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you can't run

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The idea that anyone from the Mafia could be jailed had long been considered a laughable one. Mafia crimes weren't pardoned by the government, but the government did turn a blind eye when the crimes were limited to other underground organizations. Furthermore, the Mafia now had a permit to operate as a legitimate business in Yokohama.

The idea that Dazai had been arrested for Mafia crimes was infuriating.

Not that Chuuya didn't like the idea of Dazai brought low, but not for this. Not for something that was supposed to not even exist. He'd been promised that Dazai's records were erased, so the idea that someone else knew about them pissed him off.

It was this anger that carried him to Sakaguchi Ango's apartment the day after the news broke.

Betrayal seemed to mock Chuuya, bringing with it the memory of words Dazai had said to him once: "you trust too easily." Maybe Chuuya did, but what else was he supposed to do? Not trust the people he worked with? Not trust the only people he could consider family? Not trust people to keep their word when the alternative was death?

Sakaguchi answered the door looking tired and unkempt, unusual for him. He’d always been a well-put-together man.

He'd been Dazai's friend.

"Come in," Sakaguchi sighed. He didn’t look at all surprised to see Chuuya there, which somehow felt worse than if he’d been shocked.

Chuuya walked in and stood in the middle of the living room. He didn't want to exchange pleasantries. As soon as the door was closed, he snapped, "what happened to our deal?"

"Something came up," Sakaguchi muttered.

Chuuya rushed forward, grabbing Sakaguchi by the shirt and shoving him against the nearest wall. "You said you erased those records, so how the hell did someone find them? You were his friend! How could you let this happen?"

"There are rats in the government," Sakaguchi said, his eyes steady on Chuuya's face. Chuuya hated to admit that he couldn’t find evidence of a lie there.

He let go of Sakaguchi’s shirt and Sakaguchi slumped against the wall. Of course this was another one of Dostoevsky's plans.

But still...

"If the records had been erased," he started.

"We've had a breach," Sakaguchi said. "I wasn't the only one handling Dazai's records, nor any Mafia records, for that matter. Furthermore, Dazai isn't the only target. The entire Agency is being held accountable for past crimes."

That made sense. It made so much sense that it hurt, because Chuuya wanted to be angry at something. He wanted--

"You look scared," Sakaguchi added, adjusting his glasses.

Chuuya stared at him. "What?"

"Is it because you're afraid that Dazai might go back to the dark place he was in right before he left, if reminded of his crimes?" Sakaguchi asked.

That tight feeling in his chest, the way he couldn't breathe properly and the way his thoughts scattered in every direction without finding a good target despite desperately searching--was that fear?

“You don’t have the right,” Chuuya growled, “to say those things.”

"He'll be fine," Sakaguchi continued despite Chuuya’s anger. "It might be good for him. You wanted to give him a way out, a chance at something new, but in order to truly redeem himself he must face his crimes."

"Not like this," Chuuya snarled.

"Sometimes the way we face our demons isn't convenient," Sakaguchi said. "I'm working towards his freedom, but I can't guarantee anything. There are other members of the Agency who are also being targeted due to their previous crimes. Is there anything else you needed?"

Chuuya shook his head and stormed out of the apartment. He had a call to make.

*

Prisons had calling hours, and Chuuya had to wait to call. Even then, there was no guarantee that Dazai would pick up.

But he did. He sounded chipper, though Chuuya knew it was artificial. "Which one of my many adoring well-wishers are you?"

"None of them," Chuuya said.

"Chuuya!" Dazai's voice got even louder, enough to make Chuuya wince. "I didn't know you cared!"

"Shut up,” Chuuya hissed. “What happened?"

"I'm assuming you already know if you knew to call here."

"Who arrested you?"

"I don't know. Why, are you planning on going after them?" Some of the lightness left Dazai's voice. "You could easily end up in here too, you know."

"They're going after everyone in the Agency," Chuuya said. "Did you know that?"

"No." There was a pause. "But why would you tell me?"

"Who else will, if they're all in jail?” Chuuya paused, then asked the question he’d wanted to ask since Dazai first turned up after disappearing for years. “Do they know?"

