As the hours crept close to midnight, mist shrouded the city of Yokohama, blanketing everything in a strange sort of haze.
Oda was making his way home from the Bar Lupin after another night with Ango and Dazai. He could still taste the whiskey. Dazai had been in a mood. Oda didn’t know how to describe the mood, other than that he’d been more hell-bent on annoying Ango than usual. This was probably a distraction, Oda thought, from talking about anything that really mattered.
Dazai liked to use distractions a lot.
It wasn’t really any of Oda’s business what had Dazai wound up. He rarely asked, and Dazai would only sometimes tell. Oda figured they worked best like that. There was no use forcing something out of someone if they didn’t want to talk about it.
A crash in a nearby alley caught Oda’s attention. It came from across the street. Oda was almost back to his place. It really wasn’t necessary to stop and check. It was probably a stray cat.
Another crash, followed by a loud curse.
Not a cat, then.
The voice sounded familiar, though Oda couldn’t quite place it. He crossed the street, one hand on the handle of his gun just in case. He pressed himself against the building and peeked around the corner.
A red-haired man sat with his knees pulled up to his chest, back against the opposite wall, a broken bottle of some sort at his feet. A dumpster lay on its side further down the alley.
Oda recognized him now. Nakahara Chuuya, Dazai’s partner. They’d never spoken, but Oda had heard plenty about Nakahara from Dazai.
Oda went through a mental checklist in an attempt to decide whether or not to get involved. He knew that Nakahara had the ability to manipulate gravity. He’d heard that Nakahara inspired loyalty amongst his subordinates, something that Dazai often made fun of because he found loyalty a nonsensical concept for their organization.
Nakahara, according to Dazai, also had problems managing his emotions and was, according to Dazai, a liability.
When Oda asked why their partnership was so important to the Port Mafia, Dazai had shrugged. “Well, Chuuya is the best martial artist we have, even without his Ability. That, and Corruption.” The last part was said like an afterthought, which was how Oda knew it was the most important thing to Dazai.
Dazai hadn’t elaborated, and Oda hadn’t pressed. Ango mentioned later that he knew what Corruption was, but Oda decided that he would wait until Dazai told him. It seemed important enough that Oda could wait.
With a sigh, Oda moved forward. He didn’t get too close, not wanting to be on the receiving end of Nakahara’s wrath. He cleared his throat.
Nakahara’s head shot up and he scrambled to his feet, eyes wide. Oda didn’t have time to register the expression on his face before he was shoved against the wall, one hand pushing into his chest and the other holding a knife to his throat.
“I’m Port Mafia,” Oda managed to get out, his voice surprisingly steady. “Oda Sakunosuke.”
Oda noticed the way Nakahara's eyes struggled to focus, despite how steady he held the knife to Oda's throat. His breath smelled like whiskey, Dazai's drink of choice.
"Oda Sakunosuke," Oda repeated. "Dazai drinks with me sometimes."
Nakahara's eyes widened and he stepped away, knife arm dropping to dangle at his side. "Ah. Sorry." He turned, putting away the knife and heading unsteadily towards the road.
Oda pushed himself off the wall and headed after him. Nakahara looked like he could fall over at any moment. This couldn't be good for his wellbeing.
"Nakahara-san," he said, falling into step beside the smaller man. "Can I help you get home?"
"Don't need your help," Nakahara muttered. "Mm fine."
"If you don't mind me saying, you don't look fine."
"I'm fine," Nakahara insisted. He tried to walk faster but tripped over his own feet, falling forward. Oda grabbed his arm and pulled him back. Nakahara overbalanced and slumped against Oda before pushing away again.
"You don't look fine," Oda repeated.
Nakahara swallowed. He glanced around, and Oda saw a spark of awareness in his eyes. He pushed a hand through his hair, then stared at his palm.
"I lost my hat," he said.
"I'm sure you can find it tomorrow," Oda said.
"No, I'm really drunk," Nakahara slurred. He rubbed a hand over his face. "Fuuuuck. I don't know...where..."
