It was late at night - midnight had already passed - but still Kunikida had not returned home. Sitting on an uncomfortable plastic chair, an open book in his lap he didn't actually read, Kunikida was watching over his partner's still figure lying next to him in the hospital bed.
There was a storm raging in the idealist's head. The images of the events - had it really just been several hours ago? - were playing out again and again in front of his inner eye.
It was impossible for him to avoid feeling a bit guilty. After all Dazai had only got injured because he pushed him to the side before. The sound of the knife being drilled into his companion's body was still too well remembered. The flashing of pain in Dazai's reddish-brown eyes before he bit his teeth firmly together to make no sound.
He felt even worse, when he thought about the accuracy with which Dazai had taken the smuggler down. There was no hesitation, he didn't flinch. Only a single fast, calculated movement and the blood sprayed onto Dazai whilst the other man breathed his life out.
It was clear that this wasn't Dazai's first time killing a man. Kunikida, however, would rather not think too much about how many lives Dazai had taken or how many of them had been innocents.
Allowing his gaze to wander over the quiet Dazai, he was unable to resist a sigh of relief. The doctors had mentioned a high loss of blood and that Dazai also was in a state of shock due to everything that happened. But with a transfusion, plenty of rest and, of course, the help of the people closest to him, he should recover soon.
Kunikida barely noticed stretching out his hand and stroking a stray strand of hair from Dazai's forehead using his fingertips. The ex-mafioso still was too pale and had not awoken since he was hospitalized.
A lengthy discussion with the head physician as well as a nurse, plus a much shorter phone call with Fukuzawa had allowed Kunikida to stay overnight. He simply refused to let Dazai be left alone when he woke up. Not after the brown haired man had clung to Kunikida crying saying that he was a monster.
Kunikida would not leave his partner with his own demons. If it were at the very least a little bit of help to Dazai to have him here, then he wouldn't leave his side for one second.
Dawn was already starting and the sky was colored in delicate shades of pink by the time Dazai woke up. Several times he blinked, his gaze directed at the white ceiling before falling on Kunikida, who struggled not to fall asleep.
Not until Dazai tried to sit up did the exhausted blonde realize that he had been awake at all. He was immediately on his feet and pressed his partner gently back into the comfortable sheets. „You should remain in bed. You lost a huge amount of blood and according to the doctors, it's essential that you rest!
At first Dazai didn't answer at all, only turned his head so he could look out of the windows and Kunikida couldn't see his face anymore. Normally this silence would have been appreciated and regarded as a pleasant contrast to the suicidal man's usual babbling. Yet in this situation it made Kunikida very uncomfortable.
"Hey, Dazai...", he started talking to the other after a while, uncertain whether it was the right thing to do. " About what happened. I..."
"I know." Dazai interrupted him. His voice was sharp as a knife, cutting through the air. He continued softer. "I do know, Kunikida-kun. I only can repeat the words I have already said. I'm very sorry you had to see that."
Kunikida was reluctant. He went back to the chair and collected the book that had dropped to the ground when he rushed to Dazai's side. He put it on on the bedside table close-by before speaking again, „There is nothing to apologize for. In that situation..." It would be false to say that Dazai's actions were plausible. Surely Kunikida would have reacted in a different manner.
"Don't try to justify what I did, Kunikida-kun!" Still Dazai didn't look at him. "Say, does Fukuzawa already know?"
" Yeah, I spoke to him on the phone while you were treated," he replied sincerely, not aware of the reason why Dazai wanted to know about this.
Seconds passed. Kunikida began to believe that Dazai had fallen asleep again as he heard his partner's quiet voice. „And what have you decided? Is the government gonna put me in a prison for gifted people? Or... are you going to let me run so that I can leave Yokohama and never return here again?
Kunikida hadn’t expected these questions. Why did Dazai come up with such ideas at all? "What the fuck are you saying?"
"I murdered someone... This proves that I' m unsuitable for the bright side. It is not as if I didn't know that myself. A threat to society is annihilated before it causes further casualties!
„A threat to society? Unsuitable for the bright side? Do you hear yourself?" Kunikida asked in disbelief, trying to keep his temper in check. However, he knew it wouldn't do Dazai any good to shout at him now. If anything, it might only make things a lot worse. "Dazai... look at me."
Dazai didn't listen to the request, even when Kunikida repeated it a little stricter. And so the idealist simply grabbed his chair and switched sides so he could at last look his friend in the eyes. Eyes that blinked dull and broken from behind thick, dark strands and appeared wet.
"Hah..." Kunikida sighted softly. He wasn't accustomed to the sight of Dazai at the verge of tears and he couldn't bear it. He was too used to seeing the other man with a broad smile on his face, a joke or a smart phrase on his tongue. He was a master at annoying other people - especially Kunikida. To see him now, nothing more than a shadow of his own, was painful.
"Listen, Dazai. President Fukuzawa is not planning to let you be locked up for that... mishap. And he is not going to kick you out of the agency!" He placed all his persuasive energy in these words, hoping to get through to Dazai.
