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Just This Once (Don't Get Used To It)

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“You had better… get me back to base… safe.” It’s all Chuuya can force out before collapsing, and he doesn’t even know why he says it, or if there’s any point—after all, he placed his trust in Dazai once before this evening, and the result was the state he’s in now. But, because he’s exhausted— and a lovesick fool , his brain supplies bitterly—he decides to say it anyway.

Casting a glance back at his ex-partner, he can see Dazai smile sweetly as he says, “Leave it to me, partner.”

He thinks it’s intentional, the way the use of that word makes him want to laugh and cry, but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it as his vision blurs and turns black.

 

.

 

Of course, Dazai leaves him.

 

.

 

Hours later, Chuuya’s eyes open to an inky ceiling dotted with glowing silver, and his heart breaks neatly in two.

Well. Neatly may not be the right word, nor breaks . Maybe something more like: shatters into thousands of tiny, prickling pieces that all rapidly lodge themselves in his throat and behind his eyes. Surveying his surroundings, he realizes that the Guild men are gone. Placed carefully to his left, his coat has been folded tidily, and his hat retrieved and set atop it. Looking down at himself, too, Chuuya notes the absence of blood. So, Dazai folded his things and cleaned him up before abandoning him.

How nice.

Every cell in Chuuya’s body screams in protest as he drags himself off the ground, sliding the coat sleeves over his bruised arms and absentmindedly settling the hat atop messy, dirt-speckled hair. He staggers once, twice, three times, before forcing his gait to steady as he approaches the shack. Thankfully, Q is still sleeping, passed out on the floor where they left him. His face looks peaceful—not like the faces of the mafia men who came home in body bags, faces twisted in fear and pain as a result of his doll and his curse. Chuuya’s knife has been returned to his coat; he fingers it for a moment, contemplating. He could off the kid now and pin it on that… thing . The Boss wouldn’t say anything, he’s sure. Even Mori is at least a little wary of Q. And why shouldn’t he be?

Q is dangerous. He’s a time bomb, a monster. He’s—

He’s a child, alone in the darkness with an Ability he can barely control.

Chuuya sighs. Using the last of his energy, he calls upon his Ability to lift the sleeping boy onto his back, and begins the slow trek back to base.

 

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Dazai really shouldn’t be out running errands. After all, he all but saved the city last night, and even brought that little bastard Q’s murder-doll in as insurance. He should be on vacation, honestly, but instead he’s being sent out on Kunikida’s hysterical commands to buy the Agency some new… what was it, now? Paperclips? Sectional folders? Ah, no matter, it’s all just stationery, anyway. And at least the sky is clear and blue. Still, he can’t shake that weird feeling he’s had all morning…

Abruptly, Dazai comes to a stop as he collides with something warm and significantly smaller than him, and before he even looks down, he knows why he’s been feeling off.

“Chuuya~! I see you’re still in one piece, except, did you get shorter since yesterday?” The overly-bright tone comes naturally—it’s practically a moral obligation at this point, teasing the hat-rack every time they meet. It’s tradition —just as it is tradition for the other to spin around, all jerky movements and red ticks, and start yelling at him in a confusing blend of Japanese and French.

So it comes as quite a surprise when Chuuya meets his eyes for barely a moment—some indeterminate emotion flashing in the blue—before he ducks around Dazai, silent and somehow looking even smaller than usual as he pushes roughly through the crowd. Within seconds, he’s gone from view.

Feet heavy, Dazai doesn’t follow him.

 

.

 

“Argh— Dazai! You’ve been moping around the office all afternoon, and you didn’t even get the new hole punchers, like I asked! Get off your ass and write up yesterday’s report .”

“But Kunikida-kun,” Dazai whines pathetically from where he’s slumped across the couch, “I’m in shock .”

Kunikida growls, and Tanizaki lays a comforting hand on his shoulder, gently guiding him away from Dazai and murmuring, “There, there, don’t exert yourself, just ignore him…”

Atsushi takes over for him—despite all he’s been through, the man-tiger is still relatively new, with a fresh mind that hasn’t yet grown exhausted by the ex-mafia’s antics. “What happened, Dazai-san? You were fine when you left…”

Dazai responds by moaning dramatically and rolling over to face to ceiling. “I ran into Chuuya on the street, and he ignored me!”

The silence in the room is palpable. Tanizaki’s hand on Kunikida’s shoulder becomes less of a comfort and more of a restraint.

“Dazai,” Kunikida growls, “is that the reason you’ve been slacking off all day? Someone ignored you?! We always ignore you!”

“But you’re you, it’s different !” Dazai explains. “Chuuya never ignores me, he isn’t capable of it!” His voice trails off, sounding despondent. “And yet, today he did… even after I called him short… I wonder what happened…” Sitting up, Dazai brings a hand up to his chin, staring into space as his eyes take on a pondering look. In the corner of the room, Yosano and Atsushi guide Kunikida in deep, slow breathing.

