Actions

Work Header

just a drink away from honesty

Work Text:

If you were well acquainted with Yokohama, the word - phrase, really - might pop up every now and again, a bit of graffiti here or an aside to a casual conversation there, and even if you weren’t quite sure what it meant, you became familiar with it nonetheless.

“Oh, I think it’s from a T.V show,” someone would say.

Or:

“Just a rumor - don’t tell me you believe in that stuff, come on.”

Yokohama is, admittedly, a strange city with stranger inhabitants. Still, some tales are a bit too ludicrous, a bit too over-the-top, and many seasoned natives, upon hearing them, would shake their heads and laugh.

But if you were new to Yokohama, or just passing by - those tales excited you.

Sent a shiver down your spine.

Someone would lean across a bar, ice sweating in a squat whiskey glass, a grin dirtier than the wrong booth at a strip club stretched across their face.

“So,” they’d say. “What do you know about soukoku?”

- -

At that moment, one-half of soukoku is sprawled across a bar counter, wayward strands of hair dyed amber underneath the warm, flickering light.

Chuuya’s brain is pleasantly muddled, the best threshold between sober and high-flying drunk. His problems - an aching ribcage and several bruises from their last job (as well as other problems he chooses to pretend aren’t there in the first place) - have all faded comfortably into a buzz across Chuuya’s skin. Nights, in Chuuya’s opinion, are best spent like this, blowing through money for top-shelf liquor, listening distantly to the hum of other patrons, and pretending the oblivious, portly bartender cares about anything besides how deep Chuuya’s pocket runs.

Chuuya winces to himself.

He needs more alcohol before he starts dragging out those skeletons.

He reaches for a half-empty glass - half-full, Chuuya, you pessimistic hat-rack - only to find, to his dismay, the welcome liquid slipping smoothly across the counter, frustratingly elusive.

Chuuya doesn’t even bother to raise his head. “Fuck off, Dazai.”

“Oh, Chuuya, that’s not a nice thing to say when I’m trying to save you from alcohol poisoning.”

“I don’t need your - “ Chuuya tries to push back from the bar, only to stumble and catch his leg; swearing, he topples into a waiting Dazai, who tsks repimandingly. “Chuuya. What have I told you about drinking on the job?”

“We’re not - “

Dazai waves a slip of paper in front of Chuuya’s blurry eyes.

“Dammit.”

“The boss wants us to check in for the full report in a couple of hours,” Dazai adds. “Do me a favor and look halfway decent when you come in, okay? I wouldn’t want your - “ Dazai picks at Chuuya’s jacket, nose wrinkling - “visage to ruin my spotless record.”

“Spotless record,” Chuuya mutters, “of being an insufferable bastard.”

“Say what you will, hat-rack. You’re the one who smells like a brothel.”

“Of course you know what a brothel smells like - “

“Okay, Chuuya, good to see you. I’m leaving now.”

Chuuya spots a glass of sake - his glass of sake - dangling from Dazai’s bandaged hand. “Whatever, bastard,” he mutters under his breath; then, fingers extending -

Dazai dodges easily, glass disappearing behind his back. “Now, Chuuya,” he reprimands. “Don’t you ever listen?”

“Just let me have it, shitty Dazai.” The rest of the bar fizzes around them, hazy in Chuuya’s ears. “Dazai.”

“Sober up,” Dazai retorts coolly, and, without warning, suddenly releases his hold on Chuuya’s body. For the second time, Chuuya falls, this time into the admittedly more welcome, but also more painful, alcohol-soaked floorboards.

“You know,” he says loudly, not sure if Dazai has already left or not - and not particularly caring - “you only care about how I drunk I get when it messes with your plans.”

If Dazai replies, Chuuya can’t hear it through the buzzing in his head. He plows on, undeterred: “Some partner you are - “

The bar lights sear without warning; Chuuya squints, tries to raise a hand to cover his eyes, his limbs suddenly, unexpectedly heavy -

“Oh, Chuuya.” A voice floating somewhere, disembodied, in the air above him.

Chuuya opens his mouth.

The world spirals into inky blackness.

- -

Chuuya wakes up with a groan already itching the back of his throat.

“Mon Dieu,” he whispers.

“Try again.”

