When We Say Adieu - Tsushi (2024)

Chapter Text

He was outside their door, teeth clamped around a cigarette. A lazy curl of smoke drifted up, past overtired eyes.

He was half an hour early.

He hadn’t been able to sleep. He’d been in town for over a week, but of course he hadn’t told Lupin. Jigen hadn’t dared show his face until tonight. Whenever the gunman had been tempted to contact him, that last text stared back at him.

you probably shouldn’t stop by

at least for a while, you know??

That sure as hell kept Jigen from doing anything too rash.

The pain of losing casual ease stuck in his throat. When they lived together, it was just easy. But Fujiko always made things difficult.

Jigen just couldn’t understand what the hell the appeal was. She was a mean, selfish, vain person. And that was just the start of it. She was also withholding, secretive and provocative. She was constantly stirring up the people around her for her own amusem*nt or personal gain.

Jigen looked at the doorbell. A half hour early was fine. He’d been waiting months. Who was going to fault him for a handful of minutes? Lupin wouldn’t mind. He’d trust that it wasn’t a big deal.

Trust. That was another thing wrong with her: Love required trust, and Fujiko was completely untrustable. There was probably nothing on earth she could say that he could believe at face value. She was never satisfied with a reasonable deal. There was always a twist of the knife at the end, often just for kicks.

She asked for so much and gave so little in return. What kind of love could she possibly give?

His cigarette was a smoldering filter. He spat it out and crushed it with a spin of his heel, applying slightly more force than necessary.

Acting like he was any kind of expert on love? Pathetic.

Jigen headed up the block, back to his conspicuously close hotel.

Everyone he’d ever loved had died, betrayed him, or left him behind. And in any case, Jigen hadn’t found a way to put his feelings into words. He was blunt about loyalty, and he acted on his devotion. What else could it f*cking mean when someone would die for you? When he would kill for you? When he would do anything for you? When he would forgive you over and over…?

But he was never the type to speak up. He could barely stand to look at his own feelings. The idea of ripping them out of his chest, just to get them laughed at? Jigen shoved his hands in his pockets. No way he had the guts for that.

So why was he always so shocked when they ran off with someone else who was willing to actually say it? Someone brave enough to face the greatest pain he could imagine?

He had no business lecturing anyone about love.

Lupin loved her, so it didn’t matter if Jigen understood or not. Lupin had always been a broken record where Fujiko was concerned. And he did it all. The way he constantly planned out gifts for her, or endlessly forgave her for dropping him into life and death situations. Hell, just the way he would cook extravagant meals for her birthday, even when she rarely bothered to show up.

It made Jigen f*cking sick. Watching Lupin fretting for hours, whining that she might’ve gotten hurt or lost along the way. Jigen couldn’t tell which was worse: how viscerally dopey it made the master thief look, or how much Lupin’s heart genuinely seemed to hurt from getting stood up. To sit with him those days, it made Jigen nauseous, like he could barely breathe. Eating a romantic meal for two as reheated leftovers. Meanwhile, Lupin would try to pretend the whole thing was a lark, and not a wound on his fragile ego.

Jigen stood outside his hotel and lit another smoke. Chicken sh*t behavior, he admitted. Standing here, where he knew he was visible from Lupin’s home. He imagined Lupin spying him on the street, noting the hotel, and maybe even taking the time to figure out which room he was in. Thinking about it made his head swim even further into the most lavish and unrealistic fantasies.

He flicked the cigarette into a trash can and ducked inside.

Hotel bars usually weren’t worth it, especially downtown ones. They were full of the sort of fakey fancy sh*t that always bugged Jigen. The lie was such an insult to everyone involved, like dressing up a bum in a fancy suit. But what he wanted right now was a drink or two to take the edge off this sh*tshow evening before it started attempting to take a cut out of him. He sure as hell didn’t need a good bar for that.

If he had any kind of self-respect, he wouldn’t even show up. Maybe if he stood firm, and didn’t come the second he was called like a spineless dog, then maybe he would have Lupin chasing after him for once.

But if he could say no to Lupin and really mean it, Daisuke Jigen would be an entirely different man.

There was always a pit of fear inside him; horrified that if he ever said no, Lupin wouldn’t bother to ask again. If he walked away, Lupin wouldn’t follow. Maybe Lupin would think of that as respecting Jigen, rather than crushing him.

The humiliation Jigen put himself through for no damn reason. He wondered idly why it was he always fell for the world’s biggest assholes.

‘You’re f*cked up, Jigen. And you have terrible taste,’ his mind retorted quickly. That was all he could be sure of.

When was it he fell in love with this particular asshole? Well over a decade ago, but it happened distressingly and shamefully fast. Maybe Jigen was just so starved for attention back then, that anyone who smiled at him like that would have done it. When he went from having no home, no job, no money, to ‘partners’ with a guy like that.

He wondered bitterly if he ever had an ounce of self-respect. Can you say you have self-respect if you’ve let multiple people put a gun to your head even when you could have stopped them? He remembered a particularly painful instance. A shootout where, in the middle, he’d completely given up.

That day, he had stood there, not bothering to draw. But the shot never came. Something always got in the middle. Something kept him alive, even just by chance. Others died that day. Better people. He hadn’t done anything to deserve to live, but something in him plodded forward. Was it self-preservation, or just habit? He didn’t know. It was probably just being too messed up for there to be a word for it.

He smacked a palm down on the bar, catching the bartender’s attention.

“What’s your specialty here?”

“We have a rum co*cktail that’s-“

Jigen cursed internally. Damn world mocks me everywhere I go.

“No rum. Forget it. Just bourbon and ice.” Jigen grumbled out the words politely as he could, but he probably still sounded as appealing as jumping out of a car window onto a gravel road.

“Yes, sir.”

The bartender got to it.

But all Jigen could think about was cheap rum. He stared at the counter, but couldn’t see it, lost in thought. Thinking of one giant plastic bottle of Bacardi as big as his forearm, shared between two young men who just almost got killed by half a damn army. Hiding away in some basem*nt. Joking around to cover up their fear. And drinking way too much.

But as Jigen passed the bottle back to Lupin, sweat-covered fingers slipped, and they nearly dropped it.

Both men scrambled to catch it, nearly knocking each other over in the process. Lupin was grabbing Jigen’s lapels in an attempt not to fall over. Jigen had grabbed Lupin around the waist to steady him and ended up standing like they were about to do a ballroom dance.

Jigen’s breath caught, momentarily terrified that Lupin’s reaction would shatter the hazy, good-natured celebration. But Lupin was the first to let out an alcohol-vapor wheeze of laughter, and Jigen followed suit. Soon, Lupin was leaning into him for support, his mussed hair against Jigen’s cheek.

Jigen couldn’t tell who kissed who first, but each small, messy press felt the same on his lips as a laugh. It was too good to hold back from. Another indulgence, like the booze, and if they were going to help themselves to anything and everything, why the hell shouldn’t they?

Soon enough they were wrestling into intense kisses, grabbing at each other fiercely, as if the world was going to end. The way the abandoned house above them creaked with the sound of bombs, maybe at any second, it would.

The years caught up with that happy memory, and Jigen’s stomach churned. What the hell had he been thinking? Being with Lupin was somehow the only stable time he’d ever lived in. But his younger self was drunk and in love and bad at denying himself when he was either of those.

Plus Lupin was handsy when he had a few drinks in him, so in retrospect it was only a matter of time before Jigen stopped pushing away exactly what he wanted.

It was just the two of them, and to be fair, they were both laughing about it. With the right distraction they managed to ignore blood, sweat, and the sounds of scattered gunfire outside.

Or perhaps not ignoring, perhaps the gunfire was the point. Drove home the need for this. The electric spark of a first time, amplified by how ephemeral it all was. Exploring and discovering. It was a spotty memory, but the flickers of it were more treasure to him than a hundred bank heists.

He held his head in his calloused hands.

Only an idiot was head over heels for someone utterly disinterested. He hated himself for being so wantonly needy. He was supposed to be preparing to handle this night with some damn grace and proper restraint. But one drink was gone before he even noticed it was in his hand. Compulsive. The drinks, and the cigarettes. He found it easier not to question it. At least it made him feel better.

Maybe not BETTER exactly, but it made it harder to think so much about how bad he felt.

He ordered another and made quick work of it. Or so he thought. He took a glance down at his watch, and the time was unexpectedly late. Was that worse than being early? Would it make him look like a coward?

He dropped a large bill down onto the bar, and took off. The barkeep deserved all the change. It took a lot of restraint to not come buzzing around asking questions when a place was that empty.

As Jigen approached their front door for the second time, his movements were sluggish. He waited outside the door. Stared at it.

The daunting task of pressing the doorbell presented itself once more. He knew it was going to be painful, what was there to wait for? He glanced down at his watch again, and saw the time. He was only getting later, and more awkward.

More inconvenient.

He felt his stomach knot. f*ck.

Lupin had never taken this long before. Jigen never cared about the short flings. Okay, he CARED, he always cared, but not THAT much... It would be a few weeks. A few weeks of drinking, smoking, annoyance and anxiety. Usually less. And then the world’s greatest thief would be calling Jigen to plan the next heist.

Lupin had intense feelings for a lot of people. Jigen never doubted they were real, but they were nearly always short-lived. He was even sure he knew why they were brief no matter how real they felt.

Once, when they were young and four glasses of empty scotch sat between them, Jigen asked him why he was always chasing someone new.

Lupin turned to him with a chuckle, and a wave of his lithe hand to punctuate, ‘Jigen, confessions of love, they’re like a bouquet of flowers... so beautiful, and the more flowers in there, the better! But you hold on too long? Then all you’ve got is a vase fulla wilted garbage. Nobody wants that.’

