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When Ryuunosuke walks into his new apartment for the first time with one of his boxes in his arms, he sees a young man about his age already unpacking his things in the living room. He’s immediately noticed by his new roommate and can’t help but feel strangely scrutinized by the pair of eyes that lock onto him. He knows they’re so much brighter than his own. 

As he turns away from his things to walk over and greet him, Ryuunosuke can’t imagine why Chuuya-san would recommend this person to be his new roommate for the next year. He would have been fine moving back in to live with Gin after the breakup, but his sister and friend had conspired against him to move here which landed him in this situation in the first place. The traitors. 

Ryuunosuke is still staring as his roommate introduces himself, noting his name in his head and nothing more about him. Nakajima Atsushi. That’s all he needs to know since he does not plan to associate with this person past the concept of them living together. 

“But anyway, what’s your name? Do you need any help moving in your stuff?”

Ryuunosuke narrows his eyes and moves around the body in front of him, heading down the hall to claim his room. “Akutagawa. And I don’t need your help.”

He doesn’t bother to respond when Atsushi calls after him that he’s looking forward to getting to know him. 

~*~

It really is quite annoying, Ryuunosuke thinks, that Nakajima is not a pushover. This problem wouldn’t exist if he was. 

Truly, Ryuunosuke cannot fathom how someone who looks timid while greeting him in the morning can so passionately argue that he’s not going to stop buying mandarin oranges. Seriously. What an annoyance. 

“For the last time, I like them, so I’m going to buy them,” Atsushi nearly snarls, crossing his arms, holding his head up high. “You don’t have to eat them.”

“They stink up the kitchen.”

“You cannot smell them. You’re being ridiculous.”

“I don’t want them in my apartment.”

“Well, since it’s our apartment, I’ll buy what I like, and you can deal with it! You don’t have carte blanche on what I buy!”

“I’ll throw them out myself.”

“Touch my food, and you’re dead.”

Ryuunosuke narrows his eyes and suddenly wishes he were taller, so he could glare down at his roommate. As weak and nervous as Atsushi appears to be most of the time, he does look quite serious in his threat about his food. That’s the only reason he decides to scoff and walk around him toward his room where he can brood in peace. 

Not because he was starting to feel silly, ridiculous, and guilty. 

~*~

It truly is unfortunate for Atsushi that he doesn’t have smarter friends. He’ll fail university at this pace because the direction his friend is leading him in can only end in disaster. 

Ryuunosuke is trying (and has tried for the past ten minutes while making his tea) to ignore the stupidity going on at the kitchen table. He’s had to glare at Atsushi’s “friend” for quite some time to resist the urge to poke his eye out with his pencil for the laughable, incorrect things coming out of his mouth. Atsushi’s noticed and has started to perpetually glare at him for it, but that causes him to pay even less attention to his studying, but truly it is not Ryuunosuke’s fault. Atsushi should not have asked for help on a subject from a person who did not know what they are doing. He’s failing himself and his education every minute he does not kick this person out of their apartment. 

But finally, after one particular sentence, Ryuunosuke cannot keep his composure and slams his teacup against the plate that came with it. 

“Hey, keep it down,” Atsushi calls as he stalks over to them, eyes narrowed. “We’re trying to work.” 

But Ryuunosuke ignores him and stares at the redhead in front of him who looks more and more timid by the minute. “That’s not correct.”

“…I’m sorry?”

Ryuunosuke huffs and snags the pencil and notebook right out of the unnamed person’s hand while Atsushi squawks in protest, demanding that he not treat his friend that way. (If someone who so poorly educates you, could ever be considered a “friend.”)

After a few seconds of scribbling and crossing out the person’s notes while Atsushi looks about ready to grab the objects right out of his hands, he shoves the papers down onto the table in front of the two students, glaring at both. 

“I took this class last year. This is how you do it,” Ryuunosuke near snarls then passes by the kitchen counter to collect his tea, heading into his room. 

Honestly, if Atsushi’s going to survive this year academically, he’ll have to stop taking advice from his stupid friends. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke thought nothing of the interaction at the time, so he’s surprised when Atsushi sits next to him at their kitchen table to catch his eye. 

“What?” he hisses, but, for some reason, this time Atsushi doesn’t immediately bristle at the tone. 

“I wanted to thank you for your advice the other day. It really helped.”

Ryuunosuke’s eyes immediately narrow at the compliment. Was this a joke? But as he looks at Atsushi’s expression, he finds no signs of it being a prank which just makes it even more suspicious and untrustworthy. (He can read Atsushi quite well; he’s always a very expressive person, and Ryuunosuke has gotten to know him somewhat during these weeks of living together.)

“Whatever,” he scoffs and takes another sip of his tea. 

The word only serves to make Atsushi smile for an unknown reason. “I appreciate it nonetheless. But you could have been nicer about it.”

Ryuunosuke huffs and gathers his things to head into his room, away from Atsushi and his annoying smile. “It’s not my fault your friends are stupid,” he mutters under his breath as he walks away and doesn’t know why he’s not angry when he hears Atsushi’s laugh behind him. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke would not have corrected Atsushi’s friend if he had known it would lead to this. Thanking him was one thing. Sitting next to him as if they’re friends is something entirely different. 

“What are you doing?” Ryuunosuke hisses in exasperation, face pulled into a frown as Atsushi begins to unload his things on his table. 

“Sitting. What does it look like I’m doing?” Atsushi raises an eyebrow at the question as if he cannot understand why Ryuunosuke would react the way he’s reacting. “There are no other tables anyway.”

Ryuunosuke huffs and slumps in his chair. “I didn’t say you could sit there.”

Atsushi makes a point of making eye contact as he takes the seat directly opposite his roommate. “I can sit where I want. You don’t own the library, Akutagawa.”

Ryuunosuke rolls his jaw and purposely ignores the stares they’re getting from the other students in the building. He supposes he too would be surprised if the least social person in the entire student population was suddenly joined by someone who has a reputation of being rather timid. 

But that doesn’t mean he won’t glare at those people long enough to make their stares go away. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke cannot drink coffee. All he ever drinks is tea. 

Atsushi was smart to learn this fact soon after they moved in together. He offered to get the other coffee one time to try and be a nice roommate before the oranges incident because he wanted to have a good relationship with him since they would be spending the better part of a year with each other. But Ryuunosuke had just scowled and looked at him like he had offered to get him sewage water. 

Only when Atsushi came back with tea did he tell him why. 

Coffee has too much caffeine in it for Ryuunosuke apparently. Even with a small amount, watered down and filled with cream, it will keep him jittery for hours on end. Tea, he claims, has just the right amount of caffeine in it to energize him for the day. Atsushi has also learned he takes it with milk and sugar. Sometimes with nothing if his sweet tooth isn’t acting up. 

On the flip side, Ryuunosuke was quick to learn that Atsushi survives off of coffee. 

