Yako extends her hand, wincing out of habit as she allows Neuro to drop whatever it was he wants to share into her palm.
To her surprise it isn't anything wriggling or gross. (Or bleeding, or screaming, or pulsing…) It is small and cool, smooth against her skin. She carefully cracks an eye open, peering at it.
"Oh." It was a small round stone. About the size of a peanut, teardrop shaped, with blues and purples running through it. "It's pretty."
Neuro makes a sound of disinterest, barely pausing in the directions he was dictating to Akane. Yako continues to admire the stone, listening with half and ear as he speaks, waiting for him to mention how the stone was relevant to the case. But...
They solve the entire case, have their end-of-case meals and everything, and the stone had no relevance whatsoever. Yako sets it in a jar in her apartment, screwing on the lid tight, just in case it does end up being one of Neuro's tricks.
But it isn't one of those either.
Two months later Yako is shrugging on her jacket when she finds another one. It tumbles out of the hole in her pocket that she has been meaning to sew up for months. With sharp little sounds it bounces on the tile of the office. Yako blinks down at it, recognizing the milky green coloring, a jade – a hole in the top, like it is supposed to belong in a necklace but is missing the chain. She glances back at Neuro. He was reclined in his chair - watching over the street with half-lidded eyes, shoulders by his ears. His version of dozing off.
(Very unpleasant to wake him from, wouldn't recommend.)
So she tucks the stone in her other pocket and heads home for the evening.
(It's added to the jar with the other one just in case.)
"Lunch." Neuro announces, upending a paper sack full of food onto the desk in front of Yako. While not exactly the most courteous, it isn't crawling with bugs or covered in slime and Yako is overjoyed to see that the food is still warm.
He's been a lot nicer since they've started "courting" - even nicer than when he declared them partners. (Oh, he still harasses her on a daily basis, says it keeps her on her toes, but Yako feels he gets off on her reactions.)
"Thank you." She says, pausing before she digs in to look up at him. He's got a pleased, smile on his face - so different from his usual vacant idiot smile that her heart flutters.
(She wants to retract that feeling two seconds later when she bites into her meal and encounters another "present".)
She spits it out into her hand, ignoring Neuro's cackling. Another stone, a deep blue that reflected the light from the windows.
"What is up with all the stones?"
Neuro blinks at her (ah, there's that infuriating idiotic grin). "A mystery. If only there was a world famous detective who could solve it."
That evening, she curls up in her Neuro-made nest, and opens her book on gemstones. She lines the gifted stones out in front of her. The first one he had gifted her - fluorite, she thinks it is - apparently has the meaning of concentration.
Okay, fine, she's concentrating.
The jade means prosperity - so, uh, concentrate on prosperity? What is that supposed to mean? They have been doing decently on cases. Yes, they haven't had as many international lately, but still - they were being requested all over Japan.
She moves to the last stone. Um, okay, there's a lot of blue stones. The one that looks - Yako squints hard between the gem in her hand and the picture in the book - okay, so the one that looks the closest - one of the possible meanings is for-
Well it isn't working. She lets out a small shriek of annoyance as she falls backwards onto her pillows. Barely missing one of the spikes in the nest. She really does need to file down the points, she thinks absently, before tossing the book aside. The stones are dropped back in their jar, but she doesn't bother getting out of bed to place them back on her dresser; she falls asleep with the jar cradled against her chest.
(She's sound asleep so she misses Neuro when he comes by in the wee hours of the morning, long before dawn. He's about to wake her, but stops and decides against it.)
(Though he does return a few hours later at a more reasonable time to hurl her out of bed and into the day.)
Yako drops her head down onto her desk, groaning. Going from no international jobs, to three back to back in different time zones… yeah, she is pretty much dead. Just have the horrible, horrible , paperwork to finish so she can get paid. (Neuro may be content to be paid in the mysteries themselves, but unfortunately Yako's food actually needs money to purchase.) But as long as she keeps her eyes closed she can happily pretend that the work is done.
Or that it at least isn't sitting right in front of her.
She hears Neuro approach, and already resigns herself to whatever mischief he has in mind. She is just too tired damn it . So it comes as a surprise when she feels a gentle hand on her head, stroking her hair back. Opening her eyes, she peers up at him, watching in surprise as he takes the paperwork from her desk, and replaces it with a small bag. Yako opens her mouth to say something, she's not sure what, but stops at the warning look in his eyes.
(The unspoken rule: do not acknowledge Neuro's kindness.)
Instead she lets him take the paperwork - she'll have to double check it anyway - and turns to investigate the small silk bag on her desk. It's light, and it feels like there is something like marbles inside when she picks it up. Carefully, she empties it out onto her desk.
It's a collection of little blown-glass candies. All in different colors, so delicate, Yako is almost afraid she's going to break them if she holds them too long. She blinks hard, her eyes watering, because these are the same little candies that she admired during the layover in Italy. The ones he had mocked her for. ("Even your nightmarish appetite should have the limit of eating glass , louse.")
