As with all extraordinary things, it actually starts off pretty normally. Bumping into Akutagawa in the local super while he’s all buttoned up in that black trenchcoat and wearing sunglasses indoors, at seven in the morning—yes, that’s normal. Such is the life of Nakajima Atsushi, twenty-two, four years after something like peace has settled over Yokohama.
(Of course, there’s always the odd detective case that pops up—random bloodstains appearing on darkened alleyways, along with some scary-sounding moans and some mini-earthquakes—but after the one time that Atsushi’s been sent to investigate it and he Has Seen Too Much and oh god he can never look at Chuuya-san in the eye ever again… well. The Armed Detective Agency has learned to leave such cases to the local police, who actually has a good health insurance. Atsushi’s never going to trust alleyways ever again.)
…But going back to Akutagawa’s ‘normal citizen’ getup which is so very far from normal…
No, you know what, Atsushi’s still stuck on the part where Akutagawa’s wearing sunglasses indoors. Yes, it’s super cool—something that he’d admit under the pain of getting a leg hacked off—but it’s also quite insane.
Which, Atsushi’s been starting to realize, something that’s so Akutagawa that it makes his teeth ache.
“Why do you require five minutes to decide on a…” Akutagawa doesn’t exactly wrinkle his nose, but it’s a very near thing. Atsushi’s tiger inside purrs and he hopes against hope that he’s able to clamp down on that, fast. Akutagawa continues, with the air of someone who’s considering swallowing down mouthwash to get rid of the foul taste of the next word, “cup noodle?”
Akutagawa makes it sound like it’s a sexually-transmitted disease: gross and something that he’d never touch within a fifteen-foot pole, because he’s a prickly man who can stab any sexual advances away using Rashomon.
(Oh god, Akutagawa. And sex. Atsushi wants to cry at his brain cells, but they’re also the ones giving him these sorts of mental images about Akutagawa growling at any admirers and acting like a hedgehog who’d cough and radiate spines and—abort, abort.)
“Not everyone can afford luxury cup noodles,” Atsushi says, longingly transferring his gaze to the cup noodle display in the middle of the aisle. Premium ootoro-flavor. There’s even one that boasts of Grade-A Wagyu flavors. And then there’s one with genmaicha chazuke flavor! But they cost fifty times more than Atsushi’s usual. It’s such a sad world.
“…Luxury cup noodles?” Akutagawa makes it sound like Atsushi just told him that he’d like to see him wear a sundress while picking flowers down at the Sankeien Garden. “You are a pathetic fool, jinko.”
“At least I’m not a criminal,” Atsushi mutters, carefully clamping down on the singsong from his brain, something about criminally attractive mafiosos. The singsong sounds oddly like a rendition of Dazai-san’s voice, which—urgh, Atsushi is reminded of The Alleyway Incident again and turns faintly green.
And he must have looked really sick, because Akutagawa doesn’t actually stab him for that comment.
Instead, he gets nearly brained by a leather wallet that smells really, really nice, expensive and more importantly: filled to bursting with bills.
Atsushi’s brain literally hurts, so he can only gape wordlessly when Akutagawa then takes it as a cue to dramatically harrumph, before even-more-dramatically doing an about-face and marching out of the supermarket. And of course, a grand exit isn’t complete without a one-liner: “Do not appear in front of my sight looking so pathetic again.”
And so, that’s how Atsushi ends up getting his first leather wallet.
As with all places of employment, one usually doesn’t get to realize how really crazy it is, until it’s already four years down the road, he’s already seen (nearly) everyone’s houses and has already committed himself to working there for life.
Atsushi sometimes really, really wishes that he has better coworkers.
Lunch time happens in the restaurant downstairs and Atsushi’s klutziness means that instead of taking out his meager coin purse to pool his money for the Lunch Special for Five, he ends up smacking his chin with the leather wallet from earlier today.
It just so happens that the wallet ends up landing in such a way that it opens up, the left-hand flap filled with at least twenty ten-thousand yen bills. The right-hand flap is reserved for cards, and a sleeve for a photo.
