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where your loyalties lie

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It’s quiet here.

Not in the sense of it being lifeless or utterly isolated, but in the sense that peace flows throughout the small town.

There are no yakuza clans, no districts to divide between blood-thirsty gangs: the closest thing to organized crime that exists here are the handful of small street gangsters Dazai has seen late at night while taking a stroll through the deserted streets. Even small-timers can sense when there is a kindred spirit in their midst and, unlike the gang members—who will eventually grow out of their rebellious criminal phases and get jobs supporting the onsen resort town—Dazai’s very presence oozes the violence that was bred into his core.

He doesn’t carry any guns, his tattoos are still covered by lengths of bandages, he and Chuuya have been staying here long enough to start to blend into the community, and Yokohama is almost 700 miles away; there is no possibility that the street rats recognize him. They can’t possibly know his reputation, the position he once held in one of Japan’s most feared yakuza clans, but they still skirt around him. They still melt into the shadows when he walks past. They haven’t tried their hands at picking his pockets or mugging him or any other trick that will put them face-to-face with him.

No matter how short-lived, time on the street hones a person’s instincts until they are razor sharp, and these kids’ instincts tell them their best chance at survival is to leave the two newcomers alone by any means necessary.

So, it’s quiet here.

With no likelihood of being a victim of the town’s little league gangs, no likelihood of anyone from Yokohama tracking them down for at least several months, and no connections to anything that may currently be tearing apart the balance of Yokohama’s underworld, it is quiet, calm, and peaceful.

Smiling to himself, Dazai tilts his head back, considering the evening sky as he turns back in the direction of their ryokan. It has been fun, spending these last several months with nothing to worry about except for Chuuya’s temper, but he has been keeping track of the time, watching the weeks pass by; Dazai knows the quiet isn’t going to last much longer.

When he gets back to the inn, he moves quickly, aware that he was cutting time close and that he’ll have hell to pay if he’s late for dinner. He makes it just as the staff are backing out of the private room he and Chuuya have occupied since they arrived. Chuuya barely spares him a glance as he steps inside, blue eyes downcast, focused on what is easily the hundredth book Chuuya has bought during their extended honeymoon.

“I was wondering if I would be dining by myself tonight,” Chuuya comments, voice just as dry as Dazai anticipated.

Flashing his most charming smile—despite knowing that Chuuya won’t look up at him yet—Dazai replies, “I can’t think of a single thing that would have been able to prevent me from being here with you.”

Chuuya flips the page. “Do you ever get tired of trying to charm me?”

“Since it keeps working, no.”

“Pretty sure of yourself.”

Dazai’s smile shrinks slightly, into something more genuine, as he muses, “You did run away from Yokohama with me, after all.”

Finally, Chuuya drags his eyes away from the book to meet Dazai’s, his eyebrow quirked up just enough to portray his bemusement. “Run away? I could have sworn I signed up for a honeymoon.”

“A five-month-long honeymoon?” Dazai presses as he crosses the space to take his usual seat across from his redhead.

Chuuya’s gaze becomes unfocused at that, his eyes flicking over Dazai’s shoulder as a slight frown tugs on his lips. The moment is gone before Dazai has a chance to point it out, vanishing just as quickly this time as the look has every other time it has crossed Chuuya’s face. However, it has been happening with more frequency; it is just a matter of time until Chuuya reveals what has been on his mind.

For now, he slides a bookmark into place and puts the book aside. “Did you finally taunt one of those kids into trying to rob you?”

Rolling with the subject change, Dazai says, “They’re still terrified of trying their hand at me.”

“Good. Instincts like that will keep them alive.”

Dazai’s lower lip protrudes in a pout. “I’m just a harmless tourist taking in the sights of the town.”

Chuuya snorts. “A harmless tourist with a million-yen bounty on his head.”

The bounty is the only real news they’ve received from Yokohama since leaving, the information sent to a private email account that seldom few know Dazai has. It is difficult to decide what he is more irritated about: that somehow a certain bespectacled yakuza hunter got his hands on the account address or that the new Mizushima boss really thought a million yen would be enough to tempt anyone to go for Dazai’s head.

Putting food on his plate, Dazai mutters, “It shouldn’t be any less than five million if they actually want results.”

“Five million yen for a man that could be taken down with any decently skilled assassination team of more than four people? I doubt it.”