Unmistakably Dazai’s voice, filled with mirth. Chuuya groans again, louder this time, and flings an arm across the upper portion of his face. The smell of stale alcohol fills his lungs, dripping from his clothes - as well as something else, a familiar, underlying tinge of hospital antiseptic and clean white bandages. “You knocked me out.”

“Boss’s orders.”

“Liar.”

Even though he can’t quite see it, Chuuya feels Dazai’s grin, a thousand-watt lightbulb glaring from the other side of the room. “Okay, you got me, Chuuya. I just wanted to do it.”

“Bastard.”

“Oh, a bastard and a liar. You’re pulling out all the stops.” After a moment, a pile of fabric hits Chuuya’s upraised arm, smelling refreshingly of laundry soap. “Get dressed,” Dazai adds. “You missed the briefing. If I’m feeling generous, maybe I’ll catch you up on the way.”

Chuuya drops his arm, allowing the room - and Dazai - to blur into focus for the first time. Bare walls; a single rug stretched across the floor, and a desk piled with papers and books. Dazai sits cross-legged on the ground, black coat spread around him like some kind of reverse corona. He’s staring at Chuuya as if observing an extremely intriguing television program.

Chuuya makes an attempt to frown. “Why the hell am I in your room?”

“Your room was too far away,” says Dazai with a shrug. “Now come on, Chuuya, get dressed! Or I’ll decorate your hat collection with ethanol and lead paint.”

Dazai skips out of the room, and Chuuya drops his head against a familiar stack of pillows. His body aches, head and mouth stuffed full of cotton, but Chuuya could easily ignore those things if it wasn’t for a different, nagging itch…

It happens so often these days. He’d managed to keep it together for almost three years, but Chuuya’s body is beginning to break down, and he’s worried alcohol won’t be enough next time. Worried that his dreams - uncomfortable, sweaty things, that Chuuya rarely likes to consider in the light of day - are some kind of precursor to an explosion big enough to blow a hole in Yokohama. In Japan, the world; the universe, even.

It doesn’t help that he’s been in Dazai’s room a million times over - in a million different circumstances too much like trying to jumpstart a car. After jobs, or before them. Drunk, sober; all the times Chuuya crashes through the door just to annoy Dazai, just because he can get under his skin like no one else. The persistent darkness, the sharp reek of sterilization - it’s all become so, achingly familiar to Chuuya, almost as if they were -

Chuuya takes a deep breath.

He dresses quickly, shoves his turmoil underneath Dazai's sheets, and meets a whistling, over-cheery Dazai in the hallway. “You look awful,” Dazai comments brightly, unfazed at the amount of time Chuuya spent in his bedroom. He reaches into a coat pocket. “Here.”

It’s a cigarette. Dazai also withdraws a lighter, flicks it deftly, and passes the now-smoldering cigarette to Chuuya, who wonders briefly if it’s laced with something like cyanide or arsenic. Then he decides he’s too hungover to really care.

“Just so we’re clear,” Chuuya says, slotting the cigarette between his lips, “I’m still pissed at you.”

“I know,” says Dazai. “But now you’re not allowed to complain anymore.”

“What, because you gave me a cigarette? Dazai, you idiot, I’m not a toddler - “

“Hmm. Could’ve fooled me.”

“You - “

They catch the closest subway, still bickering. Chuuya has to admit the nicotine is helping, both to clear his head and to make listening to Dazai more bearable. He finishes the first cigarette and moves onto a second, half-absorbing the information Dazai tells him about their latest target, and half-thinking about how drunk he wants to be when they get back home. It’s been a long night already, and Chuuya doesn’t want to make it any longer.

Ugh. He thought he’d left these problems in Dazai’s bedroom, hidden behind a firmly locked, soundproof door.

The reason you’ve been drinking in the first place, Chuuya’s brain can’t help supplying, unbearable until the end. Maybe he’s being subconsciously influenced by Dazai.

Chuuya closes his eyes and stubs out the third cigarette.

“Here,” says Dazai, purposely jostling Chuuya’s arm as he stands up. They exit the subway amidst a small flow of eager nightclubbers, bar-goers, and the like, although neither member of the infamous duo earns more than a couple sideways glances. Chuuya puts this down to a hat covering most of his telltale red hair, and Dazai’s fairly normal appearance when you can’t see the bandages wrapped across every limb, a second layer of skin.

Or maybe, he thinks to himself, a repulsive, damning idea, soukoku isn’t nearly as deadly as people used to think.

