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The Atbash Killers

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It was quiet. It always was by this time. Not a deafening silence that suffocated the very life out of the world, but a peaceful quiet. The stillness of sounds only disturbed by soft breathing that was not his own, the distant, soothing tick of a clock as time progressed ever forward, and Iwaizumi’s own thoughts. It was quiet by this time, but never dark. Despite the fact that the sun was hiding its face beyond the horizon and that even the moon was absent, it was still bright enough to see without the lights on. With no curtains to close over the clear, sliding glass door to the balcony and the city beyond it, Tokyo’s ever present lights streamed in, flickering across the room and chasing away shadows. And though the room was never as dark as he liked, it was not the lights that had kept Iwaizumi from being carried away into the dark confines of sleep.

The lights of Tokyo could pierce through the gathering shadows of the night that crept across his bedroom floor, but they could not reach into Iwaizumi’s mind. Those shadows that crept over his thoughts could not be chased away, even by the sunlight that would soon start to peek back over the eastern horizon. They lurked behind his eyes, pressing against his subconscious until his head was pounding and his eyelids felt cold and heavy. Iwaizumi longed to sleep, but every time he closed his eyes, he didn’t see the darkness in his mind. Instead, he saw images of bodies and blood spatter, pale skin and vacant eyes, but it wasn’t the images that bothered him. It was the information behind them.

Yesterday, Iwaizumi and his team, a specialized and experimental K9 detective force, had closed yet another case. A suicide, with all the evidence to back it up. It was a woman in her mid-thirties; unmarried, with no children, a minimum wage job, and no roommate or close family. A perfect life recipe to take away someone’s will to live. She had hung herself from a support beam in her living room, a rolling chair toppled over against the wall behind her, where she had presumably kicked it out from under her. There were no unusual sets of fingerprints, locks of hair, scents, or threatening notes. Nothing to point toward anything but a typical suicide. When they had questioned the people she had known, they had gotten the usual mix of reactions. Ranging from ‘I never thought she would do such a thing!’ and ‘But she seemed so happy!’ to ‘She did seem a little antsy lately…’.

Iwaizumi could feel his face scrunch up in a disgruntled scowl. Despite all the evidence, something didn’t feel right about it, and that last answer had bothered Iwaizumi, maybe more than it should have. No one had said she looked sad or depressed, she didn’t have a history of mental health or family issues. Granted, none of those were necessary to invoke suicide, but their wording created an itch in the back of Iwaizumi’s mind, and he wasn’t sure how to scratch it.

‘She did seem a little antsy lately…’

‘She was jumpier than normal.’

‘She was being kind of secretive when she asked for time off of work.’

Groaning, Iwaizumi ran a hand down his face, rubbing at his eyes as he felt the beginnings of his sleep-deprivation headache forming behind them. The image of her pale body hanging from the ceiling flashed just behind his eyelids, followed by the limp body of a man, laying in a pool of his own blood. Scowling harder, he forced his eyes open as a low rumble resonated from his chest, a near-growl-like sound that didn’t quench the frustration he felt building behind gritted teeth.

It wasn’t only the last case that felt off to Iwaizumi, it had been the past couple cases. Three suicides, two manslaughters, and two accidental deaths. All with undeniable evidence to prove their cause. Seven open-and-shut cases that Iwaizumi just couldn’t seem to close. He hadn’t slept well in weeks, the cases banging pots and pans inside his head until he wanted to burn the files and smash his head against his desk. He hadn’t been this bothered by a case since the one that turned out to be a murder, set up to look like a justifiable homocide, but there had been a glaring hole in the evidence when they had investigated it closer, and there were no such holes in these last cases. Iwaizumi had practically memorized all seven files, reading over them in his spare time, trying to put his mind at ease, but something just wasn’t clicking.

The worst part wasn’t even that he didn’t know what it was, it was that his teammates were satisfied with the answers they had. Every hunch he had ever had while investigating a case had at least resonated with a few of his team members as well, but this time he was alone.

“It's an open-and-shut case Dummy-zumi,” he muttered to himself, jerking upright at the sudden sound of his horrid alarm. Smashing the off button with a little more force than necessary, he swung his legs over the side as he felt the bed dip behind him, another body shifting. A wet nose pressed forcefully into his side, strikingly cold against his bare skin, and a snout dug underneath his arm. He raised his arm obligingly, his conundrum temporarily forgotten, and a large, fluffy face poked itself out from underneath.

