The thing that you do in the name of what you love; you were doomed but just enough (Fall Out Boy – Church)
It was nerve-wracking, but Gilbert decided to revisit anyway. The sky was clear and blue, unlike the last time he came. This time he brought a bucket of jasmine, and made sure it had to be her favorite flower to be put on top of her grave. The breeze still blew far, but for once Gilbert could actually smell the spring from above the hill where her mom was buried.
“Hi, uh.” He crouched down and put the flowers, eyes halted for the thousand times at the tomb; there engraved her maiden name. The family she went back to after the divorce was quite poor back then, they couldn’t afford to purchase a better quality tombstone. So what left now was this cheap-looking cross whose edges were eroded away by wind and rain. “I’m back again.”
He didn’t mouth anything the last time he visited her, that was exactly after he and Elizabeth went for lunch with his ‘current’ parents. He got mad, left Elizabeth in the bus stop, and went straight to this place. Knowing Elizabeth though, it was quite weird she didn’t bring up his supposedly weird behavior. High chance she just knew all along and let it be.
Her mother neither replied nor swayed. As expected.
Caressing the stone, Gilbert blinked away the water on his lids. “Sorry for last time. I should come with something.” He smiled, hand slowly left the stone before hanging dead on his side. “I’m fine. Well, hopefully you have stopped worrying about me since long. You see now, I’m a grown-up.”
He wanted to laugh for that last remark. Grown-up, huh? Is this how it feels like being an adult?
I don’t like this. Put it back.
“Do you know I want to be a baseball player, if not for this God’s plan or whatever? Ever since I found out I have lost all the opportunities to be that, I’ve been running around loosely—not knowing what to do with my life—dreamless sleeps and dreamless life. I’ve been empty.
“But—” he bit his tongue, warmth pooling low in him “—I met someone. From the church. Everyone thought we’re a couple, even though all we did was to insult each other.” He chuckled, that actually brought him pieces of good memories on top of the worst one. “I grew to like her. I just didn’t have the nerve to admit it. You see, I hate losing to her.
“Until, recently I found out she’s dying. Then I realized, I have been cheated by time into thinking that I own even a second of it.”
Emotions swirled up to his throat, he felt like all his words choked him in the end, suffocating him in this little box of his thoughts. And he found himself shaking, his throbbing arms trying to hug and comfort his body.
“What do I do now?” he asked. “Just tell me what to do, Mom…”
“People come and go, you know? It’s our instinct to always traveling in hopes to find a better place, after all.”
Gilbert looked up to the fall of steps coming closer, the breeze was getting stronger as a certain figure approached him. Lean figure, half-buttoned white shirt and rolled up sleeves, his hair was blonde and wavy, settling down to his collarbones. He had his hands in the pocket of his trousers when he stood next to Gilbert; smile was so bright it literally competed with the sun.
Gilbert looked away. He was just too blinding.
“Sorry, dear boy. I happened to overhear your conversation. I thought you might need help finding the answer.”
His voice was a mix of husky, sweet-soured, and soft in the edge—for being such a man.
Gilbert pushed himself to his feet, finally looking him eye-to-eye. He was quite surprised to be greeted by a pair of gold. All of a sudden, he lost all the train of mockery he had planned to spit on him.
“Thanks. I appreciate that,” instead he said, not sure why his tongue restrained him. “I think I can handle it. Are you visiting someone?”
“No.” The man blinked at him. “You look like you’re about to have mental breakdown just for a second here.”
“Well, it’s good. Do it here. Don’t show it in front of your girlfriend.” He let out a short laugh, then his gaze returned sharper than ever to pierce onto Gilbert. “There’s true nothing you can do about her condition. Eventually you have to let go everyone, just like how you let go your mother over here. All you can do, since you already knew that she’s fading away, is to stop pitying her and live the way she wants. Because life still goes on. The only difference is her life will be continued somewhere.
“So it’s not the end, young boy.”
This man… wasn’t no one. Gilbert cleared his throat but got cut off again.
“I have a favor to ask you.”
“What is it?” He really thought he was going crazy staring at his eyes for so long, he might turn blind at any moment.
“Take care of her. I’ve been watching over you two for so long, I know I can trust you.”
“Watching over us,” Gilbert repeated, eyes widened in disbelief.
