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Many Returns

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Dazai doesn’t remember much of his childhood, much less any birthdays. The first one he recalls is when he’s six, laid up in the windowless room he’s been stuck him ever since the port mafia boss ‘purchased’ him months ago. The passage of time and birthdays don’t matter when to the boss he’s more of a convenient object; a nullifier to be brought out and used on any ability user suspected of ill-intentions.

There’s a knock on the door, and that’s surprising because the boss and his staff never knock.

Dazai doesn’t react (he’s learned early that the less he reacts, the less pain follows) when the door opens. One of the elderly mafia members steps in: Hirotsu Ryuuou, the one who’d nearly drawn the boss’ ire by protesting his treatment of Dazai once. Eventually the boss had calmed down, played magnanimous, and claimed he understood - after all, Hirotsu had grandchildren of his own, that was bound to make him soft. But he oughtn’t mistake Dazai for something he’s not - and to mark the point the boss had driven a knife straight through Dazai’s hand.

He’d not screamed.

“Dazai-kun, how are you feeling?” Hirotsu asks as he steps into the bare, dimly-lit room. Little as the boss cares for Dazai, he’s not willing to risk him disappearing, whether it be him fleeing or a kidnapping. It’s been months since Dazai saw the sky as well (not that he saw it all that often before).

He doesn’t quite understand why Hirotsu is asking, but he knows what he needs to reply. “I’m fine,” he says and pushes himself upright. It’s difficult, with both ankles broken, but it had been his fault to try and walk away before the boss gave the order. He’s not supposed to make such decisions by himself.

Hirotsu frowns, and there’s a sad light to his eyes Dazai doesn’t understand.

“It’s your birthday today,” Hirotsu says instead.

Dazai tilts his head. He knows but doesn’t know why that matters.

Hirotsu gives him a faint smile. “It’s not much, but I got you a present.” He pulls a beautifully wrapped parcel from behind his back, and Dazai’s eyes widen. Bright orange paper wraps around an oblong shape, the bow a beautiful sky blue, and the colors are like fireworks in the drab closet-turned-room where paint peels from the walls. Hirotsu holds it out; Dazai doesn’t know what to do. (A long, long time ago, when he’d ended up in an orphanage for a few weeks, he’d seen other children receive presents for the birthday. But those had been normal children. Human children. Not like him.)

Hirotsu smiles a bit wider. “Open it.”

Dazai reaches out, wary as something unfamiliar curls in his chest. It’s not pain, so he can’t entirely place it, but it makes his fingers tremble as he unwraps the paper as careful as possible. Hirotsu simply watches, radiating patience.

“I don’t know what you like, but my grandson loves the series,” Hirotsu explains as Dazai unveils a children’s book.

Dazai stares at the colorful cover. Something in his chest trembles, cracks. He’s not sure what expression he makes, not sure why he’s so off balance. The “thank you” isn’t planned either.

But it’s honest.

“You’re welcome,” Hirotsu replies with that sad, warm smile again. “Happy birthday, Dazai-kun.”

From then on, Hirotsu gifts him a book every year. By the time Dazai is eight he’s been allowed to read his way through the boss’ library after a brush with catatonia. Several different doctors had told the boss he had to provide at least some intellectual stimulus if Dazai wasn’t to shut down and die, so reluctantly the boss had agreed (not that any of the doctors had lived to see that. Or that Dazai would have minded dying).

It’s his tenth birthday when he’s dragged outside for the first time in years.

Two of the boss’ most trusted underlings stomp into his room in the early morning hours, and before Dazai has a chance to glean what is going on, a sack is thrown over his head and torso and tied over his chest. He doesn’t fight; doesn’t really care if this is a kidnapping, an attempt to overthrow the boss, or if they’re here to kill him.

“The boss’s asked for you, kid,” one of the henchmen says and throws Dazai over his shoulder.