Jigen made a face, and so Lupin tried again. ‘Okay, how ‘bout this: Love is a home cooked meal! First it’s delicious, then it’s the leftovers in the fridge that nobody wants. You eat it too many times, they taste boring, you’re so tired of them, you let them mold and don’t even finish ‘em.’

It was the glint in his eyes, that casual grin, that Jigen couldn’t forget. It haunted him, laying awake next to a man he was desperately longing to communicate with. Jigen remembered that face and he had stayed quiet nearly a decade by now. The feeling put a knife to his throat any time he even thought for a second about… telling him.

It was the worst fate he could possibly imagine. Getting all the excitement he was hoping for, all the returned affection. Seeing delight in his eyes, kissing madly and passionately, maybe even hearing him say it back... But knowing that it started a clock. One that would end with Jigen being wilted garbage. Something too old and disgusting to even feed to the dog.

But Fujiko had found a way around that. She had Lupin wrapped around her finger, always withholding that crucial reassurance. She could say ‘I love you’ in a way that left you guessing. And it had worked for many frustration-laden misadventures. Just butter Lupin up, make him think he’s about to get what he wants, then cut and run with the loot. Leave Lupin scrambling to keep up. Make the thief want to do even better the next time.

Jigen didn’t care about how many people Fujiko slept with, not at all. He had done his fair share of sleeping around. But he never lied to them about his feelings. He wasn’t out there manipulating people’s emotions to rob them. That was what made her whole act so upsetting. There was this pit in his stomach when he imagined someone saying they loved him, and them turning around and robbing him. He could picture it vividly.

Probably because it had happened to him a few times. It tore him up even now. How could Lupin just get over that feeling all the time? It didn’t make sense. But Jigen had figured it out when he asked himself one question:

What the hell business did Fujiko have marrying Lupin, anyway?

What item or information would she be getting out of this, that she couldn’t have gotten just as easily by taking it? Lupin would give it to her freely, whatever she asked. Even on the rare occasion Lupin was stubborn, he was still flexible enough for Fujiko. So she couldn’t want anything material out of it. It wasn’t a ploy or a scam. What was left?

The stark reality that she really had feelings for Lupin. Ones that weren’t based on his fame or what he owned. And that was the realization that had hit JIgen the hardest this year.

He had always been able to assure himself that he loved Lupin properly, with pure dedication and no ulterior motivation. A selfish part of him had thought he was the only one who loved Lupin that way. That made him better than Fujiko. He liked fancy things, sure, but he didn’t give a rat’s ass about money, not really. And he never wanted an ounce of the fame or attention.

Admittedly, Fujiko didn’t seem to care much about that either. But she was always in it for the payout. The treasure came first, and Lupin second. Jigen had comforted himself with that feeling. She was always pulling a scam, or setting up for the next big score. And Lupin was just a useful pawn to her.

That was what Jigen wanted to believe, and he had managed to for a decade. He had plenty of evidence to prove it, too. But ultimately he was just refusing to see what it really was. It was Fujiko and Lupin, playing together. Knowing what the other one needed. Two people who really understood each other and loved each other.

It had ripped through him like a bullet in slow motion. He resented her for years on this assumption that she took from Lupin without giving anything back. Jigen hated her double crosses, her lies, he hated the way she led them into danger. Lupin had been tossed in harm’s way to protect her countless times.

Jigen still didn’t understand how these things were love. But somehow they were. And Lupin had seen that all along. Jigen had been the one who was fooled by Mine Fujiko.

And nothing could make him more angry.

His hand shook as he raised it to the buzzer. He hadn’t expected this to be easy, but he hadn’t thought it would leave him a wreck. He dropped his hands back into his pockets without pressing it, and fished out a fresh cigarette and his lighter.

He flicked the lid open and the flame faltered as he stared at it. Like the candles on the table at the wedding. Remembering the day was hard... and not just emotionally. He drank so much that night, he didn’t even remember leaving. He must have left though, because he woke up alone on the floor in his hotel room in the same suit he was wearing the day before.

If someone else had taken him upstairs, they at least would have left him in the bed.

He did remember the glasses. Lupin had put effort into every detail long before the day; he had shown Jigen the drink glasses from a catalog, the table cloths, the appetizer menu, the flowers, even the damn light fixtures.

He remembered that glass feeling heavy in his hand as he lifted it to his mouth. The feel of running thin, anxious fingers over thick, ridged, crystal drinkware. Glasses with patterned bottoms, that he hardly ever saw because his kept filling up before he had time to.

It wasn’t him filling up his glass, though. Every time he looked back, his glass was topped up, or replaced with a pour of some new, stunning 60-year-old vintage.

He recalled whispers between two waiters, one saying that maybe they should cut him off, and the other saying that the groom had given specific instructions not to. Every pour was a ten-thousand dollar bribe. But Lupin hadn’t needed to. Nobody could put a price on Jigen’s silence.

But Jigen’s wedding gift was keeping his mouth shut.

Jigen finally pressed the doorbell, half the cigarette falling to ashes at his feet. Hopefully this would be another night he could shut up and forget. Forget what it was he wanted and forget that he’d never have it.

No one came to the door.

After all that waffling, did he have the wrong place? He felt like laughing. He’d passed it a dozen times this week and he KNEW it was Lupin’s apartment. Maybe Lupin had moved away?

Maybe he’d moved away, to ensure that Jigen could never screw up his life again.

The panic of his possible error was beginning to overwhelm him, when the door swung open, and a pair of warm arms enveloped him.

“Jigen!”

Jigen’s heart sunk all the way to his feet. He bet even ol’ Pops had never wanted to grab Lupin this badly. His knotted stomach would untwist itself if he could just push his face into Lupin’s shoulder and breathe him in. To let himself draw comfort from being so close to his anchor.

He remembered so many nights draping an arm over Lupin’s sleeping body and drawing him closer. Lupin was a heavy sleeper. Jigen let his insomniac anxious energy ebb away when he pressed against the soft body of the man he loved, and inhaled deeply.

But Jigen held his arms rigidly at his sides. He tightly gripped the reigns of his body and emotions, fought every urge in himself. If he gave in even slightly, he wouldn’t be able to hold anything back at all. This left him completely frozen, as unyielding as a stone.

Lupin’s arms dropped away, swinging down as if they had never been there. The thief pulled back slowly to search Jigen’s face. He was trying not to show it, but Jigen could still see hurt in Lupin’s eyes, poorly masked by his bright smile.

Jigen tugged the brim of his hat down further. He couldn’t look at those eyes.

“You’re late, Jigen-chan! Did you have something better to do?” Lupin teased. He leaned his head sideways, worming his goofy face under the angle of the brim. Trying to lock Jigen’s eyes in his own captivating gaze. Jigen darted his eyes to the side, like he was dodging a bullet, and in a way, he was.

It was retaliation for not returning the hug. But that didn’t make it hurt less. He gritted his teeth and tried to form a proper response.

“Maybe I did,” he muttered.

Lying. Lupin probably even knew Jigen had been here all week. He always had his ways of finding out things like that.

“Ah,” Lupin replied coolly, “well, I’m sorry to interrupt, then.”

Lupin withdrew further through the door, leaning away, artfully aloof. It was all bullsh*t: Lupin’s arms were crossed a little too tightly, his mouth just barely failing to hide a vain little pout.

Lupin was vain, and Jigen had just snubbed his affection. Of course, it would be nice if he didn’t always swipe back so hard that it made Jigen wince. Jigen was an excellent shot with a gun, but with the people he was close to, Lupin had even more devastating accuracy with words.

Jigen took a deep breath. He was suddenly even more grateful for the cigarette in his teeth as he tried to pull air into lungs that felt all too empty.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” Jigen breathed out a slow stream of smoke.

“Yup. Don’t blame me if you end up regretting it.”

Jigen couldn’t help himself, he looked at Lupin. He saw him wink and move aside to reveal the stairs behind him. Jigen’s palm itched to brush against him. Just to run his hand across, to trace the fabric of his suit, to hook a finger through a buttonhole and tug him close. Grab him tight, beg him for things to go back to the way they were.

But he managed to pass by without reaching out. Jigen shuffled his polished leather shoes up stair after stair, his mood hungry and dark, like a black hole.

He felt upsettingly sober.

He had been here before. Lupin had invited him several times, and, despite his misgivings about it all, Jigen would show up every time he got the invitation.

They drank at Lupin’s home bar, one seat apart. Fujiko was nowhere to be seen, but her concept floated like a ghostly presence in the distance between them. They would have a pleasant, but vaguely awkward vibe. Chatting, reminiscing and joking until the night ended.

But the last time, their conversation finally slammed into the elephant in the room. He’d kept his silence for an evening, and then weeks, months. But that little wedding gift was, it seemed, too much for his budget after all.

Emotionally overdrawn, he let the wrong words slip, and began the worst fight they ever had. Jigen hoped Lupin regretted his part in it even half as much as Jigen did. But Lupin would never apologize for something like that anyway.

In the present, Jigen reached the top of the stairs and made his way down the hall. He could see the bar. The words he heard when he walked out that night were left echoing in his head.

‘Sheesh! Look at THAT!’ Lupin had motioned toward a bandage around Jigen’s hand. ‘That one should be in a splint!’

‘Thanks, Doc, but my new health plan doesn’t cover accidents on the clock.’

Grim little jokes had never been out of bounds, but Lupin faltered a little. There was a hint of something like guilt in his eyes. But Lupin affected a quick little smile. Good. He knew better than to piss Jigen off by patronizing him.

‘Another one of those and you’ll be hobbling about! Y’know, it’s wild that you outlasted me. Showoff. You should just take the win and retire, Grandpa.’

Okay, maybe the asshole really DIDN’T know better.

Jigen had slammed his magnum down in front of Lupin. She rested right there on the bartop, old and worn against the factory-new surface. Jigen hoped he’d left a mark on it. Everything in this apartment was too damn clean.

‘Here. Put me out to pasture like a lame horse. Retire me.’