Alaska, Iwaizumi’s K9 partner, opened his mouth in a goofy grin, tongue hanging out of one side as he turned his icy blue eyes up to Iwaizumi. The husky was a beautiful dog, though not the typical white and black kind. Alaska was mostly black and tan, with speckles of white coming through on his back and around his muzzle and neck. His entire underbelly and legs were white, with the exception of the black and tan sock-like patterning around his paws, strikingly blue eyes framed by the gorgeous tan color before it gave way to a deep black, only making his bright eyes even more pronounced. Despite his unique look, Alaska was, undoubtedly, a husky. Fluffy, with a cute face and loud personality.

As if to remind Iwaizumi exactly how loud he could be, Alaska began bark-talking, the signature sounds of a husky trying desperately to communicate with their incompetent human companion. Iwaizumi only grinned and roughly petted the dog's head. Forming his hands into claw-like shapes he batted at the sides of Alaska’s face and body, sending the dog into fits as he tried to keep up with which hand was going to attack him before he decided to take out Iwaizumi instead. The two wrestled together on the bed for a few minutes, excited barking and rough laughter betraying how much fun they were having despite the phantom growls and harsh play.

Eventually, Iwaizumi forced himself to his feet, walking over to his closet to retrieve his work clothes as Alaska skidded out of the room, hearing the enticing rustle of his food machine in the kitchen doling out his breakfast.

Iwaizumi never took too much time on his appearance. He didn’t want to look like a slob, but he had never felt the need to spend hours styling his hair or matching his outfits to the latest fads. His hair and clothing were simple, but not boring. He had a variety of ties, mostly in different colors and patterns, some nice button-ups, and black sneakers. Pair those with slacks and a suit-coat and that was as good an office-day outfit as any for Iwaizumi. He slid a pale blue button-up off of its hanger after he finished pulling on grey slacks, black socks sliding along the hardwood floor as he made his way to the bathroom. He pulled his muscular arms into the shirts sleeves, pushing them up past his elbows, and threw a burgundy tie over his shoulder.

He leaned toward the mirror, mussing his relatively tame bed-head before he rubbed his face, pulling at the dark circles under his eyes. Exhaling in loud disapproval, he pressed his hands onto the cold countertop, forehead pushing against the mirror for a moment as he closed his eyes, the itch in his mind rising to the surface again.

“Today’s going to be a long day,”

After combing through his hair once, Iwaizumi ate his usual breakfast of steamed rice and eggs, threw the messy covers of his bed into a relatively made-up look, and suited up Alaska in his K9 police vest.

“Look at you looking all official,” Iwaizumi mused, patting Alaska’s head, “It's almost like you’re a working dog or something.” Alaska made a noise that sounded almost sarcastic before he shoved his nose into Iwaizumi’s bare chest. “Yeah, yeah,” he huffed, standing up, “I know I gotta button up before we leave.”

Iwaizumi always waited until just before he left his apartment to button up his shirt and throw on a suit-coat. He was more a man of comfort than he was of formality, but he knew that a t-shirt wouldn’t cut it with his superiors. A smirk pulled at the edges of his lips as he imagined what kind of furious face Director Ukai would have if he walked into the office in a t-shirt and sweatpants, but as amusing as he found the thought, he knew when imaginary situations should remain imaginary.

Iwaizumi finished suiting up, scowling at the way the tie hugged his throat and how the shirt’s material stretched across his chest and arms. He hated office hours, he’d much rather be out in the field, but every job had paper days. He only wished he didn’t have to suit up to sit in a chair. He clipped on Alaska’s leash and settled his handgun in its holster on the right side of his waistband, covered only by the suit-coat, before he slipped out of his apartment into the dawning day.

* * * *
“Hajime, glad you’re here,” Sawamura Daichi called from his desk inside the rather large office room the team shared.

