“That’s a lengthy list.”
“I’m a man with standards.”
“Yeah, too many.”
With a huff, Kunikida shut his notebook. He didn’t feel up to dealing with this, yet Ranpo still lounged on top of his desk rather than staying at his own. “Is it wrong to have particular taste?”
“If the partner you seek doesn’t exist, yes. Dude, do you really expect somebody like that to be out there?”
“There’s 7 billion people in the world.”
Ranpo snorted. “And you only know, like, the dozen people that are a part of this agency.”
"That’s a lie,” Kunikida scoffed. “I know—other people.”
"Oh, really. Name one.”
“Port Mafia doesn’t count. Or Guild. Or Rats.” He started tapping one of Kunikida’s pens on the edge of the table. “Or Edgar.”
“It’s not like I don’t have friends .” Kunikida slammed his notebook down to stop the incessant drumming. “Besides, if I didn’t, I’d be perfectly content with being in this circle. Except I could do without Dazai.”
Dazai popped up from the back of the room with an offended gasp (probably a fake one). “Wow, Kunikida-kun, so rude!”
“Shut up, you waste of bandages.”
A chair fell over when Dazai tried to drape himself across it. “Every insult is a stab at my heart!”
“Hey, kid,” Kunikida turned to Atsushi, who looked up immediately. “Could you tape Dazai to his desk so he actually does some work?”
Atsushi’s stare went blank for a split second before he scrambled to his feet. Kunikida didn’t even realize he’d moved, let alone that he’d actually taken the joke seriously.
“Where’s the masking ta—”
“Atsushi, it was a joke.”
Ranpo sat up. “Woah. A joke? From Kunikida? Holy shit, has hell frozen over?! Did the prez become a dog person?!”
Blinking, Atsushi set down the scotch tape back in the file cabinet he’d almost overturned. “Oh. Sorry, Kunikida-san.” Murmuring to himself, he padded over to where the Tanizakis stood and conversed. Probably in a desperate attempt to direct the attention away from himself.
“Brat,” Kunikida muttered, an unconscious slip that didn’t reach Atsushi’s ears, thankfully. He flipped open his Ideal, resuming his scheduling. Before Ranpo had started him on that odd tangent, he’d been outlining his agenda so it formed neat little columns. After checking the appropriate date, time, and place, he felt pleased, seeing that for once, he’d managed to stay on schedule.
He’d almost finished the final box when Ranpo piped up again.
“Yo.” The perfect line veered off-course. A half-suppressed curse escaped Kunikida. Ranpo seemed to pay no mind, only propping his elbow on top of another book. “When can I see this fated checklist of requirements?”
“Aw, man, but I wanna see if I’m good enough for Kunikida Doppo.”
Kunikida let out a derisive laugh. “With just one split-second glance, you already don’t meet five of my standards regarding physical appearance.”
“Hmm, but which do I meet?”
“So, two divided by 58—I have an approximate 3% chance of being your ideal already. Charming.” Ranpo paused. “It’s my hair and my nose, isn’t it?”
He sputtered, “How did you—?” Kunikida cut himself off when he felt the blush rising in his cheeks.
“Not that hard, really. You’re looking for dark hair, preferably black. And Edgar says I got a nice kind of nose, so I just guessed. I’m a master of deduction, after all!”
Sliding off the desk, Ranpo moved to lean on his chair instead. “So, can I read them?”
“You’re no fun.”
“It’s not meant to be fun.” He spun his pen between his fingers. “It’s a plan for my life, and how everything needs to work in order to achieve perfection, also known as—”
“—the ideal. Yes, exactly. See, you get it. Then you should also understand that it is in no way, shape, or form a toy—nor any other means of entertainment.”
The entire room had fallen silent, though none of its inhabitants wanted nor bothered to listen to the speech besides Kunikida himself. They’d heard it many times before, and some wouldn’t dare to announce its stupidity.
Some would. Ranpo knit his brow and responded, “It’s still funny, though.”
Fortunately, Kunikida didn’t even receive the chance to entertain him with a response. Haruno, a secretary of the agency, entered the room with a file tucked under her arm. She cleared her throat, meekly, and held out the file as a gesture for someone to take it. Ranpo snatched it from her hands, somehow holding it out of Kunikida’s reach as he pieced through it.