Lupin pushed the gun back in front of Jigen. ‘You’re exhausting, man.’

Jigen slid her back. ‘What? You forget how to fire a gun?’

Lupin pushed her back, red in the face from trying to keep up with Jigen’s drinking. ‘No! I just don’t think it’s a good joke!’

Jigen grabbed ahold of the magnum. Lupin hadn’t let go yet, but he pushed her back all the same. ‘Lupin, if I’m a joke, I’d better be a friggin RIOT! Guy walks into a bar and his ex-partner puts one right between-’

With a great swing of his arm, Lupin picked up the magnum, and threw her on the floor, like he was trying to break her in half.

‘Do whatever the hell you want with your life! I don’t care! Just leave me out of it!’

Jigen looked up, staring Lupin right in the eyes.

He’d never seen him so angry.

Jigen looked back down, shading his eyes.

‘Maybe I will.’

Jigen walked over, and picked up his magnum. She wasn’t hurt. A little toss like that wasn’t going to hurt anyone.

Jigen was already halfway to the door, when Lupin’s angry words trailed after him.

‘I’m not going to follow you!’

‘Good.’ Jigen mumbled, walking out the door, and out of Lupin’s life for good.

And it was true. Lupin didn’t follow him. They fought, Jigen left, and he hadn’t seen him since. Even as low as he was that night, as it all fell apart, even being so drunk, he shouldn’t have pushed him like that. Lupin was right to let him go. He deserved it, and he reminded himself of it often. Usually on the second drink.

Jigen was the one that was acting so immature about it, he was the one who was making it awkward. He was the one that was jealous. Selfishly demanding validation.

Sure he was a bad guy, but Lupin was too. That’s what made their relationship work. These kinds of fights with dramatic declarations, petty sniping and brutal insults usually only lasted a few days, a week at most. They were both too stubborn to really apologize, but they both hated missing each other. Neither liked sleeping alone for too long anyway.

Lupin wasn’t alone this time, so they hadn’t spoken. Just that f*cking text. Fujiko was here, so what would he need Jigen for? She was sexier and smarter. Probably less of an asshole too, as much as he was loath to admit that.

With her still around months later, who would pick a drunk old man over Fujiko? There must have been some time in the past where he felt like he was worth it. Somewhere inside him, deep deep down, there was still the memory of a bold young man with nothing in his pocket but a gun and confidence. But even the vague connections to that man had escaped him after months of depression and binge drinking.

He saw her sitting at the bar, sipping her drink. Goemon was already there, the samurai looked calm, his most common and practiced expression. Fujiko having stuck around was the biggest surprise to him, but he was still a little shocked to see Zenigata sitting at the bar.

Jigen felt the sudden weight of Lupin trying to put an arm around his shoulder and he shrugged it off. His eyes stung. He pulled down on his hat. He promised himself that no one was going to catch him tearing up like a jilted chick, and he would be damned if he broke that promise ten minutes after arriving.

In his attempt to avoid Lupin, his eyes met Zenigata’s for a brief moment. But he was even more loath to let Zenigata see his pain than Lupin. Because Lupin probably already knew, no matter how well he hid his face. Lupin had read that book enough times to have it memorized.

“Hey, you even invited Pops.” Jigen tried to look excited. He tried to FEEL excited. Easier said than done.

“Yeah, it didn’t feel right not having everyone for the party. Right, Fujiko?”

Lupin said that in a certain tone. It was the way he said something when HE had gotten his way after an argument. After he had to fight for it, sure, but you relented, and now he was going to politely remind you that you agreed to go along with it. That you had made a deal, now you were stuck with it. His annoying little victory march.

Jigen had to guess that, probably, Zenigata wasn’t the one they had a disagreement about inviting. He knew he should break the tension and say it. Show some sign of truce; that he was going to try to live with it. Play nice, even if he wasn’t happy. After all he HAD been living with it, hadn’t he?

Barely. But this far into withdrawal, he was willing to admit to himself that maybe scraps of Lupin were better than no Lupin at all.

“Ah yeah. Happy anniversary to you.”

Fujiko was swift to react, she got out of her seat next to Goemon and directed Jigen to take her spot. Jigen moved forward, trying his best not to see the way Fujiko’s fingers brushed against the tiny patch of stubble on Lupin’s chin. But he was unable to fully disengage himself. He watched Lupin melting into a soft pliable puddle.

Yes, he wanted to be in her place, desperately. He wanted to live with Lupin, it was the only thing that soothed all the hundreds of little aches and pains. It was the only place that felt right. But what the hell would it accomplish to tell the truth after they were already married?

Lupin didn’t want him there, and Jigen couldn’t ask. He saw as well as anyone how happy Lupin was with her. There was nothing worth saying. Not if he wanted to be a good friend to Lupin.

And he’d rather be a friend than a stranger.

Jigen tightly squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, trying his best to refocus on this effort. Tonight he was going to be on his best behavior, even if it killed him. He glanced at Goemon, he at least owed it to HIM, after everything.

Jigen looked at Fujiko. Her lips were a tidy little rose of a smile, but her eyes were sharp and cruel. She was mocking him. He probably deserved it. He would’ve taken any wager for any amount of money to say that this marriage wouldn’t last more than a couple months. In fact, she probably heard him loudly grumbling that exact sentence to Goemon when Lupin was planning the damn thing.

He had to give it to her: she’d earned that smugness. She won. if the roles had been reversed, he’d be giving her that exact same smug look.

“Thanks for coming, Jigen. How long’s it been?”

“A while.”

As if she didn’t know it had been eight months. Of course she knew... she was as detail oriented as they came.

God. Eight months, but it felt like seven. June had been lost in a whirlwind tour of scotch and old boyfriends.

Fujiko leaned over for a kiss from Lupin, and Jigen sank down on the bartop. He could stay quiet, but he couldn’t look at that.

Maybe if he just aimed for another month like June he would forget all about this.

That was the sort of self-obliteration he aspired to, and he was pretty satisfied with how well that first month went. He probably could have rode that wave a lot longer. Remove himself from his own life, forget all about Jigen and his stupid, mopey problems for awhile.

But Goemon took it badly when he found out Jigen was off the deep end. Goemon invited him out to Japan. He remembered finally agreeing to come when Goemon said something about his condition being “unbecoming of a man of your skill”.

Pretty humiliating, getting babysat by a man a decade younger than you. But hey. At least Jigen could tell he cared. Maybe Goemon wasn’t great with passionate words. But even if his face didn’t show it, his actions always did. He was more considerate than any of the rest of them. Conventional, in his own unconventional way.

The time in Japan hadn’t been too bad. Goemon worried about him, would make space for him, and even set aside precious time for him. He would probably have let him stick around for months. Jigen frowned deeply. That should be enough for him, so why didn’t it make him feel better?

Goemon was a lot like him, they both had blood on their hands. They both had settled in stride with a man who was constantly larger than life, who defied expectation. For Goemon it seemed that quality was attractive because he always had something new to learn from Lupin.

And for Jigen, Lupin was a person who reminded him that it was possible to just enjoy being alive. Completely infectious glee while they pulled off a getaway plan together with a thing someone else didn’t want them to have. Laughing when they fumbled to shake off the frustration of screwing up. It felt right, it felt easy.

With Goemon their shared history made them close, near death experiences forged a strong bond. And honestly, Jigen would be there for Goemon for anything, if he ever asked. But naturally, Goemon never asked. And Jigen understood why, because he wasn’t able to ask either.

Jigen was convinced that, just like everyone else, Goemon didn’t really need him. He was willing to believe the other man liked him. He could even entertain the idea that Goemon enjoyed his company, to some degree. That his quiet closeness meant he was fond of him, that Goemon cared for him. But it wasn’t enough.

What was enough? Eight long months was enough. Enough to convince him yet again, that no matter how many times he gained some small ounce of confidence that perhaps he was important to a certain master thief, that perhaps he had some role that couldn’t be filled by anyone else... He had to accept, Lupin didn’t need him.

No one really needed Daisuke Jigen.

“How’s the sake, Goemon? I got the right stuff, right?” Lupin cut through Jigen’s self-loathing thoughts with a fond warble in his voice.

“Indeed. It is excellent.” Goemon replied. He seemed relaxed, it was easy to tell he was glad to see them again, even if he only showed that in his little Goemon way. It made Jigen’s heart thaw seeing his little mannerisms. It reminded him what he missed about being with them both. Jigen rededicated himself to keep this a pleasant night, for Goemon at least, even if it wasn’t pleasant for Jigen.

Jigen gestured to the glass, another drink would help, probably. He wasn’t nearly pacified from the two he had earlier.

“Let’s have another round, then.” He hoped that sounded enthusiastic enough. It was hard to tell.

Lupin beamed and poured more for him.

“Oh I HAVE to tell you all about our trip to Hawaii. So we get off the plane and they lost my suitcase of clothes, so we only have Fujicakes’ stuff.”

Fujiko smiled and ruffled his hair. “Of course I was planing for it to be warm, so I really didn’t have much to cover him up with.”

“But it was a blast, when we got to the hotel we both shaved and made up elaborate backstories the whole time!” Lupin laughed gleefully.

“You were always trying to make me laugh and break character.” Fujiko pinched his cheek, but she seemed like she was actually in a good mood remembering this.

“So we were making up details, different stories for everyone and having to keep them consistent for all the couples we met!” Lupin was getting more excited, as he usually did when trying to tell people how clever he was.

“You kept the same name every time though I bet, you were always terrible at on the spot names.” Jigen had downed his sake dish twice, and something inside him was settled. Domesticated. Watching Lupin work himself up, it was like being home for the first time in months, and he just wanted to pretend for the moment that it wasn’t going to be a short-lived return.

Fujiko started to laugh, “He is! Remember Daisuke Ishikawa?”

