I'm right over here,
Why can't you see me?
And I'm giving it my all,
But I'm not the guy you're taking home
I keep dancing on my own
- Dancing on my Own, Calum Scott
"Why didn't you go with him?" Ranpo asks him after hours of brooding alone on the cold pavement of the dock, trying to convince himself that, maybe, despite the ache in his heart and the tear tracks that had dried on his face, he made the right choice. And that, maybe, one day, when Chuuya whispers to him the words "I'm home now, Dazai" and smiles at him once again like the way he used to when they were 16, he would agree with him and tell him that it is all worth it.
They are in a poorly lit bar on the outskirts of Yokohama where Dazai is sure no one could find them easily. He orders another bottle of sake, hoping that it could drown all his sorrows away and numb his stupid heart that is continuously reaching out for someone that is a thousand miles away from him. "The same reason why you're still here and not with Poe."
"And what could that reason be?" The brunet can feel the older's gaze on him, waiting for an answer that he isn't even sure he has right now. As he takes a swig of his sake, memories—of the days he tells himself that he isn't worth any kind of love, especially Chuuya's; of the days he mars his skin with scars to remind himself that he is human and not just a tool for the mafia; of the days he finds himself lost while searching for a place where he could belong—soon flood him and it is becoming hard to pretend that he is okay. Because it's not okay anymore and no one has warned him that loving could hurt this bad.
Dazai is 23 when he finds himself on the dock with tears in his eyes and feet glued to the ground as he watches Chuuya board the ship and waves him goodbye. He wants to run over to him and get down on his knees and beg him to stay. But, he doesn't do any of that. Instead, he waves back at him with a soft smile on his lips while whispering to the winds the promises he couldn't keep back then and hopes that once the ginger comes home, he could try to fix them one by one.
Dazai is 23 and he realizes that he has been selfish towards Chuuya—in the way the latter worries over him every time they finish the mission even though he is the one on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion or the times he tries to piece him back together through his words and actions even when he knows he is falling apart himself. It makes him wonder why he has never given up on him because, surely, the brunet would give up on himself without a second thought.
"Because I'm what he wants, but not what he needs." Dazai's words seem to sound louder than he intended, drowning the jazz music playing in the background. Twirling the ice in his drink, his thoughts drift to that time when Chuuya got wasted during a party and how he wanted to kiss him then, but he didn't do it despite the way his body craved for him. The ginger would have let him that night and they both wanted it, but it was wrong, he can't do that to him, not when they were still struggling to figure out the unspoken thing between them.
Ranpo looks pleased with him and gives him a small smile that he hides under the glass of scotch in his hand. He pats him on the back in an attempt for comfort and says, "You know, he needs you too, right?"
It's so easy to agree with the detective and he does want to, but he isn't quite sure if Chuuya needs him the same way he does, so he stays silent instead, hoping that it is enough of an answer for the other. And maybe, there would come a time when he could bring himself to ask Chuuya about it, but for now, he has to settle for the uncertainties and sleepless nights.
"Sometimes you have to act and sometimes… you just have to wait."
Dazai is 23, with a body littered with his past mistakes and broken promises, and until now, he is still learning how to love himself even during stormy nights.
Dazai can still remember how rage slowly consumed the calm exterior of one Oda Sakunosuke as he caught a glimpse of the lifeless bodies of the orphans being wheeled out of the burning house. He can still remember how he didn't try hard enough to convince him that his life was worth more than a suicidal mission orchestrated by Mori and how he was too afraid to say the right words to stop him from confronting Mimic. But most of all, he can still remember how his friend turned his back at him and walked away despite his hand reaching out for him.
Maybe, that is the reason why, after scrubbing away Oda's blood in his hands until they bleed, he decides that it is time to set himself free from the clutches of the mafia. And he hopes that, once he does, he wouldn't have to watch a certain ginger do the same to him.
The next day, just hours before he plans his escape, the brunet takes Chuuya to the roof deck of the headquarters to watch the sunset with him. He curls his body around him like a question mark begging to be answered and it kills him to think that there might never be an answer to this pain that has holed itself inside his heart.
Gazing at the ginger, he realizes how contented he feels with his arms wrap around the person he is sure he would sacrifice his life for over and over again. And that is unfair because, no matter what he tells himself, he just couldn't stay here anymore even though it would mean that his lover would hate him the next morning.
"How much do I have hurt you before you stop loving me?" Dazai whispers in his ear and once the words register in his mind, the other swiftly turns himself around to face him. At that moment, he knows he couldn't bear looking at Chuuya's eyes filled with such raw emotions anymore, not when it reminds him of the comfort that blankets him on the nights he is plagued with nightmares, and the butterflies in his stomach every time he watches him prepare breakfast and dinner in their shared apartment.
Chuuya envelops him into a warm hug before kissing him on the neck and he could feel him smile against his skin and, he thinks, it breaks his heart a little, so just before the ginger can move away, he holds him closer to him and he wishes that they can just stay like this forever.
"I doubt I'll ever stop loving you."
And the selfish part of Dazai hopes that is true.
Mori arranges a meeting with him on the same day Chuuya left him four years ago with only a promise to return someday.
