The thought “why do I always find myself in situations like these?” had occurred to Osamu Dazai a number of times. Like, the time he had woken up, stranded on a deserted island without even remembering having boarded a ship, or the time he had locked himself out, on top of the roof of the Agency building in the middle of winter and being stuck there for hours without his coat.
It turned out that Kunikida had been well aware of where he was, but apparently had such a strong need of a break from him, that he honestly did not care if he stepped off the ledge and plummeted down from the roof to the sweet relief of his death or not.
Obviously, that had totally killed his desire to do just that.
Still, he kinda did. He summoned his inner Chuuya and climbed down two stories, just so he could knock on the office windows, smiling and waving as every face turned towards him paled sickly, and full panic had erupted.
It had been totally unnecessary and completely over the top. Sure, his fingers were freezing and he couldn't feel his toes- one wrong move and he would surely have fallen off. But, he felt like he had the situation mostly under control.
That wasn't necessarily exactly what was going on right now though, but he for sure felt the same way about it. He was stuck in a very unpleasant position without any obvious way of getting out of it.
They were out on a mission, looking for a young boy that had been missing for a couple of hours. The kid had gotten scared when he had realized that he had a special ability. Neither of his parents had any, and the boy had no experiences with that kind of power.
They weren't sure what kind of gift he possessed yet, only that it had almost resulted in their entire house burning down.
It had been an explosion, but luckily, no serious injuries or fatalities. The fire department had found a gas leak in the grand country house, but the boy was the only one who could answer what had actually triggered the eruption.
In other words, this child could potentially be very dangerous to himself and others if he wasn't found soon.
The search was what had led him into these woods. Dazai absolutely hated the woods. There were mosquitos and horseflies, the air was humid and he had stepped in a puddle of mud, which he was about 85% sure wasn't bear excrements.
So now his feet were cold and he had several of itchy bites all over his arms and who-knows-where-else.
Also, he was soaking wet after an undesired swim down the stream.
Oh, and then there was the bullet that was currently lodged inside his thigh.
It would seem like they quite possibly had another Atsushi on their hands, (his name even resembled the tiger boy's own name) because someone was after this kid. Someone they didn't know yet, but dangerous enough to carry weapons and be out here with them in the middle of nowhere, looking for him.
Dazai had been separated from the rest of the group when the shooting had started. They didn't see anyone, but they had clearly seen them. The shooting came from behind a thicket of bushes, and none of them had really felt the need to linger around to check it out once they were being fired at.
He had no idea where the rest of them were, but he could only hope that none of them had been fatally wounded.
When he first realized he had been shot, he hoped it was just a graze. Tumbling down a steep hill while trying to avoid the bullet rain that chased him didn't leave much room for stopping and assessing the injury.
Luckily, he had been able to crawl his way off the trail, painstakingly slowly and made his way through the grass, finding a small creek. He was unable to walk, so his best, or perhaps only option to get away, was to let himself flow down the stream for a little bit. He wasn't much of a swimmer, but he wasn't much of a walker right now either.
He plumped into the water and drifted down for about a hundred meters, where he spotted a large rock that was placed in a way that it looked like it might have a gap under where he could hide. Once he was back out of the water, he was able to crawl his way over to it and worm his way into the small space. It wasn't a good hiding spot, but it was the best he could do at the time.
His phone was obviously dead from the swim, which was so typical that he wasn't even able to be bothered by it.
Now that the adrenaline had started to wear off, the burning sensation in his thigh was making itself very well known.
His hands patted the underside of his thigh carefully, and it quickly became clear that the bullet hadn't gone all the way through, which would mean that it was still boarded inside his leg. That was not good. The bullet had also penetrated his flesh way too close to his femoral artery, which meant he had to remove the bullet quickly.
Wearily, he leaned his head back, resting it on the rock and cursed silently. It wouldn't be the first time he had to pry a bullet out of himself, but he had hoped that the time before this would have been the last.
Oh well, better luck next time, he scoffed unimpressed.
If he was going to get the bullet out on his own, he would need to make an emergency-tourniquet.
Making a proper tourniquet was impossible to do on oneself. If done correctly, it was humanly impossible not to faint from the excruciating agony one would feel.
That also meant that there was an increased chance that he would bleed out before he was able to get proper medical treatment- well, if he didn't nick the artery in the process of course, which would without a doubt make his demise quick and very unpleasant.
Either one was not a desirable way to die- lying in the woods, being eaten on by maggots and flies and eventually having his face bitten off by some predatorial animal was not what he had in mind when planning his death.
