Cover your crystal eyes
And feel the tones that tremble down your spine
Cover your crystal eyes
And let your colours bleed and blend with mine
But I'm okay in see-through skin
I forgive what is within
'Cause I'm in this house
I'm in this home
All my time
—crystal, of monsters and men.
The house was large.
Chuuya could spend hours wandering, exploring. It was strange, hardly bore thinking of for too long, the living conditions of Dazai and Mori. They shared this huge house, although Chuuya didn’t know where their relationship started and where it ended, he still came over every few days, just to spend time with Dazai. He didn’t yet have any other friends in this city, over a year later, and Kouyou and Mori had had a tightly-wrapped argument the first time Mori had come over for dinner with Dazai, Dazai picking disinterestedly at his food throughout. Chuuya had wondered then, and he wondered now.
He needed other friends. Still, he hadn’t managed to find anyone yet who would tolerate the presence of a Gifted like him, no matter how friendly. So here he fucking was, every few days, like clockwork.
To tell the truth, Chuuya did not understand Dazai, and he quite doubted Dazai understood him either, no matter how good he was at predicting Chuuya. He was even more unused to friendship than Chuuya was, and a hundred times as sharp. Much as Chuuya wanted to hate him for his occasional bouts of cruelty and silence, he couldn’t bring himself to. It wasn’t anything more than pathetic, a kitten biting out of fear and defensiveness. And Dazai would have snarled at the idea of being a kitten, so of course Chuuya thought of him like that.
He didn’t understand Dazai, but he liked him. Liked that he was interesting to hang out with and never pried into Chuuya’s past, never asked questions about his family or where he came from or why he didn’t know things Dazai took for granted. In fact, he fielded even the most inane of questions with an even, detached grace. It was enough—more than.
Chuuya made his way up to Dazai’s first-floor room, but it was empty when he pushed the door open, as sparse as ever. Just the books on the nightstand and a pair of scissors to indicate that it had ever been inhabited. Chuuya shrugged, resigned to spending the day in the library the way he did when Dazai wasn’t home.
Mori had been there the first time Chuuya had come over to hang out, and he had told Chuuya that everything was open to him except the basement and the ground floor study. The man terrified the life out of Chuuya, so he was not particularly inclined to disobey. Dazai had guided him around—the first floor had a couple of guest rooms in addition to Dazai’s room, while the second floor was occupied by a massive library that had made something painful lurch in Chuuya’s chest when Dazai first threw the doors to it open and said “This is where Doctor keeps his books.”
“Are any of them yours?” Chuuya had asked.
“No,” Dazai had said curtly. “I keep mine in my room.”
He had been ready to leave, shifting his weight impatiently from foot to foot, but Chuuya was caught in how ridiculously beautiful the library was. How rich, from the heavy velvet curtains at the huge windows to the shelves that reached almost to the ceiling. And this was ordinary to Dazai, everyday.
He’d dragged himself away with difficulty. Now he returned at every opportunity.
The books were the Doctor’s—they covered a wide range of topics, from Japanese history and literature to medicine and philosophy. There were even books on mathematics—Chuuya pulled one of those off the shelf out of curiosity, and found the pages annotated with quadratic formulae and series of numbers in Dazai’s small, neat print. There was music playing in the library today, and Chuuya wondered where it came from. The Doctor sometimes left the record player running, but he had never in all the months Chuuya had been coming here played piano music.
Usually Chuuya picked up a book he had half a hope of understanding and curled up in one of the armchairs next to the windows, but he was genuinely curious as to the music. He certainly hadn’t seen a piano anywhere here ever before.
But a brief walk around the shelves yielded nothing. Uneasy, Chuuya returned to his armchair and the book he’d begun reading last time, a series of poems written during wartime. He’d never thought he’d like to read poetry of all things, but he loved it, and found that the piano let him ease into reading far faster than he usually could.
The music stopped for barely a few minutes at a time before starting up again, rarely pausing in the middle of a tune. But it stopped entirely an hour later, and Chuuya was so deep in his reading that he failed totally to notice either that, or Dazai's presence above him.
He let out a sound that definitely wasn’t a squeak when Dazai said, “What’s that?” immediately snatching the book out of Chuuya’s hands without waiting for an answer. Thankfully, he kept a finger at the page Chuuya had been on. He looked better today than Chuuya had seen him in a while, though—cheeks flushed, eyes bright. An odd warmth curled inside Chuuya at the sight of him.
Dazai cocked his head down at Chuuya. “You like poetry,” he observed.
Chuuya flushed. “Yeah—yeah. Didn’t think I would, and yet—”
There was a stretch of silence, Dazai looking down at him in a way that didn’t feel like being looked down upon, and the unique crystalline quiet after a piece of music had ended. Dazai’s eyes were very clear and very brown.