The agency members seem to notice the foul mood he is in today but decided to stay silent about it and continue with their work. Though Dazai still notices the worried glances Atsushi has been sending him and the way Kunikida doesn't mention anything about his paperwork. He also finds several pieces of candies on his table that Ranpo and Kyouka probably sneaked in when the others asked him to join them for lunch.
Once his shift is over, he takes his time to walk towards the address Mori has texted him and he soon finds out they are meeting in a restaurant that serves French cuisine. He glares at the establishment before entering it with practiced grace and a smile that could convince anyone to do his bidding.
The brunet is lead to a private room on the second floor of the restaurant where he finds the boss of the Port Mafia sipping his wine calmly. His eye twitched in irritation when catches a smirk on the older's lips, but he decides to not give him the satisfaction of seeing him lose his cool in front of another presence, so he schools his expression and gives him a fake smile.
"Is this your way of mocking me?" Dazai hisses as soon as the waiter disappears after serving the food the other has ordered for the both of them.
"You don't have to be so… rancid towards me, Dazai-kun," Mori comments while folding his hands on the table and locking his gaze on the said man. Soon enough, he finds himself chuckling in amusement as he takes in the light in the former executive's eyes that have once been a perfect reflection of a void. "It seems that it would be harder to convince you to return to the mafia, am I right?"
Dazai stares back at him with equal vigor and tells him, "I'm never going back to the mafia." And he surprises himself for the lack of hesitation in his voice because, after all these years of doubting himself, he finally accepts that, maybe, he does belong to the side that saves people.
Smiling in satisfaction, he watches the older sport a frown on his face, but it is not long before dread starts to consume him as Mori's frown is replaced by a grin—one that he is all too familiar with and that could only mean checkmate in their game of chess. "Are you sure? After all, it is almost time for Chuuya-kun to take over."
"What do you mean?" It is a dumb question. Of course, he knows what Mori means, but he needs to hear it the words from him. A confirmation of some sort. Because he just can't afford to trust his own predictions when it comes to the person who matters to him the most.
"What else could I mean, Dazai-kun? Chuuya-kun is my successor and once he comes back, he will be formally introduced as the new boss of the Port Mafia."
Dazai's day didn't start out as great as hoped. He had woken up late and a dog greeted him right outside his door—"Who in their right mind would leave such a demon creature unattended?" he had asked once he noticed the dog slobber on his feet. The canned crabs in the convenience store were even sold out and his bandages got wet due to the sudden rain. He is pretty sure, by now, that this day couldn't get any worse.
"You're late. Again," Kunikida reprimands just before the brunet can slump on his desk and start whining about his morning. However, no one seems to pay attention to him as everyone is busy with the sudden rush of demands for the agency.
Around the afternoon, their tasks have finally decreased to a much more manageable number after hours of grueling work and conducting operations with the local police. Slowly, the office starts to fill with complaints as the members return one by one, quickly planting their faces on their desks in exhaustion. They should probably demand a break from the President once they can move their limbs again and function properly.
Dazai is about to call it a day when Ranpo abruptly stands up and walks up to him with the seriousness he could muster. "He's back," he informs him and it takes him around 45 seconds to gather his wits together and bolt out of the agency despite Kunikida's shouting.
He's here. He's back. And he's coming home.
The brunet doesn't seem to mind the exhaustion dragging his body down as he races towards the docks and searches frantically for the love he lost five years ago. He doesn't seem to mind how desperate he looks in front of so many people when all he wants is to welcome him back into his arms and whispers those three words to him. He doesn't seem to mind that he is tripping on his own feet and talking in languages he didn't know he could speak even of.
He spots Akutagawa first who has grown taller and more confident after all these years. The younger has already abandoned the outrageous black coat he used to wear for something lighter and much more comfortable. When gazes lock with each other, he gives him a soft smile, the kind that says 'it's good to see you again.'
It is not long when his eyes landed on Nakahara Chuuya—the boy who had stayed beside him during cold nights while he pointed out the names of the constellations right above them; the boy who had made him feel like he was worth more than a piece to complete a puzzle; and the same boy who had promised him that he would come back to him once he is ready to face what has always been there between them. And here is now, just a few steps away from him and so close for him to hold and he starts to want things he knows he just can't have right now.
But before he could call out the Chuuya's name, a boy—with locks that reminds him of the ink he spilled on the parchments, trying to write Chuuya's name while drunk and eyes that sparkle like a pair of amethysts beneath the moonlight—smiles at the ginger and takes his hand in such a familiar way that it breaks Dazai's heart.
He remains standing there, staring at the scene that unfolds in front of him. Despite his mind screaming to run away, his traitorous heart wants him to stay and watch how Chuuya smiles at the other the same way he has hoped he would at him again. And it doesn't take more than a few minutes before the ginger meets his gaze and the first thing he does is to shake his head and turn away from Dazai as if it is his way of telling him that "No. I'm not coming back for you."
Dazai thinks this might be what they call so close, yet so far, and he doesn't realize how painful that can be until now.
Dazai is 27, and just a few more days away from 28, when Chuuya walks over his heart as if it is nothing but an old toy he couldn't fix anymore.