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Find Something Worth Dying For (And Learn How to Live)

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The boy was scared.

This was nothing new. The boy cannot remember the last time he slept soundly without fear; the last time he felt love and affection; the last time he smelt clean air or felt the sun on his face.

But this...this was a different kind of fear. The kind of fear that had the boy's blood running cold. The kind of fear that had his breath wheezing from his lungs in panicked pants.

This was fear for his life.

His legs are aching, they feel like they are about to collapse with exertion and yet he pushes on, willing himself to be faster as he flees through the dirty alleyways, zig-zagging this way and that with no comprehension of where he's going. This city is entirely new to him and he is flying blind.

The footsteps behind him are drawing ever closer. The boy doesn't dare to look behind him, for fear of what he knows is looming in the darkness: the large hulking shapes, the glint of sharpened steel, the putrid scent of death.

The boy rounds a corner, his feet almost skidding on the grimy surface. He regains his balance and is up and running as quick as a flash. He doesn't notice until it's too late. Until there is nowhere left to run and no time to turn back.

Dead end.

The boy comes to a stop at the end of the alleyway, turns his back to the wall, crouches low to the ground as shivers of fright wrack his small body. The inevitability of what is to come sinks in dropping like a cold stone in the pit of his stomach. The footsteps behind him have slowed, the group of men have spread themselves across the small alley, blocking any chance of escape. Their smiles are wide, their steel is sharp and there is murder in their eyes that even the boy - miles from home, in a country whose language he cannot speak - can understand.

His once-beautiful (or so he's been told) red hair hangs limply, its greasy strands sticking to his face. His blue eyes - seemingly a source of delight amongst this sea of dark-eyed people – are dull and lifeless. His hands are trembling, his whole body exhausted from his flight. He screams at the men, words that he knows mean nothing to them, words they cannot understand.

“S'il vous plaît, ne pas me faire du mal!”

The men leer and laugh, shouting things he does not comprehend, beckoning with dirty hands. He pleads once more, this time in broken English.

“Please, no!”

Still the men advance. The boy is out of options; knows that his life will end here tonight; in this filthy alleyway where no one will care when they come across his lifeless, broken body in the morning. Just another piece of trash to throw away.

The boy screams obscenities in every language he knows, curling his small hands around a knife held tightly in his grip. The same knife he had stolen from a man's belt that evening and plunged into his unsuspecting neck with frightened precision alongside screams of hatred. The man had gurgled something unintelligible, pulling at the boy's remaining clothes as blood gushed in waves from the fatal wound. He had died in minutes, and the boy had watched his eyes turn glassy as he slumped to the floor.

The boy is determined not to die here without at least doing some damage to someone. With a final wretched howl he springs at his attackers, allowing the rage and fury to build inside him, rising like fire. He is no longer afraid.

His cries are still echoing from the walls when he blacks out.

When the boy comes to, he wonders why the afterlife smells the same as the disgusting alleyways he had been running through. He wonders why it is still dark. He wonders why his body feels heavy and his legs feel like they wouldn't support him if he tried to stand up.

The boy blinks his eyes open, peering through the metal grating he currently has his face smashed into and wondering how the fuck he ended up 20 feet above ground level. The alleyway is silent. He can no longer hear the harsh unintelligible words of his captors below. Are they hiding somewhere in the darkness? Waiting for him to reappear?

He drags his body up, using the metal railings for support and hissing in pain. Peering down into the alley his eyes widen at the scene before him.

A lady stands below, looking up at him with a smile. She definitely doesn't belong here. She is beautiful and terrifying all at once; her hair shines like precious gems and her kimono is of the most expensive silk, she looks delicate and fragile standing amidst the dismembered bodies of his attackers in a sea of blood and gore. He wonders if this is a vision of a Goddess?

She speaks, her voice is quiet and calm, but she talks the same strange language as the men had before and the boy shrinks back against the wall of the balcony he has somehow found himself on.

“What is your name?” she tries again, her English is accented but she speaks it without hesitation and in flawlessly polite form. The boy peers at her through the railings once more and the metallic smell of blood rises to meet his nose.

“Chuuya.” The boy speaks quietly, through cracked lips. “Nakahara Chuuya.”

The boy had another name, once. A name given to him by the mother he barely knew; it is a thing he hardly remembers now. The boy who answered to that name died long ago. Perhaps he died in the lightless container on the ship to this strange land: sitting in the dark surrounded by his own excrement, waiting for his next meal to be shoved through a slot in the metal walls. Perhaps he died with a rope tied around his wrists as his captors dragged him roughly to stand on a stage: naked and alone in front of a sea of strange faces who looked him up and down with avid interest. Perhaps he died in the filthy room of the brothel that had 'bought' him: under the hands of lecherous men, pushing into him as tears gathered at the corners of his eyes. Perhaps he died on the end of a whip – a result of his first 'lesson' in this new life – the sting of the leather across his back is a pain he still hasn't been able to dull. The pain that made him scream and cry out as the man at the other end bared yellowing teeth wickedly as he shouted the same thing at the frightened boy on every lash.

Yes, that was certainly where 'Nakahara Chuuya' had been born. But the boy who once lived in this body...he died a long time ago.

“You are not Japanese.” The beautiful woman is speaking in English again and the boy, Chuuya, has to drag his thoughts back from that dark place to concentrate on her words. “Why do you have a Japanese name?”

“My name is Nakahara Chuuya.” The boy repeats stubbornly, he knows his accent is strong and he mangles the pronunciation. He also knows the punishment for getting this wrong. He learnt his lesson well that night. He is Nakahara Chuuya, and the boy who lived before is dead.

“Hmmm.” The lady hums, stepping over the cooling bodies with a look of clear distaste, to stand underneath Chuuya's balcony. “My name is Kouyou, it is nice to meet you, Chuuya. Will you come down from there? Do not worry, as you see, these men cannot hurt you any more.”

Chuuya finds it fascinating, in a slightly sickening way, that the lady has no flecks of blood or gore on her beautiful clothes. She is pristine, a flower amongst this dark and dank backdrop of horror. It is frightening.

“How?” The door leading to the warehouse his small balcony is attached to has no handle, Chuuya still doesn't quite understand how he even ended up here in the first place.

“Well, you walked up the wall to get there.” The lady, Kouyou, is obviously amused and Chuuya isn't sure he understood her words correctly. Walked up the wall?

“I...do not understand?”

“You did not know that you are Gifted?” She speaks the word 'Gifted' like it means something different to Chuuya's understanding of the word. “Is this the first time you have used your Ability?”

Chuuya cocks his head in confusion and tries the unfamiliar word out for himself. “What is 'Gifted'?”

Kouyou's smile is sharp as she raises a delicate hand in front of her. She speaks something that Chuuya does not understand and a flash of brilliant light obscures his vision. After blinking spots from his eyes he gasps at the vision of horror before him, pressing his back to the wall in a bid to escape.

He has heard of 'Ability Users' before – who hasn't? The whole world whispers about their existence behind closed doors. But he has never met a person who could wield one in his admittedly short experience of the world. Floating behind this beautiful delicate lady is what can only be described as a Demon, summoned from the pits of hell. Beautiful, ethereal, magnificent to behold, but carrying an aura that screams of death, destruction and decay. Chuuya's instincts tell him to run.

“My Ability is Golden Demon.” Kouyou gestures to the Demon with a smile, “I am Gifted too, you see.” Her smile twists as her hand moves to encompass the dismembered bodies littering the floor. “Golden Demon brings death to my enemies. Now, will you come down, Chuuya?”

“I-I don't know how.”

“Concentrate on what you wish to do, and you should not have a problem.” Chuuya thinks that this can hardly be called an explanation. Is pretty sure that trying out his 'Ability' is going to end up with him lying flat on his face on the concrete, possibly with a few broken bones to show for his efforts.

Still, the consequences of not doing what he's told are clearly spread upon the floor below: certainly he does not want to end up as unidentifiable meat smeared to the pavement. “I will try.” He speaks quietly, feels something pull in his chest when Kouyou smiles at him encouragingly.

He takes a deep breath, trying hard to centre himself, pushing away the residual fear, the weakness in his limbs, the utter relief at having been saved. He tries to think of nothing other than calling up...whatever it is that managed to manifest to get him into this predicament in the first place, feels stupid for even believing that he could have awakened an Ability. Things like this don't happen to people like him. Why is he even trying?

His body feels suddenly heavier. His arms feel like they're about to be pulled from their sockets and his legs feel like they're rooted immovably to the floor. His only thoughts are that of astonishment as he experimentally drags one foot forwards and places it on the wall, stepping away from the metal grated floor of his balcony and suddenly his world is tilting sideways. What the hell?

It feels like he's in some kind of dazed dream as he walks down the wall carefully and full of trepidation, towards the beautiful lady and her terrifying aura. This cannot possibly be real...any moment now he's going to wake up to the darkness of the opulent bedroom he can only think of as a cage, to the telltale sounds of someone at his door.

He hits the pavement with a sickening sort of crack and Kouyou is kneeling at his side in an instant, the Golden Demon nowhere to be seen. “You were doing so well.” She shakes her head in disappointment. “You lost concentration.”

“I...am sorry.” Chuuya whispers in despair. “Pl-please. I will do better. Don't make me go back. Please.” He curls in on himself, lying on his side on the cold, damp, dirty floor of the alleyway, hiding his face between his knees. His ribs hurt from the fall but he ignores the pain in favour of the sobs shaking his body. “I d-don't want to go there again. P-pl-please.”

A gentle hand is pushing the hair away from his face, stroking his head like a child. “Chuuya. I do not know what has happened before, or why these scum were chasing you down, but I would like for you to come with me.” Her voice is soothing, Chuuya sniffs and raises his head slowly. “Do not worry, I will not make you go back. We will go to the Boss and have you join the Organisation. You might not have control over your Ability right now, but I know that you will work hard, won't you Chuuya?”

Chuuya does not fully understand what the lady means by 'The Boss' and 'The Organisation', isn't entirely sure that he's not going to end up locked in another cage with no means of escape. Kouyou has spilled blood for him – it lies in shining grotesque pools on the ground around his feet – would she hurt him after going through all this trouble to save him?

In the end it doesn't really matter. Chuuya is small and frail and utterly exhausted, hardly a threat to this lady and her terrifying power. He will be taken, one way or another. It might as well be willingly.

“I will come. I will work.” He tries to pull himself upright, finds that his legs no longer wish to obey him and collapses in a heap on the floor.

“Good lad.” Are the last words he hears before his world fades to black.

...

Chuuya wakes up in a cold sweat. It takes a moment for his brain to properly assess his surroundings and realise that he's no longer the small frightened boy clutching a bloody knife in a dirty alley somewhere in the bowels of Yokohama. He's in his quarters at the Port Mafia's main base of operations; safe, secure, somewhat like home.

It's been a long time since that night, Chuuya's not sure why his brain chooses to relive that nightmare every so often, it's as if it wants to show him where he came from, how far he's moved forwards since that fateful night when he was taken in by a Port Mafia Executive and essentially inducted unknowingly into the Organisation.

The six months following that night Chuuya had spent under the care of Kouyou-nee, trailing around behind her wherever she went, hiding behind the sleeves of her trailing kimonos as she went about her day-to-day activities. When he'd first been brought to the brothel he had tried to run, wide eyed and panicked because she had promised he wouldn't have to go back, wouldn't have to do that again. He had been herded back on the point of Golden Demon's blade, Kouyou-nee had wrapped her arms tightly around him, uncaring that he was getting dirt and grime on her pristine clothes, she had whispered into his filthy hair.

“Shhh Chuuya, don't worry, it will be okay. You will not be forced to work here.” Her embrace had been warm and comforting in ways Chuuya could hardly remember, he had broken down then, sobs wrenched from his body until there were no more tears left to fall. Kouyou-nee had led him to a room on the topmost floor of the brothel, it had been small and sparsely decorated, but there were no locks on the doors and windows, no chains, no restraints.

The next six months had been full of learning. Learning to speak Japanese under the tutelage of Kouyou-nee and the women of the brothel who doted on Chuuya like he was their child, often bringing him sweets or trinkets. Learning to control his Ability in the confines of his own room; slowly honing his control through hours and hours of practice, trial and error that often resulted in cuts, scrapes and once a broken wrist after falling from the ceiling that Kouyou-nee had scolded him for rather harshly. Learning that the 'Organisation' Kouyou-nee had mentioned was in fact the notorious Port Mafia and that he was now under observation to see whether he was an acceptable acquisition to the ranks.

When he hadn't been learning he'd been following Kouyou-nee, listening to her conversations with various patrons of the business, tailing her on less dangerous missions; watching in awe as Golden Demon slaughtered her foes, leaving pools of blood in her beautiful wake. Once or twice he had hidden behind her long sleeves as she'd had a meeting in the brothel's most exclusive guest suite with a man called 'Ougai-dono' who was often accompanied by a lanky young boy who appeared to be always covered in bandages and less frequently a smaller, younger boy who clutched a nightmarish doll to his chest and glared daggers at them all. He never listened to what was being said, could hardly keep up with their conversations about 'business' most of the time, despite becoming more fluent in Japanese every day. His focus generally passed to the strange boy who often stared at him from his one visible, blank, dead eye. The look was always calculated, as if assessing Chuuya to see whether he was worthwhile. It made Chuuya bristle indignantly and once he stuck his tongue out at the other boy rudely, satisfied when the he looked mildly surprised.

Sometimes the lanky boy showed up alone when Kouyou-nee wasn't around. Chuuya had caught glimpses of him skulking around the corridors or chatting to the women in an overly familiar manner. Chuuya found the other boy watching him on more than one occasion; he never spoke, just stared at Chuuya with a blank look that said nothing of what he was thinking.

Once Chuuya had been in his room, practising his control over his Ability; standing halfway up the wall whilst throwing a familiar small knife across the room to embed itself far into the opposite wall. His door had been thrown open unexpectedly, the lanky bandaged boy had walked in as if he owned the place, he had stared at Chuuya who had jumped to the ceiling in fright, hastily retrieved knife clutched in trembling hands. They had faced off for a few tense seconds before Chuuya had finally regained his wits.

“Que faites-vous ici?!” His words came out in a high pitched shriek that made the other boy wince even though he obviously couldn't understand what Chuuya was saying. “GET. OUT.” He switched languages fluidly, levelling the knife and throwing it forcefully at his presumptuous intruder. The knife had skimmed past the other boy's cheekbone and buried itself in the wood of the doorframe. Chuuya watched blood drip from the boy's face down onto the carpet. The boy hadn't said a word, simply turned and walked out, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.

The very next day 'Ougai-dono' had come to visit, and it was then that things had changed for Chuuya. He had been summoned to the executive suite, had immediately spotted the lanky boy accompanying the tall, wily-looking man, and dread had crawled up into his guts. Kouyou-nee and the man had been engaged in conversation for a while, Chuuya and the lanky boy eyeing each other up from their respective ends of the room, as usual. Well perhaps glaring would have been a better word on Chuuya's part at least. The boy had a new dressing stuck to his cheek and Chuuya absolutely refused to feel guilty that he had been the cause of this new accessory. Suddenly the focus had switched to Chuuya, all eyes in the room had turned to him with expectancy. He had shrunk against Kouyou-nee's side, looked up at her in question. Her smile had been wistful, maybe a little sad.

“Chuuya-kun, we would like to see how you've progressed with your Ability. Would you show us?” Chuuya had known it wasn't a request. He had nodded his head in agreement, not confident enough to speak in front of the imposing man and his young, pretentious protege.

He had demonstrated his power by walking straight up the wall and onto the ceiling above their heads, his clothes perfectly straight and the hat the Kouyou-nee had given him as a gift a few months ago had still been perched neatly on his head. From his upside-down perspective he couldn't read the look on the tall man's face, but his eyes had seemed to spark with interest.

Over those months of constant training, Chuuya had found other things that his Ability could do. He dropped from the ceiling, performing a neat flip in mid-air and came to rest softly on the carpeted floor as he manipulated his own gravity to cushion his landing. Looking around he had spotted Ougai-dono's empty wineglass on the table and moved to brush it with his fingers, immediately the wineglass moved to float in the air as if it had been on strings. Chuuya had concentrated hard then, manipulating his Ability to fling the wineglass across the room, aimed straight towards the lanky boy's head with many times the force and density it would usually have.

There had been a momentary look of surprise from the other boy, who had reached out a hand towards the glass which had careened towards his head at lightning speed. Chuuya watched in satisfaction, waited for the glass to shatter and rain shards down on the other boy, but when the glass touched his outstretched fingers...nothing had happened. The glass had simply seemed to halt in mid-air for a split second before it had crashed to the floor and broken neatly in half.

Chuuya had stared at the boy in shock, and the boy, that asshole had laughed, the smile took over his usually blank face as his visible eye had crinkled with mirth.

“Nice to meet you too Chuu-ya-kun.” the other boy had drawled out each syllable of his name in a sing-song manner that made Chuuya scowl darkly. “I look forward to working with you.”

Yes, Dazai had been a smug bastard even when Chuuya had first met him. Perhaps if he had known back then what his future would hold, tied down with the bastard as his partner, he would have run screaming for the hills and never looked back.

Chapter Text

Dazai hadn't ever wanted a partner. He hadn't needed a partner. He could definitely have handled any task Mori-sensei set him up for just fine on his own.

Overconfidence? Arrogance? Not at all. It was fact. Plain and simple.

Of course he'd never brought any of this up with Mori-sensei. The copious amounts of bandages often covering his skin may have said (or screamed) something to the contrary, but Dazai was in fact a fast learner, even as a Mafia-brat. He had known without question – put it down to prior experience - that had he told Mori-sensei that he didn't require a partner, Mori-sensei would have beaten into him exactly why he needed a partner and written it off as 'training'. Dazai wasn't stupid, hadn't been pegged as the next Boss at such a young age for no reason. Unfortunately his lack of blatant stupidity had been exactly what Mori-Sensei was afraid of.

The first time he had met Nakahara Chuuya he hadn't been overly impressed at the short (so short, didn't the boy drink enough milk or something) figure hiding behind the flowing sleeves and intricate patterns of Kouyou-nee's fine silk kimono. He had glimpsed glaringly red hair, brilliant blue eyes and an expression that spoke of unease and a naive sort of innocence that had said he wouldn't last long in the Port Mafia at all.

Mori-sensei however, had seemed interested in the boy for far more than his intriguing foreign looks, and had dragged a sullen unwilling Dazai to 'visit' Kouyou-nee more frequently than usual. Wondering what it was about the frail-looking boy that Mori-sensei had deemed to be worth his time, Dazai had taken it upon himself to find out more.

His highly secretive investigations into the short redhead had been cut even shorter (pun most definitely intended) on more than one occasion by Kouyou-nee, who - when she had caught him skulking around - glared daggers at him, gave him a thorough tongue lashing and had promptly thrown him out on his ear. He had counted it as a small blessing that she had in fact, never told Mori-sensei about his forays into her kingdom.

After the third time he'd been caught and 'escorted' off the premises by the pumped up beefcakes Kouyou-nee kept around as a 'deterrent' (and really why she needed those lumbering gorillas when her ability could drive the most terrifying men to their knees he couldn't even begin to fathom it seemed a waste of good capitol to him) Dazai had taken a more stealthy approach: hanging around the brothel's well-manicured courtyard gardens until Kouyou-nee disappeared on some errand or other, at which point he would slip in unnoticed by Gorilla and Beefcake and try to dig up some dirt on the elusive redheaded enigma.

He'd counted himself a charmer of the highest degree when he'd managed to win the favour of the girls working under Kouyou-nee. They seemed to want to mother the strange, well-dressed boy who always slipped out of the shadows covered in bandages and bruises. They tutted over his 'clumsiness' and implored him to be more careful, at which point he would dredge up a rueful smile and rub the back of his head in embarrassment before asking quietly about the red-haired boy.

They always seemed eager to talk about their small house guest. Rumour had it that Kouyou-nee had brought this small child back in the middle of the night and brooked no argument over him staying. He had been dirty, scared, almost wild and totally foreign to the girls in more than just his looks. Unable to speak even rudimentary Japanese – but he was learning fast even if he drawled his vowels and sharpened his 'z's'. He kept to himself they had said, and never ventured downstairs when there were customers about, unless escorted by the lady.

The girls were beautiful and kind but Dazai was under no illusions that they had been trained by Kouyou-nee herself in the arts of deception, distraction and most likely assassination – members of the Port Mafia every one. Essentially the brothels under the management of the Port Mafia act as information brokers, often tending to high-class clients from all areas of the government and military, all prone to spilling secrets in the bedroom when they shouldn't. Kouyou-nee's girls may have been beautiful, but they still held the shadows of darkness in their kohl-rimmed eyes. He had thanked them for their time with a smile that had them beaming in return, but their words had told him nothing of what he had wanted to know. He wasn't going to find answers unless he met with the boy himself and it seemed - from the way the boy disappeared almost instantly as soon as Dazai spotted him among the corridors – that the boy had no intention of meeting him.

Breaking into the boy's room had seemed like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately that particular incident had ended with a picked lock, a wide-eyed look of panic from a boy who had hung upside down from the ceiling, and a knife thrown with enough force and speed from close range that Dazai hadn't even had the forethought to dodge.

The cut on his cheek had stung even more than Chuuya's indignant shrieks which had left his ears ringing.

Apparently the Ability of Gravity Manipulation was enough to peak Mori's interest and land Dazai with the partner made from the stuff of short, angry nightmares.

Their first official meeting as 'partners' had taken place in the Mafia's expansive training rooms, where, under the supervision of one of the Mafia's veterans and most feared commanders, Hirotsu-san, Chuuya had been taken through his paces to discern whether he had any kind of useable fighting experience.

It had become apparent rather quickly that Chuuya was no newcomer to brawling. He had swung his fists with practised ease, his Ability giving him the strength to literally punch holes through the dummies and training bags. However whilst his power had the potential to be terrifying, the boy had no finesse and obviously no kind of training. He had no form, his footwork was sloppy at best and though his speed was admirable his attacks could be easily foreseen and countered.

Dazai, of course, had told him this with a smile after throwing the shorter boy to the floor and pressing a foot harshly into his chest in disgust.

Two weeks later, after many 'sparring practises' that almost turned into all-out war between Dazai and his short angry life obstacle (and possibly a few small fractures, many large bruises and more than a couple of split lips), Mori-sensei had seen fit to send them both to the Tendo Ryu Dojo. Tendo Ryu was owned by the Port Mafia who used it to train recruited youths who showed any kind of promise in martial arts, however, although it had been secured for such a purpose, it had built quite a reputation as one of the leading Dojo's of Yokohama and as such had become something of a front company. Tendo Ryu often took in the spoilt young upstarts of the nobility who wanted nothing more than to play with weapons and pretend that they were all-poweful whilst their VIP parents catered to their every need with money rather than emotional attachment of any sort.

Dazai had been attending classes at Tendo Ryu on and off for years, but for Chuuya this would be a whole new experience. The thought had made Dazai chuckle to himself with rising glee.

The short, foreign-featured, foul-mouthed newcomer had instantly become the new source of 'entertainment' for Tendo Ryu's regular rich-snobs-with-abandonment-issues. Everywhere Chuuya went that had been out of earshot of the dojo's sensei, had been punctuated with quiet whisperings, pointed looks and laughter. They called him out for being a foreigner, they nicknamed him 'shortstack' (and maybe Dazai had something to do with that and maybe he didn't), they made fun of his clothes, his hair, his hat (and really that was a given, that hat is godawful after all), his accent, his stilted manner of speech.

Chuuya would ignore these taunts for so long, his face slowly becoming redder, his posture slowly becoming more rigid, his hands slowly balling into fists. Dazai would watch, outwardly impassive, as the smaller boy would fly into a rage and start spitting insults in rapid French that nobody could understand as he sprang at his tormentors, only to be stopped each time by a sharp lashing from Tendo Ryu's sensei who would appear from nowhere and who allowed no fighting of personal vendettas on his premises.

Dazai had eagerly counted down the days until Chuuya would break and he could rid himself of this annoying nuisance.

Unfortunately for Dazai's carefully constructed plans, Chuuya turned out to be rather good at martial arts and particularly gifted in absorbing any new teachings and techniques on the subject. Despite sensei's obvious habit of looking the other way whenever the rich kids would take it upon themselves to relieve their boredom by tormenting those they considered to be lesser than themselves, he trained his students rigorously and diligently.

The first time Chuuya had sent Dazai sprawling to the floor in front of the watching crowd of jeering snobby brats, Dazai had chalked it up as nothing more than beginners luck, and maybe it had stung a little but he had been confident that he'd teach that short redhead a lesson in correct manners when in the presence of a superior.

When Chuuya had gone on to put him on his ass on the mats another three times consecutively, the wakened beast that was Dazai's shattered pride had howled for retribution. The rich kids had laughed and teased and told him haughtily that he must be losing his touch and that he should mind his back. Until Chuuya put all of them on the floor as well, then the faces had turned from joking to angry and there were whispered promises of pain and revenge.

It doesn't do to rise through the hierarchy of children so quickly. Dazai had gained their grudging respect through a sharp tongue, an almost supernatural sense for avoiding danger, and a somewhat nasty habit of giving anyone who attempted to stand up to him wounds a little more serious than a black eye. Seriously, Mori-sensei had punished him so badly the time he had threatened to dig his knife into Naka-kun's eye and feed it to him, he had been on crutches with his leg in plaster for weeks.

Naka-kun was the eldest of the class, and along with his five cronies they had fancied themselves as some kind of gang (Dazai couldn't help but see the beautiful irony of a bunch of rich kids wasting time at a mafia owned dojo playing at gangs). The six of them had cornered Chuuya behind the dojo, brandishing stolen shinai with sharp glints in their eyes and wide smiles on their faces. Dazai had watched from a ringside seat in the shadows as Chuuya - the solitary unafraid moron that he was - turned around in the circle of his attackers, blue eyes narrowed and mouth a thin line. The boy hadn't said a word, simply slipped into a newly-learned guarding stance and pulled his small hands into fists.

Six against one was never going to be pretty. Chuuya might have been a young prodigy when it came to martial arts, might have been able to take the brat-pack individually with ease (okay he would have, Dazai will give him that one), but all together, when they were armed with bamboo swords – which whilst generally nonlethal as far as weaponry goes, still cause quite large bruises and whiplike lashes if you can catch the flesh just right – and the short redhead had only his fists, it was only a matter of time before Chuuya was going to become the prey.

He had lasted longer than Dazai would have initially predicted – had he been conservative with his predictions of course, his predictions are never actually wrong after all – having managed to wrestle a shinai from the youngest of the brat-pack and turn it on it's previous owner with a loud thwack that had rung across the small courtyard alongside the boy's muted shriek of indignant rage. The remaining five had bourne down on the short redhead, came at him as an ill-fitting and unpractised group, but a group nonetheless. The loud sounds of wood meeting flesh had struck again and again, and still Chuuya had remained standing, blocking what he could and taking the hits with gritted teeth and hatred in his blazing blue eyes.

Mori-sensei had expressly forbidden them from ever activating their Abilities in public, with missions of course being the exception to that absolute rule. Chuuya could have ended this fight in a moment. Could have struck down his enemies without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately Dazai had already foreseen that Chuuya was a follower at heart and wanted nothing more than approval and acknowledgement from the higher-ups. Naive idiot. Dazai saw the strain on his face as he fought against his own instinct to end the fight and emerge victorious as was his right as a combat Ability user, as a Mafioso. Dazai saw the earth begin to crack beneath the short redhead's highly polished shoes, saw chips of stone begin to dance across the ground as they would at the approach of an oncoming earthquake. Had known at that moment that Chuuya was losing his tight grip on control and his Ability had begun to leak around the edges: an instinctual need to stay alive, to win. Dazai had watched from his hiding place with interest.

Right up to the point when Mori-sensei had whispered in that coldly blank tone, right in his ear.

“Dazai-kun I am disappointed that you choose to hide here instead of aiding your partner.”

Dazai had refused to allow his body to jerk around in shock, had returned the blank look with one of his own, a lie quickly making it to the forefront of his brain and exiting his mouth in one smooth motion. “I thought about it, but decided it would be more to my tactical advantage to observe my partner's actions from over here and gauge his usefulness in an outnumbered fight, Mori-sensei. I take my teachings from the best after all.”

The narrow-eyed humourless look of disappointment he'd received in return was enough to tell Dazai that he would suffer for his smartass comments later.

Mori-sensei had sauntered slowly from the darkness to stand behind the ringleader of the brat-pack, the white doctor's coat left loose to flap in the breeze and alert the shoddy 'gang' to his presence. Mori-sensei's aura has the power to stop most humans in their tracks: that subtle mix of dread, blankness and death that overrides the senses and strikes fear into the heart of the Port Mafia's enemies.

Those kids hadn't stood a chance.

Naka-kun - the weak weasel that he had always been behind the false bravado and backup of his thug-like lackeys – took one terrified look at Mori-sensei, dropped his shinai to clatter on the floor and had taken off running with terror in his eyes, leaving the rest of the brat-pack to scramble after him with the pervading stench of urine lingering behind them. Mori-sensei had watched them go impassively, arms crossed over his chest as the terror-inducing aura faded to equally creepy blank nothingness. His eyes had cast downwards, to the short redhead boy crouched in the dirt, with fingers shaking under the strain to control his own power: the cracks beneath his feet were widening, small stones rising to levitate a few inches from the floor.

“Chuuya-kun. Enough.” The tone of finality was enough to have Dazai moving from his hiding place and walking towards his so-called partner with an air of importance, arm outstretched to cancel Chuuya's Ability forcibly. Mori-sensei had rounded on him with a narrow-eyed look and sharp shake of his head that made Dazai stop firmly in his tracks a few feet away from the other boy whose fingers slowly uncurled as he took a deep breath and let it out in a slow hiss. The clattering of stones hitting the floor caught Dazai by surprise and the veiled look of don't fucking come near me Chuuya shot his way with vehemence was like raising a red flag to a bull.

Chuuya had dropped to one knee then, his head tilted towards the floor in an effort of respect, his words quiet and heavily accented. “I am sorry, Mori-sama.”

“Did you attack those boys, Chuuya-kun?” Mori-sensei's voice had held a wicked amusement that had Dazai flicking his eyes from the obeisant readhead to his mentor.

“No, Mori-sama. I did not.” There had been a spark of resentment in Chuuya's tense frame then, barely hidden, and if he'd caught it back then, undoubtedly so had Mori-sensei.

“Then there is nothing to apologise for, Chuuya-kun.” Mori-sensei had smiled, well, Dazai calls it 'smiling' but that in itself was a rather chilling expression on the Boss' face. Even more so when that smile had been turned on him. “However, Dazai-kun, I think you and I need to have a chat about the meanings of partnership. Come to my room this evening please, I'm sure you'll pick it up quickly.”

It had been around 11pm that same evening when Dazai had stealthily made his way down darkened corridors, and he can still remember the aching bone-deep pain to this day. The fresh bandages had wound their way tightly around his ribs and breathing had been something he could honestly have gone without quite happily for days afterwards. Still, he had been young – full of the sense of his own utter superiority - and he had been angry and he'd had a pair of scissors and a hair pin that said he would definitely have the last laugh.

Maybe it had been a cruel idea – to sneak into Chuuya's room, and cut chunks out of the boy's red hair. Dazai hadn't cared. The boy had shown nothing but utter contempt and disrespect and deserved to be punished in whatever manner Dazai saw fit. As long as he wasn't caught there would be no punishment. Mafia 101.

He had drifted down the corridors like a black vengeful spirit, picked the lock on Chuuya's door and stolen in with practised stealth, that the boy hadn't woken immediately at his presence only further gave weight to Dazai's idea that Chuuya wasn't suited to Mafia life at all.

The quiet snick of scissors and a suitably noticeable bald spot appeared on the side of Chuuya's head. Not satisfied with that, Dazai had spread the cut hair across the boy's pillow, wondering absently if he could convince the other boy that he was going bald if he repeated this again over the next few days.

With that delightful thought Dazai had shut the door behind him and skipped gleefully up the corridor with a wide grin plastered across his face.

The following morning Chuuya had glared at him from across the shared breakfast table, amidst a small group of other breakfast denizens. A look of measured murder that Dazai returned with a smile before allowing it to slide from his face in mock-horror.

“Chuuya...are you perhaps going bald? Yes, look, you have a bald patch starting just there.” He had pointed with mounting glee at the glaring patch of missing hair - which by measured purpose could not be covered by that damnable insult to fashion Chuuya called a hat - and shaken his head, adopting a mournful expression, “Is it perhaps because you are feeling stressed? Or maybe not getting enough sunlight. Perhaps you should drink more orange juice, Chuuya, that might help.” He had paused for dramatic effect, “Although milk might be better for growth...”

Chuuya had been audibly growling by that point and Dazai's victory was looking closer by the second. Everyone else at the table had been politedly (or perhaps aggravatedly) ignoring their existence by that point, fully expecting a fight to erupt at any given moment.

“You bastard!” Chuuya had whisper-hissed across the table, teeth clenched and hands balled into fists slamming down onto hard wood.

“You know Chuuya...I find it particularly amazing that you can mangle the most basic sentences, and yet somehow you manage to swear like a native.” Dazai had commented off-handedly, tilting his head and inspecting Chuuya as if he'd been a particularly interesting bug under a microscope. “I don't know who's been teaching you, but they definitely need to work on your politeness.” He had pointed to himself at this point, looking Chuuya right in the eye and enunciating slowly, as if speaking to someone with a hearing problem. “Da-zai-san.” He'd motioned at Chuuya with a flourish, “Now you try.”

“Fuck you.” He'd barely heard the whisper of Chuuya's voice, the boy's face had turned a particularly interesting shade of beetroot and Dazai had wondered how much more it would take to get the boy to cry.

“No no no.” He adopted a bored voice, “That's completely wrong. Try again. Da-zai sa-ma.”

Chuuya had pushed his chair back from the table and left without another word.

Victory to Dazai.

Had it not been for the stern watchful eye of Hirotsu-san there would have been a bloodbath in the Mafia's training rooms that afternoon. Chuuya had flown at him with fists, feet and teeth in a ball of wound-up fury which Dazai had naturally countered with an overwhelming air of supreme boredom which only incensed the redhead further.

His anger made him sloppy. It was more like a street fight than a training session and that had made it easy for Dazai to slam the smaller boy against the wall; trip him to land face-first on the floor; brush his leg when the boy had been running up the side of a wall and watch as he'd plummeted to land on the floor in an ungainly heap; grab him by the arm and twist it so far behind his back that the shoulder joint had nearly popped out under the pressure.

He'd been teaching a very productive and satisfying lesson, until Hirotsu-san had stepped in, sternly chastised Chuuya for not thinking before he acted and told them to begin again.

After that Chuuya had come at him with a focussed intensity that burned brightly in his eyes. There had been patterns to his attacks instead of sloppy incoordination that had lead to openings for Dazai to exploit. Suddenly the gaps had become smaller, more tightly guarded and thus Dazai had ended up sailing in an arc over Chuuya's had to land on his back on the floor with the wind knocked out of him and his ribs sending spasms of pain across his entire body.

When he'd coughed up blood Hirotsu-san had proclaimed them finished for the day. Ending on failure had not been part of Dazai's plan.

That night Dazai had been utterly determined to hack the boy's red hair so short he might as well actually be bald, and maybe if he'd been lucky, cut up that ridiculous hat that Dazai had once been sure was actually glued permanently to Chuuya's head.

Once again he had pressed his ear to Chuuya's door, listening for any signs of life or movement that would have indicated that the redhead was still awake. Hearing nothing he had worked at the lock with his trusty hair pin and even young he had been an expert at getting into things and places he shouldn't have. The lock had clicked open under deft fingers in a matter of moments and Dazai had allowed himself another moment of smug victory before pulling the door open cautiously and sticking his head through the gap.

In the barely-there glow of the lights of the corridor, Dazai had spotted the telltale glint of metal that spoke of a tripwire, following it's path he had deduced that it was in fact rigged up quite cleverly to some kind of taser and would no doubt give a nasty shock to anyone who happened to blunder into it unawares.

What a shame Dazai was a hundred years too smart for toddler tricks like that.

After neatly side-stepping Chuuya's attempt at a burglar alarm, he stood inside the threshold of the room. The sleeping form of his 'partner' had been visible immediately, and not because his night vision was all that great: Chuuya was shaking from head to toe, curled into a foetal position with limbs tightly locked. He had looked like he was in pain: brows furrows, tears wetting his lashes and streaking paths down his cheek to drip steadily onto the pillow, mouth open in a silent scream.

Dazai had paused.

He should have felt some overriding sense of victory at that moment, seeing his rival crushed and broken laid bare before before him. Yet all he had felt in that moment was an urgent sense of protectiveness for the small broken thing shaking like a beaten dog and completely unaware of his presence.

The scissors had dropped, forgotten, from his hands as Chuuya had spoken in halting haunted tones. “Arrête s'il-te-plaît. Arrête s'il-te-plaît. S'il vous plaît. Non. Pas plus." Dazai didn't understand the words, but the human side of him, carefully locked away behind the bleak bloodstained walls had understood the pain, the panic, the pleading in Chuuya's cracked voice.

His feet had moved of their own accord, bringing him to Chuuya's side. His mind had gone strangely blank, acting on intuition alone he had stretched out a hand to brush Chuuya's shoulder.

Chuuya had started screaming then. The unearthly noise had ripped from his throat as his body had uncurled only to go rigid enough for Dazai to worry that the boy was about to have a seizure. And that noise was sure to be enough to wake the dead – and have anyone in the near vicinity scrambling to find out who was being brutally murdered in their own complex.

He'd wondered for a brief moment if this had all been part of some elaborate plan on Chuuya's part to checkmate him and get him into serious trouble at the same time.

At that point Dazai had been so far out of his comfort zone it wasn't even funny. Working baselessly he'd climbed onto the bed, thrown a hand across Chuuya's mouth and practically sat on the other boy's stomach in a hurried attempt to get the redhead to shut the hell up. Chuuya had flailed wildly, fighting like a cornered animal in fear of its life. Blue eyes had flown open, but it had been obvious from the moment Dazai had seen the glazed look of terror that Chuuya wasn't seeing him, he was seeing something else, something far more frightening than the Port Mafia could ever dredge up.

“Chuuya?” He'd tried speaking in a low tone, but his voice had only seemed to make matters worse as the other boy thrashed beneath him: there had been no co-ordination to his movements but a strength born from desperation and that animal sense of fight or flight. Dazai had pressed down harder, was sure that had he not been touching Chuuya's skin at that point, the boy would probably have thrown him through the wall without ever realising it.

“Chuuya stop it!” It had been a last resort; the only thing his perplexed brain could come up with. He had slapped Chuuya across the face hard enough to make his own palm sting with the force. The boy's screams had died in his throat, he had blinked once, twice, thrice and Dazai had watched the clarity return as Chuuya dropped to reality from whatever nightmarish hell he'd been under the influence of.

“Da...zai…?” His voice had been wrecked, low and hoarse and sort of rattling with snot which at the time had just been absurdly disgusting. Tears had leaked from puffy eyes, following reddened trails down the smaller boy's face. But anger and suspicion had slowly overtaken Chuuya's posture as he struggled to get free. “Why are you here? Get off me! Go away!”

Dazai had pulled back then, sitting a few feet away on the end of the bed, legs crossed in front of him as he willed the anger, the need for revenge to return, but looking at the pitiful boy in front of him, the red rage just wouldn't surface.

Chuuya had curled into a ball on the sheets, his body shaking with adrenaline and stress as he'd tried to hide his tear-stained face from the world beyond. Dazai had sighed loudly, muttering an insulting jibe of, “You're an ugly crier, Chuuya.” to which the boy had showed no outward response other than to curl up tighter and that just wouldn't do. Fight back damn you.

He had dragged the smaller boy forcefully down the bed and practically into his lap, knocking aside the weak attempt at a punch and curling his arms around the redhead, shielding him from view. He'd had absolutely no clue what he was doing, or moreso why he was even bothering to attempt to comfort the 'partner' he'd never wanted in the first place. But it was probably that moment when he'd decided that the redhead was his and that nothing and no-one except him would ever make his redhead cry again.

Chapter Text

Dazai is still a complete mystery to Chuuya. No matter how long they've been partnered, no matter how well Chuuya knows Dazai's fighting style, weaknesses, ridiculous codewords and phrases he hopes to never utter aloud; he still has absolutely no idea what goes on in that guy's fucking weirdly 'genius' brain.

It had taken a long time, a great deal of work and a couple of superiors gaining fresh streaks of silver in their hair - even bald patches if rumour was to be believed - for them to have moved past the stage of ending up wanting to murder each other every time they were in the same room; but they had reached some kind of silent understanding born from hundreds of wins and losses on both sides. That didn't mean either of them had accepted defeat, or that either of them would turn away from an opportunity to one-up the other. It was just the way they worked.

They work well as a partnership, there's no doubt about that, one just has to look at their success rate and mission reports (thanks to Chuuya they actually do turn in mission reports, for all his brilliant brain Dazai cannot be coerced, bribed or bullied into filling out 'tedious forms' and as usual Chuuya finds himself taking up his partner's slack) to see that they are well matched. Sure Chuuya feels a bit like a well-trained dog most of the time, with Dazai yanking on his lead and sending him here and there with but a hastily-constructed codephrase; but the results speak for themselves. The constant bickering between them has become something of a game, one that Chuuya often loses when his temper gets the better of him, not that he would ever admit such a thing. It's familiar, almost comfortable.

But things have changed.

There's always been a darkness in Dazai, from the very first time Chuuya had laid eyes on that lanky boy back in Kouyou-nee's brothel, he had felt it, emanating from the other boy, hidden under a blank facade and fake smiles.

The darkness is growing.

Chuuya can see it in every mission they take on; in every life extinguished; in every interrogation Dazai walks out of with blood on his hands and an eerie emptiness on his face. The light is leaving his eyes.

Sometimes it ebbs and flows like a dying star in a black night sky. Sometimes Dazai will disappear off to a dingy bar where he orders alcohol he shouldn't be allowed which is served by a bartender who turns a blind eye to the age of his clientele. He picks at crab meat out of a tin, inspects the lid with an expression that say's he's contemplating whether the metal is sharp enough to be fatal. In that cramped place he meets up with a nondescript man - as far as the Port Mafia is concerned – who goes by the name of Odasaku, who has no apparent rank in the Mafia's hierarchy of blood and kill-counts. Yet with this man Dazai talks, smiles, even laughs like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, like he's just an ordinary teenager with an ordinary life. And at the end of these meetings, when Dazai has long left for 'home', Odasaku...Odasaku just looks sad.

For a few days the light will filter through Dazai's shuttered gaze, until slowly it starts to gutter and die under the pressure of the darkness that surrounds them, attempting to beat them into submission.

The war codenamed 'Dragon's Head Rush' had been like a testing ground for the two young teens – a melting pot of Ability users and organisations who all wanted a slice of the Port Mafia's proverbial pie. Mission after mission they had been sent on - both as partners and separately as leaders of their own individual teams - and one by one the body count had rose, each victory paid for in blood. It was unrelenting, Chuuya forgot what it was like to not be constantly assaulted by the smell of iron or how it felt to sleep exhausted after back-to-back missions without being woken to be sent off immediately to another hellhole of death.

The Port Mafia had emerged victorious...but only just.

They had gained some notoriety (or perhaps 'more notoriety' was a more fitting description in the bastard's case), even the older, much more veteran members cast their eyes to the floor when they walked past - regarded Dazai with sidelong glances of apprehension and fear when they thought he wasn't paying attention - and if that wasn't some kind omen Chuuya didn't know what was.

Now they have reached 16 with death dogging their footsteps like an old friend: blindly arrogant and full of their own sense of superiority, they are completely secure in their belief that nothing and no one can bring them down. They will take down this world piece by piece and nothing will ever stand in their way.

“You're going to Russia.” Mori-san's tone, as always, leaves no room for argument, despite Dazai opening his mouth like he's about to interrupt, no doubt with something wildly inappropriate. “We have information on a remnant group from Dragon's Head Rush. You'll be on you own. Act as you see fit.”

Dazai's eyes have darkened to almost black as he nods, turning and leaving without uttering a word.

...

The Russian underworld is a shithole. A cold, dirty, unfriendly shithole that Chuuya would be quite happy to leave behind and never revisit.

The icy cold creeps in to Chuuya's bones. It leaves him aching, constantly shivering and irritable.

Dazai seems unaffected by the severe change in climate, and that's just unfair. On more than one occasion Dazai has offered Chuuya his coat with a wide knowing smile, like he's silently insinuating that Chuuya is some kind of delicate woman who needs protecting from the weather. He will die before he admits that being forcefully wrapped in said coat after vehemently declaring that he was fine thank you very much, is actually the only time he's felt comfortably warm during their entire time in this wretched country.

Of course, the welcome feeling of warmth lasts for a mere few seconds before Dazai pipes up, “Perhaps Chuuya will stop whining like a bitch now? I'm sure the people on the other side of the street could hear your teeth chattering like a little girl.”

Dazai's coat ends up floating in the closest, dirtiest slush puddle Chuuya can find. The look of utter betrayal he gets in return is more than worth the loss of warmth (and maybe a few frostbitten fingers if it comes to that).

The only good thing about Russia is the Vodka. Chuuya makes this discovery on their very first night in Moscow, after finding some backalley hole-in-the-wall that doesn't seem bothered by suspicious-looking foreigners complaining loudly about the cold. The Vodka is strong, smells like paint stripper and feels like fire as it burns its way down Chuuya's throat. It sits warmly in his stomach, driving away the cold which seems to have become imbued into his very core. No wonder this shit is so popular.

Their hotel is in some downtown portion of the city that appears to be kind of an unofficial red-light district if the number of beautiful women - in clothes so tiny they are almost non-existant and that has Chuuya's balls shrivelling just thinking about it - flaunting themselves on street corners is any indication. More than once Chuuya has to drag his slightly-intoxicated asshole of a partner away from women who clearly can't understand a word he's saying and Chuuya swears if the bastard mentions suicide one more time he will end his sorry existence himself.

To top it all off, when Chuuya finally manages to explain to the receptionist (in broken English) that they have a room booked and after much raising of eyebrows - and exclamations in Russian that Chuuya can barely understand as relating to something about 'two boys' – he realises as they step over the threshold that their room is in fact a double suite, with only one bed.

He suddenly wishes he'd drunk at least twice as much Vodka and this cannot be happening. Dazai happily flings himself on the bed, shrugging out of his clothes and pulling on a pair of sleeping pants before burrowing under the duvet with exclamations of tired delight. Chuuya opts to sleep on the cold leather couch with nothing but a blanket wrapped around his thin frame.

It's past 2am and he's been shivering for hours before he finally admits defeat and crawls into the bed on the opposite side of Dazai (as far away as possible thank you very much), sighing in relief as warmth slowly seeps into his body and lulls him into fitful sleep.

Over the next few days they fall into a routine: tail the ringleader of the enemy organisation they've been sent to destroy; gather any necessary intel; eat shitty food and drink Vodka in seedy bars until they are numb to the cold; drag Dazai away from prostitutes so they can go back to the hotel to sleep it all off. Chuuya stubbornly takes himself off to the couch every night; each time barely making it past a few hours before he gives in to the icy tendrils threatening to worm their way eternally into his being and slinking in beside Dazai. That asshole hasn't once offered to take the couch, practically goads Chuuya into stomping off with his blanket and Chuuya wakes every morning to Dazai much closer than he remembers; watching him with a knowing smirk whilst he buries himself under as much duvet as he can acquire with a muttered 'fuck you'.

A week passes in tedious monotony until Chuuya wakes one morning to Dazai's serious face watching him without a smirk to be seen. He blinks the haze of sleep from his mind, sitting up and cocking his head in silent question.

“The order has come in.” Dazai says simply, with no inflection in his voice to betray his feelings, “Destroy the enemy organisation. No survivors.”

Chuuya tsks under his breath: they had both known it was coming, neither of them are new to having blood on their hands and the Port Mafia is still cleaning up the broken pieces after the mess that had been Dragon's Head Rush, but destroying an entire organisation in a foreign country isn't exactly the easiest thing to pull off without ending up with a one-way ticket to prison or execution at the hands of foreign police.

The rest of the day is spent readying themselves, those last-minute preparations and checking and rechecking of weapons before the final hour. Their informant – a spy planted by the Port Mafia into the remnant group some months ago – has sent information detailing a planned meeting in a seemingly disused warehouse some way out of town. It's an abnormal move for this group, according to previous intelligence, usually they meet in completely conspicuous places, somewhere out in full view amongst large groups of civilians – which is a smart move according to Dazai, because in general anyone wanting to attack a rival faction would not risk being seen by a hundred or more witnesses. This is suspicious, it stinks of a set-up, but orders are orders and Chuuya isn't all that concerned. From what they've observed over the last week the group seems to be disorganised at best and downright lacking in security and heavy hitters. It amazes Chuuya that they've managed to remain operational for this long.

It should be an easy night for them.

...

Their mission has gone to hell. Outnumbered by god-knows-how-many against just the two of them, they are fast running out of options. Despite Dazai's brilliant strategic manipulations and equally ridiculous codenames for said strategic manipulations they are fighting a defensive battle.

Chuuya kneels on the floor, wiping sweat from his forehead, panting heavily and moving ever-closer to exhaustion. Dazai is in an even worse state, having taken a glancing gunshot wound to the leg he is losing blood steadily; leaning against a large wooden crate with a pained expression, gun cocked and loaded, ready for the next wave. Anti-Gifted he may be, but Dazai isn't immortal by any stretch of the imagination, and Chuuya wasn't there. Didn't get there fast enough to stop the bullets and now Dazai is bleeding out and he's really not sure they're both going to make it out of this mess alive.

It's become apparent that all intelligence on this group has been utterly wrong, Chuuya suspects that their spy is actually a double agent and has been feeding the Port Mafia false information for months now. The second they had entered the old warehouse Dazai had stiffened beside him, his eyes going wide for a mere fraction of a second as he came to some kind of realisation he still hadn't seen fit to share with Chuuya; milliseconds later he had grabbed Chuuya by the arm and literally flung him behind a stack of mouldering crates, diving in behind him as a grenade exploded in the exact place they had been standing.

Things had gone from bad to shit from there.

The presence of an unknown Ability user had put the cherry on top of the proverbial shit cake. The guy seemed to be able to conjure large spear-like projectiles, laced with some kind of electrical charge, which he threw with almost unnerving precision. Dazai had happily nicknamed him 'Thor'. Operating from a protective ring of heavily armed guards it had taken a lot of Chuuya's energy and Dazai's quick thinking to get them across the battlefield and within close enough range of 'Thor' for Dazai to effectively put him out of action before Chuuya sent one of his own pointed projectiles straight through his brain with a sense of bitter triumph.