When they had first started, the room had been organized and almost bland. The office had already been a boring rectangular shape, and the walls were painted a color that was somehow both grey and beige, with six identical desks, three on each side of the wall, evenly spaced. Now, however, the room had more life to it. The walls were still the same grey-beige as before, but now they were littered with posters and pictures and even diplomas. Fairy lights were hung across the back wall in a tangled and haphazard pattern. They had added a black, leather couch, a side and coffee table, and a small basket for dog toys. The couch and side-table were shoved just under the fairy lights while the coffee table sat just in front of the couch, dog beds, squeaky toys, and ropes littered the floor around it. The empty basket sat against the far wall, squished between the couch and side-table, mostly neglected of its duty of holding the toys, and often mistaken for a trashcan.

Daichi sat at his desk, positioned on the left side of the room. They had each adjusted their desk space to how they preferred, and for Daichi, that meant shoving it into the corner of the room. If someone peered in the room just from the door, they’d miss Daichi’s desk completely. Iwaizumi thought that would be suffocating, pressed up against two walls while trying to do paperwork for hours. It did, however, have the advantage of being the farthest from the back of the room, where most of the shenanigans took place.

“You’re here early,” Iwaizumi replied, making his way to his own desk, directly behind Daichi’s. Iwaizumi had turned his desk, pushing the front of it against the wall so he could have room to breathe on either side of him. The position also allowed him to watch for stray projectiles from the back of the room, as that was not an uncommon occurrence.

Iwaizumi set down his bag and unclipped Alaska, who promptly ran to the back of the room. There, the large german shepherd Ross was napping, though not for much longer. He noted the two mugs resting on Daichi’s desk, one already empty and the other more than half-way gone.

“Yeah,” Daichi replied with a small chuckle, “Ross woke up early this morning and dragged me out of bed, the darn dog,” Iwaizumi and Daichi shared a laugh. They both knew how fickle their furry friends could be. One minute they were trained professionals and the next they were grumpy toddlers. It was good that the dogs knew the difference between work and home, but sometimes they used that to their advantage.

“Ah, sorry man,” Iwaizumi sympathized as he pulled off his suit-coat and draped it over the back of his chair. He rolled the sleeves of his shirt back up over his elbows as he sat down, one arm hanging loosely over the back of the chair as he twisted to look at Daichi, “How long you been here?”

“Not too long I don’t think,” Daichi replied, shuffling around so he was sitting backward in his chair, arms folded over the back of it. Iwaizumi raised an eyebrow in disbelief, “What?” the other man asked. Iwaizumi nodded to the two mugs on his desk.

“Not long, huh?” The snark in his voice was sharp but friendly. Daichi glanced back at the mugs and sighed in light amusement.

“Is it that easy to read me?”

“That and the fact you look like trash,” Iwaizumi said, earning a snort from Daichi as he rolled his eyes, “We all know you either function on eight hours of sleep or coffee alone.”

“Today is a coffee alone kind of day,” sang a sweet voice from just outside the office door. The two men looked over as Sugawara Koushi, the precinct's resident secretary, walked in. His usual bright smile and mischievous eyes sitting pretty on his soft features. He was holding two mugs of steaming liquid, some paperwork tucked under his arm, “He was here before they even opened up the doors,” Suga scolded lightly, setting down one mug and a pile of papers on Daich’s desk before scooping up the empty one and making his way over to Iwaizumi. Iwaizumi mumbled a quiet thanks as Suga handed him the mug, leaning past him to deposit some papers onto his desk. He brought the mug to his lips, sipping lightly at the creamy latte. His eyes fluttered closed as the liquid washed over his tongue and he could feel his headache begin to dull.

“The early bird gets the worm.”

“And the second mouse gets the cheese,” Suga retorted, smiling cheekily as he deposited stacks of papers onto the others’ desks, stopping to give Ross and Alaska pets and kisses, before making his way back to them. Daichi grumbled something about old sayings being useless anyway as he finished off his second cup of coffee and started in on his third.

“So, was it just Ross waking you up early that has you steamrolling through mugs of adrenaline?” Iwaizumi asked in between sips of his own coffee, knowing he’d be nursing at least a few more of his own after this to dull his headache and keep his eyes open. Luckily, it wasn’t unusual the past few weeks for Iwaizumi to sport dark circles or drink coffee like a lifeline, so none of them drew attention to his own ragged look.

