Saitou leaned against the side of the building, his eyes following the young man wandering around the restaurant’s entrance waiting for someone to buy him food. Both the watcher and the freeloader knew someone eventually would.
God knows what he would do if he realized how much I watch him. Even more so if he knew why. Sometimes Saitou liked to pretend he didn’t know why himself. It certainly wasn’t particularly edifying or entertaining… just absurdly riveting. And I still haven’t been able to determine what it is about him…
By chance Sano finally noticed the cop’s presence and, naturally, broke into a scowl. His greeting as he immediately approached was, “Getting kinda sick of running into you.”
He never realizes it’s anything more than coincidence. He doesn’t see through things, doesn’t pick up on things. He just assumes we meet so often because I’m constantly having to deal with his fellow lowlifes. Idiot.
“You won’t have to worry about that from now on,” Saitou told him.
“Good.” After a moment Sano added curiously, “Why?”
Why does conversation with him feel so natural in spite of everything? Despite the fact that Saitou knew how things were, how they must always be. “This is my last day in Tokyo.”
“Oh, great!” Sano grinned. “I won’t have to smell your nasty cigarettes anymore.”
Note he doesn’t ask where I’m going or why. Not that Saitou had expected him to care.
What Sano did ask was, “So what are you doing here? Last case before you leave?”
Actually talking to Sano was worse than simply observing — having him within arm’s length, watching his lips move… Being reminded of exactly how he feels about me. But Saitou wasn’t just going to leave town without a word to him, no matter how the conversation must turn out. “No. I’m here to say goodbye to you.”
“Heh… right.” It was a tone of amusement that did not even approach skepticism. Sano didn’t take him seriously enough to think such a remark was anything but sarcasm.
Maybe it’s because he never takes me seriously. Everything I do is so serious… maybe it’s a change I’m craving.
“Like you could have known I’d be here,” Sano was adding with a laugh.
Sano thought he didn’t stick to a routine, prided himself on doing whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to. He was wrong about that, as he was about many things. His days were very much the same, and what he mistook for spontaneity was just a predictable roulette of inane pastimes: he ate the same five meals at the same five restaurants, blew money of mysterious origin at the same five gambling halls, and slept over at the same five friends’ homes. Mathematically, that did allow him quite a few possibilities for each day’s schedule, but still, if Saitou wanted to intercept him, he tended to know where Sano would be at any given moment.
He’d tried not to do that too often, but there had been times he hadn’t been able to help himself.
And there were times he didn’t know what to say. He, Saitou Hajime, didn’t know what to say.
“You awake in there?” Sano wondered mockingly.
Saitou’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at him. Yes, here was an idiot — a waste of oxygen and a beautiful face and body with a history of stupidity, worthless friends, no real ambitions, a pathetic life…
And that’s what I’ve…
He’d given up dwelling on how it defied all reason.
He’d given up on pretty much everything.
“Work on your defense,” he said. It didn’t even mean what the words supposedly expressed anymore; it hadn’t for a long time.
Sano looked annoyed. “Are you gonna start on that again after all this– wait… you really are here to say goodbye to me, aren’t you?”
Saitou nodded and simply held Sano’s eyes. The young man’s face went slightly puzzled, and with that change, the last faint hope Saitou had always secretly harbored for this matter slowly faded and disappeared. If there were anything there, any chance at all, it would not be a blank look. It would be anything but that.
No, don’t worry about working on your defense. Your heart’s impervious, isn’t it?
After a few moments, that terrible expression having gradually changed to one suggesting Sano thought Saitou might have something wrong in the head — and was he ever right about that! — Sano turned away casually. “Well, bye, then!” And with a careless wave of his hand, he headed back to the front of the restaurant to resume his food-seeking vigil.
Saitou watched him until it became too painful. “Goodbye, ahou,” he finally murmured. And good riddance. He was speculating on the sourness of grapes he couldn’t have, and he knew it; he’d been doing it for a long while now, and its effectiveness as a defense mechanism was waning. So, committing meticulously to memory the image of the white-clad figure standing nonchalantly there, hands in pockets and a winning smile on his face, for reference over the remaining years of his life, he turned and walked away.
Dedra won the Quote Guessy Game a second time, and this Saitou/Sano request was a bit more specific than her first one: she wanted Saitou “seemingly hopelessly attracted to/in love with” Sano. Cruel as this seemed, I wrote it. It turned out almost brilliantly ironic and depressing. And it’s good to have a parallel to Distraction Sufficient. Well, almost parallel; as I told Dedra, I draw the line at killing Saitou.
Someday there may be a sequel to this.
I’ve rated this story . What do you think of it?
This story is included in the Saitou/Sano Collection 1 ebook.