“I—We’ve received intel about a certain Port Mafia member skulking around in places he shouldn’t be. It’s not a major thing, but we were asked to keep an eye on it.” With that, she hurried back out of the room.
“Akutagawa,” Ranpo declared, tossing the file so it landed on Kunikida’s desk. It flapped open to reveal a set of shady-looking pictures. “Should we even bother at this point?” Humming in boredom, he began playing with the pens again.
“I-I think we should do something, at least!” Atsushi spoke up. He’d migrated back to the center of the room. “Right?”
Ranpo sighed overdramatically. “If we go by me, the amazing detective who knows what’s up, thank you very much—then it’s nothing to worry over. We’ll do what Haruno said, keep an eye on him. A very lax one.”
While Ranpo prattled on, Kunikida had begun sifting through the photographs himself. One particular shot had the man in question staring directly at the camera, gray eyes half-lidded with a hand over his mouth.
His own fingers danced and flipped through his ideal, subconsciously turning to the very pages Ranpo had been talking about earlier. He scanned over the list, even though he’d memorized it, of course.
Black hair. Check.
A voice from the back of his mind startled him. He jumped in his seat. Ranpo noticed and cast a questioning glance his way.
“What? Does Akutagawa scare you or something?”
“No, no—it’s not that,” his voice trailed off as he simultaneously read through his description of the ideal partner and glanced at the pictures. Thankfully, Ranpo didn’t seem to catch on right away, or maybe he just didn’t care enough to pay attention.
Unique eye color. Check.
“Gray?” he murmured to himself, this time earning another concerned look.
Optimal stature. Check.
The options were flowing more frequently now. And with each little realization, a tingle ran up his spin.
Lean figure. Maybe too lean, but check nonetheless.
He found a particular shot showing the rabid dog’s full face, uncovered, with a slight scowl.
Sure enough, Akutagawa’s nose did match his standards, as odd as that sounded. Small, but not too small that it became swallowed up by the rest of the face. And upturned just the slightest. Kinda—cute, to say the least.
Wow, Ranpo must’ve poisoned his coffee this morning or something. Calling Akutagawa cute didn’t seem like something one could do so nonchalantly. He actually threw up in his mouth a little at this realization.
Fair skin. Check.
Piano hands. Check.
Cupid’s bow. Check.
Thick eyelashes. Check.
Regarding physical appearance, he nearly ticked all the boxes. (Those that could not be ticked were indecipherable due to the heavy coat Akutagawa wore. Kunikida flushed when he recalled what utter detail he’d put into certain ideal aspects of the body. Call him shallow, but his actual ideal was only influenced by these preferences just a little.)
Personality-wise—not so much luck there, either. The general population had deemed Akutagawa an enigma, despite the rage and doggedness he exhibited.
Kunikida hadn’t really thought about that certain requirement too much. He’d scribbled it down in a hurry, just a single word. It’d popped into his head without so much as a warning, yet felt so important that he just had to record it.
Some people revealed everything like an open book. Some people craved to understand everything about a person with a single glance or conversation. Mystery, but not too much, proved necessary sometimes. But, of course, you’d need to know everything about your partner before you make any momentous decisions. Just—slowly, gradually understanding a person in an intimate nature. You could stare at Akutagawa for minutes, have a conversation for hours, and probably not learn much.
At least, that’s what he figured. He wasn’t going to put too much thought into it! It’s not like—he considered Akutagawa a candidate for his affections. Surely, this murderer couldn’t fit his ideal.
Ranpo leaned in front of his view. “Kunikida, you good? You’ve been staring at that photo like he’s gonna jump out and kill you.”
“I’m fine,” he responded a little too quickly. Ranpo didn’t seem too convinced, glanced back and forth between the Ideal and Akutagawa, putting the puzzle pieces together in an instant. Kunikida knew this when a knowing smirk crossed the detective’s face.
“Oh,” he hummed, purposefully drawing a line down the center of Akutagawa’s face. “Does he have a better chance than I do?”