“Ah, but they know I have you with me, which means it would take the joint efforts of two yakuza clans to have any chance at success.”

Chuuya smirks, a spark of fire in his gaze that there has been no need for during their peaceful retreat, a spark that makes Dazai lean forward slightly, craving more. “Maybe three.”

Propping his head on his hand, Dazai studies his husband from underneath his eyelashes, his voice soft as he says, “Chuuya looks quite sexy when he’s offering to destroy three yakuza clans to keep me safe.”

Before, when they first met, when they still viewed each other as enemies, when there wasn’t any reason for Chuuya to believe Dazai was being honest, the comment would have earned him flushed cheeks or a muttered curse. Now, Chuuya’s smirk widens. “You mean I wasted time getting dressed up tonight when all I had to do was offer to murder some people for you?”

At that, Dazai runs his gaze over the other man, taking the time to really drink in his appearance. His eyes study the folds of the midnight blue yukata, running over the large chrysanthemum flowers that pattern across the fabric, making Chuuya look deceptively delicate even though they both know he is anything but. Lifting his gaze, Dazai pauses at Chuuya’s hair, styled almost identical to how it was for their wedding, twisted around to the side of his head with a hairpin holding red locks in place. This particular ornament is a gift from Dazai, given to Chuuya just weeks after they settled down in this quiet hot-springs resort: a phoenix dangles from the steel of the pin, custom-ordered just like Dazai alluded to so many months ago.

It would be sweet to take Chuuya’s word at face value and assume the other man is simply dressing up for the sake of dressing up but Dazai’s not an idiot, and he knows Chuuya better than that.

They have been dining together almost every night since they came here, have taken the meal in their inn-provided plain yukatas, with towels slung low around their hips, in whatever clothes they had worn for the day. This isn’t a special occasion, and there is nothing to anticipate in this little town.

Chuuya is buttering him up for something.

And they’ve long since passed the point of dancing around each other’s thoughts and trying to coax answers when they can simply ask for them, so Dazai simply asks. “What’s on your mind?”

The smirk fades from Chuuya’s face and he sighs, putting down his chopsticks in favor of drumming his fingers on the table, the way he tends to do when he’s not quite sure how to articulate his thoughts. Dazai waits patiently, under no rush to get to the bottom of whatever is occupying Chuuya’s mind, willing to sit for however long it takes Chuuya to find the words he wants to say.

It doesn’t take long for Chuuya to start talking, his words coming out slowly as if he’s considering each one carefully before saying it out loud. “You…never had a chance at having a life outside of the yakuza. That lifestyle almost destroyed you.”

“Almost, but it didn’t,” Dazai points out, “and I have you to thank for that.”

Chuuya doesn’t react to Dazai’s statement, his fingers keep drumming on the table, he briefly worries his bottom lip with his teeth before admitting, “I didn’t have much of a chance either, but I had more than you did. After Kouyou became boss, I could have left and tried my hand at something normal, but being yakuza is in my blood and…after spending these last few months away from it I’ve come to realize that I don’t think I could do something normal for a living. And it’s not like we need to do anything, really, between our accounts we have enough to live off of for the rest of our lives and this has been peaceful and quiet and relaxing but…”

“But you’re bored,” Dazai finishes for him, trying to suppress an amused smile.

“I’m so bored,” Chuuya admits, sounding relieved that Dazai put the words out into the open for him. “Reading books and soaking in the onsen and strolling through town was a great way to rewind after the shitshow with the ghosts for a while but I’m dying of boredom. I miss the adrenaline rush of high-stakes jobs and fighting my way out of ambushes and playing the Diet like puppets.”

“Then it’s probably time for us to check out of here and get a move on.”

Chuuya blinks. “Just like that? You’re fine going back to the yakuza?”

With a shrug, Dazai begins working through his food again. “There’s not a whole lot of ‘going back’ either of us can do considering how many bridges we burned on our way out but it wasn’t the yakuza that almost killed me, it was Mori, and that’s not a problem anymore.” Grinning in the face of Chuuya’s apparent shock, Dazai points out, “I may not have known you well when we got married, but I had a pretty good understanding of you before actually committing to this, to us. I knew you were going to get bored with living like normal people. You actually lasted longer than I anticipated.”

“Well, if you anticipated so much, did you have a plan for when I finally got fed up with this?”