Far from causing panic amongst the members of the enemy organisation, it merely seemed to serve in pissing them off. Instead of coming at the pair head on, they have switched tactics and are hiding like rats, popping up from the most random of places to pepper them with bullets that Chuuya has a hard time keeping track of, hence Dazai's bleeding leg. This guerilla warfare is slowly wearing them both down and sometime soon they are going to run out of options.

Chuuya's Ability is thrumming thickly in his veins, pulsing darkly, a palpable force; it feels agitated, prickly, like it's waiting for something, some kind of release.

The words come to his lips unbidden.

“O grantors of dark disgrace. Do not wake me again.”

Chuuya feels strange, like an abnormal force is pushing his consciousness to the dark recesses of his mind; like he's become a spectator in his own head. It's almost as if something else has taken possession of his body. The laugh that escapes him does not sound like him at all: it's dark, ringing and eerie. His eyes see Dazai staring at him in wide-eyed shock but he takes no notice. The power is almost dizzyingly intoxicating. He feels like he could move mountains, crush buildings, these human ants are almost unworthy of his concern.

He will turn them to dust.

His skin is turning black, the prickling sensation increasing to a steady intense pain that feels like a thousand needles are piercing his skin. The other being laughs maniacally, taking control of minute particles in the atmosphere and bending them to its will, creating what Chuuya can only think of as being tiny black holes, which it flicks gleefully towards unsuspecting humans. He can feel its amused satisfaction when they drop screaming to the floor with whole chunks of their bodies torn from them to disappear into nothingness. They crumple to the floor, most of them dead before they hit the ground.

He will burn this world.

Bricks crumble to finely powdered sand beneath his fingertips; the whole building creaks and moans as he takes it apart piece by piece. Rocks and chunks of debris begin to levitate, flying with deadly force into the faces of their remaining attackers who seem to be dumbstruck and wide-eyed with horror.

Chuuya is laughing with a voice not his own.

Someone makes a last stand, pointing an automatic rifle and shooting round after round. The bullets are stopped by his fingertips, hovering in mid air. He watches them spin a lazy 180, before being flung back with such force they explode in halfway through their trajectory, never reaching their target.

It doesn't matter.

He flicks a knife across the space to decapitate his enemy, watching his head roll across the ground, mouth open in a silent 'o' of surprise, eyes wide with fear.

In mere minutes the enemy is no more than bloody smears upon the ground and ash in his mouth but still the thing inside his head is not content. It howls it's triumph to the world, creating more black spheres of nothingness and swallowing parts of the building until the place is nothing but an empty shell, decimated and hardly standing.

Chuuya's body feels heavy, his last shreds of consciousness trying and failing to claw back control. He can feel blood dripping from the corners of his mouth, his nose, his eyes and he knows that his own Ability is consuming him. Panic sets in as he realises he is totally out of control, he cannot stop this thing raging inside him. It will burn him from the inside out until he is naught but ash upon the remnants of the battlefield.

He is not ready to die.

Pushed to the furthest corner of his own mind, Chuuya watches himself rampaging across the now barren wasteland that was once the enemy's chosen confrontation ground and now looks like a scene from the apocalypse. His vision is beginning to blacken around the edges, his body breaking under the strain. The blood is falling in a steady stream from his lips; he's choking on it as it claws it's way up his throat.

It will be over soon.

A hand clutches at his arm. Faintly he recognises a familiar voice whispering in his ear. “Chuuya, it's over. You should take a break now.”

The thing fades abruptly from his consciousness, his body feels suddenly lighter and the mess of rocks, metal and wood hanging in the air around him crashes lifelessly to the ground. His mind crashes back into his body and the energy drains from him; he feels somewhat like an empty shell with no will to carry on. He falls to his knees, his body registering the jolting pain but his mind unable to take heed amongst the catalogue of other hurts clamouring to make themselves known.

He is so tired.

Chuuya begins to fall forwards, his arms feel like lead and he knows he wont be able to stop himself faceplanting the dirt but cannot bring himself to care. Instead he finds himself wrapped up in Dazai's arms as his partner lowers him gently to the floor.

The blood bubbles from his lips, running a trail down his jaw to drip, drip, drip steadily onto the ground. Chuuya tries to speak, tries to explain, tries to ask Dazai to explain for him, but all that emerges is a wracking cough followed by the rasping draw of air into his lungs. He focuses on breathing for a moment, his eyes close and really he could just fall asleep here on the ground.

So tired.

Dazai is saying something, his tone is worried but Chuuya is too far gone to comprehend the words.

“I-I …” Chuuya coughs up more blood, tries to lift a hand to wipe it away but finds he cannot move, his body as unresponsive as a pile of lead. “C...couldn't….c-con...trol...” He manages to croak out the words between breaths that feel like they cost much more effort than they should. His vision is beginning to fade again.

“Thank….you-”

Chapter Text

Even Dazai's brilliant mind has absolutely no idea what he had just witnessed with his own two eyes. Impossibly outnumbered and close to total exhaustion Chuuya had suddenly manifested a power far greater than Dazai had ever seen. The very ground shook beneath him as if trembling in terror as tiny black holes winked into existence seemingly out of nothingness to swallow their enemies leaving not a trace behind. Truth be told it had been terrifying to watch – terrifying and kind of awe inspiring – Chuuya was effectively smiting everything in their path and finally the tables had turned. Dazai enjoyed the show...up until the moment Chuuya began to laugh, a sound entirely inhuman: unhinged, sadistic and definitely not Chuuya.

He had watched in mute fascination as his partner's skin had begun to turn black, beginning at his fingertips and slowly growing to overtake his arms and begin creeping up his neck. Chuuya's pupils looked like nothing he had ever seen before: lifeless, dead, almost mocking, like something else was in there pulling the strings with Chuuya acting as merely an unwilling puppet.

Fascination turned quickly to horror as Dazai watched the blood begin to leak from Chuuya's mouth and nose, followed shortly afterwards by red tears which left bloody tracks as they trailed slowly down his face.

The enemy had been all but destroyed by this point, the building on the verge of total collapse, most of the supports having been crumbled to mere ash by the overwhelming extent of Chuuya's power. His redhead, however, showed no sign of relenting; that eerie laugh turned sinister and dark, with an bubbling undertone as the blood dripped in a steady stream to pool at his feet. That was all Dazai needed to confirm that Chuuya had lost control; that he cannot stop this manifestation of his Ability; that his partner was dying before his eyes.

It had taken the majority of Dazai's remaining strength to drag himself to Chuuya's side. Not in the least because whatever was controlling Chuuya's power right now didn't want anything near it and Dazai himself had become a target of the miniature black holes and projectiles that flew towards him at bullet-like speed. Dazai's brain was whirling - trying to predict the next pattern of moves, trying to make sense of what the fuck was going on here, trying (ironically) to stay alive – he narrowly missed being skewered by a metal beam, swearing as he came down heavily on his injured leg and black spots obscured his vision. Chuuya's body was failing, that much had been obvious, and every step closer Dazai managed to take he'd had to fight for twice as hard.

Finally, finally, he had managed to get close enough to reach out a hand and grab hold of his partner's blackened arm, his Ability activated immediately and Dazai watched the mysterious power fading from Chuuya's eyes along with the peeling, blackened skin and tiny, heavily concentrated particles hovering in the air. “Chuuya, it's over. You should take a break now.” He had tried to keep his voice light and unconcerned, really, but he could hear his own worried undertone loud and clear.

Chuuya had fallen then, crashed to his knees in the dust and aftermath of his destructive rampage, he had pitched forwards and Dazai had thrown himself down to catch him before his face could hit the floor. As he had lowered his partner to the ground he couldn't fail to notice that Chuuya's breaths were ragged and he could hear the blood bubble up his throat with each pained exhale to slide down red-stained lips and continue the steady descent to the ground. Every time his partner had tried to speak he would cough up more blood before drawing in a shaky breath that rattled unnervingly in his chest. Finally his partner seemed to give up, blue eyes closed tiredly and Dazai had suddenly been struck with the fear that Chuuya was actually going to die here.

“Chuuya? Chuuya, don't go to sleep. Talk to me. What happened?” Chuuya had been unresponsive, his breathing fast and heavy, Dazai's fingers fluttered over Chuuya's chest, had felt his heart beating erratically. “Why didn't you stop it? Where did it come from? Chuuya? Why didn't you tell me about this before?” His redhead's eyes are closed, brow furrowed in pain and his breathing has abruptly slowed to a dangerous rate, “Chuuya...don't leave me.” The last had come out completely by accident and immediately Dazai wanted to take it back, wanted to get up and walk away because no he does not depend on Chuuya, doesn't need a partner, will not be responsible for another life.

“I-I...” Another weak cough, another stream of blood dripped from his lips. Chuuya's fingers had twitched weakly but his arm didn't, couldn't move. “C...couldn't...c-con...trol...” Blue eyes squinted at him, pupils blown wide with shock and pain, unfocussed and wild.

His last words are whispered with such honestly it makes Dazai's heart hurt just a little. “Thank...you-”

Chuuya is unconscious now, but his breathing has evened out which can only be a good thing. The pair of them are in a sorry state: covered in blood, dirt and god knows what else Dazai would rather not think about right now. Right now he needs to think about how the hell he's going to drag his unconscious and immobile partner out of this death trap of a building before the whole place is crawling with police.

In the end there's only one real solution. Ripping a strip from Chuuya's oversized shirt (because really, who needs such long shirts when you're that short) Dazai tightens the makeshift bandage around his calf, wincing at the sting - sure it had only been a glancing blow from a scarily accurate bullet but fuck it still hurt like a bitch – the cleanup and likely stitches would have to wait until they were safe. Testing his weight on the injured leg Dazai is satisfied that his body can hold up to the next task: operation drag your unconscious partner out of a building that is liable to collapse at any given moment.

It's actually easier than it sounds. Chuuya isn't all that heavy, and though the deadweight and inability to support himself is somewhat of a problem, it's not that difficult to wrap one arm around Chuuya's slender waist, drag the other across his shoulder and haul his shortass partner towards the nearest exit. The hardest part proves to be navigating their way across the fallen chunks of debris – discarded by the nullification of Chuuya's Ability and now lying in the most unhelpful of positions strewn across what is left of the floor.

Finally outside and out of range of what he judges to be the buildings imminent collapse radius, Dazai faces his next problem: how to get said unconscious partner to the car Dazai had hotwired earlier to get them here? They had agreed that driving up to an abandoned warehouse in a run-down district in the dead of night wasn't the most ideal way to gain the element of surprise over their enemy. Thus they had left the car five blocks down and decided to walk the remainder of the way undercover; a fact that Dazai is now sorely regretting.

After much deliberation, Dazai decides there's really only one thing he can do – and maybe he feels slightly guilty but he will never admit it and Chuuya will never know – and thus he dumps the unmoving body of his partner under a tree, arranging him rather artfully to look like a homeless drunk (and of course he takes a photo for future blackmail use because really, who wouldn't?), looking over his handiwork critically before sauntering (limping) off on the long trek back to the car.

Twenty minutes and a horribly throbbing leg later (Chuuya would probably call it instant karma for ditching him) he is relieved to see his partner still propped against the tree, still utterly dead to his surroundings and maybe that's a little more worrying. He can hear sirens screaming in the far distance, a sure signal that they need to make their getaway as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Chuuya's body is ice cold as he manhandles his partner onto the rear seats and really, his short stature is somewhat of a blessing in this instance.

Dazai is not a good (or safe) driver by any means - he's not even old enough to hold a licence for fuck sake – Chuuya does all of the driving when it is required, and his love of flashy sports cars is well-known. Dazai suspects he might be compensating for something. He tries his best not to jostle Chuuya too much but it appears that Chuuya is dead to the world and if he wakes up with a few more bruises Dazai will just shrug and tell him he must not have blocked his enemies attacks well enough. The journey back to their hotel takes far longer than it should have as Dazai takes unlit back roads and often ends up doubling back or hiding with the engine cut and lights off to avoid sirens and flashing lights that seem to fly past in waves every few minutes.

Finally Dazai pulls the car up to the kerb outside the hotel, and really he needs to dispose of this piece of potential evidence tying him and Chuuya to the scene of mass destruction but right now his partner's continued unconscious state is of more importance. It's going to be awkward getting his redhead up to their room past the beady eyes of the concierge; covered in blood, gore and dirt. Dazai looks at his own clothes which aren't in a much better state, but at least black hides the telltale stains.

Dazai's tired brain has had enough: in the end all he can come up with is playing the 'drunk partner' card once again, and thus he pulls Chuuya from the car, pleased to find him slightly more cognizant as the redhead hisses in pain at the contact, blue eyes cracking open slightly – clouded and confused.

“Da...zai?” Chuuya chokes out his name hoarsely, his fingers digging weakly into Dazai's shoulder. Dazai tries to give his partner a winning smile, really he does, but he can feel it sliding off his face in moments, replaced by a look of tired worry.

“Don't worry, Chuu-ya.” His voice falls abysmally short of it's usual 'let's annoy Chuuya' tone as he wraps his coat around the smaller man to cover the bloodstains standing out in a glaring bright red in the light of the street lamp above. “We're almost there. I need you to stagger about and make it look like you're drunk, okay? Though, that shouldn't be difficult for you, right?” Chuuya's answering growl sounds more like a pitiful kind of mewl as he tries to take his own weight and fails miserably. He leans heavily into Dazai as Dazai pulls his hat down further to obscure his face. “You're covered in blood, Chuuya, try not to look up.” All he gets is a tired huff in return and moments later they are pushing through the doors as the second act begins.

It's relatively easy for Dazai to pull up a grimace and wave deprecatingly at the severe-looking middle aged woman taking charge of the desk. Her manicured eyebrows raise in question before pulling into a tight frown at the state of the two foreign boys staggering across the floor towards the elevators.

“My friend is a little too drunk, no?” Dazai forces a laugh and shakes his head. “Needs to sleep it off.”

“Do you require assistance, sirs?” The woman's English is far better than Dazai's, but the look on her face says quite clearly that she would rather do anything else other than assist these two foreign delinquents.

Dazai waves her off, a sense of relief washing over him as the elevator signals its arrival with a welcoming ping. “No, no, it's fine, I can manage. He is only small after all!” Dazai can practically feel the growled vibrations of Chuuya's disgruntled muttering through their joined sides. “Good night ma'am.”

Safely inside the elevator he allows Chuuya to slump against the wall; his partners breathing has devolved once more to short shallow pants, his body betraying pain in the stiff way he leans back. By the time they reach their floor Chuuya's eyes have closed again, exhaustion written in every tense muscle. “Come on, Chuuya, we're almost safe, then you can rest.”

His redhead struggles to stand upright, spitting curses when Dazai offers his shoulder as support but begrudgingly leaning into him once again as Dazai practically has to drag him down the hall.

Finally...finally, they make it through the door to their room, Dazai manoeuvring them both until he can throw his partner onto the bed, wincing as his leg gives a painful twinge. Chuuya remains unmoving, limbs splayed and chest rising and falling rhythmically: unconscious once again.

“Chuu-ya...” Dazai whines loudly, poking his partners face sullenly, “How can you lie there and sleep and leave me to do all the work? You're gonna get blood all over the sheets. The car still needs to be decontaminated. And who's going to sew up my leg?” Dazai huffs as he pulls off Chuuya's shoes, throwing them haphazardly to the floor (the hat he places carefully on the nightstand, knowing full well the extent of Chuuya's protective instincts for his beloved headwear). “You're so mean Chuuya! How can you lie there and sleep when I require your attention?”

Dazai wipes the worst of the blood from Chuuya's face with a bowl of warm water and a cloth. He undresses his partner, trying his best for an air of clinical detachment, but his eyes can't help but trace the silvery lines of old scars and the purple blooming of fresh bruises.

He pulls a pair of pyjama pants over his redhead's slender hips and pulls the covers over his shivering form. The bloodstained clothes are discarded, put aside ready for 'decontamination' along with the car and anything else that links Chuuya and himself to the site of tonight's massacre.

The next task is far more painful, on his part at least. Dazai had fallen in love with the idea of death a long time ago, and maybe he's just a little bit wrong inside but who wouldn't be, living the life he has, living with the ghosts he does? But pain, he discovered years ago, is not really his thing.

The neat vodka stings as it washes over the gash in his leg, and Dazai clenches his teeth hard enough to hurt but this is all he could find that would properly sterilise the wound. The needle bites as it pierces his skin, he grinds his teeth and hisses on every breath. His fingers shake slightly but it's necessary pain: the wound is too large to leave open.

One messy row of stitches later (it's rather hard to sew up your own leg you know) and Dazai will soon have a new scar to add to his growing collection. A fresh padding of bandages and Dazai is ready to collapse, head pounding and hands shaking with fatigue.

There's still one more job to do: one more lie to be told. Dazai tests his weight on his new stitches, feels the wound pull but knows that his work will hold long enough to do what needs to be done. Their dirtied clothes balled up in a bag, Dazai makes his way down to the hotel lobby once more, pulling up a friendly and slightly apologetic mask and waving cheerily at the supremely suspicious concierge as he passes.

“Where can I get coffee?” He asks with a practised nonchalant air. “It will help my friend wake up.”

She points wordlessly down to the left and Dazai mutters thanks as he pushes the door open to make his escape from shrewd eyes.

He drives the car a few blocks, finding a secluded alleyway not overlooked by buildings and not visible from the main street. He sets fire to it with a bland sort of boredom, leaving their soiled clothes on the front seat and watching in satisfaction as the flames take root. 'Decontamination' taken care of he can finally head back to Chuuya and sleep. His head feels fuzzy, like it's filled with cotton wool, but Dazai remembers to push his way into the 24 hour garage he'd spotted on his drive up and buys two cups of what has to be tar masquerading as coffee to take back to the hotel in case that nosy old bat notices too much. Her eyes follow him all the way to the elevator but she makes no comment.

Paranoid as ever, Dazai wedges one of Chuuya's favourite books under the doorframe, hard enough that he's satisfied no one will be able to gain entry without making enough noise to wake the dead.

Speaking of waking the dead...Chuuya is still unconscious, shivering violently despite being wrapped in the duvet and somewhat resembling a sausage roll. His redheads face is pale from blood loss, drained and drawn in pain. Dazai hesitates for only a moment or two before shedding his clothes, shutting off the light and climbing in behind Chuuya. He wraps his body around his partner's, pressing his chest against Chuuya's back and tangling their legs together, he wriggles and arm underneath Chuuya's body and envelopes the other in a loose hug, sharing his body heat and smiling forlornly against his redhead's bare neck as the other boy slowly begins to warm up and his violent shivering subsides.

Safe, secure and sapped to the very dregs of both physical and mental strength, Dazai succumbs to exhaustion and falls asleep pressed against his partner in an intimate kind of embrace.

Chapter Text

Chuuya's head feels like someone is scraping nails through his brain. His body feels like it weighs six times what it should and everything hurts. It kind of feels like he's swimming through thick murky soup, struggling to regain conscious control over his own limbs. He groans loudly, trying and failing to move his legs from some kind of heavy entrapment.

Wait...what?

His eyelids feel heavy as his blinks them open, and just that simple action takes far more effort than it should. Chuuya is pinned down by a heavy weight across his torso and the restraints around his legs. Had he been captured?

As he slowly moves into the realms of awareness he can feel something behind him breathing. The back of his neck prickles and the sudden understanding that these are not restraints binding him, but the sinuous limbs of another person...embracing him causes him to jerk awake in an instant.

He flails a little, pushing weakly at the duvet which is both enveloping and effectively trapping him under its warm confines, he tries in vain to wiggle around and look at his assailant. The pit of dread growing in his stomach tells him that really he already knows who to expect.

“Good evening, Chuu-ya!” Sure enough Dazai's fake smile is beaming at him. “Did you sleep well? You must have, since it's almost a whole day since you passed out!” Dazai is pressing his face into Chuuya's neck and he can feel the telltale heat of a blush stinging his cheeks.

“What are you doing?!” He chokes out, his voice an unhealthy croak he barely recognises as his own. “Get off me you weirdo!”

Dazai pouts, refusing to give in to the redhead's demands and simply pulling Chuuya closer to him, pressing them together skin-on-skin. The puffs of breath tickling Chuuya's ear are absolutely not distracting.

“Chuuya looked so cute last night, lying there all unconscious, I just had to cuddle!” Dazai chirps cheerfully and Chuuya really really wants to punch him right now, but he just doesn't have the energy to lift a finger. He realises with growing horror that he is effectively at Dazai's mercy.

“I am NOT cute!” He spits vehemently, willing himself enough strength to elbow Dazai in the ribs and earning a satisfying wheeze from the taller boy who is currently spooning him...oh god.

“Oh but you are. In fact, Chuuya-chan is utterly adorable!” He can hear the smirk in Dazai's tone and thrusts his face into the pillow, growling in angry embarrassment but physically unable to bring his painful wrath upon the loathsome taunting bastard that is his partner. He holds himself rigid, ignoring the other completely, maybe if Dazai isn't given the attention he craves he will just...go away and leave Chuuya alone?

“Chuu-yaaa~” The loud whine in his ear would have made him jump had his body not already been an exhausted wreck. “Okay okay...you were unconscious, and shivering. Actually I was kind of worried you were about to vibrate out of the bed and give yourself concussion. So I figured sharing body heat was the quickest solution to the problem, et voila, one cosy, warm hat stand was born...but, I guess I fell asleep too.” The admission is muttered and almost sheepish, and definitely not cute.

“Well I'm not unconscious now, and I'm definitely not cold, so you can just get the fuck off of me and do some work! Have you even sent word to the Boss that the mission was a success?!” Dazai unwraps his arms from around Chuuya's waist, untangles their legs from the knotted mess of duvet and moves to sit on the edge of the bed. Immediately Chuuya rolls onto his back, spreading his entire body over the warm spot Dazai had just left behind and turns his head to eye his partner questioningly.

“Ooops?” Dazai rubs the back of his neck awkwardly and shrugs in such a blasé and uncaring manner that Chuuya wonders if his partner even gives a shit. No wait, why would he bother wondering about that when he knows for sure that Dazai absolutely does not give a shit whether Mori-san knows they are alive or not.

“Well you'd better send word to him pretty quick or we're going to be in a whole world of shit when we get back home.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dazai waves him off with a lazy wave of his hand in Chuuya's general direction. “You already left me to drag your sorry ass all the way back here whilst you were happily snoring away in dreamland. I had to dispose of the car, sew up my own leg, undress you, I even let you use me as your own personal heater and everything, and this is how you thank me? By bugging me about Mori-sensei before you've been awake five minutes. I'm so disappointed.”

“Shut up!” Chuuya tries to bark but ends up in a violent coughing fit instead, his body still unable to stave off the exhaustion weighing down on his mind. His eyes slip shut to the sight of Dazai watching him with a worried expression that doesn't belong on his partner's face.

It takes Chuuya two days to fully shed the weighing sense of fatigue and clear the fog from his brain. Every time he blinks sleep-crusted eyes open, it is to the sight of Dazai watching him from wherever he happens to be in the room at that moment. It's actually kind of creepy - but comforting at the same time to know his bastard partner is there to make sure he's safe in his moments of weakness. He just about manages to stay awake long enough to use the bathroom and eat whatever cold thing Dazai has conjured up from room service before succumbing to the black oblivion of exhaustion once again.

He wakes to Dazai curled around him and the faint light of morning filtering through the gap in the heavy curtains. It's strangely comforting to be wrapped in warmth in this accursedly cold country and Chuuya can't find it within himself to complain and shove Dazai away. Instead he drifts lazily in and out of sleep and tries hard not to think about how their breathing has synced.

The next time he is awoken to Dazai stretching out behind him and yawning loudly, bones cracking unpleasantly as the taller boy shakes off the last vestiges of sleep. Chuuya pulls himself upright, pleased to find his limbs all in working order and obeying his command without that sluggish feeling of his own weight dragging them down.

“Are you feeling better now, Chuu-ya?” Dazai asks around another loud yawn which Chuuya can't help but mirror.

“Mmm.” Chuuya mumbles quietly, stretching disused muscles idly. “What did you tell Mori-san? Did you submit a report on the mission?”

“Mission Reports are your area of expertise, Chuuya. I leave that fun little project to you.” Chuuya scoffs and is about to interrupt as Dazai raises a hand, requesting his silence. “I told Mori-sensei that you had concussion and were unconscious because you fell out of bed after getting drunk.” Dazai's face is the picture of innocence and Chuuya wants to strangle him to death slowly. The thought that the bastard would probably enjoy that is the only thing that stops him from enacting his fantasy.

“You said what?! Why would you lie to the Boss? Just...why?! And with something so fucking transparent! Are you a moron or what?” Chuuya's hands twitch with the urge to throttle Dazai here and now for his severe idiocy.

“Apparently not, since he bought it.” Dazai's tone is bland and it's all Chuuya can do to not stare at him in shock. “Apparently he doesn't have much faith in your sense of balance when shitfaced either, Chuu-ya.”

He's deflecting, Chuuya can see it in the way Dazai's eyes have gone blank and the way that the smile looks wrong on his face. “Why didn't you tell Mori-san what happened during the mission?”

Dazai sighs, the smile dropping from his face and the blankness that is left behind is so disconcerting that Chuuya is forced to drop his eyes to the duvet to get away from that hard stare. “I don't think it's wise to tell Mori-sensei about this new manifestation of your Ability, Chuuya.”

That makes him look up sharply, searching Dazai's face for any sign of what his partner is truly thinking. The blank, cold face he receives is nothing short of jarring. “Why?”

Dazai flatly refuses to say anything more, turning away from Chuuya and leaving their bed, floating around the small kitchenette and pretending to busy himself with the act of making tea. Chuuya can smell avoidance from a mile away.

“Why don't you want Mori-san to know, Dazai? Answer me.” Chuuya voice has dropped to that dangerous tone that has most people spilling their darkest secrets under the threat of his blade. Dazai, the capricious bastard, takes absolutely no notice and carries on with his task like he hasn't even acknowledged Chuuya's continued existence.

“Are you worried that the higher-ups will promote me before you get your foot on the ladder?” Chuuya goads, and he knows he is being underhanded and unfair but it's not like Dazai has ever played by the rules either. “Are you scared that I might actually be of more use to the Organisation than you? That I'll leave you behind?”

“Stop. Chuuya.” Dazai still has his back to Chuuya, his voice is soft, but no less dangerous or commanding. “I just think it would be better for you if Mori-sensei was kept unaware of this. Don't ask me to explain something that you don't really want to know the answer to.”

“Fuck you, Dazai, you arrogant bastard!” Chuuya seethes, pushing himself out of bed and storming off to the bathroom, slamming the door with enough force to have it rattling on its hinges and turning on the shower to drown himself in the cascade of hot water and the temporary feeling of absolution. It does nothing to cool his ire.

They don't speak after that. Chuuya names his Ability's new manifestation 'Corruption', he toyed with 'Possession' for a while before deciding that Corruption was overall a better fit. His report which he had emailed off to Mori-san barely half an hour ago had detailed as complete an accounting as he could recall, with the specifics of Corruption's workings written out as thoroughly as he could remember them.

Dazai has been watching him with that creepy blank stare from the opposite end of the couch ever since he had stopped typing and sent the encrypted file with a decisive tap of his finger; Chuuya can almost see the waves of disapproving judgement radiating from him.

He doesn't even bother trying to take his blanket to the couch tonight, instead choosing to flop himself down onto the bed in a messy heap of limbs, burying under the covers and listening to Dazai tap something angrily on the keys of their shared laptop. He is mostly asleep by the time his bastard partner crawls into bed beside him, almost misses the whispered, “I'm sorry, Chuuya.” as Dazai flicks out the light and turns away.

Chuuya feels suddenly cold.

...

The flight from Moscow to Shanghai the next morning continues their stalemate of stony silence and sidelong looks, each when they think the other isn't paying attention. Eight and a half hours of stubborn blankness from Dazai has Chuuya grinding his teeth and drinking more shitty wine than he should have before ignoring his partner completely and falling asleep in the uncomfortable airline seat.

Dazai doesn't say a word when Chuuya jerks awake with his head against his partner's shoulder.

The three hour layover at Shanghai does nothing to improve his mood and now he had a headache and a crick in his neck to boot. Dazai has disappeared into the crowds leaving Chuuya to drown his sorrows in more overly-expensive wine which leaves a bitter aftertaste on his tongue.

Shanghai to Tokyo is a much shorter flight (thank all the gods) but still, Dazai giving him the cold shoulder makes it a painful affair that seems to last for all eternity, and Chuuya finds himself wishing the other boy would just start whining in his ear and annoying him into watching ridiculous airline films together as usual (because although Chuuya would never admit it, there really is nothing better than watching 'Snakes on a Plane' when you're actually on a plane).

Chuuya is relieved to pick up the keys to his beloved black TVR, patting his baby fondly as she roars to life. Sure technically she doesn't actually belong to him exactly: he may or may not have stolen her from an arms dealer he and Dazai had been sent to bring down six months ago. Her papers may be fake and his ID certainly is, but as far as Chuuya is concerned she's his. The trip from Haneda to Yokohama is barely twenty minutes, but Chuuya feels instantly more in control behind the wheel, wishing the drive were longer so he could blow of some of this angry energy that surrounds him like a wilful cloud. Dazai is still quiet and tense beside him, but Chuuya finds himself feeling more and more relaxed as they move ever closer to home.

They part ways almost immediately upon arrival at the Mafia base of operations they call 'home'. Chuuya taking his time to park his baby safely in the underground garage (the TVR has it's own spot and everyone gives it a wide berth for fear of invoking Chuuya's well-known wrath should she so much as get a scratch) whilst Dazai stalks off towards the entrance to the main building, disappearing through the door and into the corridor behind without so much as a glance in Chuuya's direction.

Chuuya doesn't see him for two days. Which is odd in itself really, considering the base isn't all that huge and he'd usually bump into his annoying stalker of a partner at least four times a day on those normal occasions when he's trying to stay as far away from the bastard as possible.

Chuuya tries not to dwell on Dazai's sudden change in attitude; tries not to wonder about the meaning behind that whispered 'I'm sorry, Chuuya' that plays in loops through his head; tries not to worry that his partner has thought through all logical possibilities and come up with something that Chuuya can't fathom.

On the second day, just as Chuuya is beginning to feel more and more irate and just as he begins that telltale pacing of his room that usually ends up with him putting a fist through his wall, there's a knock on his door.

What!” He shouts loudly, flinging the offending piece of wood open and fervently hoping it hits whomever is on the other side in the face.

Dazai is standing in the corridor, just far enough away that the door swings past harmlessly, inches from his nose. He's wearing that same blank, uncaring expression that has Chuuya's hand curling into a fist. “Oh. Have you finally decided I'm not beneath your notice?” No flicker of emotion, just that cold bleak stare like Dazai is staring straight through him into nothingness. “What do you want?”

“Debrief.” Just a single word and Dazai is walking away again, his footsteps echoing down the barren corridor as he leaves Chuuya glaring daggers at his back, eyes narrowed and teeth bared in a silent snarl.

“Oi, bastard, wait up!” Chuuya fumes as he jams his hat on his head, slamming the door with far more force than necessary and striding purposefully down the corridor to catch up with his asshole partner.

Chapter Text

Dazai tries hard not to betray the emotions boiling just below his skin as Chuuya calls out to him. Almost automatically he shortens his strides so that his short partner can catch up although he takes great care not to turn and look at his redhead or even acknowledge his presence as they make their way through the maze of corridors towards Mori's personal suites.

His concern for his short angry redhead has reached boiling point now. He knows Chuuya is heading down a path now that he cannot hope to derail. That Chuuya's Ability will inevitably drag them both into the limelight and force them into situations far more dangerous than they've ever faced before.

He's afraid...if he looks at Chuuya now, the mask will drop and everything will be written on his face.

Chuuya's Ability has always been terrifying to behold...but Corruption (Dazai internally makes a face, Corruption, really, where is your imagination, Chuuya), Corruption is on a whole different level. Corruption is the kind of power that will have the cogs turning in Mori's head as he finds ways to put it to use to increase his own foothold through Yokohama and beyond. Corruption is the kind of power that will force Chuuya onto the front lines. Corruption is, inevitably, the kind of power that will send Chuuya to his grave.

“Ahh, Dazai-kun, Chuuya-kun, just who I wanted to see!” Mori is all creepy smile and piercing eyes. Dazai is unimpressed.

“You called us here, you must have been expecting us.” Chuuya is still and silent beside him, eyes downcast and hand pressed to his chest in a show of respect that Dazai just can't bring himself to be bothered with: Mori knows exactly how much respect Dazai has for him after all.

“Of course, I have business with the both of you.” The smile yawns wider, but the look in Mori's eyes has turned hungry.

“A new mission?” Chuuya's voice is almost hopeful and Dazai wonders mournfully why he ever got partnered with such a work fanatic. Why couldn't he have been given Odasaku as a partner? At least that guy was easy to talk to and have a drink with at the end of the day, damn he even got all the fun jobs…

“Not exactly Chuuya-kun. I read your last mission report with great fervour. I commend you both for succeeding in the face of failure...however, I have to confess myself intrigued by this new hmmm...shall we call it 'addition', to your Ability, Chuuya-kun.” The smile is almost splitting Mori's face in a most grotesque way right now and Dazai fights to keep the grimace from showing on his own carefully blank visage.

“I would like to request a demonstration.”

He had known it was coming, feared it was coming and for once he wished that his predictions didn't always come true. Odasaku would call it 'futile inevitability', Dazai would call it something that should have been kept in secretive darkness for as long as possible.

Chuuya lifted his head, meeting Mori's questioning gaze for a mere fraction of a second before his dips in obedient acquiescence.

“Wonderful. I will have you both accompany me to the intended test site. The cleaners will follow behind.”

Cleaners? Dazai pauses for a moment. Cleaners usually mean bodies...and abruptly Dazai has some idea of what this 'demonstration' is going to involve.

They spend the car ride in the stony silence of impasse, both of them far too stubborn to make the first move towards calling a truce. Mori undoubtedly picks up on the frigid atmosphere and lack of bickering between them, twisting in his seat on more than one occasion to look between them with an air that is far too knowing for Dazai's liking.

The high-rise buildings and overbuilt spaces slowly give way to smaller residential areas and rolling green fields as they move past the widely sprawling outskirts of Yokohama and into the countryside beyond. After some time the driver pulls off from the main road onto a rutted gravel track, finally rolling to a stop outside what could be mistaken for a derelict farmhouse.

The paint is peeling from the walls, the wooden supports look rotten and ready to give in to the ceaseless pressure of ages long past and the house has an air of forgotten neglect. One would have assumed it to be abandoned were it not for the fresh tyre grooves in the dirt and the general lack of wildness in the surroundings.

A safe house.

One of many owned by the Port Mafia across Yokohama and beyond: a place to lie low; a place to conduct meetings; a place to stash high value stolen goods which needed to be kept out of the city; a place to keep people, so far out of the way they would never be found. Dazai had already made a prediction as to what was inside.

“Ahh, well, this is the place.” Mori has turned in his chair and is looking at Chuuya with ill-contained expectation. “Chuuya-kun, if you would.”

Chuuya is staring out of the window, his blue eyes roving over the house and its pretty – if a little unkempt – surroundings with apprehension written plainly on his face. “Are you sure-”

“Are you questioning me, Chuuya-kun?” The smile has dropped along with Mori's tone, and that low voice is never a good sign when it comes to displays of 'disobedience' towards the Boss of the Port Mafia.

“No, Mori-sama, but I cannot control this Ability, should I let it loose the asset will be beyond repair.” Chuuya's head is bowed, his gloved fingers curled tightly and pressing against his knees as if such a admittance of perceived weakness is painful.

“Don't you trust that I can judge such situations for myself, Chuuya-kun? Do you not trust that your partner will step in should matters become out of hand?” Mori's smile is sharp and full of teeth. “This house is currently playing guest to a traitor of the Port Mafia. Dazai-kun was kind enough to send our little friend Tamura-kun and his family into hiding here on the pretext that there were some escapees from your recent mission who had taken offence to his little failed foray into double-agency.” Mori's eyes turn black, the smile wiped from his face, “The Port Mafia has no sympathy for traitors, Chuuya-kun.”

“I apologise, Mori-sama. I understand.” Chuuya pulls the gloves from his hands slowly, dropping them into the space between himself and Dazai, before doing the same with his hat and coat. He pushes the door open, shooting Dazai a glance that clearly reads 'can I rely on you?' which Dazai returns with a blank look and a goading shooing motion.

“Well, we will stay here in the car until you are done, Chuuya-kun.” Mori's words are light and untroubled, a complete contrast to the current look on Chuuya's face. “Have fun, won't you?”

As Chuuya makes his way closer to the empty-looking house, Dazai can see his partner take a few deep breaths, can see the faintest thread of fear in his tense steps. Chuuya has made it to the dilapidated wooden steps which lead to the entryway and wooden balcony running all the way around the large old building. He seems to pause, centreing himself for a few seconds before the quiet whisper of words float across the short distance between them.

“O grantors of dark disgrace. Do not wake me again.”

Dazai pulls himself out from the other side of the car, leaning casually against Mori's slightly opened window and flicking his gaze across the house and back to Chuuya as he speaks with an uncaring, almost cheerful lilt. “I think you misunderstand, Mori-sensei. Should Chuuya's Ability decide that we are a threat to its continued manifestation, this car will be nothing but a tin can crushed between his hands.”

He doesn't turn to see Mori's reaction, his eyes are fixed on Chuuya who is shaking under the onslaught of his own power. Black particles seem to hiss and crackle into existence around his partner, gathering on his skin like there's some kind of magnetic attraction. Rocks begin to levitate upwards from the ground as if they weigh less-than nothing. The imagery is almost hauntingly beautiful for a moment...until the form that has undoubtedly begun to take control of Chuuya's body starts to move.

Dazai vaguely hears Mori muttering something about 'gravitons' and 'fascinating' but his brain has almost dismissed his 'Boss' entirely in favour of tracking the extreme danger less that twenty feet away.

The first black ball isn't all that large, doesn't look all that intimidating – up until the point Chuuya launches it at the shoji door with a flick of his wrist. There's a loud crash and the splintering of wood as it hits its mark and then abruptly nothing as it winks out of existence, leaving a gaping hole where the door stood mere seconds before.

Chuuya's fingertips have turned black.

Two larger balls of nothingness are growing in Chuuya's outstretched palms, more and more of the tiny black particles wink into being and cracks are starting to appear in the earth around Chuuya's feet. These balls are sent careening through walls as if they were made of butter, leaving chaos and destruction in their wake. They too pass out of existence with no noise, no fuss just a large void of space, like a chunk has been bitten out of reality itself.

From inside the house there are screams of terror.

From outside the house there is a sinister mocking laugh.

Chuuya's hands are steeped in black.

A flurry of rocks pepper the building like bullets, these sound almost akin to gunshots as they embed themselves into wood, rock and anything else that blocks their path.

Three bodies tumble through the hole that was once the door, hands raised in submission, Dazai can almost smell the fear, the thing that is puppeteering Chuuya probably can. Chuuya takes a step forwards, his foot comes down with a noise that sounds like a small earthquake. Stones chattering on the floor as larger rocks rise to surround Chuuya in a sort of lazily swirling vortex.

The two adults -Dazai supposes they are Tamura and his wife - fling themselves to the ground in obeisance - foreheads touching the floor – whilst a young girl no older than six or seven steps forwards with a rapt expression, her hands reaching towards Chuuya with a smile.

A gaping hole appears through her chest, right where her heart would have been, as she crumples lifelessly to the floor. The parents, on hearing the body hit the ground with a dull thud, raise their heads and stare in horror at the broken, doll-like form of their daughter.

“What a waste of young beauty.” Dazai has to force himself not to twitch at Mori's mournful words, absorbed as he was with watching his partner slowly decimating an entire building without even moving, he'd almost forgotten Mori was even there.

The screams are replaced with distraught sobbing as the mother crawls forwards, reaching out her hands to gather the small child into her arms. Her fingers never make contact with the body, instead her legs are crushed underneath a boulder and she falls screaming out a mixture of pain, fury and distress into the dirt. Tamura's legs meet a similar fate some scant seconds later, but he does not scream and cry, no, he grits his teeth with ragged determination and pulls out a gun, taking aim at Chuuya's head and pulling the tigger, once, twice, thrice...until the chamber is empty.

The blackness has crept past Chuuya's elbows now, an eerie laughter erupts from bloodied lips.

“HAHAHAHAHA...” A lazily raised hand and the bullets halt in mid air joining the odd assortment of rocks, chunks of earth and splinters of wood revolving in an ever-growing circle around Chuuya's body. Tamura breaks down, starts pleading for his life as all weak-willed scum will when they are about to meet their end. Dazai's lip curls in distaste.

The power controlling Chuuya does not seem to want to end their miserable existence just yet. Instead it turns its attention back to the building, moving forwards with a sense of purpose, wood splitting under black shoes as more and more particles begin to converge in his palms. He throws them this way and that: crashing into wood, brick and steel, leaving craters and destruction in his path and a growing spiderweb of cracks in the ground wherever his feet fall. A rising cloud of dust almost obscures him from view as the building creaks and groans and shrieks its death cries to the world.

“Dazai-kun?” Mori's drawl is an unasked question.

“He can take more.” Dazai's voice is cold finality. Maybe he wants to see Chuuya reach his limit, maybe he wants to watch the light fade from his partner's eyes as he chokes on his own blood, maybe he wants Chuuya to realise he was right all along, that he should have listened.

“I assume that you are confident in your Ability to stop him, Dazai-kun?” He can feel the weight of Mori's eyes burning a hole in his skull, so naturally he turns to give his mentor the most wide and fake smile he can pull up – a grin so wide it makes his face ache.

“If I can get close to him. If he will let me. Yes.” Dazai chuckles darkly, meeting Mori's eyes as he asks with feigned interest: “Is that what you wanted to hear, Mori-sensei?”

Perhaps there was a flash of fear in Mori's eyes then, perhaps it was something else, whatever it was or wasn't it disappeared too fast for Dazai to decipher, swallowed up by the blank nothingness of Mori's dark aura.

“Don't play games with me, Dazai-kun. You know it doesn't end well for you, and it certainly won't end well for him.” Mori ticks his head towards Chuuya in such a manner that has Dazai turning his attention immediately back to the situation at hand.

Chuuya is standing amidst a pile of broken wooden beams and rubble. A mass of objects revolve around him: a miniature whirlwind in which Chuuya is the eye of the storm. It's almost absurd to see frying pans, a kettle, a silver candlestick, a light fitting and a broken vase amidst the chunks of rock, marble, wood, bullets and the tattered remnants of tatami flooring. Chuuya's chest is heaving as he tries to drag air into his lungs, his fingers have hooked into claws at his sides and blood drips steadily from his nose, his mouth, his ears, his eyes. His gait is less that of a stalking predator and more of a stagger but the laughter hasn't stopped - it echoes with madness, glee and something sinuously dark.

The black tendrils have crept up his neck and jaw, beginning to wind their way across his cheeks and around his now pupil-less eyes.

The black masses of nothingness building in his palms are bigger than anything Dazai has seen yet. Growing in size by the second until they are large enough to engulf a car. Chuuya stumbles and almost falls, drags himself forwards until he is standing between Tamura and his wife, who look up at him with resentment, fear and a sense of inevitability on dirty tear-stained faces. Somehow the woman has stretched herself forwards far enough to claw bloody fingers around the wrist of her daughter, clinging to her child and awaiting her impending death at the hands of destruction incarnate.

In the next moment there are only two large craters and the half-mangled torso of a young girl.

Chuuya turns his attention to the car. The wide, eerie, bloodstained smile is, Dazai thinks, a glimpse of true insanity.

“Ah, well...I'll just leave you to distract Chuuya for a moment.” Dazai pushes himself away from the car with a cultivated air of lazy arrogance.

“Dazai-kun.” Mori's voice demands his attention and Dazai reluctantly turns to give it to him, raising an eyebrow impudently. “I will execute you if you fail. No matter how useful you are to me, Dazai-kun, you are a pawn and you can be replaced.”

“Of course I expect nothing less, Boss.” He allows the face-off to continue for a few scant seconds before dropping eye contact in favour of flicking his gaze back to the more immediate threat, and in all honesty Chuuya is far more intimidating that Mori could ever aspire to be. He is starting to resemble a scene straight out of the apocalypse: standing the in the centre of a vortex full of broken memories, clawing at his own throat as blood pours from his chin to create a widening puddle on the cracked and trembling ground beneath his feet.

The black tendrils have started to bleed into one solid mass.

Black particles begin to collect in the air once more. Chuuya's pupil-less eyes are fixated on the car which has slowly started to reverse, gravel crunchy conspicuously under wide tyres. Chuuya doesn't move, Dazai suspects that he can't, that his body has become too heavy under the weight of his own Ability and the blood loss too much for his limbs to be able to support him. He stands crooked with legs spayed, breaths laboured and choking with blood. Still the laughter sounds from his broken form.

Dazai wonders as he creeps forwards – carefully avoiding chunks of lazily rotating rock and thus avoiding switching Chuuya's attention on to him – whether Chuuya could actually kill Mori in the state he's in now. The black particles are forming more slowly now; they hiss and crackle and some fizz out of existence almost as soon as they are created. Chuuya is dying before Dazai's eyes.

There's a stabbing and somewhat alien sense of guilt in Dazai's gut for forcing Chuuya to carry on in this state he has no control over for so long. He wonders if Chuuya can feel death approaching from wherever his consciousness is locked up. Perhaps Chuuya could kill Mori, or blow a hole in a few of his limbs at least, but the collateral is suddenly not worth the risk, or even the potential gain. Dazai takes a split second to wonder if he's already too late, whether there's any way to come back from this.

Forgive me, Chuuya.

He reaches over Chuuya's shoulder to brush fingers against his redhead's blackened cheek. Immediately the tendrils begin to fade from his skin - leaving no sign or imprint that they were ever there to begin with – and the blue returns to Chuuya's eyes, although duller and less aware than they have ever been...almost like part of Chuuya has died. Dazai tries not to follow that thought; leans down and props his chin on Chuuya's shoulder to whisper in his ear, unsure whether his partner will even hear him in this state.

“Much as I would love for you to do so, I think killing the Boss is a little too much of a demonstration, don't you agree, Chuuya?”

The last of the black fades from Chuuya's fingertips.

Dazai moves forward to support the weight of Chuuya's body as his partner slides to the floor. His eyes are closed, the blood still drips from his chin, still runs in bloody tracks from his eyes, his breathing is shallow, barely there alongside his erratic heartbeat, thrumming weakly against Dazai's palm.

Mori materialises beside him, and Dazai hadn't felt his approach at all which is disconcerting to say the least. Kneeling down with a smile containing far too many teeth, Mori presses fingers to Chuuya's neck, holding them against his pulse point. “Nicely contained, Dazai-kun.” His words are bland and scratch like sandpaper down Dazai's spine. Mori's fingers move from Chuuya's neck to his face, pulling the redhead's eyelids upwards to look at his pupils before wiping sticky remnants of blood on Chuuya's shirt and standing. “He's lost a decent amount of blood and his pulse is weak, but I'm sure he'll be fine. The cleaners can bring him back to base. Let's go, Dazai-kun.”

Dazai hesitates, knows he shouldn't, knows it's just the kind of thing Mori will pick up on because he's an observant bastard that notices far more than he should. He doesn't want to leave Chuuya right now, lying broken in a pool of his own blood amidst the dust and destruction caused by his redhead's own hands. He wants to stay by Chuuya's side until those blue eyes blink open and spark in recognition. He wants to make absolutely sure his partner is going to be okay, is going to survive. He wants to clean the blood from Chuuya's face, climb underneath a large fluffy duvet and tangle their legs together until Chuuya is feeling a little more human (ah the irony) – and that's kind of a shock that has his eyes widening minutely before he can remember to hide behind that cold blank mask.

“Dazai-kun...” Sure enough when he lifts his eyes Mori is sizing him up like a hungry half-starved lion, his smile turned predatory and considering. “Could it be that your partner has grown on you?”

Dazai blinks in feigned confusion, “Are you joking, Mori sensei? Chuuya is the shortest person I know.”

“The Demon of the Port Mafia feels some kind of responsibility for the partner he fought against having? Some kind of kinship, perhaps? Do you think him your equal?” Mori's words are flippant, almost light-hearted, but his eyes are sharp are locked on every nuance of emotion Dazai's body language might betray.

Dazai fixes his eyes unwaveringly on Mori's own, meeting him blank emotionless gaze for blank emotionless gaze. “Not at all, Boss. You misunderstand my concern. Put in your own terms, Chuuya is nothing to me but a conveniently powerful pawn to be used to further the Organisation's success. It would be shame to lose such a game piece before it has even begun to show its true worth, don't you think?” Dazai pulls himself up from the floor, allowing Chuuya's head to slip from it's place on his knees to hit the dirt with a soft thud. Dazai doesn't blink, doesn't reach down to check that his redhead is okay, begins to walk towards the car with an unconcerned air of boredom. Doesn't look back, feels Mori's eyes following his every leaden step.

“Of course you are right in that he may well become an important piece in the future of the Organisation. The power he showed today was quite fascinating to behold, but such a shame that he cannot cancel its effects himself, it limits the use to a somewhat narrow scope. The length of time it can be sustained is a little disappointing, but the destructive potential is quite immense...”

Dazai spends the ride back to the Port Mafia's main base of operations engaged in conversation with Mori covering the pros and cons of using Corruption in the field and trying desperately to keep at least 62% of his brain on task whilst allowing the other 38% to run loops around all of the potentially life threatening internal injuries Chuuya could have sustained and all of the equally distressing ways that he could die broken and alone and drowning in his own blood.

He supposes that he must hold up his end of the conversation well, because when he regains enough clarity to actually take notice of his surroundings, Mori is staring at him with a look of pleased appraisal that has the hairs of the back of Dazai's neck raising.

Dazai is in one of the common rooms: spread out on his stomach across a large, well-worn, leather sofa. A book occupies his hands, though he is not reading, and he hums an innocuous tune, earphones perched on his head which aren't actually playing any music. It's a good technique - he's learnt over the years - to make yourself seem nonthreatening and unworthy of concern and really it's amazing what ignorant idiots will divulge when they think no one else is listening. It's because of this he learns that Chuuya has been brought in to the medical bay after two hours, twenty nine minutes and thirty seven seconds – not that he's been counting.

Two sunglasses-wearing members of the cleaners' squad had pushed their way through the door, speaking quietly in hushed voices, they shot a look at Dazai, who had feigned complete ignorance to their presence, and, obviously satisfied with his display they had continued to talk. Stupid, utterly stupid. Dazai will have them reminded of that lesson later on. He doesn't catch all of the words, but when 'stable' and 'he'll take a while to recover' and 'did you even see what he did? That guy's a monster' reached his ears he had let out an inward sigh of relief.