“A-at what?” Kunikida knew that playing dumb with Ranpo would turn out futile, especially when the man’s deductive gears whirred. Yet he couldn’t bear to admit the simple fact that—
“Is Akutagawa ideal?”
Thankfully, the rest of the agency appeared too engrossed in their work to pay attention to the scene. Ranpo had curled himself around Kunikida’s chair, fingers hovering over his notebook.
Kunikida huffed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about—”
“Hmm, he’s not that bad-looking when he’s not angry.” Ignoring him, Ranpo sifted through the photos until he manages to find one where Akutagawa wore a more neutral expression. “See, kinda nice face. Even without the eyebrows.”
“Well, you can date him if you want!”
“I’m not interested. I’ve got my own emo.”
“Then neither am I!”
Snorting, Ranpo flicked something off the back of the chair. “I beg to differ. You’re thinking about it, after all.”
“No, I’m not. It sort of just—happened.” Kunikida dropped his tone to a whisper, “I’d never intentionally mull over whether or not he could be my partner.”
“So, your subconscious is gay for Akutagawa, then!” Ranpo said this loudly, broadcasting it to the entire floor. Those who were listening glanced up in awe. Dazai snickered from across the room.
“Kunikidaaaa! That’s adorable~!”
“DAZAI, YOU STAY OUT OF THIS—!”
Rather than heed this advice, Dazai vaulted over his desk and came running over. “Tell me the details!”
Ignoring Kunikida’s protests, Ranpo started gathering up the pictures and relaying the story to Dazai: “So, I was trying to get Kunikida to talk about his ideal partner—I’m 3% of the way there, y’know—and then the case about Akutagawa came in. And then, he started looking at his ideals and matching them accordingly with Akutagawa—now I’m pretty sure he’s gay for him!”
“Ah, young, innocent love. I’m so proud of you, Kunikida! So grown up!”
The expression Kunikida wore boiled with anger and embarrassment. His face had flushed bright red thanks to both emotions. He held his temples to fight off an oncoming headache—the one that usually surfaced whenever Dazai showed up.
“Let’s get something straight—”
“Mm, we’re far beyond that.”
“—I am not in love with Akutagawa.”
Placing a hand on his chin, Ranpo poked at Akutagawa’s cheek. “He’s kinda—effeminate. In a way. If I didn’t know him, I’d say he looked—”
“Tired,” Dazai hummed.
While Kunikida died on the inside, Dazai seemed eager to get the ball rolling: “I can introduce you, Kunikida-kun!” He whipped out his phone and scrolled through his contacts. “I think I still have his number.”
“W-why are we calling Akutagawa?” Atsushi had apparently materialized out of nowhere, hovering behind them with a look of horror.
“You’ll understand when you’re older, Atsushi~” Dazai claimed a seat on the desk, pressing a contact and bringing the phone to his ear. “It’s ringing!”
Kunikida figured that Akutagawa wouldn’t pick up. He figured that, if he did, he wouldn’t take up Dazai’s offer to come to the agency. He figured that he’d never partake in this conversation that supposedly everyone in the agency wanted them to have. He figured a lot of things.
Within a millisecond, yelling resonated from the phone. Kunikida caught the frantic ‘Dazai-san’s before the man himself began responding.
“Ah, Akutagawa-kun! Would you mind taking a little trip to the agency? I have something for you—oh, brilliant! See you—ah, he hung up.”
Well, there go all his figures. Talk about throwing an ideal out of whack. Instead of completing his work for next week early as he’d planned, he’d spent a good amount of time catering to Ranpo’s entertainment, ultimately ending in this impromptu—
What was it anyway? What could he call it? Certainly not—a date. A meet and greet? One does not simply hold a calm introduction when we’re talking about Akutagawa.
Of all the people in the world.
Did he think that Akutagawa would catch his interest? Not a chance! Nowhere on his ideal partner page did it say ‘must be a ruthless, cold-hearted killer, and—oh, did I mention—part of the fricking MAFIA!’
Dazai clapped his hands together. “I’m so excited!”
Atsushi, on the other hand, looked more terrified than anything, and had clung to the edge of the desk. His nails had begun to leave scratch marks. “H-he’s coming? Here?! Did no one think this through?!”