Daichi sighed heavily, placing the mug back down as he leaned back, elbows resting on the desk behind him. “To tell you the truth, no, it wasn’t just Ross.” Suga, who had exited earlier to deposit Daichi’s two empty mugs in the kitchen, walked back in and pulled up a chair of his own. Taking their collective silence as a push to explain, Daichi continued, “The streets have been really quiet lately. There’s been no scuffles or petty ambushes, not even so much as their usual briberies or underhanded deals,” he said, and the small hope that Iwaizumi held in his heart, that Daichi had been worried about the cases the same way he had, died as he recognized who the other man was referring to.

“Yeah,” Iwaizumi conceded.

The two mob groups, Invisible Castle and Concrete Crime, had been competing for control of Tokyo for over three years now. At first, it had been an all out war, new bodies and robberies every time the police force turned their heads, but they had quieted down quickly, reverting to more sinister and silent tactics. Both leaders were crafty; one rumor was that the leader of the Concrete Crime had actually been the prodigy of Invisible Castle’s leader before they had a falling out. The rumors also said that a section of Invisible Castle’s members broke off and followed the prodigy and that’s why the sudden new mob group had become so powerful so quickly. Iwaizumi didn’t care how either group came to be or who was leading them, he just wished they’d vanish from his city already; however, now that it appeared they almost had, he was more than a little suspicious. He mentally chided himself for spending so much of his time on the open-and-shut cases that he had completely missed the group's collective silence.

“When was the last time either of them did something newsworthy?” he asked, wanting to catch up on his own ignorance.

“Well,” Daichi began, tilting his head to the side in thought, “I think it was a couple weeks ago, back when they had that random shootout.” Iwaizumi nodded into his mug. Normally the two groups built up to something big like a shootout or a car chase, but the weeks leading up to the shootout had only held the usual petty jabs as each tried to find a chink in the others armor, and now they were absent altogether.

“Planning something you think?” Iwaizumi muttered, half lost in his own thoughts.

“Maybe,” Daichi hummed, “Or something has them running.” Suga snorted from his place in the corner and even Iwaizumi had to grin at that. The two most powerful mob groups in Tokyo running? Now that was a thought.

A short rap on the doorframe had the three of them turning to look at Akaashi Keiji, one of the other members of the team, standing in the doorway. His dog, a doberman pinscher named Angel, stood obediently silent by his side. Akaashi was an interesting man in his own respect, but the only word that ever came to mind when Iwaizumi had to describe him and his hound, was ‘pretty’. They each had a sharp yet soft sort of beauty about them that only ever resonated through that one word. The man and his dog both had thin, crisp faces, like someone had turned the sharpening tool on an image editor all the way up, and his eyes were enchanting, glittering softly like they hid a million secrets he would never tell.

Akaashi’s complexion greatly contrasted the other three men in the room. Iwaizumi and Daichi, though around the same height as the other two men, tended to be viewed as shorter because of their physique and personalities. Unlike Akaashi, who was thin and graceful with a mysterious air, or Suga, who was cute and just as elegant as Akaashi with an added sass, Daichi and Iwaizumi were broad and a tad boring. Their shoulders held a certain silent power in them, muscles rippled under their skin, bulging when they crossed their arms or flexed their legs, and paired with their more reserved personalities, they seemed to shrink. That fact bothered Iwaizumi to no end, as he was currently the tallest in the room.

“Keiji!” Suga said with his usual cheer. Standing up from his seat he walked over to the doorway, clapping the other man on the shoulder as he squeezed by, “I’ll go get you your drink.”

“Thank you Suga,” Akaashi responded, his face and tone betrayed no emotion, but they had all long learned to read him and knew when he was genuinely grateful, “Good morning Daichi and Hajime,” he said with a light yawn as he headed toward the back of the room, his own desk situated just behind Iwaizumi’s, and released Angel to join the other dogs.

Despite Akaashi’s monotone personality, his desk was anything but. Its position hadn’t changed much, one side of it still pressed against the wall, facing the door, but now trinkets and small photos littered the desk, his own set of dark purple fairy lights wrapping around the lamp and falling across the front in a bit of a mess. If he had to describe anything as organized chaos, Iwaizumi would have used Akaashi’s desk as a prime example.

“Morning ‘Kaashi,” Daichi said, leaning forward over the back of his seat once again, “We were just talking about how quiet Invisible Castle and Concrete Crime have been these past couple weeks.” Akaashi took his words into consideration as he pulled his chair across the room to join Iwaizumi at his desk.