The photo is of Atsushi himself.
And of course, because he works with detectives—and more importantly, a bunch of gossipmongers, they all don’t see anything wrong with crowding around the wallet like it’s an exhibit. And making wild assumptions.
So, Atsushi strives to ensure that everyone gets the correct idea right off the bat.
“This was Akutagawa’s way of killing me!”
After all, there’s a photo of Atsushi in the wallet. And there’s a huge red X drawn on his person. Nothing says stabbing target more than that.
“Atsushi-kun has a sugar daddy,” Dazai-san mumbles, teetering between betrayal and crazy. He mutters a few more things about it being so unfair that Chuuya-san guards his wallet very well and has promised to withhold sex if he ever touches it. Atsushi hates his tiger-senses because he hears and understands every word of it. “I can’t believe that Akutagawa-kun just chucked his Port Mafia salary to your face!”
“Quite literally,” Atsushi insists, rubbing at the still-reddened space on his forehead, where Akutagawa’s wallet has practically imprinted itself. “I still think he was trying to kill me.”
A sigh. “The pinnacle of romance.”
“Dazai-san!” Atsushi’s mind is too pure to understand the way Dazai-san and Chuuya-san interact, and he’s not exactly raring to go to start now. “He was trying to kill me.”
“This means that you would be the one in-charge of today’s meal, right?” Kenji asks with a sparkle in his eyes and Atsushi’s too weak to say no. Especially since everyone is ordering the most expensive things already anyway.
“Good job,” Kyouka-chan tells him with a pat to his hand. “The Port Mafia pays really well, so make sure that you make the best out of this.”
“Kyouka-chan, that doesn’t make me happy at all!”
And then it starts snowballing from there.
“Why am I moving out?” Atsushi blinks rapidly as Kyouka-chan makes quick work of dealing with the movers who are packing off Atsushi’s things like he isn’t even in the room. “Kyouka-chan, I promise to be very quiet, please don’t kick me out!”
“Akutagawa already dealt with everything,” Kyouka-chan says. Then her face goes through a series of funny expressions, before it clears. “Rather, it’s Chuuya-san who made the arrangements and Akutagawa paid for everything.”
“It’s for your own good.”
“I would like some premium crepes from now on,” Kyouka-chan continues, pulling up a couple of four- and five-star restaurants on her phone. “We can start from here.”
And it keeps on getting worse…
Chuuya-san arrives to help with him setting up things in his swanky new three-bedroom apartment. There’s Dazai-san too, but he’s pouting—either from the iron pinch on his ear, or from the fact that his right hand is resting quite comfortably on Chuuya-san’s clothed backside—and Atsushi’s already known him for four years, he already knows he’s not going to be of much help.
“This is a good location,” Chuuya-san tells him, like there’s even a chance of him declining this apartment. There are automatic lights in the closet—that’s reserved for clothes. There’s even a closet for shoes. He doesn’t have to actually sleep inside a closet! There’s a humongous bathtub that feels like it’s big enough to hold Atsushi if he transforms fully to a tiger. There’s a restaurant that serves chazuke next door to this apartment building. It’s heaven! “Close enough to both the Agency and the Headquarters.”
At this point, Atsushi doesn’t care if it’s close to the bottom of the ocean, he’s already in love with this apartment.
“Gin-chan’s already done with setting up her brother’s room, I think,” Chuuya-san continues.
Atsushi’s brain goes offline for a few moments.
…Try a few hours.
Thing is, nothing much really changes.
Atsushi still goes to work, still eats crepes with Kyouka-chan, still reads off the labels behind each purchase he makes, still obsessively collects discount coupons like it’s going out of style.
Given how big and spacious the apartment is, it’s actually a wonder that he even ends up seeing his housemate.
And see his housemate he does.
He sees Akutagawa’s face early in the morning. He discovers that Akutagawa’s face is really just stuck in that Resting Bitch Face, because he’s seen him seconds after waking up and he already looks like he’s about to commit bloody murder using his bare hands. (Of course, that could probably because he’s woken up by Atsushi loudly singing in the shower, and he’s actually verbally expressed his desire to shove the showerhead down Atsushi’s throat, but details.)