“Forgive our side, we have quite a trouble within the guardian management.”
“Boss!” Someone was shouting from down the hill, another formal-looking guy gesturing for the man to come down. “Shall we hurry?”
The man nodded to his subordinate before settling his attention back on Gilbert, who was still staring at him with all the wonders in his eyes. He reached out and patted Gilbert’s shoulders, apologetic smirk followed every movement he did as if he let it be obvious.
“Also remember this. You’re not the only one suffering. Your other friend who hurt you yesterday, is hurting too. Go talk to her and console each other.”
“Who the hell are you?!”
“What a way to put it.” This time he laughed. The bird was chirping alongside him like they were amused together. Gilbert didn’t understand. His only gut feeling told him that he had talked to someone he shouldn’t encounter anytime. “See you sometime, Gilbert. I’m Michael, by the way.”
He vanished, in between Gilbert’s split of second blink. The man was blown away along with the leaves, even though all the surrounding trees were leafless.
Yuriko clicked her fingers against the hard wood of the table in front of her, flipping the menu back and forth as the world around her continued to spin. It was barely evening, yet she felt like she had drunk her entire wine chamber. Had to be the effect of yesterday.
Elizabeth had recently messaged her, asking if she got time to have lunch together with her. She wasn’t supposed to say yes and cancel all of her other appointments, but Yuriko did anyway. Not sure if it would bring her more headache, but she promised Elizabeth she would spend more time with her—and she meant every word of it.
“Traffic! Ten minutes!!” was what she texted earlier. Yuriko put down her glasses, massaging her temples as she closed her eyes and watched abstract objects dance behind her eyelids.
It didn’t take her long to start rethinking about the event that happened last night—vividly replayed like a broken DVD that only wanted to play the most annoying part of her favorite drama. The image of Gilbert slamming her front gate returned, and she might be too hazy to remember the real thing and ended up exaggerating a few things; Gilbert wasn’t supposed to slam it that hard.
Yuriko spent the rest of the night crying behind everybody’s back. She had put a lot of concealer this morning to cover the swollen part around her eyes and since no one had been asking if anything was wrong, she’s glad it worked.
The thing was, she did consider Gilbert her friend. That he wasn’t just an NPC that happened to be one of Elizabeth’s sidekicks; he was one of her few first friends at that church, and so was she to him. Probably not the kind of friendship people expected coming from two dysfunctional teenagers—definitely the peculiar one, but they were friends before everything.
Thanks to Elizabeth, of course.
And why did she say all those horrible things to him yesterday was her fault and perhaps she was too desperate to separate both of them. Because 1) she didn’t want to watch them suffer from the consequences of falling deeper and deeper with each other; 2) it’s Gilbert and he would do even the shittiest thing such as digging up a wasteland for Elizabeth; and 3) she didn’t want to lose her job.
Yuriko hated herself for admitting the last point. It didn’t occur to her how much she really wanted to stay in her position if Gilbert had not managed to push all her buttons that night.
But she couldn’t have all the things in the world that made her happy, could she?
She thought she was happy once, back when Azrael called her directly to his office. She thought she’d be getting a reward for her hard work. Turned out it was really a promotion offer Yuriko’s been drooling over the past months.
She said yes. And he asked her something.
“Can I trust you first, though?”
She said, “for what?”
The next thing she knew, she was assigned to stamp Elizabeth. The worst thing, he knew Yuriko was Elizabeth’s best friend. And he used the information. He sweet-talked Yuriko with all the reasons those pricks from heaven probably wrote to him in the letter, gaslighting her that it would be the best path for Elizabeth—that she shouldn’t suffer anymore in this mundane world.
“No,” Yuriko said once. “She’s my best friend.”
“Is that a rejection for not wanting to stamp your best friend—or for not wanting her to leave?”
Azrael hummed. He reached out Yuriko’s hands and she tasted the coldness of death for the first and last time of her life. “As far as I know, you don’t need any consent from humans to take their lives. We are the ones ruling over them, whether they like it or not. So yes, she has to go. Heaven’s order.”
He pulled her closer until he could whisper to her ear, his voice frostbit her in the worst way possible—she thought perhaps it would be better if she was the one taken off instead of Elizabeth.