“No,” he admits easily, “because I didn’t know if you would want to try and go back to Yokohama where at least half of the criminal underworld will be aiming for our necks or if you wanted to try our hands at a different city.”

Frowning thoughtfully, Chuuya picks at his food for a moment before saying, “Yokohama is our home, they can’t run us out of it.”

“It won’t just be the Mizushimas and their new boss we’ll have to deal with. It will also be Ozaki and the Nakaharas.”

“I know.”

“If we can’t get the Nakaharas to negotiate it could get ugly.”

Chuuya scowls. “I know that. It’s not how I would want it to go but if they want to pick a fight with me they’ll have it coming.”

There’s an undercurrent of danger in Chuuya’s words, a promise that if worst comes to worst he won’t hold back no matter how much the Nakahara-kai means to him. It almost feels jilted, as if the possibility of the clan coming head-on against Chuuya would feel like a betrayal even if he is no longer a member of the organization. It’s personal in a way Dazai will never be able to understand and never will pretend to.

But the confidence is there, strong as ever, and it promises a whirlwind of excitement the moment they leave this resort town and step back into the world of organized crime. Getting to his feet, Dazai crosses to the sitting room and pulls out a bag he has had stored there for some weeks now. Returning to the low table, he kneels at Chuuya’s side rather than his original seat, hyper-aware of the way Chuuya’s eyes are trained on him, curiosity plain on his face.

Curiosity changes to surprise as Dazai pulls out a bottle of sake and a single sakazuki cup. Pouring the sake into the cup, Dazai thinks Chuuya might have forgotten how to breathe, he can feel the anticipation radiating off of the other man and that alone immediately justifies indulging in this traditional gesture that Dazai never would have bothered with before.

Placing the sake aside, Dazai picks up the sakazuki and offers it to Chuuya with a slight bow of his head, a small smile playing around his lips.

Chuuya doesn’t take the cup, his hesitation so similar to the day they had met, when the sake cup had somehow meant the exact same as it does now while being a world apart all at once. “Are you sure? I thought you didn’t believe I had what it takes.”

“I thought you didn’t believe a word that left my mouth back then, why start believing them now?” Dazai points out. “You were born and trained for this, you’ve more than proved yourself, and I won’t hesitate to voice my opinion if I think you’re being soft.”

Letting out a huff of amusement, Chuuya lifts the cup from Dazai’s hands and drinks half of what was poured before offering it back to Dazai with a nod of his own. Smile growing, Dazai shares the cup, finishing the sake left in it. In a fully traditional context, there would be more ceremony to follow and perhaps declarations to give, but everything Dazai has to say about his choice has already been said and he is sure Chuuya understands the affirmation of his commitment from just the presence of the sake itself.

Putting the cup on the table, Dazai asks, “When do you want to start?”

“As soon as possible, but I don’t want to be careless and…there’s something I want to do before we make any moves.”

“Whatever makes Chuuya happy.”

Smiling, Chuuya leans over, curling his fingers around the back of Dazai’s neck and pulling him forward so that they’re just inches away from each other. “You make me happy, Osamu.”

Any response Dazai might have had gets preempted by the feeling of Chuuya’s lips against his and Dazai leans into the embrace, savoring the feeling of Chuuya’s touch. Frankly, he doesn’t care where they go next or what they do or who they might end up killing as long as he gets to keep having moments like this, moments where he feels genuine happiness in a way he was robbed of when he was younger.

Pulling back just far enough to speak, Dazai murmurs, “You make me happy, so I suppose we’re even.”

Laughing softly, Chuuya presses into a quick kiss, “Mmm, we’ll have to see about that, I might have to do a little bit of work to make-up for you surprising me with the sakazuki.”

“Don’t let me stop you, then.”

That pulls more laughter from Chuuya as he shifts out of his proper seating position to crowd closer to Dazai, food forgotten on the table beside them as Chuuya works to even the playing field. And, honestly, Dazai can’t think of a single reason why he would ever want Chuuya to stop.

 


 

Objectively, Atsushi knows that he shouldn’t be bemoaning the loss of the chaos and terror that had been his life while he was working with yakuza members to circumvent government procedure and destroy an entire mafia organization. He should be thrilled that the conflict finally came to a resolution, that he is no longer endangering his job and place in society every night. The tedium of day-to-day work with the Special Ability Department, without Dazai and Chuuya within Yokohama to mix everything up, is what he should prefer, it is better for the city as a whole.