Dazai doesn’t leave the subway station, though, standing stock-still as if waiting for something. His eyes are half-closed, long lashes against high cheekbones - so they wait, Chuuya scanning the station’s grimy tiles disinterestedly, Dazai lightyears away on another plane of existence, before -

“What are you thinking about, Chuuya?”

“How much I want to leave you here and find a decent bar.”

Dazai clicks his tongue.

Chuuya doesn’t care. He knows this side of Dazai, and he hates it even more than the all the other sides, the different costumes Dazai likes to sidle through as though he’s drifting from one movie set to another. This particular side, however, only appears during jobs. It’s not the coat Dazai’s wearing or the suit he picked out that day - it’s in him, underneath him, pushing through the cracks.

And this side always means trouble - always for Chuuya, never for Dazai.

Like the time Dazai got captured “as part of his plan”, and Chuuya nearly crushed his own ribs trying to save the bastard. Like the time Dazai interrupted a mission to try out a new suicide method, or the time he pretended to be dead without actually telling Chuuya about it ahead of time, and Chuuya had really, really thought -

Thousands of incidents, of near-accidents, building up in Chuuya’s mind. Of Dazai dancing to his own music, on his own tightrope, while Chuuya’s always the one making sure he doesn’t fall and break his neck. Not that Dazai would care.

And that’s the most frustrating part, really. Not that Dazai would care.

Because he doesn’t, about anything. Ever.

Chuuya isn’t stupid, though - he’d brought this up once before, under different circumstances but maintaining the same basic premise, of trust and not enough of it and never, never enough. But it’s a memory Chuuya thinks Dazai forgot, and honestly, he can’t really blame him.

He sees warm light and twin whiskeys; tastes -

Chuuya,” says Dazai - maybe for the millionth time, and Chuuya snaps back to the stupid subway station - now completely deserted - fast enough to get whiplash. “Chuuya, are you even listening?”

“With luck, no.”

“Okay, then we’ll do it my way.” Like there ever was another way - and Dazai doesn’t seem too surprised or concerned about this development, bandaged fingers twitching like some goddamned addict. “There’s a warehouse down the block. I’ll go butter them up, and you can jump through the roof, okay, Chuuya?”

“Sure. Fine. Whatever.” They’ve done this a million times, in a million places; names, motives, all of it blurring together. Still... “Just don’t do anything stupid, got it?”

Dazai flashes a gambler’s grin, crooked and dripping with false sincerity. “Of course, partner. I trust you.”

Oh, the wars that smile could start.

Chuuya taps a mocking salute to his forehead before taking the subway stairs, two at a time, and disappearing into the nighttime bustle, thinking how little he believes in Dazai and wondering how much longer their partnership will last before one of them tips over the edge.

- -

Chuuya’s pacing the warehouse roof when he hears the screaming.

Being in the Port Mafia for so long, he’d learned to ignore the sound. After a while, it was almost instinct - like his ears would seal up when voices reached a certain decibel and pitch combination. Adaptation, really. A method of survival.

But these screams are...different.

Different enough to make Chuuya drop to his knees and press his head against the chilly shingles, brow furrowed, body as tense as a taut bowstring. He hears an explosion against steel walls; a crackle of energy against unforgiving concrete.

A cold hand digs into Chuuya’s shoulder.

Dazai’s ability can’t create explosions.

There’s no time to think anymore - this is fight or die, survival of the fittest. Chuuya doesn’t know what’s in the warehouse, but the explosions don’t stop, and he’s starting to realize it doesn’t really matter. Doesn’t even matter if this is one of Those Times. Dazai’s down there, he’s in trouble, and it’s Chuuya’s job to help.

Briefly, Chuuya wonders if this stupid partnership might really be the death of him - and then, after, the death of Dazai when he realizes nobody’s around to clean up the mess.

But now is not the time.

Chuuya takes a deep breath.

Raises one gloved hand to the unforgiving moonlight, watching the shadows rise and fall around his fingers; the divots in his palm.

He removes the glove carefully and tucks it into his coat pocket; repeats the process with his left hand, and takes one last glance at the star-filled sky before he closes his eyes.

Breathes deep and slow.

And gives into the thing inside him that neither nicotine nor alcohol can quench, the dark pit at the bottom of Chuuya’s stomach that is the reason he will never truly stop trusting Dazai.

- -

Chuuya doesn’t remember much.