“The boy named Bernhagen. He was dangerous. I need someone to keep an eye on him. If I assign someone else and they fail miserably because of that guy, who will be responsible? I’ll put that on you, since you’re their best friend whatsoever.
“Keep that in your mind. I really want to trust you, after all.”
Yuriko couldn’t have any nice sleep since then. She had three days to submit her answer to Azrael and any word other than ‘yes’ would cause her everything.
Did Elizabeth have to go?
Did she really…?
“Yes. I’ll take it. Give me the schedule.”
The bell rang as someone walked in, Yuriko snapped her eyes open to see Elizabeth searching for her at the doorstep. She groaned, rubbing her eyes for the last time and put on her glasses—as well as her best smile—and called her over.
Elizabeth, despite only having 9 days left, was all glowing and smiling when she approached her, slipping to the seat in front of Yuriko and snatched the menu book from the other side of the table.
“Hey!” Yuriko protested, but didn’t take the menu back. She had lost her appetite, faking by ordering some soups wouldn’t hurt her.
“Are you not done ordering?” Elizabeth glanced at her, thankfully didn’t catch any signs of stress that were written pretty obvious, if Yuriko had to admit, all over her face.
“I have, actually. Nevermind.”
Elizabeth hummed. Flipping it quick, eyes scanning through images of pasta and penne, fingers clicking which would come straight to her mouth. She called the waiter and ordered a literal full-set, like she had not been eating for the whole week, while Yuriko shyly ordered a bowl of mushroom soup and a coffee.
“You’re just ordering an appetizer?” Elizabeth asked her once the waiter was off her way. “Are you sick?”
“No, I’ve cooked too many meals this morning and… eaten too much for breakfast…” She concealed her blatant lies with chuckles and changed the topic. “You were leaving early yesterday. I was searching for you.”
Elizabeth huffed, pushing her back to the cushion of the seat. “Melinda! Gosh, she’s already drunk by the time she poured some more! I was thinking to bring her home but ended up dumping her in the hospital anyway. I think she’s intoxicated.”
“Oh, my. That sounds bad.”
“Right? I can’t believe that she’s also an athl—” Elizabeth stopped herself midway and coughed, nervously wiped her mouth with a tissue “—can’t believe she did that.”
“Yeah.” Yuriko cackled, completely overlooking that part. She knew Melinda was a professional athlete in between her work hours. Yet she let her be, protecting it as another secret from the headquarter. “Well, aren’t you a good friend.”
“I tried my best.” Elizabeth straightened her back and leaned closer to Yuriko, one hand covering the side of her mouth out of anyone else’s vision and earshot. “There’s something I want to tell you, actually.”
Yuriko leaned closer too, covering the side of her mouth the exact same way as Elizabeth. “And what is it, secret princess?”
Her eyes lit up, shimmering with excitement Yuriko didn’t expect her to be. “Don’t laugh. But I’m dating Gilbert now.”
Yuriko hummed, too stoned to act surprised. So Gilbert really said nothing about their fight, huh? What an understanding boyfriend, he seemed. “That’s news. Congratulations,” she said, between the grit of her teeth.
“I know! I know!” Elizabeth pulled back, laughter filled the bubble space of their seat section. “It’s stupid! I didn’t even know what I was thinking when he asked me out! I just thought...” her laughs trailed away, sad smiles overtook her persona “…thought it’d be nice to actually be selfish and not caring at all.”
Had it occurred to Yuriko, however, whether she truly knew what Elizabeth had wanted all along in the remaining time of her life—or she’s just been deciding things all by herself and calling it the act of kindness?
“D-Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I care! About you, Gilbert, everyone. Sometimes I doubted myself, thinking I have walked into landmines that will backfire me later. Sometimes I think I’m undeserving of this, because of how short my time is, and that I’m selfish and all—but!” Elizabeth exhaled, air rushing out of her lungs, her body slumped back to the cushion, gazes floated away into the street sprawled across her by the window they’re sitting close. “But every time I see Gilbert, I feel safe. That’s enough to buy me in, I guess.”
The waiter took his time delivering their drinks and Yuriko was too out of sync to call him to hurry up. She really didn’t want to deal with this now.