He really hated those goddamn bears. And he would much rather bring his face with him into the afterlife.
Heaving for a deep breath and holding it, he twisted his injured leg a little, winching and biting his lip to not cry out in pain. Of course, it would be the same leg as he held his switchblade on.
He lifted his pant-leg and dragged the folded knife out from his sock, before settling back into a more bearable position. He unfolded it with a slight frown, before cutting a long piece off the bottom of his coat.
His blood-covered hands left splatters all over the highly beloved jacket, and each tear in the fabric tore a small piece off his soul.
With quivering hands, he inched the piece of textile under his thigh, a little above the wound and started binding the cloth around his leg. But, he had to pause mid-knot, because the brambles in front of him started rattling. The sound of footsteps came closer and closer, and Dazai tried to sharpen his senses and listen closely.
All he had to defend himself with, was the small folding knife, which would not hold up in a gunfight. The phrase, don't bring a knife to a gunfight, had never felt more fitting.
Out of any other options, he tried to get to his feet. As soon as he laid any weight on his damaged leg, it gave out under his weight and he was left dragging it behind while trying to get some distance between himself and whoever was heading his way.
Right behind the rock he'd been hiding under, he collapsed. Beams of agony fired through his entire leg and blinded him for a moment, long enough to make him lose his footing and topple to the ground. He pushed himself as closely to the cliff as he could and tried to stay hidden while peeping towards the bushes.
The first thing he noticed was a disheveled head of blonde hair and two chubby hands pushing the overgrown plants away before two large hazel orbs watched anxiously from side to side.
It was the boy.
Just as Dazai recognized him, the kid startled abruptly, noticing the blood trail that Dazai had left behind. He backed away with staggering footsteps and was ready to run off.
Dazai threw himself from his hiding spot, hitting the ground and squirming a few feet to make himself visible.
If he could only remember the kid's name.
“Wait,” he screeched after him in an asphyxiated voice. His wound was not content with the harsh treatment and pulsated tortuously. His left hand clutched to it, hoping it would stifle the pain while his right hand reached out for the boy.
“Please,” goddammit, what was his name? “Y... Ya- Yasushi? Yasushi Inoue, right? Please, I'm Osamu Dazai, I'm here to help.”
The kid turned around, eyes glossy with unshed tears and he looked horrified at the bloodied man in front of him, still ready to jolt if Dazai gave him any reason to.
“I'm not going to hurt you, and you're not in any trouble,” Dazai deliberated calmly, but couldn't get rid of the tension in his voice. Demonstratively, Dazai held his hands out, showing that he did not have any weapons. The knife was left behind the rock, so he couldn't have reached it if he tried.
“H-how do you know my name?” Yasushi asked in a shaky voice, fighting back the sobs that desperately wanted to escape from his chest.
“I'm from the Armed Detective Agency-” Dazai began but realized quickly how those words could sound triggering to a boy he was trying to convince that he was in fact not armed.
The blonde child was already getting ready to split as Dazai quickly tried to clarify.
“-b-but not actually armed. We have abilities, you know, just like you,” Dazai explained desperately, catching Yasushi's attention again. Dazai swallowed down a cry of hurt before he was able to proceed.
“We've been hired by your family. They're really worried about you, and not angry. They just want you to come home safely.”
Green eyes looked away, still unsure if he should split, or if he should trust this stranger, lying as a bloodied lump on the ground.
Dazai determined that the child was very smart to not trust him. He didn't look like the most reliable character at the moment.
“Also, I think you should stick with me. There's someone out there. I don't know who they are or what they want, but...” he eyed his leg and chuckled humourlessly, “...but I think we should stay together. I will help you to get back to your family, and, to be honest, I could probably need some help from you too.”
A stout hand quickly brushed over the young boy's eyes, falling back to his side while he approached carefully, like a frightened animal. “W-what happened to you?”
Dazai wracked his brain for the right answer. He had never been good with kids, but he knew that he needed to keep some things from them. It would be unwise to blurt out that he had been shot by someone hunting for the kid when he needed him to be calm and level headed.
Still, there was no denying that he had a gunshot wound to his leg, and he still needed to dig the bullet out before they could move anywhere. This “throwing himself around” buisness had been hazardous enough, and he only hoped that it had not made anything worse.
“If I tell you, will you promise me that you'll continue to be brave for me and not run off?” Dazai finally returned, peering intently at the boy who had slowly moved closer towards him now.