He sees what he had heard, a lightshow against the plain warehouse walls - there is another Ability User, so Dazai hadn’t been pulling one of his stupid tricks, and this, at least, makes Chuuya feel a little better. He sees corpses, briefly. Chuuya has learned not to pay much attention to corpses.

He doesn’t see Dazai, but at this point, he’s too far gone to really care.

Chuuya remembers the feeling. He always does, a curse on top of a curse, as if wanting to rip his skin open every single day wasn’t bad enough - he wants to do it knowing what it feels like. Like he’s high. Like his ribcage is cracking, delicate lung tissue ripping in half, heart pulsing frantically as the power flows from Chuuya’s hands, the most destructive drug on Earth.

He remembers what it feels like to shred the laws of physics.

Chuuya remembers what it feels like when the man starts fighting back.

When something gets past his gravitational barrier; when it lodges inside Chuuya’s chest and stays there, undeterred.

He remembers.

Holds on to that last bit of control before it slips just out of his reach - dancing like Dazai, tipping off the side of the tightrope.

Chuuya closes his eyes.

Dazai, he thinks again.

For the second time, darkness swallows him whole.

- -

Their first mission together had been several, painful years ago, a dismal predilection for the fate of soukoku.

Chuuya had thought, before, that there was no hope for soukoku regardless; that Mori-san was crazy, off his head, off the walls. There had been no warning - no assessment to see if he and Dazai could hold a civil conversation, much less become trusted partners. There had been no chance. They were polar opposites in every way.

Dazai was the Port Mafia’s most ambitious member, ambitious because he didn’t care about living or dying, and was therefore all the more efficient and dangerous.

Chuuya was a French-speaking stray with an interesting ability, a rough background when it came to trusting organized crime groups, and no self-preservation or temper to speak of.

Their first mission had echoed this - poignantly.

“Dazai, you goddamned bastard - just follow my lead, don’t do anything stupid - “

“If I followed your lead, I would be doing something stupid.”

“Dazai - “

“So I’m not quite clear on what exactly you want me to do in that situation. It’s okay, Chuuya, I’ll take the lead - “

And then Dazai had pulled it off.

Forcing Chuuya to use Corruption so the damn waste of bandages didn’t become a tragic waste of fifteen years as well.

Two days later, Chuuya woke up in the hospital, Dazai leaning against the doorframe. “Hey, partner,” he’d said. “Sorry about that.”

Chuuya tipped his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes. “Don’t you dare call me that.”

“I thought - “

“Get out of my sight, Dazai.”

Dazai didn’t flee, exactly, but the tail of his black coat whipped audibly around the doorframe.

That had been the beginning. Chuuya went to Mori-san after his hospital discharge - covered in bandages, he looked like an angrier, knockoff Dazai, something Mori-san did not hesitate to point out as well - but Mori-san did not waver, maintaining the belief that soukoku was destined to succeed in the end.

“When is the end?” Chuuya demanded.

Mori-san smiled.

The next mission - which didn’t happen after quite some time, since Chuuya and Dazai were forced to participate in bonding partnership activities - was still disastrous, and only less memorable than the first time around because at least Chuuya knew now what to expect.

Which was absolutely nothing.

After the third, fourth, and fifth missions, he came to expect nothing of Dazai - no help, no communication, and sure enough, Chuuya was not disappointed. He didn’t resort to Corruption anymore, but Dazai’s handling of the situation still required an inordinate amount of trust in someone who had not proven himself to be very trustworthy.

“I think we should talk about this,” Dazai said one night, after he and Chuuya had returned to Port Mafia headquarters.

Chuuya made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. He hoped Dazai would correctly translate - Chuuya was always grumpy after jobs, always felt like his bones were too big for his skin.

Unsurprisingly, Dazai failed. “Come on, Chuuya, I’ll buy you a drink.”

“We’re sixteen.”

“So? I know a bar run by some Port Mafia informants. They’ll give me anything I want.”

Of course they will, Chuuya thought bitterly.

“Three drinks,” he said.

Dazai smiled like the cat caught the fucking canary. “I’ll buy you as many as you want.”

The moon was bright and clear when they hit the streets, Dazai cutting through alleyways and generally, walking as he usually did, in a way Chuuya couldn’t tell was meant to attract or avoid attention. He didn’t even know why he was paying so much attention now. The realization sent another prickle of nerves across his skin.