The cleaners had left shortly afterwards, and much as Dazai would like to jump up and rush to Chuuya's side right now, he's full aware of the fact that Mori will be watching his every move, now that some inkling of an idea is in his rotten brain.

Knowing this and acting on this are two entirely different things. With a sigh Dazai pulls his phone from his pocket, thumbs through his contacts until he comes across a very specific name, dialling the number he waits until a voice comes through from the other side.

“Odasaku, I find myself in need of something to occupy an itching brain this evening.”

A few words spoken and Dazai feels a million times lighter as he drags himself off the sofa, pours the dregs of his tea down the drain and saunters out in search of something far harder to dull his senses and brighten his mood.

Odasaku is the voice of calm reason in an unreasonable world. Company with no expectations in a world where everyone expects something of him. Righteousness in a world where only the sinful survive.

When Odasaku arrives, Dazai is already halfway through a bottle of rather expensive whisky, it probably shows in his slightly flushed cheeks and partially unfocussed eyes. It doesn't really matter, Odasaku will see beneath the cold, hard exterior Dazai tries so damn hard to maintain anyway.

They don't talk about work, or missions, or anything so fanciful as the future. The future, after all, is for normal people, not Mafia dogs who live in darkness.

They talk about books, about far away places, about politics, about art. And maybe Odasaku pushes the bottle of whisky towards Dazai more often than he fills a glass for himself, but Dazai is too far gone to keep count.

They have made it to the second bottle when Ango slumps into the chair next to Odasaku with a loud sigh and pulls the bottle towards himself without a word. The three of them drink in silence for a few minutes before Ango pushes his glasses higher up his nose and starts off on a rant about noisy neighbours of all things and Dazai is laughing so hard that tears are forming in his eyes because it's just so them. And both of them are staring at him like he just grew a second head and Dazai can do nothing but hide his head in his hands and shake until the hysterics die down.

If Dazai gets far too drunk that evening neither of them make a comment. Ango bids them farewell at the door, retreating home to suffer through his noisy neighbour's loud acts of sexual gratification and Odasaku remains to support Dazai's unsteady weight and drag his sorry ass back home. His last comments as he dumps Dazai unceremoniously on the floor of his room are something about 'spreading his wings' and leaving this shit hole and 'there's an apartment up for lease' and maybe Dazai promises to go and take a look, because maybe it would be nice to get away from this cell and the constant pressure of being watched and assessed like a highly skilled opponent on a shogi board.

When he falls asleep, he absolutely does not dream about a broken body, a pool of blood, and tattered red hair.

Chapter Text

Chuuya blinks himself awake to the familiar sterile whitewashed walls of the medical bay. It's almost eerily silent: no whirring of machines or irritating beeping of monitors, just a strange overwhelming silence that sets his nerves on edge.

The recognisable feeling of heaviness is becoming far too familiar and Chuuya struggles to raise his head from the pillow, pulling himself into a sitting position and finally noticing the unmoving form of a familiar person, watching him from the chair in the corner of the room.

“How long?” His throat is dry, his voice cracking on the words.

“Two days.” Comes the bland reply as Dazai pulls himself from his chair and snaps his book shut with a crack that resonates through the room.

Chuuya knows that an apology is in order on his part, much as he's not entirely to blame and Dazai definitely has a hand in what's happened and if only the bastard had explained himself in Russia maybe things would have gone differently. But Chuuya had always trusted his partner's judgement in the past, and he's sure that his refusal to co-operate had probably thrown Dazai a curveball he hadn't expected. Still...that apology.

“I'm so-” Chuuya starts, but is cut off almost immediately by Dazai's hand, raised palm-outwards, a clear command to stop.

“What's done is done, Chuuya.” He sighs, sitting on the edge of the bed and really looking at Chuuya for the first time in what feels like forever. “Now we just have to live with the consequences.” He leans forward, grabbing a lock of Chuuya's hair between his fingers and tugging gently, Chuuya almost goes cross-eyed trying to watch him. “I want you to promise me something, Chuuya.”

Chuuya scans his partner's face, Dazai's expression is deadly serious, those red-brown eyes are fixed on him with an intensity that has him looking away. Dazai tuts, pulling on his hair until Chuuya gives in and meets him eye-to-eye once more.

“Promise me that you wont activate Corruption if I'm not there.”

Chuuya blinks in surprise, that was absolutely not what he was expecting. “Why would I do that?”

Dazai leans further forward, so close their noses are almost touching. “Just promise me, Chuuya.”

Chuuya swallows dryly at the gravity in Dazai's tone, that no-nonsense and totally honest look in his eyes which are boring into Chuuya's skull with a force that burns. It's all Chuuya can do to nod hesitantly and choke out a hoarse, “I promise.”

Dazai lets go of his hair, pulling back slightly to run his finger from Chuuya's forehead, down his nose, poking him playfully and allowing him the first genuine smile Chuuya's seen for days. “Thank you.”

It's around half an hour later - half an hour of easy companionable chatter about nothing important that is almost a world away from the happenings of the last few days- when the Port Mafia's 'doctor' (can you even call such a man a doctor, he's more like a butcher, honestly, but his services and his silence are bought and paid for and he is trustworthy enough to take care of most minor injuries, even if he does regularly smell of stale alcohol and old blood) bustles in, pokes and prods at Chuuya's ribs, spine, head, arms, legs and wherever else the fancy seems to take him. He checks Chuuya's vitals, sticks him with a needle and draws blood then promptly forbids him from leaving the medical bay for two days. All the while Chuuya can practically feel Dazai's aura from across the room as the bastard lurks moodily in his chair, pretending to read god only knows what as his narrowed eyes follow the doctor's every movement. It's quite disconcerting.

Once the doctor has shuffled back off to whatever hole he'd crawled out of, Dazai is immediately bouncing back over to Chuuya's bed, off-putting aura completely discarded in favour of the entirely too familiar and stomach-dropping 'let's annoy the crap out of Chuuya' grin.

“Two whole days of confinement, Chuuya, however will you cope?” Dazai waves his book in Chuuya's direction, close enough that he just about manages to catch the title, '75 Worst Ways to Die' and that has him rolling his eyes so hard it's really a wonder they don't get stuck somewhere in the back of his head. Dazai's grin has widened to a point far beyond trustworthy and Chuuya is pretty sure he knows exactly what's going to come out of the idiot's mouth next. “Oh well! At least you'll have me to keep you company!”

“No.” Chuuya flatly refuses to even think about such a despicable act of torture.

“What do you mean, 'no'?” Dazai's head tilts in such a manner it reminds Chuuya of a confused puppy, and it's a ploy, it's definitely a ploy, Dazai knows exactly what he's doing and Chuuya is not going to fall for such lame tricks.

“I mean no. Two days with you confined to a room will drive me to murder.”

“Mean! Chuuya is so mean!” Dazai pouts, and honestly it looks so childish on the Port Mafia's proclaimed 'Demon Prodigy' that Chuuya has to force himself not to laugh. “But Chuu-ya...it's so boring without you, and Odasaku says he refuses to drag my drunk ass back home again this week, and Ango's neighbours are keeping him awake at night having sex, and I've read this book six times already.”

Chuuya's lips twitch involuntarily, “I'm not your babysitter, bastard. Go find someone else to annoy, or better yet go take a mission and earn your pay for once! You never know, maybe you'll actually die this time and I can finally find a partner who'll pull their weight instead of your lazy ass.”

Dazai pauses for a moment, red-brown eyes widened in shock. “Did you just tell me to go and die?”

“...Maybe?” Chuuya's ungloved fingers pick at the woollen blanket spread across his knees and he feels suddenly exposed.

“Chuuya! I take it back, you're not mean at all. You're secretly the most lovely, kind person. Chuuya is my hero!” Chuuya blinks in confusion as Dazai waxes poetic about how 'amazing' he is, allowing the idiot to carry on for a few seconds before sighing loudly.

“I don't think you understood what I was trying to say.”

Dazai shakes his head vigorously, hair flying in a sort of weird tangled halo about his head and further reminding Chuuya of some sort of shaggy dog. “No, no, I understood Chuuya perfectly! But don't worry, I will absolutely stay and keep you company for the next two days whilst you are recovering. It's the least I can do after Chuuya said something so kind.”

Chuuya throws his head back onto the pillows and groans.

Two days later and Chuuya is literally climbing the walls.

The fatigue had lifted from his bones overnight and he's feeling far more awake and aware and just completely tired of being stuck in this damned room. There's only so many times you can play hangman with a suicide freak before the idea behind the game really begins to sink in.

Dazai, true to his word, has hardly left Chuuya's line of site for the last 48 hours, except on 'missions' to bring Chuuya food that isn't tasteless, bland 'ill person' crap. Oh and the bastard always seemed to mysteriously vanish a few minutes before the doctor would turn up to do his little check-ups and that was honestly a little creepy – sure Dazai's instincts are good, but they're not that good. Oh and he'd snuck in with that bottle of Pinot Noir which, whilst it's not his favourite variety, is definitely better than the alternative of no wine at all.

Maybe Chuuya had gotten a little tipsy a little quicker than normal, and really he blames it on Dazai and his insistence that chocolate and cereal bars count as 'food'. Maybe Chuuya had ended up with his head resting on Dazai's knee – both of them squeezed onto the uncomfortable hospital style bed – with Dazai's fingers carding through his hair, listening to Dazai's voice reading '75 Worst Ways to Die'. Maybe he'd fallen asleep before Dazai had reached number 10. Maybe he'd awoken – when darkness had overtaken the room completely – to find Dazai lying fully clothed on top of the duvet, to Dazai's body curled around him almost protectively and to Dazai's chin resting lightly on his head...maybe he hadn't cared.

Still, for all that the time may have passed quicker with the bastard around (and no, Chuuya was absolutely not going to let that one slip, because knowing that bastard it would only serve to make him Chuuya's personal stalker forevermore), 48 hours in this tiny room, with almost nothing to pass as entertainment was more than enough to have Chuuya pacing around the walls and hanging from the ceiling - like an overgrown bat as Dazai had muttered, pitched just loud enough for him to hear - complaining loudly about how he was fine and hoping somebody would hear and take notice, whilst Dazai tried mostly unsuccessfully to get close enough to grab Chuuya and make him fall on his ass. It was like some weird game of tag.

Suddenly Dazai's phone buzzes, vibrating loudly across the side table and making both of them jump guiltily. After a moment of silence and Dazai flicking through whatever message he'd just received, he turns to Chuuya with a deprecating (fake) smile.

“Sorry Chuuya, I have an unexpected errand to run.” And with no further explanation the bastard turns and saunters out of the door, leaving Chuuya to drop from the ceiling and stare at the door in consternation.

Moments later, and much to Chuuya's unnerved surprise, Mori-san walks in, peering about the room as if searching for something that he is disappointed not to find. Chuuya is abruptly glad that he's no longer on the ceiling as he drops into a bow.

“Chuuya-kun, I hope you are feeling better?” The look on Mori-san's face is one of concern, but the sharpness of his gaze belies his true nature. Chuuya would not be surprised to find out that Dazai had in fact been tipped off about Mori-san's arrival...as to why his infuriating partner had decided to scarper and leave him to face his fate alone, well, that was an answer only the bastard himself would be able to give.

...

They are thrown into more and more dangerous missions, Mori-san seems to take great pleasure in sending the pair of them on missions that they barely come out of alive, testing Chuuya to his limit time and time again. Sometimes when Chuuya thinks back he wonders if Dazai foresaw this happening, whether the reason the bastard told him not to put Corruption in his mission report after that fateful night in Russia was because he knew what they would become.

Soukoku, the poster boys of the Port Mafia.

Their infamy has spread, across Yokohama and beyond. Their faces aren't yet recognised in the streets, they aren't plastered all over wanted posters offering rewards 'alive or dead' like crappy old-time western movies, but their name and the gruesome tales of their deeds are whispered across the drifting circles of the Underworld. Rumours fly, each more fanciful than the last, and yet none touching the true terribleness of the deeds they have committed in the name of the Port Mafia.

Their infamy has spread, across Yokohama and beyond, and Chuuya finds himself feeling like he's constantly being watched.

...

Dazai has been made an Executive.

To be honest it rankles Chuuya just a little, it's not like Dazai does much of the actual work on their missions, why should the suicidal bastard be promoted above him?

But then…

Dazai has always been proclaimed as a prodigy with a brilliant mind for strategy second only to the Boss himself, and much as Chuuya might be the muscle out of the two of them, Dazai is definitely the brains. Chuuya kind of likens himself to an intelligent attack dog: powerful he might be, but still he follows Dazai's orders like a dog wagging its tail for his master.

It's not the first time he's made such an analogy and the thought still makes Chuuya feel kind of sick.

Still, Dazai has been made an Executive Member and that brings along its own set of problems. Does that make Chuuya his underling?!

He should just stop thinking now.

Dazai is covered in blood up to his elbows (not an uncommon sight in and of itself) but more terrifying is that horribly familiar look of utterly cold blankness on his face that Chuuya cannot hope to see past. His red-brown eyes are flat and totally devoid of emotion as he looks somewhere past Chuuya, not really seeing.

Chuuya suspects that the former Executive Member has not 'unexpectedly vanished' as Mori-San so succinctly put it, but was in fact killed by Dazai's own hands, by order of Mori-san himself as some kind of test of loyalty...furthering his plans for the Organisation...who knows. One thing he does know with absolute certainty: his partner will never admit to anything, will take it to his grave. Dazai looks darker, colder, stonier, further out of reach than he ever has as he stalks down the corridors towards his room, ignoring the looks of wide-eyed fright, begrudging respect and in some cases open hostility cast his way.

Two days later there's a party, somewhat of a celebration inaugurating Dazai into his esteemed new role. It would seem that Mori-san has spared no expense: taking over the entirety of a Mafia-owned and rather exclusive hotel. The bar is free and the alcohol is the very best.

It's a snake pit disguised as a rose garden. Here new alliances are made and broken in an instant as those with some sense of power do their best to consolidate it on shifting tides and those who seek to aspire to power align themselves and curry favour with those individuals higher up the food chain than themselves. Dazai would probably have found it fascinating and highly amusing, were he not the current centre of attention himself.

Indeed, Chuuya is surprised at the number of people who approach him with congratulations and praise on the rise of Soukoku and those who look at him with narrowed eyes or appraisal, and judgement...constant judgement.

Chuuya doesn't drink that night: nurses the same glass for hours despite the wine selection being of a calibre he rarely sees. Instead he is watching Dazai's fake smile which slips off his face when he thinks no-one is looking; he is watching Dazai's blank eyes which drown in darkness as the night wears on; he is watching Dazai's back.

...

Chuuya is agitated. It's an antsy feeling he hasn't felt in a long while: like his skin is too small for his body, like something is itching inside that he just can't reach. It's off-putting and has him stalking the corridors like a wound up beast looking for something to devour.

He'd only been released from the medical bay an hour or so ago and honestly, he's far too familiar with the inside of that room over the last few months to want to spend any more time in it for the next century at least. Even worse, with nothing to occupy him and Dazai off doing secretive Executive things and picking up any waif and stray he can find on the streets he'd been about ready to start making his own dot-to-dot with his fists on the whitewashed walls.

It's not like Chuuya cares...Dazai is an Executive now and has every right to take on whatever fucking subordinates he likes. Surely it can only be a good thing, having someone else to take the brunt of Dazai's taunting, pranks and general arrogance?

So why does he feel like he wants to pummel something until his fingers bleed? It's not like the kid Dazai has dragged up from the stinking bowels of Yokohama is even much of a threat; he's pale and sickly looking and his Ability - whilst flashy and highly capable of destruction – isn't well-adapted for defence.

But it's not like Chuuya cares that Dazai is away more than he's around these days and when he is around they're sent of on mission after mission and it would be suicide for anyone else but they are Soukoku so they just get shit done, or they work through every one of Dazai's carefully constructed plans until they reach the end of the list and then Corruption gets shit done and Chuuya is just exhausted and it feels like Corruption is eating away at his soul; like every time it's harder for him to come back.

He doesn't care.

“I heard there was some kind of murderous, malevolent, ghost prowling around the base...but all I can find is a short murderous hat accessory. Perhaps someone got confused?” Chuuya almost jumps out of his skin. Dazai is leaning against the wall, watching him pace with a look of amusement.

Chuuya just tsk's and makes to walk right past the general source of his ire, because why is it that the bastard always just happens to pop up out of nowhere as soon as Chuuya's even thinks about thinking about him. Like he's being summoned by the power of Chuuya's brain. It's...creepy.

Dazai sticks an arm out, blocking his continued path down the corridor to the Dazai-free zone of safety. Chuuya pauses for a moment to wonder whether such a wonderful thing as 'Dazai-free' could ever exist. Not as far as he's concerned that's for sure.

“...ya?” A hand is waving in front of his face, bare inches from his nose and Chuuya snaps back to reality with a cross-eyed and quite possibly entirely unconvincing glare. “Chuu-yaaaa are you even listening to me?” Dazai's sticks his face obnoxiously close to Chuuya, peering underneath the brim of his hat straight into his eyes. That weird omniscient stare never gets easier to bear.

“No.” Chuuya tries for haughty, but he's pretty sure he just sounds fucking exhausted or irritated, or maybe both. “Why would I listen to you? Have you heard the shit that spews from your mouth recently. Fucking moron.”

“Awww Chuu-ya! Did you miss me? Do I need to bring '75 Worst Ways to Die' up to your room tonight so you can fall asleep in my lap listening to my beautiful dulcet tones just like the old days?” Dazai's smug, smirking face is looking like a rather spectacular punching opportunity right now.

“Fuck off.” Chuuya tries to brush past, but Dazai is having none of it, holding on to Chuuya's wrist with enough force to have the bones grinding together uncomfortably.

“Hey, Chuuya? We haven't had a practice session in a long while. How about it? Do you think you're up to the challenge of taking on an Executive Member, Chuu-ya?” Dazai is goading him into a fight, Chuuya knows this instinctively and he's just a little thankful that Dazai knows him well enough to see when the only conceivable resolution to his problems is to punch the shit out of something.

...

Chuuya is sloppy. He knows that he's leaving far too many gaps, far too many openings. He knows that the prickly irritation and worry bleeding through his skin is affecting his concentration, his balance, his technique. He knows that Dazai knows this, hates that his asshole of a partner is so in tune with Chuuya's movements and the minute tells of his body and posture that he makes it look effortless dodging and dancing away with a smile on his face and laughter in his eyes.

It's infuriating. It feels like Dazai is mocking him...feels like all those years ago when Dazai had pushed him to the floor with a foot digging into his ribcage and told him that his form was awful and his movements predictable.

Somehow, Chuuya manages to misjudge a kick, stumbling on air and ending up crashing to his knees on the floor with the wind knocked out of him. Using one hand to steady himself he hisses slowly through his teeth and chances a look at his partner surprised that the bastard hasn't gone in for an instant checkmate.

“My my, Chuuya, what a lovely view. You know, I think I prefer you on your knees in front of me. Although...unfortunately it does make you look even shorter than you already are.” Dazai's wide shit-eating grin is more than enough to tip Chuuya over the edge. His lips curl back in a snarl as the hand that isn't currently supporting the majority of his body-weight pulls into a fist.

“Bastard!” Chuuya's brain is fully aware of the fact that Dazai is deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from him. Unadvisedly, it makes the decision to completely ignore that little piece of information and Chuuya sees red; launching himself from the floor into a complicated pattern of movements, pulled off with an efficiency that came from years of hard work and that somewhat natural aptitude for martial arts. With anyone else it would probably have worked – Chuuya's deep-seated anger gave him energy and put strength in his kicks and punches, the shortfall being a slight delay in reaction time, leaving gaps in his defence which are hard to fill – unfortunately for Chuuya, his sparring partner still isn't just 'anybody'.

The expletives that leave his mouth would have shocked even the crudest ditch-dwellers amongst the ranks of the Port Mafia. He swore in every language he knew, the words hissing through bared teeth as his attacks are blocked one by one by an infuriatingly bored looking Dazai. Chuuya doesn't hold back, doesn't know how; something that has landed him with an ever-shrinking pool of willing volunteers for sparring sessions when Dazai isn't around which seems to be more and more often lately. He knows the punches and kicks that connect – even those Dazai block – have to be hurting, and yet, his smug son-of-a-bitch partner continues to evade him, backing him slowly towards the wall.

Shit. Chuuya's back meets cold stone as he flings himself backwards to avoid a kick aimed for his stomach and in less than a second Dazai is on him, like a wolf sensing a kill. Blank almost-red eyes stare him down as long, slightly cold fingers wrap around his throat, the force effectively pinning him to the wall. Chuuya fights down a sense of momentary panic as his gloved fingers claw at the bandages around his partner's wrist, breath coming in harsh pants through constricted airways.

Dazai steps closer. So close. There is barely a gap between their bodies.

“Do you yield, Chuuya?” the glassy look has vanished, to be replaced with amusement and a self-satisfaction that Chuuya cannot stand. The redhead glares, preparing to risk a move that would quite possibly break his smug asshole of a partner's arm.

The hand around his neck tightens warningly.

Chuuya's breath is stuck, somewhere between Dazai's fingers. The urge to bare his throat to the other man hits with all the blunt force of a sledgehammer. After a moment of inner struggle that has his lungs screaming and black spots begin to dance on the edges of his vision, Chuuya tilts his head backwards, closing his eyes and breaking that contact with his partner - no, the Demon - standing in front of him.

The fingers around his throat loosen immediately, pausing to trail slowly down the column of his neck, before brushing upwards and applying just the slightest pressure under his chin, forcing his head back further.

Chuuya momentarily forgets how to breathe. His lungs helpfully remind him; screaming for oxygen as he pulls in a rattling breath through still clenched teeth. It was almost painful. No, scratch that, it is painful.

A whisper of hot air against the side of his neck, just underneath his ear snaps Chuuya abruptly from his newfound enjoyment over the miracle of oxygen as Dazai's low voice hums in his ear.

“Chuuya? Are you…submitting to me?”

Those cursed cold fingers wrap loosely around his abused throat once more, the pressure far lighter this time and Chuuya swallows dryly, unable to will his body to move, to react, to do anything other than drag in and release air in short sharp pants. He screws his eyes shut as a hot flush of embarrassment settles on his face. The slightly calloused pads of those long delicate fingers are stroking whisper-soft down his throat and Chuuya suppresses a shiver.

“Hmmm. Do you like this, Chuuya?” Dazai's tone has reached that dark, low place that had younger and less experienced underlings fleeing in terror. The same tone of sadistic enjoyment as when he flicked blood from his knives after an interrogation. It was kind of-

NO. Chuuya was absolutely not going there. Nope, not a chance in hell.

Grabbing hold of Dazai's wrist he comes eye-to-eye with the Demon himself.

“Release me, or I will fucking break you.” he snarls hotly, only a little surprised when his voice emerges with a slightly raspy undertone.

Dazai's smile is feral, and those once-apathetic eyes hold a spark of interest that has Chuuya's gut churning uneasily. The stilled hand draws back, following Dazai's body as the taller man takes a few steps backwards, and with most other people Chuuya might have labelled that 'out of threatening range', but in the case of this man he isn't sure whether there is anywhere in all of Yokohama that could be classed as being outside of 'threatening range'.

“Such a foul mouth, Chuuya.” Dazai's voice is lilting in that annoying sing-song manner that usually precludes him saying something totally offensive. “For a short guy you sure do use a lot of adult words.”

“Fuck you, Dazai.” Chuuya brushes dust and dirt from his jacket, pushing himself away from the wall and stalking past his grinning partner to where he had discarded his coat, throwing it over his shoulders where it settles with a warm familiarity. Ignoring the intense feeling of eyes trying to burn a hole through his back, Chuuya jams his hat on his head and heads for the door without a backwards glance.

“Only if you're very good, Chuu-ya.” comes the sing-song voice behind him.

Chuuya chalks it up as a victory that he manages to make it through the door without turning back, and that his steps only falter a little at the weighted meaning behind Dazai's innocuous comments.

Chapter Text

Dazai finds himself shuffling despondently down the murky, damp smelling corridors of the Port Mafia's base the following morning. After a particularly violent 'chat' with Mori mostly concerning his lack of enthusiasm over his responsibilities for 'that rabid stray dog you found in the trash' his freshly rebandaged wrists are stinging and the absolute last thing he wants to do right now is spend the next two days kicking the shit out of said rabid stray dog in the name of training.

He sighs loudly, knowing that disobeying a direct order from the Boss will no doubt land him in a whole new world of pain and there is only so much one can do by way of avoidance, especially when you're the Mafia's Demon Prodigy, one half of Soukoku, and the youngest Executive Member in history. The titles just don't lend themselves well to laying low.

Thus, he is making his way – slowly – down to the lower levels where Akutagawa has been allocated his own small room. Mafia sleeping quarters are nothing to be proud of, quite honestly Dazai spends far too much time here to see his room as anything more than a cage; another place where Mori can keep an eye on him and force him to toe the line as all good Mafia Dogs should.

Dazai pulls himself out of his self-indulgent (and absolutely not whiny) musings as he hears the sharp clicking noises of shoes on stone that signalled someone was about to round the corner ahead. Dazai pauses in his shuffle, not really in any kind of mood to socialise with starstruck underlings, he backs up against the wall, half covering himself in that shadows left by the poor state of the lighting. Slouching artfully in a pose that radiates animosity and usually sends said starstruck underlings screaming for the hills, he waits impatiently for whoever it is to get the fuck out of his way.

The owner of the footsteps rounds the corner and Dazai is only slightly relieved to see the trademark red hair, peeking out from underneath the equally trademark (and exceeding ugly) hat that belongs without question to his short, red-haired, loudmouth partner. Only slightly relieved because Chuuya has a brooding look on his face and his steps are short (haha), sharp and angry...and...he hasn't even noticed Dazai's presence.

The opportunity is far too good to pass up.

“CHUU-YAAA~” Dazai practically screams his partner's name whilst simultaneously leaping away from the wall - in a completely over-exaggerated flamboyant manner - into his partner's previously oblivious face. Invading his personal space in a manner that he knows will push his redhead's buttons.

Chuuya almost jumps out of his skin, letting out a strangled noise that instantly makes Dazai's day ten thousand times better. Chuuya being short and angry are both undeniable facts of life, but Chuuya being caught unawares is definitely not a common occurrence. His partner's hands fly into fists as his eyes lift to rest on Dazai's face, and then recognition and disbelief spark and he's spitting like an adorable angry cat.

“What the FUCK, you bastard?! Where did you even come from? What are you doing!? Is it your life's fucking mission to send me to an early grave, huh?”

“Don't blame me for you not paying attention to where you're going.” Dazai waves his partner off airily, using the time to study the other with a bored, blank gaze. Blank, that is, until he notices the black, buckled choker wrapped tightly around his partner's usually bare neck. Dazai, knowing the reason for this sudden manifestation of leather, cannot help but smirk, narrowing his eyes and taking a step forward, pleased when Chuuya takes an automatic step backwards.

Step.

Step.

Chuuya's cornered against the wall and glaring hotly at a point somewhere over Dazai's left shoulder and Dazai can't hide the wide smile threatening to split his face, can't help but reach out a hand to slip a finger under leather which has been warmed by his redhead's pale skin. Chuuya winces at the contact and up close Dazai can see the faint marks of concealer. The logical part of his brain wonders if it's wrong to feel faintly pleased. He leans forward slowly, pushing his way into Chuuya's personal space once more and whispering softly.

“Oh Chuuya, you didn't have to wear a collar for me, you know? But now that I think about it, it does suit you quite well.” His voice is almost a low purr, and isn't that a surprise? Perhaps more so than the fact that he isn't actually joking.

“Shut the fuck up, you useless waste of breath.” Apparently his partner is less-than-amused by Dazai's admittedly skewed attempt at a compliment. Ahh well, maybe he should stick to barbed insults after all?

“Did you get Kouyou nee-san to cover those bruises up for you, Chuuya?” He holds up a finger smudged with concealer with an expression of distaste.

“Why? Are you feeling embarrassed because you asked her to wrap those extra bandages this morning?” Chuuya's gloved hands wrap around Dazai's wrist to yank his hand forcefully away from Chuuya's neck. Dazai cannot suppress a flinch as the pressure against fresh wounds sends a sharp biting pain up his arm. Chuuya, the observant shit, must have noticed, because his fingers dig in just that little bit harder.

Dazai isn't above playing dirty. “Tell me...can you still feel it? My fingers wrapped around that delicate neck of yours?” Chuuya drops his wrist like it's physically burning him, facing both palms outwards and shoving Dazai hard in the chest, sending him back a few feet. Dazai counts himself lucky that he hasn't collided forcefully with the opposite wall.

“You wanna go?! I'll show you who's fucking delicate, bastard!” Chuuya's eyes are wide, and Dazai wonders if that isn't just a little bit of panic he can see in their sapphire blue depths. His eyes right now are at complete odds with the rest of his body, which is wired for an instant fight-or-flight response.

Dazai spends a moment in silence, feigning deep thought, before smiling in his best fake manner and waving his hand in a parody of apology. “Sorry, Chuuya. Much as I would love to spend the day playing with my favourite hat collector, I will regrettably be spending the next couple of days with my student. Mori tells me I've been neglecting him you see and he does love it when I play with him.”

Chuuya's eyes roll so hard it's a wonder they don't get lost somewhere in the back of his head. He tsks in irritation, his face a picture of disgust, “Sure, go play with your pet. It's not like I haven't got better things to do than kick your sorry ass into next week. I've got to report to the Boss anyway, for some mission or other that nobody else wants to do. Later, asshole.” His redheaded partner slides away from the wall, raising one gloved hand in a halfhearted dismissal as he walks away.

Dazai frowns, watching his redhead disappear around another corner, his footsteps fading into silence as Dazai is left alone with his thoughts once more. He hates it when Chuuya is given solo missions. He hates the fact that Mori (that loathsome clever bastard) can order them apart like puppets on strings. He hates the fact that Chuuya will do whatever he is ordered without question or thought for his general continued state of … well … being alive. He hates that it bothers him so much; it's not like Chuuya can't take care of himself. Except when he uses 'Corruption'. Dazai's traitorous brain supplies unhelpfully.

Dazai's thoughts spiral into dark and brooding places as he makes his way to his protege's room. His eyes don't really see Akutagawa as the teenager opens his door and follows obediently at Dazai's side. His attention certainly isn't on training the youngster; cannot even be captured by that quite interesting Ability which had drawn him to recruit the boy in the first place (or was that simply a moment of madness, Dazai still isn't sure).

Dazai didn't get the nickname 'Demon Prodigy' of the Port Mafia for nothing. Neither is he the 'youngest Executive in history' for no reason (as much as Mori repeatedly tells him otherwise). Dazai is ruthless, cold, knowledgeable and logical. His strategies are flawless and his predictions are never wrong. But today, Dazai's usually collected thoughts are scattered to the four winds and as a result his young protege gets to feel the stinging whip of his wrath.

“You cannot rely on your Ability so heavily.” He snaps, when Akutagawa blinks up at him from the floor for the fifth time in a row. “I'm sure it worked very well on the scum-dwellers and street brats you've come up against in the past, but the moment you meet another combat Ability user you're going to lose. You need to wrap your brain around the simple fact that you are not as omnipotent as you seem to think you are!” Dazai paces a small circle around the black-clad teenager, his voice dispassionate, almost bored. “The gaps in your defence are miles too wide. You take too long to recover after a counterattack. Your attack patterns and movements are shoddy and predictable. You can be better than this. Don't waste my time.” He rounds on younger man, looming over him with a sharp smile, “Or do you want to be thrown out with the trash, Akutagawa-kun?”

“No, Dazai-san. I apologise. I will do better.”

The session lasts long into the afternoon; by this point Akutagawa looks like he can hardly stand and even Rashomon appears to be drooping. To his credit the boy refuses to give up, always rising to Dazai's taunts, pushing himself to the limit despite his half-dead appearance and frequent coughing fits wracking his body. After each defeat he pulls himself from the floor, dark eyes blankly determined and fists clenched with barely-contained rage. On any other day Dazai might be mildly impressed, today his student's diligence just pisses him off.

By the end it's more like a torture session than a training session. Akutagawa is dirty, bleeding and may have fractured a few ribs; his pride is no-doubt in tatters and his eyes resemble bottomless pits, dead to the world.

“We're done here.” Dazai can't bring himself to give a shit. Leaves Akutagawa lying on the floor of the training room without a backward glance.

...

Five minutes later Dazai storms into Mori's suite, walking straight past the guards and not even pausing to knock.

“Dazai-kun.” To his credit Mori doesn't even blink an eyelid. “What have I told you about barging in to other people's space?” the older man waves off his guards who appear to have come to their senses and rushed into the room with weapons drawn in anticipation of a fight.

“Where is Chuuya?” Dazai really isn't in the mood for small talk, really doesn't want to be here at all right now.

“Watch your manners, boy. I will not stand for your insolence. Executive Member you may be, but you will not disrespect me in such a way. Do you understand?” A flash of silver in his peripheral vision. Dazai has come to expect such things and doesn't give his Boss the satisfaction of flinching. He feels the slow trail of blood down his cheek. He ignores it.

“Where is Chuuya?”

Mori sighs like a parent would with an overly-obnoxious child. “Nakahara is out on a mission at my behest. He is not due to report until tomorrow.”

“You didn't answer my question Mori-san. Where is Chuuya?”

“That is none of your concern, Dazai-kun, Nakahara may be your partner, and you may have gained some sort of infamy in the underworld, because I planned it to be so. But Nakahara is my operative and I will do with him what I please.”

Dazai wants to snarl at the egotistical, power-hungry bastard. Wants so badly to slit Mori's throat open like he watched the man do to his predecessor all those years ago. He knows that Mori keeps him close because he is afraid that one day Dazai will break his leash before breaking Mori's own neck. He also knows that right now, he is no match for Mori, and so - ignoring the screaming rage simmering beneath his surface – Dazai apologises contritely for his rudeness, turns and stalks out of Mori's apartments, his footfalls heavy and his thoughts dark.

The following day Chuuya is nowhere to be found.

Dazai stalks the base like a dark cloud. Maybe he notices the way everyone seems to disappear around corners whenever he comes near. Maybe he notices the wide-eyed looks of trepidation in his colleagues when he pins them with a threatening stare and asks if Chuuya has been seen around the base that morning. Maybe he notices them quiver with fear as they shake their heads mutely.

He hates using his phone: hates how it can be traced, how nothing is personal, how every facet of his life is under surveillance whether he acknowledges it or not. He texts Chuuya anyway.

There is no reply.

Akutagawa's 'training' session does not go well. Dazai is in no mood for failure, pushing and needling at his young student, watching him fall time and time again with a dispassionate boredom and an ugly sneer. He knows Akutagawa is learning nothing here save for the depths of sadistic psychopathy his mentor can sink to when he's in this kind of mood, and it's probably unwise to unleash this side of himself here and now, but cannot dredge up the will to care.

Akutagawa stands shakily, teeth bared in pain and sweat dripping from his brow, Rashomon sways in the air like a large exotic snake under the influence of a charmer's flute. Dazai chuckles coldly, pulling a gun from the holster at his hip. Akutagawa's eyes slide to the shiny metal of the 9mm semi-automatic Glock: the dilation of his pupils and the sudden stillness in both his body and Rashomon betray his fear.

“How about a little game, Akutagawa-kun?”

Dazai flicks the safety off, raising the gun to aim somewhere around Akutagawa's left shoulder.

“I'm going to fire this gun...and you're going to stop the bullet using your Ability. Rashomon can devour anything, so it makes sense that it can make the space between the bullets simply cease to exist, thus terminating the velocity and rendering them useless. Correct?”

Akutagawa's dull eyes are wide with shock, as he pauses for a moment, as if he can't quite understand what is being asked of him. “Dazai-san?”

“Well?” The snap of Dazai's voice has the young man recoiling as if he'd been physically bitten.

“I...In theory, yes. But I-”

“Well then, let's test the theory.” Dazai doesn't smile, doesn't blink, doesn't betray any kind of emotion, his face a carefully blank mask of nothingness more terrifying than anything else could possibly be. Holding the gun one-handed and casually at arms length he pauses for only a few moments to watch Rashomon dance fractiously in the air before pulling the trigger.

The sound of the gunshot is shocking as it echoes from the walls in such a confined space.

The sound of Akutagawa's scream as the bullet pierces a hole through his flesh is almost unearthly.

The bullet has only grazed, passing through flesh and tissue cleanly and embedding itself into the wall beyond. The darker part of Dazai wishes he'd sent it into bone, into sinew, into Akutagawa's beating heart.

“How disappointing.”

Dazai turns on his heel and walks away, leaving his student to press bloody fingers against the gash in his shoulder. He can feel the heat radiating from Akutagawa's gaze, burning holes in his back; wonders for a second whether the young man fears him, hates him, idolises him…

It doesn't matter. Either the stray dog he picked up off the streets will flourish here and become a power to rival the most competent of Ability users across the globe; or he will fail, and in the Port Mafia failure can only lead to death. If Akutagawa's incompetence continues in this manner, perhaps death will be a kindness compared to the ways Dazai can come up with to break him.

...

It's almost a relief when he gets the call requesting his presence in the interrogation chambers. It's almost mind-numbingly easy to dredge up a terrifying smile and greet the chained and wretched figure like a familiar friend, to watch his knife slice through skin and muscle, to watch it scrape against bone.

It's always the same: that initial defiance, anger and the threats of revenge; followed by the shaking stench of fear and harsh pleading which inevitably falls on deaf ears; finally the broken surrender to previously unimaginable suffering and senseless screaming of the damned.

The thin fragile bones of fingers snap one-by-one until the digits hang useless and bent. Frail dirt-ingrained skin gives way to the satisfying thickness of meat and blood runs in red rivers across the stone floor.

It still isn't enough.

In the end he's not sure if it's pain or the look of apathetic boredom on his face that has his prisoner spilling his secrets as thickly as his tears. It's pathetic really, he's never met a person who hasn't cracked under his ministrations.

Dazai's blade draws patterns in blood and songs in ululating howls long after the prisoners secrets have been sold – the price paid in agony and torment a hundred times over.

After that, in the end, there is only death. A broken jaw, three shots to the chest, another body to wash down the banks of the river.

It's early morning, far earlier than Dazai would prefer to be awake - the sun probably hasn't made an appearance over the horizon just yet – but here he is, standing outside Chuuya's door, wondering whether it's better to knock and face the possibility that his redhead might just ignore him (or swear at him) or whether he should just cut out the niceties and go straight to breaking in (and most likely get sworn at just the same). In the end he decides breaking and entering will end up being quicker and easier on all counts.

It takes just a couple of seconds jimmying his poor abused hairpin in the lock before the satisfying click signals an open door, and to be honest, Dazai's probably broken into Chuuya's room so often by this point that the lock is barely functioning anyway. Pushing the door open quietly he peers into the gloom beyond the shallow lighting of the corridor, just about making out the lumpy form of something in Chuuya's bed.

Dazai is quick to tiptoe stealthily across the rug-covered stone flooring, close enough now to see that the lump sleeping soundly under the covers is in fact the fully-clothed body of his short partner, and immediately he is torn between anger that his readhead hadn't even bothered to reply to Dazai's persistent texts - and sure maybe he'd sent the single word 'hello' over 50 times in the space of about five minutes, but really, was that any reason to ignore him completely – and relief that said redhead appeared to be in unharmed and in one piece, save for the obvious exhaustion. Falling asleep in your clothes, Chuuya, really? Kouyou-nee would be horrified.

It's easy when Chuuya is asleep - all soft lines and uncaring youth – to brush the red hair back from his face and tuck it behind his ear. It's easy to sit on the edge of the bed and just be content to watch for a while, the steady rise and fall of Chuuya's chest, a reaffirmation that his redhead is still alive, still here. It's easy to pretend, here in the semi-darkness of early morning, that they're not on the verge of facing dangers they could never come back from on an almost daily basis.

It's also easy to shatter that useless illusion in almost an instant, by standing, leaning over Chuuya until his lips are almost brushing his redhead's ear and whispering loudly: “Sleeping beauty it's time to wake up!”

He sidesteps the fist that comes to greet his face with a quiet huff of laughter. Watching blue eyes fly open in disorientated shock and momentary confusion before they narrow in realisation and flash in anger. Chuuya takes a moment to rub a hand across his forehead tiredly before fixing Dazai with a glare that would have any sane person trying to hide.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn't chop you into little pieces and feed you to some pigs.” Chuuya's voice is a scratchy sleep-filled growl that does funny things to Dazai's stomach.

“Well, that's really not my preferred method of death, Chuuya, could we perhaps try drowning first? It's supposed to be far more peaceful.” Dazai backs up a step as Chuuya's foot emerges from the underneath the duvet aiming a kick at his kneecaps which would have sent him sprawling.

“As if I'd want to give you a peaceful death, bastard, when you wont even let me have a peaceful night's sleep. What are you doing, in my room at ass o clock in the morning?”

“You didn't reply to my texts!” Dazai pulls up his best pout and waves a finger reproachfully, “I wanted to make sure you were still alive. You were due in yesterday after all.”

Chuuya is squinting at him suspiciously now, or was, until he closes his eyes and uses one hand to cover a huge yawn. “How do you even know that? Are you stalking me again?”

Dazai taps his cheek where a bandage covers the still-healing wound Mori had given him for his troubles two days prior. “Mori-sensei was very specific.”

Chuuya shakes his head with a long-suffering sigh. “It was nothing I couldn't handle.” He mutters dismissively, “I had to chase one of them down after he ran like a fucking cowardly weasel, it took me a day to track him down – holed up in some families basement. My phone got a little smashed up in the scuffle the day before.” He points to the table next to the bed, on which rests something that resembles what used to be a piece of technology but now looks like it's been rolled on by a whale. “It was vibrating all fucking evening, that was you?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Now you'll never know!” Dazai smiles eerily, it morphs into an all-out grin when Chuuya lets out another deep sigh and grits his teeth. “Anyway, there was another reason I broke into your room...other than watching your angelic self sleeping of course. I have a mission for you!”

You have a mission for me?!” Chuuya is standing and pushing his way into Dazai's space in seconds, “Are you trying to piss me off?”

“Now now, Chuuya.” Dazai grasps his partners shoulders, holding him at arms length whilst trying rather hard not to laugh indulgently at his next words. “I am technically your superior after all.”

Screw you!” Chuuya is seething, eyes blazing and mouth twisted in a scowl that has Dazai's smile lifting even higher. Winding up Chuuya really is the best way to relieve his frustrations after all...although…

“Chuuya you use words pertaining to sex so often I'm beginning to think you have ulterior motives. Is there something you'd like to say?” Jackpot. Chuuya's face instantly turns the colour of a ripe tomato, his mouth opening wordlessly as his eyes widen. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Fu--...” Chuuya's fists clench, his whole body trembling under Dazai's hands, no doubt with the need to punch the smirk off his assuredly smug face. Chuuya's closes his eyes, takes a whistling breath through clenched teeth and practically forces his body to relax. “We are not doing this right now.” He mumbles tiredly, raising one hand to rub at his eyes before meeting Dazai's own head-tilted look of interest squarely, “I'm tired, what do you want?”

“I want you to come and do a practice session with me, but we'll have a little spectator observing us.” Dazai watches Chuuya's shoulders slump as he takes a few steps backwards to throw himself back onto his bed with a loud groan.

“You broke into my room and woke me up after a mission to ask me to play with you in front of your little pet? Are you fucking with me?” Chuuya really does sound exhausted, and maybe Dazai feels just a tiny bit guilty for disturbing his partner's probably well-deserved rest, but not enough to stop the teasing words from rolling effortlessly off his tongue.

“Not yet.”

The blush returns full force, and Chuuya doesn't quite manage to hide it behind the hands covering most of his face. Chuuya lies there on the bed, still and silent for so long Dazai wonders if his redhead has simply chosen to ignore him entirely in favour of going back to sleep.

“I won't go easy on you.” A whispered growl, filled with merciless intent that has Dazai grinning triumphantly.

“I'm counting on it. After all it wouldn't be a true victory for me if you were holding back now would it?” The low grumbling from the bed tells Dazai he's already won, that he has his redhead's full attention once again.

“Will you at least leave so I can shower and put some clothes on. Or were you hoping to stand and watch whilst I strip?” Chuuya pulls himself upright with a grunt, eyeing Dazai from underneath errant red tendrils of hair.

“Well, if you're offering...” And it's not like Dazai would really mind if his redhead decided to put on a show for him, unexpected though it may be, it's not like he hasn't noticed the tension that leaks between them sometimes, not like he isn't the intentional cause of it most of the time. His smile is probably a little predatory right now as he lets his eyes trail down Chuuya's sleep-rumpled clothes.

OUT!” Chuuya almost screeches, and a knife thunks into the doorframe right next to his head as Dazai dances laughingly out of the door.

“Half an hour Chuu-ya, usual place! I'll be waiting!” He sing songs, pulling the door closed behind him and humming a familiar tune as he practically skips towards the lower levels to drag Akutagawa out of his pit.

...

“I want you to observe a session between Chuuya and myself. Maybe you'll learn something.” Dazai's smile doesn't reach his eyes and Chuuya is looking between them with a look of disgust.

“Wait.” Akutagawa, steps forward, his eyes sweeping down Chuuya with obvious distaste. “I have a better idea, Dazai-san. You don't need to dirty your hands with such inferior things.” Dazai almost wants to laugh at the expression on Chuuya's face. If only he had a camera right now, although, that would probably turn out to be his death sentence.

“Nakahara. If you cannot defeat me, you do not deserve to be Dazai-san's partner.” Akutagawa's voice is entirely devoid of emotion. A statement made as if in absolute fact.

“You little shit!” Chuuya's disbelieving gaze swings to Dazai, “Is this brat serious?”

“Seems like it?” Dazai shrugs with a smile. “How about it, Chuu-ya?” He cocks his head to the side, eyeing the pair of them who seem to each be sizing up the other. Akutagawa's usually dead stare sparks with an unusual malice, and perhaps this fight wont be so boring after all?

Chuuya's smile is downright nasty as he pulls his feet into his customary fighting pose. Dazai steps back neatly out of range.

“Bring it, brat.” is the only warning his redhead gives.

The 'fight' - if you could even call it that – lasted all of three seconds. It was, Dazai had to admit, quite a beautiful display for all of its shortness (pun most definitely intended); his fiery redheaded partner launching himself forwards at a speed that would have been astonishing had Dazai not witnessed it many times before. Chuuya's control over his Ability was absolute, and captivating; when it wasn't focussed on destroying you.

Akutagawa didn't even have time to call Rashomon into being, let alone formulate any kind of defence. Chuuya looked like the 'Demon' Dazai had been referred to for the majority of his life as his body impacted with the taller teen, his personal gravity manipulated in such a way that his body-weight was many times what it should have been. Akuagawa went down instantly, Chuuya's knife resting against his jugular as a thin line of blood welled against the blade. The redhead's eyes were blazing, teeth bared in a silent snarl, his focus entirely on the 'enemy' in front of him.

Dangerous. Chuuya looked dangerous, in a way that was all his own – no Corruption in sight.

“Oho! Chuuya, that was quick!” much as Dazai wouldn't mind his dark and brooding protege collapsing due to blood loss from a punctured vein, he isn't entirely sure that was what Chuuya had in mind, judging by the truly terrifying look on his partner's face and the sharp gleam of the familiar knife held in Chuuya's expert fingers.

Sauntering over, Dazai pulls one hand out of the pocket of his trenchcoat to clap it forcefully on Chuuya's shoulder, dispelling the effects of his Ability immediately. He can't help but notice his partner tense under his touch, watches as the man forcefully shakes off his bloodlust before rising to his feet, shoving Dazai's hand away with a hiss.

The redhead spits on the floor next to Akutagawa's feet, mere inches away from the coat which holds a now sparking Rashomon. An insult personal to Akutagawa if ever Dazai were to witness one. His protege's dark, usually emotionless eyes shine with hatred and his beautiful, sadistic partner laughs hollowly.

“Get the fuck out of my sight, insolent pup.” Dazai slowly insinuates himself between the pair in what he hopes is an unobtrusive manner. Whilst watching the two face off again would surely prove to be entertaining, it was far more likely to end up with one of them bleeding out on the floor in a pool of their own blood and entrails. Dazai would put his money on Chuuya coming out the victor every time.

“The next time you snap your fangs at me, make sure you have the Ability to back it up!”

Akutagawa pulls himself slowly from the floor, a slight flinch making itself known, no doubt from the nagging shoulder wound beneath all those layers of black coth. The boy hides his mouth behind his hand in a familiar gesture as a series of dry coughs wrack his body, his eyes raise to meet Dazai's own carefully blank stare, silently asking permission to leave. Dazai grants the beaten young man's wish with a airy flick of his wrist and a smile that doesn't quite meet his eyes. He watches impassively as his young student moves stiffly towards the door; every line of his body taut with humiliation and hatred and refusing to meet the eye of his victorious competitor.

As the door slams shut and the dark form of Akutagawa merges with the shadows beyond, Dazai turns to give his partner his full and undivided attention for the first time in days. He pulls up a knowing smile and wags an admonishing finger in the redhead's direction.

“So harsh, Chuuya, were you feeling a little frustrated at being rolled out of bed so early this morning?”

“Asshole! You need to train your pet to come to heel.” Chuuya seethes, foot tapping irritably on the stone floor, “And how to respect his betters!”

“Oh...don't worry.” Dazai was sure his smile had most likely morphed into something that looked more than a little deranged right now, as he lets his eyes sweep suggestively down Chuuya's body for the second time that morning, before slowly raising his head until he meets those striking blue eyes. He is absurdly pleased to notice the blush once again staining his partner's usually pale face. “I intend to.”

Instead of lashing out immediately - as was to be expected after a such a stunningly delivered taunt - Chuuya huffs, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, (Dazai is almost sure the shorter man is counting to ten in an attempt to tamp down on his temper) when he opens them again that sharp focus Dazai knows so well has returned.

“Don't think you're walking out of this so easily either, Mr Executive. You gave me a mission this morning, after all.” the redhead's voice is a low, mocking purr; a promise of retaliation and something darker...alluring. Chuuya paces a wide circle around him with all the lethal grace of a predator. Dazai finds it difficult not to track his partner's every move, forcing himself to a blank, calm stillness. To react now would give Chuuya an advantage he did not wish to hand over so soon.

“Hmm? Playing with Akutagawa wasn't enough for you today?”

A blur in his peripheral vision is Dazai's only warning as Chuuya flies at him from behind with a speed that isn't normal. Casually he sidesteps, allowing Chuuya's own momentum to carry him forward. The redhead whips around, feet skidding on the grimy, bloodstained floor as he comes to a stop. “How about a bet, Executive-sama?” blue eyes flash with wicked determination, “The loser picks up the tab tonight.”