However, if he is being completely honest with himself, Atsushi misses all of it. He misses getting to work as a team with Akutagawa and Gin again, misses watching the way Higuchi seemed to hang onto every word out of Akutagawa’s mouth or how Azumi would completely dismiss whatever Akutagawa said. He misses the explosive energy that Tachihara brought, the nervous excitement whenever Chuuya had a job exclusively for him.

Letting out a sigh, Atsushi finishes packing up for the day, waving goodbye to a few colleagues as he steps out of the office.

It has been almost eight months since that night. Almost eight months since he helped the small coalition topple an entire organization, eight months since the boss of the Mizushima-gumi died in a freak accident that Atsushi strongly suspects Dazai had some hand in, eight months since Dazai and Chuuya vanished into thin air.

He hasn’t seen much of any of the others since that explosive night.

With internal investigations sparked at the Special Ability Department to try and uncover how the yakuza hunters’ surveillance on that particular art gallery got disrupted, how the culprits knew what phrase to send in, and when, to falsify the agents’ check-ins, Atsushi wasn’t able to take a chance at contacting any of the others for weeks. By the time he was cleared of suspicion and was able to reach out, Akutagawa and Gin had both disappeared much the same way Dazai and Chuuya did while Higuchi, Azumi, and Tachihara were impossible to contact.

After eight months, Atsushi supposes it’s time for him to move on and put those brief weeks behind himself, even if he doesn’t quite want to.

Being part of the yakuza isn’t for him and it isn’t a lifestyle he would ever want, but the people he was working with he came to think of as friends, and Atsushi remembers watching a wonderful friendship fracture and splinter, remembers watching as the camaraderie died with Oda-san and feeling his heart break when it became clear that Dazai and Ango would never be able to rekindle that relationship. He remembers how useless he had felt, unable to do anything to keep their friendship alive, not even able to find a way to contact his own friends that had joined the criminal underworld; he hates how it feels like that time in his life has just been recycled, that he is meant to repeat it here, just as powerless as the last time.

Walking away from the Special Ability Department offices, Atsushi studies the people he passes. It has been a sort of game he plays every day, identifying anyone who looks like they may be yakuza and then guessing at their affiliation to Nakaharas or Mizushimas.

A young man no more than two years older than him passes Atsushi with a hurried gate, his suit not hanging quite properly around his chest area in a way that Atsushi suspects might conceal a handgun. Glancing over his shoulder at the stranger’s back he smiles to himself at the lines of a tattoo peeking over the man’s collar.

Mizushima, probably, considering he’s closer to that clan’s territory than the Nakaharas’. Not to mention the whole Mizushima-gumi seems to embody the same nervous haste as that stranger, scrambling to recover from a sudden power upheaval. Atsushi doesn’t know who replaced Dazai as the clan’s left-hand, but it is easy to tell the individual doesn’t quite have Dazai’s knack for the work.

As the thought flickers through Atsushi’s head, a black car peels out from traffic and slows down beside him. Frowning, Atsushi glances around, unnerved at the vehicle’s behavior on a fairly busy street. Slowing his walking to a stop, his nerves spike as the car does the same.

When the door opens, a familiar face leans forward, “Are you going to just stand there or are you getting in?”

Grinning, Atsushi moves toward the car and slides inside, closing the door behind him. The car immediately slips back into traffic as Atsushi says, “Could you have gotten any more stereotypical yakuza with that?”

Akutagawa doesn’t smile in response, but he takes off his sunglasses, allowing Atsushi to see the amusement in his gaze. “I could have asked Gin to slip a bag over your head and tossed you in the trunk instead. We can backtrack and try it again if you’d prefer that.”

“I think I’ll pass,” Atsushi says with a laugh. “It’s good to see you’re doing okay, both of you.” This is said with a smile in Gin’s direction, who is seated opposite Akutagawa.

They look like they’re doing quite a bit better than okay. Gin is dressed casually in a dress with her hair let loose, a small smile playing around her own lips. Even Akutagawa’s normal black coat has been replaced with something less tattered, something more casual. They look, for the most part, like average civilians.

“What have you been up to?” he asks.

Akutagawa shrugs. “Without Dazai-san around my position in the Mizushima-gumi was tenuous, so Gin and I both decided to go underground until things cooled off.”

“So, you’re back with the Mizushimas now?”

