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“Chuuuuya, I need a boost.”

“Do it yourself.”

“But Chuuya’s so strong~”

“Do it yourself, shitty Dazai!”

At sixteen, Dazai is taller than Chuuya but built like a marionette, all fragile joints and long limbs. In contrast, Chuuya is built like a ram — as Dazai would say ‘powerful, but low to the ground’ — solid, strong and agile. There is certainly no reason as to why Dazai cannot lift himself through the window, especially considering his ability. And the only reason he slouches against the wall and looks pitifully at Chuuya is because he knows Chuuya will have to fold eventually.

“Chuuuyaaaa if you don’t help me we’ll fail the mission! And then we’ll both be humiliated in front of the boss and it will be terrible!”

Not that Dazai cares too much, Chuuya has to imagine. He’s seen the conversations between Dazai and the boss after a botched mission. They’re both as jovial forever before Mori inevitably dismisses Chuuya and keeps Dazai behind to pick his brain for whatever went wrong. Whatever happens behind the office doors Chuuya can only imagine as insanely boring or annoying or both. Whenever the boss and Dazai get going it’s some kind of weird cheerful banter that sounds meaningless to him but those two seem to understand each other.

“Shut the fuck up.” Chuuya mutters but moves to stand under the window and link his hands together as a foothold. “Just get it over with.”

“On three~” Dazai says, setting his foot into Chuuya’s hands and grasping the windowsill. On ‘two’ instead of waiting for ‘three’ Chuuya hefts, throwing his partner over the window frame and into the office building.There’s a satisfying crash as Dazai hits the floor and a whiny “Chuuuyaaaaa.”

“Meet you out front when you’re done, shitty Dazai.” Chuuya calls, dusts off his hands and starts the walk around the building. It’s an easy job, the kind of thing that he isn’t sure why they got called to do it. Chuuya could have done it alone, since it was just an easy in and out assassination. Chuuya doesn’t have an offensive ability like Dazai’s — though by most people’s estimation, Chuuya’s ability to nullify other abilities was one of the best and strongest to have — but he’s just as good with a knife or a gun and far better at hand-to-hand than Dazai.

But Dazai can make deaths look accidental. He can walk straight up to someone, shake their hand, and with the kind of precision that no one should have he can gather gravity in that person’s veins, pull together blood in a way that Chuuya doesn’t quite understand but it’s been explained to him before that Dazai can use gravity to make deadly blood clots bloat up in people’s blood streams and then let them float around. And with the kind of devilish accuracy that makes Dazai truly someone to fear he can time the death for whenever he wants. Or Dazai can sneak in and absolutely ruin someone beyond recognition. Chuuya has rarely seen Dazai really fight with his ability, though he’s certain that Dazai could throw buildings with his ability. Instead it’s all sneaky assassinations or freakish murders where the body has been contorted into a bloody pulp but the surrounding area is clean of any disturbance.

Regardless, the boss had asked them to do this job. Specifically asked them and who was Chuuya to disagree with the boss? The Port Mafia was his home, now, and even though it had only been the year prior it felt like the time with the Sheep was so distant. Dazai will go from the lower storage area up into the belly of the building, work his Dazai magic — which was, despite being one of the most awkward people Chuuya knows, Dazai has a way of saying the exact right thing to people, predicting their reactions or lives and integrating in the same way a clown would, but gaining their trust anyway — and then go up and kill the target. Chuuya was just there to be the getaway driver and, well, in case something went wrong.

Things didn’t go wrong very often, but when they did, it was catastrophic. The boss had made it very clear to Chuuya — Dazai is important, was not to be lost. It had become a real thorn in Chuuya’s side as Dazai’s ‘suicidal tendencies’ were more like obsessions. Chuuya had pulled him out of burning cars (reasons why Dazai wasn’t his own getaway driver), lakes, ice ponds, out of traffic, dragged him off of the sidewalk after he’d jumped out of a window. In a way, Chuuya’s role has become that of a caretaker and bodyguard along with being partner. The boss had even given them special comms, Chuuya’s a small earbud and microphone he could pin to the inside of his jacket collar, and Dazai’s a speaker hidden in an earring, the mic in a thin black choker he wore. Chuuya remembers the choker well as it covers a garrish scar from when Dazai tried to slit his own throat. Dazai covers the scar with the collar and the collar with bandages, which Chuuya feels is excess especially since the choker looks far nicer than the bandages, but he doesn’t question it. Dazai offers to get Chuuya one, in that snide way he, saying if Chuuya wants a dog’s collar he’s welcome to it (and Chuuya only accepts the choker from Mori, pleased that the boss noticed him and made the gift).