Dazai stopped at a warmly lit storefront, clustered between two defunct antique stores. “Here we are,” he said, gesturing widely. The bar lights caught in his hair and outlined the sharp planes of his face; Chuuya hated himself again for noticing this.

“After you,” Dazai added, grin twisting the corners of his mouth.

The bar was sparse - a scattering of dingy-looking patrons at some smoky tables in the corner, and a nondescript bartender who glanced up at they enter, noticed Dazai, and made a face like someone chopping onions.

You and me both, Chuuya thought.

He and Dazai took a seat at the counter. “Two of the usual,” Dazai said, rapping polished wood with bandaged knuckles, an odd, muffled sound. The bartender’s frown deepened, but he poured the drinks and slid them across all the same.

There was, however, a minor problem: Chuuya had never had alcohol. On the streets, he’d faced more pressing concerns, and as a leader of his own group of refugee fugitives, he couldn’t afford to waste money on needless luxuries. Still, Dazai wrapped a practiced hand around his drink, parted lips worrying absentmindedly at the rim, and Chuuya felt he couldn’t resist an unspoken challenge.

He let the amber liquid spill into his mouth.

“Not bad,” Dazai noted quietly, watching him. How long had he been watching? “First time, right? I thought so.”

A hot flush bloomed on Chuuya’s cheeks. “After three drinks,” he muttered, “I’m out, so you better start talking.”

“Fair.” Dazai sipped his drink. His eyes looked a million miles away, sparkling in the bar lights. “What do you want to talk about, Chuuya?”

“What? You dragged me here!”

“Bribed,” Dazai corrected calmly. “I bribed you, Chuuya. Mori-san asked me to.”

“He - “

“He’s worried about our partnership.”

Chuuya huffed a laugh. “No shit, Dazai.”

“I’m trying to be civil, Chuuya, and it’d be nice if you could make an effort too.”

The bartender refilled their drinks without speaking.

“I think,” said Dazai, propping his elbows against the bar, “we need to evaluate what we are to each other.”

This time, Chuuya really laughed. “I know what you are to me,” he said. “You’re the reckless bastard who tries to get me killed every single week. You tricked me into using Corruption the very first mission we worked together, and you waited until my ribcage snapped before you decided to pull me out.” He didn’t intend to put Dazai underneath the axe, but the words kept spilling out, smooth, syrupy liquid. “You’re reckless, careless, and an insufferable piece of shit on top of everything else - “

And Dazai? He took it; calmly, bluntly, with no change of expression across his face. He waited until Chuuya grew exhausted of the silence, until Chuuya wanted nothing more than for Dazai to snap back, speak up, start a fight, do something -

“You should have said something,” said Dazai quietly.

The bartender refilled their drinks again.

“Like you would’ve listened,” Chuuya muttered. He wasn’t sure Dazai even heard that - slim hands folded underneath his chin, head tipped back slightly. “Dazai?”

“You need to learn how to trust me.”

“Don’t turn this into my fault - “

“No, I’m being logical,” Dazai finally snapped, dropping his hands. “Chuuya, when you use Corruption, you need to trust that no matter what happens, I will always be there to catch you. Otherwise, this partnership was doomed to fail from the beginning.”

Chuuya felt the world give out beneath his feet. “I don’t - “

“How am I supposed to prove myself to you when you won’t even give me a chance?”

He needed another drink. He needed two, three - a million more, until the itch disappeared from underneath his skin. Dazai was right. Dazai, half-bent over the bar counter, spine curved languidly, fingertips dancing across the rim of his glass, was right - that Chuuya couldn’t, would never trust him.

Chuuya said as much.

Watched something flicker in Dazai’s face.

Expected - now, more than any other time - a fight to jump straight out of Dazai’s chest, panther limbs flying, empty expression finally twisting into something meaningful and hurt and real. Something that meant Dazai was real, that he cared.

“Okay, partner,” Dazai said.

Chuuya wanted to vomit. “What do you mean, okay?”

“What else do you want me to say?” Dazai shrugged, finishing the last of his drink. “You don’t trust me. I’ll tell Mori-san he miscalculated.”

The world had been spinning for nearly five minutes now, and even though Dazai didn’t show any signs of leaving, Chuuya reached out and tangled a hand in the front of Dazai’s coat.

Why did he do that?