Jigen let out a honk of a laugh. You’d think Lupin had no creative bones in his body. Jigen lifted his eyes from under the brim of the hat to see Lupin get a bit red in the face. That tinge of teasing always drew out more energy from the thief.

Lupin would work even harder now to pull the group back into his charismatic grasp. A little tag team game Jigen and Fujiko had played many times to rile him up. It felt like riding a bike again, a little rusty at first, but it comes back to you.

Jigen smiled softly, just the smallest, slightest curve in his lip. “Melted that genius brain of yours with all your drinking and hedonism.”

Jigen felt the best way to punctuate a very hypocritical statement was to really sell it. He sipped the drink in his hand.

Lupin pouted. He must be feeling insecure today if he felt the need to correct Jigen.

“Jigen you’re even more of a hedonist than I am! Or at least, we’re on the same level! How many times have people tried to shoot us and you wouldn’t even dare to put down your drink!”

“People shoot at us a lot, so why waste perfectly good alcohol? If anything I call that economical.” Jigen said with a catty smirk, his playful smile returned from prolonged hiatus. The way he could pull a smile out of anyone, in spite of themselves... that was the Lupin Effect.

Lupin was seductive. Not seductive like a handsome stranger, no... he was seductive like the seductive urge to press snooze on your early morning alarm and sleep in. Seductive like the urge to miss work, to lay warm and contented in the comforter. Hell, to quit work completely, f*ck everything else, to just live in that cozy bed until the day you die.

And Jigen was sure he wasn’t the only one at this party who felt that way.

It made this whole getting married thing even more infuriating, ultimately. What an inconsiderate little bastard, to make you want to give up everything for him, and then leave you in the dust. Jigen glanced over at Zenigata, who was eagerly downing more sake.

‘Sorry old man, we learned the hard way that Lupin only keeps the spoken promises.’ Jigen looked back down at the bartop ruefully. There was a magnum barrel dent in it.

Lupin finally moved away from Fujiko long enough to hop up and sit on the bar near Zenigata. The thief looked genuinely glad to see them.

It was the fond kind of look you could expect from him when he was in the middle of pretending something would never actually end. Lupin could live in the moment a little TOO well sometimes. But Jigen was very eager to share that particular fantasy tonight.

“Well, I want to hear about all your adventures! How about you Pops? Tell me you haven't been too lonely without me!”

“Err... well... I’ve been keepin’ an eye on you, of course. But after a few months it just didn’t feel right havin’ the ICPO payin’ for me to do nothin’. So I asked to be taken off the Lupin case.”

Taken himself off the case? It had to be bullsh*t, even if he did it “officially,” there wasn’t a chance he had kept his mind off it. Even a few times when Lupin appeared to the world to be dead, Zenigata never really “took himself off the case”…

Lupin’s eyebrows furrowed, befuddled. A rude awakening for an egotistical guy who always looked over his shoulder to check that Zenigata was right behind them.

He had a certain look on his face when Zenigata showed up to a scene. His presence was the kind of frustration that pleased a puzzle solver type. Lupin wanted something with an ungodly number of pieces and probably no picture on the box. That was a chief difference between them, Jigen would be fine with a 12-piece puzzle and then a good nap.

Early in their partnership, Jigen had asked him why he hadn’t gotten Zenigata out of the way permanently. Not that Jigen relished in shooting a guy like that, but he was tenacious enough to be troublesome, so why keep an over-ambitious cop on their tail?

Lupin laughed it off and told him Zenigata ‘was convenient.’ When you know the behavior of someone who will be on the scene, you could use them in all sorts of ways.

Lupin certainly had used Zenigata to his advantage many times. But Jigen knew better than to take that at face value. It was obvious Zenigata wasn’t just a pawn to him. And Zenigata had gotten the jump on them more than once. He was sand in the gears at least.

Jigen wasn’t sure if Lupin loved Zenigata. It was hard to tell if Lupin loved any person, because he was loath to say things like that. Even to Fujiko. He loved freedom, he loved having fun, he loved sex. But did he love all of them like that? Were any of them irreplaceable? Hard to say. Even for a gunman who hung on his every move for years.

As for Zenigata though, there was no question. He loved Lupin. Obsessively, devotedly, slavishly. No one and NOTHING could replace Lupin in his life. That was obvious to everyone. It must be excruciating.

Jigen could sympathize.

“Well... they put me on a few major smuggling cases. I had to be out in the woods for a couple weeks in a bear costume." Zenigata sounded very serious but Jigen couldn’t help but laugh to himself imagining it.

“Had to rough it. Camped out for two whole months. This organization had quite the operation, and even when I did meet back up with my men, we were outmanned. The scum thought they had me figured out, I was in a ditch dodgin’ artillery shells. Had to pull the old dummy corpse trick to throw 'em off.” Zenigata paused with his usual hardboiled grit.

“You win some, you lose some. At least you’re still alive and kickin’." Jigen offered supportively. He didn’t care much about taking down organizations, it seemed to him that the moment you did, another rushed to fill the void.

“Oh, I got ‘em. Took down the whole ring. Which of course didn’t improve my popularity back at the office. A few upper management guys were hopin’ this would be the one that finally did me in. 'Cuz it turns out they were involved in some of the permits. Thought it might be a convenient place to end my career.”

Lupin was delighted, and the glint in his eyes held just the smallest hint of envy. Jigen had to guess Lupin wasn’t loving this retirement nearly as much as it seemed from the outside.

“You sure love painting a target on your back! Even more than I do, huh, Pops?” Lupin said with a laugh.

“They’re findin’ out slowly what you already know. I’m hard to get rid of,” Zenigata smiled back at him, probably unintentionally encouraging the thief to think all the more about what he could be up to right now if he wasn’t lounging around this apartment.

“Admirably persistent.” Goemon noted respectfully.

“And harder to kill than a damn co*ckroach.” Jigen added with a smirk of admiration. He was always relieved when he saw Zenigata still clinging to the back of a speeding train, or whatever crazy thing he leapt onto. The whole gang would have missed him if he kicked the bucket.

Zenigata puffed up with pride, “Heh heh heh, don’t you criminals ever forget it!”

The way Lupin and Zenigata were looking at each other right now, so fondly, that was why it was so hard to tell if Lupin loved him, or if he just liked what he meant to him. Not many criminals out there have a dedicated task force. It was prestigious. Zenigata sure knew how to feed his damn ego…

“Lupin, you should make your good friend Zenigata another drink.” Fujiko interrupted their romantic tension with a playful tone, but Jigen knew the subtle difference by now. Fujiko used that innocent tone when she was starting sh*t. No doubt about it. Hell if he could tell WHY.

“We’re not friends!” Zenigata barked. To say Zenigata was uptight about his feelings for Lupin was the understatement of the century. Zenigata would probably deny it even if his life depended on it. Jigen hoped he wasn’t THAT bad. At least he and Lupin had slept together.

“Awww, come on now Pops, can’t you just say we’re friends?! That’s why you’re here isn’t it?”

Jigen rolled his eyes. It wasn’t why Jigen was here. Friends…? Bullsh*t. It pissed him off just to be called that. Called THAT after everything.

“Aren’t you all my friends?” Lupin was acting big, exaggerated, hammy. But Jigen was fine tuned to him, like their synchronized watches. Lupin wasn’t wearing his, but Jigen’s still hung around his wrist like the handcuff Zenigata wished he had locked to Lupin. He knew his rhythm down to a fraction of a second.

Jigen looked down at it, and remembered being in time with a man who made him feel alive. Lupin was the first person in so many years that had made him consider that time might be a good thing, rather than just a slow march to an inevitable conclusion.

Jigen’s eyes flitted to Fujiko, to Goemon, even Zenigata, they were like shut doors. Lupin was in the middle of a trust-fall, and not one of them was there to catch him. He was about to hit bare pavement. No surprise parachute tucked away for this one.

The quiet room was brutal, deliberate, like watching a man get cut open. Though he would wager Lupin would have preferred a knife in his gut to that silence.

She wasn’t protecting him.

No lines to smooth over the moment. No affirmations of love. Not even a coy joke at his expense. Lupin never minded being the butt of a joke, so long as the punchline was good. But there she was, silently letting him bomb.

Jigen flicked his eyes over to Fujiko again, and tried not to let his face show the glee rising in his chest. This kinda sh*t? This was it. He knew it well from years of her coming and going. This was the way these two acted a day or two before Fujiko was about to split.

Jigen tried to deflate his expectations. He couldn’t be certain, not with just this, he would need more time. But something about the moment unknotted his stomach, and he felt lighter for the first time in months.

“So cold…” Lupin mugged. “So cold! And I even got you guys the expensive alcohol!”

Lupin set his teeth, frustrated, always masked with a joke. Jigen couldn’t just be imagining this, could he? Lupin was trying to shake it off, but the vibe in the air was tight as a guitar string.

Lupin and Fujiko were fighting, without a doubt. Had Jigen been this stuck up in his own head whining? Had it really taken this long to notice all the little signs? It was wrong, taking so much pleasure in being right. Jigen should feel guilty.

But he didn’t.

Lupin always was swift to cover weakness. Anyone who knew him well would probably notice that this was a forced smile on his face, but he was pretty good at faking it.

“So how about you, Goemon! Any new techniques? You must have gotten something good done in all that training time.”

“I have been focused on a difficult technique. A way of moving that allows a man to slip between two opponents and disarm them.”

“Sounds pretty useful,” Lupin grinned as if this was all fine and dandy. It made Jigen want to test his theory about Lupin and Fujiko’s current state.

“Oh it was,” Jigen interrupted, deliberately vague, “Goemon and I did a few... weeks. In meditation. In the mountains.”

Jigen smirked. Goemon was probably embarrassed about the time they had spent together. But considering the new evidence, he figured it really couldn’t hurt his cause to remind Lupin how much fun they were having without him. Maybe it was spiteful, but the faster Lupin realized he wanted his old life back, the better it would be for everyone. Even for Fujiko.