Ah, Dazai thinks, not a kidnapping them. A unfamiliar inkling of curiosity blossoms in his stomach. He feels the air shift, the sounds change as they leave the boss’ suite. There are echoes, different floor textures, the whirring of an elevator - and then, there’s cool night air rushing to caress Dazai’s skin, even though the coarse fabric of the sack. It’s like a punch to the gut except that it doesn’t hurt.

He doesn’t know what he feels. Maybe he missed this? Because his mind, for some reason, conjures up pictures of the night sky, of glittering buildings and neon screens, though these are things he can’t remember having seen anywhere but on photographs.

He doesn’t get to see anything this night, either. When the henchmen deliver him to the scene, the boss insists Dazai’s face remain covered. Instead the bare skin of his arm is glued to another person’s - Ozaki Kouyou, a powerful ability user, though young. She attempted to run, Dazai learns, and the boss only doesn’t kill her because her ability is too useful.

(Yet he’s not approaching her without Dazai in place to nullify her).

There was a man involved, too. He sounds older as he begs for mercy, for his life. Dazai has read about the type, and he thinks the man was both foolish and selfish in urging Kouyou to run.

Before too long, Kouyou stirs. She cries, sobs, and screams. But in the end, there’s nothing she can do. One of the executives makes the man bite the curb, kicks his head - the scream echoes through the night, shrill and full of pain, and Dazai dimly wonders if he ever screamed like this - and then the boss tells Kouyou to finish him off.

Gives her a gun.

In that split second, Dazai realizes the boss is a fool. Kouyou could take the gun, shoot Dazai, and unleash her ability on everyone. The prospect fills him with a burst of hope so unexpected he twitches.

Kouyou doesn’t notice. She lifts the gun, casts one last, tear-stained look at the whimpering form of her former lover and shoots.

He spends his twelfth birthday hooked up to too many machines because after reading up on chemicals he managed to mix up a deadly concoction from the few liquids and substances included in one the ‘chemistry-set’ boxes he amassed over the years (the boss never realized that those thick books came with extras. But the boss’ mind has been deteriorating for a while). It should have been a one-way ticket. However, the new doctor - Mori, whose eyes are a bit too clever for him to be the demure physician he pretends to be - pulled him back. Rare as it is, but Dazai actually feels frustrated upon opening his eyes.

“That was quite clever,” Mori says from Dazai’s desk. Apparently he’s not to be left alone. Which is a pity, because even though he’s out of ingredients, he’s not out of ideas. That brush with something tranquil, peaceful, has awakened a longing in him he doesn’t think he ever felt before.

“Really, most adults wouldn’t know how to mix something like that,” Mori continues, rising from the desk and approaching Dazai’s bed. “Where did you learn it?” He tilts his head, and there’s cold, calculating curiosity shining from his eyes.

Whatever drugs are pumped through Dazai’s body render him too weak to move. His skin still crawls. “I read about it,” he lies.

Mori scratches his chin. “No, I don’t think any books would contain this particular set of instructions.”

Dazai remains silent. Mori’s expression morphs into a smile. “I think you’re quite a bit cleverer than you let on.”

The doctor reaches out to ruffle Dazai’s hair. It’s a cold gesture, calculated to look like affection, and the light in Mori’s eyes promises evil. “It’s a pity the boss doesn’t see it. The things you could do on the field -,” Mori sighs. “But maybe it’s for the best he doesn’t know. You’ve realized it’s better to have people underestimate you, is it?”

Except his plan failed, Dazai thinks. But something else also stirs in his chest. Mori mentioned the field; he can’t stop his mind from conjuring up images: him, outside? The breath of cool night air is his best memory, and he can’t help wondering how it would feel to see the world.

Mori can probably read his thoughts from his face. Dazai sighs, slumps back into the pillow. Most of all, he wishes he had succeeded.

“Very well,” Mori says, generously. “Catch some rest. The boss will ask for you before long.”

