“I’m back.”

Koutarou entered the apartment, calling out to Shuuji, who was inside.
After doing enough shopping to fill the single bag he’d brought with him, he’d parted from Nagasaki and finished up immediately.
“You’re awfully late.”
Shuuji came out to the entryway to greet him.
Koutarou was surprised – Shuuji had just finished a job yesterday, but he’d started in on the next one already that morning, so Koutarou figured he’d be deep in thought again and wouldn’t even notice him getting home.
“Are you taking a breather?”
“Something like that.
I’m not coming up with any good ideas anyway,” Shuuji answered with a bitter smile.
“In that case, I’ll tell you something good.”
“Something good?”
“I found a part-time job.”
Koutarou made his announcement proudly, assuming Shuuji would be overjoyed, but Shuuji didn’t immediately respond.
His eyes opened wide in surprise, and he was at a loss for words.
It was because Koutarou hadn’t explained properly.
That was Koutarou’s conclusion at any rate, so he told Shuuji the details of how he’d found his part time gig.
It was just translation work, but it was a job that would utilize the knowledge he’d gained in his previous life, so Koutarou was sure Shuuji would be happy for him if he just explained it correctly.
But Shuuji’s reaction wasn’t like that.
“Is that okay? This was the first time you’ve ever met this Nagasaki person, right?” Shuuji asked, distrust evident in his voice.
“What are you worried about?”
“I thought we said we’d be extremely careful.”
The serious look in Shuuji’s eye pierced Koutarou’s chest.
The only person who needed to take precautions was Koutarou.
It was his fault that Shuuji was being so deeply suspicious.
“You don’t really think Mr Nagasaki realized my true identity, do you?”
“I wouldn’t go that far, but I don’t know, it just smells funny.”
“Well if that’s our standard, I’ll never be able to do anything.” Koutarou made his tone deliberately light, trying to put Shuuji at ease.
“I know that.
Shuuji couldn’t help feeling uneasy, and it made him hesitate.
Koutarou knew it too, but he couldn’t back down.
No matter how many times Shuuji told him he was fine, he couldn’t keep working at his current pace, something bad would happen sooner or later, and he would collapse.
He didn’t want to see something like that happen to Shuuji.
He considered what he could do to put Shuuji at ease, and in the end, he had an idea.
He presented it to Shuuji.
“What about if you met with Mr Nagasaki, too?”
“You don’t meet a whole lot of people at your job, but you definitely handle them far better than I do.
So you should have a better eye than me.”
It was a pretty good idea, even if he did say so himself.
Koutarou was so clueless about how to live that you might say he was an idiot outside of research.
He’d never really mingled with people, and he never could figure out what other people were thinking.
Shuuji was the only exception.
Shuuji didn’t respond right away.
He looked away, and seemed to be considering something quite deeply.
Koutarou waited quietly while he did it.
Surely if it was Shuuji, he’d understand.
He’d always respected Koutarou’s wishes before, so Koutarou knew he’d do it again this time too, and didn’t rush him.
“Alright.” After a deep silence, Shuuji lifted his face.
“I’ll try meeting with this Nagasaki person.
But if I do and it turns out I don’t like him, if I get any suspicious feeling or anything, you’ll refuse the part time job on the spot.
Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.” Koutarou nodded without any hesitation.
He didn’t want to do anything Shuuji didn’t agree to.