Ranpo shrugged. “We’ll call it an investigation if we have to. Isn’t that what it is, anyway?”
A gasp came from Dazai. “An investigation of Kunikida’s sexuality!”
Not even bothering to give them a response, Kunikida attempted to hide behind his Ideal. It didn’t do much, as two of his three comrades were laughing their asses off. Poor Atsushi.
“It’s like a miai! Finally meeting your fiancé!”
“We’re not getting married, Dazai. Frankly, I’m not even going to speak with him. You realize that you can’t force me to talk to one of our enemies only on the premise of—”
“HEY, HE’S HERE!” Ranpo yelled. He’d somehow gravitated to the window. “That was quick.”
Atsushi yelped and sprinted to stand behind his desk. He didn’t exactly feel up to facing Akutagawa at the moment, whether it be for a fight or just in general.
“Ah, I’ll go get him!” Dazai sprung up and flew from the room before Kunikida could even lift a finger to stop him. Ranpo stayed stationed at the window, as if getting ready to perform a play-by-play of their interactions.
“We should all be working, not playing these foolish games.”
“I-I’ll have to agree with Kunikida-san,” Atsushi stuttered, plopping down in a desk chair. He looked ridden with discomfort.
Tapping echoed from the other side of the room when Ranpo began jumping up and down. “Oh, shit! He’s comin’ in!”
“A-ah, Junichirou,” Atsushi called, dragging his chair out to the center of the room, “would you and Naomi want to go somewhere else with me? I-I don’t really have a desire to watch this—”
“Sure, Atsushi.” Junichirou mumbled. He seemed pretty grim himself. (Probably from remembering his previous encounter with Akutagawa.) Naomi nodded eagerly to agree; she seemed unaware of what was going on currently.
All three of them quickly scurried from the room, disappearing behind a door without another word.
Ranpo cleared his throat. He stepped away from the window and strode back to Kunikida, who had gathered up the photos, put them away, and resorted to simply holding his head in his hands. Ranpo clapped him on the back and leaned close.
“Hey, with Dazai here, he won’t kill you, at least.”
“I’m not speaking to him. There’s nothing about him that interests me.”
“The Nile is not only a river in Egypt.”
The loud slam of a door opening cut off their conversation.
“I’m baaaaaack~!” Dazai sang. He promptly dragged another figure into the room with him. “Look who I found!”
And so, Akutagawa gracefully stumbled into the room, half-restrained under Dazai’s arm. Kunikida couldn’t bring himself to look up and stare directly at that face. In fact, he made it a point not to.
“Dazai-san,” a gravelly voice growled, “why am I here? What do you need me to do?!”
“Shhh, boy, it’s alright,” Dazai crooned. Kunikida finally let his gaze roam, and it fell upon the fated man’s expression. Dazai took quick note of this, and literally grabbed Akutagawa’s face and squished it. “See, Kunikida-kun! Isn’t he adorable?!”
“Oh, Christ,” a groan erupted from Kunikida’s throat as he ran a hand through his hair. “Dazai, just—well, just, don’t. For one fucking second!”
The room fell silent for a single moment before Dazai released his hold on the poor boy and began giggling like a schoolgirl.
Ranpo finally contributed to the shitstorm of a conversation, “Oh. Well, perhaps, Akutagawa—” he paused and shuffled over to Kunikida’s desk, opened a drawer, and ultimately produced another case file. “Maybe you know something about this?”
“Uh,” Kunikida blinked as the folder was passed over to the mafioso’s hand. “W-we’re giving him important information—?”
“Relax, Kunikida. It’s nothing major, besides, something tells me that this group has something going on with the mafia.”
Clearly confused, Akutagawa accepted the offered item anyway. “Oh. These people.” he mumbled. “The group of misfits that seemed harmless, until just recently when we learned that their ringleader was an ability user. That’s all I’m willing to say in the current moment.” He glanced warily at Dazai. “Is this what you brought me here for?”
“Ah, yeah, sure. That works!”
“Then,” he blinked in disbelief, “why were you playing with my face earlier?”
Meanwhile, Kunikida eventually mustered enough courage to actually hold his stare for more than a millisecond. And goddamn, he regretted it the second he achieved it.