It’s a few days later that Dazai’s learns that besides the annual book from Hirotsu, Mori also got him a gift. A brand-new suit tailored with precision to fit him. He thinks it ridiculous because he isn’t allowed to leave the boss’ quarters, and the boss likes his skin exposed. But with the boss’ mind going, he is soon to become a fixed presence (literally; there’s a chain connecting his ankle to the boss’ bed) in the boss’ bedroom.

Dazai doesn’t entirely understand why people obey the man’s instructions as he even loses the strength to walk on his own. Instead of giving orders, the man rambles and rants, fueled by paranoia and hallucinations that Mori can’t seem to cure (because he’s helping them along. Dazai knows, and Mori knows that Dazai knows, and they both know the other knows as well). When the boss’ speech grows too slurred, eyes stray to Mori, and the doctor is swift to help in ‘explaining’ the boss’ intention.

Dazai feels almost entertained.

Then, one day, Mori changes the game. “I’m afraid I did not quite catch this myself, either, but Dazai-kun might be able to help? After all, he’s probably spent the most time with the boss, he must know his mind.”

Dazai, who to all executives entering the boss’ bedchamber has not been much more than a pet parrot, thinks fast. Then he smiles. “The boss aim was to track the shipment and strike once they make contact with their client.” (The boss never intended anything like that; the boss probably doesn’t even recall his name at this point).

The executives reel from shock. Dazai looks to Mori. The other man smiles back (Mori would have struck early, but that’s because from what Dazai gleaned is because he’s puppeteering the client).

“Well, that must be it,” Mori generously allows.

By the time Mori Ougai slits the boss’ throat, he and Dazai are familiar faces to the mafia executives and henchmen, and people are well-used to accepting orders from them.

Dazai turns fifteen not long after. He would have forgotten about the date - Mori has turned the organization on his head, and he’s made Dazai his right-hand. The abrupt onset of duties, as well as the freedom to move have had his mind spinning - he knows better than to let on how much the sky fascinates him, or that reconnaissance that involves watching people is a thrill - so when one morning Mori knocks on his door (Dazai has an office now; one with a window overlooking the bay), he expects orders.

“Boss?” he asks. One of Mori’s henchmen carries in a huge parcel and set it on a cupboard near the door. Mori waves them both outside, waits until the door closes behind them, before he breaks out in a sunny smile.

“Happy birthday, Dazai-kun,” he chirps. “I got you something.”

Dazai blinks. In truth, Mori has gotten him birthday gifts yearly now, but there’s a difference between those and the ones he gets from Hirotsu. So when Mori beckons him to come over, Dazai stands with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity.

Opening the box reveals a black coat. The fabric feels soft, decadent even, and from the cut Dazai can guess it was tailored exactly to him and cost a small fortune. He’s never quite understood Mori’s penchant for dress up beyond the psychological effects of creating a certain impression.

As Dazai holds the coat, inspecting it, Mori steps forward and takes it from his fingers.

“You should wear it like this, Dazai-kun,” he says and rests it over Dazai’s shoulders. It settles around him, a comfortable weight, and Dazai doesn’t know how he feels about it. Mori retreats, looks at him, and his smile widens.

“It looks perfect.”

It’s a present from the boss, so Dazai wears it. When Hirotsu meets him later that night, a familiar present in his hand, he raises an eyebrow. “The boss gave you that?”

Dazai chuckles. He’s been getting better at reacting - it’s more fun than playing an emotionless doll, after all. “He did.”

“Well.” Hirotsu’s brow wrinkles. “It does suit you.” He swallows down the ‘but’, which is a pity, because Dazai can’t guess what would have followed. “You’re looking much better than you used to.” There’s a softness to Hirotsu’s expression that gives Dazai pause.

“I do?” he asks. He isn’t sure when it started to matter how he looked - the old boss cared about him being alive; Mori cares about impressions. He doesn’t know what Hirotsu cares about.

The older man smiles. “You do. Anyway, here’s your gift. I know it’s probably very different from your current interests, but my grandson has been very enthusiastic about it.” He holds out the book, which Dazai takes with a smile. “Happy Birthday.”