– – –

Nagasaki agreed to meet Shuuji with no objections.
When Shuuji called the cell phone number on the back of the business card Koutarou had gotten from Nagasaki, and requested a meeting to discuss the details of this part time job, Nagasaki said the following afternoon would be fine.
“He really is a doctor then, huh,” Shuuji said, like he hadn’t expected it.
They’d come to the best general hospital in town.
Just past the front entrance, there was a list of the day’s attending physicians, and the two confirmed that Nagasaki’s name was on it.
“You doubted even that?”
Koutarou stared at Shuuji’s profile, surprised.
And it seemed Shuuji still wasn’t entirely convinced, because his eyes were glued to the duty roster.
“I didn’t think doctors had enough free time to wander around town,” Shuuji said, trying to make an excuse.
After all, Nagasaki had shown up in a supermarket to look for Koutarou in the middle of the day.
Apparently, it was after his morning rounds had been completed, but it must have still been during working hours, and it seemed that Shuuji felt uncomfortable about it.
“Besides, is that something a physician who’s this busy with medical exams does?”
The duty roster Shuuji was looking at had Nagasaki’s name all over it from Monday to Friday.
Today was Wednesday, and naturally, Nagasaki had appointments.
Which was probably why they’d been scheduled for two o’ clock in the afternoon.
But it had been ten or fifteen minutes since Koutarou and Shuuji arrived on the ground floor of the hospital, and it was now well past their two o’ clock appointment time.
“Sorry, sorry, I’m late,” Nagasaki apologized, still wearing his white coat.
Koutarou and Shuuji were given to understand that his morning appointments had run long.
As further evidence, a great crowd of patients waited at the checkout counter to pay their bills.
Thank you for taking the time to meet us when you’re so busy.” Shuuji politely bowed his head.
“Let’s not just stand around chatting, I want to talk in more detail, follow me.” Maybe he really was busy, or maybe he was just impatient by nature, but Nagasaki barely exchanged hellos before he turned his back on Koutarou and Shuuji and walked off.
That kind of pushy attitude intimidated Shuuji, and Koutarou, standing next to him, knew it.
But, Shuuji didn’t say anything.
No doubt he figured they should listen to what Nagasaki had to say first.
He followed after Nagasaki without a word, and Koutarou stayed beside him.
Nagasaki guided them to a small room on the second floor.
In the center of the room long tables had been placed in a hollow square, and it gave the strong impression of being a small conference room.
“I’ve arranged to use this place for the papers.” Nagasaki started with an explanation of the room.
That must have been why he’d brought Koutarou and Shuuji here.
He wasn’t just looking for a leisurely chat.
“That’s what I wanted to talk about…” Shuuji interrupted, before Nagasaki could go into any details.
He was the type to be a bit reserved in public, and he wouldn’t normally speak up so assertively with people he’d just met.
But that’s how worried he was about Koutarou.
He didn’t seem to be able to keep his mouth shut.
“Oh, right,” Nagasaki said, as if he’d just remembered, and stared at Shuuji quite openly.
“You’re the roommate who called me up and wanted to talk, right? So what should we talk about?”
Koutarou cut in before Shuuji could answer.
“He’s not just my roommate.
This is my lover, Shuuji Shiraishi.”
Koutarou introduced Shuuji in grand tones.
Koutarou had been right beside him during yesterday’s phone call, but Shuuji had introduced himself as Koutarou’s roommate, and Koutarou had been wanting to correct it ever since.
“Oi, Koutarou…” Shuuji got flustered and tried to cover Koutarou’s mouth.
Shuuji had always tried to keep the relationship between the two of them a secret.
But as far as Koutarou was concerned, there was nothing to be ashamed of, no matter who they were facing, so he’d never thought it necessary to hide it, and had never really understood why Shuuji always tried to.
Yeah, if you’re his lover, it stands to reason you wouldn’t trust a job from some shady rando, huh.”
Nagasaki accepted Koutarou’s revelation quite easily, and didn’t seem to question anything.
Shuuji was so surprised he couldn’t form any words.
Nagasaki’s attitude seemed quite beyond Shuuji’s expectations.
“You’ve verified my identity, right?”
“That’s, uh, yes,” Shuuji answered.
He recovered from his surprise, and stared at Nagasaki, so as not to overlook any suspicious points, no matter how small.
“Okay then, next up is the details of the actual work.”