Of course, of course, his heart had to start racing when those gray eyes fell on him. In person, he seemed a lot more entrancing. Those physical features that had captured his ideal now shone with even more perfection. He hated it. All of it. Especially those pouty little lips and standoffish glare, mocking him.
He looked fragile. In a strange way, like someone had put a lot of thought and detail into designing him. More like a sophisticated, monochrome canvas than another boring face in a crowd. Different. Appealing.
Without thinking, he cleared his throat, and two pairs of interested eyes fell on him.
“Oh? Got something to say, Kunikida?” Ranpo sang, circling his chair.
“Mm, yeah? Anything that really needs to be voiced? Considering our audience—”
“Would you both shut up.”
Ranpo switched gears with the snap of his fingers. “Well, then, I suppose that since we have you, you could help in this investigation? A mini-truce considering we now have a common threat?”
Akutagawa coughed into his hand and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. “What reason do I have to trust you?”
Once again, Dazai and Ranpo turned to each other and grinned. This only perplexed Akutagawa further, who stood there awkwardly clutching the case file.
“I’ll admit, it’s a bit unlikely, but—” Dazai stepped forward and patted Akutagawa’s head. Looks like they needed bait. “—you’ve been working so hard! I’d like to see what else you can do~! Maybe you’ll impress me.”
Straightening up, Akutagawa bounced a little on his heels. “Fine, I’ll do it. But if any of you bastards go against me, I’ll take it as a personal invitation to Rashomon your asses.”
“Consider it done!” Ranpo announced, putting his hands on his hips.
Dazai snickered and whispered to him, “I bet Kunikida would like that.”
At this point, Kunikida had blocked out the rest of the word and gone to work on his Ideal again. Every so often his eyes would flit to glance behind, but after a little he’d managed to restrain himself.
“Well, Kunikida knows the details of the case, so, why don’t you work with him, Akutagawa-kun?! And Ranpo-san and I—”
“Wait, I know the case details too! I’m completely capable—”
“Shh, alone time, alone time!”
“We’ll go—work somewhere else!”
“U-um. Alright, Dazai-san.”
And with that, they practically vanished behind the office door. The room felt dead silent without them.
Kunikida, of course hadn’t registered anything until the familiar sound of a door shutting startled him into reality. The reality that contained Akutagawa, the sole current candidate for his ideal, standing in the middle of his workplace.
The poor thing actually appeared a little nervous, from what Kunikida could tell. Those bony pale hands clutched both the file and the fabric of his coat in a death-grip. Akutagawa didn’t come off as the type to express emotion. (But maybe it’s easier to decipher a change within when they always look the same—indifferent.)
He sighed, pushing up his glasses. “Did those idiots leave?”
They both watched each other for a while before Kunikida spoke again, “Um. You can sit, if you want.”
“Oh. Okay.” Akutagawa took a seat in an actual chair, unlike the other hooligans in the office. He set the documents on his lap, and spent quite a while arranging them in the proper order before refocusing.
Hmm, neat. Check.
Oh, god, not this again. Kunikida grumbled to himself under his breath. He couldn’t not admire Akutagawa’s perfectionism, having worked along Dazai for so long. The man’s workstation looked like a bomb had gone off, and then the survivors had gone and turned it into a dump.
Wow, they sat pretty close together. Not close, per say. More like relatively near the same desk. Close enough for Kunikida to see the details of Akutagawa’s features, like the eyelashes that fluttered enticingly every time he blinked.
He inhaled sharply. That was pretty gay.
He’d never fully evaluated his sexuality. Instead, he resorted to just going with the flow. If he found a woman attractive, it felt no different than finding a man or any other human being attractive. When people asked him if he had a preference, he simply evaded the question because he couldn’t find an answer that seemed—encompassing.
“Well.” Akutagawa folded his arms and stared expectantly.
Caught off guard, Kunikida let out a confused noise that he quickly suppressed. All at once, every moment he’d spent within close proximity to this man flooded his brain. He recalled seeing him with Dazai (on multiple occasions, electrocuting him that one time—oh. In his own little idealistic mind, he’d appeared to have forgotten about their encounters that ended in combat. Specific to that one, he also remembered what Akutagawa had said.