(The book is a young adult novel which certainly is not a genre on Dazai’s reading list. But he is a little fascinated).

“Oi, mackerel. If you aren’t dead, get up!” Chuuya kicks the door down, and that his how Dazai’s sixteenth birthday starts.

“Be nice, Chuuya,” Kouyou admonishes, and there are more footsteps behind her. Dazai groans into his pillow. With his luck - he turns over, opens one eye - and yes, his bedroom suddenly seems to have become a common meeting space, because Akutagawa and Gin trail - dazedly - after Kouyou. Elise frolics after them. Hirotsu brings up the end, carrying an actual cake.

Dazai wonders if this was what Mori intended when he told him he’d have his birthday off.

Chuuya whisks his covers back. “Get up,” he tells Dazai. There’s a glint in his eye that’s different from the usual anger he directs at Dazai, and that’s enough to rouse his curiosity.

“We’re going to an amusement park,” Elise chimes in, merrily making her way to Dazai’s closet. Now that he thinks about, Dazai realizes the other thing that is off - everybody seems to be wearing very different clothes. Chuuya has even forgone his precious hat in exchange for a hoodie, Akutagawa wears jeans Dazai had no idea he possessed, and Gin a cute dress (he learns later that caused quite an uproar because nobody recognized her). Only Elise is in one of her customary frilly dresses, but then again, she’s not entirely human.

Not that that is rare in their merrily little troupe.

“Amusement park?” Dazai finds himself echoing. He knows quite a bit about parks, their management, and how the mafia uses certain ones for money laundering. He’s never visited one.

“Yes, I made Rintarou buy us all the most expensive tickets,” Elise merrily continues. One day Dazai hopes he will understand how Mori’s ability works, but so far the only theory he has is that she may be a little like Chuuya - an ability grown sentient. Maybe he should get her an ugly hat as well, just to see whether there is an actual correlation between sentient abilities and unfashionable headwear.

“Don’t you own any clothes that aren’t dress shirts?” Elise turns away from his closet, frustration on her face. Next to her, Chuuya also shakes his head at the contents of Dazai’s closet, and Dazai feels moderately offended.

“We can just buy him a nice t-shirt once we get there,” Hirotsu soothes when Dazai fails to reply.

“Great!” Elise proclaims. “Then let’s eat the cake and go.” Behind her, Golden Demon just finishes cutting the cake in even pieces, and Dazai momentarily wonders if that’s hygienic - that sword has stabbed quite a few people. Then, with a shake of his head, he pushes the notion away and rolls to his feet.

“You go ahead and eat it,” he says suavely, smirking at Chuuya who has a large slice on his plate (where did the plates even come from? Dazai can’t remember owning anything like that). “After all, growing children need lots of food.”

Elise laughs because she won’t do any growing anyway. Chuuya doesn’t fly at Dazai in a rage, but he flies at Dazai nonetheless. “Then the first taste should go to the biggest child of us all,” he declares and Dazai realizes his intentions a second too late. “Happy Birthday, bandage-wasting device!”

The cake smashes into his face.

In the background Elise laughs so hard she’s crying; Kouyou hides her chuckles behind a sleeve, Gin giggles and Hirotsu looks utterly amused. Akutagawa wears a look of deep, deep confusion, and Chuuya’s the grin is the brightest of them all. With the sugary matter sticking to his face, Dazai tentatively licks his lips.

It’s sweet.

Initially, Dazai is reluctant. Certainly, he has been talked into wearing a bright pink shirt with comic figures printed on it, but the roller coasters and other attractions don’t appeal. Or he doesn’t quite understand what’s supposed to be so appealing about them. The cheerful atmosphere around them confuses him further.

At least he isn’t alone. For all that they dressed up to not stick out, their behavior makes their little group seem odd. Elise and Gin act the most natural out of all, which means everybody silently follows their lead - straight to the freefall tower.

“No,” Hirotsu and Kouyou say at the same time. Akutagawa coughs and turns away.