“They have been, haven’t they?” Iwaizumi nodded at his reply.

“Makes me even more suspicious of them than when they’re building up to something,” he grumbled, placing down his now empty mug and running his fingertips around the rim, scowling down at it.

“No kidding,” Daichi mumbled into his cup before the three of them lapsed into a comfortable silence, reviewing their own thoughts. Only the sounds of Alaska, Ross, and Angel playing in the background broke it.

It was too early for them to be worrying about the rival gangs' silence, and Iwaizumi needed more than one latte in his system to try and puzzle out anything beyond a simple addition problem, much less a complex gang issue. They remained quiet for a while, Iwaizumi had loosened his tie and rested his forehead on the cool wood of his desk, arms wrapped around his head while he waited for Suga to come back. His headache was already beginning to return and he groaned lightly at the oncoming ache. A cool, slim hand pressed against the back of his neck as Akaashi began to massage just under his hairline, relieving some of the pressure that had built up in Iwaizumi’s corded muscles.

“You’re very tense,” Akaashi muttered softly. Iwaizumi only grunted in response.

“Have you been sleeping lately, Hajime?” Daichi asked, and Iwaizumi could see in his mind’s eye the way Daichi’s brows furrowed slightly, the same expression he made when he was concerned but too polite to press for details.

“Nah,” Iwaizumi said finally, muffled slightly by the desk and his arms. He sucked in a sharp breath when Akaashi found a particularly tight knot just above his shoulder. He slowly exhaled, choosing to give in to the unasked question hanging in the air, one that had seemed to continuously appear the more he tried to hide his concern. “The last couple cases have been bothering me for no good reason,” he sighed, mostly out of frustration. He hadn’t brought up his concerns with the rest of them yet, he knew they were baseless, purely instinctual hunches that defied every bit of evidence they had. Iwaizumi began to wonder if his instincts had broken or if he was becoming paranoid. Akaashi hummed thoughtfully next to him and he could hear Daichi shift in his seat.

“What about them bothers you?” Daichi asked finally, having given up on trying to figure out what Iwaizumi’s train of thought could be. Iwaizumi groaned again, this time more reminiscent of the growl-like sound that rumbled from his chest when he was particularly irritated. He sat back up, rolling his head back to stretch out the last of the knots Akaashi had been working on.

“That’s the worst part,” he said when he finished, arms folded behind his head as he stared up at the ceiling, “Nothing stands out as being off about them. They’re easy, open-and-shut cases. All the evidence points toward one solution and one solution alone,” he scowled again, “But no matter how many times I review the files, something’s just not clicking…” Iwaizumi trailed off, letting his doubts hang in the air for a moment before he rubbed his face, leaning forward to hunch over his desk, “ ‘S probably nothing but my imagination.”

“Mm, perhaps,” Akaashi drawled.

“We can look into it,” Daichi said after a moment. Iwaizumi knew Daichi didn’t believe the cases were anything but simple open-and-shuts, so he appreciated the other man’s offer. He grunted his thanks, eyes not leaving his desk.

The room fell quiet again, until they heard the front doors swing open, followed by two loud voices; one practically shouting out something while the other cackled. Bokuto Koutarou and Kuroo Tetsurou had entered the building, and any fleeting hope of calm silence for his headache fled. Iwaizumi glanced at the clock, 6:03 a.m. and those two idiots were already riled up.

Iwaizumi had originally been frustrated by the way Kuroo and Bokuto worked; loud and haphazard, spending more time chatting and playing with the dogs than they did at their desks, until he realized why. Kuroo and Bokuto, while they were two knuckleheaded morons, were also geniuses. They talked about seemingly random things, but it always tied back to the case somehow. They played with the dogs and watched TV so often it looked like they were slacking, but they still managed to get done before anyone else. Iwaizumi thought they might have dumped their work onto Akaashi, but instead, they were the ones helping him. The idiots knew their way around their own brains, when it came to work anyway.

They, unconsciously, used a strategy that combined the rubber-duck technique, used by software engineers, and the procrastination theory. They spoke with each other whenever they found themselves in a rut, not about the issue they were dealing with, but about anything else. While distracted, their brains unraveled the problem behind the scenes, often leading their conversations through unconscious metaphors. If Iwaizumi was honest, they had helped him with his own work more than a few times. They were big, dumb, goofballs that ticked him off with their constant shenanigans, but Iwaizumi wouldn’t trade them for any other teammates.