He can’t quite understand it. Someone who already has so much energy drinks something to make him even more energized? However, Atsushi says that coffee helps him settle down and focus on his essays and assignments (somehow). Ryuunosuke doesn’t understand it, but he believes his roommate.

So he makes him his coffee sometimes in the morning because whether people believe it or not, Ryuunosuke does feel guilt, and when Atsushi begins to come back from his study breaks with his friends with cups of tea for him after pointing out that his friend was giving him the wrong information, the only appropriate response is to return the favor. 

Before they knew it, it’s become a routine of a sort between the two of them. Looking back on it, Ryuunosuke thinks that’s where their true relationship and tolerance of each other began. 

~*~

“Hey, Akutagawa.”

“Shut up. I’m reading.”

“Could you help me with this problem?”

Ryuunosuke sighs, shutting his book slowly and taking a deep breath. He turns to his roommate to resign himself to his fate of explaining the entire unit to Atsushi. He could refuse to listen (because Atsushi would obey and not speak to him again if he asked), but then he would have to see Atsushi’s confused and perplexed expression as he tried to teach the chapter to himself, and that was truly the most distracting and pathetic thing. 

Ryuunosuke knows his roommate is not stupid. He knows that some teachers can be quite unfair and hard to learn from, having taken some of his classes last year. He knows that everyone’s studying technique is different. 

He also knows that Atsushi’s is being repeated the entirety of the chapter and information in detail. 

He’s not sure why he doesn’t find this annoying. 

Maybe it’s because of the tea Atsushi always buys him after. It’s always so much warmer than the stuff Dazai bought for him. 

~*~

“Jinko.”

“I let you use my computer one time…” 

“It’s not my fault you had tiger stickers all over it with a tiger background.

“Maybe, but it is your fault you still keep calling me that.”

“Jinko.”

“What is it?”

“Do you want anything from the market?”

“…Chazuke.”

“I’ll get you the ingredients, but I’m not making it for you.”

“Darn.”

~*~

Ryuunosuke is perpetually cold. He’s not even sure why. Perhaps it has something to do with his vague sickness that follows him everywhere. But he loathes cold weather, much prefers summer even with his allergies. So he likes to have the thermostat at at least 75 degrees since he can now operate the device without feeling guilty for doing so. Atsushi does not agree in the slightest, considering he is basically a human furnace most of the time. Which leads to the feud of the temperature, and they change the thermostat back and forth for an entire week before Ryuunosuke becomes fed up with their foolishness. 

“Why can’t you just open a window and only cover yourself with a sheet?” Ryuunosuke exclaims the seventh day. 

Atsushi frowns. “I do keep my window open! And my fan! But I like to have multiple covers on me when I sleep!” 

“Well, there’s only so many blankets in the apartment I can layer on when you set the temperature to the Arctic!” 

“Wear socks on your feet when you sleep then!”

“No!” 

And as such conversation continues for quite some time until Ryuunosuke marches to his room and slams his door in petulant frustration. 

The next day he goes out and—price be damned—buys his roommate a weighted blanket. 

“I expect to be able to control the thermostat from now on,” Ryuunosuke says, handing Atsushi the gift.

He expects some push back, even a little refusal to take the gift. But all he gets is a smile and a, “Thank you, Ryuunosuke!” And Atsushi doesn’t touch the thermostat again, and Ryuunosuke comes to be in a pleasant, constant state of warmth for the first time in his life. 

~*~

It takes a long while for Atsushi to realize Ryuunosuke has an ex. 

He’s never seen him interact with anyone besides himself, his sister that he has mentioned he has, and his teachers from time to time when he wanted clarification. So for him to have been in a relationship, let alone a long term one, is a great surprise to Atsushi indeed. 

The only reason Atsushi come across this information is because one night he had been throwing around ideas for dinner. He said he hadn’t tried to make crab ever and asked Ryuunosuke if he’d want that. 

And he responded with a curt, “No.” 

And Atsushi had asked why. 

And Ryuunosuke had said, “Because my ex likes that.” And nothing more. And Atsushi didn’t ask for anything more. 

Atsushi had gotten the sense that Ryuunosuke didn’t like to be reminded of his ex. (Most people wouldn’t to be fair.) But there was something more in the lines of his posture and the grip on his teacup and the silent, bad mood he’d inadvertently put him in. There is something more to it that simply an ex, but Atsushi knows plenty about memories that don't want to be remembered in the best of circumstances. 

So he does his best to avoid and, if not that, then distract. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke doesn’t know why, but he always felt self-conscious about having Gin around while he was with Dazai. Maybe it was some unconscious part of him that knew their relationship wasn’t good or healthy. That he knew Gin wouldn’t approve of how Dazai treated him when it was only the two of them. Or perhaps it was because he was the bridge between the two individuals, and if it was weird or awkward, it would fall on him to make sure it was better. 

Not to mention, Dazai expressed absolutely no interest in getting to know his family. (And that stung more than he likes to admit.)

There’s no such fear with Atsushi. 

Ryuunosuke doesn’t even know when Atsushi and him became “friends.” He’d never considered the other to be one until Atsushi referred to him as such, and he realized that they did indeed act like friends. (After all, only friends go out together, help each other study, and talk to each other when there’s nothing to do, right?) 

He doesn’t even realize he’s invited him until the words are out of his mouth. Instantly, he regrets it, years of automatic anxiety building up within seconds. But then Atsushi brightens and takes his offer with enthusiasm, and he wonders what he was supposed to be worried about. 

Gin immediately takes a liking to Atsushi as soon as they introduce themselves, and Ryuunosuke tries to hide the fact that he’s preening on the inside as he watches them interact. 

Their first meeting (and many after) take place in Ryuunosuke’s favorite tea house. They all order and take their seats at a table by the window after collecting their drinks. 

Ryuunosuke almost can’t believe how well they get along at the first meeting. He’s never known his sister to so quickly open up to someone, and that nervousness that he knows placates Atsushi’s mind sometimes is nowhere to be found. Even though they only ever speak to each other because of Ryuunosuke, they carry on small talk like it’s a discussion of philosophy rather than a weak thing to do to pass the time. 

But as they continue to talk and as Ryuunosuke continues to set up these meetings for the three of them so he can have his two favorite people in the same place as him, they get more and more comfortable with each other which unfortunately leads to Gin’s inevitable teasing. 

Ryuunosuke nearly chokes on his drink when Gin mentions his “obsession” with calligraphy. 

Atsushi brightens at the mention, paying Ryuunosuke a passing glance as he stifles his coughs into his sleeve. “Really? When did that start?” 

“Oh, when we were much younger, years ago,” Gin says passingly, as if she’s not spilling his secrets right out into the open for his one of his only friends to see. “In fact, he got a little set to practice as soon as he could afford it.”