“You don’t seem surprised.” Elizabeth jolted her from the overgrowing of her thoughts. “Is it really that predictable? I mean, you’re like our number one matchmaker or something. I thought you’ll be laughing like crazy.”
“It is!” Yuriko forced a gasp of laugh, eyes looking past Elizabeth’s shoulders. “Not that surprising. Your latter tone is just too serious for me to tease you.”
“Really?” The waiter finally moved to their way, a cup of hot coffee and a jasmine tea were settled on top of their table. “It’s not that serious, you know.”
“I’m glad, really.” Yuriko had smiled, chugging her coffee straight away while tearing her eyes away from Elizabeth. “If that’s what you really want.”
“You’re right. I want him.” Yuriko almost choked on her drink. When she looked up to check on her friend, Elizabeth was staring at her tea, her expression swimming in the reflection of the surface. “I want to fall in love like how people do; go on dates, hold hands, and be with the person you love. I know my situation makes it difficult for me and Gilbert and that definitely will deal a blow to both of us in the end. That’s why I’m conflicted.”
“Yet, you pushed on?”
Elizabeth stretched the silence as far as she could, tugging the invisible string of Yuriko’s patience. Her cheeks were soft pink, swept gently by the length of her eyelashes as she batted considerate gazes to the cup she’s holding.
A smile quirked. “I’ll be fine. So will Gilbert.” She looked up, totally ignoring Yuriko’s worried wrinkles and knitted eyebrows. “What do you think, Yuriko?”
How tormenting, she almost blurted out. What about me? Will I be fine? She shook her head, swallowing the remarks. Brown eyes pinning for her answers, nailing her down to her seat, as if she genuinely wanted to hear her out.
What can I do? I’m just your friend.
“As long as you’re both fine,” she huffed, breaking the eye contact right away. “Then again, Liz, I’m your stamper. I’m responsible for you and what will happen to you. I don’t want my clients to suffer, so off you go. Have fun.”
“Gosh, you’re so understanding. It’s scary to think about.” Elizabeth burst out laughing, setting her cup down. “And mature. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is a childish mess. What a weird juxtaposition I have here.”
Yuriko dismissed the uneven feeling squirming on her belly and at the back of her head, chilling her spine. She was cursing at Gilbert last night and the day after she’s being called ‘understanding’ by Elizabeth. Truly, what a weird juxtaposition. “Thank you, I guess?”
“No.” It’s the gentlest smile Yuriko ever witnessed. “Thank you.”
Their meals had not come until another fifteen minutes and ten attempts of Yuriko checking on her watch. She had so many appointments past the afternoon that it’d be rude to just order a takeout and left Elizabeth in a hurry. So they ate in laughter and gossips, like how two women in their 20’s talked about during their break, about men—dumb men—sweet and warm giggles floating through the air around them, the uncertainty atmosphere from earlier vanished and forgotten.
Or so Elizabeth thought. Because Yuriko was texting her underlings below the table, telling them to reschedule things and to substitute herself. After all, Elizabeth was more important than her work and position. She just wanted to prove Gilbert wrong.
She’s a decent person, for better or the worse.
“And yeah, uh, Yuriko.”
Yuriko’s head snapped back at her, after trying to split her attention both to the reality and the screen underneath the table. She put the most convincing smile, wishing Elizabeth couldn’t see through her lenses. “Yeah?”
Her phone buzzed on her hand, tickling Yuriko to reply soon.
Elizabeth licked the smeared ketchup on her lower lips, half washed-away by the tea. She put on the utensils on the plate, the clang echoed louder in Yuriko’s head. “I… this is going to sound out of blue. I need to leave a wish for you after I’m gone.”
Her fist curled. Yuriko tried not to stumble on her own tongue. “A wish? Sure… What is it?”
“Please take care of Gilbert, okay?” she said, voice dropped down as weak as she let her perceive. “I believe he’ll be fine. Just… I need you to reassure me.”
Yuriko caught a glimpse of the new text she received. It didn’t come from her underlings. Strangely enough, its ID sent a huge storm to Yuriko’s already messy head.
Gilbert: Can we talk later?
Yuriko couldn’t convince Elizabeth that, if Gilbert himself couldn’t.