Despite his ability Dazai chose not to be physical, chose instead to lean on Chuuya for things and Chuuya was never sure if he should be flattered or annoyed. Too often it seems as though Dazai is simply doing it because he can, a kind of entitled carryover from being the boss’s favorite. Outside of Dazai’s own machinations of failure there were the rare slip ups. The times when Dazai’s voice would cheerfully ring out on their communications “Oh, Chuuya~ I’m in trouble.”

Chuuya tells himself if the boss didn’t demand of him, he wouldn’t do it, that he’d leave Dazai to die. (But he knows he won’t). He leans against the motorcycle, tapping his comm, listening for the telltale signs of a mission gone wrong, or one gone right — while breaking in was supposed to be subtle the directive had said nothing about letting the body be discovered immediately or not. It’s only been fifteen minutes before Dazai appears in front of Chuuya. He looks winded and blank, hands shoved deep into his pockets and slouching as he walks over.

“Done.” Dazai says, voice light and cheerful even if his expression looks dead.

“Don’t look so thrilled.” Chuuya mutters. He’s annoyed since this wasn’t even a mission that needed him.

Dazai smiles at him, both so brilliant and flat simultaneously that it’s akin to rotten fruit, sickening sweet but well decayed, “Even murder gets boring, doesn’t it. . .?”

“There’s your problem, fucking thinking of it as ‘interesting’ or ‘boring’.”

“Hey, Chuuya, why are we alive?”

Chuuya doesn’t have an answer to that, so he just grumbles, “Get on.” And starts the bike up.

Their plans didn’t go wrong very often but when they went wrong, they went very very wrong. Chuuya had always guessed that Dazai’s ability ‘No Longer Human’ while being wildly powerful must have had some drawbacks, he had never really wondered why it was called No Longer Human.

Today is not the day he wanted to know, but it turns out his opinions have very little (and have always had very little) impact on what Dazai does.

The first thing that happens is the air changes — like the sharp scent before a storm and the putrid scent of sulfur or dead bodies mix together. The second, the concrete beneath their feet shatters — it doesn’t crack first, but a crater forms immediately and Chuuya almost loses his footing.

“Oi — Dazai!” He spins to look at his partner and what he sees is haunting. While it’s been a rumor in the Port Mafia for a while that the ‘demon prodigy’ was truly possessed by some otherworldly force, Chuuya had never quite seen it, Dazai was too moody to be inhuman or as frigid as people thought. But he could believe it, in this moment. Dazai’s eyes were clouded over like a corpse’s and his mouth was slightly parted but no sound came from him. Chuuya isn’t even sure that Dazai is breathing. “Dazai!”

Dazai moves as though he doesn’t hear Chuuya — as if he isn’t even aware of his presence. The world crumbles around them, a dull awful sound building. Chuuya realizes, it’s Dazai’s ability. Some cold and broken version of his ability that’s grabbing onto everything around them and twisting it, or vibrating apart the particles, destroying everything around them. Like a god of nothingness, an empty aching chasm that tore everything apart into further nothingness.

It’s only a few seconds later that Chuuya realizes, too, Dazai is also something that’s breaking apart. Black and blue lines mar what visible skin he has, as if someone has injected tar into his blood or asphyxiated him or both. His body hangs like a puppet in the air, lifeless as he destroys everything around him. The ever-present bandages wrapped around Dazai’s body start to disintegrate and then his skin seems to flake off, and Chuuya just knows after that comes blood and then flesh and bone. If he doesn’t do anything he’ll watch Dazai’s own ability erode his body to nothing.

Chuuya rips the glove from his right hand, runs across the broken ground, avoiding the debris and exposed pipes and plumbing revealed by Dazai’s ability. His pant leg catches on an rebar steel rod and he feels the telltale burn of a gash but he can’t let that slow him down. Chuuya can see an exposed bone on Dazai’s left hand, so he makes himself move faster, stumbling the last few steps before he can reach up and cup Dazai’s cheek.

