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Tale As Old As Time

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Atsushi sighed as he trudged home from the train station. It had been a long day spent catching up on paperwork. He didn’t usually have much to complete since he kept his work up to date and had been looking forward to a relaxing day, but that had changed when Dazai dumped a mountain of paperwork on his desk and begged with him for some help. After much pleading and promising he had finally agreed to help the other out. This had relieved Dazai; he was going somewhere this evening but Kunikida had informed him he wasn’t leaving unless he deemed Dazai had completed a satisfactory amount of work. Even with having to help Dazai out, Atsushi had still managed to leave the office early with the president’s permission. After all, it was Valentine’s Day.

Atsushi wondered why that motivated him. Nobody in the office had a significant other. None that they were admitting to anyway. He could count Naomi and Tanizaki but he didn’t want to consider that scenario right now. Kunikida didn’t have anyone and neither did Kenji.

He thought he remembered Yosano mentioning a get-together with some old friends from her time studying medicine and Ranpo was, in all likelihood, going to spend time with Poe. The shy man must have some new mysteries for the detective to solve by now.

That left Dazai. Atsushi wasn’t convinced that his mentor hated Nakahara Chuuya as much as he professed he did. He couldn't think of anyone else Dazai could be spending time with. He also couldn't think of anyone who could tolerate spending so much time in his mentor's presence. There was also that one time Atsushi swore he had seen Dazai and the short redhead when he was in town buying a new book. Dazai had vehemently denied it.

Atsushi had no right to judge Dazai either way if he was spending the day with Chuuya. He and Akutagawa had been seeing each other for coming up on five months now. They’d been doing their best to keep it discreet; they agreed it wouldn’t be favourable if either of their organisations discovered their change in feelings, in particular, the Port Mafia. It would be nice not to have to sneak around though. Having never been in a relationship before there were times he had wanted to ask Tanizaki, or even Naomi or Yosano, for advice but couldn’t. Not without the inevitable questioning of who he was dating.

After almost bumping into someone, Atsushi finally took notice of his surroundings. A lot more people were filling the street today than was usual at this time.

Atsushi’s gaze flicked over the couples in the crowd. They were everywhere it seemed; holding hands, laughing together, and heading out on romantic dates. Atsushi felt a pang in his heart. He wanted that. He knew it was soppy, but he wanted it; to be able to hold Akutagawa’s hand and walk down the street with him, not worried about if someone noticed them together. He wanted to go on a romantic date to a nice restaurant. He wanted to go shopping together and argue about whether they needed that extra tin of tea. Atsushi huffed out a noise somewhere between a laugh and a sigh. He was tired of them having to hide the true nature of the bond between them.

As he shuffled down the street he took in the vibrant Valentine’s displays. He hadn’t bought anything for Akutagawa. The other hadn’t shown much interest in the celebration when Atsushi had brought it up. One of his few comments had been that since neither of them were female did that mean they had to do anything? Atsushi had felt hurt at that. He knew Akutagawa had only meant it as the observation it was - it was tradition that only women gave chocolate on Valentine's Day. Yet, he'd hoped they could do something together even if it wasn't tradition. They weren't exactly a traditional couple after all.

Maybe he would ring Akutagawa when he got home and ask him to come over, even if only for a normal dinner. Perhaps Akutagawa was indifferent about Valentine’s day because he thought it would involve going out on a date. The other wasn’t keen on displaying his emotions for everyone to see. He still found it hard to tell Atsushi how he felt at times.

Deciding his idea was worth a shot, Atsushi hurried back to the dorm in record time. Digging his keys out of his bag, he unlocked his door and stepped inside.

A pair of familiar black boots sat neatly in the genkan as Atsushi turned from locking his door. A charcoal coloured coat hanging on a hook caught his attention. Akutagawa was already here. Atsushi couldn't help the smile that crept on to his face. The surprise was a welcome one. He would have to ask Akutagawa to stop breaking into his flat though – Akutagawa wouldn’t tell Atsushi how he did it but he was convinced the dark-haired male used Rashoumon to jimmy the lock open. He should give him a key.