Something about being a fit partner for Dazai. Was that supposed to be a compliment? Jealousy? An offhanded remark that meant nothing?
And yet, if it meant nothing, he still mulled over it like it’d been a heartfelt confession.
“He didn’t bring you here to discuss this.” Kunikida gestured to the file. “You know that, right?”
“Oh.” Akutagawa scowled a little. “Then whatever was it for?”
Blood rushed to Kunikida’s cheeks, and he forced himself to turn away. “Dunno. Uh, we can still talk about it, though.”
“I don’t know much.” Shifting in his seat, Akutagawa set the papers on Kunikida’s desk. “Besides, I’m sure that someone is going to pop out from nowhere and attempt to restrain me. Or capture me so you can have a prisoner. Right?” His hands curled into fists where they rested on his thighs.
“There—there will be nothing of the sort. Unlike the Port Mafia, we’re capable of having civilized conversation with our enemies. Not everything has to lead to combat and conflict.”
Those gray eyes narrowed in a mix of confusion and suspicion. “It just seemed like a good window of opportunity. I’d already let my guard down to help Dazai-san with this—this favor of his. Which, now that I’m here, doesn’t seem to exist.”
“Why are you trying to impress him? He’s a total fool, you know.”
Akutagawa stared, expression placid for a moment. “Because I want to show that I’m worthy.” His gaze dropped to feet, only to dart back up with newfound defiance.
“I think you’ve done that already.” Seeing how Akutagawa wouldn’t budge, Kunikida sighed. “And, besides, Dazai isn’t the idiot you should be worried about impressing.” He paused, absentmindedly tracing a word in his ideal. “Maybe just be concerned with doing the best for yourself, for now. In the end, the only opinion that matters is your own.”
It felt silly, explaining this to Akutagawa of all people. Such a simple subject. Especially, in this situation, when before, they’d been total strangers/enemies. It seemed like he was talking to a child. A murderer child.
“You’re Dazai-san’s partner,” Akutagawa mumbled, almost thoughtfully. (It seemed that he had ignored the advice, or chose not to comment on it.) “So, why do you speak ill of him?”
“When you’ve been his partner for more than three seconds, you learn how annoying he can be.” Kunikida glared at the wall. “But, he pulls through when he needs to, and isn’t exactly useless.”
He looked over to see Akutagawa hanging onto every word. His stomach actually did a flip when he realized their situation again. Curse him, Ranpo, Dazai, and everyone else. He really hoped that he was just sick, as unideal as that would be.
How can a human mind even do this? Just thirty minutes ago, he knew he wouldn’t’ve thought about Akutagawa in that way. In seconds, he’d conjured up feelings that hadn’t existed moments prior. They started out faint, but now they kept growing and growing—until, yes, he felt a little nauseous and his heart raced, but that meant nothing. Akutagawa doesn’t even look that attractive.
Mmm, okay, maybe that’s a lie.
To most, maybe he seems like the type that could never catch anyone’s eye. But, ironically, he held this strange quality not unlike ethereal, ghostly beauty. Androgynous, too, with the soft, feminine features that just barely balanced with masculinity. And fragile and delicate. Someone needed to handle him with the utmost care or he’d shatter and unleash his wrath.
But the personality was the issue.
Surely, they wouldn’t click. Belligerent, feisty, obstinate. Kunikida wanted someone he could have calm, sophisticated conversation with. Akutagawa didn’t seem like that type.
“I see. You’re an interesting man. Kunikida, isn’t it?”
Akutagawa nodded to himself. “Your ability. It’s within the notebook, right? You write things down and they appear.” He stated his observation with a touch of fascination in his tone.
“Well, it more or less is the actual notebook. And I can’t write down just anything—”
“So, you have limits?”
“The object has to be smaller than the notebook.”
They both fell silent, as if suddenly realizing the nature of their discussion. Frankly quite casual. Truth be told, Kunikida had forgotten about Akutagawa’s character in the moment.
“I—I see.” Akutagawa coughed and brought his sleeve to his lips. His gaze became oblong and angled at the potted plant across the room.
