Chapter 10

She put on hand deliberately on his chest and pushed him a step backward into the room. Her eyes did not leave his as she closed he door behind her, and took another step forward...

Bodies collided, knees knocked, their lips met and she tasted sweet. A sickly-sour sweet, like alcohol. He felt his lips forced apart by her tongue and she continued to push forward. Their teeth bumped and her hands groped. He stumbled, fell back on the bed and brought her down with him. His hands moved to her waist and he felt her trembling. Her hands continued to move, up his chest, behind his neck and down again like someone about to fall looking for a secure handhold. He pushed her back by her shoulders so they were face to face and a tear splashed down onto his cheek.

"Akane?" he murmured, she ignored him and tried to continue the embrace. Kougami redoubled his hold on her shoulders and repeated her name louder. This time she stopped and looked at him as though suddenly becoming lucid, a strange mix of vulnerability and resolve entered her eyes. She took a deep breath, "do you care about me?". This time Kougami sat all the way up and moved to the other end of the bed. They sat on either end of the mattress, the words handing between them. There was no need to ask, he knew she meant beyond the care an Enforcer could have for an Inspector, or even the care friends share for each other. After a heavy moment she went on, articulating with a clarity that betrayed how hard she was working to keep for slurring her words, "it's okay if you don't, just let me know. Yes, or n-". In a single, slightly clumsy movement, he closed the space between them and scooped her into his lap. "Yes my Little Inspector. I care about you" he whispered, and they sat there rocking gently for a moment, her head under his chin. She hiccuped into his chest and hated herself for sitting there sniveling like an idiot but loving the feeling of being wrapped up in Kougami far too much to consider moving. On his lap he felt her heartbeat slow and her trembling subside. "So?" he asked, which was enough of a question, she knew his meaning. He was asking: Why are you here? Why the distance over the last week? Whats wrong? She looked up at him and felt her eyes moisten again thinking about what had driven her here in the first place. She took a long shaky breath. "The other night...I decomposed those men and...and my pass hardly changed at all. I was just so worried... that maybe I'm an 'abnormal' or that maybe," she lowered her voice, afraid to even speak the words too loudly, "maybe I liked it." Her large watery eyes looked up into Kougami's and his chest wrenched to see her so upset, but she went on. "But I thought, if...if we cared about each other that would make it alright, we were just protecting each other. That would be why my pass hasn't changed much, because we care so much about each other that's what's more important...". Her voice trailed off sounding as though she had tried and failed to convince herself. "Because if that's not it, why isn't my pass darker? What's wrong with me?". Now she sounded sightly hysterical and Kougami calmed her trembling lips with a soft kiss from his own. "Listen to me Akane," he spoke softly and firmly to her, still cradling her in his lap, "the reason your pass hasn't changed is because you're upset". A line formed between her brows but she stayed silent. "Killing shouldn't be easy Akane." The hardness that always lay behind his eyes stood out and contrasted with the warmth in his expression. "You know what tips most Inspectors over the edge into becoming an Enforcer? Its not when decomposing people causes too much stress, its when it stops causing any stress at all. Sybil determined you were experiencing the appropriate amount if distress, but that you were capable of bouncing back. That's why your pass hardly changed. Well", he continued with a half smile, "your protective instinct might have something to do with it" and he tapped her forehead with a finger in his habitual gesture. She replied with a mock scowl then turned away to wipe her eyes and process what he had said. She could definitely see the sense in his words and felt foolish or not figuring out for herself. Overall though, she wasn't entirely unhappy with how things had turned out.

"So...I'm not abnormal?"
"Well I'm not really the one to ask about normality, but no, you'll be just fine"
"But, you still care about me?"
"Yes. And I'm guessing from your antics earlier, that you feel the same way?" She blushed.
"Yes." He smiled down at her. The mood had shifted dramatically from the tension of few minutes ago. For now they were basking in their mutual feelings, putting aside the implications, and just enjoying the small bubble of time they had to feel normal together.
"Well", she chuckled, that's that then."
"No" said Kougami, becoming suddenly somber once more, "there's something else".
Akane stared up at him eyes wide, "what is it?"
"You're drunk!"
Her eyes opened wider still as Kougami half carried her ungainly and intoxicated body towards the small bathroom attached to his quarters.
"You need a shower to sober up".
"Nooo" begged Akane half pleading half laughing, "Kagari said I was looking down so he just gave me some wine..."
Kougami's eyes narrowed. "A cold shower".

She protested feebly, but seeing as she was hardly able to stand and her head was spinning she allowed her self to be corralled into the tiled cubicle in her underclothes. When the water came, it was mercifully warm despite Kougami's warning. As water flowed over face and shoulders she slowly became more aware. She became sober enough to feel self conscious and blushed. "Should I go?" asked a half soaked Kougami, his pants were sopping at the hems where he'd stepped into the water to hold her steady and his bruised chest was flecked with many tiny droplets. As her head cleared, along with self consciousness came a burgeoning awareness of what they had done by confessing their feelings. She wanted desperately to hold onto this moment before reality came crashing in on them. She said nothing but reached out and drew him under the water with her. They stood there, holding one another, her head on his chest and arms wrapped around each other; neither knew how long the moment lasted. For a long time afterwards, and through everything that was to follow, the feeling of hot flowing water felt like a warm embrace in a perfect crystallized moment of time.

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