"You don't know where you are?" Oda asked.
"I do," Nakahara said. "Can I just...have a minute?"
Oda bit his lip. He honestly had no idea what to do.
"I'm fine," Nakahara was saying, cutting through his thoughts. "Go. I'm," he hiccuped, "fine."
"I'm taking you home," Oda decided. "It'll either be my house or yours. You decide."
"You're not the boss of me," Nakahara snapped, glaring at him like an angry cat.
"Unless you want to spend the night lying on the street, you'll listen to me," Oda said. He allowed his voice to soften. "I'm only trying to help."
Nakahara tugged at his hair and for a moment he looked like the teenager he was instead of the man he had to be. Uncertain and lost. Oda wasn't much older, but he was far more sober.
"Fine," Nakahara said after a moment. "You can walk me home."
Oda nodded. That was as good as he figured he could get for now. Nakahara staggered towards the street again and Oda rushed forward, looping an arm around Nakahara's shoulders. This time Nakahara didn't protest. He only started them in the direction that Oda figured they needed to go.
After a few minutes of walking, Nakahara slurred, "Do you walk Dazai home like this?"
"Chuuya-san, should we really talk about Dazai?"
"It's the only thing we both know, right?"
"I...suppose you're right." Oda didn't feel good about talking about the Executive, especially not to his partner. But he couldn't think of anything else to talk about other than Chuuya's drunken state. He wondered if Chuuya did this every night, and if so, how did he keep up with Dazai if they worked together so often.
They stumbled on for a bit. Maybe Oda could get away with silence. Chuuya didn't seem inclined to talk, but he led Oda to a tall building not far from the Port Mafia base. It looked like the sort of place that someone with a sizeable salary would live in, and a door man let them pass. Chuuya led them to the elevators and leaned heavily against the wall once they were inside.
"Um. Floor?" Oda asked.
"Nine," Chuuya groaned. It seemed like something else, another burst of alcohol, was hitting his system, and Oda wondered just how soon after Chuuya's last drink he'd found Chuuya in the alley.
Oda pressed nine, and almost on cue, Chuuya collapsed.
"Shit." Oda rushed over and shook Chuuya, trying to rouse him, He didn't know the apartment number. He didn't really know what to do about an unconscious drunk person. His heart thudded in his chest. He hadn't meant to make himself responsible for Dazai's partner, but now it seemed he would have to stay longer than he anticipated. He couldn't just dump Chuuya in this condition and run.
The elevator doors opened, and Oda dragged Chuuya into the hallway, praying that no one else would be around. It was late, so most people should have been asleep. Oda propped Chuuya up against the wall and searched him for keys.
He found a set in the pocket of Chuuya's trousers. Luckily, the key was labeled with a worn piece of tape that read "903." Even more fortunate, 903 was just across from the elevators.
Oda half carried, half dragged Chuuya to the door and fumbled with the lock. He managed to get the door open and stumbled into the apartment, dragging Chuuya behind him and shutting the door.
He allowed himself a minute to rest and flicked on the lights. They were in some sort of entrance hallway. At the end, Oda could see a living room and a window. He wanted to find the bedroom or the bathroom.
He carried Chuuya to the end of the hallway and emerged into the living room, which connected to the kitchen. Oda noted the empty wine bottle on the counter and wondered if Chuuya had been drinking that earlier in the night or if he'd just left it there. Another hallway branched off from the living room, thankfully not lengthy.
The first door was a storage closet. The second door on the other side was what looked like a spare bedroom, judging by the sparse nature of room and the various boxes laying around. The third was where Oda hit his mark.
Chuuya's bedroom was nice. It wasn't overly flashy like Oda imagined based on the way Dazai described Chuuya's tastes, but it definitely had an elegance to it. Chuuya had gone with wine-red bedsheets that matched the rest of the set, dark wood furniture, and a bookshelf holding what looked like a fair amount of books. At the opposite corner of the room by the window stood a hackrack and Oda bit back a snort as he remembered Dazai calling Chuuya that exact thing on more than one occasion.