'I'm home!' Atsushi called, kicking off his boots and stepping up into his flat. By the time he had finished hanging his bag and coat up, Akutagawa had appeared. It still took Atsushi by surprise sometimes seeing the other in normal clothes. He tended to dress in a simple style when not in his work clothing. This time, his outfit consisted of an azure blue jumper and slim fitting black jeans.

‘Welcome back,’ he sounded amused. ‘Even though I don’t live here.’

‘A minor technicality, you can still welcome me back. Even though I guess you technically broke in,’ Atsushi grinned as he sniffed the air. ‘Is that rice I smell?’

‘I thought you might be hungry; I know you had work today. I haven’t eaten anything much today either so-’ Akutagawa shrugged ‘-I thought we could eat together. We haven’t seen each other all week.’

‘It smells nice…’Atsushi mused as he sniffed the air again.

‘You’re like a cat when you do that.’

‘Well a tiger is a big cat.’ Atsushi retorted, sticking his tongue out in jest.

Akutagawa shook his head at the antics.

‘You have time to wash before the food is ready, Jinko. Around twenty minutes.’

‘I think I will, I had the most boring day doing paperwork. Most of it Dazai-san’s, might I add. A bath might wake me up.’

Atsushi headed towards the bathroom, stopping to pick a white fluffy towel and change of clothes out of his cupboard.

The warm bath felt like heaven to Atsushi. It felt nice to soak in the heat of the water and unwind after a day hunched over a computer doing reports then sorting through Dazai’s forest of paper. What a waste of trees. Atsushi could swear he saw Dazai shredding some of his unfinished paperwork when Kunikida wasn't looking.

Feeling more relaxed, Atsushi stepped out of the bath. Dinner would be ready soon. He let the water out and wrapped himself in the warmth of the towel. Once dry, he pulled on a worn pair of jeans and soft red jumper. Towelling his hair dry, he threw the towel into his washing basket before heading back to the main living area of his flat.

‘So, what’s for…dinner…’ Atsushi trailed off, astonished by what greeted him.

Akutagawa had dimmed the lights low. Candles were strategically placed around the room. Some rose petals lay scattered near the candles. On Atsushi’s lone table there sat two trays of food accompanied by more candles and petals. Akutagawa gestured for Atsushi to sit on one of the cushions already on the floor. Atsushi sat, still in a daze.

‘What’s all this for? Are we celebrating something?’

‘Valentine’s Day. That is today, is it not?’ Akutagawa’s voice held a tinge of uncertainty. Atsushi was pleased that he knew him well enough by now to be able to pick up on the subtlety.

‘Oh, uh yes, yes it is today. But um, I had assumed we…weren’t doing anything.’ Atsushi cringed. ‘You didn’t seem too enthusiastic when I mentioned it last week.’

Seeing the indecipherable look on Akutagawa’s face Atsushi panicked. ‘Sorry! I uh meant that, you, um, you seemed, sorry…I, I don’t even know what I mean actually, just…sorry.’

A soft snort followed Atsushi’s stream of gibberish.

‘It’s ok, stop panicking. I wanted it to be a surprise or I would have told you about my plans. I wanted to make it up to you. I was…less than convinced about the idea to begin with. Most couples go out somewhere in the city on Valentine’s and we can’t because I can’t be seen with you, today of all days.’

Atsushi flinched. Akutagawa groaned and rubbed his hand down his face in frustration, berating himself.

‘I’m-I’m sorry, that…was definitely not how I meant that to sound. I meant we couldn’t let anyone from our respective workplaces see us together. When we aren’t working on a case at least. Or in a less romantic setting.’

‘It’s ok, I know that.’ Atsushi’s smile was too bright. Akutagawa liked to think he knew the different variety of smiles Atsushi had. He knew when it was genuine and when it wasn’t. Like now.

‘No it’s no-’ Akutagawa’s face cleared in understanding. ‘Atsushi, I’m not ashamed of you, so stop thinking that.’