Ryuunosuke reddens with horror, but the obvious tease goes straight over Atsushi’s head. He turns to him and begins to ask a brigade of questions about his interest that only cause him to be more flustered. 

He spots Gin giving him a look in the corner of his eye that appears both sad and hopeful, like he’s supposed to know what that means. So he ignores her and instead begins to answer Atsushi’s questions, unable to look into his bright eyes, so eager to learn and know what he liked. 

And he realizes: 

Dazai never asked what he liked in the years of them being together. 

~*~

“Chuuya-san?”

“Ah, Ryuunosuke-kun. How’s that roommate of yours working out? Are you getting along well?”

“…He’s been tolerable.”

“So you like him then, huh?” 

~*~

It takes several weeks of them being friends for Ryuunosuke to enter Atsushi’s room. Each other’s rooms were always off limits when they weren’t on good terms, so Ryuunosuke is surprised at how easily Atsushi lets him into his space. 

“Atsushi?” Ryuunosuke calls, knocking on the door. 

“Come in!” he hears from the other side and obeys the command. 

When he steps inside, he finds Atsushi folding his laundry, transferring it from the massive pile on his futon to his dresser that strains to contain even a small portion of it. “Dinner’s ready.”

“Okay, cool. I’ll be there in a second.”

And Ryuunosuke means to turn around to serve it, but his eye catches something to his left, and he stops to walk over and inspect it. It’s a collection of pictures on Atsushi’s desk, all framed, mostly of people other than Atsushi that Ryuunosuke doesn’t recognize. But there are quite a lot of himself, and that only makes him angrily flustered. “Why do you have so many pictures here?” he asks, not able to just walk away casually after staring at them so obviously for so long. 

“Hm?” Atsushi looks up from a shirt he’s currently folding. (Not well or neatly, Ryuunosuke sees.) "Oh, those are just some pictures I’ve printed out because I wanted something else in my room, and pictures of my friends seemed like a good idea.”

Ryuunosuke picks up one before he can stop himself. It’s one of him—too blurry to be considered good, but it’s pretty obvious Atsushi was trying to take it before he noticed. And he succeeded evidently because Ryuunosuke does not remember this. Or, at least, does not remember Atsushi taking a picture of him. He does remember reading in the early morning in the living room though. 

“I—I hope you don’t mind. I can… get rid of that one if you don’t like it.”

Ryuunosuke turns to glare at Atsushi who’s not looking at him now, hand rubbing the back of his head. He huffs and returns the picture frame to its place, heading out of the room. “I don’t care if you have pictures of me. Just don’t let anyone else see those,” he mutters, ignoring the grand, “Thank you!” he gets in return. 

At dinner, he can’t help but bring it up, put in an obnoxiously good mood from the knowledge. “You should get a better camera though. The quality of those pictures are terrible.”

Atsushi nods, still chewing his food. “Yeah, I’m trying to save up for one. I have a jar in my room that I’m filling with loose change to help, but I don’t want to get it before I can afford it. I don’t even think I’ll be doing it past a hobby, so I probably shouldn’t spend too much money.”

Ryuunosuke nods, happy with his roommate’s quality of being frugal with things that he does not immediately need. But something still nags at the back of his mind. 

That is probably why he finds himself in Atsushi’s room later that week while he’s out, trying to locate that jar. When he does, he doesn’t quite understand why he’s putting his free change in it. The clicking of the coins against each other almost seem to be mocking him. So he tells himself it’s only because he doesn’t want to have it jangling around in his pocket, and since Atsushi has a place for it, it’s simply more convenient. 

And weeks later, he finds himself doing it every few days. Thankfully, Atsushi—the ever-loving, oblivious idiot—doesn’t notice that his jar is increasing in volume exponentially. And only a few weeks later does he have enough money for a decent camera. 

“Are you sure you don’t want anything, Ryuunosuke? It seems silly to spend all this money on myself…” 

Ryuunosuke closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. His idiot of a roommate… “It’s your money, Atsushi. You should use it however you like, okay? If you’re feeling that ridiculous, then I’ll just have you take all my pictures for me, so you’ll have a constant use for it.”

“Really?” Atsushi exclaims, nearly loud enough for Ryuunosuke to lecture him about the noise. “That sounds great! Just let me know what you want photographed, and I’ll be sure to get a great shot!”

Ryuunosuke nods at the sentiment, almost tempted to ask for pictures of him, but resists the urge. He should just try to take pictures of Atsushi by himself, but frankly he's observant at the most inconvenient times. Multiple instances, Ryuunosuke has tried only to be shot down by Atsushi’s head turning or a question about what he needed. 

Truly an annoyance. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke has often wondered what his life would look like if he hadn’t met Dazai. If he didn’t go to that bar, didn’t get swept away by those pretty words, didn’t give his number away to that then-stranger. How would he have turned out? He doesn’t know the answer and has tried in the past to stop asking the question, but being with Atsushi has made him revisit it.

What would have been different if Atsushi had been there instead and struck up a conversation with him instead? If he’d been befriended instead of seduced? If Atsushi had asked for his number, not for a booty call, but a real call like the ones friends make? A conversation rather than a passive aggressive exchange that always ended in a demand? 

What if he had fallen for Atsushi before he had met Dazai?

Of course, bemoaning such things is useless, but Ryuunosuke can’t help but wonder and fantasize. After all… 

Dazai was already gone; he wasn’t coming back. And Ryuunosuke was already falling hard for Atsushi despite his best efforts. 

~*~

So annoying, Ryuunosuke thinks. 

“Uhh, Ryuunosuke?”

“…What?” he snaps, refusing to avert his eyes. 

“Why are you staring at me like that?”

“Your face annoys me.”

“Your attitude annoys me. Go clean the bathroom. It’s your turn anyway.”

It’s so annoying, Ryuunosuke thinks as he gets up to obey the not-order, having such a beautiful roommate. So distracting. 

~*~

Gin tells him Atsushi is good for him. One day out of the blue, when they are spending time just the two of them, walking down the street. 

He has never thought of it that way until she said something. But she’s right. 

For one thing, he can always tell what Atsushi is thinking. Whether it’s because they spent so much time together or because of the fact that he’s so easy to read, Ryuunosuke always knows what kind of mood he’s in. 

He isn’t anything like Dazai. He doesn’t give him the silent treatment for reasons unknown, making him go through mental loopdeloops, filing through his memories to see if he’s done something to set him off only to find out he just didn’t want to take the two seconds to say good morning to him. 

He doesn’t give him smiles with strings attached. Ryuunosuke remembers the feeling he would get on the rare days Dazai would smile at him. Like he was on top of the world and everything was alright. Only to realize later that the smile wasn’t genuine and instead mocking. Now in the morning, when Ryuunosuke wakes up while Atsushi is getting ready, he feels alive in the way Atsushi smiles at him. Real and full of life and happiness, wishing him the best day. Now he knows what that feeling is like nearly everyday. 