He gets sent on wild goose chases in the name of buying groceries that match Akutagawa’s picky palate’s discerning tastes. Of course, Atsushi’s not that happy with becoming a glorified errand boy, but then he thinks about getting to have all of this for free (his only payment is having to hone his senses enough that he can dodge Rashomon even going on only two hours of sleep, and even that feels like a boon to him, because he’s only getting stronger).
So he agrees to doing all of the chores in their house.
“That’s how they get you,” Dazai-san says sagely as he takes a sip from a teacup with very elaborate designs. “At first, they’ll ply you with comforts, and then the next thing you know, they’re expecting you to not burn down their tacky clothes from their dressers.”
“And then, the next thing, they’ll actually expect you to remember when to buy milk? Why would I need milk? I’m already tall enough! Also, if I have to drink milk, it’s gotta be directly from Chuu—”
Dazai-san is silenced by a punch to the face.
“Atsushi,” comes the voice of sanity from where he’s disappeared off to for a few moments. Chuuya-san’s wearing a tank top and shorts and his hair’s tied up in a high ponytail—ostensibly because it’s a weekend and he’s doing household chores, but there’s that mafia-cruel glint in his eyes and there’s the smattering of hickeys on his neck and collarbones and everywhere else and Atsushi hates his mentor and his mentor’s boyfriend (and his housemate-boyfriend-whatever-is-Akutagawa-to-him’s mentor) so very much. But then, Atsushi watches Chuuya-san carelessly punch Dazai-san again, not even bothering to acknowledge the stream of nonsensical words spilling out of Dazai-san’s mouth—and you know what? Chuuya-san is really his savior. “You wanted to borrow cookbooks, right? Here you go.”
It’s only because Gin-san’s sent him a rather threatening message (it was a blank message, but he could feel the threatening aura very well) the other day. Higuchi-san’s also not-so-subtly complained to him about Akutagawa apparently eating actual-lunch (as opposed to his usual lunch of eating anger and angst) only when it’s cooked by Atsushi. It started out as a fluke that one time when Atsushi ended up overestimating the amount of food that he cooked, but it apparently is now his New Job.
(It is unfair, really, because he knows that Akutagawa is a better cook. But admitting that means admitting that he’s actually woken up a couple of times at three in the morning because of his stomach growling from smelling Akutagawa’s cooking. Why Akutagawa is cooking stirfry at three in the morning, he’d never know, but he supposes it’s because he wants to keep his image as a brooding creature of darkness who’s too angsty for regular cooking hours. Or something close to that. He’s not sure. He’s Akutagawa’s housemate, not a psychic, after all.)
And the only person he knows who can (a) cook and (b) have a relatively safe apartment is Chuuya-san, so he comes here.
And apparently intrudes on tea-time and he’s never going to believe Dazai-san when he says that he’s too lazy for chores ever again. When Atsushi walked in, Dazai-san has just finished doing the laundry after all. The idea of seeing sweat on Dazai-san’s face seemed like a dream before, but now, given that Chuuya-san is busy alternating punching Dazai-san into silence and feeding him scone while rubbing his forehead—urgh, they’re almost too sweet.
(Atsushi carefully instructs his brain cells to not conjure up images where the people on the couch are him and Akutagawa instead. His brain cells fail him, but at this point, he’s kind of expecting their betrayal already.)
As far as relationships go, theirs is probably not the most unusual, if only because Atsushi personally knows some really unusual people. It’s kind of refreshing, in a way that summer rains feel on his skin during a humid day.
Or that one time that he tried to wheedle Akutagawa to helping him do the dishes—it ended up with him getting sprayed with tap water as an unrepentant Akutagawa got back at him for his attempt to flick bubbles at him. Akutagawa apparently considers bubbles to be an Enemy and has thus mercilessly drenched Atsushi in return.