Given the wide-eyed expression Atsushi was wearing, he’d been too forceful in his tone. He sighed again. Why was he so bad at this? He didn’t know how to put his feelings into words. Not without making a mess of it and distorting the intended meaning. He either came across as too forceful or apathetic. It didn’t help that no matter how carefree Atsushi appeared on the surface he still harboured self-doubt and self-loathing. Akutagawa didn't think himself much help to Atsushi when those feelings struck. Sometimes, like now, he managed to put his foot in it and bring those feelings to the surface. Although the silver-haired male never explicitly stated it, Akutagawa knew he still felt he was undeserving of love.

‘Listen Jinko,’ the now affectionate nickname fell off his tongue with ease. The familiarity seemed to comfort Atsushi. ‘You know I’m…lacking…in tact when it comes to feelings but please know-’ Akutagawa reached across the table to take Atsushi’s fidgeting hands into his. ‘-I have never been, and never will be, embarrassed to be by your side. No matter the situation. No matter what anyone has ever said to you, or what you think of yourself, I’m proud to be by your side. After all…we’re partners.’ Akutagawa kept his gaze on Atsushi as he spoke, he wanted him to see the sincerity. To see that he meant every word.

Atsushi did his best to swallow around the lump in his throat. He could see the seriousness in the slate-coloured eyes. He knew Akutagawa hadn’t meant to imply he was ashamed of him, but it hadn’t stopped the dark sentiments whispering in his ear. It didn’t erase his fears completely, but Akutagawa’s words had helped. Taking a deep breath, Atsushi silenced the voice, pushing it to the furthest recess of his mind. He would deal with it some other time. He didn’t want to ruin this day, not after all the effort the other had put into it. The effort he had put in for Atsushi; because he cared.

‘Thank you,’ Atsushi sniffed and rubbed his eyes to remove the tears clinging to his eyelashes. Giving a small, but more heartfelt, smile to Akutagawa he turned his attention back to their waiting dinners.

‘This looks lovely. What did you cook?’

Akutagawa allowed the change of topic. He seemed to have convinced Atsushi, for now anyway. They would have to revisit this again another day. Would probably have to keep revisiting it for a long time. Scars the kind of which Atsushi bore never completely vanished.

‘Ochazuke. What else did you think I was going to make for you?’

‘Really?’ Atsushi’s eyes were sparkling with joy.

‘I know it’s nothing fancy and I know you eat it pretty much every day but-’ Akutagawa’s rambling was halted by a short, but sweet kiss.

‘Ryuu, it’s perfect. It’s even better than going to a restaurant because you took the time to make it for me.’

Akutagawa relaxed, comforted his partner didn’t think the dish too simple for a special dinner.

‘Let’s eat before it gets cold.’

‘Itadakimasu.’ Atsushi picked up the small teapot and poured the liquid inside over his bowl of rice. He blinked in surprise. ‘You got dashi for us?’

‘I made dashi for us,’ Akutagawa corrected, gesturing in the direction of the stove. ‘It wasn’t too difficult. I hope it tastes ok because I’ve never made it before. Or would you have preferred tea?’

‘No dashi is great for a change. I always meant to buy some instant packets. It never is the same as homemade though so I always end up sticking to tea.’

As he spoke Atsushi placed salmon into his bowl. He sprinkled the pickles, nori and arare crackers over the top. Opposite him, Akutagawa was doing the same, only with chicken in place of salmon.

Atsushi picked up his chopsticks and took his first mouthful, aware of Akutagawa watching for his reaction. He couldn’t help the small moan that escaped his lips.

‘Ryuu this is delicious!’ He shovelled some more into his mouth. ‘This is the best ochazuke I’ve had in ages.’

‘I’m glad, although please try not to choke on it. That would put a real dampener on the mood.’

Akutagawa was eating his own meal at a more sensible pace. Despite the low lighting, Atsushi could see the faint rosy tint splashed over the pale man’s cheeks. He was pleased Atsushi was enjoying it. Knowing that made a gentle warmth curl within him. Sometimes it seemed like Akutagawa was two different people; the harsh exterior he presented to the public and the calmer, more gentle side that only appeared when they were alone.