When Ryuunosuke speaks to him, he listens. Nearly hanging on every word to make sure he doesn’t miss a thing. There aren’t many things about living with Atsushi that bother Ryuunosuke. But when he expresses his viewpoints, he can see he’s being listened to, and he can see Atsushi is trying to remember to put the utensils in right side up to make sure they wash better simply because it had slightly annoyed Ryuunosuke. 

And when the opposite happens, Atsushi’s not afraid to tell him how he feels or call him out on his own inconsistencies without making him feel like a waste of space. And when he does feel bad (and most of the time he should because when Atsushi gets mad, it’s never about nothing), he knows it’s guilt, not some other twisted emotion that has Ryuunosuke tied like a knot, trying to figure out why he feels this way only to realize it’s because Dazai side-eyed him that morning. 

So yes, after that comment, Ryuunosuke realizes Atsushi is good for him. Very good. 

Which makes loving him even harder when he knows it could be so good. When he also knows it’ll never happen. 

~*~

Tonight, Ryuunosuke can’t fall asleep.

There’s no cause as far as he can tell. Just, every once in a while, his body decides it doesn’t want to rest. The insomnia isn’t prevalent on most days, so Ryuunosuke mostly ignores it, but this time is especially bad. 

He walks around the house. He reads a little. He makes himself a cup of tea. He remakes his bed, fluffs his pillows. He thinks about knocking on Atsushi’s door but, upon hearing his snores from the other side, decides against it. He knows Atsushi has his own troubles falling asleep; he doesn’t want to contribute to them. 

When Ryuunosuke last looks at the clock, it’s 2:30 in the morning, and when he wakes up, it’s six because of course the bad night of insomnia has to be when he needs to wake up the earliest. So when Ryuunosuke drags himself out of bed—because he’ll be damned if he doesn’t go to his hardest class because he only got a few hours of sleep last night—he is in a far more irritated mood than usual. 

As he’s having his pick-me-up tea, Atsushi is finishing up with his morning routine and makes his way to the door to leave. “Have a great day!” he calls over his shoulder, half out of their apartment. 

He hums snidely in response, and a moment later, the door closes, but it sounds like a slam to Ryuunosuke’s ears. 

He thinks about it when he’s brushing his teeth, when he’s getting dressed. During class, during lunch, between classes. The thought persists: 

Atsushi is mad at you. 

It wouldn’t be the biggest deal to be honest. They’ve fought plenty of times, been mad at each other more times than to be able to count on both hands. They’ve talked, gotten through it. Learned to avoid what sets the other off. So making up isn’t a far-fetched concept in this situation. 

But the entire day, Ryuunosuke feels weighted. In his gut, his chest, his arms, his fingers, his conscious. He can’t pay attention in class. Simply writes down the notes on the board instead and doesn’t write down his additional notes in the margins of what the professor is saying like he usually does. He feels almost sick to his stomach. All because he couldn’t hum a little less rudely. 

Why couldn’t he have just said thanks? Was that so hard? He’s so difficult. Of course he is. That was why Dazai left him that day. And now Atsushi will too because he’ll realize he’s not worth his time. 

These thoughts persist throughout the day and take a mind of their own in Ryuunosuke’s head. He sits in their kitchen after his final class, waiting for Atsushi to come home, so he can spit an essay about how he won’t do it again. So when Atsushi comes striding through the door, arms full of groceries, face empty of any semblance of hurt feelings or a bad mood, Ryuunosuke realizes he’s overreacted again and that Atsushi was never mad at him in the first place. 

As Atsushi sets down the bags, going off about what he bought—for himself and for Ryuunosuke—tension falls from his shoulders, and he relaxes. After Atsushi finishes what he’s saying, he speaks up and asks what he did in his classes. When Atsushi brightens about being inquired about his day, launching into an explanation, Ryuunosuke feels a better version of relief than when he was with Dazai. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke doesn’t like plants. Anyone who knows him (A.K.A Gin and Atsushi and perhaps Chuuya), knows this. He doesn’t keep it a secret. He despises the things that people claim make his oxygen that his lungs struggle to breathe in anyway. 

But Atsushi likes them. 

Ryuunosuke knows this because he never fails to comment on how pretty the leaves look in autumn while they take a walk together; mention how the flowers smell so good when they go grocery shopping together; brings a single dandelion home to play with between his fingers. 

So he knows Atsushi likes plants. And he knows his birthday is coming up. Which are the only two reasons he’s in this store, shopping for the bloody thing that will be his birthday present. 

He’s already sneezed a dozen times since entering the store and shot down three employees trying to help him get a gift for his friend like they know him even half as well as he does. 

But Ryuunosuke doesn’t rush. He never rushes with things that come to Atsushi. When he orders his repulsive coffee, he makes sure it doesn’t have a grain of sugar or a drop of milk in it because that’s not how Atsushi likes it. He won’t be mad per say at the employees; mistakes happen, he knows. But he will not bring Atsushi coffee when he’s pulling an all nighter if it’s not exactly the way he likes it!

(He can’t remember being this adamant about something.) 

So that is why he’s already wasted an hour in this bloody store. 

Finally, he comes across the section of cacti. He supposes they are his least hated group of plants. (Because they are almost as prickly as he is and require little care and attention because Ryuunosuke also knows that as much as Atsushi means well, he’s a bit forgetful, and he wouldn’t be surprised if he accidentally killed his plant.) 

So he takes a quick look through the section, debates whether or not he truly wants to allow a plant in their apartment for the last time, and picks one that will fit on Atsushi’s windowsill, away from his clumsy limbs, where he can’t accidentally knock it over. 

There’s something in his head telling him to stop this:

Stop caring about this person who could ruin you yet again. Stop this, cut all your ties with him to prevent being hurt. What are you doing? 

But as Ryuunosuke cups the small pot in his hands and brings the object over to the checkout line, he can’t listen to that voice. 

Oh, yes, he knows Atsushi can destroy him at will. A few choice words aimed at the correct spots at the right angles could shrivel his heart up like a date and force him to close his chest up like a locked crate purely out of self defense. 

He also knows Atsushi would never do that. And even though it might end in disaster, he might end up being hurt even more than before, he can’t seem to give up this love he has. Not for Atsushi. 

Atsushi deserves it too much for all the love he gives him. 

~*~

“Give me your jacket,” Ryuunosuke commands, holding a hand out to Atsushi. Gin looks over at him with a look on her face that says she’s on the verge of calling him out on his rudeness. But, too bad for her, Atsushi was his best friend, and him speaking like that to him was nothing new. 

Proving the point, Atsushi doesn’t look up from his drink, shrugging the thing off before handing it to him. Ryuunosuke folds it until it somewhat represents a pillow and lays his head down. 