"Know what? What I've done?" Dazai sighed. "The President does. As for everyone else, they could only guess. But you must be happy. I'm finally paying for my crimes. My goody-two-shoes act is over."

Chuuya gripped the phone tighter. He wished he could see Dazai's face. "You never told me why you decided to do that, but I can guess. It was because of Sakunosuke, wasn't it?"

"I made him a promise," Dazai said. His words were clipped. "Why did you call, Chuuya?"

"I..." Why did he call? To hear Dazai's voice? To check in because that's what a partner did, even if they weren't partners anymore? "I wanted to know if you feel like you deserve this."

Dazai made a humming noise. “Because you think I do?”

Chuuya laughed out loud. “I’m not such a hypocrite that I’d say you deserve jail for Mafia crimes.”

"So you wanted to have a heart-to-heart,” Dazai concluded, “like we used to. Those days are over, Chuuya.”

“Who else is going to ask?” Chuuya said.

There was silence on the other end for a moment. “You know what...you have a point. You aren’t the only one who’s called, but you are the only one who could be in my place right now.”

Chuuya wondered who else had called, but he didn’t say anything, waiting for Dazai to speak instead.

“I haven't faced my past,” Dazai said, “if I’m being honest. I've just been running from it. I still don't know how to reconcile becoming a good man with who I was before. I'm not even sure I know what makes a good man. Do you know, Chuuya?”

"Yeah right," Chuuya said. "Maybe you can figure it out now that you can't run."

"That sounds like the sort of advice...never mind." Dazai paused. "Do you ever feel guilty?"

"What?"

"For your crimes," Dazai clarified. "If they were laid out, they'd be just as bad as mine, maybe worse. Who knows what you've gotten up to in the time I've been gone?"

Guilt. It was the sort of feeling that twisted Chuuya's stomach every time his men died and every time his subordinates got hurt when he could have done more. But for the crimes he had committed? He felt a strange detachment.

"No. But I'm not the one trying to be a good man, right?"

"Right. You know, I expected you to be happy about this. You were the one who said that my goody-two-shoes act made you sick."

It had, for two reasons. Chuuya hadn't wanted everything everyone had done for Dazai's sake to go to waste. And Chuuya, ironically for his profession, hated dishonesty.

"You were lucky," he said. "If anyone else had pulled the shit you did, they'd be dead. It didn't seem fair that it would go to waste."

"It didn't."

"What?"

"I have a hard time feeling guilty about the past," Dazai said, "or feeling anything about it. But it is harder, now, to be who I was." Then, quieter, “It didn’t go to waste.”

Chuuya felt something lodge in his throat. Maybe he really didn’t know Dazai anymore at all.

"Well, whatever you deserve, I hope someone gets you out soon," Chuuya muttered. "You're fucking useless from a cell."

"Chuuya isn't going to rescue me?" Dazai asked.

"Like you said, it could just as easily be me there as you," Chuuya said, "so I'd rather not risk it."

Dazai laughed, briefly, followed by a sharp intake of breath. "Like I said, you're one of the only people who can understand."

This time Chuuya laughed. "It looks like there are people at the Agency who understand, probably better than I can. Good luck, Dazai."

He hung up.

He felt uneasy. Sakaguchi had been right--this kind of thing could be good for what Dazai was trying to do, and prison seemed to have brought out an honesty in him that was lacking before. Probably because there was no escape.

That should have been a good thing.

But it threw into sharp relief Chuuya's own feelings, or lack of them towards his crimes. This was his life, and always had been. When he was younger he would hesitate to kill, but now even the most brutal attack left him feeling nothing. It didn't even register as part of the thrill of the fight, only as the end.

Even now, he wasn't sure what that meant. Did that make him worse than Dazai?

There was no use thinking about it. Chuuya would never be able to leave the Mafia. There was no life for him out there, no promise to motivate him.

Chuuya would never own up to and pay for his crimes. He couldn’t afford to.

It sank in, more so than when Dazai had first left: he and Dazai were well and truly on different sides now.