Pushing his musings aside, Atsushi forced himself to slow down. He surreptitiously glanced at Akutagawa’s bowl. He wanted to make sure that he had a good helping of rice, he never ate enough. Atsushi had made it his duty to try to fill him out a bit, it couldn’t be healthy being so thin. Satisfied that Akutagawa’s bowl looked as full as his own he turned his attention back to the rest of the food on his tray. The remaining items consisted of a cup of tea, a small bowl of miso soup and a plate of tempura shrimp and vegetables.

‘Did you make the tempura and miso soup from scratch as well?’ Atsushi questioned around a mouthful of deep fried shrimp.

‘Yes, and don’t talk with your mouth full, it’s disgusting.’

Atsushi gave the raven a cheeky grin and went back to eating. He was determined not to waste a single bite.

The remainder of the meal passed in a comfortable silence. With all his dishes empty Atsushi sat back with a contented sigh.

‘Did I already say that was delicious? I feel like I didn’t say it enough.’ Curious heterochromatic eyes turned to stormy grey. ‘I didn’t even know you could cook; you’ve been holding out on me.’

‘I can get by, but I rarely bother making anything too elaborate unless Gin is home. There’s no point.’

‘I know what you’re saying, there’s no satisfaction in cooking for yourself. It’s nice to share good food.’

Atsushi himself couldn’t be bothered cooking most days even when he wasn’t home late from work. He would forever be thankful that his favourite meal could be as simple or as complicated as he wanted. Normally he made the most basic version possible; tea and rice.

‘I suppose we should tidy up. Although I’m so stuffed I can hardly move.’

Akutagawa made to protest, intending to do the work by himself. But Atsushi ignored him and gathered their dishes, heading to the kitchen sink.

‘It’ll be quicker if we tidy up together. Do you want to wash or dry the dishes?’

‘Either is fine.’

‘Ok, I’ll wash then.’ Atsushi moved to fill the sink as Akutagawa nodded.

‘I’ll clean the rice cooker while you get started on the dishes so I actually have something to dry.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

They worked together to clean and restore the kitchen back to order. The occasional short conversation interspersed the companionable silence they shared.

Akutagawa was enjoying the domesticity of the whole scenario. He looked forward to spending time with Atsushi. It didn't matter what they spent their time on; talking, reading together, or even working. He enjoyed every moment he was in the other’s presence. He’d never admit it to the platinum-haired male, but he enjoyed his antics as well, though it was likely Atsushi had worked that out by the joy Akutagawa was sure gleamed in his eyes. He was just miserable at admitting his true feelings.

Excluding Gin, he cared for Atsushi more than anyone else in his life. Despite the fact it terrified him as much as it thrilled him, he had fallen hard for Atsushi. He loved him. He’d been too afraid to voice that thought, instead keeping his secret to himself. The fear that held him back was a many-faceted thing: he worried that Atsushi didn’t feel that deeply for him and he didn’t know if his sister would approve, but his greatest fear of all was the Port Mafia discovering the depth of his feelings.

Mori finding out. He was fearful of what he would do to Atsushi because, despite his appearance, Mori was a dangerous man. If he felt that Atsushi needed to be used to keep Akutagawa in line he wouldn’t hesitate to do so.

Despite all that, he wanted Atsushi to know how much he meant to him. It was getting too hard to keep the words to himself. He had almost revealed his feelings to Atsushi in the Armed Detective Agency's office a few weeks ago. He had stopped himself in time before the whole office knew how he felt.

When Atsushi had brought up the topic of Valentine’s Day it had given Akutagawa an idea. If he couldn’t say how he felt he could at least show it. Maybe not with the grand gestures other couples did, but Atsushi appreciated the small things in life. He’d feigned disinterest so Atsushi didn’t plan anything himself. That had worked so well to the point that the weretiger thought he hadn’t wanted to spend the day with him. Akutagawa cringed at that again - definitely not his finest moment. A glance to his side showed a relaxed Atsushi. A soft smile spread over his features, eyes gleaming in the low candle light.

‘You okay Ryuu?’

Damn. He’d spaced out staring at Atsushi.

