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Partner.

Chuuya snatched the bottle of Petrus off his shelf. He’d lost his car. What was an expensive bottle of wine compared to that? Dazai didn’t appreciate either of them.

Partner.

Something Chuuya no longer had. He uncorked the bottle and poured his first glass halfway. Who was he kidding? He’d drain the bottle before dawn, but he had to at least pretend to enjoy it first.

He took his first sip. “You don’t chug wine, you animal,” he’d chided Dazai once when they were younger and still new to alcohol. “You sip it slowly. Take the time to taste it.”

The Petrus tasted divine, a symphony of flavors playing on Chuuya’s tongue. Unlike the whiskey Dazai favored, it didn’t burn going down his throat. Perhaps that was the greater danger. It almost seemed benign.

Partner.

Chuuya hadn’t used Corruption in over three months, but he always kept it in the back of his mind. A final kill switch in any mission. A possibility, hanging over his head like an axe ready to fall. He hardly enjoyed it, not when it ripped apart his body and played with his mind, but he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in knowing that he could.

And somehow, with a single touch Dazai could bring him to his knees.

That left a bitter taste in his mouth.

The first few times, Dazai carried him out of rubble. The next few times, he dragged Chuuya through the dirt. The last time, Dazai left him to crawl, claiming that he had something urgent to attend to and the other subordinates would take care of Chuuya instead. But Dazai was already an executive by then, passing up his nights with Chuuya for nights at the bar with other friends, leaving Chuuya behind in status, distancing himself from Chuuya in everything but name.

His partner.

How many glasses were in a wine bottle? Enough to share between two and get one drunk and the other tipsy. Dazai claimed to hate wine but before he became an executive he never turned down a bottle from Chuuya. They would sit in one of their apartments and talk until one or both of them passed out.

Back then, Chuuya didn’t get blackout drunk. Now, more wine than blood ran through his veins, but as long as it wasn’t whiskey it was okay, because wine wasn’t a problem. Chuuya wasn’t drinking to get drunk. He was drinking to enjoy his wine.

He slammed the empty glass down on the counter and it shattered in his hand, the shards glittering on the floor. He laughed, waiting for a teasing remark that never came. The kitchen spun and Chuuya staggered towards his couch, still giggling to himself about breaking a perfectly good wine glass. They bared their teeth at Yokohama during the day, carving their reputation into the skin of their enemies’ corpses, and at night they broke wine glasses by accident after getting drunk.

Chuuya gripped the edge of the couch to balance himself, howling with laughter. What must they think of him now? Soukoku didn’t exist. A short man without a partner wearing fancy clothes and a hat threatening to kill. What a strange, funny image. A foolish man with a hat, walking into an enemy organization alone, knowing full well that backup wouldn’t be coming.

That was going to be hilarious.

Chuuya choked on his laughter, the dizziness turning into nausea.

Partner.

He staggered into the bathroom, sour red wine spilling into the toilet. His stomach twisted and turned and he retched, gagging on the word partner and holding his own hair back with shaking hands. He wouldn’t be sick if he’d split the bottle. He couldn’t split the bottle alone. So he had to drink it all. That made no sense. He made no sense.

He tried to catch his breath, but another retch choked him and more vomit spilled into the toilet along with curses and Dazai’s name. He wanted to scream. Instead he heaved until his muscles ached and his breath came in gasps.

He managed to get himself to bed. He always did, somehow. He learned. It had been months since the last time Dazai had undone the buttons of his shirt and laid down next to him in bed, eyes sparkling with the remains of their drinks. It had been months since Dazai smoothed his hair back and whispered in his ear, “Sleep, Chuuya.”

He should have known.

Chuuya buried his face in the pillow and squeezed his eyes shut against the burning in his head. He should have known when Dazai stopped coming over, when Dazai started sending him on solo missions, when Dazai wouldn’t say more than a few words to Chuuya’s face.

Dazai had left tonight, but he had stopped being Chuuya’s partner a long time ago.

Chuuya knew, but Chuuya had so desperately wanted his partner, that he’d pretended they were still partners all the same.

And so he emptied his Petrus in honor of his partner and fell asleep cursing his name.