With a small frown, Yasushi subsequently nodded. Dazai mirrored his motion, taking a deep puff before he began to explain what was going on, keeping a close eye to the kid's reaction.
He didn't respond as Dazai had anticipated. Instead of looking alarmed or distressed, he simply looked guilty. His lower lip started to wobble somewhat, and he bit it tightly to prevent it from showing.
“It's going to be okay, Yasushi-kun,” Dazai cooed. “We're going to to find my coworkers, and then, we'll get you home.”
Yasushi lowered his head in shame and sniffled softly. “I burned it down,” he muttered quietly.
Dazai could've kicked himself. He needed to be more careful about how he chose his words.
“Well actually, they were able to save most of it. Only the kitchen was destroyed from what I read in the report. But you're right, you won't return there tonight. We are going to reunite you with your parents though, and then you're probably going to spend a couple of nights in a nice hotel, or with extended family perhaps.”
The child swallowed audibly and finally looked up. “Okay,” he said hoarsely and bobbed his head. “Okay, I'll trust you.”
“Great,” Dazai beamed. “That's really great. But now, if you would be so kind, I need you to grab my switchblade from over there so I can dig this bullet out of my leg.”
This kid was seemingly a bottomless pit of vomit. He hadn't even been able to assist Dazai in rotating the stick to help to tighten the tourniquet before he was out for the count.
That was certainly a little annoying.
Dazai turned to look for another small stick, luckily finding one close enough to reach without moving and placed it in his mouth and bit down on it hard.
There was no reason to put it off, any hesitation would only make it worse. He grabbed the twig sticking out from the knot in the cloth and turned it quickly, several times until the pain shot up his leg like a lightning bolt and he could feel his teeth quirk from the harsh bite on the branch in his mouth.
He let it go, letting go of the stick between his teeth and allowed his hands to fall to his sides while he strangled a growl and tried to breathe through the nauseating pain. A couple of choked coughs wracked their way through his body and he had to fight to stay conscious.
Good, that meant it was good enough.
As long as he could stay conscious, it would be as good as it was going to get, especially since he was going to prod this bullet out all on his own. Glancing over at the kid, who had finally stopped dry-heaving, that seemed to be the most likely scenario.
“Hey kid, you okay?” Dazai asked weakly, still wheezing heavily. Beads of sweat were trailing down his face, burning lightly at the small cuts that scattered his face from that tumble down the hill earlier in the day.
Yasushi sounded even worse than him, wiping his mouth and getting up from his stance at all fours into a seated position, while being careful not to catch a glance at the gore that was going on behind him.
“Good... This got a bit much for you, huh?”
The young boy only hummed his response, while nodding his head vigorously. Dazai imagined that what he really wanted to do was to shout something along the lines of “fuck yes.”
“Well, uh, just so you know, I'm going to remove the bullet now... If you could talk to me while I do it, it would be of tremendous help,” Dazai admitted.
He wasn't looking forward to this one bit, but it had to be done. It was getting dark, and he was starting to catch a chill from his wet clothes. Yasushi was not dressed for a night in the woods either, only wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Also, where the hell was the rest of the agency? He hadn't drifted down that far.
“O-okay, I can do that,” the boy agreed and pushed himself a little closer, still looking pointedly in a different direction.
“Thanks,” Dazai replied, shifting his attention back to the wound. The knife was in his hand, and he started to cut open his pant leg. The bleeding had slowed, which had been the point of the tourniquet after all.
The hole in his thigh was almost black from old blood, while still spilling out fresh, brighter liquid. Dazai only wished he had gotten this done when the light was better, but now he needed to get a move on before it got even dimmer.
“I'm starting now,” he announced and pinched around the wound to squeeze out the access blood that was just remaining inside the deep wound. He winched, but kept his hands steady and wiped it away.
“So,” Dazai began, in a tight, tortured voice. “How about you tell me a little bit about your ability?”
“I- I don't want to,” Yasushi denied. He sounded scared, which Dazai determined that he probably had every right to be. It was new, and yes, really scary.
“But, if you don't mind me asking,” the kid continued, falteringly.
“No, not at all, please continue,” Dazai pressed in agony, just as he let go of the pressure.
“When did you discover yours?”
Dazai closed his eyes and mentally prepared himself to put his finger inside the wound to feel around for where the bullet was stuck.
“I can honestly not remember,” he said, slowly inserting his index finger. It was deep, and the bullet had probably hit the bone. A whispered few curses left his mouth as he carefully forced his way through muscle and tendons, breathing through the pain.