That earns him a snort from the other man and Akutagawa shakes his head. “No, they’d probably try to kill me on sight if I showed up back there.”

Glancing away from Atsushi doesn’t quite hide the smirk that starts to spread across Akutagawa’s face and Atsushi finds himself leaning closer in anticipation of whatever bomb his friend is about to drop.

“Dazai and Chuuya are back.”

Those are the last words Atsushi expected to hear and he looks between Gin and her brother, trying to figure out if he’s being pranked. Out of all the people that probably shouldn’t be running the streets of Yokohama, Dazai and Chuuya would be the top of Atsushi’s list.

“Don’t they know there’s a bounty on Dazai’s head?” Atsushi asks, bewildered.

Gin laughs. It’s a sound Atsushi hasn’t heard in a long time and his eyes flick over to where she is lounging in her seat, looking more relaxed than she has since she followed her brother into the mafia. “He knows and, in his opinion, the sum on his head is much too small to be effective.”

“It’s one million yen,” Atsushi argues, voice weak.

“And he’s Dazai Osamu,” she counters, “anyone who tries their hand at getting that bounty needs to be insane, especially now that he’s a package deal with Chuuya.”

“We’re working for them now,” Akutagawa explains, “it’s still a small group but it’s growing.”

Looking between the two siblings, Atsushi hesitates before asking, “How is it? I know Dazai-san changed when he joined the Mizushimas, I’ve heard how he talks to you in particular, Ryuunosuke. Are you two going to be alright?”

Akutagawa scoffs, “I don’t remember asking you to baby me, jinko.”

Rolling his eyes, Atsushi presses, “Can you just accept the fact that sometimes I want to worry about my two closest friends and answer my question?”

That earns him another scoff and Akutagawa looks out the window, arms crossed over his chest. Shaking his head at Akutagawa’s stubbornness, Atsushi looks a question at Gin and feels something akin to relief at the sight of the fond smile on her face. Softly, Gin murmurs, “I never realized how much I missed this until we got it back.”

Smiling, Atsushi says, “Then don’t vanish this time. I know everyone is trying to protect me but I’m an adult now, it should be my decision and no job is worth costing me valuable friendships.”

“We won’t vanish on you,” she promises.

“Why else do you think we found you as soon as we were back in the city?” Akutagawa asks, voice dry.

Glancing over at him, Atsushi is amused to note a light dusting of pink on the tips of Akutagawa’s ears even as the older man continues to stare resolutely out the window. Deciding to spare Akutagawa his teasing, Atsushi turns back to Gin. “That doesn’t answer my original question, though. How is he treating you?”

Gin shrugs. “He’s still Dazai-san, the good and the bad, but it’s not like how it was with the Mizushimas. I wouldn’t say he has softened, necessarily, but he’s not ruthless to his subordinates like he used to be.”

“It’s all Chuuya-san’s doing,” Akutagawa adds, sounding thoughtful at the words as he says them. “When he first came into the picture he was a pain in the ass-”

Ryuunosuke,” Gin cuts in at that, exasperated and admonishing at the same time.

“He was a pain in the ass, you just didn’t have to play babysitter for him,” Akutagawa defends himself looking at his sister. “But even so he’s an impressive man, we could do a lot worse for superiors.”

Nodding slowly, Atsushi says, “As long as you’re both okay.”

“We’re fine, Atsushi,” Akutagawa gives him a sharp look that is a clear request to drop the subject. “Anyway, we just wanted to give you this.” Digging into his pocket, Akutagawa produces a slim smartphone. “Do me a favor and don’t misplace it. Even though it has fingerprint-access encryption, someone random having a direct line to me or Gin would be a headache. Also, there’s a panic button, in case you’re ever in a tight corner, one of ours will respond to it.”

“One of yours?” Atsushi repeats, accepting the phone and turning the device over in his hands. “Does that mean I’m officially under the protection of your new clan?”

“It was issued on the kumichō’s orders,” Akutagawa replies, “take from that what you will.”

A soft beeping noise sounds and Gin reaches into the small purse settled on the seat next to her, pulling out a pager. She glances at the screen and lets out a sigh. “Something came up, we need to get to headquarters.” Reaching behind her shoulder, Gin taps on the partition in what seems to be a message to the driver because the car immediately starts to slow as it pulls up next to the sidewalk. “We’ll have to drop you off here, but it’s not far from your place.”