“Mori-san said - “

“Maybe Mori-san was wrong,” Dazai replied, glancing down at Chuuya’s hand - and then back up, across his shoulders, neck, jawline -

Chuuya swallowed.

It happened so quickly.

One moment Dazai was still perched on the barstool - the next, his hands were in Chuuya’s hair and all Chuuya could taste was rum and Coke and Dazai.

His heart fluttered - skipped a beat.

Dazai’s lips were warm, his mouth pressing insistently; his fingers, tangled between strands of reddish hair, moved erratically - until all of a sudden, the warmth was gone, and Dazai was sitting on his own barstool again.

His mouth was slightly red.

Something in Chuuya hollowed out, a perfect, Dazai-shaped space, and he knew right then that if he said something, said anything, then maybe…

God, but he couldn’t.

He couldn’t.

“I’ll use Corruption,” Chuuya whispered, and Dazai nodded quickly, strands of hair falling over his face. “Only when I have to.”

He left Dazai sitting at the bar; walked aimlessly for hours through lightly falling snow, and even when he returned to the Port Mafia, Chuuya couldn’t fall asleep for a very, very long time.

- -

Beep.

Beep.

The noise trickles into Chuuya’s head; flows through him, a river on a mission, making the tips of his fingers twitch…

Making the tips of his fingers twitch.

Chuuya repeats the movement.

Once; twice.

Mon Dieu, he thinks, but the effort it would take to speak is still lingering out of reach. Blindly, Chuuya skates his hand across a distinctly scratchy surface, mapping his immediate surroundings through touch instead of sight. He imagines sterile white hospital sheets, a heart monitor droning nearby. An I.V shivering faintly underneath his skin.

Chuuya’s hand travels farther. The edge of his bed, a smattering of silky hair, an arm, a coat collar -

His eyes snap open.

“Hey, partner.”

There are a million things Chuuya wants to say, and only a single, monotone sound that eases from his throat, almost catlike; a sound that makes Dazai smile, mouth lifting weakly. “I think I’ll interpret that for myself.”

Dazai is slumped across Chuuya’s sheets, body at a forty-five degree angle from the plastic hospital chair he’d pushed as close to Chuuya’s bed rail as possible. His hair, by the looks of it, is sleep-mussed, and his eyes are rimmed in red - not unusual, for Dazai, but telltale. He reeks of gnawed fingernails and styrofoam coffee.

The rest of the room is significantly more familiar - the Port Mafia’s own private hospital, of sorts, full of humming, stolen equipment and pristine beds. Not many people get hurt in the Port Mafia. At least, not hurt enough to complain about it.

Chuuya has been here too many times to count.

“There was another Ability User,” Dazai explains unhelpfully, propping his head on his hands. “I didn’t know. He wasn’t from around here, I don’t think. I talked to Mori-san when he came by to check on you, and he said it was one of those overseas bastards trying to claim new territory. Nothing to worry about, anyway.”

Then why did you get caught?

As if attuned to Chuuya’s whirlwinding thoughts, Dazai winces. “It was a particularly annoying ability,” he adds. “I couldn’t nullify it in time to save myself. When you blew up the warehouse, though, it knocked the user unconscious, so I was able to finish the job.” As if Chuuya was actually worried about the damn job. “I predicted you’d step in, anyway. I wasn’t in any real danger.”

As if that’s not the most bullshit thing Chuuya’s ever heard.

“Well, now that you’re awake,” Dazai says, stretching, “I should get going. You know, you’ve been in here for almost a week, I think that’s actually some kind of record - “

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

Dazai blinks.

Chuuya sounds awful, and he knows it - a painful, grating rasp, bits of gravel and glass shards caught in the back of his throat. He coughs, body trembling, and Dazai locks onto the movement like a hawk. “Chuuya - “

“Sit down.”

For once, Dazai actually listens.

Chuuya closes his eyes before he says it, though, partly to block out the hospital’s searing fluorescent lights, and partly because -

Well.

“I’m done being your partner, Dazai.”

The heart monitor beeps mournfully.

“What.”

“I mean it. Whatever this is - was - I’m done, and I’m going to Mori-san tomorrow.” Chuuya opens his eyes, just a little. “Dazai, you knew it was never going to work - “

I knew?”

Something rages across Dazai’s face.