“If you’re going to be completely useless over it,” Ranpo states, “go talk to him.”

Blinking at the detective, Dazai asks, “Why would I do that?”

Ranpo doesn’t have to roll his eyes; his tone implies it heavily on its own. “Because you obviously want to.” He makes a dismissive gesture with one hand. “Even if you don’t, leave already. Your pining irritates me.”

Dazai chokes. “ Pining —?! For Chuuya?!

“Yes. Obviously.” He puts on his glasses and taps them significantly. “Now scram, before I start listing the evidence.”

Dazai scrams.

(Not that there is any evidence to list.)

 

.

 

It doesn’t take long to find Chuuya. He’s never at work the day after using Corruption—likely, he pulled himself together for only as long as it took to reach the Port Mafia base, give his report, and return home. And since Dazai knows Chuuya’s apartment, given that it’s the same one he broke into so many times when they were teenagers, he knows exactly where to find his hat-rack.

Ahem. The hat-rack.

Dazai rings the doorbell when he arrives, knowing that Chuuya hates the sound—once, he had a sign put up requesting visitors to knock, but eventually took it down after Dazai painted ‘me up’ onto the end of it—and almost smiles when he hears muffled cursing from inside, followed by the clunking sound of a bottle hitting the floor.

“Shit—coming!” The door swings wide open, as always. It’s a habit Dazai always tried to get him out of, but his partner was always too trusting. It’s a wonder he’s survived this long. “Oh.” Chuuya freezes, his face going blank, but his eyes are wide and swirling with too many emotions.

“Chuu—” Dazai begins, and the door slams in his face.

“Fuck off,” Chuuya says from inside, but there’s no heat to the words. For someone so fiery, the dull quality to his voice is quite unnatural. “I don’t want to see you.”

“But Chuuya~ I’m worried! You completely ignored me earlier. That isn’t normal for you.”

“Worried, my ass. And what do you know about my normal?” Chuuya scoffs. “It’s been four years.”

“Yet you haven’t changed at all, Chuuya, from the temper to the tacky hats.”

“Fuck off,” Chuuya says again, and a distinct thud tells Dazai that he’s kicked the door for emphasis. He really hasn’t changed. Dazai wonders, briefly, why the thought brings a smile to his face that’s almost… fond.

“Not until you stop ignoring me~”

Chuuya growls, barely audible through the wood. “Could you just leave me alone? You’re good at that, aren’t you?” This is followed by a few seconds of incoherent muttering, growing fainter as Chuuya moves away from the door.

At that moment, it clicks. Clearly, there is only one solution. Dazai rings the bell again. And again. And again. And again. And—

“Damn you, shitty Dazai!” The door is flung open for a second time, and this time it stays open, long enough for Dazai to really look at his ex-partner.

He looks like shit .

He’s showered, of course—after using Corruption, he always spends hours in the bath, scrubbing his skin until it turns pink, as though the red tendrils are still there, just under his skin, and if he rubs it raw enough he can wash them away. Even so, the dirt on his arms has been replaced by purple bruises, and the skin under his eyes is dark, a sharp contrast to his pallid face. Chuuya has always been fair—pale, even—but today he looks pure white. His hair is a mess, too, not even close to its usual perfect state. And although his back is straight as he stands with the icy dignity he’s adopted from Kouyou, one hand is trembling as he presses it against the doorframe for support.

It’s nothing new, of course, Dazai has seen this many times as a teenager, after hauling his unconscious partner back home and patching him up, usually spending the night because it’s too late to walk back to his own place and anyway Chuuya’s apartment was always warmer than his.

It’s nothing new, but it makes his heart clench, just a little, looking at his ex-partner standing there, trying to look like it’s a perfectly ordinary day. Only, it shouldn’t, because Dazai doesn’t have a heart, and if he did it wouldn’t clench , and certainly not for someone he doesn’t care about.

Dazai doesn’t care about Chuuya—but seeing him hurt like this has him caught between wanting to single-handedly destroy both the Guild and Mori, and wanting to wrap Chuuya up in his arms and never let go.

Or both. Preferably both.

“Well?” Chuuya snaps, bringing Dazai back down to Earth. “Why are you here?”

“To patch you up, of course,” Dazai chirps, and thankfully years of practice allow his voice not to betray his thoughts. “I always do.”

Chuuya scowls, and his eyes say death. “You want to patch me up ?” His voice rises towards the end, and he casts a glance at the other doors, visibly trembling with effort as he takes a deep breath and lowers his voice. “You’re a little late for that. I handled it by myself, after you left me in the forest.”

Dazai puts on a pout. “But Chuuya, I—”

“Shut up.” Chuuya puts one hand on the doorknob. “Whatever you’re going to say, I don’t want to hear it. I’ve already dealt with it, so you can leave now.”