Atsushi raises an eyebrow. “How do you know where I live?”

She smirks. “Really?”

And it’s a totally valid argument. Of course, Gin would figure out where he lives, with or without Dazai’s resources. He glances between the pair of siblings. “Stay safe, both of you, and don’t be strangers.”

“If you ever just want to talk to us, or to the others, swing by that cafe underneath our old hideout. Word will get to us.”

Frowning at Gin’s statement, Atsushi asks, “You can contact the others?”

“We’ve really got to get going, Atsushi-kun, we’ll have to catch up another time.”

“But they’re all fine?”

Rolling his eyes, Akutagawa says, “Everyone is doing great, jinko, I’m sure they’ll be grateful for your concern.”

“Right, got it, you are all tough yakuza members who don’t need anyone worrying about you,” Atsushi quips with a grin. “Just one more question.” The siblings look at him expectantly. “If I’m under the protection of this brand-new organization I think I deserve to know a name.”

Something warm slides over his leg and Atsushi only manages not to jolt because of how often he used to come into contact with Rashōmon. The black tendril growing from Akutagawa’s jacket feels oddly soothing, every bit the old friend as Akutagawa and Gin are, as it stretches over and past him to curl around the door handle, pulling the mechanism before pushing the car door open in a clear signal.

Stifling a sigh, Atsushi gives them both a friendly wave as he slips out of the car and back onto the street. Just as the door is being pulled shut, Akutagawa’s gravelly voice floats to where Atsushi is standing, words only loud enough for Atsushi and his tiger’s hearing to make sense of.

“It’s called the Port Mafia.”

The door closes and the car slides back into traffic before Atsushi can reply, but he still waves after it, a grin spreading across his face.

His friends are safe. They’re back in Yokohama. They will doubtlessly be doing things that will pile work on Ango-san’s desk and infuriate the yakuza hunters and both major clans in the city.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

 


 

Hands trail down the skin of Chuuya’s back, gentle touches that trace the lines of his tattoo, that brush along the breadth of the mystical bird’s feathers and run along the clouds that cover his shoulders.

Chuuya smiles into his pillow.

Not long ago, these touches would have made him physically nauseous, would have only served as a reminder of his worst failure, a reminder of the night that had ripped away everything he spent his entire life working for.

Now, the reminder is still there. Chuuya’s skin still ripples slightly, as if his long-standing hatred for the unfinished piece hasn’t quite been cleansed from his muscle memory even if it doesn’t pulse in his chest anymore. But the piece is no longer unfinished, and that makes Chuuya’s smile grow and his body relax even more, as if trying to become one with the bed.

The slight discomfort he feels at each touch has less to do with the painful memories and more to do with the residual tenderness of a tattoo nearly at the end of its healing process, and Chuuya relishes each ounce of soreness for its reminder that he was able to reclaim a part of his body he previously hated showing others, that he previously hated showing the man currently running feather-light touches down the small of his back.

“The colors are getting vibrant again,” Dazai muses somewhere above him. He taps a spot just below Chuuya’s shoulder blades, “The blues, in particular, look stunning.”

In his mind’s eye, Chuuya pictures what Dazai is referring to. Unlike Dazai’s own tattoo, full of bold reds and heavy blacks and seldom else, Chuuya’s is now an explosion of colors: bright greens and blues pressed against purples and reds and oranges. The feathers of the phoenix packed with brilliant hues to make it look like it could come alive and fly off of Chuuya’s back at any minute.

Truly, it is art to be proud about wearing, and every painstaking second that Chuuya lay underneath the needle is worth it for the last piece of confidence it restored in him. It was the final push he needed to truly accept the implications of the informal sake sharing ceremony he performed with Dazai when they made the decision to return to Yokohama.

Finally, he no longer feels like less of a yakuza, no longer feels like he has something to prove.

He broke tradition by having it finished and it felt liberating and rewarding and like everything he should have done years ago.

Nakahara Chuuya is once again every inch the heir his father wanted, the embodiment of what had made his father most proud. And, to top it all off, he has finally taken his mother’s advice to heart and applied it, he finally found someone who sees his true value, who saw it when he was still wearing an unfinished tattoo piece, who Chuuya can be loyal to without any reservations.

Turning his head so his voice can be heard, Chuuya asks, “What time is it?”