Further into the room was a closet and a door leading off to a personal bathroom. Oda wondered if he should deposit Chuuya in the bathtub or just keep him near the toilet. He ended up propping Chuuya against the edge of the bathtub as he went to find a glass to fill with water.
Chuuya's kitchen was well-stocked, though the cooking ware looked like it hadn't been used lately. Oda found a pitcher of water in the refrigerator. There was also an expired carton of milk, which was something he expected from Dazai more than anyone. He filled the glass and made his way back to the bathroom, where Chuuya still hadn't stirred.
Setting the glass down, Oda turned on the faucet and waited until the water turned ice cold. He grimaced, thinking about what he wanted to do, but he wanted to make sure Chuuya was okay. He didn't like Chuuya being unconscious.
Scooping a bit of water into his hand, he raised his arm and then flicked the handful of water into Chuuya's face.
Chuuya twitched but didn't wake. Oda put his hand under the faucet and flung the water at Chuuya's face again.
This time, Chuuya jerked and gasped. He fell forward, folding over himself and rubbing at his face with his hands. Then his breath hitched, and he clasped a hand over his mouth.
"Hey!" Oda moved quickly, flinging up the toilet cover and seat and hoisting Chuuya up so that his head was over the toilet bowl. Chuuya made a noise of protest that turned into a harsh retch, and his hands stopped trying to push Oda off and instead gripped the bowl tight.
Convinced that Chuuya could hold himself up for now, Oda reached forward and pulled Chuuya's hair out of his face. He glanced around for something he could use to tie his hair but couldn't find anything.
Chuuya retched again, and Oda cringed as he heard vomit splash into the toilet. The only thing he could really do was hold Chuuya's hair back as the heaves wracked his body. He worried at how sick Chuuya seemed, and that he wouldn't stop throwing up, but eventually the heaves subsided and Chuuya was left trying to catch his breath, shivering as he clung to the toilet.
"Chuuya," Oda said after a moment, briefly moving to get the cup of water before returning to his position.
"Dazai?" Chuuya rasped.
"No. Oda. Sorry." Oda didn't know why he was apologizing, but something about the way Chuuya had said Dazai's name made him feel guilty that he wasn't Dazai in that moment.
Chuuya lifted his head and turned to Oda, eyes red-rimmed. He glanced at the glass of water and took it in shaking hands.
Oda moved away to lean against the wall as Chuuya rinsed out his mouth. After a minute, Chuuya slumped against the bathtub, tilting his head back and taking deep breaths. Eventually, he raised his head and raised the glass to his mouth, taking a sip of water.
When he was done, Oda heard him croak, "Thank you."
"No problem," Oda said.
"You shouldn't have to do this," Chuuya muttered. His lip curled in disgust, and Oda wondered what it was directed towards.
"I wasn't going to leave you on the street."
"At least someone wouldn't."
Oda frowned at the remark. "Who would?"
"Dazai." Chuuya sighed into his cup. "Or at least, that's what he did during our mission last week. I chewed into him this morning, because he didn't visit me and I couldn't get out of the infirmary fast enough."
"Infirmary," Oda repeated. "Chuuya-san, you shouldn't be drinking if you just got out of the infirmary."
"You know him don't you." Chuuya raised his head to look at Oda full in the face, eyes wide and almost desperate. "He went out tonight. He was with you. What did he say?"
"He didn't say anything," Oda said.
"Of course he didn't," Chuuya hissed, looking away. "It doesn't matter anymore." His grip on the glass tightened.
Oda swallowed. He felt like he was going into dangerous territory. "I'm sure it matters. Maybe there was a reason and he didn't tell you. Dazai isn't the best at expressing himself at times."
Chuuya's shoulders shook. "Does he even have feelings anymore?"
"Yes," Oda said. At least, the Dazai he knew still did.
"Sometimes it seems like...he doesn't care about anything anymore. Like he doesn't see me anymore. I used to worry about him but now...fuck, now I think I hate him."
"You don't mean that," Oda blurted out.
