blossoming around him. He wants and wants all that he cannot have without willing to lose what little he does, and it feels like he cannot keep any of it anymore than a man can hold water with an open hand.

"I think you have it the wrong way," Shinjuurou says. He half thinks to exaggerate a yawn and head to his bed because it's easier than saying, I keep you around because you keep me around. We are this way because there is no other way for us to be.

And that, perhaps, they make a perfect pair after all.

"Oh Shinjuurou." Her tone borders on maternal now and he wishes so much that it wouldn't. It makes this entire set-up so much worse.

And there it is again, the dissolution of personal space, forehead to forehead, nose to nose, the delicate balance of I breathe in when you breathe out, abalance that's now tipping, tipping-

She says his name, over and over like some secret spell, hardly a whisper, beautiful and terrifying and something is very wrong with him and he knows it because, at some indefinite point in time, they have become synonymous in his head.

When he kisses her, he tells himself that it is meant to simply silence her and nothing more. He tells himself that the world is still on fire, and that he still needs to do so much and that they may be many things but they are not that (have never been, will never be, et cetera, et cetera...)

He tells himself a great many things in hopes that some of them will be true.