Dazai grins, clasping his hands together as if he'd just heard the most thrilling news he'd had all day. “Chuu-ya! Are you...are you asking me out on a date?”

To his credit, the redhead doesn't blink an eye, instead launching himself once again into an attack which fluidly combines his martial arts expertise with his Ability; moving at a speed Dazai finds difficult to predict.

“You are confident today.” the words come out at barely more than a whisper as he dodges a blow that would definitely have broken his nose had it landed. “I like it.”

“You might be able to predict all of my moves, but can you match my speed? You of all people should know, I don't joke around when expensive alcohol is involved, and trust me, it will be expensive.” Chuuya's smile is wide and self-satisfied, his punches and kicks flying in that effortless manner that quite honestly leaves Dazai feeling a little jealous – hand-to-hand combat has always been one of his weaker points, though it's not something he would ever admit out loud.

“I've noticed.” Dazai blocks this new flurry of blows, unable to continue dodging as Chuuya advances mercilessly. He winces internally as Chuuya's fists hit bruises that are only just beginning to heal after their last session down here, not to mention Mori's 'lessons' but, well, he can't really blame the redhead for taking advantage of that knowledge, after all, he would do exactly the same: find a weakness, exploit it ruthlessly until the target is exterminated. Port Mafia 101.

The match ends when his fiery redhead unexpectedly shifts in close and grabs hold of Dazai's wrist before he has time to even register what's about to happen; flipping him upside-down with impressive ease for someone eight whole inches shorter than himself. Dazai lands on his back hard, air whooshing painfully from his lungs and fuck it all but he hates being manhandled. Chuuya is on him in an instant, giving him no time to recover and possibly come up with a countermove: knees come to rest on either side of his waist as a hand presses harshly into his heaving chest which is already struggling to draw in air.

A familiar knife is digging spitefully into his chin and Chuuya is grinning at him like some demented demon dragged up from the pits of hell.

Dazai smiles, his eyes closing in fake mirth as his raises his arms in a show of surrender.

“Okay, okay, you win.”

Chapter Text

Chuuya chooses the most expensive wine bar in Yokohama. At the top of a skyscraper it plays host to a beautiful view across the city - not that Chuuya could give a shit about what's outside the window - and serves imports of the finest quality, and really, Chuuya could wax lyrical about the subtleties between true French wines and cheap imitations, but it's not like his unrefined drinking partner would understand.

He chooses a medium red – from France of course – not too pricey to begin with, but it has a dark fruity undertone that sits nicely on his tongue. Dazai, the cretin that he is, orders whisky, straight, and grins at the sidelong looks he receives, raising his glass and tipping it towards Chuuya before draining it in one go. Chuuya shakes his head in exasperation, takes another sip and wonders why he ever thought bringing Dazai of all people, to a place like this was in any way a good idea. Something was bound to happen: either Dazai is going to embarrass him in some way, or cause a scene, or just...something is going to go wrong.

Three glasses in and Chuuya is feeling decidedly less apprehensive and perhaps that's the drink talking but at this point he couldn't care less. Dazai seems to be behaving himself, which is suspicious in its own right, but he can't help but notice the way Dazai seems to be constantly touching him in what would appear to anyone else to be a completely casual manner: bumping their elbows together; putting a hand on Chuuya's knee as he talks animatedly about some movie Chuuya's never even heard of; pulling a lock of his hair playfully. It's all innocent enough but Chuuya's skin prickles at the contact and he can't help the way his breathing halts when Dazai's hand brushes against his own; can't help the jerk when Dazai's leg bumps against his; can't help but blush when Dazai stares at him intensely in a way that shouts he knows something Chuuya doesn't.

Chuuya suspects something is up when a young woman slides into the chair next to Dazai and turns as if to talk to him, only to be met with Dazai's most intimidating black stare and cold demeanour. She gets up and leaves without a word, shooting furtive glances at Dazai's oblivious back. A Dazai not flirting with every woman in the near vicinity was surely something to be worried about.

“Not in the mood tonight?” Chuuya can't help but ask, the words slipping through his lips before he can stop them, damn the drink loosening his tongue.

“I'm out with Chuuya!” Dazai's reply is weirdly earnest and Chuuya is starting to wonder what the fuck is going on. “It would be the height of rudeness for me to go off with another woman when I'm on a date with Chuuya, no?”

Chuuya can feel the blush suffusing his cheeks and creeping down his neck, tries to write it off as anger, knows he might be lying to himself...just a tiny bit. “You!...we!...You! This is not a date! Wait...what do you mean by another woman you...YOU!”

“Oh Chuuya. You're so cute when you turn into a simmering ball of fury.” Dazai hands him a suspiciously full glass of amber liquid that definitely isn't wine. “Just stop spluttering for a moment, enjoy yourself and drink this.” He pauses for a moment expectantly, then frowns when Chuuya makes no move to pick up the glass. “Well, if you don't want it I'll happily drink it for you of course. It's quite hard to find Jura in Yokohama, it would be a shame for it to go to waste.”

Chuuya drains the glass in a few seconds, maybe a little bit out of spite. He can feel the alcohol burn a scorching path down his throat, tries hard not to curl his lip at the woody aftertaste that definitely isn't wine.

“Hmm. You're supposed to savour it, you know, not just tip it down your throat like a barbarian.” Dazai is watching him bemusedly, shaking his head fondly like a disapproving parent.

“Are you tryin' to tell me how to drink? You? With your shitty taste in alcohol?” Ahh, his words are beginning to slur, that damn whisky must have gone straight to his head. It obviously has nothing to do with the...however many glasses of wine he's already had. Nope, not at all.

“Ah Chuuya, you're such a lightweight. It must be because you're so short.” And the bastard is patting him on the head like he's some kind of pet.

“It's your fault you shitty bastard!” Chuuya yells, and maybe that was slightly louder than he intended because now people are staring at them...well more than they had been before and two burly men - who would probably look intimidating to almost anyone else - are approaching them.

“Excuse me sirs. I think it's time you called it a night.” Crossed arms, sharp eyes, mouths tipped down in a frown. Threatening but not dangerous.

“Oh don't mind us. He's always like this, don't worry he'll be quiet now, so please everyone go back to your drinks!” Dazai addresses the bar in a loud voice, and it sounds gratingly like he's calling Chuuya to heel, and maybe Chuuya is growling under his breath.

“That wasn't a request, gentleman. I highly suggest you walk out of here of your own accord. Don't force us to help you.” There's a sneer on the speaker's face that says he's confident in his ability to discharge unruly patrons, and who knows, maybe he is, but it's not like they are any kind of 'ordinary'.

“Oh?” Dazai is tilting his head in a manner that betrays he's eyeing up the potential trouble he can cause here. “Do you really think you can?” His voice has dropped in cadence, and it's low and silky and dangerous...and has a shiver running down Chuuya's spine. Dazai is turning to him now, with a smile of dark amusement and a glint in his eyes that makes them look more red than brown. “Chuuya?”

Chuuya's smile matches his partner's in that moment, he's pretty sure. And maybe what they're about to do is sacrilege and a crime against the sanctity of wine, but they aren't about to be dismissed like common troublemakers. “Sure. Why not.”

“How about 'water flowing through fields of wheat'?”

Chuuya makes a face, wondering why his brain can pull up the meaning for these ridiculous codenames in an instant and yet half the time he can't remember where he put his hat (although he suspects Dazai breaks into his room and moves it during the night, just to fuck with him). “Isn't 'sad morning' better?”

“...Chuuya...”

“Yeah yeah, I know.” Chuuya stands, unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt and rolling the sleeves to his elbows with slow methodical poise that manages to surprise even himself.

“You really shouldn't piss off my friend here when he's trying to have a good time.” Dazai tuts, his smile wide and showing far too many teeth to be mistaken as friendly. “He may be small and unintimidating to look at, but he packs quite a punch. Ahh...well, you're about to find that out.”

Before the two bouncers can react, Chuuya has the nearest one by the wrist, using his Ability to lighten the man's substantial body-weight and using his own strength to throw the stunned and gaping man in an arc over his head, before steadily increasing the body-weight to twice its normal range and allowing the man's own force to crash him face first into the bar. There's a satisfying crunch and howl of pain as blood sprays from a newly broken nose. Instead of lifting the effect of his Ability, Chuuya simply bares his teeth in a self-satified grin, “stay there a moment will you.”

The second bouncer looks like someone stuck a taser up his ass: eyes wide, mouth open and fists hanging limply at his sides. Dazai hadn't even bothered to step in and restrain him, lazy bastard letting Chuuya run around doing all of the work as usual. With a disappointed sigh Chuuya kicks out a leg, catching the bouncer in the shins and dropping him instantly to the floor. Punching a fist into his ribs Chuuya's Ability activates once more, effectively sticking the man to the floor for the foreseeable future. Fight over as quickly as it had started, Chuuya turns to Dazai with a huff. “Well that was boring.”

Dazai hums in agreement, shaking his head mournfully as he looks down at the two downed bouncers with feigned pity. “Not even worth playing with. Such a shame. Hey Chuuya, you could alter the density on all this expensive alcohol and send it to the roof...when the effect wears off it would make quite a spectacular mess.”

Chuuya's pretty sure in that moment, that his look of pure horror matches the look of the barman, who appears to be on the verge of fainting. “You heathen! What a total waste of expensive shit!” Chuuya pauses for a moment, thinking, “I'd much prefer to steal it instead.” The barman's face is now an equal mixture of horror and terror, a look so strong Chuuya has to hold back laughter.

“Such a shame it would be a pain to carry home.” Another pause as he pretends to think before whipping around to face the barman directly, and the middle-aged balding man makes a sort of strangled squeak of fear. “A bottle of your finest vintage then? As an apology for our troubles, and not even giving me a decent fight at the end of it. What d'ya say?”

Apparently the man is struck dumb with terror and can't say anything at all. Hands Chuuya a dusty bottle with a peeling label from inside a glass fronted display cabinet with hands that shake so badly the bottle threatens to fall from his grip.

Chuuya takes the bottle carefully, his eyes scanning the words 'Grand Cru' with glee. “Thank you kindly. I knew we'd see eye to eye.” When he turns, the bar is empty of patrons and deadly silent save for the laboured breathing of two crumpled bodies lying unable to move from where they had fallen. Chuuya hadn't paid much attention to the mass exodus, had trusted Dazai to watch his back as he always has. “Time to go?”

“I believe I can see flashing lights in the distance, it's probably for the best.” Dazai stands almost gracefully and steps disdainfully over the prone body of the bouncer who blinks up and opens his mouth as if to speak. It only takes a look from Dazai to silence him. “A word of advice for the future? Try not to piss off short angry redheads, especially when expensive wine is involved, and take extra care when that short angry redhead is with me.” The man's eyes widen further as he seems to struggle to breathe, and Dazai is smiling creepily as he waves and strolls into the open elevator.

They are outside in minutes, no fuss, no police, no dead bodies...it's almost a surprise. Chuuya hesitates for only a moment before pulling the cork from the wine bottle with his teeth, and Dazai is staring at him in shock and then both of them are laughing uncontrollably. Dazai's arm winds around Chuuya's shoulders and drags him closer until they are sharing body heat and Chuuya can practically feel every breath the bastard takes. And maybe there's a blush on his cheeks again, but that's definitely the alcohol, or the cold.

“This is such a waste.” He almost whines, tipping the bottle back and taking a drink, and this is so wrong and a tragedy in and of itself but he's mostly drunk and high on residual adrenaline and right now he doesn't give a fuck...well not enough of a fuck to treat this rare Meo-Camuzet vintage the way it deserves to be treated. He tilts his head towards Dazai, scrutinising him for a moment and wondering if he likes the bastard enough right now to even offer him the bottle.

Who is he kidding?

He takes another large gulp, allowing the delicately flavoured liquid to sit on his tongue as he offers the bottle of Dazai. The bastard is staring at him like Chuuya is trying to give him a bomb. “Chuuya? Are you feeling okay? You're drinking wine out of the bottle...and you're offering it to me. Did you hit your head?”

Despite the disbelieving words, Dazai's other hand (the one not currently wrapped around Chuuya and preventing his escape) snakes from his coat pocket to take the bottle. His hand brushes Chuuya's as long fingers wrap around the glass, and how can something so cold send such an electric heat running through his skin? Chuuya almost drops the bottle to smash carelessly onto the pavement, would have had Dazai not caught it with a raised eyebrow.

Chuuya tries to pull away, put some space between them, stumbles a little on the pavement and only ends up with Dazai's fingers digging into his arm in an attempt to keep him upright.

“Let go of me.” He hisses, tugging at Dazai's hand until the bastard pulls his arm back at stares at Chuuya in puzzlement. Offering back the bottle which Chuuya snatches with a growl, tipping it up and closing his eyes as the wine fills his mouth and runs down his throat, and it's calming and familiar and safe.

When he lowers the bottle and opens his eyes, Dazai is far too close. Leaning down with his face bare inches away from Chuuya's own, those almost-red eyes are narrowed slightly, and flicker back and forth searching for something. “Chuuya? Is something wrong?”

Too close. Dazai is too close. Chuuya's heart is doing a funny sort of dance somewhere in his ribcage, his body tensing as he thinks about running, but knows Dazai will only chase him down, or break into his room, or do something else equally terrifying.

“Chuuya?...Chuu-yaaaa!”

Chuuya snaps, brings his arm up between them to place his free hand on Dazai's chest and shoves, hard. It sends Dazai back a few steps, would have been far more if he could have used his Ability, if it wasn't that asshole stood in front of him.

“Y-you! You've been fucking with my head for days now! What do you want from me?!” The words are pulled from him before he can even think about them, before his mind even processes what it is that he's saying.

Dazai smirks like the answer is blindingly obvious. Tilts his head just so and Chuuya knows that whatever is about to come out of the bastard's mouth he is not going to like it.

“To fuck with you, of course. Perhaps not your head though, that's a bit kinky for first dates Chuuya, don't you think?”

Chuuya sees red, should have seen it coming, should never have brought this weird tension, Dazai's weird game up in the first place. “You're INCORRIGIBLE. Be serious and make fucking sense for once in your life!”

“Incorrigible? My my that's a pretty big word for a pissed short guy.” Dazai is trying hard not to laugh, his posture slouched and relaxed and just...

“Ugh!”

“Come now, Chuuya, you were doing so well, use your words.”

Chuuya is angry, more-than-a-little drunk and entirely lacking in the sanity department as of this moment, but whatever this thing is that's looming between them like some large, grotesquely painted elephant, does not want to wither and die, no matter how much the redhead has attempted to deny it's existence over the last few days, weeks, years. Maybe later Chuuya will regret it and blame it as a mistake made under the influence of alcohol, but right now he couldn't find it in himself to give a shit. He let's out a muttered curse that emerges as something that sounds like a cross between a snarl and a growl before launching himself at his dark-haired, antagonistic, smug-faced, bastard of a partner.

The 100,000¥ bottle of wine drops, forgotten, from his fingers: vaguely he registers the sound of smashing glass as it hits the pavement and that's definitely something he's going to regret in the morning.

It's not until Dazai is up against a wall and their bodies are so close they're almost pressed together that Chuuya makes up his mind whether he wants to fight the bastard or kiss the bastard. Then he's smashing their lips together so hard their teeth clack and he can taste blood and now he's even less sure whether they're kissing or fighting.

Dazai turns his head to the side, breaking the contact of their lips, he brings a hand up between them, pushes Chuuya into taking a step backwards and shakes his head. The teasing smile and charm have gone, replaced with a look of solemn seriousness that looks foreign and out of place.

“Chuuya...I don't want-”

Chuuya cuts him off with a sharp barking laugh of incredulity, “You don't want me. Is that it? You flirt with me and tease me and fucking watch me like I'm worth something, until I fucking offer myself to you and now you're just gonna say it was all some kind of fucking game and congratulate yourself on a move well played?! Fuck you Dazai, fuck y-”

Chuuya's tirade stops when a pair of slightly cold fingers press insistently against his lips.

“Chuuya it's rude to interrupt someone when they're talking.” Dazai's voice is as blank as his face; Chuuya never could get a read on him when he's like this. “Please let me finish.”

“I don't want to be your mistake, Chuuya.” Those red-brown eyes are looking at him with an intensity that has heat rising in his face. “You're drunk, I goaded you into this...and I don't want to be something you regret in the morning. I won't be something you wake up and leave behind. Do you understand?” Dazai's fingers leave Chuuya's lips, trailing lightly across his cheek before they disappear altogether, leaving Chuuya cold, confused and still a little pissed off at Dazai's sudden switch in attitude.

He takes a deep breath, closing his eyes and letting it out in a sigh before searching Dazai's face for any trace of a lie.

He finds nothing.

“I don't understand.” Chuuya mutters quietly, “You're my partner, It's not like I could leave you behind even if I wanted to. Trust me I've tried.”

Dazai shakes his head slowly, whilst Chuuya mirrors the action, trying to shake off the fuzzy feeling of the alcohol running through his system. “Come on, Chuuya, I know a place where you can sleep it off, or drink to forget...whichever you like.” The taller man wraps a steadying arm around Chuuya's shoulders and begins leading him down the maze of streets that make up the confusing mass of Yokohama.

Chuuya follows his lead without question, just as he always has.

They've been walking for about half an hour now. The night breeze is brisk and has Chuuya wrapping his coat more firmly around his small frame, but his mind is sobering, and along with it comes a sense of foreboding, a sense of reality hitting Chuuya with all the force of a high speed train.

The building Dazai leads them to is a nondescript five storey apartment block, one of many such buildings amongst this bustling brightly lit area of Yokohama. Even at this time there are still people dotted here and there, wearily trudging their way home, or chatting loudly in that drunken animated way that is often interspersed with exaggerated arm movements and loud barks of laughter.

At a glaring contrast to those around them, Dazai is silent, his arm still wrapped somewhat possessively around Chuuya's shoulders, but his eyes are blank and distant, his thoughts a million miles away.

“You never told me you had an apartment off the base.” He can't help the accusatory tone leaking from leaking into his voice. Petulant, he sounds like a petulant five year old.

“Hmm?” Dazai seems to blink and pull himself back to reality in an instant, tipping his head down and shrugging his shoulders as he pulls his arm away from Chuuya and leads them up the echoing stairway, leaving Chuuya to steady himself against the handrail.

Of course Dazai lives on the top fucking floor...up four flights of stairs because of course the fucking elevator is a broken old piece of shit. By the time they reach the top Chuuya is feeling more than a little lightheaded, and wouldn't it be just his luck if his body decided to betray him and throw up right now.

I'm never drinking again.

He knows it's a lie, swallows bile on the back of his tongue and leans against the wall as Dazai unlocks the door. As the bastard holds said door open for him (with a completely condescending mock bow and hand gesture) he pushes his way through and slips off his shoes in the entryway, peering around with interest at this tiny space Dazai has made his home.

When he turns back Dazai is watching him with an amused and somewhat wry expression. “Go ahead, I know you're dying to look. You're the first person I've ever brought back here after all.”

The flippantly offhand comment gives Chuuya pause, and maybe his alcohol-soaked brain doesn't fully compute the meaning behind Dazai's words, but there's some kind of underlying importance there and he should definitely file that away for later...assuming he even remembers in the morning.

Dazai has brushed past him and headed for the small kitchenette which appears to be divided from the living area by only a small counter. He reaches up to one of the higher cupboards, pulls some things aside and Chuuya hears the sound of bottles clinking together. “I have saké...or whisky, no wine to match your expensive taste though, Chuuya.”

Honestly...the alcohol has done more than enough damage for one night.

“Do you have coffee?” Now Dazai is looking at him with barely concealed astonishment and Chuuya has to look away to hide his embarrassment, foot tapping awkwardly on the traditional tatami flooring.

“Of course.” Dazai makes no further comment, shutting the cupboard door and shuffling around setting water to boil and Chuuya absently wonders why the bastard hasn't taken the opportunity to taunt Chuuya as he normally would for being a lightweight or for being short and therefore unable to handle his alcohol or some such crap. This strangely tame, strangely distant Dazai is all wrong, it makes him nervous. Still, Chuuya takes the opportunity to have a look around, since Dazai had already given him permission it doesn't feel too much like he's trespassing into a secret area of Dazai's life...okay, maybe it does a little.

The apartment is rather spartan, the furniture is minimal and looks like it's been bought second hand: the kotatsu is old, the woodwork scuffed and the blankets have red stains that look suspiciously like old blood; the cushions look like they've been rescued from the seventies, bedecked in gaudy colours with oddly hypnotic patterns; the bookshelves look tired, though the wide selection of books look pristine and well cared for; the tatami flooring under his feet is fraying and worn. Really, the apartment could belong to anyone, Chuuya would never have walked in and immediately said that this was the home of Dazai Osamu, Demon of the Port Mafia and youngest ever Executive Member...and maybe that said a lot about Dazai's state of mind. Or maybe Chuuya was just reading too much into what Dazai probably just used as a space to be alone and away from anything that had to do with the Mafia and Mori.

“Well?” Dazai is offering him a cup of something that resembles mud and Chuuya makes a face and doesn't care that he probably looks highly ungrateful because right now that looks like the most unappetising cup of coffee he's ever laid eyes on (except perhaps that Russian tar). He takes it anyway, the caffeine will help sober him up and maybe he won't end up with the hangover from hell tomorrow.

Taking a sip he grimaces at the bitter taste coating his mouth. “It's...weird.” Dazai is frowning now and Chuuya has the odd urge to explain himself, “I mean...it's weird that you're away from the base, and it's and all, but there's no personal touch, nothing is really 'you'. Except that taste in furniture. Those cushions need burning and condemning to the seventh level of hell, what even possessed you to buy those?”

“Oh...I found those in the skip outside, when I accidentally fell into it whilst jumping from the roof. They thwarted my attempt at death, so I brought them home to remind myself to be more vigilant next time!” All of this said with a cheerful smile and Chuuya's mouth is hanging open and he probably looks totally unattractive right now, but really, Dazai picking up cushions that saved his life after jumping off a roof...It's so bizzare it's probably true.

“...Right.” He takes another sip of his coffee, more so that he has an excuse to not say anything else than because he actually wants to drink it. Still, he forces it down, can't help the look of distressed disgust from flickering across his face, knows that Dazai catches it from the way he's snickering cheerfully.

The feeling of exhaustion hits Chuuya like a brick wall, the hand that isn't carefully wrapped around the comforting warmth of the coffee mug rising to cover a large yawn that takes him entirely by surprise. He's tired, and drunk, and that really isn't a good combination, and he really shouldn't be here: in Dazai's personal space; amongst Dazai's personal things...he feels like an intruder on some secret hallowed ground.

“I...should go.” He places the mug on the counter, turns to make his way to the door, can feel Dazai watching him with curiosity.

“Don't be stupid, Chuuya, idiocy doesn't suit you.” Dazai is in front of him before he can even collect his thoughts, red-brown eyes tracing his face with a slightly amused, slightly worried expression that looks so out of place on his partner's face that Chuuya wonders if he's fallen asleep and is actually dreaming (or is that having a nightmare, he's not really sure right now). “You can sleep on the futon in the other room.” A vague hand gesture indicating the sliding doors towards the rear of the living area. “I'll sleep out here if you're that worried for your virtue.”

Chuuya can't help but laugh at that blatant lie, because since when has Dazai ever given up his bed for anyone or - more to the point – cared about anyone's virtue, this womaniser...ha! Thin blankets and the shivering bone-deep cold of Russia springs unwanted to his thoughts. “Lying suitsyou just fine, but I'm not in the mood for your games right now. Just keep your damn hands to yourself, okay?”

“Oh Chuuya, how benevolent of you to allow me to sleep in my own bed.” The sarcasm is almost palpable and Chuuya can't help the smile hovering at the corners of his mouth and Dazai's lips quirk in the mirror image of shared humour. “Come on Mr Grumpy Hat. Go get some sleep, otherwise you're going to be absolutely unbearable in the morning – overtired and hungover is not a Chuuya I want to be forced to associate with.”

“What a shame, I'm forced to associate with your infuriating self every damn day. I deserve a pay rise, or a fucking long vacation.” Chuuya pulls open the door to what he assumes is the bathroom, shuts it in the bastard's face and helps himself to Dazai's mouthwash (because the taste of stale wine and coffee is absolutely not something he wants to wake up to, a true morning breath disaster in the making) before relieving himself and padding noiselessly through the apartment and into the small bedroom, divulging himself of his shirt and jacket and practically falling face fist onto the large futon. He really must have drunk more than he thought he had: the room feels a little like it's spinning and Chuuya has to screw his eyes shut against the feeling of sudden nausea.

“Stay on your side of the bed, bastard.” Are Chuuya's last words as he hears Dazai moving around carefully behind him, moments before sleep drags him into her warm clutches.

“The whole bed is 'my side of the bed'! Is Dazai's unheard reply.

Chapter Text

Whilst waking up to an armful of sleeping Chuuya wasn't exactly a bad thing it was certainly a little bit of a shock, Dazai muses to himself as he fights against the tempting arms of sweet oblivion. Chuuya's head is tucked neatly under Dazai's chin, his arms curled against Dazai's chest and their legs are tangled in such a way that Dazai is entirely certain that he will be unable to extricate himself from this predicament without his sleeping redhead waking up and all hell breaking loose.

Besides that – and it's not the first time he's noticed - sleeping Chuuya is really quite adorable: small, soft and peaceful with none of the hard lines and unapproachable aura of awake Chuuya (not to mention his redhead's snappish, stubborn, wilful nature that betrays itself every time he opens his mouth). Maybe Dazai will let him stay like this for just a while longer (besides, now that he thinks about it, he really doesn't want to deal with irate Chuuya-with-a-hangover this early in the morning).

Or not.

Blue eyes crack open sleepily, blinking against the harsh light of morning filtering through the flimsy excuse for curtains. For a moment they seem blissfully unaware of their surroundings...and then...recognition and realisation occur in a split second and Chuuya is shoving backwards, pulling away and desperately trying to put some sort of distance between them whilst simultaneously getting caught up in the tangle of limbs and sheets and ending up in an ungraceful heap on the opposite side of the futon.

Dazai yawns loudly, his eyes never leaving Chuuya's face which goes through phases of shock, incredulity and confusion in the space of five seconds. “Good morning Chuuya. Did you sleep well?”

“W-what...I...you...what?!”

“Chuuya you're so ineloquent in the morning. It's not like this is the first time we've slept in the same bed.” Chuuya looks down at himself and Dazai can almost feel his relief when he sees pants.

It stings just a little.

“Where are we?” Confusion and curiosity seem to win out over Chuuya's short-lived indignation at being caught cuddling as blue eyes flicker across the walls.

“My apartment.” Dazai supplies, not bothering with any further explanation, because really, it's far more entertaining to watch the emotions tumbling unguardedly over Chuuya's face as he tries to work out exactly what he's doing here.

“Your...apartment?” Brows knit down in a frown, teeth worrying his lower lip and Dazai enjoys watching Chuuya struggle. “Bad coffee...cushions that need burning...right.”

Dazai is a little put-out at Chuuya's disregard for his outstanding taste in vintage upholstery (really, Chuuya, you think you can judge me when you wear such spectacularly tacky hats). “What do you remember?”

“We went out.” Chuuya starts slowly, his brow creasing in thought as he struggles to piece together his memory. “You were an Asshole. I drank wine that you didn't appreciate.” Now Chuuya sounds scandalised at his apparently offensive behaviour towards wine. “You got me drinking whisky. Why the fuck did I agree to that?” Blue eyes narrow, “You were still being an Asshole...we got kicked out because they thought we were going to start a fight. So we started a fight. Then we decided to call it a night...and I-” Chuuya stops abruptly, eyes wide.

“Yes?” Dazai prompts when his partner seems content to sit in stunned silence forever.

“Oh my god.” His redhead looks like he's about to be sick. Not exactly the reaction Dazai was looking for. Shock, yes; incredulity, yes; maybe even embarrassment...but nausea? That just prickles at Dazai's ego in a most unwelcome way.

“What?”

“The Grand Cru...oh shit.” Chuuya's voice is barely more than a hushed whisper, his face gone starkly pale, as if he'd just remembered a tale of the greatest tragedy known to mankind for generations. “It smashed...I didn't even get to drink it. Why the fuck did I do that? I can't even remember what it tasted like...the most expensive bottle of vintage I've ever held and it's gone...all gone.” Chuuya's narrow-eyed glare pierces him like the knives his short partner is so fond of. “What did you do?!”

It's beginning to turn into a lament to the fallen wine and now Dazai is thoroughly unamused, more so that Chuuya seems to be offloading the blame for their fallen comrade on him. This was not where the conversation was supposed to go (although perhaps he should really have expected it...this is Chuuya and wine after all). “What did I do? Me? You're asking me? Sorry, Chuuya but this one's all on you. You pulled the cork out with your teeth. You drank it straight from the bottle like a commoner. You dropped it on the floor when you --”

A short, sharp gasp and Chuuya interrupts him hastily, refusing to look him in the eye. “N-no! Stop! Don't say anything else!”

“Oh?” Dazai's lips curve into a cat-that-got-the-cream smile. “Did you remember something else?”

“N-nope.” Chuuya shakes his head slowly, “If I don't say it then it never happened.”

“You kissed me!” Dazai sing-songs with evil glee and laughs when Chuuya's response is to drop his head into his hands and looks a little bit like he wants the earth to swallow him whole. “You also said something about fucking your head.” Dazai adds helpfully, watching Chuuya's face turn red with embarrassment.

“Sh-sh-shut up! I definitely said that you were fucking with my head. The only one taking about fucking heads was you, bastard” Dazai wonders if Chuuya's whole body has turned red with the force of his flush.

He squints at the mortified form of his redhead who absolutely refuses to look at him, is currently trying to curl up into the smallest ball possible in the furthest corner away from Dazai that he can reach. “Are you sure, Chuu-ya? You were pretty drunk after all.”

“Please shut the fuck up before I kill you.” Comes Chuuya's muffled voice from behind his fingers.

Dazai watches his partner squirm for a few more moments before the question gnawing chunks out of his brain refuses to be held in any longer. “Did you mean it?” His voice comes out quiet and far too serious.

Chuuya stays silent and still on the opposite side of the futon and Dazai picks absently at a knot on his bandaged arm. It's a bad habit he really needs to quit – such a show of weakness would be picked up immediately by those in the lower ranks, jealous of his quick rise into the upper echelons of the underworld and determined to 'put him in his place' – but right now the familiarity of the gesture is comforting.

The silence is uncomfortable and stretches into what feels like eternity. Dazai can't bring himself to look up and see the rejection that would no doubt be visible in his partner's eyes. It's not like he's a stranger to the whole rejection thing (nor to being the one doing the rejecting, if he's totally honest), but this feels different, Dazai feels suddenly vulnerable in ways he hasn't been familiar with for years.

Not for the first time in his life, Dazai feels like the mask he tries desperately to bring up doesn't fit properly. Like Chuuya can see straight through the cracks and into the soul he keeps so carefully hidden away in the dark recesses of his being. It is a feeling he doesn't like one bit.

Still, he pulls up his best fake smile, crinkling his eyes in false mirth and waving his hands in Chuuya's direction without actually looking at him. “Don't worry, Chuu-ya! I'm joking, I'm joking! After all, it I my greatest wish to find a beautiful woman who will assist me in an equally beautiful suicide. I'm sorry but Chuuya just doesn't fit the bill.”

“Don't do that. Don't you dare do that.” Dazai can practically feel the force of Chuuya's glare boring into his skull, seeing too much. Always.

“Do what?” His voice is back to that flat and emotionless tone that has become so achingly familiar. Just another defence. Just another wall.

“Don't you dare hide from me!” Chuuya snaps. His accent is always stronger when he's genuinely irritated and Dazai hates that he knows the nuances and subtle inflections of Chuuya's voice almost as well as he knows his own.

“I'm not hiding, I'm right here. Does Chuuya perhaps need glasses? Although, I'm not sure you could find glasses to match those ridiculous hats you insist on wearing to make yourself look taller.” Ahh...defence in bad humour, falling back into that familiar territory, just far enough to try and push his redhead away. To stop him looking and seeing too far.

Chuuya is moving across the futon then, Dazai prepares himself for the inevitable fight.

He is not prepared for Chuuya's hands on his shoulders, pushing him backwards until his back hits the futon and suddenly he's lying down. He is not prepared for Chuuya to straddle his waist, basically sitting in his lap, pinning him rather effectively.

“Look at me.” Chuuya's voice is soft, the anger is gone and Dazai can't help but meet his redhead's stunningly blue eyes with a confused look. Chuuya appears to be searching his face for something – Dazai cannot fathom what – and obviously he finds whatever it is he's looking for as his eyes widen and suddenly he's moving closer, so close that his hair is tickling Dazai's cheek.

The unexpected press of Chuuya's lips against his is startling to say the least and Dazai's brain short circuits leaving him lying immobile on the futon, still staring into his redhead's eyes, which are so impossibly close he can see flecks of lighter blue in their depths.

It takes Chuuya nipping his bottom lip sharply to jolt Dazai out of his shocked stupor. As Chuuya begins to pull away, Dazai hums low in his throat, bringing one hand up to the back of Chuuya's head, burying his fingers into red hair and pulling him forwards until their lips meet again.

The way Chuuya sort of melts against him is kind of hot, and definitely unexpected, in fact the situation is so absurd, Dazai wonders for a moment if he's dreaming, before deciding he actually doesn't care. Chuuya is practically in his lap: his redhead's body pressed against him in all the right sorts of ways to cause his mind to turn into a whirling mess of incomprehensible possibilities.

The way Chuuya licks at his mouth is almost dirty and Dazai can't help but allow him access, which has the redhead exploring with enviable finesse (and just where did Chuuya learn to kiss like that? Dazai obviously hasn't been keeping enough of an eye on his redhead), stroking the roof of Dazai's mouth just enough to send a shudder up his spine. Dazai allows Chuuya to control the kiss just long enough for his brain to start screaming at him to take possession and just move, and it's not like either of them are the passive type, so it comes as no shock when Chuuya battles against him for control.

When they break apart to gasp for air, Chuuya's blue eyes are wide and dark, locked unblinkingly with Dazai's own probably slightly bewildered gaze, and it's some otherworldly kind of intense to have Chuuya this close and for neither one to be at the others throat. Chuuya's hands are caging his head, body balanced precariously with the majority of his weight settled over Dazai's waist, and if he thinks about that too hard, then, well there's no telling where this might lead. Although, the look in Chuuya's eyes right now says that his redhead might be more than willing to tumble head first down that road.

“Chuuya...” Dazai isn't even sure what he's about to say, but Chuuya is shaking his head and leaning forwards to bite at kiss-swollen lips again and Dazai can do nothing but give into the demand and they're kissing like breathing is optional. The heat, coupled with the slow uncoordinated grind of Chuuya's body against his is enough to have him growling into Chuuya's mouth and rolling them over on the futon; reversing their position in one fluid movement.

Chuuya's eyes are dazed as Dazai breaks the kiss to trail his lips down his redhead's jaw. He hisses when Dazai hooks two fingers under the leather choker to tug gently; bucks up unintentionally when Dazai puts teeth to his neck just above where the leather sits. Chuuya's low hum is rough and full of heat and has a thrill running down Dazai's spine to pool pleasantly in his groin. Close as they are it's impossible not to feel that they are both hard underneath various layers of clothes and this is probably a spectacularly bad idea, but Chuuya is running hands through his hair and tugging insistently and he cannot find the will nor strength of mind to refuse his redhead for a second time.

The kisses turn messy, full of teeth and tongue as Chuuya's delicate fingers explore Dazai's bare chest; mapping out muscle, ribs and heartbeat under his touch before moving to trace the outlines of bandages wound around his neck, and then carefully doing the same to each bandaged arm in turn. Dazai breaks the kiss to find Chuuya watching him with a serious expression and his shoulders tense in an automatic parody of defence (damn you, Chuuya, stop looking, stop seeing).

“You already know what's underneath.” Dazai keeps his voice matter-of-fact, unapologetic, final. His bandages as much a part of himself as the Mafia blood running black through his veins.

“Hmmm.” It's neither admittance nor denial, maybe Chuuya knows, maybe he doesn't want to know, perhaps it's simply some kind of acceptance that requires nothing but an intense meeting of eyes between them. Either way, Chuuya won't ask questions and Dazai won't volunteer any answers. Still, the fingers brush up and down in broad strokes before moving to cup his jaw, drawing him down once again. This time the kiss is slow and languid - more a trading of air between their lungs – and it stirs the blood to the very depths of Dazai's soul where something dark and lonely howls to be set free.

Somewhere off to their left a phone rings shrilly. The ringtone wailing a familiar 'non je ne regrette rien'. Dazai huffs as Chuuya pulls away almost guiltily.

“Ignore it.”

“That's not very Executive-like of you...Mr Executive.” Chuuya tries to sit up and Dazai pushes him back down with a hand against his chest, increasing the pressure until his redhead is practically pinned beneath him.

“Well, I don't feel like being an Executive this morning.” Dazai smiles a shark's grin, “in fact, I'm feeling much more like a horny teenager with a pretty redhead at my mercy.”

The phone continues to ring. Dazai has never found Edith Piaf more annoying. Chuuya rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “Let me up. At least one of us has to be responsible.”

Dazai moves to the side with a loud dejected sigh, gesturing to the cause of this most unwelcome interruption with an over-exaggerated flourish. “Ugh Chuuya is such a workaholic. Such a dedicated little Mafia.”

“Who are you calling little, bastard?!” Chuuya hisses indignantly as he grabs the phone and answers hastily.

“Ahh, sorry, Mori-sama.”

Dazai can't hear the Boss' reply but the blush creeping across Chuuya's face is nothing short of fascinating to watch. Chuuya's pale skin shows colour so easily.

“N-no, Mori-sama, I wasn't busy, I just left my phone in the other room.”

More garbled speech from the other end of the line and Dazai is beginning to formulate an idea. Sure it will probably end up with him getting punched, but what's life without a little danger?

“A mission? Of course.” Chuuya is watching him with apprehension as he creeps closer across the futon. He tilts his head, putting on a totally innocent face before letting it morph into something darkly wicked and watching Chuuya's eyes widen almost comically is all the encouragement he needs.

Wrapping an arm around his partner's petit waist, he drags the shorter man backwards with a muffled expelling of air, until Chuuya is basically sat in his lap, wrapping his own long legs around Chuuya's body to prevent any attempt at escape.

“Where is this family located?”

Chuuya sounds far too coherent for Dazai's liking, something that needs to be rectified immediately and in the best (most embarrassing) possible way.

Leaning over Chuuya's shoulder Dazai picks the point where the redhead's neck meets his shoulder and goes about sucking a dark mark into the skin, feeling Chuuya tense in the loose circle of his arms Dazai grins against the skin and scrapes his teeth against the newly forming bruise.

“O-ooh. Right.” Chuuya's voice stutters and that's far more satisfying. Dazai halts his ministrations on the growing dark blemish on pale skin to kiss a slow slick trail up the column of Chuuya's throat, his redhead unconsciously tipping his head back with a sigh to allow him easier access and that's just far too much of an open invitation for Dazai to ignore. He licks a stripe along the line of Chuuya's choker (really Chuuya, who are you trying to fool, it's a collar).

“Nnnn...ahhh, no.” Chuuya's breath hitches, his words carrying a peculiar sort of whine.

There's a pause at the other end of the line and Dazai cannot restrain the delighted chuckle that breaks out across Chuuya's throat. The simple movement of displaced air has Chuuya swallowing, his whole body going suddenly still until the voice on the end of the line says something that has his redhead snapping to attention.

“No. No I'm not sick, I'm fine. We will report in this evening, Mori-sama.”

The phone call ends with Mori's low tone wafting through the speaker and when Chuuya twists his head to glower with blue eyes spitting embarrassed fury, Dazai can't help but laugh aloud.

“You bastard! I should kick your ass for making me look like an idiot in front of the Boss, damn you!”

“Ahh but you enjoyed it.” Dazai leans forward to press his lips against Chuuya's jaw.

“You're awful.” Chuuya sighs in annoyance, but leans his weight on Dazai anyway, his back pressed flush against Dazai's chest. “In case you weren't listening, we have a mission. We need to leave.”

“Ahh but I was just enjoying marking this pretty redhead as mine. Why does Mori-sensei always have to ruin my fun?” He trails fingers from Chuuya's waist up his ribs and presses his thumb against the new bruise harshly, pleased when his redhead lets out a gasp that's half pain and half something else entirely.

“I'm not yours, bastard.” Chuuya pulls out of his grasp, dragging his body upright and beginning to throw clothes at Dazai's face in retaliation.

“Ahh, but you will be.” And maybe that came out a little too dark, a little too twisted, but the interesting beetroot colour Chuuya tries to hide is totally worth it.

“What's the mission?” Dazai remembers to ask a few minutes later, halfheartedly scrambling into his shirt.

“Assassination...the family of some moron who's been diverting funds.” Chuuya's reply is carefully blank, like he's already compartmentalising his brain ready for the task ahead. Murder has never been one of Chuuya's favourite tasks, despite how good he is at it, he prefers facing an enemy who will fight back. Not that he would ever complain, Chuuya is nothing if not thorough in his loyalty.

“Well if Mori-sensei wasn't mood-killer enough, that certainly was. Your bedroom manner definitely needs work, Chuuya. Kouyou-nee would not be impressed.” Dazai laments mournfully.

“Shut up, moron, and hurry the fuck up would you.” Chuuya's words snap, but the smile is back on his face, for now, and, for now, that will have to suffice.

Chapter Text

The first mission is the assassination of a family spanning three generations: a whole line put to death for the idiocy of one man who had thought skimming money from the profits of a Port Mafia front company dealing in the illegal trade of stolen foreign cars would go unnoticed. It hadn't.

They didn't even have time to run.

The husband is forced to watch as his elderly mother, his wife and his two children - barely old enough to understand what's happening, with tear and snot-streaked faces - are executed in front of him. Forced to listen as their jaws are shattered against the stone step of the family home's porch, as they lie screaming in agony with blood dripping from open mouths. Forced to look at the result of his mistake as they are shot one-by-one, three times in the chest, and more blood runs to form a slowly congealing red river across the earth as bodies flop lifelessly on the ground, glassy eyes gazing up locked forever in tormented agony.

Finally the husband – a low level member as far as the Mafia is concerned, worthy of no particular note – is granted the mercy of death, to join his family in eternal torment, dragged unceremoniously and laid out on the grass for passersby to see, to take note, to fear.

Soukoku was here.

...

The second mission is clean up, destroying a minor enemy gang who have been undercutting the Port Mafia in business deals to the point where profits are suffering. It's enough for the Boss to give the order for the complete annihilation of the gang and anyone associated with it. After the interrogation of one of the minor members it had become apparent that the gang used a seedy betting shop owned by one of the families involved as their base of operations.

These are the kind of jobs that Chuuya was built for, the kind where the spitting cracks of gunfire gives way to a rush of adrenaline as his Ability stops the path of bullets in their tracks. It hadn't been much of a task to bring the gang down, seeing the fear on their faces as the looked between Chuuya and Dazai and connected the dots with astounding speed for people who had shown such idiocy as to think they could compete with the Port Mafia.

There is no surrender, no mercy given for people like these, and they know it with every ounce of their being; fight to the death with gun, with fist, with tooth and nail. It doesn't aid them in the end. Blood splatters up the walls, bullet holes in cracked plaster, bodies lying on the floor, Dazai leaning nonchalantly against the door, content (as usual) to let Chuuya do all of the work.

When the cleaners arrive to take care of the mess and pile of bodies (in some cases body parts) there's a distinct air of fear in the way that they refuse to look either of them in the eye, step around them leaving a wide radius as if to come within four feet is to be tainted, or worse noticed. Dazai's hooded gaze betrays amusement and Chuuya is too tired to care.

Soukoku was here.

...

The third mission is another assassination, and this one leaves a sour taste on Chuuya's tongue. For all that he loves the Mafia and the family it has come to represent to him, there are some things that never sit well. This time the assassination isn't of a family, isn't because someone has been stealing, or skimming, or selling Mafia secrets. This assassination is a warning. The youngest son of a rising politician who has stepped too far on the toes of the Mafia, who has spoken too loudly and too brashly of cleaning up the streets, of putting criminals and murderers where they belong, vowing to bring gangs, criminal conduct and the Port Mafia to their knees.

For some reason unknown to Chuuya (although if he really thinks about it, it may have had something to do with the expression on his face when he'd read the brief) Dazai decides to head this one, telling Chuuya to 'take a break' in that fond sort of way whilst his eyes radiate a nothingness that is chilling. The child is no older than four: harmless, innocent, staring up at them with blue eyes that remind Chuuya of his own. The nanny tries to scream, is silenced when Dazai slits her throat open in one long stroke, the blood bubbles and pours grotesquely and she's dead before she reaches the floor. The boy blinks with big blue eyes focussed on Chuuya, holds his arms out to be held as toddlers are wont to do. Dazai puts a bullet neatly through his heart, watches impassively as the small body rocks and falls to the plush carpet, staining the cream a brilliant lurid crimson. Two more bullets and a neatly shattered jaw – Chuuya is almost grateful that Dazai had decided to end the kid's life quickly, rather than put him through the pain of a broken jaw whilst alive and following the Mafia's signature 'calling card' routine. The sight is gruesome, the brightness of the blood at a stark contrast to the pale modern furnishings of this high-rise penthouse.

It's all he can do to walk away in silence (get a grip asshole), leaving the strangely disturbing scene behind when Dazai brushes past him with ice in his eyes. He doesn't need pity. He doesn't need anyone to pick up his broken pieces.

Soukoku was here.

...

The fourth mission is sort of vindicating, brings Chuuya a sense of closure that he thought he'd never have. Of course, it also brings back a shit tonne of memories he'd really rather not relive, but it's a small price to pay for revenge. They have infiltrated a human slave ring that specialises in the abduction and shipment of children from foreign lands, brings them into Yokohama and sells them on as sex slaves or personal toys to the highest bidder.

Normally the Mafia would turn a blind eye to this sort of conduct, depraved and disgusting though it may be, they do not tend to interfere with the dealings of the underworld save for in those transactions that are beneficial to the Organisation itself. But recently there have been a spate of deaths among the imported children - mostly due to the horrific conditions the youngsters are kept in – and bodies have been washing up downriver with shattered jaws and three holes in the chest, a nasty attempt at a cover-up designed to cause the Port Mafia as much trouble as possible. The police and government special forces have been sniffing around, always too quick to jump to conclusions where the Mafia's doings are concerned.

Chuuya took great pleasure in breaking bones, slitting throats and snapping necks that night. His eyes shone with demonic malice, his manic laughter echoed across stone walls and perhaps he lost his sanity, perhaps a little of Corruption leaked through as he exalted in blood and retribution. Dazai watches in silence until the ring of trafficking scum are no more than lumps of meat spread upon the ground, tells Chuuya, “enough.” tells him, “don't be an idiot, Chuuya.” and “what's done is done.” Draws fingers down his sticky bloodstained cheek and Chuuya's whole body is shaking as he slides down the wall with angry sobs.

It feels like he's physically jolted back to the past and suddenly he's a young frightened boy, red haired and blue eyed, running from nameless shadows down dirty streets, knowing his life is going to end if they catch him. Then Dazai is pulling him into an awkward sideways hug, and Chuuya tries to hide the tears (get a fucking grip, asshole), feels a little pathetic, a little disgusting (covered in blood and entrails and the smell of iron is never going away), but his idiot partner just sits there in silence until Chuuya gets a hold of himself and they leave without a word, and maybe Chuuya leans a little against Dazai's side, and maybe Dazai pretends not to notice.

This time they are gone before the cleaners ever arrive.

Chuuya doesn't need pity. Doesn't need Dazai to pick up his broken pieces…

Soukoku was here…

It's become something of a ritual for the two of them to head to a bar on the sole predilection of getting blind drunk following certain types of missions...or maybe he should say, it's usually him getting blind drunk and Dazai getting mildly tipsy (damn the bastard to hell for his high alcohol tolerance), content to sit and watch Chuuya with that blank expression or fake smile that Chuuya can't stand; or to talk about some innocuous thing entirely unrelated to work.

The wine selection in this place isn't great, but the bar is under the protection of the Mafia, and it's cheap enough to get shitfaced on and right now that's just fine with Chuuya. He swirls the deep red liquid in his glass, watching it critically. Red wine always reminds him of blood – the way it moves, the way it stains.

The latest mission had gone by without a hitch, well, as good as any assassination mission can be expected to go. It hadn't even really required that both of them be there - the targets weren't Ability users or even of moderate calibre as far as self-defence goes – most of their missions lately had been like this. When Chuuya has time to actually think, he wonders why Mori is setting them these inane tasks, things which could quite easily be handled by the Black Lizard or even lower level teams.

The answer is simple.

Their presence together on these missions is to serve one purpose, it is more for show than anything else. The rumour of the feared Soukoku duo annihilating traitors, killing friend and foe alike has sent out a clear message to anyone foolish enough to think of betraying or crossing the Port Mafia.

Still, as far as missions go, assassination of innocents has never been his favourite. Sure, Chuuya has partaken in enough of these missions now to pull up a sort of professional detachment, but the sight of children lying in cooling puddles of their own blood – three neat bulletholes through the chest – becomes sort of numbing to the soul.

Chuuya has been the reason, the direct cause of so many deaths now that he can no longer remember individual faces or names. They swim in his consciousness, an amorphous blob of accusatory stares and tangled broken limbs that he steadfastly ignores.

He always feels slightly cold, slightly empty, familiarly exhausted after missions like this. Usually the alcohol serves well enough to leave him comfortably numb, but tonight it's just not hitting the spot, and Dazai's presence to his side is making his teeth itch in a weird way.

Speaking of that bastard...

At his side Dazai has abandoned his glass in favour of drawing patterns absently on the tabletop with his fingertips moving rhythmically in random shapes. Chuuya tries (and fails) not to think about how those fingers would feel drawing those same patterns across his skin. He can feel Dazai watching him when he thinks Chuuya isn't paying attention...it's distracting.

“What are you staring at?!” He grumbles in annoyance as he feels eyes boring into his skull for the umpteenth time. “What even goes through that head of yours?”

“Hmm..?” Dazai's fingers stop drawing patterns and Chuuya can practically feel him smirking in triumph. “Well, right now I'm thinking about how good Chuuya would look tied to my bed, all spread out and calling my name as I fuck him.”

Chuuya almost chokes on his wine.

Coughing furiously he can feel the blush rising predictably on his face and curses his pale skin (not for the first time, and certainly not for the last). “Now, now, Chuuya.” Dazai is laughing now and patting him lightly on the back in a faux-concerned manner. “You do know you're supposed to drink that and not inhale it?”