“I bet they wouldn’t even let Chuuya on; with how small he is,” Dazai declares. it turns out to be another mistake (today must be an off day for him. There’s no other explanation) - he ought to have taken Chuuya’s competitive spirit into account.

“At least I’m not scared and hiding it,” Chuuya returns.

Dazai purses his lips. “I’m not scared.”

“Then prove it.” Chuuya smirks.

Which is how they find themselves seated next to each other, high above the ground. And for all Dazai’s recently contemplated falling, this seems a bit different. “Nervous now?” he asks Chuuya instead. The ground under their feet is very, very far away.

Chuuya scoffs. “As if this would scare me.”

Yeah, manipulating gravity makes most of these rides decidedly less scary. Which is why Dazai grabs his ungloved hand. Chuuya’s eyes widen.

“Oi, Da-”

They fall.

As these things go, the ride had an automatic picture taken, which Kouyou gleefully purchases. Elise then urges her to take a picture of the picture with her phone and send it to Mori - foiling any of Dazai’s plans to destroy it before the day is out.

His hand is also a bit numb and tingly.

“I bet this one is going to make you scream like a little girl,” Chuuya proclaims, pointing at a rollercoaster. It apparently goes into tunnels. Dazai raises an eyebrow, but Elise is faster.

“Neither of us were the ones screaming,” she declares coolly. Gin nods in meaningful silence.

Chuuya clears his throat. “Anyway.”

“I think you were the one screaming, Chuuya,” Dazai replies pleasantly. In the background, there’s a munch, and from the corner of his eye he catches sight of Kouyou with a big bag of popcorn. She smiles at them. “Well, then, go on you two.”

And they do.

By the time the day is over, they’ve been on every ride twice. Kouyou’s collection of blackmail material has grown immense, and Dazai has finger-shaped bruises on his hand and the only consolation is that Chuuya bears a matching set. Elise happily carries an overgrown plush toy (Chuuya won it by manipulating the gravity of a throwing game. Or at least Dazai thinks he did), Hirotsu made sure everyone stayed in one piece, Akutagawa did not suffer a nervous breakdown, and when they leave the park there’s an opportunity to take a souvenir picture.

“Let’s do it,” Elise suggests. It’s testament to something (Dazai doesn’t quite know what) that nobody outright protests.

What comes out is a picture of seven strangers. They have windswept hair, wear casual clothes, smile - and there is actual laughter in their eyes.

The next year Dazai spends his birthday hospitalized in a port mafia clinic. Their intel on an enemy group had lacked a key detail and Dazai had paid the price - apparently, he’d barely been breathing when Chuuya got him back - but now his pulse and breathing have returned to normal. He’s still aching from broken ribs, and with the amount of blood he lost, even Mori who’s usually not overly concerned, was unwilling to let him up.

So Dazai stares at the ceiling in growing boredom (the book he got from Hirotsu earlier he already finished). After a while, the suit assigned with keeping watch on him (apparently there were complications when Mori stitched him back together that require constant supervision), gets up and to leave without a word.

They’re never fun, anyway, Dazai thinks, when the door opens again, and a new suit enters. The man is tall, wears a tan coat instead of black, and his hair is bright red. Dazai’s never seen him before, so his interest is piqued.

“Hi,” he chirps. “Who are you?”

The man bows deeply. “Oda Sanosuke. I’m nobody of importance.”

Dazai tilts his head. “Assassins tend to say that.” He doesn’t think Oda was sent by an enemy, particularly because the suit who just left seemed to know him.

Oda’s lips twitch. “I… did not mean it like that. I mean, I’m really not important. Just the lowest-level mafia member there is.” Despite the demure wording, Dazai senses no shame about it from Oda. Rather, he appears content to be in that position.

“Do you plan on changing that?” Dazai inquires.

As expected, Oda shakes his head.


Oda looks at him for a moment, and somehow Dazai feels as if that gaze goes right to the core of him. “Is it alright if I sit?” Oda asks, and Dazai nods.