Atsushi has the best sweaters and jackets. Always so soft and warm. The one he bought for him is his favorite. Nice and soothing, always smelling of chazuke. Dazai never let him wear his stuff. And when he tried on his clothes, there was always a flippant comment that went along with it (“I don’t know why you like this coat so much,” “This shirt’s not my favorite,”) that never failed to make him glance down at his clothing at that exact moment or later in the day to see what was so bad about what he wore. Self-consciousness and uncertainty, worming their way into his mind. Whispers that hissed in his ear when he stood in front of his mirror about whether or not Dazai would approve of the outfit. 

And then there’s Atsushi, who took the green light to start wearing his clothes like they were his second wardrobe all because Ryuunosuke put on one of his jackets to take out their trash. 

(Now he can’t quite tell or remember which clothes are his and which are Atsushi’s. It doesn’t help that they’re practically the same size.) 

~*~

Ryuunosuke has many dreams. Both in the literal and the figurative sense. He dreams of having a job that can sustain him in his apartment comfortably. He dreams of having no debt. He dreams of being with Atsushi. He dreams of them living together with lazy Sunday mornings, a cat perched on their thighs. 

He also dreams of Atsushi as a pickle as he runs him down with his ice cream truck because he thought he was the president of the United States. 

But this, here. Right now. He’s not sleeping or daydreaming. 

“I like you.” 

Ryuunosuke only blinks and stares. Then, his eyes widen, and his cheeks flush in understanding. He looks away because he can’t stand it, hand reflexively coming up to his mouth.

This must be a joke. Some kind of trick. Maybe he heard him wrong. Atsushi can’t possibly like him that way. He probably misunderstood. There’s nothing to like about him… 

“…I understand if this makes you uncomfortable. I’ve already made arrangements for me to move out if you don’t want to live with me anymore. I won’t blame you…” 

And Ryuunosuke whips his head back around to Atsushi who's the one not looking at him now. Wait, what? Does Atsushi think he doesn’t like him? And that question is answered in the next second as Ryuunosuke keeps looking at him: 

Yes. And as he keeps looking a little more, he sees the same self-loathing in Atsushi’s eyes as his own. 

Filled with a sudden panic to express he feels the same way, lest he vanish into thin air, Ryuunosuke jerks forward, arm snapping out, only to knock over his teacup, sending the liquid all over their kitchen table. 

“Shit—!” Ryuunosuke scrambles for a napkin, seeing Atsushi turn to watch him flounder. The napkins only do so much, and he sits back down in his seat. “That’s not what I meant…to do. I—I…"

Ryuunosuke tries to peek up at Atsushi to see his reaction and sees he’s looking intently at him. Eager and expectant for his answer. Ryuunosuke simply can’t mess this up or leave the table like he so desperately wants to. This is his chance (perhaps only chance) to tell Atsushi how he feels. He just can’t walk away from this… 

Ryuunosuke clears his thought and tries to will the glaze off of him. (Seriously, Atsushi’s eyes are so intense, his stare so wide and honest; it was terrifying, really.) But after a cough and after he shifts in his seat, he manages, “I…like you too…” 

He doesn’t say anything more, embarrassed enough as it is. He picks up his hand to pull on his left bang—the one closest to Atsushi—waiting for him to react because he hasn’t said anything back yet. 

Maybe he’ll start laughing. Maybe it was a joke. It was probably a joke now that he thinks about it. Soon Atsushi will burst out laughing at his prank, telling him how stupid he is for thinking he actually likes him. How stupid he is indeed… 

But Atsushi doesn’t do that. He stands suddenly which makes Ryuunosuke’s gaze snap up to him, and he’s shocked when he sees the eager and excited expression on his face. “Really?” he exclaims as if it isn’t obvious Ryuunosuke adores him and has adored him for months.

So he blinks, not entirely disbelieving. “…Yes,” he eventually says.

“Awesome!” Atsushi says, and that shocks him even more. “Then let’s date!” 

And Ryuunosuke only nods because he feels he might cry if he opens his mouth. 

Dazai never looked that happy to be dating him. 

~*~

“I can’t believe you.”

“Shut up.”

“Nakajima Atsushi.”

“Stop.”

“Who is able to sit in the front seat of Kunikida-san’s recitation.”

“Please stop talking.”

“Is afraid of one horror movie.”

“They’re terrifying! I get scared every time!”

“My mistake, every horror movie.”

“Ryuunosuke, you’re being so mean.” 

“This is not mean. This is me being amused by your misery.”

Atsushi groans and shakes Ryuunosuke with the arms that are around his waist while Ryuunosuke holds a smile. Currently, the movie It Part 2 is playing on their small TV that they share, but even without surround sound and all the lights in the vicinity on, Atsushi is still shaking behind Ryuunosuke. 

Ryuunosuke sighs but ignores him and eats more of their popcorn while trying to pay attention to the film. It is quite hard though when the person holding you in their lap is shaking like a leaf on an autumn day. 

“You know,” Ryuunosuke starts reluctantly because he really doesn’t want to stop the movie, but if Atsushi is really not enjoying this, then he can wait for Gin to be back in town to watch it, “we can stop the movie if you’re too scared.”

Ryuunosuke can see Atsushi pier up at him from under his bangs, studying his face. Evidently, he doesn’t like what he sees and faces forward to peek around Ryuunosuke’s shoulder. “No. No, if you like it, we can keep watching.”

Ryuunosuke turns just enough to look back at Atsushi, but he’s stubbornly not looking at him. After a second, he turns back to face forward again. “If you say so.”

But after a minute, a jump scare comes up, and Atsushi nears screams. 

“Alright, that’s enough of that.” Ryuunosuke leans forward to get the remote and shuts the TV off. 

Atsushi is quivering, hands covering his eyes completely. “I’m going to have nightmares for weeks.”

“Atsushi, we only watched the first twenty minutes.”

“Still!”

Ryuunosuke observes his boyfriend for a minute. Shaking, eyes covered, scared, possibly going to be terrorized by nightmares for weeks. What a self boyfriend he is. He thought that maybe after ditching Dazai who made fun of his love for horror movies, Atsushi would be able to fill that someone he so desperately wanted to fill. (Gin does like them, but she’s not always around, and Ryuunosuke doesn’t like to bother her too much with his hobby.) “I’m sorry. I didn’t think it would scare you that much. This was a stupid idea anyway.”

The comments make Atsushi open his eyes, and he stares at him with a pondering expression. “Hey, it’s not like I hated it.”

But the sentence doesn’t make Ryuunosuke feel better, and he turns away. 

“Hey, come back here,” Atsushi says fondly. Playfully. He drags Ryuunosuke back into his lap. “I’m sorry I get scared so easily. I know you like these movies, so I really wanted to watch them with you.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Ryuunosuke says, but it falls flat even to his ears. 

Atsushi gently places his chin on Ryuunosuke’s shoulder. “It’s the jump scares that get me. And the suspense. It gives me anxiety.”

