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A peer behind the mask

Chapter Text

 

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Two equally annoyed voices asked simultaneously, glaring heatedly at the other. Atsushi stood warily at Dazai’s side as the two former partners continued their stare-down. 

 

“Don’t even try to take the Book, mackerel.” Chuuya said as he shouldered his way into the room the Book was said to have been hidden. “I’m bringing it back to base.”

 

“If you think I’m letting you take it, that hat of yours must have eaten more of your brain cells than I thought, slug.” Dazai moved to shrug past him, subtly pushing Atsushi closer to the book as he did.

 

Atsushi glanced over at the book that supposedly had world bending properties. It didn’t look like much of anything to him, just an ordinary book. He supposes that might have been the point of it, to look so plain and commonplace. He edged towards it and quickly reached his hand out to grab it, hoping to remain unnoticed. 

 

No such luck.

 

Chuuya’s eyes whipped over at the movement and growled low in his throat as he sprung forward, attempting to get to the Book first with his hand outstretched.

 

Dazai bolted forward as well, trying to cut him off.

 

All three of their hands hit the Book at once and the world flashed a bright, blinding white. 

 

--

 

Chuuya blinked his eyes open and rubbed the top of his head slowly. “Did anyone get the number of the train that hit me?” he asked dryly through a wince. He looked around himself and frowned in confusion. The rundown storage room they had been in was gone, replaced by what seemed to be a large and spacious library room in someone's house. There were bookshelves from floor to ceiling, filled with rows and rows of books. 

 

“Um, where are we?” 

 

Looking over, Chuuya located the owner of the voice. It was Atsushi, who was looking around curiously, still standing next to Dazai. 

 

Dazai, however…

 

“Oi, mackerel, what’s wrong with you?”

 

Dazai’s eyes were slightly widened as he stared at the back corner of the room. Anyone who knew him less might not see the slight tremble in his hand before he hid it in his coat or how overall unnerved he looked. Unfortunately, Chuuya knew him better than anyone. And if Dazai was taken off guard, that meant that something truly unpredictable had happened. 

 

Chuuya followed his line of sight and blinked in shock. Sitting on the floor near a window with his back to one of the bookshelves was a young boy. He couldn’t have been any older than eleven or twelve. Books surrounded his small body in piles on the floor in what seems to be some of every subject. 

 

The child had fluffy brown hair and a delicate face. His eyes were brown with a subtle red tinge and they looked blank and bored. He wore a light grey shirt with a blue soft looking sweater vest on top with blue shorts and grey knee socks. His black shoes had been kicked off to the side by an errant pile of books about different sciences. 

 

“Um, hello?” Atsushi said, trying to get the boy’s attention. He waved a hand in front of his face after a few more seconds of no reaction. Eventually, he reached his hand forward to touch the child’s shoulder. He yelped and jumped back quickly. “My hand went through him.” he finally said as he looked to the other two.   

 

Chuuya narrowed his eyes and walked forward, testing it himself as he went to poke the child’s forehead. Sure enough, his hand seemed to phase through him. “Dazai.” he said as he looked up at the other. “This is you when you were a kid, isn’t it.” It was not a question. 

 

Dazai opened his mouth to say something before closing it again. Eventually he settled for nodding, too confused and lost in thought to do much else, his mind whirring with possible explanations. “This isn’t what the Book should do.” he muttered after a few more moments of silence. 

 

“That’s you?” Atsushi asked, completely thrown for a loop. “But you don’t have…” he glanced at Dazai’s bandages before looking away, embarrassed at his train of thought.

 

As though the observation shocked him back to awareness, Dazai let a small grin overtake his face as he looked at his student. “Contrary to popular belief, I was not in fact born wearing bandages, though I can understand why you’d think so.”

 

“So is this your old house then?” Chuuya asked, looking around at the spacious and dark room. 

 

Dazai’s smile slid off his face and he frowned, unhappy about what he’d put together so far about the situation. “It was, yes. This was the library. Most of my time was spent here.”

 

Chuuya raised a brow at him. “So I’m guessing we’re in your memories then?”

 

“That does seem to be the case, yes.” Dazai confirmed. “I’d like nothing more than to get out of here, however.”

 

“What?” asked Chuuya with a grin. “Don’t want us seeing all your old secrets, you enigmatic bastard?” He looked at their surroundings, taking in the size and quality of everything, “Of course you come from a rich family, I don’t know why I’m surprised.” he said dryly. 

 

“Well excuse me for enjoying my privacy, hatrack.” Dazai returned, just as dryly. 

 

“You had a cat?” Atsushi asked. 

 

Dazai and Chuuya looked over to where Atsushi was pointing. On the window seat next to where the younger version of Dazai was sitting, there was a cat. It had grey fur with a darker colored face and the fur was long and silky. The cat was doing its best to sunbathe despite the greyness of the weather.  

 

“Ah, no.” Dazai said. “That belonged to one of the maids. My parents would never have allowed me to have a pet.”

 

Maids!? ” Atsushi and Chuuya exclaimed in unison, unable to imagine growing up with house staff.  

 

Dazai kept his eye trained on the younger version of himself as he spoke. “The cat was supposed to stay in the maid’s quarters, so if it’s out here right now… Well, it didn’t happen very often. So I think I know what today is.” 

 

The child looked up from his book and turned his eyes to the cat on the window seat. Oh, he thought, it’s that cat again

 

“What the hell? ” Chuuya asked, eyes wide. “Did you guys hear that too?”

 

Atsushi nodded and Dazai looked like he’d eaten something unpleasant. “Yes.” Dazai said after a moment. “It seems that we will be hearing the thoughts of my younger self during this.”

 

Chuuya grinned. “Oh, you’re gonna hate that, huh?”

 

Dazai’s attempt at an unbothered smile only tightened further.

 

The child leaned his hand up to the side, trying to coax the cat into letting him pet it. A small bit of light, almost unnoticeable, filtered into his otherwise blank and dead gaze. The cat bumped its head into his hand and purred quietly. 

 

Then the door to the library suddenly opened and an old man walked in.