I Don’t Quite
It’s for the case, Shotaro told himself as he straightened his tie. It’s for the case, it’s just a ruse, it’ll all be over soon.
He stood at the end of the aisle in a quaint little Western-style chapel. Behind the pulpit was Watcherman in a bright red suit. Standing behind Shotaro in a suit identical to his own was his best man, Ryu Terui; across from him in a plain light-blue dress was the bridesmaid Akiko. The pews were empty; it was just the four of them, the bare minimum necessary to hold a wedding, waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle.
The Wedding March blared from the speakers as the doors at the other end of the aisle opened up. The bride stepped through, dressed in a veil and a white gown that didn’t quite reach the floor. Clutching a bouquet of white flowers, the bride started down the aisle in slow steps timed to the music.
Shotaro tugged at his collar and reminded himself, for the tenth time in five minutes, that he was doing this for the case.
The bride reached Shotaro’s side as soon as the music came to an end. Watcherman cleared his throat and intoned, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...” But Shotaro was only half-listening. His eyes were darting about the chapel, trying to find anywhere to look but directly in front of himself.
It’s for the case. It’s for our client. It’s for the case it’s for the case it’s for the case—
Watcherman was starting to wax poetic about the beauty of love. His eyes watered up. He paused in the middle of a sentence to pull out a handkerchief and blow his nose. “It’s just... so beautiful!”
Terui glared at him. “Just get on with it already.”
“Right, right... Anyway. Sho-chan, do you take your partner to be your lawfully wedded, uh... spouse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, even in times of excessive research mania—”
“We only rented this place for an hour!” Akiko exclaimed.
“I do!” Shotaro blurted out. He wished he were wearing a hat he could pull down to hide his burning cheeks right about now.
“And do you—”
“I do,” came a distractingly deep voice from underneath that veil.
“Very well, then. If anyone should object to the union of these two, then speak now or forever hold your peace.”
Everyone held their breath. If Philip’s calculations were correct, it would be happening right about now.
The doors burst open again and a humanoid monster stood there. It had huge muscles, fur covering its skin, and a face that looked like it was twisted in rage.
The groom, bride, and best man turned to face the Dopant, Philip lifting up his veil. “Akiko, get Watcherman out of here,” Shotaro said.
“Right!” She grabbed the informant by the wrist and dragged him to the fire exit.
“If I can’t have a wedding... nobody else can, either!” the Dopant raged. It opened its mouth and shrieked, sending a shockwave through the air that the three Riders barely managed to dodge.
Shotaro and Terui donned their Drivers.
Philip looked down at his waist in dismay. The belt that had appeared on him was causing the fabric of his dress to bunch up awkwardly. “Let’s finish this quickly.”
When they transformed, Philip fell over and landed on a nearby pew. It was one of his most graceful landings yet, until his body slid off the varnished wood and hit the floor with a thump.
With both W and Accel on the case the Dopant was easily dispatched. Not five minutes after the fight had begun, they’d performed a Memory Break. A trilby-wearing man with a long, ratty beard lay on the floor, reaching for his broken Gaia Memory.
Shotaro undid the W transformation. He pulled his fedora off the clip attached to his belt, blew into it, and set it atop his head. “Case closed. Terui, he’s all yours. Let’s get out of here, partner.”
Philip pulled himself up off the floor. He pushed his veil up again, as it had fallen back over his face when he’d fallen. “Wait, Shotaro. We have a ceremony to finish.”
“Huh?” Shotaro stared at him blankly.
Philip stepped up to Shotaro and held his hands. He smiled an infuriatingly smug smile. “You still haven’t kissed the bride.”
Shotaro screamed incoherently.
“Philip,” Terui interjected. “I’d appreciate it if you would return my wife’s dress.”
“Ah, that’s right...” He looked down at the wedding dress he’d borrowed from Akiko. “Very well. Let’s return to the office.”
Shotaro was only too glad.
The case of the wedding-crashing Dopant was only one of the many requests the Narumi Detective Agency handled, so Shotaro quickly forgot about it. The less he had to think about that time he almost got married to Philip, the better.
The following February, Akiko shoved a sheet of paper into Shotaro’s face. “Here, check this.”
“Hey, I’m trying to read!” He swatted at the paper.
“You’ve read The Long Goodbye like a thousand times! Do you want me to get your tax return right or not?”