As for the meditation, he was teasing Goemon a bit, since Goemon would probably not share the details of what they actually had done in the mountains.

Jigen always had at least one joint rolled up in his pack of cigarettes. It was helpful on those days where he needed a lift, or some entertainment. It always cheered him up a bit, but he used it sparingly, mainly because it was a pain in the ass to travel with and you never really knew when your day off might get interrupted by gunfire.

But when you were with Goemon, you were safe. Even drunk, or with his arms practically chopped off, Goemon could kick anyone’s ass. It made even a guy who was as on edge as Jigen willing to let down his guard.

Goemon had forbidden the possession of any alcohol while they were training. It was a huge drag, and if anyone else had made a disgusting little rule like that, Jigen would’ve laughed in their face. But Goemon had seen what Jigen looked like in June. And perhaps a bottle or twenty might have contributed to it.

And the steely concern in Goemon’s eye won Jigen over. Stopping cold like that wasn’t exactly healthy either, but it wasn’t forever, and Goemon had all kinds of weird, archaic treatments to ease the transition for Jigen’s body.

Though there was something about a sunny day in rural Japan, it was secluded enough to inspire him when he went to light his cigarette. He looked at the joint and saw an opportunity. Open up to Goemon about this Lupin thing. It might be healthy or something, right? It was too difficult when the both of them were stiffly sober.

With light pressuring, and being sufficiently hidden from the public eye, it wasn’t as hard as one might think to get Goemon to indulge. Goemon, deep down, could be as wild as Lupin himself. Goemon loved romance, he had wild whims, he was passionate, even if he wasn’t great at communicating that. He loved a stiff drink, and had the kind of mind that was only kept in check with all the training he did to reign it in.

When he was in a mood to talk about it, which was NOT often, he would say things about how he couldn’t be lax, he couldn’t get too distracted, or Zantetsuken might be the death of him. Whatever that meant, Jigen believed him. Goemon had a dark sense of humor, but he didn’t seem like he was joking.

In he present, Jigen pressed a shoulder against Goemon, trying to egg him on a bit. Jigen knew he wasn’t going to be able to sell this story without some corroboration, “Right, Goemon?”

“Yes…” Goemon muttered shyly.

Just as embarrassed as the samurai was that day when Jigen lit the joint and handed it to him. The gunman had shockingly managed to convince Goemon to take a day off.

When the high first overtook them, Goemon was overwhelming, both men energetic and egging each other on. The two of them were on their feet, enthusiastically taking turns reenacting scenes from their favorite movies.

He cheered Goemon on as he played out some Kurosawa bits, and he did some John Wayne. Reciting lines back and forth to each other like a pair of schoolkids who just watched a movie for the eighteenth time. They mimicked lines and played out the best lightsaber fights in Star Wars.

Both men loved movies, and even the occasional videogame. Though neither of them liked to let that be known to anyone outside the gang. For both of them it clearly didn’t suit their aesthetic, so it nearly always had to be done with a certain amount of secrecy attached.

Goemon had frequently gotten deeply obsessed with some game. Then, after spending a week or two extremely focused on besting it, thrown the whole thing away and carried on about ‘needing to destroy the temptation.’

Jigen simply appreciated that cellphones made it far easier to still look like a dour professional hitman even while you played a game on your phone in public.

Unlike Goemon, he was awful at resisting temptations and he sometimes let them completely run his life. In a way he assured himself that he either ‘wasn’t worth changing for’ OR another big one, ‘what was the point in letting go of the thing that was making you happy.’

A lot of people would be baffled how a guy could manage to rake in millions of dollars on a job and be broke by the next month. But Jigen had a talent for it. One minute you’re a bit drunk and looking for some excitement and the next minute you’re pawning the gun again.

When Jigen didn’t have a firm anchor, he was completely unmoored, floating aimlessly. The tide seemed to lead him to a lot of less than desirable places. But laying next to Goemon looking up at the sky wasn’t the worst place to end up for a drifter. He could admit THAT at least.

Goemon just wasn’t the firm leadership type. Probably why the guy wasn’t keen to take over a dojo or anything like that. Goemon liked to be in charge of himself and no one else. Jigen was with him on that. Being in charge of yourself was more than enough to deal with…

At the bar, Fujiko leaned over to refill Goemon's drink. “Come on, now. What did you really do? Zenigata’s not gonna do anything to you, you’re not Lupin.”

She knew how to get information out of Goemon. He was pretty malleable, though only with the people he could be convinced to feel duty towards.

Jigen found that sort of charming, in its own way, but he was gonna take this one off Goemon’s shoulders. Who knows how Goemon would tell it. He needed to make this sound exciting, enticing. Make sure these two love birds had a good reminder of what they were giving up on while they played house.

Jigen pulled out his pack of cigarettes, and slipped one between his teeth, he grinned teasingly at Lupin, “Thank god.”

Lupin took the hit about as well as Jigen expected with his ego already wounded.

“You guys are just jealous that Pops only has eyes for me. And that I’m married to the prettiest woman on earth, and I’m the world’s greatest thief,” Lupin insisted loudly. "I’m Lupin III!”

As Lupin’s insecurity grew, so did Jigen’s grin. This was going to be shooting fish in a barrel.

“What is THAT supposed to mean?!” Zenigata sputtered.

Jigen’s smile softened a bit, it was something of a relief, seeing someone in more denial than himself was a comfort.

It didn’t take a genius to see Zenigata’s distress. Jigen took mercy on the old man and grabbed him cordially by the shoulder, patting twice to settle him down. Jigen had to pity the guy sometimes.

“If you promise not to be a narc, Pops, I’ll tell you.”

“No promises,” Zenigata growled.

“Well.”

Jigen was undeterred, Zenigata was obviously posturing. He flicked open his lighter and lit up for dramatic effect.

“Some guy hired Goemon and me to protect a vault. I know, right? That was wild. A few days we had these huge groups of guys trying to break in, and other days it was nothing. We got bored half the time. And then creative the other half.”

The “some guy” was an ex-lover who’d found his way into a high position in a small dictatorship. It was the type of job Lupin would’ve loved, so long as he was on the side of the ones looking to rob the bastard. But Jigen and Goemon were on the other side, assassin henchmen hired to kill the would-be Lupins.

It was all painfully ironic really... or maybe not ironic in the slightest. He and Goemon were pretty ruthless when Lupin wasn’t holding their leash.

Jigen pulled the cigarette out of his mouth, gesturing with it. “And then he tried to stiff us, so we took all of the jewels in there at the end. You should’ve seen Goemon’s face.”

The sharp, inevitable stab of betrayal from a former friend. He had barely felt it this time, mostly because he didn’t care about the payout in the first place.

He had lost count of how many it was. Jigen was probably starting to grow numb from all those past scars. Sure, the guy was a massive asshole, and Jigen was horribly ashamed about the rushed, rough, emotionally devoid sex they had. But he kept imagining there would more be honor between thieves. The sort of delusion you got when you worked with Lupin the Third for too long.

He really knew how to pick ‘em. Check that one off the list. Admittedly the world was probably better off without the guy.

Who would he be a year from now? If his hunch was right, he’d be looking over Lupin’s shoulder at blueprints for his next big plan. But if he was wrong? Well that numbness was something he’d seen in the eyes of a lot of his former friends.

Men with faces as fixed in place as the faces of the people they had been contracted to gun down. The type of man he would have already been, if not for a certain thief’s intervention.

Best not to dwell too much on that. If he stayed focused, played his cards right, he didn’t have anything to worry about.

“Gonna share any of that score with us, Jigen?" Fujiko moved her body lower, close to the bar, so that her breasts were completely visible down her shirt. A pretty common move for her when she was asking for something, but she seemed to have forgotten who she was talking to. Jigen didn’t mind, it just meant she was on the line, taking his bait.

He couldn’t help it, he laughed. Hook, line, and sinker. Fujiko missed the jewel heists. If she didn’t, why would she even be asking?

“Why the hell not?” Jigen kept his arm slung around Zenigata and smiled big. Casual, cordial, intimate. Something in her eyes told him she must be missing it all, maybe even Jigen himself, at least a little bit.

“You and Lupin were always the ones with good fencing contacts. I just have a big pile of rubies back at my place. Whatdya say. 70/30? That was your usual shtick right?”

Zenigata shrugged his arm off roughly and interrupted Jigen’s amazing setup with his standard sh*tty cop routine. “That’s enough of that! No illegal activities at this party!”

No wonder they never invited him anywhere. The guy didn’t know how to relax.

“It’s MY party, Pops! It seems like I should get to make the rules. And right now I want to drink!”

The way Lupin’s voice was tinged with the whine of a complaint, rather than self-assurance. Obviously, he was grappling for control.

More than enough proof that he was tempted. Jigen gave a satisfied grin. There were practically jewels reflecting in Lupin’s eyes. He looked lustful, the way Lupin would lust for anything or anyone he wanted.

He wanted to be back. Back to work.

Jigen could take or leave the work, after so many years, but the working arrangement was indispensable. He’d work until he couldn’t work any more, if that’s what he had to do to keep the man he loved.

Would he rather have a stable retirement plan? Maybe. It felt like something a proper man should do. But if it wasn’t with Lupin? He was a lot less motivated to get old enough to retire in the first place.

He’d gathered enough evidence for even HIS pessimistic attitude to be shaken. A shock, but not an unwelcome one. A toothy smile found itself fixed on his face. The rest of the night was going to be a breeze.

Something had set Fujiko off. Maybe she’d noticed how eager Lupin was to go off hunting diamonds rather than stick around. She examined a glass disapprovingly.

“Sorry, this glass is a little dirty.”

Lupin snatched the glass from her hands, his reply curt, without his signature charm. “It’s fine."

Big slip, Buddy.