“Oh,” Yasushi uttered in disappointment.
“But, I was presumably born with it. It's just always been in use, for as long as I've been conscious enough to know what was going on around me,” Dazai resumed explaining, as he touched the tip of the bullet with his finger and bit his teeth together while he was retracting his hand.
Without taking the time to gather himself, he placed the tip of the knife to the wound and made a small, careful insition.
“Can I ask what your power is?” Yasushi asked shyly, knitting the edge of his t-shirt together as a defense mechanism.
“Yyyyes,” Dazai wailed out in obvious pain, while he made the first step towards digging around in his thigh with the serrated knife. “I can nullify all abilities,” he continued in a strangulated voice.
“Are you okay?” Yasushi asked fearfully, half-turning his head to check on him.
“D-don't look right now! Trust me,” Dazai panted, implanting the knife further into his leg while twisting the point, searching for the bullet. “J-just keep talking.”
“Of course, sure. Sorry. Uh.” He desperately sought for anything to talk about, catching the aggravated grunts and moans coming from the older man seated behind him.
Oh God, the only thing Dazai had asked of him was to continue talking to him. Why wasn’t he even able to do that?
“My ability shoots bullets,” he suddenly called out, hastily covering his mouth as if it would somehow take back his dark secret.
“W-what?” Dazai uttered, stopping his prodding for just a second.
“I'm sorry,” the boy begged, finally turning around. His hazel eyes were filled with tears now, and they were steadily gushing down his face. “I'm so, so sorry. I... it was me. I think... I heard you in the woods and I got scared. I sent the bullets at you.”
Dazai looked at him quizzically, one hand holding the knife while the other clamped down around the bullet wound.
“Huh,” he deadpanned and cocked his head. “That was certainly unexpected.”
The boy had scooted all the way over now and was sobbing freely, masking his face with his hands and cradled himself back and forth.
Dazai wasn't sure what to do.
“Listen, Yasushi-kun, I need you to pull yourself together, just for a little bit. There's currently a knife, inches away from my femoral artery and it hurts and I kinda need to focus on that right now.”
The child snorted a couple of times, nodding vigorously, rubbing his eyes raw.
“I can do that,” he stammered weakly, slowly peering up into Dazai's dim eyes.
“Thank you,” the ex-mafioso sighed and prepared to proceed.
Yasushi scooted over to sit beside Dazai, a little to the side as not to accidentally look at what the older man was doing.
Again, he had needed to think a little about something to say. His expression changed as he suddenly realized what Dazai had told him moments before.
“Dazai-san? You said you could cancel abilities, right?”
“Mhm,” Dazai squawked. All Yasushi could see of what he was doing, was small movements in the slender man’s shoulders, but his voice was pained and intense.
“Then why were you not able to cancel mine?”
“I have to,” Dazai began but needed to quit talking to prevent himself from shrieking out as he reached the bone in his leg, and had to tilt the knife to catch the bullet.
“Ngh, I... I have to be in direct contact with... oh, fuck, with the individual,” he wheezed painfully.
It was so close now.
“I would have to touch you to stop it,” he eventually managed.
“But, if... if I was unable to control my ability, if I was scared, w-would you be able to stop it if you tried?”
“Most likely,” Dazai stated as he finally saw the bullet surfacing from the gaping gash in his limb.
With one last, possibly too rigid jerk, the bullet moved down his thigh and hit the ground. Utterly spent, Dazai dropped and skidded down against the rock with half-lidded eyes. The sweat ran uncontrollably down his face and his breathing was rough and raspy.
“I'm done,” he said quietly, and Yasushi shifted around.
“Are you okay?” he asked worriedly, frowning frightenedly at the pale heap next to him.
“I don't know, but I don't have a bullet in my leg anymore,” Dazai murmured, bearly lucid.
“It's my fault that you're hurt,” the child mused with tribulation.
“Stop that, it's not... you said it yourself, you can't control it.”
“No, but you wouldn't be here if I hadn't run off, and you surely wouldn’t have been shot. I destroy everything.”
Dazai only wobbled his head. It was getting hard to stay awake.
“I have a friend...” Dazai started but quickly trailed off. The boy's green eyes were focusing expectedly at him, and he suddenly remembered what he was saying.
“I have a friend, that you remind me of. He couldn't control his... potentially dangerous ability either when I first met him. I think you two should talk.”