Chuuya narrowed his eyes, trying to look angry, but to Oda he only looked hurt.
"You can't tell me what I don't mean," he said. "I. Hate. Him." His voice cracked on the last word and he set the glass of water down a little too hard, some sloshing over the edge. Oda opened his mouth to respond, but Chuuya twisted back towards the toilet and retched, bringing up the water he'd managed to drink.
Oda took a deep breath. He had to try to see things from Chuuya's point of view. Chuuya may have been drunk, but that didn't mean the feelings weren't genuine. Maybe Chuuya did hate some part of Dazai that Oda hadn't encountered. Oda knew that the Dazai he knew in the bar and the Dazai who'd climbed the ranks to become an Executive were two very different personalities, though not necessarily different people. He wondered who Dazai had been as Chuuya's partner, and what exactly had changed.
Chuuya fell back against the bathtub, wiping his mouth with a shaking arm. He didn't attempt to pick up the glass of water again, and Oda didn't want to force him to try to drink just yet.
"Why do you hate Dazai?" he asked instead.
Chuuya tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling. He took a deep breath and let it out. "I know him," he said after a moment, "but he wants to act like I don't."
"How do you mean?"
"That fucker thinks I can't read him," Chuuya sneered, tipping his head forward, his voice just a bit too loud for the small space. "He thinks that just because he doesn't talk to me anymore, or doesn't stay with me anymore, and because I'm not as smart as he is...that I don't understand a thing about him."
"You grew up with him," Oda said.
"He hates it," Chuuya said, and then he laughed, pressing his hand to his mouth to stifle the sound. "He hates it. I see through his bullshit!"
Oda wondered just how much help he was being, but given that Chuuya had this many words to say about Dazai and had been drinking alone, he figured that at the very least he was providing an excuse for Chuuya to let it out.
"His Executive...ness...is important," Chuuya continued. "He thinks I don't know what he's doing. That idiot is scared. But fear has no place in the fucking Mafia. It can't decide things for me."
"You're not afraid?" Oda prompted.
Chuuya glanced down at his hands, resting in his lap. "Yeah, I am."
He didn't elaborate. They sat for some time in silence. Chuuya reached out for the glass of water and held it close to his chest.
"I don't need him," he muttered.
"You don't," Oda agreed. "That doesn't mean you won't get upset when he pushes you away."
"That's exactly it!" Chuuya jabbed a finger at Oda. "He pushes me away. Not you. I don't know why. You're..." Chuuya tried to focus on Oda and failed. "Nice," he decided.
"My job is rarely dangerous," Oda said. "I think out of all of us, I'm the least likely to get hurt."
"He's scared," Chuuya repeated. "But not for you."
"Not for me." Oda nodded.
"It's not fucking fair," Chuuya burst out, his hands curling into fists. "Everything is his choice, all the time. I don't get choices. Because he's scared, I have to deal with his shit. What about me, huh? Sometimes he fucking scares me, but I don't push him away."
The few objects on the sink rattled, and Oda had a strange feeling throughout his body. Just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, and Chuuya slumped forward, his hands uncurling.
"Different people deal with things in different ways," Oda pointed out.
"His way is shit," Chuuya muttered. "But he thinks he's right. That's why...I..." He swallowed and stared at the floor.
"Are you okay?" Oda asked softly.
Chuuya jerked his head up, as if he'd forgotten Oda was there. "Yeah, fine. Thanks." He groaned, rubbing his hand over his face. "Sorry. You can stay or...if you want...I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Uh huh." Chuuya looked more alert, even if his words still slurred and came to him slowly. He'd probably gotten a lot of the alcohol out of his system. He would be in for a rough morning.
"Okay." Oda climbed to his feet. As he stepped over Chuuya, he felt a tug on his jacket, and he turned to see Chuuya looking up at him.
"If he listens to you," Chuuya said, "take care of him, please."
Oda nodded. "I'll try."
Chuuya let go. "Thanks." He drew his knees up to his chest, cradling the glass of water in his hands.