Fujiko looked at him intently, she even tilted up his chin, forcing him to make eye contact with her. That sort of stuff would usually drive him wild, on a normal day. But he clearly wasn’t happy. Whatever they were saying silently, Lupin didn’t enjoy the conversation.

Her tone was sensual, sweet. “What can I fill it with?”

Jigen wasn’t fooled.

“You can pick, I know I’ll like whatever you choose, Fujicakes.” Lupin sounded obliging, the words a plea for leniency.

Jigen wasn’t going to leave him dangling like that, at Fujiko’s mercy. Jigen’d already seen Lupin bomb once. And if nobody was coming to help, then Lupin needed his partner to rescue him.

Jigen’s specialty.

Jigen took swift inventory of the bottles and knocked hard on the surface of the bar to catch their attention. It did, and they both looked at him.

“What about what I like? Lupin, you're bragging about the booze, but this stuff is all sh*t. Cheap whiskey. Cruddy bourbon. Do you even have a bottle of rum? What kind of bar doesn't have the bare essentials?”

Jigen watched Lupin’s pupils move, ever so slightly. His brow nearly scrunched, and then a light blazed in his gaze.

That big smile was like the sun.

Lupin slid out of Fujiko’s gaze, and gave Jigen his full attention. For the first time in ‘awhile.’

“Can't drink in a comfy little bar? Do you even like rum?"

There was a difference between a real fight, and playful bickering. Nobody else needed to hear it, but Jigen could feel it. The energy was right in a way it hadn’t been since the wedding. Jigen shuffled his shoulders, trying to act offended. A two man comedy group couldn’t work without the insults flowing.

He tapped his finger on the bar and crossed one leg over the other. “Maybe I'm in the mood for it. Or a half-dozen of the other things you don't have."

"So picky, Jigen-chan.” Lupin’s words complained, but his tone was sing-songy. He was delighted. “FINE. There’s a liquor store two blocks up.”

Lupin bounded to his feet, as if he had been WAITING for someone to ask him to leave.

Well, Jigen DID want him to leave. Leave this whole concept of marrying Fujiko behind.

But Fujiko wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Fujiko made a pouty face, cutesy and crass. “Do you have to go?”

Jigen understood, it was a pride thing. Lupin’s devotion was always something she loved testing. Probably just for the ego boost. Jigen had to scoff. Fujiko and Lupin had egos like a black holes.

“Keep that cute face right there, I’ll be back for the drink before you can miss me!” He kissed her cheek sweetly, a kiss like that could be an apology or a brush off, only Fujiko would know how it felt.

“I miss you already.”

She had a little smile on her lips, but it felt like more was behind those eyes.

“Oh, in that case!” Lupin was part of the way to the door, but he rushed back to her side…But just leaned in for a short peck.

On the cheek.

Jigen watched. He probably even had tilted his face up too high, and let his eyes show. He was staring, in some degree of disbelief.

She had sad eyes, even if there wasn’t much passion in the plea, she had told him she wanted him to stay close. Even insincere, Fujiko rarely said things like that to anyone.

Sounding needy, Jigen hated that too. Even if he was needy, like hell he was going to give anyone the satisfaction of hearing it.

It was guilt twisting in his stomach now. He felt the need to apologize. Even as much as he longed to split them apart, he wasn’t the type of guy to intervene. He wanted Lupin to choose to be with him, not be forced to be with him. Not to mention, he had a hard time seeing a woman be upset. Even Fujiko.

“Hey Fujiko," Jigen started, unsure what he wanted to say. He flipped his hand and pulled down his hat, "sorry I made him go out.”

“It was his choice." Fujiko’s brow was just barely furrowed. She sounded aloof, but aloof meant a lot of things with Fujiko.

Jigen paused to consider and muttered softly, repeating it to let it sink in.

“It was…”

Maybe Lupin had his own reason for wanting to go, maybe Jigen had only provided the convenient excuse. But Lupin had pretty willfully resisted Fujiko’s romantic gesture. Maybe for Jigen?

Hard to believe it though. Jigen rested his chin on his hands. Maybe he wasn’t just imagining this.

“We all know nothing can change his mind once Lupin has made a decision.” Goemon said with a nod. It was comforting, Goemon knew how to remind you of certain truths. If Lupin made up his mind, that was that.

“He’s that kinda idiot...” Zenigata joined in with a short fond, nostalgic laugh, “I miss chasing him.”

His cheeks were flushed. Pops must’ve managed to get drunk faster than Jigen. Zenigata’s big hand covered his face with some embarrassment for being the first one to crack and be emotionally vulnerable.

Jigen couldn’t stop the small smile that creased his lips. There were things to admire about Zenigata. The persistence of course, the dedication, but this was one too. They all missed him, but Zenigata had stumbled and opened the door they all wished had been open earlier.

Fujiko laughed gently, as far as he could tell, it was genuine, “I know what you mean.”

The vibe that had been so strained, lost tension like letting go after clenching a fist.

Jigen felt a warmth for Zenigata that made him want to get a bit more physical with him in ways he usually reserved for his friends. They were kind of friends, Jigen knew the guy wouldn’t say as much, but that didn’t change anything. He nudged the inspector’s side and grinned. “Can't speak for our idiot pal, but I missed you, ya big lug.”

“Wuh, really?” Zenigata’s eyes welled with tears, and Jigen felt even more sympathetic, seeing how the small sentiment touched him. He must be lonely too.

Jigen pulled up his hat brim to look at him and make sure he knew he was serious, “Yeah, of course. You can come chase me around any time, if it helps.”

Zenigata looked like he was about to pounce, or something like that. Jigen had seen him make that kind of teary and intense face when he looked at Lupin.

“I would rather you did not chase me.” Goemon said with his usual earnestness.

“Agreed. I would prefer to do all my dirty deeds without getting caught." Fujiko was glib, pouring herself a vodka cranberry. Jigen considered asking for one, but he knew better than to push his luck.

A cigarette would have to do. He lit up and muttered while holding it in place in his teeth, “I can’t say I’m that exciting to chase. Not nearly as exciting as Lupin.”

“You could probably just walk from bar to bar 'til you find him.” Fujiko laughed.

“Harsh but fair.” Jigen forced a stiff laugh, he pulled his hat down, trying not to give her the satisfaction of seeing his grimace. Jigen was trying to pull punches, but if she wanted to tango, then who was he to keep her waiting?

"But if you wanna know where to find Fujiko Mine, you can always-"

Goemon sliced the cigarette from his mouth and Jigen reacted on instinct. He drew his magnum nearly as fast as Goemon had drawn Zantetsuken.

Fujiko had an automatic reaction of her own, and jumped to hide behind Jigen. Even with their feuding, she implicitly trusted him to protect her. She wasn’t wrong. But it was a strange reminder of their bond. Jigen tried to approach it calmly. Goemon was really unpredictable sometimes.

“Easy there! What’s happening, Goemon?” Jigen tried to both scold and pacify. Goemon was pretty susceptible to shame. So it was worth a try.

He was cowed quickly, lowering his head. “I apologize. It is nothing.”

Jigen’s grip on the magnum loosened and he couldn’t hold back his laughter at the way Goemon folded so fast. He spit his halved cigarette out. “Scared the hell out of me, man!”

Fujiko’s mood was not improved by the whole thing, and she pushed an ashtray in front of Jigen with a pointed stare.

“I’m cutting you both off on the sake if you even THINK of pointing those at me!” Fujiko was chiding Goemon rather than him, and she seemed more shaken than actually angry.

“I am truly sorry.” Goemon sheathed Zantetsuken without any argument and Jigen followed suit by tucking the magnum back behind his jacket.

“Most people just sing awkwardly when they get drunk ya know, Samurai.” Jigen teased.

“He’s probably going to sing poorly either way.” Fujiko prodded at him.

“I don’t sing.” Goemon replied with stony insistence.

Jigen raised an eye, “So who was singing ABBA with Lupin last time we did karaoke?”

“I can not recall,” the swordsman huffed and folded his arms.

“I feel like I remember a certain children’s entertainer who sung some amazing nursery rhymes.” Fujiko smirked, she seemed like she was trying to get Goemon as red in the face as possible.

Jigen looked down at the remaining bit of amber liquid in his glass. He hadn’t ever seen Goemon pretend to be a clown, but it sounded hilarious.

Fujiko refilled Jigen’s glass while he was looking at it and he glanced up at her as she did. They met eyes for a moment, and they were both surprised to see a bit of empathy in the other’s face.

Then Fujiko moved past him to pour a bit more for Goemon and Zenigata. But it was a good moment, it made his stomach hurt a lot less.

It was light conversation punctuated mostly by quiet drinking. Zenigata had been through the most rounds, and he showed it when he shakily got to his feet.

“I’m startin’ to worry about Lupin.” Zenigata grumbled.

“Oh. Starting.” Fujiko laughed and raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

Jigen had to swallow his drink quickly to follow up, “Yeah, like he hasn’t been thinking about him the entire damn time.”

Fujiko and Jigen both turned on Zenigata, all grins. Meanwhile, the old man stumbled his way toward the door with his usual misguided determination.

“I’ll prove it to you...” Zenigata mumbled, and just like the slippery curse he was, Lupin appeared in the doorway. Zenigata stumbled right into him and Lupin managed to get the bigger man back to his feet.

Goemon was quick on the draw and got the bottles to safety. The two of them had unreal dexterity, Jigen was grateful that kind of stuff wasn’t expected of him. He was quick on the draw but he wasn’t in any shape to be making graceful rescues.

Lupin spoke with pep, and motioned toward the bottles. “Got your rum, Jigen. In the bag.”

Jigen folded open the top of the paper bag and saw it. In the middle of several other bottles:

One crappy plastic bottle of Bacardi.

He bit his lip. Just a little longer. Jigen had to hold himself in check just a few more hours. But he could feel his eyes burning with a threat of tears.