Yasushi perked up, smiling for the first time since Dazai had met him. He was a cute kid when he wasn't bawling his eyes out.
“Atsushi,” Dazai informed silently, smiling himself at the thought of how far the young prodigy had come since he first met the starved kid.
“Atsushi,” Dazai repeated, glancing back at the perplexed child.
“What is it?”
Dazai rolled his eyes tiredly. He could not start with this.
They sat together in comfortable silence for a couple of minutes. Dazai was freezing, and he could hear the kid's teeth begin to clatter too. If something didn’t happen soon, he wasn't sure if he would be able to make it.
That's when it finally dawned upon him.
“God...dammit,” he uttered, catching a glimpse of Yasushi as he blushed deeply from the bad word.
“Yasushi-kun, if those bullets came from you... there isn't anything out there to be afraid of. The only people out there are my colleagues, and they are out here to help.”
“What do you mean?”
“You should try to find them.”
“B-but, you can't walk.”
“That's why I'm not coming with you, kid.”
Yasushi waved his head. “No, I'm not leaving you.”
“Yeah, you are. Now, get going before it gets too dark.”
“But, what if I'm not able to control my ability again?”
“Then you should aim at the tall blonde man with glasses.”
Dazai gave the boy a pointed stare.
He fidgeted a bit, twirling his thumbs and clearly pondered about something.
“O-okay, fine. I'll get them. And then we're coming to get you, okay?”
Dazai gave him a tired smile, finally able to relax his body a little. He nodded faintly at Yasushi before the younger turned and started to walk away, sending worried glances towards the fatigued figure he was leaving behind.
For some time, Dazai was able to stay awake. He would prod lightly at his wound whenever he felt himself drifting off, giving himself a shot of pain to stay alert.
Could bears smell blood? If so, they had a fiest waiting right there.
More time passed, and he still couldn't hear voices or see the shimmer of flashlights that might be out searching for them. But eventually, as much as he poked at the gash (at some point wondering if he should push the bullet back in and start the process anew, just to stay awake), he finally succumbed to unconsciousness.
For once, waking up again was a relief. He could hear faint sounds of familiar voices closing in from the distance. He honestly thought he had kept himself awake, but when he blinked, he abruptly gazed up at Yosano's apprehensive expression.
They were still out there, so at least he hadn't been out too long this time, but he couldn't see the kid.
“You did a good job at slowing the bleeding down,” Yosano smiled reassuringly. Kunikida loomed behind her with a deep furrow on his forehead.
Dazai could feel his gaze getting more and more blurred, and he knew he didn't have much more time to make sure that Yasushi had found them before he would be out again.
“Yasushi,” he urged in a rasped voice, looking quizzically at the peering eyes that were currently assessing his injuries.
“Atsushi's fine, he's back at the base,” Kunikida answered dryly as he assisted Yosano with something.
Not this again.
“N-no, Ya-sushi,” Dazai tried to over-pronounciate, but all he got in response was Yosano's hand on his forehead, checking for a fever.
“Yeah, he's burning up. We need to get him to a hospital right away,” she told Kunikida urgently.
'No, not what I meant!' was what Dazai aspired to say, but he was unable to move his lips anymore. His brain was processing so slowly and sluggishly now that he didn't even realize that was blacking out again.
He could faintly sense himself being moved off the ground before everything went back to all darkness.
The white ceiling looked vaguely familiar, and the white dots flickering in his vision even more. His head was pounding and he felt generally awful all over.
Only when the sickening smell of antiseptics reached his nostrils, he understood that he had just woken in the hospital.
Damnit, he didn't really feel like waking up yet. Not to the miserable existence inside a hospital room. At least it didn't seem like anyone had realized he was awake yet, so he might as well just go back to...
“Ya-sushi,” he exclaimed suddenly, eyes widening in terror and suddenly completely alert. “Where is Yasushi?”
He tried his best to sit up, but for some infuriating reason, his body just wouldn't let him.
A head of unnaturally light hair came into his vision, dual-colored eyes looking worriedly down at him.
“For fuck's sake,” Dazai cried out furiously before a second blonde head appeared beside the tiger-boy.
“Oh thank God,” Dazai sighed as he recognized that glassy, hazel glare, and closed his eyes for a moment.
“Are you okay, Dazai-san?” Atsushi asked with an anxious pout, looking confusedly at the smaller boy next to him.
“As long as everyone calls you Nakajima as long as you two are in the room together, I'll be just fine,” Dazai exasperated, slowly opening his eyes and smiling serenely at the two boys.