Chuuya picks up his wineglass once more, lifting his head to meet that familiar blank red-brown stare with a challenge in his eyes. Raising the glass in a toast he downs the contents in a matter of seconds, slamming the glass down with more force than intended. “Come. We're leaving.” His voice emerges in a husky growl that surprises even himself. Dazai, meanwhile has recovered from his momentary shock and is staring at Chuuya again; this time with a look which can only be described as predatory. His mostly full wineglass remains forgotten on the table, his eyes never leaving Chuuya's body as they make their way outside.

The trains are mostly empty at this time of night: that odd time between people rushing home from work and people pouring drunkenly from bars and clubs stumbling to get the last train home. They are heading steadily further into the Port District towards the more upscale end, and in the complete opposite direction to the apartment Dazai had dragged his drunken ass back to before. The curiosity is eating at him, he desperately wants to ask where exactly they are going...but knows that's exactly what Dazai wants and more annoyingly expects him to do, and to be quite honest the bastard gets what he wants far too often so maybe Chuuya is staying silent just to spite him (and maybe in the process also spiting himself)...elbows resting on his knees, head resting in his hands as he stares at the floor, resolutely not looking up.

Dazai is watching him.

It feels like the bastard hasn't taken his eyes away since they left the bar. Chuuya can feel the intensity of that odd stare prickling his skin like tiny needles and sending shivers down his spine that have his shoulders tensing unwillingly. He is used to walking on silent feet. Trained to move through crowds without causing a disturbance, without making himself noticeable despite his 'exotic' features. This constant attention has his foot tapping nervously and an impulsive need to pull his hat down further over his eyes, and it's absurd because it's Dazai but the sensation that he's become the prey to some larger predator hits like a bucket of ice water being dumped on his head.

“Will you quit staring at me?!” He's really had enough of feeling like he's being examined under a microscope.

“But I like watching Chuuya.” He can almost hear Dazai's pout.

“It's creepy.” You're creepy.

“Chuuya is so mean.” A hand falling lightly to rest on his back is almost enough to make him jump out of his skin. Dazai chuckles lowly next to his ear as he leans across the seat, “If I can't look, then I'll touch instead.” Fingers drawing nonsensical patterns - up, down, up, down – rhythmic, almost soothing. Chuuya bristles, feeling something like a fractious horse being calmed by steady hands.

The train pulls slowly to a halt. The hiss of the doors releasing and the lone unsteady footsteps of a new passenger making their way into the carriage. Chuuya doesn't look up, doesn't really give a damn who the newcomer might be.

It's slightly odd that even though this person has the whole of the carriage to choose from, he - it has to be a he, Chuuya deduces from the heavy footfalls and the ungainly way the newcomer throws himself down – chooses to sit directly opposite Chuuya, and sure, the guy can sit wherever the fuck he likes...only.

He has the cold, uncomfortable, unmistakable feeling of being watched. Again.

Chuuya tilts his head up with a scowl, meets a wide salacious smile and equally wide eyes, staring unabashedly, and it's far creepier than Dazai could ever hope to pull off. He holds eye contact, what the fuck is this guy's problem, refuses to back down: a growl in his throat and a sneer on his lips.

It's a few minutes - and honestly it feels like a few hours, his whole body gone tense, ready for a fight even though there doesn't appear to be any kind of threat - before the stranger actually speaks.

“How much for the boy?” Lecherous black eyes slide down Chuuya's body in a way that makes him feel slightly sick. Teeth gritted, mouth curling into a snarl and Chuuya is just about ready to give both barrels when--

“Excuse me?” Dazai's voice is ice cold, his fingers curling slightly into the fabric of Chuuya's waistcoat, nails digging almost painfully into flesh.

“The boy, I'd like to buy him for the night. How much?” This pervert obviously didn't get the hint. His eyes never straying from their locked stare on Chuuya's body as he licks his lips in a way that has Chuuya's hands clenching into fists.

Dazai's nails dig further into his skin, the pain enough to make Chuuya flinch and whip his head around to glare at Dazai in irritation. The look on Dazai's face has the angry words dying on his tongue: the killing intent radiates from his taller partner, oozing out of his very skin.

It's never anything short of terrifying, when Dazai let's that 'other' side of himself surface, when his Ability's call handle really takes on some kind of meaning.

No longer human.

“Chuuya. Cameras.” The voice is whisper soft and calm as a bottomless lake.

It takes bare seconds to disable the recording devices set at each end of the carriage, and both of them are careful, have been taught ruthlessly for years the importance of anonymity, had used the cameras blind spots to their advantage from the moment they entered the train; stealth is built into them, as effortless as breathing.

In mere moments, Dazai has the lecherous asshole pinned against the cold glass of the window. The pervert's eyes have almost bugged out of his head and his hands scrabble uselessly behind him, trying to find some purchase he can use to fight back.

“Shhh...shhhh.” Dazai croons eerily and Chuuya is almost captivated by this vision of darkness unleashed. “I'm not going to kill you, today. Just going to teach you some proper manners. I suggest you learn quickly.”

With his hand still pinning the choking man by the throat, Dazai turns to fix Chuuya with that darkly blank almost-red stare that has the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. “Chuuya...lend me your knife.” He pauses for a moment before adding as an afterthought, “better make it one that you don't want back.”

Chuuya pulls a short knife from the inside of his jacket, handing it over slowly.

Dazai turns his full attention back to his captive. “I should cut off your genitals and feed them to the dogs for the disrespect you showed to my partner. But sadly I just don't have the time right now, so this will have to suffice as a warning.”

A flash of steel in the low lighting, and a high pitched shriek of pain and Dazai has driven the knife straight into the stranger's crotch and bright red is blooming across his pants as he looks down at himself in horror.

“What did you do?! You fucking psychopath! You're dead, I'm going to fucking kill you!” Tears are leaking down his face, hands shaking as he tugs at the knife only to let out another unmanly screech of agony and he sinks to the floor with a choking wail.

Dazai leans over him with a look so dark Chuuya can see the shudder of fear ripple down the stranger from head to toe. “I'm sorry, was that lesson not enough for you? Do you need another.” The pervert shakes his head, eyes wide as saucers and mute with sudden fear.

“Very good. See, you are a fast learner!” Dazai's tone is almost light as he straightens up and steps across the carriage, turning his back on the stranger as if the injured man was worth no more of his time or acknowledgement. In a couple of steps he's crowding Chuuya back into his seat, one hand leaning on the armrest, the other moving to Chuuya's chin as he applies enough steady pressure to encourage Chuuya into looking up and meeting his eyes, and there's something coiling black and possessive there, mixed with some sort of vindictive pleasure and something else Chuuya can't name but it's a far cry from that soul-wrenching blankness just a few moments before.

Before Chuuya really knows what's going on, Dazai is leaning down – closer, closer – until their noses bump and their lips meet. It's not a nice kiss, or a reassuring kiss, or even a lust-driven kiss. This is something else, something diamond hard and biting. Something like ownership and greed and marking him (tainting him) and Chuuya is not down with this shit.

He bites down hard on Dazai's bottom lip in retaliation, pulling away with flashing anger and curled fists and Dazai is smirking at him, the bastard.

The train begins to pull to a stop the voiceover calling out Yokohama Station and suddenly Dazai is upright and tugging on Chuuya's arm. “Ahh, I'd love to continue this here, but, this is our stop.”

Dazai makes his way towards the doors, pausing over the still-slumped body of the pervert. “I'm sorry you don't get to enjoy the show, but, well, maybe that's for the best. Wouldn't want you losing all of the blood from that shrivelled worm you've got down there, hmm?”

Red-brown eyes and a wide smile turn to Chuuya, “Come along, boy.”

Chuuya growls under his breath, hauls himself out of his chair with a snarled, “Don't you dare call me that, asshole.” Follows the bastard anyway; until he catches a telltale glint in the corner of his eye, plucks the speeding knife out of midair with ease and really that was a clumsy throw; wouldn't have done a great deal of damage even if by some miracle it had found it's intended mark.

“You should have stayed put.” His voice is low, rough and threatening as he turns back decisively. Black eyes widen in sudden fear, right before Chuuya's fist connects with the pervert's nose. A satisfying crunch and the spray of blood, the stranger crumples unmoving to the floor. Clicking his tongue in annoyance Chuuya pushes his way through the doors just as they begin to close, joining the bastard on the platform. He looks at the telltale red staining on the knife in utter distaste, wrinkling his nose and reaching out to wipe the blade on the nearest sleeve of Dazai's coat.

“I hope you realise you just potentially got that asshole's semen on my knife. I'll have to sterilise it now, it will never be the same again.” He stashes the knife carefully back into the inside of his jacket.

“Well, you potentially just got semen on my coat. What are you going to do about that? This is my favourite coat you know.” Chuuya knows it's not, knows this particular coat was a gift from the Boss, knows that Dazai does everything within his power to get the coat stained, dirty and damaged beyond repair other than outright physically burning it. Thus far said coat has resisted every attempt at sabotage, kind of similar to it's purchaser.

“I'm sure you can think of something.” He regrets the words almost immediately after they tumble unthinkingly from his mouth and Dazai's head whips round to pin him with a sharp stare.

“Oh? Are you giving me permission?” That dark, husky tone is one that's becoming all-too familiar, and it sends chills (or is that heat) down Chuuya's spine every time.

He shrugs noncommittally, rolling his eyes and tipping his head towards his partner, “Like you'd bother to ask my permission anyway, arrogant bastard. What even was that back there, shithead.”

“Ahh, but it's good to know I have it nonetheless!” Really, the sheer egotism his partner can exude at times is infuriating. Actually scratch that, Dazai is just generally infuriating whether he's being an egotistical bastard or not.

“You're such an asshole.”

“Says the person who just broke someone's nose for looking at them, Chuu-ya, you're so violent!” The sing-song tone is back, smug self-satisfied smirk and all. Really, the speed with which Dazai's mood changes gives him whiplash.

“Says the person who just stabbed someone in the bollocks for looking at someone else.” Two can play that game, after all, and Chuuya's pretty sure he has the trump card, besides which, Dazai's look of surprise is highly enjoyable.

“...touché.”

The apartment building Dazai leads them to is absolutely nothing like the small, old-time, sort of quaint step-back-into-the-past that the other apartment had been (décor notwithstanding). This block is definitely skyscraper in proportions, is located in the central district of the port: surrounded by banks; high-rise office buildings and the bustling shopping hub of the Yokohama Bay Quarter. There's a security guard on the door – who bows to Dazai like he's some kind of gentleman, what the fuck?

Entry into the building appears to be accessed by keycard followed by a passcode entered into the box on the wall. After a few short seconds there's the click of the lock and the door swings open to grant them admittance, automatic lighting flickering across the lobby – lined with plush seats and tables as some sort of communal area – to light their way across the floor.

It seems almost sacrilegious to break the silence: their feet moving noiselessly across the floor, the only audible sound coming from their whispered breaths. Chuuya can't help but twist his head this way and that, trying to take in the high ceilings, the tall pillars (and those must be decorative but they definitely look like marble), the almost abstract photographs depicting areas of Yokohama he knows by sight. Even the elevator seems to stand by the sanctity of silence, the doors gliding open without a sound.

Of course Dazai lives on one of the highest floors, and Chuuya is fully aware of just why Dazai has such a fascination with heights (the suicidal freak), but still, the ride to the 38th floor gives some kind of indication as to just how high this building is.

Still there is silence.

If the ground floor was impressive, Dazai's apartment is something else. There's no lock or key card entry, instead there's a fingerprint scanner which responds to Dazai's forefinger with the quiet click of a lock disengaging. The opening corridor is lined with prints of famous paintings, the likes of which Chuuya would have bet almost anything (other than his wine collection, hat collection, the TVR, his favourite knife...okay maybe not almost anything) Dazai had never heard of. It's actually rather disconcerting, to find out your asshole of a partner, the suicidal idiot you grew up with, has actually grown up into something of a learned professional (sure the profession isn't exactly normal by any stretch of the imagination, but who's going to argue). After shedding his shoes and throwing both coat and hat on the hooks just to the left of the door, Chuuya ignores the semi-amused expression of his partner in favour of absorbing (snooping around) this new area of Dazai's apparently secret life.

The paintings are beautiful, most he recognises – Monet, Rosseau, Dali – but some are a mystery even to him.

The kitchen is small but looks to be well equipped and everything appears to be almost brand new, which is pretty unsurprising considering Dazai much prefers tasting food to actually cooking it.

The living area has a beautiful silver-grey plush carpet, large black leather sofas and quite possibly the biggest television Chuuya has ever seen. Bookcases line every spare space along the walls, each one filled with books of every imaginable genre; some with the binding frayed and pages torn, looking rather worse for wear.

The next door he opens turns out to be a guest bedroom, the decoration bland and boring, the furniture unadorned with books or oddities and the bed standing unmade in the centre of the floor. Obviously unused.

He's standing the living room, admiring the rather impressive view across Yokohama Bay through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows when someone else's breath tickling the back of his neck causes Chuuya to freeze on the spot.

“Chuuya...” That voice like dark smoke, drawling his name with artless seduction.

Chuuya turns and Dazai is too close (always too fucking close), standing right there and as he takes a step back, tries to put some distance between them, tries to think this through with some sense of rationality, Dazai is matching him step for measured step until his back hits the shockingly cold glass of the window and suddenly there's nowhere left to run and he's being watched again by those red-brown eyes which look almost like old blood in the low light.

“Have you finished looking for skeletons in my closets?” Dazai's forearms lean against the glass on either side of his head, effectively trapping him in place.

“Hmm, no I don't think I have.” He pitches his voice into a low deliberate hum, “There's one room I haven't inspected yet, after all.”

“Oh?” Dazai is looking at him with a wry tilt of his lips, “Well, by all means...”

Chuuya ducks underneath Dazai's arm, stalks off whilst pulling up his best haughty air, and really he's not so great at pulling off 'haughty' when annoyed, angry, infuriated, wrathful are all definitely a more common emotions as far as he's concerned, especially when it comes to the bastard.

The master bedroom is...intimidating. The large western-style bed practically dominates the space with it's deep grey (almost black, isn't that fitting) duvet and far too many pillows. To either side sit two nightstands and, at the far end of the room, the sliding balcony door has been cracked open to allow the tiniest wisp of breeze, the whole room backlit by the lights outside of a city that never truly sleeps. Taking a step towards the bed, his eyes catch on something red, tied to the corner post.

His mouth goes suddenly dry.

“Well, Chuuya?” Curling smoke and liquid flame. Chuuya swallows, refuses to let himself turn, runs red silk through his fingers, the cool material slipping like water.

“Did you...plan this?” Rough, low, breathless and maybe a little unsteady. It's overwhelming and he can feel Dazai's presence behind him, making him uncharacteristically jittery.

“Maybe.” Offhand, uncaring, airy, the bastard really doesn't give a shit. Chuuya turns, ready to snap and snarl, sees something serious flickering in those almost-red eyes that make him stop dead.

“Do you trust me, Chuuya?”

Chapter Text

“Do you trust me, Chuuya?” Dazai's tone is light, almost nonchalant, completely at odds with the seriousness of the question at hand. His oblivious redhead shoots him a look of total confusion.

“Are you shitting me right now? I put my fucking life in your hands every time I use Corruption you idiot! What do you think that means?” Chuuya is staring at him incredulously, his brow furrowed in annoyance. Maybe that was to be expected...after all, Chuuya's practically been conditioned to trust, to put his well-being at Dazai's mercy whenever that side of his Ability manifests, and yes, maybe Dazai has stretched that trust to its limit more times than he should have just for the sake of his own amusement (not that Chuuya remembers).

“That's not what I mean at all, Chuuya.” Dazai shakes his head, gesturing to the bed with its silk ties, one occupying each of the four corner posts. “This has nothing to do with the Organisation, or a mission, or your Ability, or the fact that the only times you've had to activate Corruption was when you had no other conceivable choice. This isn't about whether you trust me not to let you die, Chuuya. This is about whether you trust me with your body. Whether you trust me when you're bound and sightless and completely under my control. Can you give that to me?”

Dazai watches Chuuya's face carefully as his redhead suddenly reaches some kind of realisation and his face takes on a pink flush as he eyes the bed with a newfound self-consciousness, and is that a sliver of fear? Whatever the emotion is it flickers out before Dazai can get a proper read. Chuuya takes a few deep breaths, seeming to come to some sort of decision as his gaze drops to the floor, strands of red hair hiding his eyes from view. “I trust you.” The words emerge as barely more than a whisper directed to the floor. Dazai isn't sure whether he heard correctly or whether his brain just morphed the words into what he wanted to hear.

“Pardon, Chuuya, I didn't catch that.” He slips two fingers underneath the shorter man's chin, applying enough pressure to force Chuuya's head up until their eyes meet, really, this is becoming a habit, and it probably annoys the shit out of Chuuya because it just emphasises how much shorter the redhead really is.

Chuuya glares at him in defiance, his cheeks scored with heat. “I want you.” He growls, the words almost lost behind clenched teeth as he takes an almost aggressive step forwards, so close their bodies are almost touching. “I want you to strip me down until I'm on display for you. I want you to tie me to your ridiculous bed. I want you to blindfold me so I can't tell where your fingers will touch next. I want you to tease me until I'm begging for you to stop. I want you to fuck me until I scream your name.” Chuuya's blue eyes haven't left his. Chuuya's words are spat like a challenge. Chuuya's breath is coming in short pants and still he refuses to back down, refuses to break eye contact. In fact his redhead leans in closer - until their faces are mere inches apart - and Dazai is suddenly the one beginning to feel flushed and embarrassed and that just isn't acceptable.

“So fucking get on with it.” Chuuya's breath puffs against his face and still those blue eyes stare unblinkingly into his own, another unvoiced challenge dancing behind dilated pupils. Dazai has never been one to walk away from a challenge; certainly isn't going to in this case, but in all honesty, hiding in anger is just so Chuuya.

“Such a foul mouth, Chuuya.” Dazai tuts in admonishment, curling his hand around Chuuya's lower jaw and squeezing hard enough that he knows it must hurt. Chuuya doesn't wince, shows no sign of pain, just continues to stare resolutely as Dazai's fingers dig in mercilessly.

...

Chuuya watches him through half-lidded eyes as Dazai pulls the gloves from his fingers one by one. Stares in fascination as Dazai pulls his left hand closer, pressing a kiss against the pulse point of Chuuya's wrist. His eyes flutter closed when Dazai presses his tongue against Chuuya's open palm, can hear Chuuya biting back a gasp as bites gently at an exposed fingertip. Dazai smirks knowingly and Chuuya tries to pull away, so he growls admonishingly against Chuuya's exposed skin, feeling the redhead still in his touch.

Dazai takes his time stripping his redhead of all his ridiculous layers of clothing, enjoys the feeling of mapping Chuuya's body under his hands, playing with feather-light touches and the rough scraping of nails, learning what makes his redhead whine or gasp or tip his head just so as he goes, filing it all away as useful information, possible blackmail material, something else entirely...

Chuuya refuses to stay passive, tugs at Dazai's clothes like he's forgotten he has thumbs. Demands, and orders and expects to be obeyed. It's akin to a circling dance of two predators at war and neither is willing to give in without a fight.

...

“Have you done this before, Chuuya?” Dazai looks at the splayed out form of his partner, tied and captured and perfectly on display (and yes it was almost an all-out fight getting him this way, but it was worth it). He is beautiful: miles of ivory skin cover a lean, lithe and definitely lethal body; red hair splayed across the pillow and those stunningly blue eyes which, up until a moment ago, were watching his every move like a hawk.

“You know my past, Dazai.” Chuuya's voice is small and his eyes have gone dull and distant, looking back to a time he would obviously rather forget. “The slave markets of the underworld do not care where their objects are sold to, as long as the price is right. I was probably having sex before you even knew what it was.” Chuuya's hands are shaking slightly. No, Dazai hadn't known exactly, he'd made his own hypotheses of course, from the little tics Chuuya displays every now and then, and pieces of information he'd picked up over the years: that Chuuya doesn't like being watched, especially by strangers; that his redhead still has nightmares from which he wakes screaming; that Kouyou-nee had brought him back to her brothel dirty, stained and scarred on the point of Golden Demon's sword; that their mission only days ago had felt like some kind of retribution, Chuuya a howling demon amongst piles of blood and bone – that it had broken something inside. Right now he knows that memories are coming to the surface, memories that Chuuya would rather bury for all eternity.

“Let me wipe those memories of yours, Chuuya.” Dazai whispers against heated skin. Checks the knots pressing against Chuuya's bound wrists, just the right measure of restraint. “Those things you see when you close your eyes.” A kiss pressed close to the knot. “The nightmares that keep you awake.” The intensity in his voice is enough to frighten even himself.

“Dazai...”

...

“You're so beautiful, Chuuya.” His redhead surely is, Dazai thinks, strung out and pliant beneath him. His body is so responsive, it's almost breathtaking to watch his muscles jump at every brush of fingertips against skin, to watch his back arch up from the bed when Dazai hits a particularly sensitive spot, to watch as even breathing gives way to shallow panting as a cloud of lust settles over them.

Chuuya makes that 'tsk' noise of dismissal he's so fond of and Dazai is sure that had his partner not been tied down and blindfolded he would probably be punching Dazai right about now for describing him with such typically 'feminine' words. Dazai doesn't care, Chuuya is beautiful, and Dazai intends to prove it to him without need for pretty words.

Dazai follows the path of his fingers with lips and tongue; alternating butterfly soft kisses with slow laps of his tongue and the occasional slight nip of teeth which has Chuuya lifting his hips shallowly from the bed every time, accompanied by a sharp intake of breath.

He picks a slow trail upwards, fingers moving lightly across the parts of Chuuya's chest that his mouth is not currently occupied with. He maps the soft pale skin; commits it to memory with every brush of skin on skin.

He stops to suck a dark mark onto Chuuya's collarbone, biting down almost hard enough to draw blood before soothing the area with his tongue, smirking as a red bruise begins to bloom in stark contrast to the ivory of his redhead's skin almost immediately. Chuuya's shallow pants have stopped, his body a taut line and his fingernails digging crescent moon imprints into his palms. Dazai shifts slightly, leaning forwards until his mouth hovers next to Chuuya's ear. “Don't hold back on my account. Chuu-ya, I want to hear you.”

His fingers find a nipple and he twists hard, almost to the point of cruelty. His redhead lets out the breath he's been holding with a gasp and writhes beneath him as much as his bonds will allow, ending with a choked-off whine as Dazai stops his ministrations on the abused flesh.

“Fuck you. Dazai….fuck...I-” Chuuya seems to forget himself as a string of foreign expletives and encouragements roll off his tongue and Dazai understands maybe half of what is said, but damn it's hot and his redhead is coming undone beneath him.

Dazai begins to kiss a wet path from Chuuya's bruised collarbone towards his neck, pausing in his journey to nip at the sensitive skin at the junction between neck and shoulder: enjoying the low groan it rips from Chuuya's throat.

He watches with fascination as his redhead tilts his head back further on the pillows, essentially baring his throat. The awakened predator in Dazai has him pressing teeth into Chuuya's pulse point, not hard enough to break skin, but certainly hard enough to make itself known. Chuuya goes still beneath him, breath catching as his whole body goes lax. Watching Chuuya submit is quite possibly both the most stunning and most erotic thing Dazai has ever witnessed and he can't help but to press sloppy kisses to Chuuya's neck and the underside of his jaw.

“So beautiful.” He whispers into heated skin, feeling Chuuya swallow as his head tilts back almost impossibly far and it must be uncomfortable but Chuuya's body is begging for more with every line. “So good.” He shifts upwards until he can cover Chuuya's mouth with his own and they're kissing like they need each other to breathe, tongues battling for dominance. It's filthy and heated and Chuuya's body is moving beneath him, pressing upwards until they're chest to chest and groins meet with and electric friction that has them both pulling apart with a moan.

“Dazai...shit…I need-” Chuuya's voice cuts out as his body instinctively searches for more friction.

Dazai raises himself up to sit on Chuuya's hips, effectively pinning the smaller man to the bed. “What do you need, Chuuya? Tell me.”

Another string of expletives leave Chuuya's lips, his wrists pulling against his bonds in a display of futility.

“Ah ah, Chuuya, that is not part of the game.” Dazai strokes a hand down his partner's chest; lingering to draw circles around his hipbone. “Tell me what you want, Chuuya.”

“Bastard!” Chuuya hisses in frustration, unable to do anything but obey. “You. I need you. I need more...Dazai...” His name is whispered like a prayer and the tone sends shivers down Dazai's spine, his fingernails digging unconsciously into Chuuya's hipbones, hard enough to leave marks.

“I need to grab something from the bathroom.” He murmurs quietly, sweeping his hands inwards until they are just so close to Chuuya's cock that it twitches in anticipation, yet just far enough away that it has his redhead frowning in annoyance. “I wont be a moment. Stay there and look pretty.” Dazai raises himself up, moving to pull himself over Chuuya just as his redhead goes suddenly still.

“Don't…-” The next words are mumbled far too quietly for even Dazai's finely honed hearing to pick up on.

“I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, Chuuya.”

“Don't leave me alone l-like this...” Chuuya's voice is barely more than a whisper, and had it not been for the slight catch in his words Dazai would have assumed it to be a joke.

“Why?” Tact has never been Dazai's strong point, he berates himself barely a second after the word slipped from his mouth as the redhead stays rigid and his breathing quickens in distress.

“I...” Chuuya starts and then swallows dryly, shaking his head and sighing with resentment. “I have never had good experiences from...being t-tied d-down…during sex. It...is not something I enjoy...or would usually allow.”

Kneeling beside his redhead Dazai reaches out a hand to run it soothingly down Chuuya's side, across his ribs, unsurprised when the smaller man's body jolts with the unexpected contact, his body straining against his bonds as it tries to curl in on itself automatically. A learned response that has Dazai growling low in his throat.

Oh how he wishes he could murder every single one of the disgusting lowlifes that has ever touched his redhead in such a despicable manner. Oh how he wishes he could watch and laugh as their entrails drag across the ground, making a beautiful picture of blood and death and vengeance at his feet.

But...his partner's pants are sharp and fast, almost to the point of hyperventilating, and right now what he doesn't need is Dazai's dark aura and black thoughts: a killing intent that Chuuya is no doubt picking up on in his distressed state. Instead, Dazai moves to thread his fingers through Chuuya's beautiful red hair, shushing the other softly and pressing their foreheads together as he whispers quietly, “Shhh Chuuya, we will make sure to change that.” He presses his fingers into Chuuya's scalp, watching him visibly relax and pull himself away from whatever nightmare he'd been reliving in his head. “I just need to fetch the oil.” Dazai keeps his voice soft and soothing, his words caressing Chuuya's lips, “You know the bathroom isn't far away.” Chuuya is relaxing further into his touch, “I'll keep talking to you as I go. Can you do this for me?” Chuuya swallows and just barely nods his head.

“So good, Chuuya.” Dazai murmurs, pulling himself up and beginning to make his way slowly across the floor, his eyes never leaving his partner, “You look so beautiful lying there, you know. I know you hate that word, or you think it should only be associated with women or some such nonsense, but I wish you could see yourself, spread out and waiting for me.” He's made it to the door, padding through the walk-in-closet, through the small adjoining room and into the bathroom, thanking the Goddess of architects that whoever designed this place made the bathroom so close to the bedroom. “Perhaps I should take a picture of you, Chuuya.” He pitches his voice slightly louder so that his redhead can still hear him, reaching into the cabinet above the sink for the small bottle of oil he knows is there. “Then I could show you just how beautiful you are. Although, you know how often I lose my phone, I'm sure someone would pick it up and enjoy having an eyeful of your naked body. Then I would have to kill them.”

Upon re-entering the room Dazai can immediately see that Chuuya is struggling to regulate his breathing, his whole body is tense with stress and his hands are gripping the silk ties with enough force that his knuckles have gone white with strain. All of this Dazai assesses in an instant, the next second he is across the room and kneeling gently beside his redhead, pushing his hands back into red hair and murmuring praise against his lips, “You did so well. You're okay. I'm back. No one can hurt you, Chuuya. You're so strong.”

“It's stupid.” Chuuya whispers back against him. “I know none of them could lay a finger on me now, nobody can touch me unless I want them to, but I just-” His fingers clench angrily against the ties as his brow furrows.

Dazai pulls away, trailing his left hand down Chuuya's cheek as the other busies itself with the small bottle of oil, pouring a decent amount onto his palm. “Whatever happened in your past is still part of you, Chuuya. You cannot kill it no matter how much you might want to.” Poor choice of words. “Are you sure you want this?”

“I need this.” Chuuya's reply is swift and sure, resolute, with no hint of overriding doubt. “I will not let them ruin me. I want this...with you.” His voice goes quiet, his thoughts seeming to turn inwards and Dazai will snap him out of this, is determined to overwrite Chuuya's memories until he can't think of being tied down without associating it with anything but the pleasure building into a crescendo between them.

He repositions himself, kneeling between Chuuya's open legs and giving the other no time to dwell on the past as he takes Chuuya's cock in his oiled hand and begins to stroke roughly.

Chuuya visibly jolts back to the present with a gasp that ends on a loud moan as his whole body tries to arch itself off the bed. Dazai pushes him back down, holding the redhead in place, free hand pressing on his hip with bruising force, his pace unwavering.

“Fuck!...Yes! Dazai...more...” The words emerge in between a pattern of broken panting and Chuuya's body is still trying to override Dazai's restrictive pressure on his hips. Had Chuuya's Ability been active, Dazai is pretty sure he'd have been thrown across the room at this point in time.

“So demanding.” Dazai laughs, relieved that his redhead is back in the here and now, seemingly - for now at least – no longer plagued by childhood memories of torture, sex and blood...and really it just won't do to keep thinking along that black train of thought when he has this laid out in front of him. He twists his hand, changing the angle of his strokes slightly, dragging a thumb down over the head of Chuuya's cock and smiling in satisfaction when his partner whines loudly.

“Come. Here.” There is no hint of request in Chuuya's voice; tied and currently blind he may be, but powerless he surely is not. Dazai obediently gives in to his partner's wishes, pausing in his work for a moment to shift his body upwards until his knees are resting on either side of Chuuya's narrow hips, using his un-oiled hand to support most of his upper body-weight as he leans down to press a chaste kiss to the underside of Chuuya's jaw.

Almost immediately his redhead is turning his head blindly into the kiss, until he's nipping sharply at Dazai's bottom lip – hard enough to draw blood – and licking into his mouth whilst simultaneously growling out his frustration. Dazai allows their tongues to collide messily, guiding Chuuya into the kiss and goading him into a battle for supremacy that he knows the other man cannot possibly hope to win, handicapped as he is.

Keeping Chuuya occupied with his mouth he slowly sneaks the oiled hand down between their almost flush bodies. Their erections are practically rubbing against each other already and it is no hardship to take them both in hand – quite literally – and stroke downwards with enough force to have Chuuya's breath hitching in his throat as he bites Dazai's tongue in instant retaliation.

Dazai yelps in protest but doesn't stop the slow, deliberate movements of his hand down below. He knows his redhead wants more, can see it in the way Chuuya begins to writhe against him (as much as his bonds will allow at least), halting movements that he is obviously trying so hard to control as a thin layer of sweat begins to coat his pale skin.

Dazai moves his lips to trail down Chuuya's exposed neck, noting the shiver that runs through him at the contact and filing it away as useful knowledge for the future. He sucks and nips at the pale column, not hard enough to leave marks – he's pretty sure Chuuya will kill him if he does that again - licks and presses his lips against the thudding pulse point. The redhead is whispering an almost constant litany of curses, encouragements and insults that make Dazai grin and huff out a breath of amusement against Chuuya's throat and that has him bucking up into Dazai's hand with a choked-off groan of arousal.

The sounds of his redhead slowly falling apart and the now slick movements of his hand has Dazai struggling to hold himself in check. It's all he can do right now not to pick up the pace and finish both of them off right here...but that just wouldn't be a fitting way to reward such a display. That and there's a small part of him, lying deep within his core that is growling, dark and hungry, howling for him to stake his claim on the redhead beneath him. Brand him, own him, make him his in every way possible. It's vaguely worrying how much that idea appeals to him right now, but he pushes the concerns aside, running purely on instinct, on want.

“Chuuya...” he pulls his slicked hand away leaving them both frustrated and worked up, and his redhead looks so good sprawled out and wrecked on his bed. “I'm going to untie your legs. It will make things a bit easier. Will you promise to be good?”

“Fuck you, bastard!” Comes the acid reply.

“Maybe some other time, Chuu-ya.” Dazai snickers, running hands lightly down Chuuya's left leg and watching the smaller man shiver at the touch. “I fully intend to fulfil my promise of fucking you senseless tonight.” He adds, his voice dropping into a low seductive tone that has the redhead blushing as he picks the knot apart with his nails. Pulling the soft fabric away from Chuuya's ankle he inspects the area thoroughly, running his hands around and pressing his fingers into the joint.

“Mmm-fine.” Comes Chuuya's exasperated grunt from above. “You're not gonna break me, Dazai. Will you stop treating me like some delicate flower and just fuck me already.”

Meanwhile Dazai has pulled apart the knot restraining Chuuya's right leg, setting the lower half of his redhead free. Patting around for the bottle of oil he unceremoniously dumps some more into the palm of his hand, not deigning to wait for it to warm as he spreads it over his fingers, twisting back around to kneel between Chuuya's still unmoving legs.

Without pause or warning Dazai pushes his finger against Chuuya's entrance, watching it slip in past the ring of muscle with a cruel kind of pleasure. Chuuya's instant reaction to the unexpected intrusion is to yelp in an undignified manner as his body tenses visibly.

“What the hell?! Warn me next time, bastard!” Chuuya struggles to relax around the offending digit as Dazai pushes in further.

“My, my, Chuuya, make up your mind would you? One second you're screaming 'fuck me already'” Dazai puts on a fake high falsetto and barely avoids Chuuya's foot crashing into his face as it lashes out in anger. “And the next second you're telling me to warn you first. You're so difficult to please!” He pulls his finger out before pushing it back experimentally, pleased when the redhead's body offers no resistance.

He curls his free hand around Chuuya's erection once more, setting a rhythm as he adds a second finger to join the first, probing at Chuuya's insides, stretching him with agonising slowness. His redhead is panting again, breaths coming in short gasps as his heels dig into the mattress on either side of Dazai's legs trying to gain some sort of purchase, or perhaps some sort of control. Dazai shifts the fingers buried inside Chuuya, stroking and prodding, searching for that one spot… Ahh.

Chuuya's body jerks and the sound of creaking wood has Dazai wondering if Chuuya will end up breaking his prized possession before they are through. His redhead is moaning loudly: loud enough that Dazai knows Chuuya doesn't even realise that he is the one making the noises. With his head thrown back in pleasure, fingernails digging into his palms once more and hips rising from the mattress, Dazai wonders if there is anything more erotic in this world than the picture lying before him right now.

He doesn't allow Chuuya to ride on that sense of euphoria for long, pulling the two fingers back and replacing them with three. He can feel Chuuya flinch, is sure that his partner's eyes are narrowed in pain and his whole body has gone still and tight.

“Relax, Chuuya.” he presses a kiss to Chuuya's hip, scraping his teeth gently across the protrusion of bone. “Breathe.” He sets a pace that has his hand on Chuuya's cock moving at the same time as the fingers in his ass, a slow push and pull that has Chuuya's body opening up to him slowly as the sense of pleasure overrides the stinging burn of the stretch. It isn't long until his fingers are moving freely, curling just so to prod at that spot that has Chuuya pulling against his restraints and cursing.

Dazai removes his fingers without warning, pushing the nail of his thumb into the slit of Chuuya's cock and watching the smaller man thrash his head sideways, his body unable to decide whether it's feeling pleasure or pain.

Wiping his fingers on the sheets he pours a good amount of oil back onto his palm, slicking his own aching cock with a groan. That dark part of him is growling at him to take, now, do it! Whilst the sadistic part of his brain is telling him to make Chuuya beg for it and the rest of him just wants to do something.

“God ...fucking... damn it!” Chuuya's voice is wrecked and shaky. “What are you waiting for now?”

The sadistic part of Dazai's brain wins out, and really that comes as no surprise. “Beg for it, Chuuya.” His voice is whisper soft, full of dark promise and deadly serious. He watches his partner's body go dangerously still.

“No.”

Dazai pushes his redheads unresisting legs further apart, Chuuya is spread out beneath him, beautiful and perfect and defiant. Using one hand to hold him down he presses the head of his cock against Chuuya's slicked entrance, holding himself utterly still. “Beg. For. It. Chuuya.” He repeats, punctuating each word with the harsh stroke of his hand down Chuuya's cock which is now leaking precum onto his stomach.

His redhead tries to move, tries to force Dazai into action, bucking his hips, curling his legs around Dazai's waist and pushing with all the strength he can muster in his strung-out state. Pulling his wrists forward in a futile effort to get free. The noise that rips from his throat is almost a keen, the sound of a wounded animal, a cry of desperation.

Dazai does not give in to his demands. Remains still and steady, his cock merely brushing against Chuuya's heated skin.

His redhead breaks. “P-please!”

Dazai pushes forwards, just the tiniest fraction of an inch, just enough to have the tip of his erection pressing insistently against Chuuya's hole. The way his redhead stills beneath him, muscles taut and stretched and anticipating, it's quite a sight, almost breathtaking. He can't help but push further, breaching that ring of muscle and the heat is just incredible and all-encompassing, addicting like oxygen to a drowning man. Chuuya is tensing now, his whole body drawn tight like a bowstring about to snap, teeth clamped down on his lower lip almost hard enough to draw blood.

“Relax, Chuuya. Breathe.” Dazai runs a soothing hand down his redhead's ribs, waits until Chuuya's body relaxes around him before continuing to press forwards, inch by agonising inch, through gritted teeth which hold in stuttered words of praise, of need, of something deeper that he absolutely will not give voice to lest it destroy him.

It's almost a relief when he bottoms out, stilling his halting movements and just adjusting to the overwhelming feeling of heat and tightness surrounding him like nothing he's ever felt before. It's impulse that has him leaning forwards to kiss swollen lips, caressing Chuuya's abused flesh with his tongue and secretly delighting in the broken moan Chuuya whispers into his mouth.

Dazai pulls away, his body is practically screaming at him to move but he scans Chuuya's face for any sign of discomfort. “...Chuuya?”

“Oh God. Move. Damn it!” Chuuya's hips stutter, trying to rise from the bed and force him deeper, the movement has him biting back a groan.

“You don't have to call me God, Chuuya, just Dazai is fine.” Dazai presses teeth to Chuuya's throat, is still absurdly amused when Chuuya tilts his head back, silently asking for more.

“Shitty bastard. Move!”

Dazai complies. Unable to hold still any longer he pulls out to the tip and slams back in, digging fingers into the flesh of Chuuya's sides as the redhead pushes upwards into his thrust, driving him deeper.

All thoughts of taking it slow and teasing his partner to the edge are forgotten, lost in a whirlwind haze of lust and heat and the deep seated need for more, always more. Together they set an almost punishing pace of push and pull, Chuuya's legs wrapped, unyielding, around Dazai's waist as they slide into a steady rhythm that has his blood on fire and his lungs aching.

Chuuya is a beautiful mess beneath him, broken words in Japanese, French, English and maybe even Russian roll off his tongue and his chest heaves with the effort of being restrained and unable to move anything but his lower body, which is meeting Dazai thrust for aching thrust. When Dazai strokes a hand down his cock, Chuuya breaks his stuttered words to whine, breaks their rhythm to arch his back in pleasure.

“Dazai--” The low moan of his name slipping off his redhead's tongue sends a shiver down Dazai's spine and he pauses, buried inside Chuuya's body trying not to lose himself at the sound of Chuuya's wrecked voice calling his name and it's so poetic he feels a little bit afraid, a little bit overwhelmed, a little bit human.

“What can I do, Chuuya?” His hand strokes down Chuuya's length again and his redhead is panting softly, trying to cling on to the clarity to form a coherent sentence.

“Untie me.” It's not a request. Chuuya doesn't request – he demands and expects to be obeyed. “I want to touch you. I want...to see you.”

Another slow stroke, another low moan followed by a whispered 'merde' that has Dazai's blood pulsing. “What do you say, Chuuya?”

“Sil te plait...please...I...Dazai.”

“Shh, okay.” Dazai pulls out, his cock hitting cold air which has him cussing under his breath. Chuuya whines and mutters softly and Dazai pushes himself up the bed to kiss his partner into silence as his hands work at the knots binding Chuuya's wrists, and it takes some teasing before the silk falls apart under his fingers. Almost immediately Chuuya's hands are buried in his hair, twisting and tugging and scratching until he's growling his need into Chuuya's mouth.

His redhead blinks back tears from blue eyes as the dull light assaults his vision cruelly after so long under the confines of darkness. He squints against it until his pupils adjust and a blush spreads its way across his cheeks as he takes in their position for the first time.

Dazai's grin is feral as he disentangles his hair from Chuuya's fingers and slips down Chuuya's body, leaving butterfly kisses in a wet line down his chest. He holds Chuuya's gaze as he moves a hand painfully slowly between their bodies to grip Chuuya's cock loosely and his redhead is worrying his lip with his teeth but refuses to look away.

It feels almost welcoming, pushing his way back into that tight heat, and it's worth the loss of the blindfold just to watch Chuuya's pupils dilate so far with lust that the ring of blue is almost swallowed in darkness.

“Oh...oh fuck!” Chuuya's nails scratch lines down his back as his redhead visibly struggles to ground himself to something. When Dazai's thrusts angle just right, his redhead whispers his name so brokenly and his back bends into a perfect arch, worthy of a acrobat's grace and Dazai almost forgets his own name, shudders at the force of the foreign emotions bearing down on him with alarming alacrity.

And it's too much, too close, too soon, too fast, and this is such a bad idea and Dazai is highly logical, he doesn't make mistakes, he doesn't dive headfirst into things that don't align with his plans, he doesn't let emotions get in the way of his carefully laid out intentions for the future. He doesn't comfort his partners during sex and this is wrong, risky, dangerous, he's too involved and every part of him is screaming but he can't stop, it's too late now.

Curses, encouragements and threats are streaming from Chuuya's mouth again, interspersed with stuttered moans and the occasional sharp hissing growl when Dazai pushes hard in just the right place. His redhead reaches down between them - head tipped back, hair a tangled mess on the pillows, eyelashes fluttering delicately on pale cheeks – he moves as if to take himself in hand and Dazai knows he's close to the edge, can feel Chuuya's body trying desperately to reach completion.

Dazai pulls Chuuya's hand away, pinning it roughly to the sheets and his partner blinks as if clearing his head from a daze. The glare and aggressive baring of teeth Chuuya shoots at him has Dazai pressing down harder, pressing in further, leaning forwards to snarl against his redhead's collarbone. “No. Let me.” When he raises his head to meet that wild stare, Chuuya's glare has melted into something far hotter.

He can almost feel himself burn.

Dazai let's go of Chuuya's captured hand, pleased when instead of reaching down, his redhead instead reaches forwards to drag fingers through Dazai's hair, tugging on the ends impatiently.

He picks up the pace and the lewd sounds of skin meeting skin should have been embarrassing, but at this point they're both too far gone to care. He matches the timing of his thrusts to his hand now stroking down Chuuya's length and his redhead turns into an incoherent mess: pushing his hips up erratically into Dazai's touch. Chuuya's arms wind around his neck, pulling him closer with inhuman strength until their lips are brushing and their eyes are locked.

“Dazai...Dazai...oh fuck...Dazai...” The words are whispered softly, passing as breath exhaled and inhaled between them, and then Chuuya is pressing chaste kisses against his mouth, his body rising until Dazai can't tell what part of him is him and what part is Chuuya.

“Chuuya...Chuuya I want you to come for me.” He nips a slow deliberate path from Chuuya's jaw down his throat, stopping just over the large purple bruise he'd sucked into his redhead's skin what seems like a lifetime ago. He bites down hard, pushing himself into Chuuya's body roughly, his hand pumping Chuuya's length mercilessly.

Chuuya's whole body tenses for a second before he comes with a broken drawn out moan of Dazai's name rolling on his tongue like water. Dazai strokes his redhead through orgasm, licks at the angry red mark blooming across marred skin and closes his eyes as Chuuya's insides clench rhythmically around him. He manages a few harsh thrusts before spots begin to dance across his vision and he follows his redhead into blissful oblivion with a quiet whisper against heated skin.

Chapter Text

Dazai is an ass.

No, wait, 'ass' is definitely far too mild a word.

Dazai is a bastard.

Nope, still too mild (and far too overused in his case).

Dazai is an asshole son-of-bitch. There, much better.

Okay, Dazai is an asshole son-of-a-bitch and he looks handsome as fuck in that fitted suit and...no, wait.

Chuuya slumps over the bar, hiding his face in his arms for a moment before he remembers that they're supposed to be putting on a front of minor nobility or some such nonsense and pulls his posture back into that rigid uncomfortable position that has the base of his spine twinging in discomfort.

He's not even sure why he's been assigned to this mission alongside Dazai to be perfectly honest. Other than as Dazai's babysitter, or possibly bodyguard if the husband of their target makes an appearance. Speaking of their target...she is currently hanging off the asshole son-of-a-bitch's arm, smiling prettily as said asshole son-of-a-bitch leans down to whisper something in her ear that has her face turning pink in a delicate blush and her hand rising to her mouth in feigned shock.

Chuuya turns back to his wineglass, swirling it absently and taking a restrained sip. He would like so much to just down the whole glass and order a dozen more, but that would be one surefire way of blowing his cover in a rather spectacular manner. So he sips, savours the taste, and it's really quite good, he commends the selection of fine wines and spirits at this otherwise dull event. It's a 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Medoc region, Château Potensac, and it's nothing to write home about, but still far better than most of the shit he ends up drinking on a near-daily basis. Chuuya thinks that he'll be far more acquainted with it by the end of this 'job'.

Sighing loudly into his glass he turns to track Dazai across the room again. His partner now has his arm wrapped around their target's waist and appears to be leading her towards the dancefloor. As if sensing Chuuya's attention, Dazai looks up, his eyes scanning the surroundings for a moment before focussing on Chuuya and … is he winking?! Yep, that bastard is definitely winking at him with a smug self-satisfied sort of smile.

Chuuya downs the wine, cover be damned.

He scowls into the now empty bottom of his glass, watching Dazai from the corner of his eye as he spins and waltzes his partner around the crowded floor with all the expertise of a courtier. Anno Moyoco, wife of the notably wealthy (for dubious reasons) Anno Hideaki was well-known for her love of younger men and her indulgent dalliances were apparently ignored for the most part by her husband who had reportedly married her only for her connections with the upper Yokohama nobility. Still Anno Moyoco was also supposedly heavily involved with the workings of her husband's business endeavours...endeavours that the Port Mafia suspected were negatively impacting their own deals and thus had to be thoroughly investigated and - in all likelihood – thoroughly destroyed.

Chuuya, for one, would thoroughly enjoy breaking the fingers of those wandering hands.

“Is the wine not to your liking?” A low amused voice from somewhere to his right drags him abruptly from his imaginations of bloody murder and the sweet sound of cracking bones and back to the present. Chuuya turns his head to look over his shoulder to see a young man leaning against the bar in what he obviously hopes to be a nonchalant manner but in fact screams 'artfully posed'. Chuuya tries not to smirk.

“Oh...no the wine is acceptable.” He twirls the glass between gloved fingers, is amused to see the stranger's eyes flick from his hands to his face and back again. “I mean, it's no Château Margeaux and it's hardly comparable to the likes of Le Pin but it goes down rather smoothly.”

“A connoisseur?” The young man smiles, “Allow me to buy you another, then? Perhaps the taste will improve on the second glass.” He waves a hand towards the bar, obviously quite used to being waited on without the need to actually acknowledge the existence of those he's being served by.

“Thank you.” Chuuya drags up his manners and offers the stranger a polite smile. “Why don't you take a seat and keep me company for a while?” Maybe it will be more interesting holding a conversation with this overconfident peacock than it has been watching Dazai effectively getting into Moyoco's knickers so far.

“Is the party not up to your expectations--?” The stranger pauses for a moment until Chuuya realises he's waiting for Chuuya's name.

“Ikezawa Natsuki.” Chuuya gives tonight's alias off-handedly and accepts the glass of wine from the bartender with a nod of thanks. “I'm not much of a social butterfly.”

“I am Hanada Kiyoteru, a pleasure I'm sure.” They shake hands and Hanada is looking at him with poorly concealed interest. “If you're not one for social events, Ikezawa-san, may I ask why you're here at all?”

“I got dragged here to be a wing man to an over-exuberant moron.” Chuuya deadpans, taking a sip of his wine and allowing a wry smirk to settle on his face, “But as you can see, I ended up with the best seat in the house and fine company.” He means the alcohol, of course, but if Hanada wants to take his meaning in a different manner then so be it.

“Well, since you've been sitting here a while, I assume your wing man services are no longer required?” Hanada chuckles as Chuuya shakes his head in mute assent, Hanada's dark eyes flicker out over the crowd before settling once more on Chuuya's face. “Excuse my ignorance, Ikezawa-san, but you don't look to be of Japanese decent?”

“My mother was Japanese, my father was European.” Chuuya lies smoothly, so used to such deceits by now that the roll off his tongue like truths. He offers nothing further and Hanada seems to be satisfied, merely nodding along to Chuuya's practised deflection. “What is it that you do, Hanada-san?”

Turns out that Hanada is actually the heir to a multi-million dollar enterprise that consists of the research and development of artificial intelligence systems and it's really quite interesting to listen to him talk in depth about some of the projects his teams are heading up and their ideas for the future in the field. Chuuya mostly just listens as Hanada talks animatedly, often waving his arms to demonstrate a point or reaching out to touch Chuuya's knee or arm when he's making a particularly exciting comment. Chuuya tenses at the overly familiar contact, would quite like to tell Hanada to stop invading his personal space, but really, he's supposed to be undercover and inconspicuous and causing a scene really isn't on his agenda so he allows it with gritted teeth and tense muscles (he's not as good as Dazai with the masks and fake smiles damn it).

...

Shackled to the wall by a length of chain that makes him feel like some kind of dog. Cold...always cold, the steel bites, leaves marks on his wrists that he thinks will never heal, will always mark him as being owned, being caged, being used. He waits for the telltale creak of the door with fear and loathing, waits for the face of the next monster to come and do with him what they will. Dirty, sullied, broken. He waits in the darkness for darkly glinting eyes, for salacious laughter, for pain, for hands wandering in places that have tears of shame rolling down his cheeks.

...

Chuuya's teeth grind so hard it's almost painful, pushing the memories away with a force that leaves him reeling momentarily, thrown back into a past he'd rather forget, rather drown in alcohol.