‘Yes, I’m fine, just thinking,’ Akutagawa tried to remain vague.

‘Is it something you need to talk about? You looked quite…intense.’

‘I’m fine, don’t worry.’

‘If you’re certain.’ Hesitation coloured Atsushi’s gentle murmur.

‘I’m certain. Let’s hurry and finish clearing up these dishes. I have something else planned for you.’

‘There’s more?’

‘You’re not getting it until we’re finished up here.’

‘You’re a real killjoy sometimes, you know that.’ Atsushi pouted but resumed scrubbing the dishes faster than he had been before.

Ten minutes later, and with the last of the clean dishes put away, Atsushi and Akutagawa headed back into the living area. They took a seat on a small sofa that they pulled out from against the wall.

Atsushi had invested in some small pieces of furniture for his flat once he had saved enough money; he had bought a small sofa, some shelving and a modestly sized television. He’d also started buying more clothes for himself, usually when he was forced to go shopping with Yosano. He had to admit she had a good eye for what different colours and styles would best suit him. He appreciated her input as he’d found the selection almost overwhelming at first. He was accustomed to wearing whatever rags the orphanage had thrown at him.

‘So, what’s next?’ Atsushi quizzed impatiently.

‘Give me a second.’

Atsushi watched in curiosity as Akutagawa moved over to his coat and lifted it off the hook. There was a gift bag hanging underneath.

‘You got me a present?’ Atsushi loved presents. Or rather, what they represented. That someone cared enough for him to go and choose a gift they thought he would enjoy.

‘And chocolate.’

‘Ryuu, you’re too good to me,’ the weretiger teased before his smile dipped.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘I haven’t got anything for you, you know…’ Atsushi looked guilty now.

‘I told you it doesn’t matter. I didn’t do this expecting anything in return, except that you enjoy this evening.’ Akutagawa rolled his eyes. ‘If it bothers you that much though, I guess there’s always White Day.’

Atsushi’s smiled returned in an instant, brighter than before.

‘That’s a great idea Ryuu! Then I can treat you!’ He started mumbling to himself, already thinking of ideas.

‘Before you get too carried away let’s enjoy Valentine’s first, ok?’ Akutagawa grumbled. He still was unsure how to accept being made a fuss of. It made him uneasy to receive so much positive attention. He knew how to deal with the negative kind. He was no stranger to it after all.

Sitting back down beside Atsushi he set the box of chocolates on the table.

‘I hope you like it. I didn’t know what to get you.’ Akutagawa confessed, passing the bag over to Atsushi.

‘It’s from you so I’m sure I’ll love it; after all you chose it for me.’

Akutagawa couldn’t stop the flush that spread across his cheeks and down his neck. Atsushi was the only one who could make him so ruffled with so little effort.

Atsushi opened the bag and lifted out his present. In his hands he held a stuffed white tiger plush. A large purple bow adorned its neck, another thinner ribbon of gold intertwined with it. A single red rose was attached to its paws with another gold ribbon.

‘It’s so cute,’ Atsushi grinned as he studied the tiger, marvelling at how soft its fur was.

‘It…reminded me of you.’ The blush on Akutagawa’s cheeks darkened further. ‘I know it’s not a Valentine’s themed plush but I thought you might like it. I put the ribbons on it and got a rose as well.’

‘Why purple and gold?’

‘Well, I…I,’ Akutagawa’s awkwardness was endearing, Atsushi thought he was cute like that. ‘Your eyes. It’s the colours in your eyes. And I really like your eyes.’

Akutagawa hid his face behind his hand as he coughed, trying to hide his embarrassment.

‘Oh…thank you. No-one has ever told me that before.’ Atsushi set the plush down on the table. A pale pink now dusting his cheeks as well.

‘There’s one more present in the bag.’

‘You didn’t have to do that, Ryuu, one present was more than enough…’ Atsushi trailed off as he lifted out his final present.