“Well past time for us to be heading out and to headquarters, if that’s what you’re asking,” Dazai replies, amusement clear in his voice.

Frowning, Chuuya repeats his question, “Osamu, what time is it?”

“Chibi should know that work doesn’t sound remotely interesting when he says my name like that.”

Rolling his eyes at the sing-song in Dazai’s voice, Chuuya pushes himself upright, turning so he can look at the man currently devoid of bandages but still every bit a bastard. Dazai’s face is the picture of innocence, his eyes wide as he blinks at Chuuya, not a trace of a smirk or mischief to be seen, which is all the more suspicious. Reaching out, Chuuya picks up his phone from the bedside table and scowls at the time.

“I told Azumi I would be there an hour ago, why didn’t you wake me up sooner?” Chuuya asks.

“You looked like you needed the rest,” Dazai replies with a shrug, “and if anyone can afford to be late for a meeting it’s you.”

“It’s about the principle, idiot. Showing up on time for shit like this indicates that I respect their time as much as I value my own.” Chuuya slips out of the bed and strides to the wardrobe, quickly tugging out clothes to change into, cognizant of the way that Dazai’s gaze follows him and stays trained on his back.

“Always so considerate of subordinates.”

“That’s how you maintain loyalty,” Chuuya snaps, pulling on the familiar articles of clothing with efficiency.

“It’s one way to maintain loyalty,” comes the counter in a well-worn argument that the pair of them have been having almost as long as they have known each other.

Muttering a few choice words regarding how he feels about Dazai’s callous views on the matter, Chuuya settles his jacket around his shoulders and starts across the room—if he moves quickly enough, and if Azumi hadn’t encountered any unforeseen problems in their upcoming plans of attack, he’ll still be able to maintain some ghost of his original schedule for the day.

A hand grips his wrist, halting his progress as Dazai tugs gently, swinging Chuuya around so they’re standing face-to-face.

“We can talk in the car,” Chuuya points out.

“Not about this.”

Dazai lets his fingers slide down from Chuuya’s wrist to support his palm, bringing it up to his lips. A kiss is pressed to a certain finger on Chuuya’s left hand, putting brief pressure on the band hidden underneath Chuuya’s gloves. A matching band twinkles on Dazai’s hand, the pure black ring deceptively plain at first glance, the bright blue on the inside of the band (the color of Dazai’s ability, in Chuuya’s opinion, even if he knows Dazai refers to it as the hue of his eyes) hidden from sight, its presence only known by the pair of them and the person who crafted the rings.

Not willing to let Dazai completely side-track him—he is a professional after all—Chuuya asks, “What’s so important that we can’t discuss it on the way in?”

“When I first asked about it, you told me that your tattoo was a phoenix because it represented loyalty,” Dazai says, “but something about it feels different now that the colors are there, like you picked a different color scheme than what you originally designed the tattoo for.”

“That’s because I did,” Chuuya admits, lacing his fingers with Dazai and turning over their combined hands so that the other man’s marriage band is visible. “When I designed it, I was going to keep it very traditional and stick to reds and oranges and yellows, but I didn’t want it colored so that I could have the tattoo I wanted when I was eighteen, I got it colored to show myself that this is a different part of my journey.” Smiling, Chuuya says, “My phoenix always represented loyalty because that was one of the first lessons I ever had, but now it also represents rebirth because a certain lanky bastard helped me find a passion for something besides protecting my family legacy.”

Dazai opens his mouth to reply, but Chuuya is already backing away with a wink in his husband’s direction, calling over his shoulder as he goes, “And a certain lanky bastard is lucky I’m in a good mood so I’m not going to kick his ass for letting me be late for this meeting.”

By the time Dazai catches up to him, Chuuya has pulled his hat off the rack settled by the entryway and picked up the keys from their bowl by the door. Stepping out of the house, Chuuya revels in the feeling of the sunlight warming his skin. Even as far away from the center of the city as it is, Chuuya’s glad they decided to use the safe house as their main residence.

Renovations and decorations have made it into more of a home than the penthouse ever could have been and the distance from the city is its own kind of security blanket that allows them to let down their guards as soon as the house comes into view.

Sliding into the driver’s seat of the car, Chuuya just barely waits for Dazai to get settled in the passenger’s seat before he’s pulling away from the house and driving for headquarters as quickly as he can without getting pulled over by the cops.