Ryuunosuke nods; he can understand that. “I like them because they’re exciting. Of course, by now, I can predict the ending pretty well from the beginning because I’ve seen so many, but they’re still fun. Also the people in these movies are so dumb, and it’s fun to make fun of them. I can’t really do that most of the time though because people don’t like other people talking during a movie.”

“Yeah?” Atsushi suddenly brightens. “How about we talk about the characters and how dumb they are throughout the whole thing?”

Ryuunosuke pauses and feels a little lighter in his chest. “…You wouldn’t mind?”

Atsushi shakes his head and smiles. “Of course not. Maybe not with every movie, but definitely for the horror and thriller ones. You can talk and complain about how stupid the characters are, and with you talking and commenting, I’ll be able to watch it.”

“You’re really okay with that?”

“Yeah. Why not? Let’s at least give it a try.”

Ryuunosuke nods and tries to contain his grin of excitement as he turns the TV back on. And then tries to hide his blush in the well-lit room when Atsushi places a kiss right behind his ear. 

~*~

“Atsushi, why are you dating me?” 

Atsushi lifts his head, already raising an eyebrow, about to spit a response about needing an ego boost, but abruptly stops short. He can already tell from looking at his boyfriend that he’s in one of his “Dazai” spells. 

Of course, he doesn’t know it’s called a Dazai spell. Ryuunosuke’s never said his name to him, so he doesn’t know that’s who causes these moods, but he can certainly feel them and recognize them when they act up. When Ryuunosuke’s caught up in self-deprivation, thoughts like viruses, he can’t seem to see the truth if Gin’s life depended on it. 

And Atsushi is now an expert in getting him out of these moods. 

So he smiles and turns back to his book and sings, “Do you want the long version or the short version?” 

He can see Ryuunosuke lift his head to glare at him. “The long version I guess since I can’t imagine there being many reasons in the first place.” 

Ah, there it was. 

Atsushi sets his books down and crawls over to his boyfriend who’s already turning away from him. But he wraps his arms around him anyway because Ryuunosuke is weak to such soft touches. “Well, since you asked for it, here’s why. Atsushi’s 1000 reasons why I’m dating Ryuunosuke…” 

And ten minutes later, he’s no closer to finishing. 

“Enough!” Ryuunosuke cries, shooting out of Atsushi’s embrace, arms wrapped around himself. “I get the point alright! You can stop…”

Atsushi’s heart bleeds seeing the man he loves so full of wounds he can’t stand to be told the reasons why he is loved. Taking a calmer and sober mood, Atsushi says, “I could ask the same of you, you know.” 

Ryuunosuke turns to glare at him, but at least, he’s looking at him. 

“Ryuunosuke, I meant every word. I did okay, don’t make that face. You know I can’t lie to you.” Atsushi begs and pleads through his gaze, but Ryuunosuke looks like he’s already struggling with looking at him. “Please just take my word for it. I wouldn’t be with you if I didn’t want to be.” 

And, ah. That was what he wanted to hear. That was always what he wanted to hear. 

Dazai never said that. It was always a question that hung over Ryuunosuke’s head. Was he with him because he wanted him or was it because he just wanted someone to date? And during the relationship, he would always say it was the former. 

But after the breakup, he realized it had only ever been the second. And that hurt. That really hurt. 

But now, Atsushi is here, and he is telling him he wants to be with him. 

And Ryuunosuke believes him. 

~*~

Atsushi is responsible, if a little forgetful at times. Ryuunosuke knows this. He knows Atsushi turns his assignments in on time. He studies for his tests. He goes to study groups when the material doesn’t come to him easily. Ryuunosuke also knows Atsushi left for class this morning. So he is very surprised when he sees him approaching him in the library a few hours later. 

“Don’t you have class?” Ryuunosuke blurts, wide-eyed. 

“In ten minutes.” 

“It’s all the way across campus!”

“I know, but you forgot your scarf this morning,” Atsushi explains, already wrapping the thing around his shoulders while Ryuunosuke sputters in embarrassment. 

“I could have survived one day without a scarf,” he mutters, bringing the cloth up to cover his nose. 

“I know,” Atsushi smiles and turns around. “I’ll see you back at home.” 

~*~

Dazai never kissed him how he wanted to be kissed. Not with want. Or, at least, the kind of want he needed. 

When Ryuunosuke initiated contact between them, it always felt like he was begging for affection. Dazai would allow himself to be kissed by Ryuunosuke, but it never felt like he wanted it which made Ryuunosuke eventually stop doing it. 

So Dazai, whenever he saw fit, would kiss or hold or caress him when he wanted. Often times, Ryuunosuke wouldn’t be in the mood. And most of the time, Dazai was doing it to try and get Ryuunosuke to forgive him for something he did. (And he always would, even when he always shouldn’t have.) On rare occasions, Ryuunosuke would want, and Dazai would do, and he would convince himself it was because Dazai saw and not because it was just a coincidence. 

Neither of them pushed the other away was the thing. Ryuunosuke realized much later that would have been much healthier. He shouldn’t have allowed Dazai to do what he wanted, and Dazai in return shouldn’t have allowed Ryuunosuke to kiss him when he could feel that he didn’t want it. 

Oh, but Atsushi’s kisses are nothing like that. 

First of all, they’re always exactly how Ryuunosuke needs them. He doesn’t know how, but Atsushi always offers his kisses right after such a thought flickers through his mind. And Ryuunosuke has to wonder whether it’s because he is so easily read by the other man or if it’s because Atsushi has had many lovers in the past and gained a technique to sense such things.

Maybe one day Ryuunosuke will ask him, but as of now, he can’t bare to imagine Atsushi with anybody but him. His heart is too fragile for that. But it’s not too hard to avoid because Atsushi’s kisses are so nice, they distract from anything else at the moment. 

Morning kisses to ease him into consciousness, butterfly kisses to gain his attention when he’s reading, heavy kisses to distract him from a spiral of depression and self-loathing, kisses accompanied with embraces and squeezes that ask if he’s in the mood: all acts of affection that simply make him melt. He can’t ever seem to deny Atsushi because he always chooses times when he wants him as well. He can’t remember a time when he pulled away or the kissing felt as stimulating as a routine. 

Near the beginning, kisses and embraces where few and far in between. Ryuunosuke thinks Atsushi was just being cautious about reading him and his mood. But he started to do it more often when he noticed Ryuunosuke settling into his arms, relaxing into his kisses placed on the crown of his head, and his increasing mood whenever Atsushi would deem him worthy of his affection. Now, Ryuunosuke feels comfortable reciprocating. 

Whether it’s kisses, hugs, time, an ear to listen, Atsushi will give him anything and everything he asks for. So much so, that Ryuunosuke feels spoiled. He tells Gin this one time, and she lightly smacks him upside the head. 

“Spoiled is only a word used for those who don’t deserve it,” she says with a serious expression. 