“Don’t tell me,” he snaps - a real, vicious sound, ringing against the bare hospital walls, “that after all this time, you still don’t trust me? Don’t think I wouldn’t throw away everything if it meant keeping you alive? After five fucking years, Chuuya, I - “

His voice catches; really, really catches, and Chuuya wants the floor to open up and swallow them whole. “I can’t trust you,” he whispers. “I’m sorry, Dazai.”

“Why not?”

“Because - “

Because I watch you throw yourself into death’s arms, expecting me to always be there to pull you back.

Because one day, I’m worried I won’t be able to pull you back.

And then what am I supposed to do?

“Because you don’t care,” Chuuya says at last, twisting the bedsheets between his hands. “And because you don’t trust me.”

Dazai’s voice is deadly soft. “I don’t trust you?”

“Don’t you?”

“I - “ For once, Dazai’s gone speechless, silver tongue dying in his own mouth. He flounders for a moment, and even though they’re not partners anymore - Chuuya has to admit, the sight is kind of a novelty.

“Chuuya,” Dazai says at last. Chuuya braces himself.

Then:

“You ridiculous alcoholic hat-rack. What makes you think I don’t trust you?”

“Well - “

“I put my life in your hands,” Dazai states, pressing himself even closer against Chuuya’s hospital bed. “I did everything short of actually committing suicide in front of you - “

“I thought you wanted to die.”

“Of course I do - but not during a job, Chuuya, who do you think I am?” The puzzle pieces are finally beginning to fit together, and Chuuya’s stomach churns with unexpected guilt. “I thought if I could show you how much I trusted you, maybe -

Chuuya tunes him out for a second.

Thinks about all the cigarettes after his hangovers; all the nights spent passed out on Dazai’s couch, a glass of water always on the table when he woke up.

The perpetual, self-assured confidence, and the way that no matter what happened, every job was a success - even the jobs involving Corruption, Dazai mending broken ribs and broken arms and carrying Chuuya to hospitals when necessary, cleaning up blood and managing to “just drop by” every single time Chuuya woke up.

Even now, Dazai asleep on Chuuya’s hospital bed. Wearing a hole through the pristine sheets.

How long had he been watching?

“Mon Dieu,” Chuuya says.

Dazai laughs, ringing sharp and loud. “You remember that night at the bar?”

“Of course.”

“Well, I didn’t just kickstart your alcohol addiction. I said I’d always be there to catch you, right?”

Chuuya wonders if Dazai remembered the other thing that had happened at the bar, but he doesn’t want to break this already fragile, tentative thread.

“Besides,” Dazai adds practically, “if you leave, who’s going to blow up all the warehouses? Fireworks just don’t compare, you know.”

“I did blow it up, didn’t I?”

“It was incredible,” Dazai says, grin tugging mischievously at his lips. “Partner.”

Chuuya closes his eyes again. “Partner.”

He thinks he could feel Dazai’s smile from a mile away.

- -

They do talk about it.

The bar incident - the Incident, in Chuuya’s brain. Later, when Chuuya is released from the hospital, and he and Dazai hole up in Dazai’s bedroom with a bottle of sake and an interesting lack of glasses. Oversight, maybe, or something else. Something uniquely Dazai.

They talk about it, as if talking meant a handful of words traded between brushing fingertips and wandering eyes, before Chuuya finds himself flat on his back against Dazai’s bed, Dazai hovering over him like Chuuya hasn’t spent three years proving just how unbreakable he is.

“I’m not made of fucking glass,” he says.

“I know you’re not.”

Still, when Dazai kisses him, Chuuya thinks he could shatter all the same.

- -

Miles away, in the face of subtle bar lights and whiskey-tinged breath, you laugh and shake your head.

“What do I know about soukoku?” you ask.

You know that there are some stories too inconceivable to be believed. You know that Yokohama is a strange place, full of stranger people, and sometimes, if you strain your ears, you can hear faint screams drifting through the air.

You know there are two boys, somewhere in the strangeness of Yokohama, whose lives are bound together with red string. You may see them slipping from a subway, cigarette smoke curling into the air; perhaps you catch a glimpse of them weaving through the crowds, the kind of pair that makes you stop and watch, for a second. You swear you’ve seen them before. At the edges of every strange thing, every smoky bar, a bandaged hand with a cigarette, a whiskey with slowly melting ice.

You realize you’re going to be late for work, and walk on.

You don’t mean to forget about them, but somehow, you always do.