Jigen had spent the night second guessing everything. Trying to ignore any signs as coincidences. But Jigen couldn’t ignore it all anymore.

Lupin didn’t do anything without thinking. He just wanted people to believe he did. There was nothing cool or theatrical or sexy about the hours you spent in dress rehearsal. Lupin wanted people to forget all about the part where you had to work hard. He wanted them to only think of the momentary dazzling spectacle at the end.

And even though he had watched Lupin practice tricks for hours, watched him go meticulously over his plans and blueprints to make it look easy to everyone else, right now, Jigen was dazzled.

Lupin could’ve handed Jigen a thirty page love poem, and still it couldn’t have communicated as much as a sh*tty bottom shelf bottle of rum.

Jigen grabbed it out of the bag and wrenched the cap off, just to take a sip straight from the bottle. He shut his eyes and the sting in his throat made him feel as if he was back in Lupin’s arms, home and contented. A warm, nostalgic sentiment covered up the caramel burn.

And Jigen knew, as long as he played it cool and waited, he would be golden. This was over, no matter if they were willing to admit that or not. Every move between Fujiko and Lupin right now was forced.

They weren’t happy. And between the two of them, two very selfish people, they wouldn’t leave it that way for long.

They were stubborn, sure, but they both liked being happy, and he couldn’t blame them for that. Even if he wasn’t as brave about chasing it, he wanted to be happy too. He was about to get the best chance he ever had. Maybe things would go his way, against all odds.

He just had to keep it together, a few more days at most. He was so sure of it now. He could just keep going and he’d be the turtle who wins the race against the hare.

Lupin seemed significantly cheered up after getting some fresh air. He easily helped the large detective back into his chair. It was something to see, the way his cheek pressed close to Zenigata, teasing him a bit, it was mean. Maybe. Or generous, Jigen couldn’t decide.

Jigen watched with some impatience for intimacy of his own as Lupin settled in next to Zenigata.

“Geheheh Pops, I can tell you missed me!”

“I didn’t miss you.” Zenigata grumbled.

Total liar. But Jigen really couldn’t blame him, nothing sucked more than Lupin’s self satisfied little grin when you told him exactly what he wanted to hear.

Actually, it was enough to remind him how annoyed this whole marriage thing made him in the first place. He had told Lupin, a dozen, a HUNDRED f*cking times. This wasn’t going to work and he had known from the start. And Lupin sure as hell wasn’t going to concede that he was wrong.

“Too bad Zenigata, Fujiko’s got him.” Jigen knew in his heart this wasn’t the most mature way to handle his feelings. But he wasn’t keen to act like the bigger man all the sudden. He was going to blow off some steam. He had low expectations to fulfill. And he still needed to remind Lupin that if he wanted this relationship back, he was going to have to do more than just buy some cheap rum. Remind that monkey faced bastard what he was really missing…

Jigen put on his biggest smile and patted Zenigata’s back with affectionate camaraderie, “Here, this’ll help sober you up, old man.”

Jigen deftly slid a cigarette out of the pack and planted it between Zenigata’s lips. He flicked out his lighter, a flame sparked almost instantly with a very practiced gesture of his thumb.

That there was Jigen’s best slight of hand. Sure he couldn’t pull out flags or flowers or whatever, but lighters and cigarettes? He was an expert at that.

Zenigata did little to protest, he even seemed to relax a bit. So Jigen turned his attention to Goemon planning to give him the same. Least he could do after he’d teased him. And after everything else.

“You too Goemon. No more randomly trying to kill us okay?”

Jigen ruffled a hand through Goemon’s hair. He tried not to do it too much, but he wasn’t great with words. Nothing really got his feelings across as well as a bit of a touch. So, sometimes Jigen couldn’t help himself. He hoped Goemon would be able to feel that it was lovingly, not mockingly.

“I’ll do my best.” Goemon replied shyly, but he was smiling and it made it easy to place a cigarette into Goemon’s mouth too.

Jigen let his eyes find Goemon’s and rest there. Jigen didn’t want to give away too much, Goemon was bound to take it the wrong way if he said he was excited that Lupin and Fujiko were about to split up.

But he didn’t want Goemon to have to worry anymore, so he tried to express that he was at peace.

The lighter flame faltered just a little, before the steady orange glow reflected in Goemon’s dark eyes.

He looked at ease. Even if his arms were crossed. Goemon rarely smoked but he clearly enjoyed it. That guy denied himself way too much, it was nice to see him indulging in something for once.

Jigen leaned back and snuck a fleeting glance at Lupin. His face was strained.

Heh. Looks like someone was thinking cigarette privileges were just for him. Jigen rested an arm on Goemon’s shoulder with a smug grin.

Felt good to be so wanted.

Fujiko wasn’t slow on the draw, she prodded Lupin’s nose to recapture his attention. “You want that drink now, sweetheart?”

Lupin turned his gaze back to her. He smiled performatively and responded in a chipper tone, “Don’t mind if I do, thanks Fujicakes!”

Zenigata was looking more relaxed, the cigarette seemed to be doing the trick. So of course Lupin had to rile the guy back up.

“And one more for Pops!”

“I really don’t know if I should....” Zenigata seemed to pause, but he took it nevertheless.

Fujiko mixed Lupin something complicated. At least 5 bottles of something or other. Jigen knew plenty about alcohol, but not much about co*cktails. He wasn’t a co*cktail guy.

Lupin took the glass from her with his charmer grin. She smiled back. Hard to say if it was a real smile, but it was kind of nice to see she was still willing to indulge him, even if this whole thing was going to sh*t.

Zenigata raised his already half-empty glass. Hard to imagine what kind of toast to give. Here’s to a smooth divorce. Clink. Jigen lifted his own glass and took a sip.

“A toast to you and Fujiko. You know... I wasn’t ever a good husband myself. But I’m proud of you. You’re... doing it right. Anyone who looks at you can see. You're meant to be together. Everything that came first? That made you into the people you are now. People who belong together. Every single day. And Lupin? Maybe you belong in a jail cell. But you belong in this cell more. I...I mean! Because you're not living for crime, anymore. You’re living for each other, right?”

Jigen tried not to let out a laugh. He lifted his drink to his mouth quickly to cover his expression and said nothing.

Pops probably meant well with that whole thing, and Lupin humored him with his own glass raised, he was not going to make a scene about it right in front of Fujiko. They were probably going to not acknowledge this thing was over until, one day, poof, it was gone, and neither of them would talk about it ever again. Like it never happened.

Jigen was fine with that, personally.

But he still had to hold back his amusem*nt. Zenigata could really make a career as “Detective steps in sh*t without realizing it” for expertly bumbling that whole thing.

“I’m gonna go get some snacks from the kitchen. You want anything?”

Fujiko had on a thin smile. But a Fujiko smile was anyone’s guess.

Jigen assumed that speech hit a nerve or two. It would if he were her. But he wasn’t interested in rubbing salt in the wound. He said nothing.

“Ooh, get those cinnamon pecans!” From the excited way Lupin said it, those must be some incredible pecans.

Zenigata made a pretty convincing drunken act of asking for the bathroom. It seemed equally likely that the guy would call in a squad of fifty cops, or just go take a piss. That fact didn’t seem to be lost on Goemon, who stood up just after Zenigata stumbled his way down the hallway.

“I will keep an eye on him,” the stoic samurai informed him.

“Thanks, Goemon!” Lupin grinned.

Goemon really wasn’t asking for permission nor would he have cared if Lupin had told him there was no need. It wasn’t easy to dissuade him if he got it in his mind to do something.

Lupin, drooped a bit after Fujiko, Goemon and Zenigata left the room.

“Do you really have anything hidden in this place?” Jigen smirked.

“Nah, it’s all junk.” He sighed.

Jigen snorted through his nose, “I’ll say.”

Lupin gave a chuckle, it seemed like it eased a weight off his chest. He leaned back in his chair like he could finally breathe.

“I’m glad you came, Jigen.” Lupin said quietly. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“I wasn’t sure I would, either.” Jigen replied coolly.

“Lousy partner if you won’t even show up when I call.” Lupin rearmed himself with his defensive arrogance.

“You’re an asshole.” Jigen glanced down at his drink and sipped it. So he was suddenly his partner again? With such convenient timing, too.

“Sure I am. Ask Pops, he’ll shout that til he’s out of breath. I never said I was nice.”

“Mmm.” Jigen made a dismissive noise. He wasn’t gracing this little temper tantrum with his usual concern for Lupin’s feelings. But he did feel a pang of wanting to reassure him. Just a little bit.

He wanted to say that they were all still his friends. He wanted to tell him he would be there for him, he wanted to tell him he wouldn’t leave that hotel up the block for at least a few weeks. He was going to be right there waiting. He wanted to say a thousand things. He wanted to say he loved him.

He said nothing.

The silence lingered and hung in the air like heavy smoke. He tried to convince his mouth to open. But he already knew, right? Lupin must have known how long he was in town already, he probably already knew everything he would have said.

And even if he didn’t, with that helpful excuse, it was a lot easier to not speak up. Speaking up now, with something like that, would be to rip out his heart and lay it right on the sidewalk. Where it felt inevitable that someone would step on it. He had his doubts that Lupin would cradle it in his hands, and treat it like a soft vulnerable organ rather than kick it across the street for a short term ego boost. Jigen couldn’t do it right now, so he kept his mouth shut.

But he picked up the bottle of Bacardi, and looked at Lupin pointedly. He angled his face up and Lupin could see under the hat. He met Lupin’s eyes deliberately, and remembered suddenly how much it tightened his chest to look into them.

He wasn’t able to say things very clearly. But hoped his eyes would be saying something to Lupin that maybe he wasn’t sure how to say. He had to count on the fact that he could see what he wanted him to know.

They were staring into each other’s eyes, and Lupin looked like he was going to finally say something, but Zenigata’s heavy footfalls telegraphed his return to the room.