Ryuunosuke only blinks and looks away. He doesn’t bring it back up again. 

~*~

“I swear, you must have super healing abilities or something…” Ryuunosuke mutters, glaring at the hickey-less neck of his boyfriend. He huffs and lets the collar in his grasp snap back against his boyfriend’s neck. 

Atsushi laughs and moves forward to wrap his arms around Ryuunosuke. “You’re the one with the superpowers. You are always able to get the stains out of our laundry. No matter how hard I try, they never seem to come out.” 

Ryuunosuke tries to glare, but it’s obviously less effective when he feels warm and safe and secure in Atsushi’s arms. “That’s because you don’t use the stain remover correctly. There’s nothing supernatural about it,” he mutters, sounding less and less annoyed with each word until he’s practically humming in Atsushi’s embrace. 

Atsushi leans forward and traces his nose along the slope of his shoulder, and Ryuunosuke’s eyes close without his permission. 

He’s forgotten what he was annoyed about. 

~*~

“I’m home, Ryuunosuke!” Atsushi calls as soon as he is in the door, letting it fall closed behind himself. 

A few seconds into putting the groceries away, Ryuunosuke comes from around the hallway. “What did you get?”

“Oh, the usuals. I also got some figs for you. Here they are.” As soon as Atsushi holds them out for Ryuunosuke to see, he snags them from his hands and bolts to his room. Atsushi blinks in surprise but ends up smiling, turning to put the rest of the food away and get started on dinner. 

When Ryuunosuke comes out of his room, Atsushi keeps cutting the bell peppers for the stir fry as his boyfriend wraps his arms around his torso. 

“Thank you for the figs,” Ryuunosuke says into his neck, and Atsushi keeps cutting but smiles. 

“You’re welcome.”

Later in the day, when Atsushi asks Ryuunosuke for his notes on yet another class (because he is the type of person to dutifully keep his notebooks years after taking the course), Atsushi sees the figs he bought lined up on his windowsill. He purposefully doesn’t make a comment on it because Atsushi knows that if he did, Ryuunosuke would avoid doing something so adorable, and that certainly is not allowed. 

So Atsushi tears his eyes from the scene before Ryuunosuke can see he’s looking at them and tries to pay attention to his rundown of the chapters he needs to study for. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke is sitting at their kitchen counter when Atsushi comes through the door. He raises his head to welcome his boyfriend home, but then his happy expression quickly dissolves into his neutral expression that is (most of the time) mistaken for the face of a serial killer when he sees he’s not alone. 

He doesn’t necessarily hate any of Atsushi’s friends; they seem to make him happy, and since he can’t always be around Atsushi, he’s thankful for some reprieves. However, he won’t give them his smiles. Those are saved for the people most precious to him. 

Atsushi immediately throws a, “Hey” in his direction as he closes the door behind a girl with red hair. “Ah, Lucy. This is Ryuunosuke. My boyfriend and roommate.” 

Ryuunosuke feels a thrill go through him at the proud, joyful tone of Atsushi’s voice. It feels nice to be introduced to Atsushi’s friend in such a way. He lifts his head to examine the redhead, waving at him with a plain expression on her face. He doesn’t wave back or smile, but he does nod ever so slightly to acknowledge her presence. He knows all too well what it’s like being ignored. 

Dazai never made it a habit, but it happened all too often. He would walk into the room, and Ryuunosuke would raise his head to catch his eye but then end up completely unnoticed. Or even worse, when Ryuunosuke would gather his courage to say something, and Dazai wouldn’t even muster a response. 

He never seemed to want to introduce Ryuunosuke to others. Ryuunosuke can’t recall one time when Dazai ever introduced him as his boyfriend. Almost as if he didn’t want to label their relationship or admit it was real or establish that connection between them. Now, he wonders how Dazai’s colleagues even knew they were together. He can imagine Dazai making a flippant comment about their relationship, and his stomach turns. 

But now, months later, he lifts his head from his book to see Atsushi trying the pasta he’s making to see if it’s cooked all the way then jerking back, muttering an, “Ow!” as he realizes it’s too hot from the boiling water. 

And, ah, yes. Ryuunosuke understands what true happiness is. It is wonderful and bright and lively and standing in his kitchen at this very moment. 

~*~

Ryuunosuke wishes Atsushi could make his handwriting more legible. Some people might call him a harsh critic because of his standards affected by his studies of calligraphy, but Ryuunosuke would call himself reasonable since he can’t read some of the words on the paper that he holds in his hand. 

Muttering a curse to himself, Ryuunosuke squints and brings the list closer to his face as if it would help him decipher the text as he heads to the convenience store. Atsushi had written this list in a hurry, pressed for time on his assignment for a class, when Ryuunosuke asked if he needed anything not even twenty minutes ago. Ryuunosuke is happy to buy things that his boyfriend needs, but not when it requires more work to figure out what he wants than to actually get the stuff he needs. 

He debates texting or calling Atsushi to make sure he obtains the right things but decides against it. Atsushi would have written legibly if he could, so Ryuunosuke won’t pull him away from the assignment he so desperately needs to finish. He’ll just play detective and hope he buys the correct things. 

Ryuunosuke keeps the piece of paper firmly in his gloved grasp when he walks through the automatic doors to the store. He immediately grabs a basket and heads to the medication section because ibuprofen is one of the only things on the list that he is sure Atsushi needs. 

Ten items later, when Ryuunosuke is not sure if he’s looking at the word for bananas or band-aids, he sighs and can feel the fatigue of the day getting to him. This trip should have taken him five minutes since he’s been going to this store since before meeting Dazai and knows it like the back of his hand, but with the added handicap, he’s been there 45 minutes and still doesn’t have all the items on the list. 

He decides to go with band-aids and heads to the front of the store, putting his faith in Atsushi that he has the correct judgement to never buy produce at a convenience store. 

After Ryuunosuke pays and he exchanges a glance with the cashier who looks as tired as he feels, he grabs his paper bag off the counter to exit the store. Except when he goes through the double doors, he knocks into someone and hisses as the bag in his arms is crushed by a tan chest. 

He pulls back and brings a hand up to settle his things as his head snaps up to tell the person off. Except he never makes it, and instead his eyes widen and he freezes. 

Ever since Dazai left him, Ryuunosuke hasn’t seen him or had any sort of contact with him. But now, of course, now is when Fate decides he’s going to face this man. He’s sorely unprepared. He’s better now. He’s happier. He’s stronger, he knows. He’s just not ready for this meeting. He doesn’t want this meeting. He wants to forget Dazai, forget their past. He just wants to be happy and be with Atsushi and be a version of himself he can be proud of or at least tolerate. 

Why did he have to show up now of all times? 

“Ah, Ryuunosuke.” Dazai sounds (unsurprisingly) very nonchalant at seeing him at the corner store. 