“Would you like to eat lunch?” Dazai asked, stepping back and handing him the book. “I think I can make sandwiches.”
Dazai was easy to talk to—it was the most surprising thing about him, one Chuuya had only learnt after weeks of awkward silence. He was well-read and seemed to know a little about everything he could possibly know something about. His natural intelligence, combined with a knack for spinning even the most mundane things into something worth hearing about, made him a joy to speak with.
If one could ever get him to talk, that was. But he was talkative today, and told Chuuya as much as he knew about Yosano Akiko’s life, alongside a couple of shockingly offhand mentions that she’d dated Doctor Mori in college.
They were in the kitchen, a well-lit room with dark countertops and a wooden table with church-pew benches. The decor in their house was eccentric, and Chuuya could not even imagine Mori living here. It was so far from anything that looked like it could belong to him.
Dazai on the other hand fit in perfectly. Because of course.
“I didn’t know the Doctor dated,” Chuuya said, and lapsed into an unhappy series of thoughts about Mori having sexual relationships with various poets Chuuya loved.
Dazai was buttering his sixth slice of bread. He made sandwiches like an assembly line where he played the role of each machine, completing one task as much as it could possibly be completed before moving on to the next one. Chuuya had learnt that it was not wise to disturb this, because he simply froze up. His shoulders shook with silent laughter at Chuuya’s words. Chuuya wanted to look away, look at the window above the counter or at the patterned tablecloth, but his eyes refused to cooperate. “He doesn’t date much,” Dazai said, mirth still lightening his voice. “I don’t think he ever dated after her, anyway.”
“Fuck,” Chuuya responded.
Dazai shook his head, amused. “Is ham and onion okay?”
“Yeah, course.” Chuuya went back to studying the tablecloth. It really was quite an interesting pattern, green paisley over white. Clean, as everything in this house was. Beautiful and clean and rich.
Not that Kouyou’s house wasn’t rich. But not like this. Not in a way that said that the people who lived here thought about the world, and loved it by knowing about it. Not in a way that spoke of an ease with both richness and sparsity. Although it was luxurious it was never overstated; there was nothing at all garish about Dazai’s dark suits and t-shirts, or the Doctor’s upholstery. Kouyou loved opulence, and although Chuuya loved her and respected her, he couldn’t stand her taste sometimes.
Perhaps that was why he kept coming over. That, and the books, and Dazai’s assembly-line sandwiches. Of which he put a plate in front of Chuuya just now, along with a tentative smile that sent warmth buzzing through Chuuya down to his fingertips. Dazai’s smiles were so fragile Chuuya wanted to hold every one, lock them away somewhere safe. “What have you got?”
“Cheese and tomato,” Dazai said, sitting down. He took a bite, chewing thoughtfully. “Hey, I have to practice again after lunch, so do you mind spending the rest of the afternoon reading again?”
“Of course not,” Chuuya said, half-relieved Dazai hadn’t noticed him looking. And half-annoyed, because it didn’t seem like Dazai would ever notice. Chuuya could only be so patient. “Wait, practice? Practice what?”
Dazai froze, and for a second Chuuya was afraid he’d refuse to answer. Shut down and withdraw as he sometimes did. “Piano practice,” he said at last, through gritted teeth.
“Piano practice,” Chuuya repeated wonderingly. “So that was you, playing the piano?”
“You could hear it?” Dazai said, surprised. There was an oddly vulnerable look on his face.
Chuuya stared at the wall for a couple seconds, trying to gather his thoughts. Sometimes looking at Dazai made Chuuya want to blow something up. He didn’t know why. “Yeah, as I read. You went on for a while.”
“Sorry.” Dazai’s voice was nearly a whisper.
“Don’t be sorry,” Chuuya snapped. “You’re quite good.”
“No I’m not,” Dazai returned at once. Chuuya finally risked looking back; Dazai’s expression was focused, intense. “I made twenty-three mistakes.”
“Were you counting?” Chuuya demanded. “I didn’t hear a single one.”
“Of course I was counting! How else am I supposed to know where I have to practice?”
“I think you were pretty good,” Chuuya said stubbornly. “And,” he added, in a burst of inspiration. “I want to hear you play.”
“You just said you could hear me in the library,” Dazai argued. He was deflecting, though, and they both knew it. Chuuya only stared steadily at him until he caved. “Fine! Fine. The practice room has an extra chair. You have to be quiet, though. And not disturb me.” He said this last in an accusatory tone of voice, as though it was something Chuuya was often guilty of. Chuuya felt the thrill of victory.
“I can do that,” he said easily, and flashed Dazai a grin. Dazai’s cheeks pinked. “Also, eat your sandwiches.”