It was a photograph, displayed proudly in a simple wooden frame. The picture encased behind the glass was one of the few of him and Akutagawa together. The older man wasn’t fond of photographs. It had taken much cajoling from Atsushi to get the few photographs he did have. Akutagawa’s only condition was that they stayed on Atsushi’s phone. He had warned him to not leave his phone lying around for anyone, namely Dazai, to look through.

The photo in the frame was a selfie Atsushi had taken of them in his flat one sunny weekend. It had taken many wobbly, out-of-focus shots, and several reminders for Akutagawa to smile until they got a picture they both liked. The final picture showed a beaming Atsushi leaning against Akutagawa’s chest. The latter had a soft expression on his face as he gazed with open affection at the male in his arms.

‘Atsushi? If you-’ Akutagawa was cut off by Atsushi throwing himself onto his lap and wrapping his arms around his neck.

‘I love it; I love it so much. Thank you.’ Atsushi sighed as Akutagawa returned the embrace. ‘It’s my first photo of us for my flat.’

‘It won’t be the last.’ Akutagawa assured him.

‘I’m glad.’ Atsushi felt he would burst from the happiness filling his entire being.

Breaking the hug Atsushi placed the frame beside the tiger, appreciating it from a distance.

‘I thought we could watch a few films for the rest of the evening while we binge on chocolate.’

‘Sounds like a great idea.’ Atsushi agreed. ‘Oh, hang on…’ Standing, Atsushi hurried over to his bag. After rummaging through it briefly he returned with more chocolate.

‘Something you’d like to tell me?’ Akutagawa raised an eyebrow in question.

‘Eh? What are you…’ realising how the chocolates looked, Atsushi descended into his usual fluster. ‘Ah! It’s not how it looks Ryuu-’

Atsushi stopped himself as he heard Akutagawa’s soft laugh. He loved it when the other laughed. Sometimes Atsushi managed to get an amused snort out of him, or an affectionate roll of his eyes, but he loved his laugh the most. For a person like Akutagawa it was surprisingly gentle.

‘Sorry, you’re so cute when you’re flustered.’ Akutagawa ignored the way Atsushi grinned at the ‘cute’ comment. ‘That’s your obligation chocolate right?’

‘Yeah it is. Naomi-san and Haruno-san gave out normal obligation chocolates,’ he placed two small boxes of chocolate on the table. Next was a larger, more expensive looking box. ‘That’s Yosano-sensei’s, she said if she was going to the effort of giving chocolate it might as well be something worth eating.’

‘Who’s that from?’ Akutagawa gestured to a small bag still resting in Atsushi’s hand.

‘Ah, this one is Kyouka-chan’s.’ Atsushi set it down beside the others. ‘She made the chocolate herself.’

‘So I do have competition then,’ Akutagawa teased.

‘She made everyone’s chocolate by hand. She said she wanted to try it,’ Atsushi elbowed Akutagawa lightly in the ribs. ‘She’s good at cooking so I’m sure it’ll be nice.’

‘We have more than enough chocolate to keep us going then.’ Picking up the television remote he passed it to Atsushi. ‘I logged in to my Netflix account so there’s bound to be something you want to watch.’

‘Ah, there’s so much to choose from, I don’t know…oh Tanizaki-san mentioned a film in English about a dog that sounded good. I can’t remember the title though.’

‘Do you have any idea how many films there are about dogs?’ Akutagawa asked dryly.

‘He said it was a popular one…oh wait, I might remember some of the title…’

Two minutes, and some playful bickering later, Atsushi had managed to find the film and they settled down to watch it.

The next few hours passed in a blissful haze for the pair on the sofa. They were only halfway through the first film by the time Atsushi had shuffled over the sofa to lean against Akutagawa. By the end of the film Atsushi was bawling as Akutagawa patted his shoulder in consolation, insisting that his own eyes were watery because he got something in them. While searching for their next film Atsushi stumbled across the Disney section. After half-hearted resistance from Akutagawa they began watching about a girl and her dog. A dog that turned out to be an alien.

Deciding to push his luck, Atsushi chose another Disney film for their last one. He hoped Akutagawa liked Beauty and the Beast. He had seen it not that long ago with Kyouka and had fallen in love with it.