But he got them for her anyway.
Looking over at him, he's focused on the paperwork - almost but not quite looking so absorbed as to be be completely ignoring her. He continues to have his eyes on the paperwork, scribbling away until she is standing right next to him. He looks up at her, his smile a bit too arrogant to be soft. "You like them, then?"
"Yeah, I do. You sneaky bastard." Usually that comment would get Yako exposure to one of his devilish tools, but she counters it by leaning down and pressing a kiss to his brow.
His eyes are thoughtful as she rises back up. "You missed," he comments dryly.
"Mm." He reaches up and pulls her down into a proper kiss. He's gentle, his lips moving against hers, as he strokes a hand through her hair. With the other hand he gently tugs her forward by her waist, as if he wants to pull her down onto his lap.
Yako moves slowly but eagerly, it's this side of Neuro that excites her the most. It's new, and unfamiliar, and it makes her heart race. But it's Neuro and despite all his tricks and mischief she trusts him, feels safe with him and -
She suddenly finds herself sprawled on the floor, holding her poor (hopefully not broken) nose as Godai enters the office. He glances between them, Yako on the floor, Neuro serene at the desk.
"Y'know, fuck it, I don't wanna know."
Neuro has been eyeing something across the street for the past couple of minutes. Him being here in general is him being obliging by joining her for her after-case meal. In odds to her mountain of plates, he had a single cup of tea before him. (One, Yako is pretty sure, that he dropped a bit of something into from a rather shifty looking vial).
If he offers to share she's going to decline.
Yako announces she's finished with a happy sigh, leaning back. Neuro stands up, mentioning that he'd return momententarily with a casual wave of his hand.
She watches him walk into a store across the street, and her faces scrunches into a puzzled frown. As far as she can tell it is some kind of antique or resale store. She sits up straight, realizing suddenly that this could be one of his stops where he buys the trinkets trinkets at! (The last one he got her, was an antique miniature frame, the silver polished to gleaming; with a picture of some kind of food monstrocity that made her mouth water.)
("Wisconsin Bloody Mary" Neuro had announced smugly when she questioned.)
She's about to get up and follow him, when the waitress approaches with her bill.
And Yako realizes that Neuro had taken her wallet.
She eventually meets him back at the office - she had to use the emergency card she kept in her shoe, just for these kind of situations.
(He does point out that since he was key in earning that money he is allowed to spend it, but does it have to be on Yako's personal account?)
When she makes it back to the office there is a box sitting on her desk. Her wallet on top and Neuro is just as smug as usual.
"Okay, while I don't mind paying - ditching your date is no way to treat a lady." She scolds halfheartedly, flopping into her seat.
He blinks at her. "I've always treated you like a splendid lady." (How he manages to say that with a straight face is beyond her.)
Yako sends a look to Akane, who makes a movement as close to shaking her head as she can.
"Is this what you abandoned me for?" Yako prods the box carefully - it's a bit larger than a shoebox, it doesn't make noise, or attack at the provocation. She lifts the lid.
Carefully packed inside is a slightly smaller glass box. The corners are outlined in silver, with very faint white patterns dancing across the glass, making the whole thing sparkle under the dreary office lights.
"It's so pretty." Yako lifts it up so Akane can see it. "What is is for?"
"If I have to tell you, I'm going to have to demote you back down to a maggot." Neuro said, with an almost believable sigh of regret.
Yako looks at him thoughtfully. She traces her fingertips over the delicate patterns. "I am going to keep all my little gifts from you in here." She finally says, watching him from the corner of her vision. "The gems, and beads, and glass candies." A pause. "And bottlecaps."
(She isn't sure if those actually count as gifts. He usually hands them to her when she's hungry and tells her to call them a snack.)
He smiles, and his face brightens up with a gentle sort of pride.
Yako knows then, that she guessed it right.
The box collects many more little gifts over the next couples of months. Yako doesn't wear much jewelry, but slowly, beaded bracelets and earrings are added. (Yako suspects that Neuro knows she won't wear them. Since about every other one vears too close to actual torture methods - chokers that tighten with each breath; spiked earrings that dig into her shoulders if she slouches.)
Sometimes they're gifted during their dates. Other times they're "just because".
The fact that he's thinking about her (wether mockingly or not) with each gift slowly begins to make Yako think that he's serious about this...courtship . (That term still sounded safer, and more sane than dating .)
It's only a few weeks after Yako is fully comfortable in their new dynamic that he strikes.
Yako fights the temptation to cackle, and she can tell Akane feels the same; the way she's waving around wildly. She feels very proud of herself. Neuro has dismissed all of her previous Christmas gifts to him. (It wasn't the kind of holiday demons celebrated, he had pointed out, and in any case it was a western holiday so why was she so intent on celebrating it?) But it feels weird not getting him something. Especially now since they are courting .