Dazai’s body falls like a marionette with its strings cut and Chuuya catches him. He’s breathing, barely, but unlike the unnatural stillness before each rasping wheeze shakes his whole frame. It’s one of the first times Chuuya has felt fear in a very long time, wondering if the shuddering body in his arms is going to live or not.

He stops lying to himself, on this day. In the same breath he makes a vow to himself, even if it kills him he’ll keep Dazai alive.

Dazai is bed-bound for a week after the incident that Mori calls ‘Disqualified’, cheerfully explains it all as the true form of Dazai’s ability. He had always known Dazai was special, after all. And once Dazai is released, with the doctor’s orders to be careful, his body and bones are still fragile, they begin training.

How many times can Dazai activate Disqualified in an hour? How long can he maintain it? How fast can Chuuya deactivate it? Dazai who had never really cared to be better than ‘good enough’ at physical fighting, forced himself through whatever workout schedule Chuuya kept. It would have been funny except that Chuuya sees Dazai on crutches more than he saw him without them. But by the end of the year they were a well-oiled machine.

“This is what you always wanted, wasn’t it?” Dazai asks, his words have a barely detectable slur. He had ‘fallen’ the other day somehow and under the gauze on his chin and neck was a row of stitches, and he must have bitten his tongue as well as busted open his jaw. “Is this the partnership you always wanted us to have? Real equals, right?” His eyes are huge and dark and the expression would be innocent if it wasn’t so empty.

“Who’d want to be partners with you.” Chuuya answers. “Don’t put us on the same level.”

Chuuya wants to go overseas. The long arms of the Port Mafia extended across the oceans and they had quelled much of Yokohama and Japan’s dissent against them. He would admit to himself, but not to anyone else, that he was also tired of feeling tethered down. He was tired of seeing only the small segment of the world.

“There’s wine in France and also California.” Chuuya argues with Dazai, he raises his left hand, making a grasping gesture that is all at once annoyed and uncoordinated. He’s about half a bottle in and Dazai is far more than half a bottle into his whiskey and they both ache from the mission earlier, but not enough to need to go to the infirmary. The Port Mafia owned bar is small and dirty, there’s no one there even, Chuuya’s not sure it has a name. It’s more of a hole in the wall with a bar top and cheap alcohol, but it’s almost like the bar exists outside of time.

“Is that all you know of the world. . .” Dazai laughs, and Chuuya thinks it might not be so mocking. Not with how Dazai tosses his head back and how the smile is fairly small and his one visible eye is actually focused on Chuuya instead of looking somewhere far off.

“Oi! Bastard, it’s not my fault and have you traveled?”

“Ehhh! I’m not the one who wants to travel just for wine!”

“Also. . . also, you’ve heard the boss. . .! There’s people there. People there we could crush.”

“This is exactly why Chuuya can’t be sent there. . . you’ll break all the wrong heads.”

“If they’re heads that needa get busted I’ll do it,” Usually, Chuuya manages his words carefully. Language is a funny thing, as he always knew it but he doesn’t remember learning it. But when he’s tired or drunk he doesn’t focus on making his mouth move like it should, lets some of his earliest experiences in language, on the streets and with the Sheep, take over.

“Chuuya’s too drunk~”

“Not like you’re not!”

“Ehhhh! Anyway if you go overseas what will you do without me?” Dazai tilts his glass of whiskey, the large round ice cube hitting the side repeatedly as he shakes it.

“Idiot, it’s fuckin’ you who’ll get fucked if I go.”

Dazai puts his head down on the bartop, looks at Chuuya over his elbow. “Yeah, but won’t it be a wild ride? Maybe my last grand moment will be thinking of you, isn’t that romantic?”

“Fuck no!” Chuuya is so loud that Dazai looks startled. He sits up abruptly in what might be fight or flight, but quickly dissolves into Dazai laughing. He slumps on the barstool laughing, knocking over what is left of his whiskey.

“Is that a confession!”

“Don’t make words outta my words!”

“Oh nooo, Chuuya’s too far gone I can’t understand him at all!”