Bokuto’s dog was the first to enter the room. Peanut was an airedale terrier, dressed in one of Bokuto's old hoodies, wagging his tail as he trotted over to the back of the room, stopping for pets from each of them on the way, as excited to see his friends as his owner always was. Bokuto never put a leash on Peanut unless they were in the field, he insisted that it was a limit to the dogs freedom, which had Iwaizumi rolling his eyes more than the time Bokuto had stubbornly defended the ‘honor of ketchup’ as a fruit smoothie.

Not long after Peanut had joined in on the other dogs game did the rambunctious men find their way into the formerly quiet room.

“Hey! Hey, hey!” Bokuto called, opening his arms as wide as his grin as he bounced into the room, golden eyes alight with excitement despite the early hour.

“You’re late,” Daichi called disapprovingly, but he was smiling in spite of himself, infected by Bokuto’s contagious energy. Kuroo sauntered into the room, his large, black belgian shepherd, Nova, at his hip. He flashed his signature smirk at Daichi.

“Ok, dad,” Daichi scowled at Kuroo’s comment. He hated being called the dad of the team, though Iwaizumi couldn’t argue with the assessment. Daichi was always the one to ultimately keep them all in check. He had quickly stepped up to the plate when they were first organized and got them running smoothly. He took the time to know and understand each of them, built on their strengths and accommodated their weaknesses. Though it didn’t seem like it, Daichi pushed himself the hardest. There wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind who the unofficial leader was, except for Daichi himself.

“ ‘Kaashi!” Bokuto yelled, running over to embrace the other man, drawing out the name in long syllables, “I missed you!” Akaashi politely patted his back, allowing himself to be consumed by Bokuto’s hug.

“We saw each other yesterday, Bo,” he replied simply.

“I know!” Bokuto said, drawing away from Akaashi to stand up to his full height. Despite being only slightly shorter than Bokuto, Iwaizumi couldn’t help but grumble at the height advantage the other had because of his erratically styled hair. Bokuto turned to Iwaizumi, his grin somehow widening, “Hajime! My man!” he spread his arms out, opening his mouth and making an ‘eh?’ sound. Iwaizumi could only sigh, fighting off his own smile as he opened his arms, allowing Bokuto to envelope him in his crushing embrace.

When they first began, Iwaizumi had been entirely opposed to the morning and goodbye hugs that Bokuto insisted on. That was, until they had had a particularly bad field day. They had been unable to save a hostage and that had made Bokuto feel especially down. He blamed himself for the loss, and sunk into one of the deepest depressive moods Iwaizumi had seen him in. He had dragged his feet on the way out, usually perky hair hanging down into his face, sniffling pathetically. When Bokuto had stopped by Iwaizumi’s desk, he had been prepared to chase the normally ecstatic man away again, but the puppy-dog desperate look that Bokuto had given him made Iwaizumi finally cave. The effect had been instantaneous. Bokuto’s hair had perked back up like magic, his eyes and grin widening as he had practically tackled Iwaizumi. His large, muscular arms wrapped around him and pulled Iwaizumi into what he found to be perhaps the best hug he’d ever had. Not that he’d ever admit it. Bokuto’s hugs, while always strong and slightly bone-crushing, held a certain warmth and softness that nobody with his amount of energy should possibly have. After that, Iwaizumi had begrudgingly let Bokuto hug him whenever he made his rounds.

Bokuto released him and bounced over to Daichi, barely giving the other man enough time to adjust himself in the chair before he attacked him, earning a heartfelt ‘oomph’ from Daichi.

“Good to see you too, Bo!” he laughed, briefly returning the hug before Bokuto had torn himself away, attention already averted. The others felt it too. A presence had appeared in the doorway, more felt than heard.

“Ushiwaka!!” Bokuto shouted, as they all turned their attention to the towering, stoic man standing in the doorway. He unclipped his large, brindle pitbull, Athena, who trotted dutifully toward the back of the room.