When she arrived at the bar those two had decided early on, Gilbert’s already had his hands curled around the brandy he’s been taking shots. His cheeks were hot red, fuming with whatever emotion he’s about to pour, wet hair’s shining under the shimmering bulbs. His jacket was taken off and sat messily on his lap, a blatant disregard to the job he’s supposed to treasure.
Or not. At this point, Yuriko wasn’t sure whom to fancy. Her friend or her boss.
Gilbert turned to the chime of the door. Yuriko walked herself past the arch.
How was he supposed to talk with her when he’s already this drunk?!
She didn’t say anything, though. Unlike how it’s supposed to be done between the two. A conversation full of sarcasm and snarky remarks, a couple exchange of evil smirks, competing to find the right word to defeat each other. That’s how their relationship was—far from unbearable silence that weighed more than any of their creative insults so far.
Yuriko sat next to Gilbert, folding her blazer nicely as she eyed the cute bartender who somehow looked surprised at her choice of sitting. The poor guy probably thought Gilbert was another lost cause until a proper-looking woman came to accompany him.
She smiled at the bartender. He blushed and came to catch her order. A simple zest martini. Make sure to spice it with love tonight, she said.
Slurred, croaky words totally destroyed the atmosphere, piercing Yuriko’s nerves with the truth. “Hey, hey. He’s like three years younger than you. Are you fucking sure right now?”
Gilbert wasn’t even watching her; he’s too fixated at squirming the remaining brandy in his glass, crossed eyes observing ice cubes dancing miserably like those icebergs ships crashed into.
“So you talk now?” she snorted, resting her chin on her knuckles. “Why can’t I fall in love when you can?”
“That’s totally a different case.” His voice came clearer this time, much to his normal voice—just lacking the usual bite. He seemed gloomy, shoulders slumped and tired furrows scattered all over his face like a new type of freckles. “It’s my fault for realizing this late. If only I could sort it out sooner.”
“I…” Yuriko looked away, sweeping her gaze to the bartender who seemed troubled at the way he’s supposed to shake the mixing glass. “I still think you two are disastrous toward each other. Don’t get me wrong.”
“Did you meet with Liz today?”
“Apparently she knew nothing, thanks to your lack of communication between.”
Gilbert chuckled, gulping down his last drink. Yuriko wouldn’t let him get another one—she needed him to be at least half-sober tonight. “What did she say?”
“She knew well about the nature of your relationship. I didn’t say anything directly about me opposing, but she… just knew.” The metal clang as the bartender shook the glass, his stance was poor but the way he put himself in the midst of his unprofessionalism was graceful enough. Large eyes gleamed in both fear and excitement, bathed in the orange hue of the bulbs. “She’s worried about you. A lot.”
“What is she worrying about, huh?” Gilbert crossed his arms on top of the counter and buried his head onto them, voices muffled—and slurred again. “I’ll send her off merrily, I’ll be the last person to smile at her, to tell her it’s okay. It’ll be just fine, I’m prepared for it.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad. I gave it thoughts a lot and came up with that solution.”
“You don’t come up with shits.”
“I did. Just see.”
“What else did she say?”
The bartender set the martini down, perfectly garnished with lemon twirl, ices bobbing up and shining teasingly. Yuriko thanked him and immediately took a sip. It wasn’t that bad, after all.
“She said she wants you.”
Gilbert coughed, jerking his head straight. Large eyes staring into the space in between the shelves in front of him, hot cheeks turned even redder. “What?!”
“Why are you so surprised? Aren’t you two dating?!” Yuriko found it amusing to be amused at the moment. She deliberately skipped the part where Elizabeth said she wanted to fall in love—or when she claimed that Gilbert made her feel safe. Instead she decided to jump straight to the embarrassing part. “Haven’t you two did the thing already?”
“What the fuck—” Gilbert cleared his throat, voices gone cracked for some reasons. “I forgot I can’t trust you at all!”
Yuriko burst into laughter. The composed woman finally snapped, her evil means echoed through the quiet room. She could hear Gilbert cussed, totally done with her, curious gazes from the other tables watching them like a stand-up comedy duo now. It felt good. Yuriko felt good.
“She said that. Truly.” The laughs died down, all left was the accumulating crystals on her eyes. She wiped it off, trying to contain the rest of the chortles. “Right. You guys are barely three days in. Sorry for the accidental infliction of trauma.”