The moon had started its descent towards the horizon when Oda emerged from the building. He walked home slowly, his mind a storm of swirling thoughts. His chest ached with the look in Chuuya's eyes as he asked Oda to take care of his partner.
Chuuya cared so much.
It was a sentiment Dazai had expressed many times when they saw each other. "Odasaku, Chuuya cares so much it makes me sick. It's so damn annoying."
All of Dazai's complaints about Chuuya caring were variations on the same theme, and always there was a problem. It was annoying, it was a liability, it was getting on Dazai's last nerve. One time Dazai had come perilously close to an actual truth by saying, "I can't care the way he does."
He couldn't care about Chuuya the same way Chuuya cared about Dazai.
That didn't mean Dazai didn't care at all.
When Oda pointed that out, Dazai had dismissed it and changed the subject to making fun of Ango's tomato juice. Dazai changed the subject often, and Oda went with it. Sometimes he wished he had pressed for more, but people were hard to sway. Sometimes the truth came from just letting them go on however they chose to go on.
He thought he might not fall asleep, but as soon as he crawled into his bed exhaustion took over. He was out once his head hit the pillow.
The phone rang.
Oda groaned, throwing the covers off the top of his head and picking up. "Hello?"
"Odasaku!" Dazai sounded far too cheery for the morning.
"It's too early," Oda groaned.
"Not you too," Dazai moaned. "Odasaku, it's after noon."
Oda blinked. "Is it?"
"Yes. God, I just spent the whole morning tracking down my annoying hatrack of a partner for Mori only to find out the idiot was hungover in his apartment the whole time!"
"Oh. Well that's the best place for him to be, isn't it?"
"I didn't think him to be one of those people who drank alone," Dazai said. "He insisted that he'd been out but with how hungover he'd been I don't think he could've made it home. And he couldn't tell me how he did so I think he just forgot he polished off a bottle or two of his own wine."
"Right," was all Oda said. "How is he?"
"Hungover," Dazai sounded slightly annoyed. "I just said. Anyway, he kicked me out of his apartment...actually I kicked myself out but he wanted me gone."
"Did he," Oda said. His head started to throb. Chuuya hadn't smelled like wine last night. But Dazai wouldn't know that, having been elsewhere. Maybe there was once a time he would've known. "Dazai, why are you calling me?"
"I wanted to get curry with you."
Dazai didn't want to be alone. Oda wondered just what words had been exchanged at Chuuya's apartment. He sat up, running a hand over his face. "I'll meet you in half an hour."
The whole time Oda dressed, he wondered if he should bring up Chuuya. From what Dazai said, Chuuya didn't remember Oda being in his apartment. They'd probably argued.
When Oda sat down with Dazai for curry, he asked about Dazai's morning, but Dazai avoided the subject. He talked about how spicy the curry was and how annoying Mori was for assigning him so much work and how much he hated training Akutagawa. He talked so much that Oda couldn't really get a word in edgewise.
He didn't talk about Chuuya.
Oda knew before the lunch was over that they were never going to. Not in any significant way. Dazai would bring up almost anything with Oda eventually, but not this. Chuuya held his own special category that Oda couldn't breach.
Maybe no one could, not even Chuuya himself.
Oda felt like an intruder. He knew too much, and he was the only one who did. Dazai wasn't aware, and Chuuya had forgotten. Knowing something like this felt a little bit like a betrayal when he talked to Dazai. So he kept paying more attention to their conversations, trying to understand.
And the months went on.
It happened one day while Oda and Dazai were out, for once working together rather than spending leisurely time at the bar. Oda thought that one day Dazai might talk about Chuuya in a way that told Oda how he felt about his partnership.
Instead, Dazai didn't need to mention his name at all.
He spoke almost to himself, a thought that he probably wouldn't have said aloud in front of anyone else. But it was Oda.
"It's a given that anything that is worth wanting will be lost the moment that I obtain it."
Suddenly Oda understood.
And he mourned Dazai and Chuuya's relationship, because it had already ended before it could begin.