Nagasaki proceeded to repeat all of the same things he’d said to Koutarou, only to Shuuji this time.
“I understand the job.
But, you only just met Koutarou, why would you ask him?”
“Because there aren’t any other qualified people,” Nagasaki answered matter-of-factly.
Koutarou had asked the same question.
But it wasn’t enough to convince Shuuji.
“Why would you go so far as to specifically search out Koutarou?” Shuuji turned a searching gaze on Nagasaki, and continued with the questions.
“So you’re suspicious all the way down, huh?” Eventually, Nagasaki nodded, convinced.
“I really only looked for him because I was curious.
It surprised me that there was a guy who could carry out a life-saving procedure so precisely in a country town like this.
And once I met him in person, he seemed even brighter than I’d imagined, so I mentioned the part time job.”
Shuuji listened to Nagasaki’s explanation with a serious expression.
He followed the logic of the story, but no doubt he was thinking there was something a little strange about it.
“By the way, the guy who’s really behind the whole search is a professor at the medical school affiliated with this hospital.
He’s also my former teacher.
If you’d like, you can call him up and confirm.”
From Koutarou’s point of view, Nagasaki’s attitude didn’t seem to have anything dark behind it at all.
But what did Shuuji see? Koutarou snuck a quiet peek at Shuuji.
Shuuji gave a small sigh.
It sounded like one of relief.
“I understand.
I apologize.
I got suspicious, and…”
Shuuji turned to Nagasaki and bowed, and when he lifted his head, he flashed a calm smile.
For whatever reason, his suspicions about Nagasaki seemed to have disappeared.
“If you’re convinced, then I’m glad.
Alright then, can you come in bright and early tomorrow?”
“You said I’ll be doing it in here, correct?”
Once the conversation turned to the part time job, Koutarou took over again.
He double checked his instructions and looked around the room.
“The fact that the hospital’s letting us borrow this room means they’ve given their approval.
These are pre-prints, so I can’t let people take them home.
It was hard to find someone with conditions like that.”
Certainly now that Nagasaki said it, Koutarou agreed.
Given all the restrictions, a person would only have certain hours available in which to work.
Nagasaki had no time outside his main job, so of course Koutarou, unemployed as he was, was a good match.
“So I come here then?”
“Until it’s done.
We’ll only be able to use this room for a limited number of days, though.”
According to Nagasaki, it seemed meetings took place here once or twice a week.
Since it was empty outside of that, and he’d been asked by a medical college professor, they’d decided he could use this room as he liked.
Nagasaki looked at Shuuji as if to say that the explanation was now concluded.
Shuuji was the one who’d been harboring doubts about this part time job, who’d said that he wanted to make sure, so no doubt Nagasaki wanted Shuuji’s response.
“How about it?” Koutarou, rather than Nagasaki, asked Shuuji.
No doubt the thing that made Shuuji hesitate the most was the fact that Koutarou was going alone to someplace he couldn’t watch over him.
But if he was going to be all by himself in this room, that concern was probably pointless.
Shuuji looked back at Koutarou, and gave a small nod as if to say it was alright.
“Oh, looks like we’ve got permission, huh,” Nagasaki said jokingly, watching the exchange between the two of them.
Again, thank you for your time.” Shuuji bowed to Nagasaki, and Koutarou did the same.
Shuuji was acting like Koutarou’s guardian in this matter.
But it didn’t feel bad.
Koutarou felt awful for making Shuuji worry, but he was happy too.
“Alright then, it’s a little sudden, but how do you feel about tomorrow? The professor has been after me about it.”
It was an amazingly rushed conversation, and it had come right on the heels of the one yesterday, but it wasn’t a problem for Koutarou, he hadn’t had any plans anyway.
“I’m fine.”
In that case, you just bring a lunch tomorrow.
I’ll take care of anything else you’ll need–”

In the middle of his explanation, Nagasaki’s PHS1PHS, the Personal Handyphone System.
it’s an old, pre-3G system, sort of like pagers, but instead of just a text message, you have messages, calls, sometimes even web and email, on something like a flip phone.
they’re still popular with hospitals because they’re cheaper than regular cell phones, and can have a higher number of extensions in a single system.[/efn_notes] rang from the pocket of his white coat.
“Can’t even get a calm lunch break around here, jeez,” he complained, but he took out his PHS anyway.
“Alright then, I look forward to tomorrow,” he said, and left the room in a rush.
“He seems pretty busy,” Shuuji said in surprise, staring at the door Nagasaki had disappeared out of.
“That must be why he doesn’t have time to help out with the papers.”
“Does it feel better if we think of it as give and take?” Shuuji muttered in a strangely serious tone.
“Are you still worried about something?”
“I’m not worried about this thing anymore,” Shuuji denied, and then turned to face Koutarou again.
“I think it’s good for you to be working too.
But don’t decide things on your own.”
“We won’t decide important things on our own.
I violated the rules, huh.”
Koutarou finally understood what Shuuji was angry about.
He wasn’t just randomly against it.
“I want you to discuss working with me, too.”
I got carried away with the idea that I’d finally found a job,” Koutarou said frankly, and the corners of Shuuji’s mouth suddenly pulled upwards at his apology.
“You got carried away?”
“I think I got a bit excited about it.”
“That bad, huh?” Shuuji said, surprised, and this time he let out a big laugh.
Shuuji’s reaction told him this was a change in attitude, feelings the previous Koutarou hadn’t had.
He’d intended to stay the same, he didn’t mean to change one little bit, but in actual fact, Koutarou was changing every day.
What kind of thoughts must Shuuji be having, watching this change.
Koutarou had lapsed into silence, so Shuuji called to him and peered over at him.
“From now on, whenever I decide anything, I will consult with you, without fail,” Koutarou declared, and Shuuji nodded, satisfied.
How Koutarou would change from here on out, even Koutarou himself didn’t know.
But if it was a change Shuuji desired, it was no problem.
To that end, Koutarou promised himself to always listen to Shuuji’s opinion.