Dazai rolled his eyes at that, but scarfed down his sandwiches far faster than he usually ate, so clearly something today was going right for him. Or maybe playing the piano for over an hour was just very tiring. Chuuya wouldn’t have been surprised if that were the case. He wouldn’t know, but he couldn’t help admiring whatever it took to hold focus for that long.
Dazai washed the dishes before they went upstairs—Chuuya grabbed a napkin to dry them, because it didn’t seem right that Dazai both made them food and cleaned up afterwards. There was little point in arguing with him, but that didn’t mean Chuuya wouldn’t do what he could.
Chuuya floated himself up the stairs. Showing off was always fun, letting go of the constant buzz under his skin and doing things that made Dazai’s eyes sparkle in that strange and lovely way.
The door to the practice room was adeptly hidden behind a tapestry—why the fuck did they even have tapestries, holy shit—and Dazai pushed it open and slipped in before Chuuya, switching on the lights. It was small and sparse, no carpets on the stone floor and nothing on the walls. There was a window (there was a window in every room, prominently positioned to bring in the light) and indeed, a place to sit that wasn’t the piano in the center of the room. A small armchair, in fact, piled with sheets of music. Dazai shifted them off, gesturing Chuuya towards it. He was moving with quick, almost birdlike steps. Nervous, Chuuya realized. About what?
Dazai shuffled through the pages. Some of them were stapled together at the sides, others were just loose sheafs. He settled at last on one of them, dropping the rest unceremoniously and bearing his prize over to the piano.
It was a magnificent beast, sleek and dark and graceful despite its weight and age. A family heirloom of some sort? Kouyou had told Chuuya as much as she knew about Dazai’s family, which was not much and amounted to, basically, “they’re dead.” The reverent way Dazai touched the piano was a compelling point of evidence.
He paused for a second to stretch his fingers, cracking his knuckles before placing his hands on the keys. Darted a glance up at the sheets before beginning, light and easy. From this angle, Chuuya could only see the unlit side of his face—his eyes faced the southern wall. His expression was blank, intensely focused on what he was doing. Chuuya could have gotten lost in that intensity, wanted desperately to pull Dazai’s attention away from his music and onto Chuuya so he could experience it for himself. The urge was so vast and sudden it frightened him, and he pushed the thought down. He’d asked to hear Dazai play, and he wasn’t about to squander the chance he’d been given.
Besides, the music was interesting —and beautiful. Dazai’s fingers ran delicately over the keys, creating something sweet and airy. Chuuya wouldn’t have thought this the kind of tune Dazai would play—he was, apparently, wrong. And perhaps it was showing off, just a little, because Chuuya could see the strain on Dazai’s face, the narrowing of his eyes and the way he was biting his bottom lip. But he never stumbled, never faltered, fingers darting over the keys so fast Chuuya wondered how it was even possible for him to play.
The piece only got more complex as it went on, until Dazai was darting little glances up at the sheet every couple of minutes, frowning up at it for a few seconds before looking back down. He seemed frustrated, but if he was doing anything wrong then Chuuya couldn’t tell; it sounded beautiful to him, almost surreal in its loveliness and delicacy. He felt almost privileged to be allowed to see Dazai like this; in the months Chuuya had known him, he’d never seen any sign that Dazai played the piano, or that he was so prodigiously good at it.
The piece drifted to a halt, the tips of Dazai’s fingers still resting against the ivory keys. He was breathing hard, but his eyes were bright—tears, Chuuya realized, before he blinked to get rid of them.
A silence, again the haunting crystal moment-after-music feeling. To break it Chuuya said, “You’re very good at that, but I’ve never heard you play before.”
Dazai laughed wetly. “You’re distracting me.”
Chuuya rolled his eyes. “Answer the question, idiot.”
Dazai glanced at him for a second before staring determinedly straight ahead. Said, “I didn’t see the point in continuing.” Swallowed.
“But now you do?” Chuuya asked, curious. He was playing too close to the edge, he thought, but Dazai only sighed, hung his head.
“Yeah, I do now.” He hit a key, producing a clear note. “I only began again couple days back.”
“You’re brilliant,” Chuuya said, surprised. “You barely look at the sheets.”
Dazai turned on the stool to face him, stretching his hands again. His joints cracked audibly. “I used to be better,” he replied bitterly. “I didn’t even have to look at the sheets—I could hear a piece a couple of times and play it back from memory. I didn’t—I was good .” He stared at the wall behind Chuuya, lost.
“You’re still good,” Chuuya pointed out. “And you always will be.”
“Nowhere near where I used to be, though, and two years out of practice. I might as well give up.”