“Fight me, bastard!”

In one year: Chuuya receives a file about his origins, is sent on an overseas mission by the boss and learns how to stop obsessing over if Dazai will die from using Disqualified while he’s not in Japan.

In the same year, Dazai sends Chuuya a photo and a card from a different bar than their normal haunt — well lit, with two people Chuuya doesn’t know in the background and more importantly, a smile on his face. How’s the wine in California?

The next year, Dazai defects from the Port Mafia and Chuuya receives the knowledge via telegram along with the orders to stay where he was.

Four years of separation and one year of working together had done nothing to erase or ease betrayal. Even with the skies of Yokohama clear (for now) and the streets safe (for now) and the ADA and Port Mafia returning to their old lives there’s a tension that keeps Chuuya’s back ramrod straight.

“Fancy seeing you here.” Dazai sing-songs, sliding into a seat next to Chuuya at the bar. It’s a new establishment, part of it overlooks the city and part of it overlooks the sea. They carry a very specific selection, wines, ciders, beers and two brands of whiskey.

“Do you want something?” Chuuya snaps back. He knows, in some ways, it isn’t Dazai’s fault. It isn’t Dazai’s fault that they were partners — and, according to Chuuya’s file “Ability User A5158” had a long and storied past with the Tsushima family. Dazai’s family before they crumbled and scattered. Even Sakaguchi Ango’s reports had very little on them after their purported ‘fall’.

But it is Dazai’s fault that he left and said nothing of it to Chuuya and still hadn’t apologized. Chuuya stews on that as Dazai makes smalltalk with the bartender, flirts audaciously but so shamelessly that it’s an icebreaker. It’s always been one of Dazai’s talents, to stand out so outrageously but manage to just barely ingratiate himself to people before they found him intolerable. Useful for casual interactions but tiresome when all Chuuya had wanted, years ago, was to be a true partner to him.

“I thought I’d apologize.” Dazai finally says, a glass of whiskey cradled in his hands. Chuuya notices there’s no edges of bandages peeking out from his shirt cuffs. He’s still wearing the beige coat, the ridiculous bolo tie, he looks almost the same as he did when they had met again.

But, somehow, Dazai looked brighter.

It must be the alcohol, Chuuya figures, especially because he couldn’t have heard Dazai correctly.

“Hah? Even if that’s what you really just said, do you think that makes up for it?”

Dazai laughs sheepishly. “No, not really.”

They drink in silence, for a while. Chuuya stares into the bottom of his wine glass when it’s empty, feeling somewhat betrayed by the few droplets of red left gathering in the imperfections of the glass.

Dazai swings his legs, which are too long, he has to keep his knees bent so they don’t drag on the floor.

“Let’s do this again sometime.” Dazai says, suddenly, looks at Chuuya properly with a big smile. “Drinking Chuuya under the table is always fun for me!” But there’s a weariness to the corners of his eyes and a little flatness to his smile that tells Chuuya he’s nervous.

It’s really unfair that even after those years, Dazai’s expressions are too easy for Chuuya to read. He’s still far too attuned to Dazai’s moods. He should really reject him, and the small petty part of Chuuya’s mind thinks he should reject Dazai entirely — tell him not to bother him unless it’s for business.

“I’d really like it.” Dazai continues, voice rushing along a little. He looks almost bashful, gaze turning up to the ceiling. “It’s foolish to say since Chuuya is such unpleasant company, but that seems fitting for me, doesn’t it?”

“Don’t invite yourself along to my bar time just to be self-deprecating.” Chuuya says instead of agreeing or disagreeing. “I’m busy! I don’t have time to babysit you anymore. I’ll be here tomorrow too, there’s some things on the dock to look after and it would be a waste not to have a glass of wine after a long day at work.”

Both of Dazai’s feet hit the floor at the same time. And then he starts laughing, “Chuuya really is a kind person after all.” He murmurs.

“Oi! Don’t take that the wrong way!”

“There’s only one way to take that~”

“Don’t make this weirder than it already is.”

“I missed you too!”

“Who said that!?”

In the following year, neither of them settle into a rhythm together and Dazai has only apologized once and Chuuya still hasn’t forgiven him, but there’s so many years to go after that.