Making a show of looking him up and down, Dazai raises an eyebrow. “You haven’t done a very good job of it. But then, you always were terrible at medical care. Did you even remember to clean your wounds?” Chuuya’s silence is answer enough. “Of course you didn’t.” Dazai sighs. “Come on, Chuuya, it’ll only benefit you.”

“Why should I trust you?” The words are bland, matter-of-fact, devoid of any emotion, but they make Dazai freeze. Chuuya repeats, “Why should I trust you?”

Dazai forces a smile. “You shouldn’t. But you don’t have to trust me to let me help you.”

It hurts, honestly, far more than it should, that this is what finally causes Chuuya to step back, motioning for Dazai to enter the apartment.

(But then, after last night, can he really say it’s surprising?)

Dazai follows Chuuya into the bedroom. There’s a first aid box lying open on the bed, contents untouched. Chuuya sits on the edge of the bed, almost exactly where he’s always sat each time before, saying absolutely nothing. Dazai wonders if he’s too exhausted to speak, but he stays quiet, too, carefully dabbing at Chuuya’s wounds with cotton from the box, turning them yellow with medicine. Thankfully, there are no stitches required this time. Dazai remembers the last time they used Corruption in a mission, remembers returning to Chuuya’s apartment with blood all over them both and a gaping wound across the redhead’s chest. The physical damage this time is less severe—Chuuya seems drained in a number of ways, but at least his skin will be clear of bruises and cuts in a few days. The exhaustion, however… Chuuya looks about to fall asleep. Not wanting to break the silence and jar him out of his daze, Dazai almost has to force himself to speak when it’s done, after closing the first aid box and setting it aside.

“Chuuya?”

Chuuya jolts slightly, unfocused eyes sharpening just barely. “Yeah?”

“I’m done with your wounds.” Dazai’s voice is unusually gentle, he knows. It’s the voice he always uses in this situation, coming back easily even after all these years. “Can you eat?”

Chuuya shakes his head.

“Then, a drink?”

Chuuya’s eyes stray briefly to the bottle on the floor, but he winces and shakes his head again.

“Okay.” Dazai makes him drink a glass of water, anyway, but his mind is already moving on. There’s only one thing left, short of putting him in bed, but it’s been a long time and he doesn’t know if his next words will be met with quiet acquisition or a knife in his throat. After four years of no contact, there are a lot of things he isn’t allowed to do anymore, even if he does do half of them anyways. He’s still weighing the pros and cons of asking when Chuuya taps him lightly. The redhead reaches onto the nightstand, picks up an object, and presses it into Dazai’s hand—a hairbrush. In spite of years of careful schooling, Dazai smiles.

Joining Chuuya on the bed, he sits square in the center, letting the redhead shift back to sit cross-legged, and brings the brush up to begin working through the tangles. There are precious few people in the world allowed to touch Chuuya’s hair, aside from Chuuya himself—Kouyou is one. Dazai was the other, once. He’d thought it obvious that that privilege would no longer be his, but then, he hardly imaged he’d be in Chuuya’s apartment, patching up his Corruption wounds again, either. There’s something nostalgic about sitting here like this, slowly easing the same old brush through his old partner’s soft hair and gazing over his shoulder at the same old art on the walls. Something comforting, too, and hazily hypnotic; Dazai thinks he could pass hours like this, not shifting an inch save for the constant up and down motion of his hand. It certainly takes the better part of an hour to run all the knots out of Chuuya’s hair, especially with Dazai taking special care not to hurt him—although why he's making the extra effort for this tacky midget, he really can't say.

(Or maybe doesn't want to say.)

(But he won't think about that.)

By the time he finishes and sets the brush aside, his ex-partner’s breaths are steady.

“Chuuya?” Dazai asks softly, nudging him.

Chuuya falls back, body limp as he slumps into Dazai’s chest, head tipped back to rest against his shoulder. His eyes are closed, and his face, though still too pale, looks serene. It's been a long time since Dazai got to see this face. Back then, it was one of the reasons why he would spend the night, even though he's never admitted it to himself until now.

Laughing under his breath, he wraps his arms around Chuuya and eases them down, letting his tiny redhead curl up against him.

Dimly, a part of his brain insists, the redhead, but it's a muted part and he's tired, too, and just this once he ignores it. Just this once, he pulls Chuuya closer and buries his face in his silky hair.

There will be a host of problems to face in the morning, from Chuuya’s wrath to his own internal argument with Ranpo’s voice inside his head. Dazai is well aware of this, as a man who always plans weeks into the future. But it’s so late at night, and Chuuya feels like warm and safe and home , and just this once , Dazai flips off that planning instinct and lets himself tighten his hold on Chuuya as he closes his eyes.