“What are you now anyway?! Are you together with me or not?!”
Yuriko filled the rest of the afternoon trying to distract herself from the question; about Gilbert’s not-so-wrong accusation, about Elizabeth’s genuine smile and plea, about what she really felt. Sorting her feelings one by one, but getting the others tangled every so often in the process. In the end, the name Gilbert and Elizabeth still felt wrong to her; she’s just either too soft on Elizabeth or not sure what to do anymore.
“I’m going to say it again—” she exhaled, the smell of liquor was pulled to her lungs, so damn intoxicating “—I’m her stamper. I’ll take care of her. So don’t bother messing up with me. You know what’s coming.”
“Yeah, you said that yesterday.”
“But I’ll let you have this one. Just because Liz wants it to be that way.”
Gilbert whistled, eyes wandering to the antique interior around him before settling on Yuriko. They’re no longer unfocused like earlier, the color blazed and stabbed Yuriko sharp. “Told ya.”
“I’m not saying I fully agree with you two, okay?!” Furious, Yuriko swallowed down her martini—fast and aggressive, letting the alcohol play its part to either trigger her amok or calm her down. “Liz said she’s happier this way. So I can’t just tell her to…”
Yuriko’s drunk personality was neither of the following. She’s not a happy drunk, or a confused drunk, or the honest one. She’s the mopping one.
She’s closed to sulk and cry her heart out about the frustration that’s been haunting her the entire night and day, the memories of Azrael printed fresh on her mind. Suddenly she’s shivering and felt the urge to hide herself in her blazer again.
“Thank you, I guess,” Gilbert said, faint in Yuriko’s drumming ears. “I’ll promise not to get in your way. I’ll be a civilized reaper, do my job, bid a goodbye, send her off in the most proper and normal way that you won’t ever imagine if I’m capable of doing that—well, only if I’m appointed to send her off.”
She shoved away the rest of the emotion down her throat, as well as the remaining liquor she tasted on her tongue. Heart’s strumming louder and louder as she watched Gilbert dizzily knock his forehead against the counter and groaned. “There are like 200 reapers in the district, you know,” she said, trying to melt the tension.
“One in a couple hundreds isn’t that bad.” He cackled, flush became more apparent as the trail dripped into his neck and down. “Anyway, about yesterday. I’m sorry, too. For saying shits to you.”
No, she breathed in. Don’t.
“I lost it. Should just call it a day back then. It’s just—I know. It’s not easy to choose between obeying authorities and your friend, now that we’re all grown up. And you have your own will and dreams too. There’s a lot to think of, to keep up, to maintain.”
Don’t bother. “Gilbert, I—”
“Maybe everything’s finally falling to the right pieces. Maybe it’s for the best; Liz, going somewhere else we can’t reach. Probably for her own good too. We’re just mortals.” Gilbert closed his eyes, eyelashes fluttering as he breathed to the counter. “In the end, we don’t know anything.”
It’s something Yuriko realized too, back when she was nothing but an obedient underling before Azrael’s desk. Rage, frustration, the urge to speak back, all drowned as soon as she realized how merely nothing she was to the Angel’s slight glances. Gifted—people told her often—sending her to the church to fulfill her fate. But honestly, what a gifted human could even do in this situation?
“You’re right.” Her throat felt thick, she’d like to think it as the cause of the martini, completely disregarding the sinking feeling she felt. “Don’t be sorry. You know you’re right. About my position. And me not wanting Elizabeth to get hurt.” Her eyes flew to the bartender boy who was welcoming another guest. Same smile, same blush, same words to a woman in her thirties. She’s so done. “About you, too. I hate seeing miserable people.”
Gilbert raised his head, rubbing his eyes as he yawned. “What was that supposed to mean?”
“I was too harsh,” she said, forcing herself to lock on drunk stares with Gilbert. This was way out of her league. Interpersonal chats and baring herself to emotion, apologizing personally to someone she’s been giving dead glares—for fuck’s sake, Yuriko missed doing anything based on formal format. “You are always my friend, whether with or without Liz. Just the kind of weird one, the one I don’t realize until things like this happen. So yeah. I apologize for hurting you.”