(“Ooh, he’s learning.” Dazai-san had said, whistling in admiration. “You were probably wearing your usual white shirt, Atsushi-kun, no?”
“Not everyone is a pervert like you, shitty Dazai,” is what Chuuya-san had said in response to Dazai-san’s leer.
Atsushi had been wearing a white shirt back then, and had resolved to always wear something thin and flimsy during such times.)
Because the world works like this, Akutagawa’s criminal activities are apparently scheduled in a nifty eight-to-five schedule, weekends off. Not that Port Mafia is doing a lot of crime right now (criminally attractive, his brain whispers again), given that everything is pretty peaceful, but still. Atsushi’s been informed on the sly that Akutagawa actually requested this schedule, ostensibly to match Atsushi’s. Upon learning such terrible, terrible information, Atsushi rewards Akutagawa by buying fig ice cream and looking the other way when Akutagawa surreptitiously hugs the ice cream tin close to him and finishes it off in one sitting.
That is not to say they don’t have problems. Or shouting matches.
But recently, their fights are less about your moral philosophies turn my stomach and more about why must you keep on insisting to feed me these deplorable vegetables, my insides are feeling wretched, jinko.
(Chuuya-san’s advice is…
“If he knows what’s good for him, he’d do as you wished.”
“He’s just so stubborn,” Atsushi complains and avoids thinking that this is surely like a meeting of persnickety housewives. Chuuya-san’s even wearing a frilly apron that’s apparently a gag gift—Atsushi did feel like gagging upon seeing it, because it was so obviously from Dazai-san and ow, his brain. “He should know that I’m just worried for his health, right? He can’t be so stupid to not know, right? Right?”
“If he wants to continue being welcome to your bed, he’d do as you wished.”
Chuuya-san looks at him from head-to-toe, before shaking his head. “You have to be firm on these things, Atsushi.”
And then the critical look turns to pity.
“Oh, you poor bastard.” And because it takes a certain type of person to willingly get together with someone like Dazai-san, Chuuya-san’s pitying look turns into mischievous laughter. “Now, come here, let’s think up plans on how to seduce Akutagawa to your bed.”
Nothing gets accomplished that day, because Dazai-san’s been lurking in the background and had vehemently protested about Chuuya thinking of seduction in relation to another man, even if it’s a hopeless subordinate.)
So Atsushi tries again.
He chops up the vegetables to nearly-unrecognizable pieces, mixes them in fried rice or buries them in pork stew.
Akutagawa looks at him like he’d love to stab him in so many places, but he still eats his food anyway, so Atsushi counts that as a win.
At some point, Akutagawa shuffles in to the laundry room and throws a familiar jacket towards Atsushi. Akutagawa’s face looks carefully blank, as he watches Atsushi put two and two together. Atsushi’s holding Rashomon. He’s actually holding Rashomon and Akutagawa is giving it to him willingly and Akutagawa’s left in his pajamas and—
“I promise to take care of it with my life.”
Akutagawa’s face grows ruddy with color, before he coughs and averts his gaze. There’s something like a tiny smile on his face and it’s even worse than his bloodthirsty grins, because oh, this smile is surely illegal, surely a destructive weapon, because Atsushi feels flayed open and murdered, right in the middle of their laundry room. Akutagawa’s taken the long route, waiting for two years of cohabitation before making a serious attempt to his life, apparently.
“Do not be overly dramatic, jinko.” Akutagawa coughs again. “Just make sure you clean it well.”
(Atsushi spends the entire laundry hour sobbing on loudspeaker with Poe-san. He’d usually come to Chuuya-san about this kind of development, but weekend afternoons are well-known to be soukoku dating hours and Dazai-san tends to be vindictive whenever he gets interrupted. Higuchi-san would burst his eardrums and it’s still hard to maintain one-sided phone conversations with Gin-san, so… Poe-san it is. Thankfully, Poe-san appreciates these kinds of calls. Poe-san doesn’t tell him about the romance novel he’s publishing on the side about an “Atsupii” and “Acutegawa” and ignorance is bliss, truly.)