Kunikida felt his cheeks warm again at the sight. For some reason, the thought of a flustered Akutagawa stirred something within him. He rubbed the back of his neck and closed his Ideal.
“His ability causes sensory overload.”
“The leader of the group. He attacked one of our teams when they were delivering an order.” He stood, clearing his throat and finishing in a quieter tone, “Just thought you’d want to know, after all.”
Grabbing a pen, Kunikida opened the case file and started scribbling the information down in an empty space. “Y-yes, that’s very helpful.” He suddenly became hyper-aware of the gray eyes on him, watching his every move. “Do you have anything else?”
“Then, thank you.”
Akutagawa stiffened, and Kunikida took note of it. It almost seemed like the phrase itself had affronted him in some way. Or caught him off-guard.
Had he ever been thanked before?
“You’re welcome.” The response came out as a low mumble, but Kunikida caught it anyway. And regrettably, felt his heart warm.
Flipping up his coat collar, Akutagawa started towards the door. The sensation in his heart came to an abrupt stop, and a frown pulled at his lips. A meeting that had ended as quickly as it had begun. He didn’t know what to feel. Happiness, joy, relief? He felt none of those. Just a weird absence of emotion. Shouldn’t he be glad to get out of that uncomfortable situation?
Oh. Wow. His hair looks thick. And fluffy. And it bounces a little when he walks. That’s—
He cut himself off mentally.
This needed to end. Now.
He almost let a few sudden words escape him when Dazai rushed back through the door.
“Oh? Akutagawa? Leaving already?!” he asked frantically, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders. “B-but you just got here—”
“I believe I’ve been here long enough. What exactly was the purpose of this visit?”
Dazai let out a little laugh. “Well,” he glanced expectantly to Kunikida, “don’t you have anything to say?”
“Why do you insist on torturing this man?”
“Akutagawa-kun, you don’t understand! You can’t go now!”
The younger man scowled, suddenly fed up with playing Dazai’s pet. He shoved past him. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ll come by again tomorrow—”
“Oh, yes! That’s wonderful!” Dazai grinned, bouncing on his heels. “One more thing, though.” He held a hand out towards Kunikida. “What do you think of him?”
The confused expression that crossed Akutagawa’s face coupled with Dazai’s not-so-subtle antics made Kunikida’s face flush.
“Um. I suppose he’s—fair. A lot more tolerable than the rest of you agency people.”
“Even more wonderful!”
Silence filled the room for a second. “May I go, then?”
Sighing in defeat, Dazai let go of him and stepped to the side. “Oh, alright. I suppose.” Even after Akutagawa had slid past him, he called out, “YOU BETTER COME BACK TOMORROW—oh, well, geez. That’s not a nice gesture.” He closed the door, frowning while scratching the back of his head.
Kunikida let out a huge breath he didn’t know he’d been holding and slumped against his desk. It looked unprofessional, but who could give a damn at this very moment. His heart still thrummed in his chest like a distressed caged bird, beating its wings against his ribcage.
He hated this feeling so much. He couldn’t explain why this thing flared up inside him. And why it only grew and grew when he thought about him. He couldn’t be childish and dismiss it as something it clearly wasn’t. Nerves only counted for a part of it.
“Ah, that wasn’t so bad, was it, Kunikida?”
Dazai patted his shoulder with a soft chuckle. “If it makes you feel any better, I can tell he really does like you.” He paused to grin when Kunikida perked up visibly. “Aside from the fact that I didn’t find you dead when I came back here, he had this little gleam in his eyes. One I haven’t seen in a long time—”
“You talk of nothing, Dazai.”
“I think it’s safe to say I know him well enough.” His expression turned downcast. “And I know that—things have happened to him. They’ve changed him into the twisted creature that everyone calls him. But whatever you said must’ve done something.”
Scoffing, Kunikida pushed up his glasses and let his fingers hover over his Ideal. “I highly doubt that it’s as poetic and life-changing as you make it out to be.”
“Whatever,” Dazai sang, suddenly turning back to his ridiculous self. “You owe me and Ranpo a big, fat thank you for everything we did!”
“Thank you.” Kunikida responded, and unfortunately, let a smile grace his lips.
He hated them both so much.