Chuuya huffed. “You’re being dramatic, and you know it. You’re great. You’ll be better than you were once you practice. You may have been a prodigy, but that was never going to last forever, even without a break.” A thought occurred to him, and he paused, turning the question over in his mind. “Were you a prodigy?”
Dazai smiled, somehow wistful and self-deprecating at once. “I was nowhere near the kind of prodigy my mother was, but I was good enough.” He shrugged. “No one has ever been as talented as her though, before or since. I can hardly hope to come close.” He was looking at his hands now, turning them over and over as though they held secrets that Dazai couldn't read.
“She must have been very good indeed,” Chuuya murmured. He knew little about Dazai’s parents except that they’d died in a car crash when Dazai was thirteen—and that Kouyou had told him. It was rather touching that Dazai was willing to share all of this with him. He wanted to say something about his own parents, but everything that could be said about them was some kind of awful or another. And he didn’t want to think about them.
Dazai made a small, raw sound. “She booked me a concert hall for my thirteenth birthday,” he said, in the smallest voice Chuuya had ever heard from him. “We never even made it.”
Oh, fuck, Chuuya thought. But there was no tactful way to say that out loud. “So you stopped playing,” he noted. Dazai nodded, tired.
“What’s the point of playing if she can’t hear me?” He sounded like such a child in that moment, Chuuya ached.
There was a lot he could have said to that, some shit about heaven and the afterlife. But Dazai didn’t believe and Chuuya was on the fence about those things and neither of them were very good at the kind of lies that existed only to make people feel better. “Because other people can still hear you,” Chuuya suggested instead. “Because you enjoy it too much to stop.”
Dazai hunched down, putting his face in his hands. He was crying. Chuuya looked away, because Dazai hated being seen like this, and because it was the kinder thing to do.
He stopped, anyway, a few minutes later, rubbing his eyes and avoiding Chuuya’s. Stood up, striding towards the door. “I’ll drop you downstairs,” he said, and Chuuya did him the kindness of pretending his tears weren’t painfully obvious in his voice.
Chuuya walked down the stairs after him, thinking. Or trying to. The music was still ringing in his ears, as was Dazai’s startling vulnerability. As was the bitter gilded sweetness of this day. It felt sticky on him, coating the inside of his throat. He blinked hard when they were almost at the door, clearing his head because he’d need it.
Dazai opened the door for him, but he was looking at Chuuya, eyes soft. They stared at each other for what felt like hours before Chuuya drew on some hidden well of courage to reach up and cup Dazai’s face, his skin cool against the warmth of Chuuya’s palms. He ignored that, and ignored too his small gasp in order to stand on the tips of his toes and press a chaste kiss to Dazai’s lips. They were soft, too. Cool and chapped and soft. Parted slightly with surprise, and nonetheless welcoming.
His eyes were closed when Chuuya dropped back down. He looked delicate and shocked and lovely and Chuuya couldn’t stop himself from swiping a thumb over his still-damp cheekbone before letting his hand drop too. And then Dazai opened his eyes, blinked hard and smiled. “What was that?” he whispered.
“I think you know,” Chuuya said cheekily.
Dazai gave him a hazy look. “Well, I would like another.”
So of course Chuuya ended up not going home at once, in favour of pushing Dazai into the doorframe and kissing him until his lips were tingling. Dazai was worse off, because Chuuya found his mouth too irresistible to not bite—it was red now, swollen. Only fair considering that at some point he’d decided to put his hands on Chuuya’s ribs, which considering what other things those hands could do was sort of, Chuuya felt, illegal. The kind of weapon the government ought to take better care of.
It took him several minutes to pull away, and they were both panting too much to even try speaking. Dazai caught his breath first. “You really do need to be home by six,” he breathed. “Kouyou shouts at me, not you.”
“I’m fine with that,” Chuuya threw back, but he stepped back. Dazai’s eyes were so goddamn bright it hurt. He didn’t want to go home, not really, but he also hated the thought of Mori coming home in a few hours and finding them kissing. The man really didn’t need to know what his adopted son was up to. Especially not when it involved Chuuya. “I—”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Dazai said suddenly. Then, suddenly hesitant, “Won’t I?”
“Yeah,” Chuuya returned. “You’ll see me tomorrow. And in school on Monday, and—”
Dazai rolled his eyes. “I get it, shut up.” But his smile rather took the bite out of the words.
Chuuya hated the idea of being too sappy to walk away from a boy he’d just kissed, so he didn’t even respond to that before hopping down the stairs and setting off down the gravel path than ran parallel to the driveway. The sun was oozing slowly down the sky, melting from yellow to pink and orange. And although Chuuya didn’t look back, he could feel Dazai’s eyes on his back all the time that he remained in Dazai’s line of sight, and for a few minutes after.