‘Oh, this is coming up to my favourite part,’ Atsushi poked the other in the side.

‘The ballroom scene?’

‘Have you seen this before?’

Akutagawa froze, realising what he’d just admitted to.

‘Why Ryuu dear, I didn’t take you for a Disney fan.’ Atsushi prodded the other playfully.

‘I watched it with Gin once…or twice.’ The mafioso grumped, swatting the others hands away. ‘I had to watch it with her in Japanese then English because she wanted to see the original.’

‘Is there much difference between the two?’

‘Bits of it; they had to try and sync the Japanese translation with the original lip movements. The song coming up has different wording in the English version as well.’

Atsushi’s attention was caught by the beginning notes of the aforementioned song. A thought flashed through his mind giving him an idea. Before he could change his mind, he grasped Akutagawa by the hands and pulled him to his feet.

‘Dance with me! I love this song!’

Akutagawa opened his mouth to protest, but then he caught sight of the heartfelt smile on Atsushi’s face and the words died before he had a chance to give them voice. He could indulge the weretiger; no one was watching after all. His arm was trembling slightly as it came to rest in the small of Atsushi’s back. He didn’t know why he was nervous; it was only Atsushi.

Atsushi’s smile softened in encouragement. He could feel Akutagawa’s arm shaking. Placing his hand on Akutagawa’s shoulder he offered him his right hand to take.

Akutagawa spun them in a small circle. Atsushi’s flat wasn’t the largest place to be dancing in but they made it work. As they moved around the living area Akutagawa felt his nerves fade away.

‘What are the English lyrics about?’

‘They’re similar but they talk about how they’re a beauty and a beast and are scared of falling in love.’

‘Oh, that’s appropriate for us then,’ Atsushi mused as Akutagawa spun him out of his hold then gently back into his arms.

‘In what way?’

‘Well my ability is “Beast Beneath the Moonlight” isn’t it.’

‘You’re saying I’m a beauty? That’s definitely something I’ve never been told before.’

It was endearing how sweet Atsushi was, but he had them in the wrong roles. Atsushi with his platinum hair and eyes that are a stunning mix of amethyst and amber was definitely the beauty, especially with his pure heart and selflessness. Akutagawa knew he was the beast. Perhaps monster was a better descriptor for him, considering all the hurt and destruction he has wrought in the city he calls his home.

He wanted to change. Atsushi inspires him to be a better person; to care for others. It’s hard though, to confront the ugly truth about what he has become, what the Port Mafia has formed him into. Yet he can’t change without first accepting what he’s done. He hoped he’d get there some day. With Atsushi by his side, encouraging and supporting him, he felt as if he might.

Akutagawa was jolted out of his thoughts by Atsushi spinning him. Taken by surprise, he barely managed to avoid contact between his leg and the table. Atsushi pulled him back in and they re-stablished their hold.

‘Thank you, for all of this,’ Atsushi murmured. ‘It was lovely…the dinner, the presents and now…Even if you had just come over for dinner, I would have been happy to see you.’

‘I know I may not be able to take you out somewhere nice for a date for…obvious reasons, but I still wanted do something special.’

His remaining in the Port Mafia was a sore point in their relationship. Atsushi wanted him to leave, but Akutagawa knew that nobody ever truly left. Not unless they had serious leverage over them. He was convinced Dazai did; he was a former executive after all.

‘I know,’ Atsushi sighed, tightening his hold on the dark-haired male. ‘But this is enough, knowing that you care. That you want to be here with me.’ Akutagawa relaxed, Atsushi was going to let it go for tonight.

They remained together in the middle of the room. They’d stopped dancing now. Instead they moved in slow spins around the room, pressed close against each other in a more relaxed pose. Atsushi's head rested against Akutagawa's shoulder. The ballroom scene and accompanying music had long since ended.