“Huh? Oh.” Yeah, that was probably important. He took the document from her and gave it a once-over. “You got my deductions wrong. You have me down as married.” He handed it back to her, leaned back in his chair, and sighed wistfully. “If only I had a beautiful dame I could call my wife...”
Akiko rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”
“The wedding last year? With the Dopant? When Philip-kun borrowed my old wedding dress and got it all wrinkled?”
“Eh?” Shotaro blinked at her. “Akiko, that was fake. It was a ruse to lure the Dopant out. We didn’t actually get married.”
“Of course you did! The chapel wouldn’t let us rent the space without a marriage certificate, so—”
The door to the hangar opened and Philip poked his head out. “I can hear you yelling from downstairs, Shotaro. I’m busy, so please try to—”
Shotaro snatched his tax return out of Akiko’s hand. “Did you know about this?!”
“Know about what?”
“That we’ve apparently been married for the last ten months!”
“Oh, that. Yes, the paperwork required a signature from both parties, so...”
“I thought that was just for renting the chapel!” Shotaro glanced from his partner to his chief in despair. “Wait, this isn’t even legal! Philip’s—”
“I don’t legally exist,” Philip pointed out. “It made no difference whether Aki-chan listed me as male or female on our marriage certificate.”
“Right, so, if there’s no problems with this...” Akiko folded the tax return document and slid it into an envelope. “Don’t be so upset! You’re getting a bigger return this way!”
Shotaro slumped forward and planted his face on his desk. No matter what Akiko or Philip did or said, they couldn’t get him to move for the better part of an hour.
When Shotaro prepared for bed that night, he was basically moving on auto-pilot. His hands buttoned up his pajama shirt without conscious input and he stared blankly forward.
Philip had taken a seat at the desk. Shotaro couldn’t even muster up the righteous anger to shout at him that he had to earn that position, damn it. “You’re still shellshocked,” the younger detective observed.
“I just found out I’ve been married for almost a year!”
Philip touched his hand to his mouth in thought. “Does it make that much of a difference?”
“Of course it does!” Shotaro sat down on the side of the bed with a huff. “It changes everything!”
“What do you mean, how so?!” But Shotaro couldn’t think of a way to respond. It was just obvious, wasn’t it?
“We’ve been married for ten months,” said Philip. “In that time, our relationship has been exactly the same as ever. So isn’t the concept of ‘marriage’ just a convenience for legal purposes?”
“No! It’s something couples do when they love each other. Look at Terui and Akiko.” Shotaro gestured by waving one of his hands.
“But we love each other,” Philip pointed out.
Shotaro turned red. “That’s different!”
Philip frowned. “Why does this have to be so complicated...?”
With a sigh, Shotaro flopped onto his side and pulled the blankets up over himself. “I’m filing the divorce paperwork tomorrow.”
“Huh?!” Philip got to his feet and rushed over to Shotaro’s side. “But the tax benefits—”
“—aren’t worth it!”
Crouching beside the bed so he could look Shotaro in the eye, Philip pointed out, “We’ve already become one in the most literal possible sense. What’s the problem with us being married?”
Shotaro stared for a few seconds. Finally he pulled the pillow over his head. “Go look it up. It’s not something I can explain.”
Philip stood. Shotaro thought he was going to leave, but then he started climbing in bed with him.
“Married couples share the same bed, don’t they?”
When Shotaro pulled the pillow off his face, he saw that Philip was grinning that same shit-eating grin that he had ten months earlier when he’d told Shotaro to kiss the bride. Shotaro shouted and shoved him out of the bed.
Philip laughed as Shotaro spread himself out as wide as he could to prevent Philip from joining him. “Sleep well, partner.”
When Philip returned to the hangar, Shotaro rolled back onto his side and tried to get some sleep. But his partner’s words wouldn’t leave his mind.
We’ve already become one in the most literal possible sense. What’s the problem with us being married?
He tried to grasp at some explanation, but the words were hard to come by. Marriage was for expressing love, and romantic love was different from what he and Philip had, right? Although it was hard to imagine a relationship stronger than his and his partner’s. Even if they couldn’t start a family together—
Shotaro’s eyes blinked open. He stared into the inky darkness of the office.
No wonder Philip was against getting divorced.
“Jeez...” He rolled onto his back and scrubbed at his face. “Okay, maybe we can try and work this out...”
Besides, the tax break was convenient.