Gotou took a deep breath, and placed the cell phone on the table between them. It was his new phone - Masayoshi had insisted on picking out the cell phone case and Gotou had given in, bracing for something ridiculous but Masayoshi had almost anticlimatically picked out a plain(more) red sleeve - and it was most decidedly not a flip phone. His mother looked at the phone, puzzled, and then up to Gotou - and he saw the dawning realization.
It was difficult to talk about, in abstract or otherwise; "She's gone away for a bit," didn't seem quite to cover it but it was all that he had. He looked down at the table between them when he registered the emotion on her face. Gotou swallowed, and Masayoshi's hand crept down under the table and covered his, offering his silent support. He didn't know if he could have done this without Masayoshi by his side.
Gotou's mother liked Masayoshi - she liked that he had a friend now best of all; but she also liked that he was bright and cheerful and chattered on - they hadn't quite told her, not yet, but it was a lot to work through. Gotou himself wasn't quite sure where they stood yet or what to label their relationship with, so he was content currently with the thought that they just were. There would be plenty of time to ask for her blessing later.
A lot of things between Masayoshi and Goto went unspoken after the incident with Haiji Sawada. One was that Masayoshi stopped going back to his hotel room at night; the first evening he'd visited Goto's apartment after everything, he'd ended up falling asleep, sitting with his back pressed against(more) the side of Goto's bed, and Goto had simply sighed and fetched a blanket to drape over him. This happened again and again over the course of the next two weeks, until finally Goto scooped Masayoshi's sleeping form into his arms and placed him in the bed. The next afternoon, Masayoshi was on Goto's doorstep with a duffle bag full of clothes and a sheepish smile on his face.
Another was how, when they were apart, Masayoshi would text Goto constantly, rambling on about the variety show he was filming or the outfit they were photographing him in or the way Ishihara-san's face had looked when she read one of the prospective scripts she'd received. Without work filling up his days, Goto spent a lot of time in his apartment, lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling and mulling over basically everything; honestly, the texts were a welcome distraction. If Masayoshi knew what he was doing, he never let on.
The biggest thing was how it seemed like Masayoshi constantly wanted to touch him; not in a sexual way-- Goto was fairly certain Masayoshi wouldn't know HOW-- but in subtle ways, like he'd lost all concept of personal space. They'd be sitting on the floor watching a movie, and then Masayoshi's knee would touch Goto's, then their sides would press together, then Masayoshi's head would bump Goto's and stay there. It was strange, like all new things were, but Goto couldn't say that he minded.(less)
"Researcher, uh... Aiza, correct?" asks the supervisor, shuffling papers on his crowded desk. He sees only the black lines on the confidential files in front of him, not even bothering to look up at the scientist he'd hired for this job.
(more) "Yes, sir," Quince Aiza responds, running their hands over and over their tie. When the texture stops soothing them, they tap their knees, hard enough to elicit a reflexive reaction.
"I do believe that we've gathered enough data about the Balance," Director Helder says, returning the papers to their file with a sort of certainty that saddens Quice. "You should focus more on other... entities. Nightmares. Those are leaking through the Gap and causing all of this chaos."
"But, sir," they respond, barely holding back their childhood stutter, "having Libran on our side would be a m-massive a-asset. He c-can control--"
Director Helder takes off his rimless, narrow glasses and puts his face in his hands. "We can't afford for you to waste extra time studying whatever else is in there, not this time. You almost compromised the entire Institute the last time you got carried away--that was nearly a K-scale containment breach--"
Quince shrinks back in their chair and tunes out of Director Helder's reprimands. They know the words by heart. Years of Academy training wasted on a no-good researcher who can't stick to the rules and has no common sense. A paycut if it happens again, and demotion to level six if it happens again after that.
They pretend to listen, watching the Director's lips move but not hearing anything but the roar of the tundra inside his throat. (less)