Ryuunosuke knows this meeting should be awkward. He knows he should be feeling anything other than this numbness in his cold fingers. Anger, sadness, sickening relief. Just not…nothing. 

Except that’s exactly when he feels, so he only says, “Dazai” in return. 

Dazai seems unaffected by his lackluster response.  His gaze travels downwards to pier into his paper bag, and Ryuunosuke is filled with the sudden urge to cover the top so Dazai can’t see. Can’t make whatever comment he’s going to spit from his lips about the things the person whom he cares so much about requested. He can’t, though, because he’s still froze. Still waiting for Dazai to make the first move, so he can follow through. 

Dazai’s gaze still feels strikingly invasive even after all the time Ryuunosuke has spent steeling himself against it. He smiles, and he can’t help a shiver of anxiety. “He must be quite special if you’re willing to get all this stuff for him at this time of day. You never liked going out so late.”

Ryuunosuke's mouth falls open in what he can only assume to be an attempt at speech, but nothing comes out. He can only stare openly because of the stupid, silly comment that makes his blood stop and freeze in his veins. As if Dazai has any right to say anything about Atsushi whom he loves so much. 

Ryuunosuke’s tongue swells until it feels heavy behind his lips. He wants to open his mouth and shout to ask why Dazai left him. What did he do wrong? Why was all he did not enough? Did he ever care about him? Why? 

Just…why did he have to end it like that? 

Why did he only send a text as the break up message? Why couldn’t he have told him the reason to his face? Why did he ignore his calls? Why did he block him? Why did he leave their apartment with empty boxes in it, telling him to move out within a week? Why was it so sudden? 

Why wasn’t he enough? 

But nothing like that comes out of his mouth. Because he’s a coward. He told himself months ago, with the fresh wound of his bleeding heart on his mind, that he would scream at Dazai if he ever saw him again. He would yell into the heavens and into the street what a horrible person he was and how horrible he treated him. That he would push, shove, kick, punch, cry. 

Now that he’s confronted with his nightmares and his agony, he can’t do anything. He feels numb. He feels like he’s dreaming. He feels sick. He wants to go home. He wants to see Atsushi. 

So he says nothing instead, ducks his head to hide his eyes, and maneuvers around his ex while clutching his paper bag close to his chest. He only gets so far. 

“Ryuunosuke,” Dazai says because he can’t make anything easy. And Ryuunosuke pauses because he just can’t stop obeying Dazai at every turn. But he doesn’t turn even as he hears Dazai shift on his feet to do so. 

And Ryuunosuke waits. He thinks Dazai might be waiting for him to face him, but he won’t. He won’t . Because Atsushi is waiting for him. Because he has the stuff Atsushi wants, so Dazai better hurry up and say whatever horrible thing he’s going to say so he can get back to him. 

Ryuunosuke hears Dazai take a breath and closes his eyes to brace himself. 

“Happiness looks good on you.”

And Ryuunosuke opens his eyes in shock because of all the things—of all the things —Dazai could have said, he decided to say that. He decided to make this worse and make Ryuunosuke think he could feel things like remorse and guilt. 

Ryuunosuke can’t force a single word out of his mouth. His chest feels cold and open and vast and empty. So, instead, he straightens and walks as fast as he can without breaking out into a run. 

Why did he have to go and say that? Why did he have to make it seem like Dazai actually cared about him? Why did he have to go and say that, revealing that he could have said anything like that in the time they were together? Why does this feel so much worse? 

Ryuunosuke is trembling and shaking by the time he gets to the apartment door. His jaw trembles and tears spill when the door closes behind him, and he drops to the floor. The bag falls forgotten to his side as the objects inside manage to make their way out. He sniffs and attempts to wipe at his eyes except that gloves still cover his fingertips. With a sob, he forces them off then curves into a ball to hide his face and bring his thighs to his chest. 

He knows he should get up. Wash his face. Give Atsushi his things before he can see what’s wrong with him. How tormented he feels. He doesn’t want to worry Atsushi, doesn’t need to worry him. He needs to stop being such a bother and a burden. 

Ryuunosuke didn’t even say anything to Dazai besides his name, so why does he feel so horrible? He couldn’t have been in his presence for more than two minutes, and he is already breaking down. He doesn’t want anything to do with Dazai. So why does that meeting feel like some sort of betrayal?

Ryuunosuke doesn’t know how long he sits there, crying and sniffling. But it must be some time or he must have been pretty loud because he hears Atsushi come down the hallway, calling for him. He can’t seem to raise his head, but he does manage to stop his sniffling and shaking shoulders, but that doesn’t mean he passes Atsushi’s notice. 

“Ryuunosuke?” And, ah, Atsushi’s voice sounds so nice. So openly honest and so honestly concerned. He can’t recall Dazai ever taking that tone with him. But Atsushi is not Dazai, will never be Dazai, will always be better than Dazai, and so he shows concern for his lover. 

Atsushi says his name again when he doesn’t answer and comes close. He kneels down next to him and hesitates before placing a hand on his elbow. And Ryuunosuke can’t handle being out of Atsushi’s arms another second, so he throws himself into his boyfriend’s chest and starts sobbing anew. 

Immediately, Atsushi takes him into his arms and cradles him to his chest. After a minute though, he picks Ryuunosuke up to transport them to the couch which Ryuunosuke can’t protest since Atsushi was on his knees and he was placing most of his weight on him, so it couldn’t have been comfortable. 

When they reach the sofa, Atsushi doesn’t let him out of his lap, not that Ryuunosuke was going to let go of him anyway. Hands rubbing up and down his back, the occasional squeeze, and nudges along the crown of his head were all things that helped him calm down and helped him get rid of his tears. 

And for several minutes, they just sit there. Complete silence with nothing but each other’s company. 

Ryuunosuke doesn’t know whether Atsushi finished his assignment or not. He could have heard his cries from his room and got up to investigate, or he could have finished and came out to get a snack as a reward. Ryuunosuke knows he should wipe his tear tracks away and ask. Then shoo him away if the answer is no, but he doesn’t do that. He doesn’t because he’s selfish and can’t stand to push Atsushi away right now. 

Ryuunosuke feels Atsushi take a deep breath against his chest before he speaks: “Do you want to talk about it?”

And Ryuunosuke pauses to think. 

Does he want to tell Atsushi? Does he want Atsushi to know? Does he want to spill his heart out, right here, right now? Does he want to explain what just happened? Does he want to vent? Does he even want to speak?

And he finds the answer to the last question is no, so the rest are irrelevant. He shakes his head. 

Atsushi nods and gives another squeeze to his torso. “I’ll be here when you’re ready, Ryuunosuke. I’m not going anywhere.” 

Ryuunosuke presses his lips together to contain a whimper. He closes his eyes and tucks his face against the angle of Atsushi's neck and shoulder. And even though he doesn’t want to speak, he says what he knows is the right thing to say and knows is only a fraction of what Atsushi deserves:

“Thank you.”