The wine is flowing, and Hanada has probably drunk far over his tolerance over the past half an hour, but shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Chuuya skillfully deflects any questions the young man has about him, steering the conversation always towards Hanada, his work and his family and writing himself off as simply a boring, half-foreign, spoilt rich kid with more money than sense. It seems to work rather well and Hanada doesn't appear to mind talking about himself at all. He's probably completely used to being the centre of attention.

Chuuya is beginning to get tired of Hanada's creeping hands, reaching ever higher up his leg and the way Hanada's eyes rove over his body like he's some sort of cheap whore.

...

The darkness is not a reprieve. The darkness is a monster, and it brings with it animal cries of pain and torment. The whispering click of the lock, the momentary relief of heavy steel falling to the floor gives way to an all too familiar sickening emptiness as barked orders in a language he still doesn't understand bring a haunting sense of dread that has bile rising in his throat and his small fingers clutching at the thin t-shirt hanging from his even thinner body. He feels like a toy – used and pulled apart and pieced back together time and time again just to be mindlessly destroyed for the pleasure of faceless beings that bring only pain, shadow and shame. Dirty, sullied, broken. The stains will never wash out.

Eyes, there are always eyes watching him: sometimes they sparkle with greed, sometimes they glint with lust, sometimes they are sharp and calculating, sometimes they are dull and vacuous. The watch his pain, they watch his despair, they watch him break, over and over again.

...

Chuuya's whole body tenses in rejection, his fingers are tapping against the bar top in irritation, the forced smile doesn't quite reach his eyes and Hanada is saying something about leaving here and going to some sort of nearby club? Chuuya's stopped listening, his brain trying to figure out a way out of this situation without blowing their cover and failing the mission (something that doesn't end with Hanada being stabbed in the balls).

The shackles have been replaced by rope. The salacious laughter replaced by a look of genuine want that has something squirming uncomfortably in his gut. His fingers are longer now, his frame still small, but far more powerful, far less helpless. A couple of deep breaths and he is nodding, feels the scratch of rope against bare wrists.

The knots aren't tight but there's a growing uneasiness somewhere in his core. His eyes have stopped seeing the face of his partner - whispering gentle words into his skin – all he sees are the swimming shapes of men much larger than himself, heavy bodies crushing him to the bed, forcing their way in with no care for his whimpered cries of pain or for the blood that spots the sheets beneath. It's a whirlwind of panic, of fear of 'I can't breathe. Please help me. No no no no.'

He's not sure what happened...only that one moment he's in the throes of memories whose scars are ingrained so deeply in his soul it feels like a prison...and the next moment there is a tearing ripping noise - his body moving of its own accord, adrenaline and fear fuelling each other mindlessly - followed by a sickening crack.

A body hits the floor. Twisted and mangled, its neck broken, limp and lifeless.

Dirty, sullied, broken. Blood on his hands.

...

Chuuya's breath halts in his throat, nails digging into his palms with enough force to leave indentations in the skin and his heart is hammering in his chest and no, he will not panic, will not fall prey to this again.

“I suggest you remove your hands from my partner...” (ahh what is it they say...think of the devil and he shall appear) The cold voice emanating from somewhere behind and above has Chuuya jerking in his seat and slamming him bodily back into the present. He tilts his head back to see Dazai standing there with such a blank expression on his face that Chuuya's whole body stills in reaction (too familiar, that face is far too familiar).

Dazai steps around Chuuya to wrap his fingers forcefully around Hanada's wrist, yanking it away from it's exploration of Chuuya's thigh and holding it threateningly. Hanada flicks angry eyes to Dazai whilst Chuuya can do nothing but look back and forth between the two of them with mounting trepidation.

“Who the fuck are you?!” Hanada tries to pull his wrist from Dazai's grip, but Dazai is having none of it and Chuuya watches the wide smile paint itself across his partner's face as Hanada stands up and goes eye-to-eye with him.

“Someone you don't want to meet in a dark alley on a night like this.” Dazai's smile is utterly sinister.

“Are you threatening me?!” Hanada yanks his wrist away and steps forward into Dazai's personal space and really Chuuya should stop him, but this is all quite entertaining and is Dazai jealous?!

“Would you like to find out?” Only someone incredibly brave or incredibly stupid would still be standing in Hanada's spot right now. Chuuya would bet on it being the latter.

“Who the hell do you think you are!” Hanada grabs Dazai's collar and pulls him close until their faces are inches apart and Dazai is still smiling that creepy-as-hell smile and Chuuya is standing from his seat because this is about to get ugly and they're really going to have to make a fast getaway once Dazai has finished painting the floor red with Handa's over-inflated guts.

“Oh! My apologies, I forgot to introduce myself to you properly. I am one half of Soukoku.” Chuuya can almost see the lightbulb moment go off in Hanada's head. The way the slightly shorter man lets go of Dazai's collar like he's been burned, his face turning ghostly pale as eyes widen almost comically.

Dazai bows with a flourish.

“Oh, I guess you've heard of me? My reputation proceeds me.” Chuuya is suddenly faced with the full force of Dazai's maniacal grin. “See, I'm famous!” It's all Chuuya can do to shake his head and drain the contents of his wineglass in one long gulp.

“Soukoku-” Hanada is staring at him now and Chuuya meets his gaze with a flat one of his own. “So you, you're the other half?...Soukoku?...here?”

“Oh dear Ikezawa-kun, I think we've been busted by this clever fellow here.” Dazai's tone has dropped into casually conversational and Chuuya could almost laugh at the absurdity of it all and the look of complete horror on Hanada's face. Conversely, the smile drops from Dazai's face and his aura abruptly radiates murderous intent as he fixes Hanada with a cold stare. “I believe you've outstayed your welcome. I suggest you leave.”

Hanada scrambles backwards with an embarrassing squeak, almost tripping over his own designer clad feet in his haste to get away. Dazai allows him to move two steps before calling out, “I suggest you watch your back in the future.” Hanada's pace quickens as he flees towards the door, “Stay away from dark alleys, okay?” Dazai waves cheerily at the man's hurriedly disappearing form before he's turning to face Chuuya with an appraising (or is that disapproving) look.

Chuuya interjects before Dazai can say whatever idiotic (or far too insightful) thing he's about to say. “Did you just compromise our entire mission?”

“Of course not, Chuuya, what kind of slacker do you think I am?” That wide fake smile is back and Chuuya 'tsks' under his breath. “Mori has mobilised Hirotsu-san's squad, they should be gaining entry to the warehouse where the goods are stashed right about now.”

“And Anno-san?” Chuuya's not sure he wants to know, really.

“Moyoco-chan is currently up in her penthouse suite on the top floor of this establishment, probably lacing the champagne with unspeakable things and waiting for my good self so she can progress to more explicit unspeakable things.” Dazai says all of this with a wide smile and nope...Chuuya really didn't want to know.

“So now you've blown our cover and Hanada-san is probably phoning the police as we speak, can we go home?”

“Aww Chuuya, you don't want to stay and soak up the atmosphere a little longer?”

Chuuya says nothing as he stalks towards the door, not bothering to look behind and see whether his shitty partner is following.

“Chuu-ya! Don't be like that! Don't you want to dance?” Chuuya holds his middle finger up over his shoulder and hears Dazai laughing behind him.

Five minutes later they are out on the street, walking briskly away from the bright lights of the hotel district and fading into the dimly lit shadows of the residential area beyond. Dazai is strangely silent beside him, and that in itself puts Chuuya on edge.

“Chuuya...”

“Mmm?” Chuuya stops, realising his partner has stopped a few paces behind him. He turns to see Dazai watching him with an expression of bemusement. Dazai is silent for a moment, red-brown eyes staring at him unnervingly as if trying to read something unseen in Chuuya's face.

“Why did you let him touch you like that?” The comment is made in an offhand manner, like it is of no consequence whatsoever, but Dazai's eyes are still watching him, unblinking in the darkness. Chuuya feels suddenly apprehensive, a dark feeling creeping into his bones despite knowing with almost certainty that even a potentially (who is he kidding...eternally would be a much more fitting word) possessive and jealous Dazai wouldn't hurt him (probably).

“We had a mission to complete, it wouldn't have done any good to cause a scene.” Chuuya's foot is tapping nervously on the floor and Dazai is still staring at him with that unreadable expression and that just pisses Chuuya off a little, his hackles rising.

“I don't like seeing other men touching you.” Dazai's voice is low, dangerous.

This time the scene is different...there are no shackles, there is no rope. Instead there is silk, a red so deep it reminds him of fresh blood, and runs through his fingers like water. Instead there is a presence at his back that is predatory and safe all in the same breath and it's confusing as fuck. Now there is 'do you trust me'...and yes, he does, he has to, there is no other choice.

It's so easy to tip his head back, even with the fangs of a wolf pressed against his throat.

...

Chuuya can't get a grip on his frustration, which comes bubbling aggressively to the surface and twists his face in an accusing snarl.

His mouth moves before his brain has a chance to catch up. “You can hardly talk! You were practically crawling into that bitch's skin! And she was touching you like she owned you.”

Dazai's head has tilted in surprise, and those red-brown eyes are looking at him with something akin to incomprehension. “Chuuya...Moyoco-chan was the mission. She was the whole reason we were sent there.”

“I know that! I fucking know that! But-”

“Chuuya, are you jealous?” Dazai interrupts him mid-tirade and that leer is just too much. Chuuya looks at the floor as he feels the blush spreading hotly across his cheeks.

“I'm not jealous.” His mumbled words can't even convince himself, but he raises his head to glare defiance at Dazai anyway.

“Oh? You're not?” Chuuya absolutely does not like the look of that smile, not one bit. “I'll have to try harder next time.” With that Dazai pulls away and starts walking down the street like he hadn't just told Chuuya he'd spent the entire night deliberately winding him up.

Bastard! Stupid asshole son-of-a-bitch bastard!

Hands clenched into fists at his sides, Chuuya can think of nothing but the string of curses doing loops in his head. And Dazai, that pretentious bastard is moving further away into the darkness and all Chuuya can really do is follow. Again.

It's barely a few minutes - later whilst Chuuya is still internally seething – when Dazai's pace slows and Chuuya nearly walks into him from behind, occupied as his thoughts are with murder.

“Chuuya. There's something I want to tell you.”

“Let me wipe those memories of yours, Chuuya.”

He never thought that he would do this again. Ever. Not after a broken body and whispered 'I'm sorry's' that could never really erase the guilt. He's not even sure why he agreed – a moment of madness, a moment of lust, a moment of misplaced trust in another monster about to use him for his own pleasure?

The silk isn't rough like the rope had been, doesn't bite like steel, yet there is still panic, still an overriding sense of fear, that same spike of adrenaline that same screaming voice of a young boy – terrified, alone and helpless.

“You're so beautiful, Chuuya.”

The words are shallow, meaningless, words mean nothing. But it's Dazai's voice purring in his ear and Dazai's fingers dancing across his skin – the scratchy feel of bandages a constant reminder of reality he's almost grateful for. The conflicting feelings of threatened and safe have him responding without even realising what he's doing.

A hand wraps around his arm, yanking him forcefully back to the present, and before Chuuya really knows what's happening he's been dragged into a dark alcove and his back is pressed against cold stone. The warmth of Dazai's body pressed against his front provides a stark electric contrast and Chuuya's protests die somewhere in his throat when Dazai's face invades his personal space like he owns it.

“I am jealous.” Dazai breathes out against his neck as fingers press into his hips, grazing down his upper thigh. “I am the only one allowed to touch you like this.” The touch is possessive, unforgiving and has Chuuya trying to writhe away.

Fear and panic and hysteria gnaw at him like vultures. The knots pressed against his skin feel too tight, too constricting, remind him of steel and torture and forced obedience. And Dazai is leaving him, alone, restrained, afraid.

He can feel his body tensing, his wrists pulling against the ties, his body trying to curl in on itself, trying to protect him from the monsters, from the greedy fingers running greasy lines down dirty skin and the watching eyes and his own younger self's tormented broken screaming ringing in his ears.

Dazai's fingers carding through his hair, pressing gently against his scalp, soothing and commanding all at once. Dazai's voice whispering words in his ear that his besieged mind can't quite grasp, can't quite hold onto and the words are complete odds with the waves of killing intent, plotting bloody murder above him, but his body is relaxing all the same.

He's not sure what he's just agreed to, but the voice is moving away, the more distant it becomes the more the memories leak through the cracks, dripping, pouring, oozing into his consciousness like thick dirty mud.

...

Dazai's teeth sink into his neck – just above his shirt collar, below the choker he still wears out of habit – biting out a warning into his skin. Chuuya goes still. Dazai's arms brace against the wall to form a cage on either side of Chuuya's head and he feels suddenly conflicted between being trapped and being some weird kind of safe.

There's apprehension, fear, self-loathing and hatred flickering somewhere inside his skin, polluting his veins with every shallow beat of his heart. Every sound drowned out by the harsh panting he realises is coming from himself: panicked and stuttering and he can't breathe, there's a phantom weight on his chest: pressing down, with probing fingers and hot breath.

His fingers curl, digging into his palms, the stinging pain is not enough.

Dirty, sullied, broken.

Fingers in his hair. A whispering familiar voice against his lips, breathing oxygen and bleeding reality and he's sure there are tears soaking through the red silk pressed against his eyes, he's sure that Dazai can read every broken line in his body, can see every scar, every bruise, every moment of anguish painted on his tainted skin.

“No one can hurt you, Chuuya. You're so strong.”

It's a lie. If he was strong this wouldn't happen. If he was strong he wouldn't be trapped in a cage of his own memories. If he was strong he wouldn't wake up screaming in the dead of night with nothing but a vice-like grip of fear around his heart. If he was strong he wouldn't have lost control, there wouldn't have been that sickening crack of a broken neck, a limp body, another murder on his hands.

“Are you sure you want this.”

No. Not at all. Every instinct is screaming at him to pull away, to end this, to run. But Dazai's fingers are soothing, familiar, and just slightly cold and he's so tired of running.

“I need this.”

...

Dazai's face is inches from his own. Dazai's knee is nudging his legs apart and had he not been braced against the wall, Chuuya might have ended up on his ass. He bites down on a whine, forcing it down, lowering his lashes and refusing to look Dazai in those strangely compelling eyes.

Chuuya's defiance doesn't last long. A finger hooked under his jaw and the smallest hint of pressure has his head lifting and red-brown locking with deep blue. Dazai leans forwards, and it momentarily annoys Chuuya that his partner has to lean down...but Dazai's teeth are nipping sharply on his bottom lip and Chuuya opens his mouth on a gasp and now Dazai's tongue is in his mouth and they are thrust into a different kind of war: one that has heat and need rising between them.

When they pull apart for air Dazai's eyes are narrowed and full of serious promise. “You belong to me, Chuuya. I won't let anyone else touch what's mine.” An involuntary shiver flickers down his spine and Chuuya means to push away, to snap at the bastard that he doesn't belong to anybody anymore, will never be owned that way again, but his eyes slip closed as Dazai's knee rides up into his groin giving the kind of delicious friction that his body is craving. And Chuuya can't bring himself to care that his partner is being a possessive shit as he growls and thrusts his gloved hands into brown hair, tugging the bastard back down to lick and bite at spit-slicked lips until Dazai is growling back with his whole body pressing Chuuya further into the wall.

He's abruptly wondering if they've lost every shred of intelligence they ever possessed. Pressed together in the dark yet perfectly public street rutting like horny teenagers (okay so they are horny teenagers but still). The thoughts are fleeting as Dazai angles himself just right and their bodies move together like they've done this a thousand times before.

There's heat and sweat and lust and the smell of sex in the air. His body craves more whilst his mind begs for it to stop: can't keep up with the rolling emotions; conflicting desire and terror and something dark kept hidden below that wants to see him break.

“Come. Here.” It's only the feeling of Dazai's fingers, the sound of his voice, the sharp underlying smell of antiseptic and the familiar scratch of bandages which is keeping him grounded at this point: reminding him of where he is, who he is, who he's with.

The image of a broken body, lifeless eyes glaring in eternal accusation is enough to stop his breath. Dirty, sullied, broken. But Dazai's fingers trail light as smoke down his ribs and that touch is a reminder of the power lying beneath beautiful bandaged skin, it is freedom, it is forgiveness, it is 'you can't hurt me'.

His voice is babbling words he's not sure make any kind of sense. Encouragements, insults, curses. By this point his mind has checked out...but at least the screaming, the flashes, the phantom pain has stopped.

In the end he gives himself over willingly, body and soul, tries hard not to think, to remember, to relive...just to feel.

...

“Chuuya...” Dazai's voice is whisky smooth but his body is moving away abruptly leaving the cold to sneak into the newly created space between them.

“What?!” Chuuya feels a little dazed and a lot off-balanced. He licks swollen lips, pleased to see Dazai's eyes following the path of his tongue.

“Let's go home.” Dazai moves further away, turning back to the road and Chuuya feels suddenly bereft, unsatisfied and wanting. He takes a moment to steady himself, to reign back the impulse of simply throwing the shithead against the wall and demanding he finish what he had started. He knows without a doubt that Dazai would refuse, because that's just the kind of bastard he is.

Willing himself to get a grip away he joins the asshole on the kerbside just as Dazai manages to flag down a passing cab.

The address they give to the driver is around a half mile away from their actual destination. Wanted Port Mafia criminals can never be too careful and Mori-san had drilled into his subordinates the punishment for giving away Port Mafia secrets: even the general location of their bases and front organisations are kept highly secret. Mori-san is a shrewd Boss with an almost scarily accurate nose for disobedience.

They spend the short car ride in silence, well, Chuuya spends the ride in silence; resting his head against the window frame, ignoring the jostling bumps and trying desperately not to flinch as Dazai appears to make it his mission to quietly tease Chuuya to death before they ever reach home. Long fingers wander from Chuuya's knee to his hip and back again; trailing soft nonsensical patterns against rumpled fabric, occasionally making their errant way across Chuuya's inner thigh and it's all Chuuya can do not to hiss at the unexpected sensation tingling down his limbs. He bites the inside of his lip so hard he can taste the coppery tang of blood and Dazai's fingers continue to dance across clothed skin as he talks animatedly with the driver. Chuuya can't even concentrate on the topic of conversation, his whole world centred on the five digits now rubbing circles into his skin.

“Beg for it, Chuuya.” A voice like shifting smoke. So familiar and yet the words send shivers down his spine, have his whole body tensing with the force of his rejection.

It's embarrassing, degrading, wrong and yet so different from anything he's experienced before. It's intense and commanding and all-encompassing. It's frightening and freeing all at the same time. Dazai refuses to give him what he wants, needs, craves and he fights with every ounce of will he has left.

“P-please.”

It's too much.

...

Nails dig into the flesh of his leg and the abrupt pain is enough for Chuuya to choke on a gasp, hastily covering it up with a cough and blinking his eyes open to see the driver peering suspiciously at him through the rearview mirror. The stare-off lasts for a few seconds and Chuuya can feel the heat rising in his face and then Dazai interjects with a comment about baseball and they're bickering back and forth about the Yokohama DeNA BayStars' chances in the league this season. He can practically feel Dazai's amused look through closed eyes, tries so hard to ignore the warning tap of fingers on his knee, can't help but spread his legs a little wider in the seat, and damn now he feels like an idiot and he knows he shouldn't let the bastard get to him this way, shouldn't let him play games.

They're around four blocks from Dazai's apartment when the driver drops them off and Chuuya is so preoccupied trying not to think about what Dazai's fingers are doing to his self-control he doesn't realise they've stopped until Dazai is opening the door on his side and offering his hand. Chuuya drags himself upright by force of will, ignoring Dazai's outstretched hand and leaving the bastard to pick up the bill as he tries to walk off the fog of something – alcohol, lust, he's really not sure – hovering thick and heavy in his head.

“Chuuya?” Dazai catches up a few moments later and it's really not enough time for his brain to have regained any kind of rationality. He's actually still considering just pinning Dazai to the nearest wall and having his way with him out here on the street, public decency be damned. But that would be desperate, and Chuuya is not desperate.

“Chuuya?” Two blocks to go and Dazai is matching him stride for stride, so close their arms are brushing and Chuuya's hair is standing on end, hyper aware of every movement.

“Chuuya…?” They've made it to the apartment building, the lobby area silent and, the marble pillars imposing in the low ambient light, no signs of life save the security guard on the door.

“Chuuya are you-” Chuuya pins Dazai to the wall of the elevator with a snarl, pushing his entire body flush against Dazai's and dragging his face down by his hair until he's close enough to kiss. It's harsh, sharp and full of pent up frustration, Chuuya can't help but snarl against Dazai's lips.

“I fucking hate you.” Whispered as he bites at kiss swollen lips.

“I really fucking hate you.” Whispered as he tugs harshly on brunette hair.

“I fucking hate you.” Whispered as he grinds their bodies together, craving more contact, more friction, more everything.

They barely make it through the door of Dazai's apartment, shedding clothes in a breadcrumb trail from the front door through the entryway, down the hallway to the bedroom, leaving them lying forgotten where they fall.

When Dazai tries to push him down onto the bed, Chuuya refuses to go quietly, the bastard gets what he wants far too often as far as Chuuya is concerned, and something deep and primal is rearing within him, howling to be let free.

He thanks his finely honed reflexes and precision control when he manages to spin them both and neatly wrap his leg around Dazai's on the way round, effectively tripping the bastard and smiling with satisfaction as Dazai lands with a thump and a highly pleasing momentary flash of bewilderment.

“Move back.” It doesn't come out as a request. Was never meant to be. Yet still the arrogant asshole that is his partner cocks his head slightly, looking Chuuya up and down as if weighing the pros and cons in his far too calculating mind.

“Now.”

Dazai's eyes turn sharp as he scoots backwards into the centre of the bed, crooking his finger in a come hither motion that Chuuya's body cannot ignore – as insistent as the pull of his Ability.

Chuuya practically crawls up the bed and over Dazai's body, and maybe he would have been self-conscious, but honestly it's not like he has anything to hide and Kouyou-nee has taught him to always hold himself proudly, no matter what the situation or how he might feel about it. Besides, he has far more natural grace and elegance than that lanky bastard.

...most of the time.

He's hovering on all fours, hands resting on either side of Dazai's head, knees on either side of Dazai's too-narrow waist. The way Dazai looks at him is intense, has his breath coming quicker and that god-damn blush spreading heat across his cheeks whilst his blood spreads a different kind of heat across his body.

Dazai hums appreciatively, eyes sliding down Chuuya's body before meandering slowly back up with a smile which is more predatory than anything else, Chuuya feels eerily like he's being examined, detail by minute detail.

“Well?” Dazai's voice is tinged with a curious sort of amusement, the kind that pisses Chuuya off just a little. “Now you have me at your mercy, what are you going to do?”

Chuuya almost scoffs because the look on Dazai's face quite plainly says that being under Chuuya's 'mercy' is the furthest thing from his mind right now. The bastard reaches out, maybe to touch him, maybe to roll them over and take back the control Chuuya isn't ready to concede just yet. Taking his weight on one hand he pushes Dazai's questing fingers away, using his weight to trap Dazai's hand against the sheet in warning.

“Don't touch.” Dazai is looking at him with that avid almost avian sharpness in his eyes and Chuuya meets him stare for stare – has never been scared of being the sole focus of Dazai's attention: uncomfortable – yes; annoyed – yes; but scared – never. “If you touch then the game ends. If you touch then you lose.”

“Oh?” Dazai smirks, “What if I want to lose?”

Chuuya's grin is that of a demon baring its teeth in triumph over a vanquished enemy: sharp, wild and uncompromising. “Trust me, you won't want to lose.”

“We'll see.” A bland comment thrown down as a blatant challenge and Chuuya hisses in frustration, but the bastard stays still and unmoving on the sheets, seems content to let it lie and see how the game plays out, for now at least. “Do your worst, little Mafia.”

“I hate you...” Marked into skin, pressed into collarbones, down ribs, across hipbones.

“I hate you...” Whispered in frantic movements against sweat-slicked skin.

“I hate you...” Written in touches, caresses of fingertips across scars (so many scars) and bruises and bandages that can't hide the truth.

“I hate you…” Gasped between open mouths, purred between panting breaths.

“I know.” In that smug half-smile.

“I know.” In red-brown eyes, half glazed over with a wild lust.

“I know.” In the minute changes of his breathing pattern, in quiet huffs and choked-off gasps.

“I know.” In the twisting of his fingers in the sheets.

“I want you.” In the aching push and pull between them, as incessant and uncompromising as the gravity Chuuya's Ability manipulates.

“I know.” In the gliding of long elegant fingers down Chuuya's spine, pressing firm and confident and possessive. And Dazai has lost the game, lost his mind, and Chuuya doesn't care, couldn't stop this if he tried.

Chapter Text

Life continues with a sense of normalcy (well, as 'normal' as life can be when one works for the Mafia where every assignment could potentially - hopefully - be your last and every day is filled with blood, death and other such morbid things). Dazai still flirts with practically every pretty woman he meets: sometimes it's out of sheer habit and to be honest he doesn't really know how to talk to the opposite sex without flirting; sometimes (most of the time) it's because he knows Chuuya is watching through narrowed eyes and gritted teeth and Chuuya, it turns out, really is a jealous creature who likes to leave his mark on Dazai after these occasions. Quite literally. Dazai will often find himself under attack and pushed (quite willingly he might add) down onto the bed, futon or nearest convenient surface whilst Chuuya sucks dark bruises onto his skin in retribution for his supposed crimes.

Dazai doesn't tell Chuuya that he flirts with women because he knows Mori is keeping his shrewd eye fixed sharply on the infamous Soukoku duo. Knows that if Mori thinks Dazai is being compromised in any way by this deepening relationship between them that the heartless Boss of the Port Mafia will not hesitate to eliminate the threat Chuuya poses to his continued supremacy, even if Chuuya is one of his most powerful assets in his own right. Control is Mori's overwhelming desire, and he maintains it with a ruthlessness Dazai knows all too well.

He doesn't tell Chuuya his concerns. Chuuya is still very much in love with the Port Mafia: the family that saved him from a life of slavery and pain and gave him a place in this cutthroat world. Chuuya lives and breathes for the Port Mafia. Dazai meanwhile can now only see this 'family' as a cage to which Mori owns the lock and key, allowing him freedom only to snap his fangs or strategise until his brain bleeds out of his ears or otherwise perform in whatever way Mori deems appropriate. A cage Chuuya accepts willingly but Dazai fights against every day he's still breathing, and most of the time, he's not even sure why; thinks that perhaps it would take a better human than him to understand.

Sometimes it's a struggle...there are days when Dazai regains his senses, realises the road they're heading down at a quite frankly alarming rate, and it scares him in a way that missions, death, murder and blood never have. There's literally no foreseeable future in which this could end well, for either of them; just thinking about it has his stomach turning knots and gives him a headache faster than any unsolvable puzzle. Sometimes he tries to stay away, tries to distance himself, tries to get himself back into the mindset of pieces and moves on a game board: faceless, emotionless, safe.

Sometimes he can see the struggle mirrored in Chuuya...although a struggle of a different nature. Sometimes those blue eyes will darken, a flash of hurt, or fear or despair will catch on his redhead's features and now that Dazai knows what it is he's looking at, it's all too often. Sometimes Chuuya will pull away, will snap and tell Dazai to ‘stop looking’ or ‘stop touching’ his eyes in some faraway place Dazai cannot reach; sometimes he will request a mission, throwing himself into danger with a focus that's both impressive and frightening; sometimes he will let Dazai drag fingers through his hair and whisper nonsense in his ear until his body unwinds and his breathing slows, and sometimes Dazai will deliberately tease him about being delicate just to watch the immediate flare of anger – because his redhead's anger is far easier to deal with than his hurt.

It never lasts long. They are drawn together like magnets: polar opposites caught in a never-ending circle of attraction and repulsion; heated looks and spitting insults culminating in a beautiful disaster that can only end in their destruction.

It's coming...he doesn't even need to predict such a thing for it to be true.

...

“I'm being sent on a solo.” Chuuya's voice is carefully blank, Dazai would almost be impressed if he weren't busy being annoyed: of all times for Chuuya to pick up on his bad habits.

“Where?”

His redhead hesitates for a moment, shoulders drawing up as he tenses visibly at Dazai's stiff tone. “Somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo, some small group led by Ability users, double-crossed the Boss and reneged on a promise, they’re being given one final chance to hand over goods otherwise it’s a search and destroy.”

“Ability users?” Dazai busies himself in the small kitchenette, filling the kettle with water and waiting as it boils slowly, trying to keep his eyes off his redhead who is clearly uncomfortable.

Chuuya sighs in defeat, practically falling into the couch and slouching in a manner completely unbefitting of someone with such natural grace. “Mmm at least two, known. One has some kind of farsight, works as a sniper so intelligence says. Apparently he can hit a target dead-centre from 2 miles away. The other is a repulse technique similar to Hirotsu-san's Falling Camellia, that's about all that came up in the mission brief.”

The information is vague, far too vague for Mori to have decided that such an threat can be handled by Chuuya alone. It just doesn't add up. Mori is careful, weighs his assets and options with great care before any mission is sanctioned. It's oddly out of character, oddly worrying.

“The farsight won’t be at the meeting point.” Dazai can predict with certainty that the ‘hand over of goods’ (whatever that means, why is this mission brief so strangely vague) will be a failure, which means the enemy will have the advantage in setting up the attack, getting their game pieces into position before Chuuya has a chance to scope the battlefield. “Incapacitate him first.”

Chuuya shoots him a withering look across the back of the couch, “I know. I can think for myself.”

“Just not as well as I can think for you!” Dazai sing-songs teasingly and Chuuya’s look of utter irritation is totally worth it. Still, there’s an unasked question gnawing at his brain.

“Why aren't we being dispatched together?” Dazai offers a cup of steaming tea which Chuuya takes with a weary half-smile, bright blue eyes watching as Dazai sets his own cup delicately on the small table before sprawling himself across the remaining two seats: legs hooked over the arm and head settling perilously close to Chuuya's lap.

“Unlike you, I'm not stupid enough to question my orders.” Chuuya is frowning now, looking into his cup as if he could read the future from within the murky depths and rising steam (tealeaves be damned, they are so last century after all).

“You say this, and yet you call me stupid.” Dazai tries to smile - really he does – knows it falls short, knows that his eyes are blank and dead, his mind racing far too fast to worry about a little thing like masks and emotions and it's not like Chuuya is looking for his approval or his acceptance anyway. But this, something about this is off, sets warning signals blaring. Why would Mori send Chuuya on his own, what gain could there possibly be? “Chuuya...”

Chuuya's eyes snap back to meet his own, and there's that spark of defiance and frustration and something else Dazai can't decipher but looks a little like desperation. “Don't. I will not fail.”

Dazai drops the subject, there's no reasoning with his redhead when he's in this kind of stubborn mood: a fact he's proved time and time again; a fact that practically got them into this situation in the first place. Instead he huffs out a sigh, wriggles closer until his head is actually in Chuuya's lap and practically demands his redhead's attention.

The ride up to Mori's suite is like a test on the nerves of most Mafia agents. It's a purposeful machination on Mori's part: it weeds out the weak-willed, the inherently devious, the plotters, the schemers and those of guilty conscience. It's a minefield of Mori's design, a battleground in which he holds every advantage. Such an everyday thing – yet it has broken more people than Dazai can count, has brought people far physically stronger than him crashing to their knees in despair.

The transparent lift used to hold some kind of interest, perhaps when he was younger, more naive. The view out into the city beyond those glass walls is still as wide and sprawling as it ever was; still filled with a cacophony of little people leading little lives, never seeing past the ends of their own nose, yet somehow -as the years fade by - it seems duller, less attractive, less vibrant and engaging than it has ever been.

Dazai has never cared for the grandiose setting, never been phased by the security cameras pointed at his face: tracking his every movement, every twitch, every betrayal of emotion carefully watched, picked apart and analysed like old bones. Mori often knows a person's weakness before they ever step through to his office.

The elevator opens with the smooth movement befitting of a building of such grand proportions, beyond the doors lies the familiar corridor, the imposing inlaid wooden door, with two self-important bodyguards who immediately stand to attention, hands on the holsters of their guns.

Dazai rocks to a halt in front of them, his expression one of careful boredom.

One of the tall black-clad bodyguards knocks a fist on the door, the hollow sound reverberating eerily in the silence. A muffled noise of inquiry comes from inside.

“Ahh, Leader, Dazai-san is here.”

More unintelligible noise followed by a few high pitched shrieks of outrage, until the door is yanked open unceremoniously, much to the surprise of the two goons. “Well, come on in then, Dazai-kun, don't just stand out there looking lost, and close the door behind you, won't you? I don't want Elise-chan running off again.”

By the time Dazai has shut the door in the curious faces of the two guards Mori has seated himself behind the desk, shrewd eyes pinning Dazai with a contemplative look behind steepled fingers. “How unusual to see you here of your own accord, Dazai-kun. Can I offer you some tea? Or Elise-chan has recently taken a liking to strawberry milk if you'd rather?”

From underneath the desk a loud huff followed by a spoilt whine, “Rintarou you'd better not be giving away my stuff or I'll scream!” Dazai is almost tempted to take the strawberry milk and watch Mori suffer at the hands of Elise's spoilt and slightly sadistic tendencies. After a momentary pause he decides it's not worth witnessing Elise's rather good impression of a screaming banshee.

Instead he cuts straight to the point, unwilling to engage in small talk, unwilling to engage at all if he's being honest with himself.

“Why am I not being sent out with Chuuya?”

Purple eyes flash in speculation, Dazai is playing a dangerous game, needs to stay just this side of curiously belligerent, because Mori is far too clever for his own good, will pick up on the smallest of breadcrumb trails. “Ahh, yes, I meant to send a summons earlier, but I got waylaid, Elise-chan looked so pretty in her new dress. I need you to accompany me to a meeting with a group of foreign dignitaries. A boring affair it will be I'm sure, but sadly necessary for our continued thriving trade overseas.”

“Why me?” Dazai forces the frustration down, forces the blank impenetrable mask of idle apathy to remain on his face, behind his back his fingers pick absently at the knot of the bandages winding around his wrist.

“Dazai-kun, ignorance is not befitting on someone with intelligence as highly commended as yours. Your name is known in far wider circles than the Underworld of Yokohama these days.” So that's what he's become, the culmination of a lifetime's worth of ruthlessness and planning, ending in a performance as the bitch named Soukoku hanging from Mori's arm like a beautiful courtesan. Or perhaps an attack dog with diamond studded collar, kept firmly on its leash, a hawk kept securely in its gold-gilded cage.

He shakes off the growing feeling of unease, this is not what he came for. “At least send a team with him.”

Mori shakes his head, a sharp smile settling on his face to match the growing glint in his eyes. “Dazai-kun you know better than anyone the capabilities of Chuuya-kun's Ability, a team will only hinder him in completing his assigned task.”

It's true, an uncoordinated team not used to working within the constraints of Chuuya's Ability would probably cause more of a headache than a help for his partner. Still, sending his redhead alone against at least two other Ability users...“It's suicide, Boss.”

Mori clicks his tongue in disapproval. “You should have more faith in your partner, Dazai-kun.”

Something clicks into place in Dazai's mind then, the realisation leaving him to take a sudden step back. Mori sending Chuuya out on his own, with unfavourable odds; Mori ordering Dazai to accompany him on a mission to no doubt keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't pull out...go after Chuuya anyway. Mori suspects something, knows something...wants to tighten his leash around Dazai's neck, exert his control, remind him who's in charge, challenge his loyalty. He meets Mori's stare with a look of blank apathy. “If you're trying to use my partner to control me, I suggest you stop wasting your time.”

Mori's smile widens far enough to show teeth. Calling the bluff of the person who holds all the cards: wrong move. “You're subtlety in threats leaves much to be desired.”

Might as well play it until the end. “I'm not trying to be subtle.”

“Clearly.” The single word holds more weight than a simple affirmation, leaves Dazai feeling outmanoeuvred and cold.

Something else is afoot here...something he hasn't seen, hasn't predicted, doesn't know. It's an uncommon feeling, this apprehension crawling down his spine as he rides the transparent elevator back down to the ground floor- his eyes staring blankly across the horizon, seeing everything and nothing all at once – it's a feeling he does not like at all.

Chuuya returns alive from his mission...just barely…

The gala event is just as boring and vapid as Mori had predicted it would be. Full of minor foreign and local nobility with sticks so far up their asses it's quite frankly a miracle they can sit down. They either regard him with a healthy dose of fear – smart – ask him probing personal questions – idiotic – or straight up try and pawn their daughters off on him as an 'eligible bachelor' with a hefty monthly income – mildly entertaining but unappreciated.

Three hours into such nonsense and Dazai is eyeing the impressive display of liquor on offer with steadily increasing fervour. It is only the cold watchful gaze of Mori and the uncomfortable feeling that he might well end up with a knife between his shoulder blades that stops him from going on his own mission of 'drink to forget'.

Four hours in and his usual blank facade and occasional dark glare appear to be losing their potency amongst a crowd of increasingly drunken and far-too-bold dignitaries. He falls back to sarcasm before beginning to border on snappish and Mori is still keeping an annoyingly close watch on him and Dazai knows the cracks in his walls are blindingly obvious; it's not like him to lose focus, but there's a coiling worry in his gut that has him on edge and longing for a quiet place to pace and think.

The intoxicated rowdiness of the guests should have been diverting. The sight of a minor local official clumsily dropping his wife to land on her ass on the floor whilst attempting some kind of complicated dance move should have been hilarious. The young man who somehow stumbled into Mori and spilt an entire glass of red wine down the Boss' previously pristine white suit jacket – fumbling apologies whilst Mori looked like he was holding back from strangling him to death as dark murderous intent flared in a palpable aura around them – should have given him a sense of smug satisfaction.

The only thing he feels is cold inescapable dread.

It's fast approaching 10pm and well into the fifth hour of what can only be described as hell-on-earth when his phone vibrates in the pocket of his jacket. Dazai excuses himself, pulling away from the young woman currently attempting to rub her breasts on his arm, claiming to need some air and paying no heed to her disappointed pout as he pushes his way out onto the wide balcony in a somewhat useless attempt to find privacy.

The text is from Chuuya.

The minute sense of relief is almost immediately extinguished when Dazai reads nothing but a line of address recognisable as somewhere in Tokyo. The dread creeps like bile up his throat. That his usually diligent partner wasn't immediately reporting in to Mori himself and has instead sent this single line of text to him can mean only one thing...something had gone gravely wrong.

He stalks purposefully through the milling crowds, ignoring those few who try to divert him from his course. Mori raises his eyebrows in disapproval as Dazai moves to interrupt a conversation he's having with a fat balding man who looks a little like a blimp about to take off. Cold purple orbs eye him imperiously, daring his defiance with every passing second.

“I'm leaving.” Dazai doesn't pause to wait for an answer, doesn't pause to hear Mori's agreement or denial, doesn't bother telling his Boss that something isn't right. He feels that familiar cold gaze fixed on his back as he heads for the door, wants to run, wants to get to Chuuya as fast as possible but knows he is being watched, assessed, judged.

Mori doesn’t stop him and that is worrying in itself.

It's not until he's halfway through Yokohama – breaking every conceivable traffic law in a stolen car that's far better suited to Chuuya's tastes than his own: it's red, low to the ground and the engine has a certain growl to it that might have been pleasing were his mind not occupied by other things – that he actually pauses and thinks about what it is he's doing here. The truth of the situation is almost enough to turn him around. If Mori hadn't suspected something was going on between them before, he'd practically just announced it in front of a hundred witnesses. The potential consequences could be disastrous. If he turns around now - runs back with his tail tucked meekly between his legs, an apology on his tongue - perhaps he could claim a moment of drunken insanity? Maybe Mori will send a team out for Chuuya and in time his overzealous actions in defence of his supposedly platonic work partner will be put aside.

Dazai suspects that Chuuya doesn't have that long, knows for certainty that Mori definitely isn't that stupid. He gives any notion of secrecy up as a lost cause and puts his foot flat to the floor on the accelerator, weaving through what little traffic lines the streets and speeding through red lights without a care.

He pushes the car and much as it responds, Dazai wishes it would go faster, wonders how much time he's wasted, wonders what kind of state Chuuya is in, wonders why his phone remains oddly silent in his pocket.

Deathly silent. His unhelpful brain supplies.

He doesn't know where he's going, has no familiarity with the streets of Tokyo, has always let Chuuya chauffeur them wherever they needed to go (okay, so maybe after a couple of bad experiences, Chuuya had forbidden him to drive anywhere unless it was an emergency). He ends up pulling over after going in a complete circle twice, wastes precious more time trying to contact his redhead to no avail and the pit in his stomach yawns wider with each passing moment. Dazai ends up programming his phone's GPS with the street name Chuuya had given, praying that it will lead him to Chuuya's general location.

A trail of blood leads the way (really, if Chuuya was determined to do the whole Hansel and Gretel thing he could at least have used something slightly less vital to his continued survival) - a drop or two here, a thin dribble there, a bloody handprint smeared across grimy walls – it stands out starkly against the general monochrome of the dirty grey background, a sharp leering contrast painting a picture of grim reality. There, at the end of the dingy alleyway (more of a cesspit really, if one stops to thing about it), amidst the trash cans and cardboard boxes, a lump of something that might be human, cast in shadow...

Blood drips in a thin line from Chuuya' mouth to the pavement. The sheer amount of blood covering him (although after first glance, thankfully it appears to be mostly other people's) is daunting: Chuuya's hands and arms are red up to his elbows and the stench of iron in the air is strong. Chuuya's breathing is shallow and laboured and rattles ominously in his chest. His left wrist is bent at an odd angle which immediately screams broken, the whole arm curled protectively against his side. His lips appear to be turning blue, a classic symptom of a possibly punctured lung. A hastily wrapped strip of torn material (most likely Chuuya’s own shirt by the look of the now uneven cut) is wrapped tightly around the top of Chuuya’s thigh steadily leaking more blood which has soaked ominously into the material of his pants; the reason for which Dazai can only guess will either be a knife or gunshot wound. All in all – Chuuya is a mess.

“Chuuya...”

It's probably unwise for him to move his redhead at this point, but in reality there is no other choice. Chuuya needs to go to the hospital and he needs it now; this is far beyond his limited medical scope, and even the Port Mafia’s somewhat refined medical facilities. Unfortunately going to a hospital requires driving back to Yokohama, taking him to the private practice which has been well-paid to admit and treat (occasionally hide) Mafia members without asking too many probing questions. He needs to move fast, yet moving Chuuya could potentially exacerbate his already deteriorating condition, if his lung is indeed punctured as Dazai suspects, jostling movement could potentially enlarge the wound and cause a fatal haemorrhage. Chuuya could be dead in a matter of minutes.

Still, if he doesn't act right now, his redhead will be dead before he can reach the hospital anyway.

“...Da...zai?”

The picture is so reminiscent of Chuuya after the manifestation of Corruption, Dazai has to physically hold himself back from wrapping his fingers around Chuuya's uninjured wrist. Blood bubbles from blue-tinted, red-painted lips, and his redhead looks pale and exhausted beyond measure.

“Chuuya you idiot. What have you done.” Chuuya grimaces, tries to speak, only to hiss out a pained shallow breath. “Ahh well, there's really nothing for it. This is going to hurt.”

Dazai is only mildly relieved when Chuuya passes out with a choked off cry of pain as he lifts his partner's small broken body as carefully as he can manage. He's still breathing – shallow and laboured, but breathing – and right now that's the only comfort Dazai can take from the situation.

Curiosity almost eats him alive. What happened? How did Chuuya end up in this mess? Where is the enemy now? Ashes on the ground; bloody lumps of formerly-human flesh; alive and roaming the city searching for their escaped prey? Why did this happen? What can be done? His brain chases itself in circles so fast his head begins to throb in dull protest.

The drive to the hospital seems to take an eternity and Dazai is torn between keeping his foot flat to the floor on the gas peddle and taking it slow and steady. Chuuya - spread out across the back seat in a painfully familiar manner – looks small and frail and an unhealthy shade of blue. The blood still dripping from his mouth has begun to form a small puddle on the white leather of the seat, another forming as his pant leg soaks through with alarming speed, and this right here, is the price he has to pay for his folly, for thinking that anything more than a stubborn rivalry between them was a good idea. This, this is all on him.

When they arrive, it appears that they’re expected, and that in itself is unexpected, somewhat off-putting. Outside the brightly lit entranceway a small group of medical staff hover around a stretcher, talking in hushed voices amongst themselves as a tall dark haired man who appears to be a doctor taps away on a tablet with a look of boredom. Dazai peals into the parking lot, remembering in the last second not to just slam his foot down on the brake in his haste.

Watching them move Chuuya from the car to the stretcher with as much care as they can manage, watching them wheel his redhead from the car through the automatic doors and into the bowels of the hospital, watching them shout medical jargon as they disappear from view...it stirs a depth of self-loathing in his soul, a gaping chasm of blackness he can’t hope to escape.

Three fractured ribs. One broken wrist. Acute hemothorax. Knife wound to the upper left thigh.

“The Leader wants to see you, Dazai-san.” A scruffy looking Mafioso with chestnut hair fidgets in the doorway, his gaze bold and unflinching, a look Dazai hasn’t felt from subordinates in a while.

“I don’t care.” Dazai turns his attention from Chuuya momentarily to fix this unwelcome intruder with the full force of his dull, blank stare.

“It wasn’t a request, Dazai-san...I am instructed to use force if necessary.” The pause between sentences is a clear indication of this young Mafioso’s inherent wish to be anywhere but in this moment. It belies a weakness Dazai cannot stand to witness.

His strides are long, purposeful, predatory. He’s across the room in two seconds, face-to-face with young bravado and deep-seated Mafia pride. Maybe he’s a little impressed that the Mafioso doesn’t take a step back, although his whole body flinches in preparation for an attack. Instead, Dazai shoves his way into the young man’s personal space, looming over him and watching amber eyes widen with fear.

“Do you think that you can force me to leave?” Dull, apathetic, monotone, a slight lilting question, mockery and disbelief: his voice is like slow-acting poison in the bloodstream of some poor unsuspecting prey. The young Mafioso has gone still.

“No, I don’t, Dazai-san.” A whispered admission, the inevitable step back, all efforts of bravery seemingly discarded. “But it is my duty to carry out my orders.” A fierce look in those amber eyes, a hand reaching towards what must be a gun holster concealed underneath that hideous green jacket.

“Ahh, but do you think the Boss will thank you for shooting his Executive, for putting both members of Soukoku out of commission for the considerable future? Can you really live up to that task Bravado-kun?” A look of confusion, still with a hint of fear as a gun is pointed at Dazai’s shoulder, and this one is so easy to manipulate it’s not even entertaining. “I’ll make this easy for you, Bravado-kun. I have no intention of leaving this room, so either shoot me and get on with it, or leave. Incidentally if you decide to shoot, please aim for a vital spot, it would be rather helpful in the grand scheme of things.” Dazai wraps a hand around the muzzle of the gun, lowers it a little until it’s pointing straight at his heart. “Well, Bravado-kun, make up your mind, I don’t have all day.”

Amber eyes flick from the gun to Dazai’s face and back again, confusion mars the young man’s angular features as they remain locked in a stand off for a few short seconds, before he pulls the gun away from Dazai’s lax grip and returns it to its holster.

“I am sorry to have bothered you, Dazai-san.” Quiet words muttered weakly to the floor as the young Mafioso turns on his heel and disappears through the doorway.

...

The darkness in his eyes is all-consuming as he returns to hover at Chuuya’s bedside like a wraith.

Chapter Text

The sterile smell of antiseptic is far more comforting than it has any right to be as Chuuya blinks weary eyes open to find himself in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room, with tubes and needles and most noticeably pain. It burns in his chest, catching and dragging white hot on every shallow breath, it flares from his hand at every minuscule movement.

Maybe for once, his body is covered in more bandages than the bandage king himself: he can feel them winding their way around his ribs, his upper leg, his wrist. The absurd thought makes him laugh, a choking hacking noise accompanied by agony so bad it takes his breath away. Tears prick at the corner of his eyes as he fights to regulate his breathing against the sharp stabs of fresh torment in perfect time with every beat of his heart.

The shrill beeping in his ear makes his head throb and in a moment his bed is surrounded by blurry figures, leaning over him, poking tubes and injecting something straight into his arm.

He fights against the encroaching blackness. It drags him into unconsciousness just the same.

. . .

Chuuya floats in and out of consciousness, never really knowing whether the here-and-now is reality, or just some twisted concept of his imagination.

The pain remains his constant companion, through the dreams and moments of vague lucidity – sometimes sharp and biting, sometimes a dull pulsing throb.

Shadows loom over him at regular intervals, sometimes there are voices, speaking words he cannot quite make out – it’s almost like being underwater, fuzzy and soft around the edges. The beeping of the monitors becomes a way of reassuring himself that time is indeed passing; that he isn’t floating around in some kind of horrific purgatory.

Sometimes he feels the ghost of hands running through his hair, or touching his face; a familiar voice speaking in hushed tones, the words still garbled but relaxing regardless; the scratchy feeling of bandages against his skin – he’s not sure whether it’s real, but it’s comforting, soothes him into untroubled sleep, the ache a little less sharp.

. . .

His eyelids feel heavy as he struggles to blink them open. The stark white lighting of the hospital room assaults his vision like a million tiny malicious needles and he quickly screws them shut again, a pathetic sounding whine escaping from his lips followed by an almost immediate pained inhale.

“You’re finally awake then, lad?” The voice is comfortingly familiar, but still causes enough of a shock to have his heart leaping into his throat as his whole body twitches in reflex and suddenly he’s feeling breathless, struggling to get oxygen into his lungs around the tightness in his chest. “Easy there, lad.” Her voice is calm - tiny ripples across a still lake – and her presence is soothing as she steps closer, the back of her hand touching his cheek. “The nurses removed the bindings around your ribs so they wouldn’t cause damage, but it’s going to take some time to heal, you need to take deep breaths when you can.”

It takes what feels like aeons for the panic seizing his body to subside, and Kouyou-nee is tapping out a rhythm with her fingers on the back of his hand and Chuuya unconsciously tries to match his breathing pattern to it, slowly dragging in blessed air and ignoring the twinge of discomfort still lingering. “I’m sorry, Kouyou-nee.” He manages to whisper out between breaths, his throat feels scratchy from disuse, there’s a taste of something metallic and medical on his tongue and Kouyou-nee is holding a glass of water up to his lips because she’s a beautiful Goddess and mind-reader. Chuuya takes slow grateful sips – water has never tasted so sweet.

“What are you apologising for?” One perfect eyebrow arched in question, a wry smile on her painted red lips that says she already knows the answer.