“Well, it’s where I am and where I feel I fit best,” Oda returns. Dazai senses there’s something unspoken, though he can’t quite guess what (and he doesn’t know if he’d understand if Oda were to voice it.)

“But low-level members die easily.”

“Let’s say, that won’t happen to me,” Oda replies with a curl to his lip. Ability, Dazai guesses; likely a powerful one. Yet Mori wouldn’t let somebody like that stay in the lower ranks out of choice.

“You’re an interesting one, Oda-san,” Dazai eventually says, smiling as he leans back.

One year later, Oda has become his best friend, together with Ango. It’s his eighteenth birthday, and while Mori had offered to give Dazai a few days off, he’d declined (it’s not as if he knew how to take a vacation). But he finds himself in a good mood when he makes his way to Lupin that night.

Oda and Ango wait with a monstrosity of a cake, party hats that should never be seen in public much less a bar like Lupin, and there’s a flowery umbrella sitting in his drink. Dazai finds himself giggling before he’s drunk and laughing before the night is out.

It’s perhaps the best birthday he has.

By the time he turns nineteen, Odasuke’s dead, Ango a traitor, and he himself on the run from his former colleagues. He spends the day holed up in a drafty studio apartment, waiting for sunset to engage on another failed suicide attempt.

His first birthday at the Armed Detective Agency passes quietly and pleasantly. His new colleagues gratulate him, a little wary, but generally warm. A cupcake with a candle sits on his desk together with a card signed by everyone (later he will learn that Kunikida suggested buying a gift, but Ranpo had advised against it. Dazai knows Ranpo is correct though he himself doesn’t know why). The card joins his small collection of personal items - the existence of which also confuses him (the amusement park picture is in there, too).

Then he runs into Kouyou in early June the following year. Since in this mission the Agency and the Mafia have a shared objective, she only stabs him in the shoulder and not through the heart.

As such, he isn’t surprised when a colorfully wrapped present turns up in the post on his twenty-second birthday. There’s no return address, and Dazai’s less certain than he pretends to be that it isn’t a bomb. (It is not. In fact, when Dazai opens it later at a secure location he discovers another book - apparently Hirotsu’s grandson likes steampunk novels now. He doesn’t quite know what to make of it, except that Hirotsu apparently is growing sentimental).

Yosano demands a party as compensation for stitching Dazai’s shoulder up, and Ranpo demands cake simply because he can. Dazai buys both with Kunikida’s wallet. When Kunikida finds out and predictably blows a fuse, Haruno calmly tells him to just bill the agency - after all, they usually do birthday things for agency members, and for all that Dazai likes to laze about, he gets things done in the field.

“But the paperwork…” Kunikida protests mournfully.

Kenji pats his back sympathetically. “You can feed it to the cows,” he advises sagely. “They don’t mind eating paper.”

Kunikida looks about to cry. Then Yosano sweeps him away with a bottle of sake, and before long the place has been turned from a functioning office into party zone. Dazai is certain the sudden appearance of little paper hats may only be explained by Tanizaki’s ability (except, in that case, shouldn’t they not be visible to Dazai?). In any case, he extracts himself quietly from the scene and retreats to the rooftop.

It’s a bright day with clear skies, and a nice six-floor drop to the pavement below. However, there are too many pedestrians to consider it a viable option, so Dazai simply chooses to observe the sky and wonder. Fukuzawa finds him there, and Dazai inclines his head in greeting (in truth, even after a year, he’s still not all that certain where he stands with his new employer. With Mori at least, he knew what to expect, but Fukuzawa’s a very different person).

“Not at your own party?” Fukuzawa inquires as he steps up to the railing next to Dazai.

Dazai shrugs. “I’ve never been one for parties.” Which isn’t the entire truth, but even he can’t exactly grasp his reasons. Odasaku perhaps could have; the man had always understood Dazai better than he did himself.

Fukuzawa hums. He’s not the type to offer insights, Dazai has learned (and is indeed, also not the most insightful personality, yet he doesn’t need to be. With Ranpo dedicated to him, Dazai wouldn’t dare to pull any of the manipulations he attempted with Mori on the man. Also, because the side of the light doesn’t do these things in general).