Gilbert hummed, breaking the stares. He didn’t argue, just silently reckoning whatever things that got into his head. Yuriko doubted he understood her, with that amount of alcohol interfering with the work of his nerves. But he’s surprisingly, if Yuriko had yet to realize, a quiet drunk. Maybe because of the mood, or maybe he’s just silently sober.
And she also hated herself for continuing talking, as if she thought the previous shitty apology wasn’t enough to destroy her remaining pride. “Another thing. I’m…” She licked her lips, trying to arrange better, more cohesive words instead of all the ugly words she had in her mind. “L-Let’s just say I’m jealous.”
That punched Gilbert back to his senses. “What?”
“I’m jealous!” Her fist clenched. “Of how close you two are together. When I’m literally right here, in the circle too.”
Yuriko turned away, feeling blood rushing to her face. At this point, she should just really wipe her glasses—they were fogging up. “I-I thought I’ll be okay, but it seems to not be that simple.”
They fell silent afterward; containers being shaken and the clink of glasses from the table behind them, slow waltz playing in the background, no words from those two until Yuriko hesitantly returned her attention to Gilbert to catch him blinking at her.
“You know, you can just call her to hang out with you and she’ll say yes, right?”
“But you two are going out—”
“Just how friggin possessive I am?!” His shoulders were shaking before he burst into uncontrollable laughter, arms hugging himself to contain the amusement, also to keep him on his seat when he’s so close to fling himself out. “Well, I guess we will be spending more time together. But I bet my whole bank account she’ll choose you over me. And what can I do to stop her? I’m just trying to make her happy!”
“That doesn’t seem even right. Are you guys couples or benefits.” Yuriko snorted, warmth settling on her stomach. She found herself smiling gently at her empty glass and wondered what the hell was she thinking.
“Liz is just that. I like her for that.”
They talked about work for the rest of the night, about Gilbert’s easy day sending off a father who died peacefully on his bed as his family gathered to say I love you to him, about Yuriko’s never ending paperwork and colleagues slacking off out of her presence, and about the noodles stall next to the headquarter. They fell into the same train of thoughts about whether the owner drugged their noodles so the customers would go back to eat there despite how sweetly-sickening their over seasoning was.
Yuriko was considering getting another glass until she glanced at her watch to see how it’s almost midnight and goddamn, talk about unfinished paperwork! She got up, paid her bill, and bid a quick goodbye to Gilbert, who started dozing off in between his stories. Someone should bring him home, or she might as well leave him there for better or worse. After all, Liz was out of options. She could call Adam to pick him up but…
“I’m fine!!!” he said as she tried to carry him by the shoulders, already grabbing his jacket on his behalf. “I can… go home! By myself! It’s not, uh, far! And there’s no cars at these hours!”
“Wow. Famous last words.” She ignored his whining and continued dragging his dead weight out of the bar, paying his bills in the process because he’s way too drunk to locate his wallet. Gilbert was seriously heavy for all of those unused muscles and thick bones, it had to be a hell of a night for Liz to bring him home by herself the night the three of them got drunk. “I’ll drop you off by your apartment. Not that we live so far away from each other.”
She called in a taxi and dumped his body a little bit rougher (for the loud knocks of his head against the window), pointing direction to the driver and preparing for some cash. The city moved on, gleaming lights of downtown faded into dim streetlamps, houses were turning off their lights the more they dived into the area. The taxi halted first in front of Gilbert’s already dark apartment as Yuriko woke up Gilbert from his daydreaming.
“Get off here,” she said, slapping his face softly. Gilbert yawned and looked around to notice the familiar neighborhood before grunting, pulling the handle and stepped his feet out.
“I’ll pay you back someday,” he said to her, snatching his jacket from Yuriko’s lap, and said another thing to the driver, “thanks, sir, for the business.”
The driver nodded in confusion.
Just when Gilbert was about to turn back, Yuriko rolled down the window, calling his name without thinking. She was greeted with weary eyes and a raised eyebrow. Perhaps she should just let him go, however, she thought.
She thought of how much she wanted Gilbert to forgive her, whether or not he had done that.
“I'm sorry,” she said. “I really tried. Going against Azrael. I tried.”
Gilbert frowned, nothing more or less. Yuriko sighed, letting out a subtle ‘good night’, before rolling up the window and asked the even more confused driver to hit the gas.
Time remaining: 9 days