But no matter what she had gotten him he wasn't impressed. (Always appreciated the wrapping though. At least she held onto that good idea.)
But this year. This year she's done it.
Akane had helped her find a good deal on tickets to India. It was one of the few places they hadn't traveled, and according to Yako's contacts there was something shifting within a few pharmaceutical companies. There's a very high chance that he'll be able to sniff out a mystery while they're there. (And curry, Yako can't help but mentally add, actual Indian curry. It'll be wonderful).
Even the wrapping paper coincides, Yako doesn't doubt he'll be able to read the language. (And why was it so hard to track down a Mumbai newspaper?) She's smug as she enters the office, promptly ducking as she narrowly misses Neuro's feet hanging from the ceiling.
"Merry Christmas, Neuro." She smiles up him, and he responds with a smile of his own. Before dropping to the ground beside her, his elbow neatly hitting her head and sending her sprawling on the floor.
"Ah, the yearly sacrifice of your earnings to please your master." He walks over to his desk, sitting down and lacing his fingers. "Will you succeed this year?"
She rolled her eyes, pushing herself up and dusting off. "I doubt it, you're impossible to please."
Yako places the tickets on the desk before him, and he looks rather pleased at the wrapping already.
"Well, it looks like you finally put some of your brain cells to use." He says, lifting the small thin box and turning it over, carefully pulling off the paper in order to read later. "I say you might've even earned this."
Yako bites back a response she would regret (you don't earn Christmas gifts, idiot) as he leans over and pulls one of Troy's drawers open. She flinches automatically, but he merely pulls a small white box from the drawer - placing it on the desk between them. He smiles up at her expectantly.
"Is...is that a box from Bella's?" She lifts it up to confirm that yes, it is, and being from Bella's there is probably - maybe - a cupcake inside. Her mouth waters despite knowing that this is probably a trick.
"Don't just stand there trembling, louse." Neuro says in a tone of mild disgust. "It's unseemly. Open it."
She does - prepared for some kind of jack-in-the-box type attack.
But there isn't one.
Inside is the impossible - a gorgeous cupcake. Frosting shaped like a Christmas tree, little candy dots of red and white down the side. Yako raises her eyes to Neuro's, he gives her a small smile.
"Merry Christmas, louse."
"Thank you." Her voice is absolutely not wavering. "Merry Christmas, Neuro."
(He mercifully doesn't mention it if it does.)
She wants to admire it longer, but she isn't able to resist - it's so pretty, but it smells so good . She doesn't even return to her desk to sit down and eat it, instead remains standing before him. Enjoying her sugary treat, as he reads the newspaper wrapping - absently fanning himself with the tickets.
"These look promising," he murmurs. "Good job, maggot, I… oh." He trails off when he looks up at her.
"I overestimated you, louse." He sighs, setting down his present on the desk and leaning on one of his hands. "I thought you would notice the addition I had added."
His disappointment makes her pause. She mentally reviews the cupcake, and there was nothing unusual about it that she can recall. "What addition?"
He spins in his chair turning away so she can't see his face. She can barely make out his words, he mutters them nearly to himself alone. "I had them place a ring as a decoration on it."
"A ring? But, why?" She's tempted to walk around to see him, but she feels frozen to the spot.
"Don't humans consider that a romantic way to propose?" He sighs again. "I should've considered that my fiance is a bottomless devourer of trash."
"W-what?" Yako leans on the desk to keep her from collapsing onto the floor. "A ring. A proposing ring - I mean, an engagement ring? Like marriage engagement?"
She slides to the floor, one hand still on his desk. Her mind is whirling, her gaze blurry. A ring. He got her a ring and he was proposing and it wasromantic. He fucking got her a ring and she ate it. He was proposing and she was so blinded by frosting that she missed the ring and ate it without realizing. She's an idiot, a gluttonous -
Something moves in her vision.
She blinks. Neuro is standing in front of her. She looks up his legs at him. Standing above her, the most wicked grin on his face. Nearly touching her nose, balancing on the tip of his middle finger is a diamond ring.
"Fool." He says, almost affectionately looking down at her. And then, Yako realizes this was his plan all along. To have her on her knees as he proposes. "Well?"
She smiles slightly.
Yako knows marrying him is going to be a new kind of suffering. But it's one she finds she looks forward to. He loves her, or at least cares for her, in his painful demon way. And she, well, she loves him too.
She's not going to make it easy for him though.
"Yes. On one condition though."
He makes a pleased questioning sound. The fact that he hasn't smacked her for the impudence of making a stipulation, makes her certain that he isn't toying with her.
"Godai has to be your best man."
In a bar, somewhere across town:
Godai shudders violently. His friends raises an eyebrow over her beer.
"I think someone just walked over my fucking grave."
(To Godai's eternal relief: Neuro finds the unintended loophole to Yako's request. You don't need a best man if you don't have a wedding. And there isn't a wedding if your fiance is tricked into signing the marriage papers.)