Ushijima Wakatoshi was simultaneously the most simple and complex man Iwaizumi had ever come into contact with. The man relied on cold, hard logic, trusting the evidence and the facts. He unintentionally belittled Bokuto’s instinctual nature, but he was also willing to throw away every single fact he’d ever learned if his intuition acted up. Iwaizumi, for the longest time, couldn’t figure out how he managed to reach any sort of conclusion. That was, until he heard it from Ushijima’s own lips.

After a frustrating case, Iwaizumi had been angry. An outburst was bubbling beneath his intense scowl, and Ushijima had been the one to break it. He had noted Iwaizumi’s tense and angry demeanor and had told him, very simply, that it was not something to be worked up about. Iwaizumi had snapped at him. He had shoved Ushijima and, very angrily, asked the taller man why he wasn’t worked up, accusing him of being uncaring. Ushijima had stared at him for a moment, with intense and almost offended eyes, before he responded in the same, even tone as before.

‘Because I want to get the job done.’

Iwaizumi still didn’t understand Ushijima, but that simple phrase had resonated with something inside of him. He hadn’t ever accused the other man of being uncaring again.

Ushijima drew himself up to his full height and frowned slightly at the use of the nickname, as he did every time Bokuto spoke to him. Though, he never denied Bokuto’s want for a hug, something that had surprised them all, along with the fact that Ushijima was, despite his professional countenance, almost always late. He was stiff and awkward when Bokuto hugged him, commenting on the inherent pointlessness of it, but he did it anyway. It never failed to bring a smile to the overly enthusiastic man.

Akaashi stood and rolled his chair back over to his own work space, beginning to flick through the stack of papers Suga had planted on each of their desks. Bokuto bounced over to his desk after receiving his hug from Ushijima.

Bokuto’s desk was an anomaly. It moved practically everywhere and had no apparent permanent place besides the vague area of ‘behind Kuroo’s desk, near the back’. If Akaashi’s desk was organized chaos, then Bokuto’s was something akin to an explosion. There was no method to his madness; he lost things constantly in various places around the room, and there were more snack wrappers on his desk than there were in his trash can (probably because he lost that too). Iwaizumi remembered opening the door to the office one day only to smack into the side of Bokuto’s desk, who had managed to shimmey his way between the space of Ushijima’s desk and the door in the time it took Iwaizumi to pick up lunches from a nearby fast-food restaurant.

Kuroo’s desk, much to Iwaizumi’s surprise, was more reminiscent of Daichi’s and his own than it was of Bokuto’s. It was fairly organized, with a couple of nicknacks and photos, maybe an old snack wrapper shoved in a drawer, but otherwise clean. The only odd thing about Kuroo’s work space was the way it was positioned. Kuroo’s desk was pressed against the wall like Akaashi’s, but instead of facing the door like everyone else, minus Bokuto and Iwaizumi himself, he had turned his desk to face the back of the room. Iwaizumi had asked Kuroo why he had decided to do so after his curiosity had gotten the better of him, but the other man had just flashed a sly grin and winked, content to keep his secret.

Ushijima’s desk, on the other hand, was just as one would expect it to be. It was placed directly in front of the door on the right side of the room, devoid of anything that could possibly personalize his desk, save a singular, small photo of his parents. There were never any wrappers or trash left at his desk, always deposited into the trash can that sat just underneath the desk, one that he emptied every evening. The only thing that Iwaizumi had found odd was that Ushijima had pulled the desk away from the wall, leaving it to sit alone on the open floor. Granted, he didn’t put it in the middle of the room, but there was enough space to walk between the desk and the wall comfortably, and for some reason that gave Iwaizumi chills. It reminded him of a boat without an anchor.

They all greeted each other, less enthusiastically than Bokuto had, before they resigned themselves to their desks. Kuroo always draped himself over Iwaizumi’s shoulders, speaking with him for a moment before he would saunter off to chat with Daichi or Akaashi, or pester Ushijima for blunt, one word responses until he ignored him.

Daichi and Iwaizumi had a comfortable understanding of one another, their own friendship and concern shown through casual conversations and silent nods. Akaashi, in spite of his quiet and seemingly distant nature, was actually more affectionate than Iwaizumi had expected. He knew how to read moods based on the tension in their muscles, and often spent time rubbing slow circles to ease the knots of stress that each of them built up. Everyone, even Ushijima, willingly relaxed into his soothing massages.