“I don’t know. Everything? I am sorry to be an inconvenience, I’m sure you have better things to do than sit around here.” He drops his gaze to the blankets covering his body, to the plaster cast wrapped around his currently useless left wrist, to the lumpy shape of his leg, hidden under blankets and thin sheets bandaged tightly and he can feel the pull of new stitches with every small movement.

“Don’t be silly, lad. You were never an inconvenience to me. Even though you were a wilful and stubborn child when you wished to be, saving you has always been my greatest achievement.” The words are an acknowledgement he’s never heard from his first mentor, his saviour, his bright light in the darkness of never-ending torment. It warms his soul almost as much as it warms his cheeks, and Kouyou-nee is laughing, with a softness and a melancholy in her eyes that he has never seen before.

“Thank you, Kouyou-nee, you know I appreciate everything you did...” he pauses before amending his words, “everything you still do, for me.” It’s embarrassing, baring his soul and he can’t quite look her in the eye, but Kouyou-nee is more than a saviour or a mentor, she’s the big sister he never had, his first sense of family in a city that generally would be happy to see him dead. It’s a sobering thought.

Speaking of family

The room is empty, a chair sits no more than a few feet away from Chuuya’s bedside, a rumpled blanket lying on the cushion, but there is no sign of a dark brooding presence, no sign of a sing-song teasing voice, no sign of red-brown eyes and untamed hair, no sign of the idiot who’d saved his life.

“Kouyou-nee, was...” Chuuya halts mid-sentence, wondering abruptly if the question he'd been about to ask was in any way sensible.

“He was here.” Ahh...apparently Kouyou-nee can still read him like a book. Her lashes are lowered and she's fussing with his blankets like there's something she wants to say but she knows somehow that Chuuya isn't going to like it. “The Leader isn't happy that he pulled out of his assignment to extract you. He's refused to leave this room for two days, even when the Leader sent a summons yesterday.” She sighs deeply, bringing her head up to look him in the eye. “I don't know what you've gotten yourself into, lad, but you can do better than him...he's not human, not capable of normal emotions. He will destroy you.”

Her expression is distant, pensive and sad, Chuuya knows she's looking back, seeing her own broken past, the heavy disapproval of the woman who single handedly saved his life all those years ago still hits like a slap to the face.

“Kouyou nee...I-”

She shakes her head, one perfectly manicured hand rising to push the errant strands of red hair from his eyes before lingering on his cheek. “You don't have to explain, lad, I know love when I see it, even if the subject is undeserving.”

Chuuya can feel his face heating up in awkward discomfiture as he splutters, “I don't lo-”

“Chuuya-kun, you can't lie about love to someone like me.” Now her smile has turned bitter, “I don't think that boy even knows what love is, but it's written all over your face, lad.”

“Ahh, I'm sorry, did I come at a bad time? What's written all over Chuuya's face?” Chuuya startles badly, it's all he can do not to slide under the blankets in utter embarrassment, he can practically feel the colour drain from his face as his eyes widen in shock. Dazai, as usual, makes no sound when he walks, conceals his presence from those around him as they have been taught since they were children. Trust the bastard to walk in on a wholly private (not so private anymore) conversation.

Kouyou-nee, though, oh Kouyou-nee is his saviour (again), she shows no surprise at Dazai's unexpected sashay into the room, regards him with a cool-eyed, thin-lipped stare of haughty disapproval, raising her chin with a disdainful sniff. “Pain of course, do you not think he looks awfully pale?”

“My my, big-sis I think you're right. Chuuya you look like you've seen a ghost, did you have an out-of-body experience whilst I was away and finally realise how terrible you look in that ridiculous hat?” The humour in Dazai's voice doesn't quite reach his eyes (the one that's currently visible anyway), the dark bottomless orb tainted with a worry that looks foreign on his face.

“Shut up, shitty Dazai. What the fuck happened to you, anyway?” Dazai is covered in more bandages than usual, they wind around his eye, curling around his head like a coiled snake, his arm looks to be in plaster, resting in a sling and there's a deep split in his lip that hasn't yet scabbed over, those are only the visible injuries.

“Oh this? I walked into a door repeatedly whilst trying out a new suicide theory to do with repetitive blunt trauma, nothing to worry about.” It's a blatant lie, spoken with an exaggerated smile and Chuuya is rolling his eyes whilst Kouyou-nee huffs out a surprised and mildly exasperated laugh, covering her mouth with one elegant hand and shaking her head. “However, by happy circumstance it did give me the perfect excuse to come and visit my ailing hat-collector. Isn't that a wonderous stroke of luck?”

Now Kouyou-nee and Dazai seem to be intent on eyeing each other up, or perhaps engaging in some kind of non-verbal communication, Chuuya immediately gives up on trying to decipher the meaning behind the twin cool glares.

In the end it's Kouyou-nee who backs down.

“I believe it is time for me to take my leave.” She smooths the blankets across Chuuya's legs one final time, pinning him with a strangely soulful expression as if she's trying to get a glimpse into his soul. “You should think about what I said, lad.” She pushes that same wayward lock of hair back from his face before she turns to glide from the room with all the grace and beauty of a dancer. Before she disappears, Kouyou-nee fixes Dazai with a look of fierce protectiveness that has the bastard tilting his head in question. “You look after him, boy, he needs rest, not an interrogation.” She floats out of the door without deigning to wait for any reply Dazai might care to give. Dazai watches her go with an odd look of apathy mixed with confusion.

The intense feeling of being watched is something he’s becoming oddly familiar with. Sometimes it still sends chills down his spine, spikes his heart-rate and lodges like a brick in his throat; sometimes it makes him want to punch the stupid bastard until he turns away, stops looking; sometimes it feels like his soul is being drained by the dull mirrorlike stare of those blank red-brown eyes.

The sound of wood being scraped across linoleum grates in Chuuya’s ears and jolts him back to awareness as the single chair is dragged as close as it can be to Chuuya’s bed. Dazai flops himself down (and of course, the bastard can’t sit normally, has to spread his legs across one arm as he leans casually against the other in some sort of boneless heap) next to Chuuya’s head, close enough that he can reach out with his uninjured hand and run fingers through Chuuya’s hair in such an overly familiar manner, it has Chuuya relaxing into the pillows, his eyes closing, soaking up the companionable silence as he drifts slowly towards sleep.

Until the bastard opens his mouth.

“Chuuya...I think it’s time you gave me an explanation.”

So much for not needing an interrogation.

He sighs deeply, shaking off the exhaustion and enjoying the silence for a few moments longer before he begins.

. . .

Tokyo is like a snake pit for gangs, smugglers and information dealers. If Yokohama is the head, then Tokyo would definitely be the ass. His name is already known out here - he’s done a lot of missions cleaning up rival gangs and smuggling rings after all – so it serves to be extra careful, hyper aware, especially when there’s no-one else here watching his back...

The scheduled meeting place is in a run-down area on the outskirts of the west side of Tokyo, the Shinjuku ward may have the busiest station in the world, but the outlying districts are full of abandoned hotels waiting to be demolished and rebuilt as towering office blocks and half-finished buildings ringed with steel barricades and electric fences.

Chuuya has around five hours before the meeting is set to take place. Enough time to scope out the intended building from afar (an old hotel sporting broken boarded up windows and and air of derelict sorrow) and attempt to formulate some kind of plan. For the mission to have the most chance of success, from the enemy’s point of view, the sniper must be in position hours before the meeting takes place. The intelligence report suggests that there are three likely locations where the farsight Ability user could be holed up, but looking at the surrounding area himself, Chuuya can identify at least six buildings that clearly overlook this one, hiding places that could easily be used to line up the perfect shot.

The first two he rules out almost immediately, the windows are in such a position that during the assigned meeting time the setting sun will be in front of the building, which will lead to glare and visual accuracy problems that not even a gifted Ability user would want to disadvantage themselves with. Still, there appears to be some kind of rooftop party on one of the old apartment buildings and such a gathering would be the perfect place to take a look at the other potential hiding spots from afar whilst remaining inconspicuous to anyone who might be watching the area for themselves.

It’s easy enough for Chuuya to shout at someone to hold the door and the gullible idiot just stands there and does as he’s told (really you’d think these people would be a little more suspicious of strangers). Chuuya takes his time going up the myriad of stairs (these shitty ass tumbledown apartments don’t even have a lift), pulling the hood of his jacket over his head to cover his hair and flicking out a pair of sunglasses to hide his eyes. The casual clothes feel almost uncomfortable, leave him feeling disturbingly naked. It’s almost unheard of for him to be wandering around in anything less than a perfectly fitted suit, and this shirt feels too baggy, the black jacket too heavy, the dark black jeans too tight. He reaches a hand underneath the jacket, feeling out the handle of his favourite knife, stashed carefully in it’s custom fitted sheath, and that familiarity relaxes him just slightly as he pushes the heavy door to the roof open.

Noise assaults his ears. What had been the wafting sound of music drifting down to the street from above is now a insult to his eardrums – pounding bass and electric twang – and it’s hard not to make a face of immediate and blatant disgust. Still he has a job to do, he can put up with this...they call this music (?) for a while. He skirts around the edges of the large crowd, avoiding eye contact with anyone who looks at him curiously and trying to detract attention from himself. Apparently this is some kind of birthday party, a banner strapped between two vents reads ‘Happy Birthday Hiiro’ in large, scrawling, almost unreadable letters.

He makes it to the edge of the rooftop, thankfully the furthest point away from the table holding the sound equipment which is now blasting out some awful 90’s cheese, so horrific he can almost taste the mould. Pretending to lean casually against the railing (and really, it strikes him that it’s probably not the best of ideas, this thing looks like it might rust to dust any second and plummeting a rather long way to the pavement below, and really, that’s more the bastard’s thing than his) and casts his eyes surreptitiously across the horizon, he can see the rooftop of the arranged meeting point almost due north, can see the remaining four structures he’d internally labelled as being of interest and the possible hiding place of his sniper.

The buildings opposite don’t look like much of an attractive prospect, two of them are apartment buildings similar to this one, good viewpoints, but not easy to find a quiet corner from which to set up equipment unless one was to rent out one of the rooms.

Ah...there...on the corner of what looks to be a derelict building, with high scaffolding surrounding every side, at the very top, the sharp glare of sunlight on metal.

Pushing himself away from the railing Chuuya moves through the milling crowd, stopping as a young woman walks up to him with a frown on her face, before she can stop him, draw attention to him, he pulls up an apologetic smile, “I’m so sorry, I’ve been called into work as an emergency, you know Shiroe-kun can’t get anything done on his own. I was looking for Hiiro-kun to tell him I’m sorry, but perhaps you could apologise on my behalf and wish him a happy birthday?” He moves past her effortlessly, disappearing through the door to the stairwell before she has chance to stop him and ask for his name.

Scaling the scaffolding up the side of the building is the easy part. The steel and wooden construction feels like it could blow away with any threatening gust of wind, but it stands steady and firm beneath his weight as he slowly picks his way towards the roof. He sticks close to the wall when he can, keeps to the side of the building furthest away from where he had sighted what he believes to be the long sleek barrel of a rifle – something he’d rather not have pointed in his direction any sooner than absolutely necessary.

The roof is long and flat, from his vantage point at the opposite end of the building Chuuya can make out the shape of a man, sitting hunched on a turret of scaffolding reaching about six feet higher than the floor of the roof itself - the highest available point. For the moment his back is turned, but there’s no way across to that platform without either coming up from the bottom of the building, or crossing the entire uncovered roof: a perfect killing ground for someone with even mediocre aim. This is about to get messy.

On silent feet Chuuya flickers through the shadows, using the sparsely placed air vents for what little cover they can offer as he picks his way carefully across the roof. He’s almost halfway across when he sees the crouching body of the sniper still as if catching a scent on the wind.

“I know you’re there, Mafia Dog.” The voice of the sniper is unconcerned, almost mocking, “I have to say, I am not at all impressed with the inaccuracy of your intelligence if you assumed you had any chance of catching me unawares. I could hear you breathing from the moment you reached the roof.”

Not farsight then...something else, some kind of sensory detection Ability? Either way, the information he’s been given is wrong and that says a lot about his chances of success on this mission. Chuuya remains silent, reaching into his jacket to draw his knife, balancing on the balls of his feet, ready to bolt when the opportunity presents itself.

“Your heartbeat belies your fear, Mafia Dog.” It’s an insult, an attempt to goad him out into the open, and he’s far too used to being teased and taunted and bullied to lose his cool over such an inferior player. Instead he breathes calm into his lungs, pumps patience into his blood, exhales useless worry and turns his thoughts to victory. Small fry like this shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t think about what’s to come, stay in the here and the now, get the job done.

His Ability lightens his footsteps, gives him a burst of speed that’s entirely inhuman. He’s halfway across the space between them before his enemy even has chance to raise the shiny black muzzle of the silenced gun, and it gives Chuuya a sense of pride to see a look of surprise on the face of his prey.

The quiet click of the suppressed weapon and the whistle of bullets is Chuuya’s only warning.

He throws his left hand in the air, forcing his Ability from his palm to shimmer in the air as a kind of makeshift barrier, the bullets halting before they reach their target, suddenly weightless and hanging as if on invisible strings before they clatter to the floor and Chuuya is still moving, zigzagging across the concrete as he hears muffled curses and the sound of his enemy attempting to reload the magazine.

His enemy is already too late.

Leaping six feet in the air is nothing, he lands with the grace of an acrobat just as the magazine clicks into place. His knife is at his enemy’s throat faster than the Ability user can lift his arm to aim. The enemy drops the gun, raising his hands in a show of surrender.

“I had heard of your name before, Mafia Dog, but the rumours of the Underground do not do you justice. I am proud to die under your hand.”

It’s disgusting really, this man, this Ability user, this enemy does not plead for his life, does not put up one final effort at a fight; accepts his fate with open eyes, and impressive calm, bearing his neck to Chuuya’s blade. It takes only one quick flick of his wrist for the blood to fly, an eerie smile of triumph on his enemy’s face, a low gurgling laugh bubbling up past the blood and escaping air as he slumps forwards.

One down…

. . .

“So Chuuya followed my plan and went for the sniper first. I’m so happy!” The gushing sing-song jolts Chuuya from his rehashing of the memories and back to the present, it’s almost a physical slap back to reality. He rolls his eyes and pushes at Dazai’s hand with his own, warding off the cold fingers poking at his cheek.

“Oi quit that! I told you already, I can think for myself, it wasn’t your plan, bastard.” He tries hard not to roll his eyes as Dazai continues to poke at him. Fails.

“Yes, yes, Chuuya can think for himself but he followed my instructions anyway!” Dazai pauses in his game of Chuuya-baiting, his eyes suddenly drifting into that dazed unfocussed look that says he’s thinking hard; slotting puzzle pieces together and coming up with an answer Chuuya hasn’t even begun to comprehend. When his eyes clear, there’s a frown on his face and a seriousness there that’s mildly disconcerting when compared to the teasing tones of moments ago. “And the rest?”

“Dazai?”

Dazai shakes his head at the unasked question, his whole body betrays calm - utterly blank and devoid of any kind of emotion - but his eyes are sharper than steel. It’s almost like looking at someone else, sends a spike of fear and vulnerability down Chuuya’s spine and he is powerless to do anything but obey.

. . .

Chuuya is no sniper. He’s a fair shot with a gun, all Mafia members are taught to handle all manner of weapons, trained in each until they are a least passable. Chuuya has always worked with his fists, with his knives. Simple, deadly, effective. He has no use for guns when his body is the best weapon at his disposal. Still, there’s a rifle sitting right here, the range of the scope more than enough to at least spy on the meeting area, and he probably shouldn’t pick off everyone over there just yet, but getting a look at the next potential killing ground can only be an advantage.

The designated rooftop is devoid of life. A wide open space with only one exit and nothing that looks remotely useful for cover. He’s not one to complain about poor odds, but if he’s outnumbered here, with an Ability user thrown into the mix there could very well be a problem.

An hour to go and Chuuya has changed position, moved to the rooftop of the next building along in case anyone from the enemy organisation should stumble upon the body of their fallen comrade. Through the scope he can see the beginnings of activity. A blonde-haired man who looks to be tall and rangy, leading a group of ragtag individuals that Chuuya supposes must do the majority of the grunt work for the organisation – either that or they are hired mercenaries to bolster numbers and make the enemy group seem more formidable than it might otherwise appear to be.

It’s highly tempting to take them all out from here, watch them drop to the ground one-by-one amidst panic and terror, but the Boss had specifically said that this group were to be given one final chance to fulfil their promise to the Port Mafia, to deliver some kind of goods, before they were sentenced to elimination by Chuuya’s hands. It makes his job a little more difficult, but he’s not going to complain, the adrenaline rush is an addiction he can’t seem to shake, and the sense of overpowering an enemy who has wronged the Port Mafia is almost like an affirmation of his own existence, a realisation of his own potential.

There’s barely ten minutes to go and it’s about time he made an appearance, read his enemy their final rites.

. . .

“I would have killed them all from the start.” Dazai’s interjection this time is bland, soft and quiet and that faraway look is back in his eyes, turning them dark and glassy against the harsh glare of white hospital lighting.

“As we’ve already established, I am not you. It’s just like you to always go straight for the easy option, even when the orders are to do something completely different.” His voice sounds almost fondly exasperated, it’s a shock even to him and Dazai is looking at him with something akin to confusion.

“Kill the enemy, steal the goods, job done. Have I ever led us astray?” He shrugs nonchalantly, “I don’t understand why Mori didn’t give the order from the offset. It’s almost as if-”

“As if what?” Curiosity and irritation war inside him like two angry wasps.

“Ahh, nothing, continue.” Dazai waves a hand imperiously, fixing Chuuya with dead red-brown eyes.

. . .

As he emerges onto the rooftop through the only door, he’s unsurprised to find himself immediately surrounded and herded to the middle of the concrete expanse. It was expected, planned even. Guns are levelled at him from all angles.

“Well...” a drawling voice as the blonde-haired figure he’d sighted through the scope earlier struts into the centre of the circle. “We had hoped to face the legendary Soukoku together, but it seems the Port Mafia didn’t designate us as enough of a threat for that high honour. I suppose your head will have to do. Perhaps your Leader will start taking us more seriously afterwards, no?”

“Does that mean you will not be upholding your promise to turn over goods to the service of the Port Mafia?” Chuuya can’t help the smirk from taking over his face, this will be an interesting fight.

The blonde-haired man bares his teeth in an angry snarl, a sharp motion with his left hand has Chuuya tensing ready for an attack, but instead from the sidelines walks another figure, clothed head to toe in black, he pulls back the hood covering his face as he moves cautiously to stand next to the obvious leader of this group, and the resemblance between the two of them is uncanny.

Twins?

“My brother is not a commodity to be bought or exchanged or labelled as goods! He will not be taken and used as a pawn for the Port Mafia who think they can steal and claim whatever they like!”

Chuuya takes a step back, momentarily confused, this blonde-haired young man, this human is the ‘stolen goods’ he’s been sent to collect? Why was this vital piece of information left out of the mission brief? There was never any chance of this deal going through, this was always going to end up a bloodbath.

The blonde-haired youth’s words only confirm Chuuya’s fears.

“Soukoku Dog, either you die here, or we do. One of us will not be leaving this rooftop alive, I promise you that.” A complicated hand movement followed by a long almost anticipatory pause has Chuuya’s smile sharpening to something demonic and full of teeth.

“If you’re waiting for your man on the scaffolding over there,” he waves an uncaring hand in the general direction, “I’m afraid you’re shit out of luck. His body is probably cold by now.”

There is no hint of dismay on the youth’s face as his hands falls to his side. “I see. It makes no difference in the end, Kenzo-kun’s only objective was to take out your partner should he have been present, his Ability can be rather a nuisance to people like us, I am reliably informed. It would have been an easy and somewhat less painful death for you I’m sure, but it is of no consequence, the outcome will be the same.” The blonde-haired youth and his brother melt through the circle of gun-toting gang members, leaving Chuuya surrounded on all sides. The drawling voice carries across the rooftop, containing an air of boredom that could rival even Dazai’s apathetic tones. “Kill him.”

Chuuya is moving before the grunts can even lift their guns to take aim. His best advantage here is speed and he uses it with ruthless efficiency, executing a perfect back flip whilst using his Ability to lighten his own body-weight considerably, sending him sailing over the head of the enemy directly behind him and allowing him to land close enough that his knife stabs through the neck of his intended target before he can even blink in surprise. Lightening the downed man’s weight gives him an adequately sized meat shield with which he can catch the bullets already sailing towards him from all sides. With his free hand he reaches into his jacket to pluck out a handful of smaller knives – perfect for throwing. As the clicking sound of empty chambers signals a mass scramble to reload he flicks the knives across the space between himself and his nearest four enemies on either side, downing them all with practised precision. Five down, four to go.

It’s disappointingly easy to use his meat shield’s arm to raise the gun still gripped tightly in dead fingers, to press his finger against the trigger and send a spray of bullets across the rooftop. Another one down, a second screaming in high pitched agony that says he won’t be rejoining the battle any time soon. Seven down, two to go.

The chamber is empty now, his meat shield more an unrecognisable lump of flesh riddled with bullet holes and oozing blood in copious amounts to form wide macabre puddles and smears upon the ground. He drops the lump-which-was-formerly-human, vaguely hearing it squelch as it hits the concrete, but he’s already halfway across the space separating him from his remaining prey. He moves in zigzagging lines, unpredictable and low to the ground, giving his enemy as small a target as possible, two more knives set to fly across the distance between them, not hitting vital spots but enough of a distraction technique to stop the two remaining grunts from reloading their guns and allowing him the vital seconds needed to get in range for close combat. Once they are within the reach of his fists their chances of survival are non-existent. They go down like rats in the jaws of a wolf.

. . .

“You took out nine enemies just like that? Chuuya I’m impressed!” Dazai is ruffling his hair and it’s annoying as hell and kind of horribly comforting at the same time.

“Your sarcastic comments really aren’t appreciated, bastard.” He growls, quietly, but makes no effort to remove the hand still in his hair, and really, that says it all and Dazai is smirking knowingly at him that bastard.

. . .

“Ahh, most impressive.” Chuuya’s body tenses as he moves into a crouch, knife in hand. The two blonde brothers are walking forwards with an air of boredom that’s quite disconcerting, and extremely irritating. “Your reputation is certainly earned, it was beautiful to watch such a display from the other side, I have always wondered after all.” The speaker trails off, his lips quirking up at Chuuya’s obvious confusion. “Of course, my reputation sadly does not proceed me, I do not hold your infamy, but you’ll work it out soon enough, Soukoku Dog. Shall we end this?”

“If you’d shut the fuck up this would be over far quicker.” Chuuya spits, and he’s in motion again. The brothers do not appear to be carrying guns, but he’s not taking chances so close to victory, he moves in that same random zigzagging line, never heading in the same direction for more than a second or two, ground eating strides that narrow the distance quickly.

It comes as a surprise when one of the brothers darts forwards to meet him, comes as an outright shock when he moves at a speed which is dizzying, almost matching Chuuya pace for pace. There’s only a split second for him to consider this new information before they clash. Fist meeting fist in a way that should have broken the blonde-haired youth’s wrist immediately. Instead Chuuya finds himself taking a sharp breath when his fist hits an invisible wall, and suddenly he understands.

This strange youth - standing before him with a look of supreme arrogance, a cocky smirk upon his lips, hand outstretched in a strangely familiar manner - his Ability is nothing like Hirotsu-san’s Falling Camellia as Chuuya had been led to believe from the intelligence reports. No, his Ability is far more akin to Chuuya’s own, it’s like meeting a kindred spirit, a brother and the realisation hits him like a speeding freight train.

“The look on your face is rather spectacular you know?” Chuuya’s fist drops as he backs up a pace, moving out of immediate range, head cocked like some kind of wary animal. “I suppose the cat is out of the proverbial bag now, hmm?” A short barking laugh, rough and unbecoming on someone whose words seem to hold a formal tone belying a upper-class background. “So, shall we see whose Ability is superior?”

It becomes apparent very quickly that in fact, in terms of Ability at least, they are somewhat evenly matched. It’s almost as if an invisible force flickers between them, preventing either one from landing a hit on the other – it feels like his own Ability is moving through his body without his conscious control, and it’s nothing like Corruption’s destructive darkness, but it’s off-putting just the same. Chuuya’s close-combat training takes over, evasion is the key here until he works out exactly what’s going to bring this asshole down, and he would go at him with just his fists and knives, but knows all too well that manipulating the gravity around oneself is enough to create a barrier that will stop almost any object in its tracks. It’s frustrating.

“This game is getting a little tedious, don’t you agree, Soukoku Dog? It’s about time we ended this.” He reaches out a hand and Chuuya backs off, pulling himself into a guarding position. “Seishi, if you would.”

The second brother, ‘Seishi’ so Chuuya is to assume - who up until now had stayed well back from the fighting, as if content to wait it out and let what seems to be the ‘leader’ of the pair handle things – steps almost cautiously forwards until they’re practically standing in line. The next movement is...odd...Seishi reaches out a hand to take hold of his brother’s still outstretched counterpart, their fingers locking, and Chuuya doesn’t know what to make of it, sees a weakness in the loss of movement that is far too easy to exploit. He goes in for the kill.

Chuuya’s world abruptly turns upside-down as his skull cracks against concrete and a pain sharper than anything he’s ever experienced blooms across his chest like white hot fire. He’s pretty sure he’s broken a few ribs, the breath has been smashed from his lungs and white spots dance across his vision. Looming above him, the two brothers are laughing, their hands still joined, and it’s enough to make Chuuya see red, forget his instincts and any kind of rational thought completely.

He tries to kick himself from the floor, bringing his fist up to punch the first blond-haired asshole into oblivion, but as his fist goes to connect there’s a disturbing feeling of wrongness a sickening crack and shockwave of pain ricocheting up his arm to drive knives into his already overwhelmed brain. It’s almost enough to make him pass out.

“Masashi-nii, I think we should stop playing with this little broken toy now. I’m sure we’ve done enough to warrant his attention.” The second brother is frowning now, staring at Chuuya through dark brown eyes with a measure of disgust.

“Shall I let you in on a little secret before you die, Soukoku Dog?” The bored drawl is back, and Chuuya is fighting against the stabbing onslaught of agony accompanying every shaky inhale, but Masashi is talking again, “There’s a reason why your Boss is so desperate to get his hands on Seishi. You see, my brother’s Ability is essentially the complete opposite of your partner’s. His Ability amplifies the Ability of the person he is in direct contact with, the reason I have beaten you is not because I myself hold any more power than you, and I am loathe to admit such a thing, should this be a battle between our Abilities I have no doubt you would emerge victorious, it is simply because Seishi has multiplied my power tenfold, and your poor Ability just cannot compare, crumbles to nothingness in the face of superiority.” He pauses as if for dramatic effect, “The joke is on your organisation as it happens, even should the Port Mafia have gotten hold of Seishi, ‘Shadow Clone’ has one flaw.”

Seishi interrupts his brother with a sickly endearing sort of grin. “Shadow Clone can only be transferred through blood relatives. My Ability will only affect my brother.”

Chuuya goes still, in this moment, he is contemplating the likelihood of his own death: an Ability so compatible with his own that it can technically nullify For The Tainted Sorrow as effectively as Dazai’s touch ever has, enhanced by an Ability that can multiply the effects of his enemy to proportions he can’t begin to guess at. The situation has devolved from an easy win to a chasm full of shit and he’s sinking fast.

The words crawl like dark tendrils through his mind, whispering black promises of victory, of destruction, of joy. It would be so easy, to release the words tingling on his lips, the force locked deep in his soul is begging to be set free to rampage across the earth, a harbinger of doom to all it encounters. It would be so easy to burn up in a blaze of savage glory, to rip his enemy to shreds and smote their ruin upon the ground. It would be so easy, would take no more than a few seconds, a few whispered syllables.

Still something holds him back. It’s not fear of dying, he’s never been afraid of death, walks hand-in-hand with it on a daily basis. No...it’s a serious expression in red-brown eyes...fingers pulling on his hair, not allowing him to look away...“Promise me that you wont activate Corruption if I'm not there.”

A low growl rips through his throat, and it hurts to breathe, hurts to move, but he’s reaching into his jacket, pulling out his knife and dragging it across Seishi’s Achilles Tendons with sadistic pleasure. The youth screams - high pitched and loud enough to ring in Chuuya’s ears – he falls to the floor, his hand ripped out of his brother’s unsuspecting grip and Chuuya’s Ability does the rest, pinning Seishi to the floor with steadily increasing force. It takes less than a second to slit his throat.

Masashi’s slow reaction to his brother’s gruesome death is his own undoing. Chuuya’s lets his knife fly putting as much force behind it as he can muster as he senses Masashi’s moment of hesitation, he watches it embed itself into the blonde youth’s heart before his enemy has time to react. The light fades from dark brown eyes as he hits the floor, the brothers lying side-by-side in death as they had stood in life.

It’s not until far too late - as he’s dragging himself towards the exit, fighting to stay conscious against the constant stabbing torment of multiple broken bones - that he notices someone creeping behind him. It’s not until there’s a sudden explosion of fresh lancing torturous pain in his thigh - unlike any of the multiple agonies he’s already experiencing - and the nauseating view of his own knife stuck deep into flesh that he remembers the one incapacitated – but still very much alive - subordinate he had failed to finish over during the initial scuffle. It’s not until the grunt lies dead in a puddle of his own entrails and Chuuya’s blood continues to seep out of the gaping wound in a steady stream that he realises just how badly he’s failed.

. . .

Chuuya recites the story dutifully, leaving out only the fact that he had ever considered using Corruption, although, the look of unhappiness that flashes across Dazai’s face says he can read between Chuuya’s omitted lines as clearly as if they’d been spoken aloud.

By the end of the rendition (culminating in Chuuya’s slow escape into the alleyway where he’d finally fallen, exhausted the last clinging vestiges of strength) Dazai’s eyes are painfully dark, a few shades from true black and completely wiped clean of any emotion. The silence in the room is broken only by the whirring of machines. It’s almost like the bastard is not actually present in the room – sure his body is here, but his mind, his soul is in some dark fathomless place of Dazai’s own creation, a world of logic and possibilities known only to the bastard himself.

Minutes seem to drag on like hours, and still Dazai is still as a statue, silent and cold as snowfall. Chuuya is beginning to feel uncomfortable, like he’s said something wrong, done something wrong, missed something so vital that he has woken Dazai’s anger, or his disapproval. Like he could ever meet up to the bastard’s expectations, to anyone’s expectations. He’s nothing without Dazai’s genius, just a puppet on strings to be guided and pushed wherever his destructive power can cause most damage.

Suddenly there’s a change in the atmosphere and the bastard is smiling apologetically, his eyes crinkling in that way that screams ‘lie’ and he’s leaning forward to press lips to Chuuya’s forehead. “I’m sorry Chuu-ya, but I’ve just remembered something I need to look in to.” He turns to walk away, angling a wave and another fake smile over his shoulder, “I’ll be back later.”

Another Lie.

He doesn’t see Dazai for three days.

. . .

Being stuck in the hospital is grating on Chuuya’s already frayed nerves, building up into a nervous sort of pent up energy that he finds hard to release. He actually manages to scare the shit out of one of the nurses when she comes by to check on him and finds him pacing agitated circles on the ceiling in a bid to walk out the thoughts of abandonment and confused helplessness that dog his waking hours. He apologises sincerely, sitting meekly on the edge of his bed as she admonishes him about tearing his stitches with too much movement whilst she performs all of the checks and observations that have become a thrice-daily ritual. When she’s finished she blushes prettily, stammers and almost runs from the room, and it’s actually kind of cute.

She returns the next day, and Chuuya finds out that her name is Miyuki, and she makes up for her previous embarrassment by talking his ear off with stories of her accident-prone little sister. Chuuya listens mostly in silence, and Miyuki doesn’t ask anything about him - has probably been warned about his connections already – but she’s genuine and friendly and just listening to her rambling on as she sprays disinfectant around the room in a cleaning frenzy makes the minutes tick by just a little faster.

Miyuki is running her final observations before the end of her shift (and she’s heading out to meet her sister a couple of streets down so they can go home together, because Mimi has a tendency to get lost when she’s left to her own devices) she carefully unwraps the bandaging around his thigh, glancing at the stitches and proclaiming him to be healing well, before re-wrapping them with deft precision that even Dazai would probably be envious of. She’s holding his uninjured wrist and checking his pulse when a dark aura begins to cloud the room with a choking intensity that almost steals Chuuya’s breath from his lungs...and suddenly there is Dazai, standing behind her with an air of inescapable shadow.

Dazai reaches out a hand to clap it down on Miyuki’s shoulder and the high pitched scream of terror is ear-splitting as the young nurse leaps backwards, trips over a cable and ends up sprawled across the floor.

“My, my.” Dazai’s voice is cold boredom personified and he makes no effort whatsoever to assist the trembling woman to regain her footing (and composure), “Your observational skills are sorely lacking for someone who deals with the Mafioso as clients. You should work on that, miss.” His attention swings to Chuuya and there’s a glint of humour in his eyes, quickly swallowed by cold blank nothingness. “Come along Chuuya, you’ve spent enough time lazing around here, it’s time to go home.”

. . .

Home, it turns out, is his small room at the Mafia headquarters, his familiar bed and familiar collection of possessions all exactly where he’d left them.

Dazai disappears almost as soon as they arrive, the silence like a wall between them and Chuuya feels oddly cold, oddly alone...left behind. Again.

Chapter Text

It’s hard to walk away, even though Dazai’s brain is telling him it is the only logical step he can take, the only safe path in a veritable minefield of wrong turns and stupid mistakes. It’s hard to walk away, to leave Chuuya in that small dimly lit room, to turn and shut the door without looking back, without uttering a word of explanation, without showing any kind of emotion other than icy disregard. It’s hard to walk away, even though it’s right.

There’s still a great deal he doesn’t know, information he hasn’t been able to dig up, despite his covert rifling through the records he’s managed to get his hands on thus far. Making predictions on bare minimum is something he’s always been good at (well it’s not like anyone is counting but he’s never actually been wrong), however, the conclusions he’s coming to at the moment...they change everything, make him hope that for once in his smugly accurate life that he’s made a mistake.

Dazai feels like he's being watched. It's nothing new, he's been 'watched' since the day he first threw himself into this life, it's nothing new but recently it's felt like a constant nagging pressure; of eyes following him wherever he goes, of silent judgement being passed and hanging over his head like bells tolling out his doom. Mori – shrewd, calculating, cold – dogging his footsteps and analysing every inch to the point where his life feels like it's no longer his own, just a cleverly set out game board of Mori's design, waiting for the jaws of the inevitable trap to close. Kouyou – disapproving, secretive, sad – he's not entirely sure where her sudden protectiveness comes from, but the way her eyes narrow whenever they meet say she's waiting for him to fuck up. Akutagawa – angry, wistful, idolising – the boy still can't stop bullets, still can't utilise his full potential, still can't work in a team. Another failure on Dazai's part. Odasaku – knowing, understanding, silently companionable – perhaps he is the closest thing Dazai has to a person to confide in...they still never talk about anything personal, but that's okay, Odasaku breathes life into dead eyes without the need for spilling his deepest, darkest secrets. And Chuuya, his beautiful redhead who can go from mild-mannered to full on wrathful vengeance in a second. Chuuya, who looks at him with concerned, hurt confusion, corners him in the corridor outside the training rooms after a particularly harsh session with Akutagawa - resulting in the boy coughing up large amounts of blood due to his lack of finesse - and asks if there's something wrong.

You're avoiding me. Are Chuuya's unspoken words, heard as clear as day.

Dazai wants to say yes. He wants to say that the eyes are getting to him, that the pressure and the hidden agendas and the quiet judgement are too much.

Instead it's a bland, “I'm fine. I just have a lot to do, Chuuya, being an Executive isn't all fun and games, you know?” A pause, and then, “Oh, no, you wouldn't know, would you.” A cruel barb spoken with true malice and no hint of the teasing tone he normally uses when his redhead is around. And it's easier...easier to pull up this stone wall and push Chuuya away, easier to distance himself, easier to cut the ties rather than actually face up to the consequences of his actions.

Chuuya doesn’t snap, spit curses or throw punches, and honestly any or all of those things would be better than the stunned uncomprehending silence he’s receiving right now.

It’s hard to walk away.

. . .

It’s worse than he first thought. Something big is about to happen, there’s a feeling of tense apprehension in the air that leaves a sour taste in Dazai’s mouth the longer he considers it.

He’s almost certain now, that his conclusions about the Tokyo mission are correct, one way or another. There are two possibilities – as far as he can deduce, and he’s run his brain in circles around the problem for days. The original mission brief Chuuya had been given was suspect - gaping holes in the intelligence, outright misinformation on key points - almost a death sentence even for someone of Chuuya’s calibre. The fact that the existence of the multiplier Ability user had not even been mentioned is a red warning rimmed in neon lights; why would Mori hide the fact that the supposedly ‘stolen goods’ Chuuya had initially been sent on the guise of ‘collecting’ was actually a human with an extremely volatile gift?

Which brings about the first possibility: Chuuya was meant to take a severe beating or even die at the hands of this group, and the lack of reliable intelligence had been deliberate to bring about such results. The intent behind such a play? Reminding Dazai of ‘his place’, as Mori is so fond of doing when he believes his protege has stepped out of line, out of control, out of bounds, whilst also sufficiently dealing with a rogue group causing the Port Mafia trouble.

Dazai is used to being punished - physically and mentally - he is no stranger to Mori’s harsh methods of control, has the scars (both seen and unseen) to testify. But this, this manipulation of someone close to him, this threat hanging above his redhead like a storm cloud Chuuya cannot see, cannot fight, cannot hope to beat, this is new, and the feeling of intense foreboding in Dazai’s bones, this is also new.

The second possibility is worse: Chuuya was never meant to come back from the mission alive at all, and the whole thing had been orchestrated behind the scenes by Mori, with the brothers as willing and knowledgeable participants as a test to induct them into the Port Mafia; thus, Mori gets rid of a distraction to his top Executive, and at the same time gains a duo with equally formidable talents to replace the loss of Chuuya whilst making the entire event seem like a tragic accident, a mission gone wrong.

Knowing that either of these could be correct does not give Dazai any comfort. The longer he lingers over a decision the more of a danger there is of Mori deciding that just a little ‘lesson’ in the face of his continued disobedience isn’t enough. The stitches in Chuuya’s leg have just come out, and overall he seems to be recovering remarkably quickly when one takes into account the actual extent of his injuring. Knowing his redhead, Chuuya will be requesting light duties as soon as he is able to move without a limp; Dazai knows that his redhead has been going stir crazy, pacing the corridors (and when he’s really feeling antsy, the walls or the ceiling seem to be as good as any other stable surface) once again like a small ominous shadow, or punching the shit out of a punching bag in the training rooms with the hand that isn’t currently in plaster. His partner has never done well with forced rest.

Dazai knows what he needs to do.

It’s hard to walk away.

. . .

The view from the transparent elevator is one of monochrome, overcast grey – the constant drizzle of rain falls from heavily-massed, wallowing clouds, drenching the buildings below in a sombre grey haze - it matches his melancholy mood perfectly. He shifts to lean against the wall, casting his eyes across a city that no longer holds any spark of interest other than as a potentially convenient place to die.

He steps past the guards with a look of utter boredom, not even waiting for them to knock and announce his arrival. They let him pass without comment, fear in the rigid way they hold themselves.

Dazai doesn’t bother to announce himself.

“I have a request for you, Boss.”

A slow blink is Mori's only show of surprise, replaced almost instantly with that look of calm collected omniscience that Dazai can't help but hate and simultaneously be mildly impressed by. “Oh? I'm listening, Dazai-kun, you know I think of you as a valuable asset to the Organisation, irreplaceable even. I will try to grant your request.”

“Send Chuuya on the Europe recruitment.” He keeps his voice steady, his eyes blank, the perfect inscrutable mask trained into him with fist and word and lash over years under his sensei's ruthless mentorship.

Mori regards him with shrewd expectation, wily instincts inherently searching out any crack in Dazai's facade that he can exploit, like a hound on the scent of blood. Dazai meets him head on, unflinching and calm. Finally, after a lengthy pause and a conversation spoken only with unconscious body language, Mori tilts his head quizzically and asks the question burning the air between them, “Why?”

“Chuuya is the most logical choice. He's intimately familiar with the Organisation's inner workings; he's tipped as a future Executive; he's recovering from injury and not fit for his normal standard of missions but certainly fit enough to weed out the unsuitable; he's our top martial artist without taking into account his Ability and, you've said it yourself, Boss, the name Soukoku is known far outside the boundaries of Yokohama these days; his infamy can only help in drawing people under our influence and to strengthen the ties we already have with overseas organisations.” Logical, sound, deductive reasoning, something Mori has always appreciated, cultivated, even feared.

“You are correct indeed, Dazai-kun, Chuuya-kun is a logical choice for this assignment, but there are others. Now, why don't you tell me the real reason you want Chuuya-kun sent out of Yokohama so suddenly? Then perhaps I will consider conceding to your request.” Mori's teeth are bared in a grin as he continues to stare soullessly over the top of steepled fingers.

Dazai allows his eyes to widen, lets his gaze flicker to the floor for a second or two, shuffling his feet as if embarrassed at being caught out in a lie: all measured reactions, all part of this game between them, the pieces carefully set, the match as yet undecided. “Ahh well, you see...Chuuya is rather clingy, and there is a rather beautiful girl who works in the coffee shop down near the Red Brick Warehouse who I would rather enjoy getting to know a little better – ahh but Chuuya doesn't understand my need for feminine company.”

The triumphant flash of victory in Mori’s eyes gutters out almost instantly, but it’s momentary presence is enough to tell Dazai that his former mentor has taken the bait. He can practically hear the cogs whirring in Mori’s mind as the Boss puts the pieces together, fits them to his game board as seamlessly as a master player executing his final moves. In the next second Mori is making a humming noise of disapproval, “Why Dazai-kun, I didn’t think you were one for such obvious manipulation.” For a moment Dazai’s heart stops dead in his chest, had he played this wrong? Had Mori somehow seen through him? “Sending Chuuya-kun away rather than dealing with the situation yourself. It’s a rather cowardly way to fix a problem don’t you think?”

Dazai struggles to keep the relief from showing on his face instead pulling up a self-deprecating smirk, and shrugging one shoulder nonchalantly. “Well, for all his minuscule size, Chuuya’s quite terrifying when he’s angry, and I’ve had quite enough of being used as a substitute for a punching bag by people who don’t understand my talents lie in areas other than beating the shit out of someone with bare fists.” At this he holds up his left arm still wrapped in a sling – it has long-since healed, was never much more than bruised to the bone in the first place, but Mori doesn’t need to know that. His punishment over his disobedience – both in leaving the gala in such a public display of ‘spoiled arrogance’ as Mori had called it, and refusing to leave the hospital when summoned – had been written off as ‘combat assessment’. Though how ten bloodthirsty thugs, all with a lingering personal resentment of Dazai himself, kicking the shit out of one lone, unarmed opponent can be labelled as such, Dazai still does not quite understand. He had taken the beating without comment.

“Besides, there are lots of beautiful women in Europe, or men, I suppose, if he feels like being fucked that way.” The sudden image of Chuuya being fucked by another man is instantly nauseating; Dazai struggles not to make a face of disgust as he swallows past the sudden lump in his throat, “I’m sure he’ll get over his infatuation as soon as he hears someone with a French accent, and as long as he’s a thousand miles away from me I really don’t care.”

“And you?” Mori’s frown is almost that of a concerned parent, and it’s almost chilling to see such an expression on his former mentor’s face, especially when such a frown is directed at him.

Dazai blinks, feigning confusion, waving a flippant hand, “It was just a game. A pleasing way to pass the time whilst there was nothing better to catch my attention. I find I have no such tastes in men, Boss.”

Mori stares with cold calculation for what seems like hours, but is in fact barely ten seconds in passing, Dazai reigns in his own emotions, refusing to give in to the temptation to shift his feet on the plush carpeting of Mori’s office, refusing to look away, to reveal the lie for what it is. This has to work, it’s his last gamble, his last game plan to keep Chuuya safe, alive, away from Mori’s ever-changing schemes until he can fix...whatever it is that’s broken; he’s not even sure what that might encompass beyond a sense of impending dread creeping ever further up his spine.

“I will grant your request, Dazai-kun, on one condition.” The eerie smile on an otherwise blankly devoid face has returned, but Mori is watching him with a singularly concentrated avidity that is hard to bear.

“Name it...” A rather hasty concession on his part, perhaps he should have thought this through more carefully.

Purple eyes hold a cold glint of steel: sharp, intelligent and lethal, “I want you to tell me where that friend of yours...ahh...Oda Sakunosuke isn’t it? The ‘Mafia who refuses to kill’, I want you to tell me where he keeps the orphans he took in after the Dragon’s Head Rush incident.”

Dazai stills, his breath halting somewhere in his chest involuntarily as the blood in his veins runs cold. “Isn’t that something you can easily find out for yourself, Boss?”

“I suppose it is, but that is not the point. I want you to be the one to tell me, Dazai-kun.” Mori’s smile has widened to resemble that of a hungry lion.

The cold fingers of dread ratchet a little further up his spine.

. . .

The strips of fresh bandages curl like tamed snakes, winding into pools on the floor, the smell of sterile gauze and diluted antiseptic almost comforting. It’s almost like meditation - the sting of chemicals on fresh wounds, the slow wrapping of cotton against his skin – a methodical ritual that helps clear his thoughts and sometimes puts a whole new perspective on problems he’s been turning over in his mind for hours.

Tonight the sense of peace seems intent to evade him.

Dazai is awoken rudely from his daze-like state by the soft click of the lock followed by angry stomping footsteps and the loud obnoxious shouting of a voice that’s far too familiar. “Oi! Dazai! You’d better be in here, bastard! I’m fucking tired of chasing your ass around!”

His redhead rounds the doorway into the living area and stops dead, eyes going wide as his brain processes the scene before him.

Dazai is not ashamed of his scars, they tell a story of his overwhelming success at failing to die, as much a part of him as his mind and his masks. He is not ashamed but attempts to hide his bare arms behind his back in a defence mechanism that is practically ingrained into his being: do not show weakness in front of your enemy.

“Why are you here, Chuuya?” His voice is almost hostile, a far cry from the blank emotionless tone he’d been trying for.

His redhead, typically, ignores him entirely, huffing out a breath and moving on now-silent feet until he’s standing right in front of Dazai, watching him with an expression that borders on annoyance. Suddenly he’s kneeling down, and they’re almost eye-to-eye. “You idiot.” Chuuya practically hisses the words out as he reaches to pull Dazai’s hands into his own.

Dazai shifts minutely, he’s not used to feeling uncomfortable, and it prickles at him, makes him want to pull away, but Chuuya’s grip on his hands is hard, and he can feel the warmth through the soft leather of his partner’s gloves. Chuuya’s eyes flicker up and down, seeing every scar, every line, every failed attempt. When the blue eyes rise to meet his own there’s something burning deep within – sadness, vulnerability, a lack of belief in his own self-worth - that Dazai can read like words printed across beautiful irises. When “Why?” is his redhead’s only whispered question, ‘What can I do to make you stop? Am I not enough?’ is what Dazai reads in his eyes.

“It doesn’t matter.” A lie, one he’s told a thousand times, one he can say with a brilliant smile and little to no effort, a practised deflection.

“Well obviously it does matter.” His redhead breathes out a sigh, shifting closer until he’s between Dazai’s open legs, until Dazai can feel every exhale against his lips and the blue encompasses his entire vision, makes him feel like he’s floating, and he should be pushing away, can’t help but be pulled in. Chuuya’s fingers glide up his wrist, hesitating just before they reach the first silvery line of scar tissue. “Will you let me?”

“I can’t stop you.” Cold, breathless, just a little shaky.

“That’s not what I asked. Dazai.” Soft leather brushing gently across his skin. Dazai’s heart stutters in his chest; he can feel his hands shaking in Chuuya’s loose hold; can hear the blood rushing in his ears...is this fear, or something else entirely?

“Yes.” The word almost gets lodged somewhere in his throat, whispered on a shaky exhale as he closes his eyes so he doesn’t have to look anymore. This is all sorts of wrong, the opposite of distance, but this...he can give this moment to Chuuya, and tomorrow, well tomorrow is another day.

Lips press hesitantly against the pulse point of his right wrist, the warm wetness of a tongue held steady against the rushing beat of blood through his veins: a reaffirmation that he is, indeed, alive. Chuuya is careful, gentle, almost hesitant as he kisses a slow path up Dazai’s forearm, stopping on every scar, both fresh and old, the slow skim of lips and tongue against each branded mark as if his redhead is trying to erase them from his skin. Dazai remains tense and still, unable to relax; his mind a whirling cascade of thoughts, of unfamiliar vulnerability, of a dark vicious need to bare all of Chuuya’s scars to the open, to level the playing field and take back control.

Chuuya seems to sense his reticence, can probably read the stress in his stillness, his redhead has instincts born of hundreds of battles after all. Blue eyes flicker up to watch his face as Chuuya moves from one scarred arm to the other, repeating the careful almost reverent process of mapping abused flesh and raised scars with a focussed attention that causes Dazai to shiver and Chuuya’s lashes lower as the redhead presses a sad smile against the inside of his elbow.

It comes as a bit of a surprise when Chuuya searches out a patch of unmarred skin close to his wrist and sucks a dark bruise, teeth nipping sharply enough to have Dazai screwing his eyes shut and gasping at the feeling of his redhead leaving his own mark upon Dazai’s scarred skin.

If only Chuuya knew how deep that particular scar ran.

Chuuya doesn’t look up as he pulls the gloves from his fingers to discard them unthinkingly on the floor; wrings out the cloth soaking in antiseptic solution; follows it with slow sweeps of his hand across fresh and old wounds. He doesn’t look up as he pats the lingering moisture away with a towel waiting for the skin to dry completely before beginning the process of meticulously winding fresh bandages around Dazai’s still slightly shaking arms, hiding Dazai’s skin (his weakness, his long string of punishments and failures) from the harsh, judging light of day.

When the last knot is tied, Chuuya tips his head up, and there’s a quiet hunger there that wrenches down the last of Dazai’s carefully erected walls, the last of his willpower to push Chuuya away, to make this easier on both of them. He’s not sure who he was trying to fool...as if this was ever going to be easy for either of them.

He makes no move to dissuade his redhead as Chuuya stands, only to immediately climb onto the couch, knees coming to rest on either side of Dazai’s hips, lowering himself until Dazai is trapped between the soft leather and the hard weight of his partner’s body. Dazai’s hands gravitate to Chuuya’s waist, pulling his redhead’s shirt up just far enough to slip under and feel warm skin against questing fingers.

“You know I’m being sent on the recruitment and consolidation mission to Europe?” Dazai reigns his mind back from the gutter as Chuuya’s face hovers inches from his own.