As he steers toward the city, Chuuya asks questions. He requests updates on any operations that made progress during his extended nap, asks for information on supply shipments and weapons procurement. He asks for updates on Mizushima and Nakahara movements and ignores the amusement in Dazai’s voice as the other man answers each question, prepared for them all even if he finds Chuuya’s need to know all of the information at all times entertaining.

The building they selected for their headquarters originally had no garage connected to it, but that was easily fixed with the purchase of the run-down building just adjacent. Typing in the passcode for entrance, Chuuya is pleased to see more and more vehicles inside, a physical representation of their clan’s quick growth.

Building a new organization from scratch in Yokohama is beyond ballsy, and while Chuuya had been confident they could pull in the small group that helped them bring down Murasaki, the question of how many yakuza would be willing to leave their positions with the Mizushimas or the Nakaharas to take a chance on a new clan was a daunting one. He supposes it’s only by the power of their names that they found any support at all, even if there have always been malcontents in both organizations.

A walkway connects the parking garage to the Port Mafia headquarters: the name taken from the memory of the alliance he and Dazai originally married to form, the alliance Kouyou and Mori let fall to waste. It’s the most apt name they could think of given that their clan is very much the remnants of that old alliance, that there is no generational legacy to their organization, no storied history to necessitate traditional naming conventions, and no plans to stop until they control the entire city.

They also repurposed their headquarters, purchasing the top three floors of the building that, at one time, housed the small renegade group as they worked to manipulate both major Yokohama clans in order to rid themselves of the ghosts. Now, the formerly abandoned office space houses state-of-the-art equipment and is the home base for over fifty yakuza members.

Those members bow as Dazai and Chuuya walk past, respect clear in their voices as they call greetings that Chuuya nods in response to.

“Dazai-san, do you have a moment?” The request comes from Akutagawa, who is peeking his head out of the generous office he was given as an original member of the clan. “There might be some complications with the planned interception of those medical supplies.”

Dazai glances at Chuuya, quirking an eyebrow in a silent question. Shaking his head, Chuuya replies, “I’ll find you if I need you.”

With that, Dazai is peeling away from Chuuya and following Akutagawa into the younger boy’s office. Chuuya watches their departure with a slight smile playing around his lips. He learned, during the weeks of coordinating their attack on the ghosts, that Akutagawa was much smarter than Dazai seemed to give him credit for. Giving the younger man some responsibilities has proved good for him and having people they can trust running the major assets of the organization is the only way they’ll ever get a solid hold over the city.

It is why he has Gin, who swore loyalty to the Port Mafia alongside her brother the moment he and Dazai returned to Yokohama, overseeing all covert operations from espionage to assassinations. Why Higuchi, who they had to spirit away from Mizushima surveillance to speak with, oversees a large group of subordinates and spearheads retaliation efforts when someone takes a strike at their territory. Why Tachihara, who had been a mere phone call away as soon as they decided how they were moving forward, is now in charge of specialized combat teams for the clan.

Opening the door to his own office at the end of the hall, Chuuya smiles apologetically to Azumi, who is working at a whiteboard diligently, notes and reports stacked on the table behind her as she finishes outlining a strategy proposal on the board.

Having people they can trust in major positions of power is what will separate the Port Mafia from the Mizushima-gumi and from the Nakahara-kai. Having people who joined the organization solely out of their loyalty to the pair of them rather than as a power-grab or a move of desperation is what makes the Port Mafia the most serious threat either clan has never heard of.

It’s why Azumi, coaxed out of her work holed up in the Mizushima headquarters, is the Port Mafia’s saiko-komon.

“Sorry I’m late,” Chuuya says, settling into his normal seat at the table.

The statement earns him an odd look. “I got a text from you rescheduling the meeting for this hour.”

“You…really?” Digging into his pocket, Chuuya pulls out his phone and finds that there is indeed a text to Azumi’s number with that information. Fighting back a grin at how Dazai had conveniently failed to mention that little detail, he pockets the device again. “Well, let me hear your thoughts on the strategies Dazai and I came up with regarding the Mizushima-gumi. I want that clan falling down around Shōhei’s ears before he even realizes anything is wrong.”

A dangerous smile spreads across Azumi’s face. “Of course, boss. Here’s what I pieced together.”

Leaning forward in his chair, paying careful attention to every detail Azumi lays out in front of him, the kumichō of the Port Mafia gets to work.