Akutagawa rested his head on top of Atsushi’s, soft tufts of silvery hair tickling his cheek. He wanted this every day. To live with Atsushi and spend as much time together as possible. He felt at peace in the other’s presence. He wanted to spend every moment possible enjoying that feeling. He despised admitting to weakness, but he was scared to leave the Port Mafia. If he left they would most probably come after him. Gin could suffer as a result of his actions; no matter how good she was at her job she was still his sister. People would wonder about her. Akutagawa didn’t care what they did to him but he did care about his sister and the weretiger in his arms. Who knew what Mori would do to them if he decided he wanted to punish Akutagawa. It would hurt the mafioso more to target the only two people who were close to him. Akutagawa let out a shaky breath, pushing the dark thoughts from his mind as best he could. He would dwell on them another time.

‘Something wrong?’ Of course Atsushi had felt his unsteady breathing.

‘I…’ He should tell Atsushi the truth, he owed him that much for his patience. And he wanted him to know. He would never get better at expressing his feelings if he didn't try.

‘I was just thinking about how much I want this, to be with you every day but I-I don't know how to leave the Port Mafia. I don’t know what Mori might do to you when he inevitably finds out why I left and I don’t want to…no…I can’t lose you because…’

Atsushi had lifted his head from Akutagawa’s chest and was watching him intently now, waiting to hear what he had to say.

‘I…I…I think I…’ Why was it so hard to say? They were only three words; but they were some of the most life-altering words he had uttered in his life to date. He reached out to run his fingers through Atsushi’s hair, coming to rest on his cheek. Taking a deep breath, he was able to finish what he had begun to voice. ‘I’m in love with you.’

Atsushi hadn’t been expecting that. He felt a rush of relief accompanied by an overwhelming joy that Akutagawa felt as strongly as he did.

‘Did I say something wrong?’ Akutagawa’s panic was clear on his face.

‘Why?’

‘Because you’re crying.’ He moved his hand from Atsushi’s cheek to wipe away the tears tracking down his face.

‘Huh?’ Now that Akutagawa had pointed it out, he could feel the moisture on his cheeks.

‘I apologise if I said something you weren’t ready to hear.’

Akutagawa started to pull away from him, trying to give him some space. Atsushi pulled him harder against himself.

‘Please…please don’t go anywhere because I-I love you too.’ Atsushi smiled as fresh tears tracked a path down his face. He laughed softly at the shocked expression on Akutagawa’s face, which morphed into a look of relief.

‘You worried me when you started crying.’

‘For the first time in my life, they’re happy tears.’

With that, he pulled the other in for a kiss, which was returned without hesitation.

Atsushi had no idea how long they remained there, kissing in the middle of his flat. As much as he loved Kyouka as a sister, right now he was very glad she was living with Yosano.

‘Are you staying the night?’

‘I don’t have work tomorrow and Gin’s away, so I brought my things with me, just in case.’ Akutagawa shrugged. He didn't want to come across as presumptuous.

‘We should head to bed then; I think eating all that chocolate is catching up to me. I could fall asleep here.’

Atsushi gently extracted himself from Akutagawa’s arms to stretch, yawning as he did so.

‘I told you not to eat as much as that.’ Akutagawa rolled his eyes, turning the television off and blowing out the candles.

‘Well it was a special occasion, besides-’ Atsushi smiled coyly ‘-maybe I won’t feel too well in the morning and have to call in sick.’

‘I can see I’ve had a corrupting influence on you,’ Akutagawa lamented as he gathered his pyjamas and toiletries from his bag.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just don’t think I could stick another day of having to complete Dazai-san’s paperwork.’

Atsushi liked it when Akutagawa stayed over. In the small world that was his flat they could pretend, even if only for a while, that they were a normal couple.

They set up the futon and blankets together and, beneath them, Akutagawa wrapped his arms around Atsushi’s waist. The smaller male pressed his head against the others chest.

It had been a tiring day, both physically and emotionally, and as such it didn’t take long before Atsushi felt the pull of sleep. Before closing, his eyes he broke the silence of the night to whisper one last thing.

‘Goodnight Ryuu, I love you.’

‘I love you too. Sleep well.’ A gentle kiss was pressed against the platinum-coloured locks.

They might have their problems to face, but not today. For now, the promise of a tomorrow was enough. They would face the future together and fight for each other. For the life they wanted to share. After all, that’s what partners do.