“You should use the opportunity,” Fukuzawa says gravely. Dazai freezes. Then the man’s eyes light up. “Birthdays are the only occasion for which Ranpo is willing to share his sweets.”

Dazai snorts, and Fukuzawa grins in return. If this was Mori, Dazai would be wondering what meaning there was to the suggestion; but with Fukuzawa it may just be a joke for the sake of a joke.

“I shall,” Dazai promises, and makes to turn around.

Fukuzawa rummaging in the sleeve of his haori stops him. The man pulls forth a tiny cat figurine - a fat calico - and holds it out. “Happy Birthday, Dazai-kun,” Fukuzawa says and it sounds quite solemn. “This one is hand-painted, so don’t get it wet.”

Dazai blinks. That effectively will mean he can’t use the river for an attempt later tonight, and perhaps Fukuzawa knows this. He must also know just who the calico cat looks like. Yet passing it to Dazai implies something Dazai doesn’t believe he’s ready for (or will ever be. He can’t be like Natsume Souseki.

Except in the next year he will have the idea to form a new double black combo from a mafia and an agency member, so perhaps Fukuzawa’s sixth sense for these things was more accurate than Dazai’s calculations).

His twenty-third birthday is spent in the very familiar confines of a hospital room. He’s not conscious for any of it, in an artificial coma after three bullet wounds with one of them puncturing a lung and another his spleen. Once he awakens he will claim it was well-worth it, taking down the rats, which is what he believes - but the tear-stains on Atsushi’s face and the stern look from Fukuzawa cast doubt on his perception.

“That’s what you get for joining the side of the light.” Chuuya laughs at him while he inspects the gifts on the small bedside table. No empty space is left between cards, wrapped presents, fruit baskets and flowers - Dazai, to be honest, had been a little surprised himself to wake up to so many gifts.

“That’s quite a nice wine,” Chuuya continues, pulling a dark bottle from one gift bag. “Wasted on you, though.”

Dazai huffs. “Ango knows I prefer whiskey.”

Chuuya chuckles. “You’re not allowed to drink, for what, four weeks anyway?” Obviously, this is confidential information, but Chuuya having access to it is less surprising than Chuuya appearing for what is a badly-veiled get-well visit.

“How about this, hatrack,” Dazai says, spreading his hands in an offer, “You get me a nice bottle of whiskey, and I’ll let you have this wine in turn.” He smiles, leaning against the fluffed pillows of the hospital bed. (It’s a fairly nice hospital room, which is perhaps another testament to the Special Abilities Division feeling somewhat guilty about failing to help with the rats).

Chuuya puts the bottle back with a snort. “No deal. I didn’t drag your carcass back just to help you offing yourself.”

Dazai blinks.

“Also, it’s not that nice a wine,” Chuuya continues with a light flush to his face. “I only said it was too nice for you, mackerel.”

Dazai bursts out laughing. It’s not mean-spirited; he’s not laughing at Chuuya. Rather, at the clumsy denial of something that has probably been obvious for much longer than Dazai had realized himself.

He’s still giggling (and that pulls at his stitches in a rather painful manner), when Chuuya, with a huff, grabs him by the collar of the hospital yukata and shuts him up by pressing their lips together. A second hand buries itself in Dazai’s hair, holds him his place; his own arms rise to grasp Chuuya’s shoulders. The other’s lips are soft and warm, testament to Chuuya’s skincare regimen. In contrast Dazai probably tastes like hospital, so he’s happy to part his lips and allow Chuuya’s tongue entrance.

When they part they’re both flushed. Dazai’s no longer laughing, but still grinning, though it’s a rare, bright thing. Chuuya exhales softly and doesn’t let go of Dazai. “So what if I care?”

And Dazai also doesn’t think that there is anything wrong with that. Especially since he - for all he still doubts he is capable of these things - feels the same.