“Pops! Hope you didn’t wreck my toilet, you took forever.” Lupin broke the gaze and perked up. Teasing Zenigata did really cheer him up.

“Err... sorry.” He said, “Actually I want to talk to you about something.”

Zenigata looked guilty, and he didn’t fight back the way Jigen would have expected. Something about him felt off. Maybe he was drunk enough that he was about to spill his guts?

And by that he meant telling Lupin how he felt and not puking all over the floor. Either way, that would be something to see…

Jigen took a small drink from the very large rum bottle he was holding. He watched Zenigata intently.

Lupin seemed just as confused at where this was going.

“Sure...?” The thief replied tentatively.

Jigen felt his stomach drop a bit when he heard the hint of desperation in Lupin’s voice. It was unfair that after so long of hurting because he felt unwanted, now it hurt to feel wanted too. Zenigata seemed to be deep in thought, and the pause was too long. But even as it was, Goemon interrupted him tersely when he reentered the room.

“Jigen, Zenigata. It’s getting quite late. Perhaps we should not overstay our welcome.”

“Oh come on Goemon! It’s not even midnight, it’s no big deal.”

Jigen could see Goemon was trying to give him a glance, which was a rare occasion. So he let his hat tilt back a bit to see his face. Goemon had dead-set determination in his eyes. He obviously had a reason that he was asking for this. And even if Jigen didn’t want to leave Lupin, he knew it wouldn’t be too much longer until he saw him again.

Leave them wanting more. Make a graceful exit while they’re still hungry. That’s what Lupin always told him. It was the secret to never having people get tired of you. Couldn’t hurt to try, even if it wasn’t Jigen’s natural inclination.

His natural inclination would be to move into the apartment underneath this one and lay on the couch until this Jenga tower came crashing down.

But waiting about a block away was probably just as good.

Jigen rose to his feet and smirked, “It’s late for those of us who’ve still got jobs to do. Unlike you, slacker.”

Lupin straightened his back and set his jaw. He was about to fight. He was going to demand they stay. Jigen would have relished hearing him show that much. Remind all three of these men that he wanted them here.

Yet that fire left him quickly. Lupin slunk down into his chair. Maybe he was trying to salvage his dignity. Maybe he wasn’t ready to put his heart on the sidewalk either. Jigen understood.

“Yeah. It was nice to see you all. I’ll tell Fujiko you said goodbye.” He had a smile on, one of his most charming and sweet, the kind that distinctly gave Jigen’s body a feeling like melted ice cream. But warmth and joy didn’t come through in his tone.

Jigen helped Goemon wrangle the very large and very inebriated Inspector toward the stairs. As they ascended, Lupin prodded verbally, probably knowing that Zenigata was the most likely to cave and turn around.

“Pops, are you going to write a report about getting drunk at my anniversary?”

Zenigata didn’t make much of a noise, but Jigen was close enough to hear the low level groan he made. Jigen was just grateful that he wasn’t screaming about it.

“Don’t leave out the part where you admitted how right I was, okay?” Lupin chuckled to himself as he hopped his way down the stairs after him.

Jigen prepared himself to have to tighten his grip on Zenigata’s arm, but he barely reacted. He must be a hell of a lot more drunk than he seemed. Lupin was usually his starter pistol, it had fired and yet the guy was just dazed, letting Jigen guide him out the door.

Jigen turned to give Lupin a small wave. He had to stick to the ‘leave Lupin wanting more’ thing. He had to trust Lupin wasn’t going to be too stubborn to come ask for it.

“We’ll get Pops to bed with something for his hangover. Don’t worry about it. Bye, Lupin!”

“Give my regards to Fujiko.” Goemon added with a stern frown.

Odd she hadn’t come back. Though there was a good number of reasons it could have been. The way he said it made Jigen think Goemon probably knew them. But he didn’t really care to know the gory details. It was only going to make him feel guilty about something that probably wasn’t his fault to begin with.

“Same.” Jigen added and smirked to himself a bit at his own additional thought,

‘Tell her I hope her rebound guy is rich AND hot.’

“Will do.” Lupin responded hollowly, but there was still a smile plastered on there. Jigen had a brief thought, wondering who exactly he was acting for, why they were all making a show of how nothing was up. Must be for Zenigata. Though they might have been just as fake if he wasn’t there. Lupin wasn’t much for talking about his real feelings. Maybe this was just a show for Lupin, by Lupin.

“I can do that myself. I’ve done it lots of times.” The big inspector tried to shove him off, but Jigen still had some of his instincts to dodge even when he wasn’t sober. That was why he was still alive after this long. He laughed to himself that he had managed to roll with the movements so smoothly.

“You know, that doesn’t make you sound good, that you’re good at going home drunk. I mean, same here. But. Maybe don’t brag about that.”

It was strange what they took their pride in. Being able to find your way home and get into bed even when you were too drunk to remember much of it was a pretty low bar, but sometimes that was what you told yourself. You walk by the guy that’s passed out in the alley and you say, ‘Well, I’m better than he is at least.’

The three of them walked up the block, the air was cold, and the city was relatively quiet. Quiet enough for the echoing sounds of cars that you couldn’t see. Great time for a smoke, actually. It always warmed him up, maybe it was just the psychosomatic effect of the smoldering tip of it, red glow, keeping his cheeks less pink.

“Is he…. Okay?” Zenigata was tentative.

He wasn’t wrong to ask. Lupin was absolutely not okay. Ten points for noticing. But Jigen had sworn to Lupin, more years ago than he would be able to say with confidence, that Jigen would never tell a soul a damn thing about him.

‘If you did I’d kill you.’

Lupin had sneered as he said it. He clearly didn’t take Jigen’s word for it.

They were far younger men then. Lupin was, when he was young, an even more callous asshole, but he was still just as charming, and an upgrade on Jigen’s previous misguided crushes. And that was more than enough for him, at the time.

‘Knock yourself out.’ Jigen had shrugged. It was a time when casual death threats were more of a common fixture in his life.

Lupin probably didn’t believe him until the first time someone tried to torture him for information. Though, that was definitely NOT the first time someone had tortured him for information, it was just the first time someone had tortured him for information about LUPIN specifically.

He showed up to rescue him promptly enough, and he apologized for it about a hundred times. Jigen wasn’t mad about it. Stuff like that happens sometimes. That was also the first time he ever saw Lupin cry.

So even if Zenigata meant well enough, Jigen had evasive responses down to reflex.

“You’re the detective. Should be able to investigate that yourself.”

Goemon wasn’t going to disagree. They had similar feelings on the idea of loyalty. It was one of many reasons they got along so well.

Zenigata sounded impatient with that. Cops usually expect direct answers. And Zenigata was stubbornly insistent on his way of doing things. “I have my own theories! I just wanted to hear testimony from his best friends. What do you think?”

Jigen was more than happy to keep stonewalling him through a hazy exhale. “It’s none of your damn business what I think.”

“I think that Lupin isn’t the only one to worry about here.” Goemon added insistently.

Jigen narrowed his eyes, and found himself speaking in tandem with Zenigata as he asserted. “I’m fine!”

He was, honestly. He was doing great. And it really made his palms itch when people started demanding him to admit he wasn’t. sh*t was going well. And if it wasn’t what good was there in talking about it?

“I see,” Goemon said curtly.

He was rarely the type to show much more than a flicker of what he was feeling. But Jigen had known him long enough to know, Goemon was upset.

“Goodnight,” Goemon said simply, as he turned to walk away from Jigen and Zenigata.

Well, whatever it was, he didn’t seem to want to talk about it. The samurai slowly disappeared down the street.

Zenigata was far less accustomed to Goemon’s eccentricities. He seemed a bit confused, “Does he really just... walk everywhere?”

“Sure. He says it’s very good for calming your mind." Jigen dropped the cigarette. It had stopped tasting so good. Thinking of Goemon taking such good care of himself. And the way Goemon looked with slight worry when Jigen overdid it.

"If it were early enough for a sunset I’d walk off into it too.”

That one made Zenigata laugh, and Jigen felt himself smile. Even if the whole thing wasn’t exactly conventional, they’d known the guy a long time. And unlike a lot of people that Jigen had known a long time, Zenigata had never actively tried to kill him. That put him in the top ten at least.

“You good to get home on your own?” Jigen ventured causally, he wasn’t going to tell him about Lupin’s business, but he wasn’t against throwing the guy a little company. Jigen was feeling confident enough that he might even be really good company tonight. And soon enough he would be spending a lot of nights with Lupin, so he wouldn’t have time for anything else.

“Been a lot drunker than this.” Zenigata said defensively. Jigen had pity for him, sometimes being stubborn leaves you lonely. But he wasn’t going to play therapist. He’d be happy soon enough with Lupin to chase. That’s the favor he’d be doing for the inspector, even if he didn’t know yet.

“Great.” Jigen waved goodbye and headed across the street to the hotel. He didn’t bother to cover his tracks. It wasn’t like Zenigata was going to arrest him.

He breezed past the bar, he was more than drunk enough on just the feeling of confidence building up in him. He was whistling as he pressed the elevator button, he felt like he wanted a hot shower and to lay in his hotel bed and just bask in this feeling like it was a sunny day on a beach in Mexico.

He started making some travel plans, looking up upcoming events around the world. Art shows they might have fun robbing, something intriguing, but not too hard to warm up with.

From past experience he knew who would be leaving whom. Lupin WAS going to need him. He was going to need distractions, and lots of excitement. Better to start planning as soon as possible to comfort him.

It was only a matter of time before that idiot showed up in his doorway wanting to pretend this all never happened. And Jigen was just fine with that. Maybe they’d rent a room in France.

He laid out with both arms spread as wide as he could, and his mind felt like parted clouds. By morning, there would be sunshine.

When We Say Adieu - Tsushi (2024)
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