And then there’s one time when Akutagawa actually volunteers to clean Atsushi’s ears.
Of course, it’s said with so much bite that Atsushi feels like there should be imprints of teeth on his skin, but.
“You are delusional and simply hearing things, jinko.” A beat. “I should make sure that there are no worms growing inside your ears.”
Atsushi doesn’t protest, because he knows that it’s from a magazine interview published three days ago about an old couple who detailed things about their household life. Kyouka-chan apparently subscribes to that magazine, and apparently someone from the Port Mafia is too (he has a sneaking suspicion it’s Chuuya-san, but he doesn’t want to ask) and has shown it to Akutagawa.
So Atsushi shuffles close so he can rest his head on Akutagawa’s lap.
Of course, it ends up with his ears ringing and eardrums nearly punctured because of course, he should have known that Akutagawa would think of using this scenario as payback for Atsushi ending up mixing Akutagawa’s white shirts with Atsushi’s bright purple socks gifted by Kyouka-chan.
It’s three years since he’s been (willingly) abducted to live in the same apartment as Akutagawa and Atsushi think it’s time to take their relationship to the next level, maybe?
“I have a bet with Dazai-san,” Atsushi says, because he’s not above using his mentor as bait. “It’s about you.”
Akutagawa raises an eyebrow. Atsushi doesn’t actually see the eyebrow itself, but it must have been there. Somewhere.
“I bet that you wake up snarling in the mornings.” Atsushi very carefully fixes his expression to not give himself away. “While Dazai-san bet that you wake up in the morning smiling like sunshine, so. Uh. Let’s sleep in the same bed so we’d know who’s correct?”
Akutagawa coughs. “You are a foolish idiot. A fool. Jinko, did you truly think that I would fall for such an elementary trick?”
Atsushi blinks at the blush that occupies Akutagawa’s face.
“…So, that’s a yes?”
“I will skewer you and then hang your dead body on our bedroom’s ceiling fan if you snore, Atsushi.” Akutagawa declares imperiously, before nearly hitting the wall on his haste to flee the room.
Atsushi can only gape, before: “Oh my god, he said our bedroom, oh my god, all along, he actually knew my actual name, oh my god.”
Atsushi’s lunch time becomes like this:
- Having lunch out with Kyouka-chan
- Spamming Akutagawa’s LINE account with various kaomoji and GIFs of cute cats and rabbits
- Akutagawa replying with a, Cease your childish attacks on my account, followed by a picture of him (taken by Higuchi-san or Gin-san or Chuuya-san, whoever’s near him during the time) grumpily eating his lovingly-made bento (Atsushi always ensures it looks super embarrassing, filled with flower-designs made of different vegetables)
- Atsushi getting chastised by Kyouka-chan for drooling over his phone
Atsushi gets his comeuppance at dinner, with Akutagawa always kicking him harshly in the shins in retaliation for the cutesy bento. But they still end up settling down on the same couch, watching television together, and they still end up in the same bed, even if Akutagawa always threatens to strangle him with blankets for the smallest of things, like hoarding said blankets, or having too-warm feet, or giving him a hickey somewhere too-high for his cravat to cover.
It’s a fairly sweet trade-off, all things considered.
As with all extraordinary things, it actually starts off pretty normally.
The two of them make their way to the supermarket one early Sunday morning, Atsushi loudly musing about all the vegetables he’s going to force-feed Akutagawa.
And then Akutagawa slips his hand into Atsushi’s and none of Atsushi’s limbs go missing in a bloody magic trick.
“I love you, Atsushi.” And because that’s apparently too much, Akutagawa follows it up with a cough and a, “Shut your mouth about the vegetables already.”
Atsushi ends up gaping in wonder and banging his head on the glass door of the supermarket, a red imprint on his forehead. But he’s grinning like someone who’s won a billion-yen lottery and he has Akutagawa willingly engaging in such a public display of affection, so.
Atsushi tightens his grip on Akutagawa’s hand.
Something extraordinary indeed.