Ushijima and Iwaizumi had a mutual respect for one another. They called each other friends and worked well together on assignments, but they hardly ever spoke, which was fine with the both of them. They knew where they stood with one another, and that was good enough.

Just as Kuroo was finally giving in to being ignored by Ushijima, Suga entered the room with a bright smile and a tray of cups and mugs.

“Did anyone order a saving grace?” he asked in a sing-song voice as the room breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Suga made his rounds, dropping off each of their preferred beverages, brewed to perfection by their resident angel. Daichi carefully took his mug from the tray, smiling his thanks to Suga as he began to sip greedily on his fourth cup of flat white. Iwaizumi did the same with his second latte.

“You’re the best, Suga,” he mumbled, half the words echoing strangely into the mug. Suga laughed and patted his shoulder as he went by.

Iwaizumi wasn’t at all surprised to find out that Akaashi’s preferred morning beverage was a masala chai, or that Bokuto, who was strictly denied any source of caffeine, took a liking to the caffeine-free honey milk tea Suga concocted for him. He was, however, surprised by Ushijima and Kuroo’s preferences. Kuroo, who had the biggest sweet tooth out of all of them, craved black coffee; no sweeteners, sugar, or spices added. Ushijima, at first, denied Suga’s request to make them all morning beverages, claiming he didn’t like drinks. Suga, ever determined, had made him a different drink everyday, and Ushijima, always polite, had drunk them. Suga always waited for him to take a sip, gaging his reaction and asking him how it was the moment it touched his tongue. Ushijima always replied with the same, noncommittal grunt.

After days of trying drinks and even learning how to brew new ones, Suga presented Ushijima with something they were sure he was going to hate. A sickeningly sweet, chocolate-y iced coffee, topped with whipped cream and even more chocolate syrup. The man, unlike Kuroo, had never ordered a dessert anytime they had food delivered to the office, he didn’t have any semblance of a sweet tooth, and claimed that sugar was bad for the body. With that in mind, when he had tentatively brought the mug to his lips, he had the whole room’s attention. Iwaizumi was waiting for him to spit it all over his laptop, but instead he froze, eyes lighting up with the same intensity as when he found the solution to a hard case, and within seconds, Ushijima had downed the whole drink and slammed the mug onto his desk. They had all cheered, clapping Suga and Ushijima on the back, laughing like wild kids at someone’s birthday party. Since then, they had always had the same drinks, freshly brewed by Suga for when they arrived. To put it simply, they were all addicted.

After everyone had plucked their drinks from off of the tray, there were only two mugs left. One sweet mocha with caramel drizzle for Suga, and the other a simple cappuccino.

“Where’s Kenma?” Suga asked, tilting his head in Kuroo’s direction.

“Hm?” Kuroo looked up from shuffling through the papers, “Oh, he must have fallen back asleep in the car,” he stood up, reluctantly leaving his bitter coffee on the desk and headed for the door, “I’ll go get him.”

Kenma, their forensic scientist, always tried to catch some extra z’s in the morning, but he was typically inside by the time Suga had his coffee ready. It was strange, Iwaizumi noticed; how smooth everything seemed on the surface, but how rippled it was underneath.

It only took a few minutes before Kuroo was dragging in a very sleepy looking Kenma and plopping him down on the couch. Kenma let the dogs excitedly sniff at him as Suga handed him his coffee. Chuckling, Daichi stood from his seat at the front of the room, turning to the team to address all of them.

“Alright,” he began, clapping his hands together, drawing everyone’s eyes to him, “I know today is more of a boring day; we don’t have any pressing cases, just the clean up, but we should still work just as hard as when we’re out on the field,” his eyes swept across the room, pausing to meet each individual’s eyes. He hesitated when his eyes met Iwaizumi’s, thinking something over before continuing, “And, since we’ll have time to kill, I’d like to review the past few open-and-shut cases.” There were a few confused looks and murmurs, but everyone nodded their agreement. Iwaizumi felt the itch in his mind grow, fingers twitching with the urge to scratch it, but he managed to keep still. He nodded his thanks to Daichi before they all turned to their desks to review the paperwork they’d been given.

Kenma sat at the back of the room for a few minutes, absently sipping his coffee and petting the dogs, before he heaved himself on to his feet and made his way over to his lab.

It was going to be a long day for everyone.