The brown haired showed no response. He only stared at Kunikida from these gloomy eyes, whose light appeared to be almost completely extinguished. It gave Kunikida an inkling of how Dazai must have looked a few years ago in the mafia. It was impossible for him to tell how glad he was to see that his partner had succeeded in leaving that unhealthy environment. Although it would still be a very long way to heal his psychological wounds.
Kunikida wished he had noticed sooner just how bad Dazai's mental state was. That his friend still struggled with his dark, blood-soiled past.
Dazai had begun to chew on his bottom lip. If he kept on doing this, he would certainly bite it bloody soon. "Stop that! You're only hurting yourself," asked Kunikida with a bit sharper than intended. When Dazai actually stopped, he was relieved.
"Why..." the bandaged whispered his voice brittle. He avoided Kunikida's gaze as best as he could, but did not attempt to turn his back on him this time. "You and Fukuzawa... you pretend that this is no big deal. As though I didn't..."
For a moment Kunikida shut his eyes and rubbed his fingers across the bridge of his nose. He had no idea as to what to say to Dazai. Which would be the right words to calm him down and which would only worsen the whole situation? Eventually he decided to say the following: "Dazai, I know you are feeling guilty about..."
"And if I don't feel guilty?" Dazai interrupted him, his tone harsh and almost full of resentment. However, Kunikida could not tell who was the target of that resentment. "I had no regrets back then, so why should it be any different with this smuggler? They called me the demonic prodigy for a reason, and in my experience a monster remains always a monster."
Inevitably, Kunikida recalled Dazai's words from a few hours ago. [Why can't I just die? Nobody would miss a monster like me.] He became freezing cold and he knew Dazai just lied to him. At least partially, because he couldn't say whether Dazai was regretting his past murders or not. But this murder, he certainly did regret. Otherwise his reaction would be hardly that violent.
Dazai wanted to make Kunikida run. For sure, he just craved to be left alone when he surrendered to his inner pain. He didn't want to have an annoying witness when he completely broke down. It made Kunikida wonder if it was because Dazai had hidden his true feelings from other people for so long and now he didn't know how to open up to them anymore, or if he just didn't trusted Kunikida enough. The idea of the latter being true wounded Kunikida a bit.
Didn't Dazai notice that he was only trying to help him?
"Dazai, you are not a monster," he finally said, trying to keep his voice as steady and convincing as he could. He wasn't actually that good at it.
He was greeted with a cold look from Dazai which made Kunikida shudder. The red-brown eyes were almost black. "You don't even buy it yourself."
For a moment, the Blonde's breathing paused. He was motionless, as though his body had forgotten about how to navigate. All he could do was stare at Dazai and that for long enough to allow the dark-haired man to continue speaking: "It's alright, Kunikida-kun. I don't blame you. You' re a good man, it' s in your nature to care for your colleagues. But I do not deserve it, Kunikida-kun! I am... not even human."
Kunikida woke from his rigor. He shook his head so wildly that his glasses nearly slipped from his nose. "That's ... that's bullshit! You are a human being! You can feel and you... you..."
Again, Dazai disrupted him. "I can not!"
Dazai took a deep, long breath. As if he had to gather at first. "I... can' t feel anything, Kunikida-kun," he replied plainly. He kept hidden that this wasn't quite the truth, because he definitely felt this cold emptiness inside him, that seemed to devour him.
"You can feel a lot," the idealist objected. He didn't let Dazai try to convince him otherwise. "I am not blind. I know your smile is mostly fake. But not always. The smile you give Atsushi on occasion is genuine and it is full of pride and fondness. And that panic attack of yours... I don't think a heartless monster would be able to break down like this!"
Dazai remained silent. His gaze skimmed over Kunikida's stern face, over his mouth which was pressed to a thin line, and over the concerned wrinkles on his forehead. In the end he sighed softly. "Kunikida-kun... I don't know what to do anymore... All I know is that I want to die. I want to die so that no one else will ever be hurt again because of me! After all, there is no point in pursuing this meaningless existance ..."
Something - a hunch - said Kunikida that Dazai wasn't just talking about the smuggler. "Your existence is not meaningless. And it has already saved many people"
Kunikida waited for a moment in order to let his words have a better effect.
"I promise you, everything will be alright. We get through that together. You are not alone!"
Dazais' lip was trembling and he needed to swallow hard. "Kunikida-kun..."
Kunikida made himself smile encouragerly and if Dazai noticed how difficult this was for him, he said nothing. "Try to sleep a little more," he gently asked, brushing through the brown strands with one hand.
Dazai shut his eyes slowly, obviously still exhausted. It wouldn't take long for him to fall asleep. But before this could happen he mumbled: "Stay here, Kunikida-kun..."
Only when Dazai was already sleeping did Kunikida whisper back: "I will." And he gave his partner a little kiss on the forehead.
His promise would not be easy to keep, he knew. He knew they would have to talk to Fukuzawa about the incident again and he had the feeling that Dazai had become more fragile. But somehow they would find a solution. They just had to!