– – –

Koutarou went to the hospital three days a week, excluding Mondays and Thursdays, and since operations had commenced on Tuesday, Friday was his third day.
Like Nagasaki had said, in addition to the papers, which he’d printed out, he prepared everything, including writing implements, dictionaries, and a computer, and all Koutarou had to pack was a lunch and a thermos full of tea.
“Welcome home,” Shuuji greeted him when he got back to the apartment.
This exchange was on its third day too.
Koutarou had told Shuuji he wanted him to concentrate on his work and not pay him any attention, since Shuuji was so busy, but Shuuji not only came out to greet him, he also saw him off in the morning and even made his lunch for him.
Although Shuuji had opposed the whole job at first, he seemed happy that Koutarou was working now.
And Koutarou was happy to have started this part time gig, if only to make Shuuji happy.
“I’m back.
Everything was delicious today, again.”
Koutarou had eaten all of it, and now offered the lightened lunchbox to Shuuji.
“Of course.
My cooking skills haven’t lost to you quite yet, you know,” Shuuji boasted, and a smile stretched across his face.
Koutarou had started to feel like he left the house just so he could be greeted by that smile upon his return.
“I have also already started preparing this evening’s dinner.”
“Again? I said I was going to do it.”

Shuuji had made dinner every day Koutarou went to the hospital, without fail.
Koutarou was at the hospital from 9 to 5, but it was only a thirty minute commute to work on his bike, so it wasn’t too late to start dinner after he got home.
But still, Shuuji was the one who made it.
“Only at first.
I know it’s tiring while you’re still not used to it, right?”
“It is absolutely nothing of the kind.
I’m just sitting down all day.”
“But you’re using your head.”
“I’m not using it that much.
The first day I had a little trouble with the German since I haven’t used it in a while, but I’ve gotten my instincts back.”
There wasn’t any need to be humble around Shuuji, so Koutarou answered frankly.
“I’m used to reading research papers anyway, so it’s not like it’s all that difficult.”
“The way you’re talking, it sounds like you’re done already?” Shuuji asked, and Koutarou nodded that he was.
“I was almost there, and I wanted to wrap it up today, so I had to push a little, but.”
“Seriously, Koutarou, you are amazing.
To be able to finish something like that so fast…” Shuuji said, impressed.
” ‘So fast?’ You don’t even know what it was about, Shuuji, how do you know it was fast?”
“That is true, but I mean from the way Nagasaki was talking it sounded like it would be really hard, so I figured it would take longer.”
“If you can understand German, I don’t think it’s a problem.”
Koutarou conveyed his own thoughts matter-of-factly.
He didn’t know how other people felt, but that was how he felt, at least.
It was probably because he’d read so many papers in the past, for his own research, and he’d even written some too.
“So, does that mean the job is over already?”
He could sense an echo of regret in Shuuji’s voice.
“It’s alright.
When I submitted it to Mr Nagasaki, he asked if he could impose on me for another one too.
Would it be alright if I accepted?”
“You didn’t give him an immediate response?”
“We promised to consult each other.” Koutarou insisted that he would keep their promise, and Shuuji smiled happily.
“When are you supposed to give your response by?”
“Next week Tuesday.
Mr Nagasaki said he didn’t think I’d finish so quickly either, so he hadn’t prepared my pay.
He said he’d like to hear my response when I go to pick it up.”
“I see.
Well, I think if you don’t have any problems with it, you should accept it.”
“Is it okay?”
Shuuji nodded at the question, still smiling.
“I’m looking forward to spending your first paycheck.”
Koutarou knew it was said as a joke, but he was overjoyed that Shuuji seemed to be having fun.
Even if it wasn’t like when he’d been a researcher, the fact that Koutarou could work a job that used his own knowledge and experience made Shuuji as happy as if it was his own success.
“Shall we treat ourselves to a feast with it?” Koutarou said in a rare joking tone, wanted to make Shuuji even happier.
“Oo, yes we should,” Shuuji said, and smiled again.
Shuuji had started smiling like that since they’d moved.
Even just that, Koutarou thought, made him glad he had this part time job.


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