“Yes.” He presses closer, runs fingers up the knobs of Chuuya’s spine, pleased when the redhead arches into his touch like a cat, but Chuuya’s eyes are bright and accusatory.

“Mori-san mentioned that you had recommended me for it. Is that true?”

That sneaky bastard, Dazai really should have predicted something like this, it’s obvious if he stops to actually think about it: it’s not as if Mori won’t take any possible steps to ensure his victory.

“It is.” The words of affirmation are breathed against stern lips and he can feel the force of Chuuya’s sigh as his body shifts on the sharp exhale.

“You’re not going to explain all of this to me, are you?” Spoken so quietly it almost goes unheard as Chuuya moves to press his face into Dazai’s exposed collarbone, red hair tickling Dazai’s chin.

“You mean you don’t want the opportunity to go to France and try out all those fancy wines that you love so much, Chuu-ya? I’m disappointed you don’t like my gift!” The false humour is easy, the singsong lilt in his voice is practised - it’s all familiar, safe, effortless.

His redhead pulls himself back up until they are face-to-face once again, fierce blue meeting dull red-brown baring an anger and disbelief that is hard to witness. “Don’t lie to me, bastard. If you’re going lie just do us both a favour and don’t say anything at all!”

Dazai stays silent as his small, beautiful, angry redhead presses their lips together with bruising force.

. . .

Tonight it's not about falling headfirst into lust and heat and need. Tonight it's not about chasing the feeling of completion until they're too tired to do anything more than fall into an exhausted tangle of limbs.

Tonight is something different.

Tonight it's about watching Chuuya's eyes widen and hearing his breath catch in his throat as Dazai maps his redhead's body with his fingers, commits every detail, every shiver, every raised scar to memory. Tonight it's about the unspoken words that pass between whispered breaths, hovering in the air between them, never uttered but understood nonetheless. Tonight it's about stuttered gasps and quiet moans and breathy whines. Tonight it's about the drag of Chuuya's hands through his hair, catching in the tangles to add a sharp sting of pain to mix with the pleasure. Tonight it's about the perfect lines of Chuuya's body, catching in the moonlight as they find a rhythm so easy it's almost practised. Tonight it's about the slow build of desperation between two bodies addicted to something they know is lethal, but still helpless to resist the attraction. Tonight is about the relentless force growing between them, the inevitable push and pull, give and take, ecstasy and misery.

Tonight it's about curling himself around his redhead, pulling him close as they drift lazily to sleep. Tonight it's about a quiet whisper, nuzzled against his redhead's ear, long after those beautiful blue eyes have fluttered shut. “Goodbye, Chuuya.”

Tonight it's about finality.

. . .

It’s easy to press his face into Chuuya’s neck as he floats into sleepy-eyed awareness with the morning light filtering through the gap in the curtains. Dazai muffles a yawn against porcelain skin and Chuuya mutters something grumpy and incoherent in the circle of Dazai’s arms as blue eyes crack open to greet him with a lingering dream-filled haze.

It’s easy to plant careful kisses along the underside of his redhead’s jaw, to skip slow fingers down Chuuya’s chest until his redhead lets out a content hum and pulls him closer so their lips meet.

It’s easy to taunt and tease and work his redhead into a growling and somewhat aroused state of wakefulness, only to remind him he has a plane to catch and, “Well Chuu-ya, you haven’t even packed a suitcase full of ugly hats yet!” The answer to which is a swat around the head hard enough to make him yelp alongside Chuuya’s huffed almost-affectionate sigh.

It’s easy (in a sort of torturous way) to watch Chuuya parade around in nothing but his boxers and Dazai’s own shirt (which is of course, far too big for someone as tiny as Chuuya), no doubt his redhead’s own cruel way of teasing him right back. And damn if it doesn’t work at bringing up a sense of possessive jealousy that Dazai has spent the last fucking age trying to purge from his system.

It’s easy to drape his arms around Chuuya’s waist from behind and prop his chin on the top of Chuuya’s head, pressing his small partner bodily against the kitchen counter as Chuuya waits for the kettle to boil, his redhead just looks too good standing there in his shirt, practically wearing Dazai’s scent.

It’s easy to promise Chuuya that he will stay in contact, whilst they’re spending their last few minutes together sprawled across the couch – Chuuya sipping his tea whilst Dazai plays absently with the lock of red hair which has fallen on his shoulder. Dazai promises that he will call or text and keep his redhead informed of everything going on back in Yokohama and Chuuya promises in return that he will at least reply to the texts, or answer Dazai’s calls every once in a while.

It’s easy to pull Chuuya to him after the redhead has set down his empty cup, to lift Chuuya’s chin until the still breathtaking blue irises meet his in questioning confusion at the sudden seriousness in Dazai’s expression. He’s being selfish, he knows he is, but he needs to hear Chuuya’s answer with every fibre of his being.

“Chuuya...promise me you won’t activate Corruption if I’m not there.” His heart is in his throat, every beat is painful, like it’s trying to claws its way free of the prison of his body.

“Dazai? Wh--” Chuuya’s face is concerned, the unsure puzzlement plain to see.

“Just promise me, Chuuya.” His voice cracks, and it would be embarrassing, but he’s too focussed on trying to keep the fear from his eyes, to keep Chuuya from seeing the darkness rising in his soul.

It hurts to see his redhead’s face soften, to watch blue eyes stare into his own with trust and conviction, and Chuuya is winding a hand into his hair, pulling them even closer, gazes still locked only on each other as his small partner breathes out a promise against his lips.

“I promise I won’t activate Corruption if you’re not there.”

The words sink like lead into Dazai’s soul, swallowed up by the darkness which grins back with bared white fangs. His last affirmation that this is the right thing to do.

It’s hard to walk away...

. . .

He sends Chuuya fifty texts that day, each one consisting of just a single random emoji until his redhead sends him a single message in reply, violently threatening his continued existence should Dazai choose to continue. After that he makes it his mission to send another fifty texts with just sad faces until Chuuya finally calls him from his layover stop, shouts at him for being a ‘fucking annoying bastard’ and hangs up almost immediately.

Dazai smiles, flipping the phone shut as he walks down the stairwell into a familiar bar.

. . .

The sound of gunfire rings in Dazai’s ears. It’s less concerning than the bazooka he’s sure he spied being dragged from the back of the enemy’s truck a few moments ago and the machine gun mounted on its rear. Still, the net had been cast from the start and the noose is closing in fast. This will be over in minutes; it’s all rather boring really, far too predictable, hardly worth his time.

Still, one of them had done commendably well in cornering him, gotten a few decent swipes in with a rather wicked looking knife (although not a patch on Chuuya’s rather impressive collection) before Dazai had gotten bored – a painful ending is not his preferred way to die, after all, the least the stupid idiot could have done was shot him and gotten it over with – and put a neat bullet hole through his head with a put-upon sigh. Apparently today is not his day to die.

Elsewhere his squad are doing a passable job, machine gun fire ricochets from the walls but the casualties on both sides seem to be oddly minimal. Shouts ring out from around the wide space they have designated as their battleground and suddenly the previously uncoordinated and ragtag enemy appears to be regrouping in a suspiciously formulated and planned manoeuvre, throwing themselves into the truck as the tires squeal and it peals away amidst a cloud of inky black smoke.

Dazai shouts orders, sectioning a team to go after the truck whilst the remainder of the squad are put on cleanup duty, rounding up the few fallen enemies that remain still breathing and throwing them unceremoniously into the backs of blacked out cars for the journey back to headquarters and a no doubt slow and painful death under the skilled hands of the interrogators.

He still can’t shake the feeling that something big is about to go down as he climbs into the passenger seat of another blacked out unmarked car and tells the driver to get him back to base. He wants to hear what these bastards have to say.

Unfortunately, from that point on, everything goes to hell.

As Dazai makes his way down the familiar stairwell that night - breathing in the instantly recognisable smell of sweat mingled with smoke and the unmistakable tang of strong liquor - his thoughts are sharper than a knife’s edge and stained with dark poisoned blood. He picks at crab meat out of a can without really tasting it, wonders if the lid is sharp enough to sever tendons. Swirls dark amber liquid around the bottom of his glass without taking a single shot.

Odasaku’s arrival is like a flickering light amidst the darkness of his mind, the smile on his face is genuine as he lifts one hand in an energetic wave.

. . .

Odasaku is dead.

It feels like his fault, surely there’s something he could have done, something he could have thought of, something he could have predicted to change the outcome.

Odasaku is dead.

Maybe if he runs it through his brain a few more times it will make more sense, or it will somehow stop being true, ah, denial is a wonderful thing.

Odasaku is dead.

If he’d never kept his word, never told Mori where the orphans had been living, never informed him about the Western restaurant with the amazingly spicy curry...maybe then things would have been different. The kids would still be alive, Odasaku would have never given in to rage, fatality and despair...and maybe half of the Mafia would be dead at Mimic’s hands as they sought to destroy each other but Okdasaku would be alive.

He banishes the thoughts from his mind, there is no point in dwelling on the mistakes of the past, it is a effort in futility and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there is no doubt in his mind that Mori meant for him to feel some sense of responsibility, intended for things to play out exactly as they had. Had Mori himself predicted Dazai’s desertion of the Mafia? As this point it wouldn’t come as any sort of surprise to find his own betrayal had been orchestrated as such from day one and Dazai is just a fly caught in a web, struggling to break free from the sticky threads of fate.

Odasaku’s final words ring in his head, a never-ending loop: haunting, sorrowful, believing.

**“No matter whether you’re on the side of killing people or saving people, there will never be anything that can surpass your mind. There is no place in this world that can fill your loneliness. You will linger in the darkness forever.”

“Go to the side that saves people.”

“Since both sides are the same, become a good person. Save the weak, protect orphans. Regardless of whether it’s justice or evil, to you there isn’t a big difference between the two...but, doing that would be better.”**

Odasaku is dead and still, Dazai doesn’t understand.

Become a good person? Is that even possible for someone like him? He’s never kept score of his kill count over the years – the blood, the screams, the glassy look that comes across one’s face when they finally embrace death – death is just another everyday occurrence, but people who have died under his hands, it’s got to be in the hundreds...thousands? Does he really have any right to cross over to the side of the light, to pretend he belongs there as he had here, when in reality he doesn’t belong anywhere at all.

**“The photo...I’ll just put it here.”**

He pulls the slightly crumpled photograph from his jacket, placing it before the epitaph, lying the bouquet of white chrysanthemum flowers just beginning to bloom beside it – the smiles on the faces of the photo’s occupants are far too much to bear.

**“I really wanted to let you try that hard tofu...”**

Dazai stands and stares out towards the ocean for what feels like an eternity. The winds rustles through his hair like questing fingers, pushing him back and forth like the questions in his mind. He already knows what he’s going to do, has known with certainty from the moment he had watched as the last light faded from Odasaku’s eyes. He hasn’t been back to the Mafia Headquarters since that day; has gone off-radar, treading carefully, taking long and winding routes to reach his destinations without crossing paths with a single Mafioso, a feat in and of itself in this black city.

He knows that Mori’s patience will wear thin soon, that he will start actively hunting Dazai to try and recoup his loss, after all, the information in Dazai’s head is more than enough to stab Mori and the Port Mafia in the back a thousand times over should Dazai choose to use such things to his advantage.

But…

It’s hard to walk away.

From the Port Mafia, not so much. He owes Mori nothing but years of pain and torment, owes the Port Mafia nothing more than a pile of dead bodies and rivers of blood.

Chuuya…

It’s tempting to book a flight under one of his many legitimate aliases, to fly to Europe and drag Chuuya away from the Port Mafia with him. It’s like a siren call in his head, both alluring and frightening in its intensity. A thought he pushes away with as much force as he can, but one that returns stubbornly every time he dismisses it outright.

It’s selfish, he knows it would be completely for his own satisfaction, taking Chuuya away from the Mafia, forcing him into a life on the run, into a situation not safe for either of them: hunted not only by the enemies they’ve made over the years but by the ones they called ‘family’ (well, Chuuya anyway, misguided though his poor redhead might be). To drag Chuuya into this mess of his own creation just for his own selfish desires...he knows he would do it - he is, after all, a selfish creature at heart - he would do it if not for one thing.

Chuuya would follow him, he has no doubts that if he were to ask, Chuuya would come willingly, follow him into exile like an obedient dog...at least until the resentment and the creeping doubt kicked in, and it would. Chuuya lives for the blood and adrenaline, thrives in the Mafia and the darkness, has the skills to make it to the top outside of Dazai’s continuing influence. The Port Mafia are Chuuya’s family in a way that Dazai still cannot understand; he accepts his cage willingly, bound to the throes of fate and ties of spilt blood. Chuuya would leave for Dazai, but not for himself and over time his soul would fester with resentment, blame and fury until they became nothing more than bitter rivals, enemies in a world where every unknown face could already be a spy, an assassin, a knife in the darkness.

The thoughts are more than Dazai can bear.

He will turn his face to the light, try not to be blinded by the sun, chase Odasaku’s desire for absolution, the last wish of a man who had understood him far more intimately than he could ever have imagined...but Chuuya...he will leave Chuuya in the safety of the darkness: untouchable and beautiful, but alive.

From the inside of his jacket he pulls out an unfamiliar phone, brand new, purchased just this morning, and most importantly, clean of any interference. The number is as familiar as breathing, tapped out in a rhythm that brings an aching familiarity. It rings a few times, before the noise of a connection is made.

“...hello?” The voice on the line is almost physically painful to hear, brings a lump to Dazai’s throat and has his head throbbing nauseatingly in his chest. He cannot find the words, suddenly finds himself at a loss. “Is this a prank call? I fucking swear to god!”

“Chuuya...” His voice is a broken parody of his usual forced cheer and the line goes silent almost immediately.

“Da-”

“Don’t.” Dazai interrupts quickly, he needs to do this now, before his weak-willed mind breaks under the strain, before he begs Chuuya to come back to him, to be with him, to stay, with every remaining piece of his shattered soul. “I just called to say...” He swallows dryly, forcing the words through clenched teeth, the phone held in a death grip as the wind pushes ghostly fingers in a mocking parody through his hair. “The sake has gone cold, but there’s crab meat in the fridge.”

He ends the call with the press of a button, snaps the phone neatly in half, tossing it into the trash on his way out of the graveyard after a whispered ‘I’m sorry’...whether it’s directed at Odasaku, the orphans he condemned to death, Chuuya or something else entirely, even Dazai isn’t sure.

It’s hard to walk away...but he will do it anyway.

Chapter Text

Chuuya tries not to worry, knows that it will do no good, knows that Dazai wouldn't tell him what was wrong, even if he asked. So he doesn't ask. It's a testament to how long they've been partners, to how many years Chuuya has put absolute trust in a bastard whose mind and actions he can't even begin to understand the majority of the time – he'd given up trying a long time ago.

Still, Dazai hasn't been this distant since...well since before they started fucking...before they started this relationship...before they started whatever this trainwreck between them is. It's not worth the headache to try and define what goes on between them.

Dazai is always cold and closed off with his subordinates, or he plays the fool, which - from Chuuya's outside point of view – terrifies those around him even more than the Executive mask. Chuuya had thought they were past masks and fake smiles and obvious lies, but for whatever reason Dazai is pushing him away. Again.

It hurts.

After so many years of being played with – used for Dazai's amusement, used for Dazai's plots and schemes, used to further Dazai's goals, used for Dazai's pleasure – Chuuya figures he should be used to being dropped whenever he'd served his purpose by now.

But this wasn't a game. Not for him anyway. This wasn't something he could just walk away from; compartmentalise in his brain and carry on as if nothing had ever happened.

Shitty Dazai.

Chuuya's focus is completely shot, and this is absolutely not what he needs right now.

Something is going on back home, that much is blatantly obvious: not just from Dazai's apathetic responses and reluctance to engage, but from the general radio silence from the Organisation as a whole. Chuuya almost feels stranded: forgotten and worthless whilst something major is going on in a place he can't hope to reach.

The feeling of uselessness grates on his nerves.

It doesn’t help that thus far he has been the subject of two attempted assassination attempts and a failed kidnapping, which have ended up with strained relations between the European contingent of Ability users and the group based out of London known as the ‘Order of the Clock Tower’. The negotiations on trade deals are a simmering pot of underhand moves and shady promises. Chuuya is left feeling anxious, exhausted, wound-up and so very alone.

It's frustrating.

. . .

The muffled noise of his phone ringing pulls Chuuya out of his own swirling thoughts and back to reality, the familiar voice of Edith Piaf warbling from somewhere in his pocket.

He doesn’t recognise the number, but the country code is Japanese, it’s the only thing that makes him pick up rather than allowing it to ring through to voicemail.

“...hello?” Chuuya can hear someone breathing on the other end, and what sounds like the the wind sending static noises across the line. The person, however, does not speak.

After a few seconds of silence, Chuuya begins to get impatient, “Is this a prank call? I fucking swear to god!”

“Chuuya...” He almost drops the phone in shock. The voice is instantly recognisable, despite the fact that it sounds utterly wrecked, utterly wrong. Sirens are blaring in his head.

“Da-” he doesn’t even make it to the second syllable before Dazai is cutting him off.

“Don’t.” Dazai sounds almost like he’s pleading, which is just, not like his emotionless mask-wearing partner at all. Worry crawls in his gut. “I just called to say...” Chuuya wants to cut him off, wants desperately to tell Dazai to stop, has the horrible premonition that something catastrophic and irreversible is about to take place. He can hear Dazai swallow dryly, take a deep breath, and still there’s the static noise of the wind, almost overriding the quiet words.

“The sake has gone cold, but there's crab meat in the fridge.”

The line goes abruptly dead, the dial tone sounding in his ear like the ominous flatline of a heart monitor proclaiming death.

Chuuya stares at his phone in shock, mumbles Dazai’s final words aloud as if saying them himself will make them less real, rolling them over in his mind, over and over in case he's made some kind of mistake.

It's a phrase they've never used, not since its formulation all those years before when they had devised their own system of code words and phrases in case they had ever needed to discuss strategies amongst listening ears of potential enemies – or sometimes even allies.

This one...the meaning was simple, something Dazai had come up with on a whim, something Chuuya would have bet his entire hat collection (maybe not the wine, because let's face it, with Dazai anything is possible) that the phrase would never be uttered between them.

I’m leaving.

Chuuya's fingers shake so badly he has to clench them into fists.

Trying to redial the number is an effort in futility, he knows this but tries anyway, over and over and over again, his mind screaming bloody murder as the call fails to connect every time.

In the end there is only an empty sense of nothingness.

Chuuya drinks himself into oblivion that night. Pulls the cork on a bottle of Petrus he'd bought on a whim – a rarity worth far more than a month's pay - something to be kept for a celebration, or shared... He drinks it straight from the bottle, paying no heed to the rich, opulent taste on his tongue and when he's done the glass bottle rolls dolefully across the floor as Chuuya's head hits the table with a solid thunk. Slowly the tears leak from his eyes and he tells himself it's anger, hatred, betrayal...anything but the truth.

Just before he passes out fully clothed on the bed that still feels unfamiliar, still feels wrong without another body occupying the sheets, he drags his phone towards him, squinting with blurry eyes as his fingers tap on the keys.

“Where the fuck are you?”
Message failed 22:10. Number not in use.

“I fucking hate you.”
Message failed 22:10. Number not in use.

“I'm going to fucking kill you.”
Message failed 22:11. Number not in use.

“Please come back.”
Message failed 22:15. Number not in use.

His last thought before he throws himself to the mercy of welcoming darkness is that perhaps he never really reached Dazai at all. Perhaps it was all just some well-conceived game in which Chuuya was ever the willing puppet, cast to dance upon his strings.

It was all a lie.

. . .

He gets the call from the Boss the next morning, with a sore head and the faint tracks of tear stains on his cheeks.

Mori's voice is clipped and emotionless, as ever he betrays nothing of his true thoughts. “It is time you were informed of a certain incident.” A short pause followed by an annoyed sigh, “Dazai-kun has gone rogue. You will return immediately. I expect your full loyalty and dedication to your role, you will take on Dazai-kun's team, including that insolent pup he's been training – he has the same utter contempt for teamwork as Dazai-kun did and a lack of discipline that's unparalleled, if he does not show improvement he will be dealt with - and you will personally look for and dispose of any traitors amongst Dazai-kun’s subordinates. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Leader.” Chuuya swallows dryly. 24 hours ago he would have wanted nothing more than to no longer be stuck in his partner's all-consuming shadows. Now he just feels empty, devoid of any emotion bar a growing sense of desolation as his world slowly disintegrates around him...and it's not even at the hands of his own Ability, how ironic.

“You will also be under close supervision yourself for the foreseeable future. Do you intend to betray the Port Mafia, Chuuya-kun?” The blunt question leaves him numb, a faint ringing making itself known in his ears as he presses fingers into his temple to try to alleviate the sharp stabbing pain.

“I...what? No sir, of course not.”

“Well, since you were Dazai-kun's partner.” There's a deliberate pause, the stress on that word partner giving it far more depth than the Boss simply describing their working relationship...had he known the whole time? “It's just a precaution, Chuuya-kun, I will not have the Organisation's secrets getting into the wrong hands.”

“I understand, Leader...what happened? Why did Dazai betray the Organisation?” He shouldn't ask questions, never question the Boss, obey orders without fail. But the doubt is eating him alive and it slips out before he can even think to stop it.

“I will not discuss this with you, Nakahara. I expect you on the next flight home, there will be an informal meeting of the four remaining Executives in due course, your presence will be required.” End of conversation, the Boss’ tone brooks no argument; to press further would be an act of suicide.

“I...yes, Mori-sama.”

. . .

The flights from France to Japan are far too long. They leave Chuuya with far too much time on his hands to pick apart everything that could possibly have gone wrong, coming to more and more wild conclusions before finally falling into an exhausted sleep, because 'Snakes on a Plane' just isn't funny when there's no one to laugh with you about the sheer absurdity of it all.

The layover in China has him giving way to his old familiar habit of anxious pacing, and really, if there weren’t all of these people around - who are already looking at him askance and leaving a wide berth around him as he stalks up and down the departure lounge with a face like thunder and a murderous intent one could probably view from space – he would be pacing along the walls, across the ceiling, any kind of surface would do in all honesty. Anything to get these thoughts out of his head, the ones that are tearing him apart slowly: piece by agonising piece.

When he lands in Japan and makes his way to the office in the parking lot, he is greeted by a stern-faced old woman who tells him that his keys were collected and signed for half an hour previously by his valet who had gone to meet him at the drop-off zone outside the terminal.

Chuuya stares at her in shock before mumbling his apologies, unwilling to cause a scene.

With a feeling of dread, he pulls his suitcase behind him (it feels like a tonne of bricks weighing him down, despite having been conveniently lightened by his Ability) and heads back to the terminal. The screech and wail of sirens fills his ears, and the closer he gets the heavier his footsteps feel.

By the time he reaches the source of the commotion, his beloved TVR is nothing but a charred lump of misshapen metal, almost unrecognisable.

. . .

It’s dark by the time he makes it back to headquarters; slumped against the wall of the transparent elevator, foot tapping nervously whilst he rubs circles into his temples in a mindless effort to stop the constant pounding in his head.

Chuuya takes off his hat as he is admitted to the office, lowering his eyes and dipping his upper body in a light bow as a show of courteous respect; his face impassive as internally his guts twist like someone’s buried a knife in his abdomen, or perhaps in his back is more apt.

“Ahh...Chuuya-kun.” The Boss is watching him with that eerie sort of latent hunger that makes whoever is under his gaze want to run, run as fast as possible in the opposite direction lest you be caught like a rabbit in headlights and devoured by the sharp-toothed bite of something wild and intent to harm. It’s hard not to fidget under such intense scrutiny. “You’re mission overseas was cut short due to...rather unfortunate circumstances. However, I am told you left a...shall we say lasting impression on a few of our European friends.”

“I am sorry if I left relations somewhat strained, Leader.” He apologises softly, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the floor. “Their method of going about business was rather lacking in manners.”

The Boss holds up a hand to cut him off, catching the movement from the corner of his eye Chuuya falls silent immediately, “I have read the reports, Chuuya-kun, there is no need to get defensive, there was no fault in the way you chose to act, considering the circumstances presented to you. You have done commendably well.” Mori tilts his head, lank black hair falling over his shoulder in thin strands, “What of any potential recruits, did you find anything worthy of the Port Mafia’s interest?”

Chuuya feels something like an ant under the direct glare of a magnifying glass held by some over-curious child, as if he might be set on fire to burn in hell for eternity should he simply step over the line drawn between them. “It seems that on the Continent, young Ability users are often claimed by one faction or another as soon as their Ability manifests.”

“I see. How disappointing.” A momentary pause and Chuuya feels like the whole room it holding its breath, waiting for the Boss’s judgement. “Well, it is of no great concern in the end, the Organisation has plenty of young talent to keep us at the forefront of Underworld affairs.” Mori taps long, bony fingers upon the desk, purple eyes boring holes in Chuuya’s skull without really looking at him at all. “I expect a final report within 48 hours, Chuuya-kun. In the meantime consider yourself off-duty until you are summoned tomorrow and we will discuss this mess with Dazai-kun.”

Chuuya knows a dismissal when he hears one, is half tempted to stop and ask about Dazai again, but knows it will only serve to anger the Boss, and possibly put Chuuya himself in an even more suspicious light than that which has already been thrown unwittingly upon him. He gives another short bow, returning his hat to his head as he leaves quietly through the double doors, not daring to sigh with relief until he’s exiting the elevator on the basement level and sauntering into the Port Mafia’s underground garage.

His heart aches when he stops to stare at the empty space that was once home to his pride and joy, the one thing in his life that was beautiful, functional and didn’t harrass at him whenever the chance arose. Swallowing past the sudden lump in his throat he swings his gaze across the garage, until his eyes come to rest on … what can really only be described as a red monstrosity. The Maserati is the very same one Dazai had apparently stolen when he’d come to save Chuuya from bleeding out on the scum-crusted pavements of Tokyo, and that seems like a lifetime ago rather than mere weeks, sets his head throbbing again and really Chuuya is ready for this to stop now.

The Maserati is unlocked, the keycard left underneath the seat, and Chuuya isn’t surprised, it’s not like Dazai ever drove anywhere anyway, not like he ever took care of his possessions; he probably only kept the stupid, shiny, red car to cause insult to Chuuya’s poor eyes. Still, the bastard left it here, more fool him, Chuuya isn’t past using the bastard’s belongings to his advantage.

. . .

The drive to the shoddy old apartment block isn’t long enough to cool Chuuya’s temper, frustration, worry in the slightest. The Maserati doesn’t drive anything like the TVR, doesn’t soothe his nerves, doesn’t relax his mind, it’s kind of like handling a fractious beast, liable to bite at any moment should you so much as look at it in the wrong way. If anything he’s more pent-up and anxious now than he had been on the ascent to Mori’s office.

The stairs up to the fourth floor are a neverending source of ire, and Chuuya has reached melting point by the time he stomps up the last step.

He smacks his fist into the door hard enough to have it rattling on it’s hinges. Waiting impatiently for all of two seconds before repeating the action harder, this time the wood threatens to crack. “Oi! Bastard! Don’t make me break this fucking door! I’ll fucking break you!” His voice is practically a roar: low, menacing and louder than he intended.

The sound of a lock turning hesitantly, and a small crack appears between the door and it’s wooden frame. Chuuya is just about ready to send his fist into the face of the person beyond and be damned with the consequences, when his brain actually takes in what his eyes are seeing. Dark brown bespectacled orbs blink at him in fear, surrounded by the heavy wrinkles of a wizened, elderly face, stray wisps of pure white hair float in the air as if moved by some unknown wind.

“Umm...” Chuuya takes an automatic step back, one hand rising to the back of his head in a sheepish manner and he can practically feel his face heating up in embarrassment. “I...umm...I’m looking for Dazai, he...used to live here. Do you know him?”

The door opens wider, revealing a stooped old lady who looks him up and down with obvious distaste, a stick grasped between arthritic fingers as she clearly contemplates simply shutting the door in Chuuya’s highly embarrassed face (it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it, after all). “The young man who lived here before left just a few days ago.” She grates out finally. “You should not be so quick to storm into other people’s houses threatening violence with such a wicked tongue, young man, you should be ashamed of yourself!”

Chuuya looks into stern brown eyes, clouded with age, and immediately feels about three feet shorter. Removing his hat he bows, lowering his head before looking her in the eye determinedly, “I apologise for my rudeness and for the intrusion. Please forgive my trespassing.”

As he turns on his heel to leave with mortification nipping at his ankles, he feels the tap of wood against his shoulder. “Young man, what has gotten you in such a fury looking for this, Dazai? You owe an old lady an answer, don’t you think.”

Chuuya doesn’t turn around, pulls his jacket around himself and curses his own sense of atonement. “He betrayed...me. He broke a promise.” His voice almost cracks on the words, hands clenching in black fabric so hard his fingers start to ache with the strain.

“A jilted lover, I see.” Apparently this old lady of such unassuming appearance sees far more than her age-clouded eyes could possibly reveal to her.

“No...that’s not-” Chuuya’s face is heating up by the second, and for the second time today he has the urge to run, get as far away from this witch and her words as possible.

“If this Dazai did such things to you, is it wise for you to go looking for him? Do you not think that perhaps you are better off without such a person in your life, Chuuya-kun?” Every word hits like the stabbing of a knife, twisting murderously in his gut, spilling his entrails across the ground in bloody trails.

“It’s not that simple, baa-sama.” Chuuya mutters, strengthening his resolve and heading for the stairs. It’s not until he’s back in the red monstrosity and halfway to Yokohama Bay Quarter that he realises something odd: “How did she know my name?”

. . .

He’s sort of relieved when his keycard for the tower still works, when the doorman nods a greeting to him as he passes through the doors and into the familiar grand space. A few people are sitting around in the plush chairs, reading newspapers, or balancing laptops on studious knees – Chuuya ignores them and heads straight for the elevator.

The 38th floor looks the same as always: opulently decorated with soft lighting and plush carpets to muffle the sound of heavy shoes or noisy heels. Maybe Chuuya stands outside the door to the sort-of-familiar apartment for far longer than necessary, shifting his weight from one foot to the other whilst contemplating whether he’s even ready for this kind of confrontation, what does he even want to say to the bastard. The old woman’s parting words are echoing in his brain, casting shadow and doubt on his reasons for being here and right now he’s not sure whether he’d want to punch the bastard in his idiotic lying face, or cling to him and beg him to come back, and isn’t that just so fucking cliché it makes him feel nauseous.

Before he loses his nerve completely he taps on the door (far more quietly this time around, because he really, really doesn’t want a repeat performance of last time, causing scenes with old ladies really isn’t his thing). Predictably there’s no answer and two full minutes later he’s left facing the same quandary as five minutes previously, staring at a closed door with no real idea of where this is going. Sighing in exasperation he pulls off one leather glove, runs his finger under the sensor, wondering belatedly whether Dazai has removed his access during his period of what Chuuya can only currently describe as a ‘fit of Dazai-typical insanity’. The answer to this new question is given by the whispered disengaging of the lock.

The apartment is empty.

Completely devoid of life, furniture, vibrancy. There is no sign that anyone ever lived here at all. The pictures lining the corridor are gone, even the hooks have been carefully removed from the walls; the black leather couch they had lounged on before Chuuya had set off on his assignment to Europe is gone; the few cooking utensils Dazai had actually kept around (barely enough to make a decent breakfast with) are gone; the embarrassingly large bed with it’s wooden frame and silk sheets is gone. The apartment no longer feels like a home. It’s a cold, bare space, emptied of life, of feelings, of memories.

Chuuya stares out of the floor-to-ceiling windows at the brightly lit streets of the Bay Quarter below, wonders what the fuck he’d done wrong to screw things up so spectacularly.

. . .

Chuuya’s not sure how long he’s been here...an hour, two hours...maybe three? He’s lost track of how many drinks he’s had, is not even sure what it is he’s drinking at this point – it’s bitter and potent and slides in his stomach in a way that’s completely different to wine – perhaps sake? Oh the poignancy is almost too much. He snorts ineloquently into his cup and down the rest of the clear, bitter liquid in one long swallow.

Chuuya’s not sure how long he’s been here, but his head is still throbbing and his heart still feels like it’s been stabbed by a thousand blades and drinking to forget really isn’t going well. Perhaps he just hasn’t had enough yet, isn’t trying hard enough.

He’s not sure how long he’s been here, but as he picks up the bottle to refill his cup, a hand clamps down on his shoulder. His instincts scream at him immediately: neutralise the threat, eradicate the enemy, deal the killing blow...but his brain feels like it’s full of cotton and there are dark spots dancing across his vision that make it hard to concentrate. Before he can pull himself together to react to this attack, a familiar voice rings in his ears.

“I think you’ve had quite enough, boy.” The usually polite and cultured tones hold a depressing air of deep disapproval. Kouyou-nee hasn’t called him ‘boy’ for years. The sudden sense of nostalgia and homesickness is enough to leave him reeling.

“Kyounee, how’dy’know I washere?” Is that him slurring like a common drunk? How utterly embarrassing. Chuuya squeezes his eyes shut and wishes fervently (not for the first time today) to disappear.

“The Boss of this establishment and I happen to be old friends. He kindly called to inform me that something which once belonged to me had washed up here and was trying to drown in cheap alcohol. I am disappointed, boy. Get up, we are leaving, now.” Perfectly manicured nails dig into Chuuya’s shoulder, and it’s painful in such a familiar soul-wrenching way.

“Mmkay...” Disagreeing with Kouyou-nee is never a good idea, and inebriated as he is, it’s probably an even worse idea than usual. He staggers as he tries to push himself upright, has to latch onto the chair to stop gravity from betraying him and sending him to the floor on his ass. It’s one betrayal too many, has him clenching his teeth in anger, the strength of his grip causing the wood to creak beneath his fingers ominously.

“Ozaki-sama, would you like for me to call a taxi?” The large, generally personable Boss is eyeing Chuuya with a look that clearly displays his doubt at Chuuya being able to make it to the door unaided, let alone walk home.

“No, thank you, we will be fine. I believe the boy could use a walk, the air might help him to regain his senses.” There’s a threat hanging in that sentence that has Chuuya paling as his brain tries frantically to work out which way is up. “Come. Boy.” Well, now he just feels like a disobedient pet, and that sends shards of hurt straight into his heart as he half walks, half staggers out of the bar.

The chill in the night air is like an instant slap to the face, it takes his breath away, sends a spike of clarity through his thoughts and a flash of pain through his head that makes him want to tear his hair out. Kouyou-nee has stopped a few feet away, regarding him with that same stoic disapproval and he cannot meet her eyes when they hold such disappointment in him. “Can you walk? Or do I need to call Golden Demon to carry you home, boy?”

It’s definitely a threat, behind the thin veil of kind concern, Kouyou-nee’s eyes flash like knives, her hands hidden deep in the sleeves of her kimono. He pulls himself up a little straighter. “N-no, I’m fine. I can walk.”

“Good.” She steps forward, always with elegance and an ethereal grace that Chuuya can’t help but admire. One hand emerges to rest on his shoulder once again – slightly less claw-like this time, and maybe the ice-queen is softening just a little - and Kouyou-nee is steering him away from the bar.

She seems to pause for a moment as they pass by an alleyway, her fingers tensing, and her chin rising slightly as she turns her head as if catching movement in the darkness beyond. Her eyes narrow on something, a frown appearing on her face for a split second before she’s moving again. Chuuya turns his head, squinting against blurred vision to try and catch a glimpse of whatever Kouyou-nee had been directing the murderous intent rolling from her in waves.

He thinks he sees a retreating form in the darkness, a flash of brown hair, the flicker of a black coat...the scent of something medical and familiar hanging in the air. He blinks and it’s gone, leaving him to wonder if it had ever been there in the first place, or whether it was simply an image conjured up by his self-destructive imagination. Either way, he almost stumbles.

. . .

The brothel Chuuya had called ‘home’ for only a short period of his young life looks just the same as it ever has. At this time of night it is still brightly lit, welcoming patrons through the ornate double doors into the discreet lounge where one can relax before choosing a companion to retire with for the night. It’s all familiar and oddly nostalgic, intensifies the discomforting feeling of his guts squirming – or maybe that’s just the alcohol?

Kouyou-nee appears to have let go of her wrath, and blessedly saves him the embarrassment of weaving his way through front-of-house, instead steering him towards the entrance at the back after a quick exchange with the bodyguards. The stairs are daunting, but he manages to navigate them through sheer force of will. By the time they reach the top his head is starting to spin and he’s a little worried that he’s about to be sick, swallows bile in his throat as Kouyou-nee leads him to his old room.

It looks the same as it ever did; as if it has sat here untouched since he vacated it all those years ago (and maybe it has, Kouyou-nee very rarely takes subordinates under her wing, and if he’s honest with himself, he still wonders why she ever bothered with him). Chuuya stands dumbly for a moment or two, not quite sure what he’s doing here, what Kouyou-nee is expecting of him. It’s only when she gently pulls the coat from his shoulders, retrieves the hat from his head - caressing it with a slight smile of recognition before placing it carefully on the old, scarred dressing table next to the bed – and begins unbuttoning his waistcoat with deft fingers that Chuuya has the sense of mind to pull away.

“I can undress myself, Kouyou-nee.” He mumbles, his words almost unintelligible as a flush of embarrassment stings his cheeks.

“Are you sure about that, boy?” She looks him up and down before shaking her head with a sigh, “You’re a mess, but at least you are a little more coherent.” A short pause, another sigh. “Wait here, I’m sure I have something that will serve as acceptable nightwear.”

She reappears barely two minutes later, with a plain deep blue yukata which she hands over pointedly before disappearing again without a word. Chuuya takes the not-so-subtle hint, quickly stripping out of his no doubt stinking clothes, folding them into a neat pile on the chair and tying the yukata securely around his waist. It’s far too big, swamps him completely and probably makes him look even more tiny, even more frail than he does usually.

He climbs onto the bed, trying to ignore the thumping rhythm in his head, the sick feeling at the back of his throat, the dark black hole where his heart used to be. A sense of despair and worthlessness settles so deep into his soul he feels like he’s drowning under the weight of it, like he’s gasping for air as the thick blackness oozes into his lungs. He curls his arms around his legs, screwing his eyes shut and burying his head between his knees, trying hard not to give in to the chaotic emotions running riot through his thoughts.

The feeling of fingers running gently through his hair is far more painful than it has any right to be. And he knows it’s Kouyou-nee, can feel her nails running lightly against his scalp, but it doesn’t stop the memories from rising, doesn’t stop the tumultuous mess of feelings from clamouring against the broken walls of his tortured consciousness. Chuuya’s whole body tenses, his knuckles turning white with the force at which he’s gripping his own legs, trying desperately to cling on to some grounding sense of reality.

The memories assault him like white hot irons to the skin.

Tears spill from his eyes unbidden.

Chuuya feels utterly pathetic as sobs wrack his body and the tears continue to fall spilling in paths down his cheeks to soak into the fabric of the borrowed yukata. He feels like a child again; lost, alone and confused in a world he doesn’t know, doesn’t want to know. Still the fingers card through his hair, and Chuuya is left trying to decide whether it’s helping or making the memories seem all the more real.

It was all a lie.

Chuuya hiccups as the sobs subside into shivers and finally all that’s left are the tears still rolling in salty tracks. Kouyou-nee is rubbing circles on his back, her presence soft and steady at his side. “Let it out, lad, you have to accept it to let it go.”

His head hurts.

It was all a lie.

“Lad, I know you’re hurting, but you need to listen to me.” Kouyou-nee is wrapping her arms around him now, enveloping him a hug that smells of perfume, finery and bitter empathy, Chuuya allows the touch, soaks up the comfort of the woman who is still his saviour, his mentor, his big sister, perhaps his only friend in this cutthroat world. He presses his face into the folds of her kimono, can’t find it in himself to be concerned about ruining the fine silk with snot and tears. “You can break now, you can hurt and cry and be heartbroken if you so wish. However...tomorrow you must walk away from this, you must put it behind you and never allow these emotions to be bared to the light of day. Do you understand me, lad? It is dangerous for you to show these things, you are a Mafioso, a killer, you live in shadow and darkness and deal in death. There are those who will use any weakness to their advantage, you are fully aware of this.” Images of the Boss flash through his mind and Chuuya clenches his eyes shut in rejection, yes, he knows. Kouyou-nee’s voice has taken on a tinge of concern. “You must continue in your duties as if Dazai-kun’s betrayal is of no consequence to you, as if you were nothing but acquaintances in passing. You must appear to be loyal to the Port Mafia above all else, any shred of suspicion and you will be labelled as a traitor. You know how the Port Mafia deals with traitors, lad.”

Execution. The answer is as swift as a hammer blow. Execution is what he will face should Mori decide there is any shred of doubt in Chuuya’s allegiances. He nods into Kouyou-nee’s kimono, not trusting his voice to speak right now.

“You should also know. Despite the questions on your loyalty, your name has been put forward as a potential successor to Dazai-kun’s position, when the time should arise for someone to take over as the fifth Executive. Your rivals will be looking for any kind of weakness to extort. You must show them nothing but fearless power and contempt, lad.” Chuuya pulls himself away, putting a small amount of distance between them, looks into his saviour’s eyes and sees the barest hint of fear before Kouyou-nee blinks and it is lost. She regards him with a fondness that is touching, reaching out to pat his cheek and push his hair back from his eyes, “You are still worth my time, little Chuuya-kun, always remember that.” She’s rising now - still with that natural born elegance – to stand at the foot of the bed, one last sigh leaving her painted lips. “You should drink some water before you sleep, lad, or you’re going to be in less-than-optimal condition when you face the Boss and the four remaining Executives tomorrow.” She plucks his dirty travel-worn clothes from the chair and heads to the door, pausing one last time, “Remember what I have told you tonight. It might save your life in the days to come.”

“Kouyou-nee!” He calls out before he can stop himself, watches her turn in a flurry of silk and beauty. “Thank you. I...am sorry.” She shakes her head with an unreadable expression and shuts the door without making a sound.

Chuuya lies awake for hours.

He wills the throbbing in his head die away. He wills the tears to stop leaking from his eyes for reasons he can’t comprehend. He wills the memories to be forgotten. He wills everything to go back to normal – for Dazai to poke him awake and smile at him when he gets snarky. He wills the voice in his head to fuck off.

It was all a lie. Just a game. Nothing more than a toy. Puppet.

It was all a lie.

In the end exhaustion claims him, dragging him down to darkness and the waiting demons.

It was all a lie. You’re dirty, broken, used.

. . .

Chuuya takes Kouyou-nee’s words to heart, as he always has: pulling up a mask of emotionless indifference and cold anger that leaves the four Executives looking at him with newfound approval and the Boss staring into his soul like he’s an interesting lab experiment that Mori would dearly love to pick apart.

The meeting does not last long - feels something like an interview – but the five sets of eyes centred on him have his heart beating a wild staccato in his chest, far beneath the calm veneer of his exterior. He assures them somewhat vehemently that he has no intention of betraying his family and will happily exterminate anyone who poses a threat to the Port Mafia ‘that bastard Dazai included’. It’s hard not to clench his fist, or grit his teeth, or tap his foot on the floor to betray the lie for what it is.

“And your health?” The Boss asks succinctly, his eyes roving down Chuuya’s body with interest, “Are you fit to be taking missions, Chuuya-kun?”

Chuuya’s body tenses at the implied weakness, this time his fingers curl at his sides and his eyes narrow, until he meets Kouyou-nee’s eyes, sees her lowered lashes and the almost imperceptible shake of her head behind the delicately poised teacup. Immediately he casts his eyes to the floor, forcibly relaxing his stance. “I am fit for combat class missions, Leader, I will submit to any assessment if you believe it to be necessary in proving my words to be truthful.”

“That will not be necessary, Chuuya-kun.” Mori’s eyes are alight with something fierce and unnerving, a singular intent to destroy those who think to topple the Port Mafia, or Mori himself from his throne of blood and fear. “Allow me to outline your role.”

His tasks are simple really, they boil down to two things: take the aberrant dog in hand and bring him to heel before he breaks his leash completely and needs to be put down; weed out any likely informants or potential deserters in Dazai’s squad and bring them firmly under control.

His days are filled with pain, blood, death and occasionally mindless killing. It’s frightening how easily he can get into that red zone of apathy towards his enemies and obliterate everything in his path, even without the destructive power of Corruption at his fingertips. He carves a name for himself at the top in the flesh and bone of the Port Mafia’s adversaries; knows that he’s being tipped highly as the next Executive, when Dazai’s space is finally to be filled - although that prestigious title no longer holds the pride and glory it once had – it’s a pedestal he no longer needs to confirm his worth as a pawn in this nest of rats and dogs.

His days are filled with orders, missions, adrenaline. Anything to keep the thoughts of betrayal, of deception, of self-destruction at bay. Chuuya leads his own squad now - the remnants of Dazai’s own subordinates – and they cast their gazes away with fear and respect when he walks by in a painfully familiar manner. It appears that Dazai left deep psychological scars on those underneath him - they do not question orders; they do not look him in the eye when he speaks; they do not crack under pressure – the dark side of Dazai’s influence is clear to see, but they show their former handler no loyalty at all.

Perhaps Chuuya is a little more reckless, without Dazai’s carefully planned strategies an his way of being always one hundred steps ahead of those he’s pitted against. Perhaps Chuuya pushes himself a little harder, throwing himself into more dangerous situations now that he no longer has a partner to rely on...to protect. Perhaps he gets injured a little more often, returns to headquarters with a few more bruises, a few more cuts, a few more scars.

His days are filled with missions, but his nights...the darkness bring demons that he cannot escape.

His nights are filled with leering men and pounding heartbeat. With the smell of stale alcohol on putrid breath; the ringing laughter of cruelty. With the crack of a whip on marked skin; the feel of metal around thin wrists. The nightmares have gotten so bad that he’s bought a small apartment of his own, soundproofed the walls so no-one can hear him scream his throat raw as he comes awake with frantic terror and a knife in his hand ready to do battle with the ghosts and demons of his dreams.

Worse are the nights that are filled with memories. With soft touches and whispering caresses; fingers trailing nonsensical patterns. With rough bandages and smooth skin; the contrast drives an electric heat. With harsh kisses and lips trailing down his neck; the feeling of his breath freezing in his lungs. With pants and moans and possessive growls; neck tipping back in lazy submission. These nights leave him feeling broken beyond repair and melancholy as he stands under the spray of the shower in a bid to drown the memories out of his head, whilst the world outside still drowns in the darkness of night.

It was all a lie.

. . .

Akutagawa is a headache Chuuya wishes he didn’t have to contend with. Even now the young man has pulled his Ability further under control, Chuuya wonders if Dazai was under the influence of his own egotistical insanity, bringing such a loose cannon wielding such destructive power into the Port Mafia. He’s been putting off the confronation with the arrogant teenager, but it can be delayed no longer – Akutagawa defies orders far too often to escape attention.

“I do not require your help or your training, Nakahara-san.” Black eyes hold a latent anger, a rising tidal wave of hatred and a flicker of self-loathing that Chuuya knows all too well. “You were beneath Dazai-san’s notice and therefore you are not worth my time.”

That hits a nerve, has fury and betrayal rising from the depths of his being and howling for blood.

It’s not until Chuuya has Akutagawa pinned to the floor - Rashoumon struggling under it’s own intensified weight – that the brat will actually concede to listen to what he has to say. Chuuya is kneeling on the young man’s chest, his entire weight centred over Akutagawa’s lungs, the strain in the young man’s face is easy to see and maybe he’s being overly rough, overly dominant, but apparently that’s the only thing the ‘rabid dog’ will respond to.

Dazai you bastard, you really broke this kid.

The sudden wash of empathy is entirely unwanted. “You cannot be so naive to be ignorant of what the Port Mafia does to individuals who the Boss feels pose a risk?” To drive his point home, Chuuya skims a knife across the boy’s pale throat. “The Boss will give the order for your execution if he believes you are in any way a threat to the Organisation. Your instability has been noticed, it is only a matter of time.” He pauses for a moment before adding, “What do you think will happen to your sister should you fall?”

A choking inhale is his only reply, followed by the angry sparking of Rashoumon. Chuuya pulls himself upright with a sigh, dispelling the effects of his Ability and offering a hand to the now wheezing Akutagawa who is looking at him with the same mistrust of a constantly beaten animal.

“I do not want to be your enemy.”

“I do not want to be your friend.” Comes the hissing reply and Rashoumon is suddenly baring fangs at his throat.

“Then we understand each other.” The black eyes widen a little, Rashoumon shivering with indecision before inching slowly backwards in the face of Chuuya’s unerring calm. Akutagawa’s pale, bony hand reaches out to grip his and Chuuya’s pulls him up steadily from the floor until they are standing face-to-face.

“I do not need you.” Comes the sullen mutter between loud hacking coughs. “And I don’t need him.” The scars on this kid go so deep, Chuuya wonders if they will fester into poison, wonders if maybe they already have.

“Why didn’t Dazai-san acknowledge me?” The words are barely whispered in the air between them and Chuuya’s head hurts. It’s all he can do to keep his face straight and pretend he hadn’t heard.

“Why don’t we end this here and go and get some tea?” Akutagawa’s only answer is to nod and follow him in silence.

. . .

Chuuya is utterly exhausted, feels a little like someone has emptied an entire garbage truck over his head and he can’t get the smell of iron out of his nose. Right now, all he wants to do is shower and scrub at his skin until he can’t feel it anymore, and drag himself under the covers giving his body up to the mercy of whatever awaits at the other side of his dreams tonight.

His pocket vibrates and Chuuya bites back a sigh, hopes he’s not being called out on another mission, isn’t sure his body can handle any more stress right now.

He reads the displayed message six times before it truly begins to sink in.

“The mackerel are biting well today. We can have fish for supper!”
Received 20:34.

Mackerel...such an innocuous word, but it's like being sucker-punched in the gut. Mackerel: the code name Dazai had somehow come up with for himself should he ever have need of contacting Chuuya in secrecy.

Why had the bastard decided to show his face now? Just when Chuuya was starting to regain some sense of individuality, away from the tangled puppet strings of Soukoku and all that cursed name had come to encompass. Why now, when Chuuya has just started to be able to sleep without waking bolt upright in terror being chased by nameless demons: a small boy, dirty, lost and alone on unfamiliar streets.

Anger rises like nausea in his throat.

“I think you have the wrong number”
Sent 20:36.

“You're probably right.”
Received 20:36.

The reply is almost instantaneous. Chuuya wonders if he's just unwittingly opened the floodgates and waits for a deluge of messages from his 'wrong number'.

Nothing comes. And no, that's definitely relief and not disappointment churning in his gut. Chuuya thinks about blocking the number from his phone altogether and deleting the entire stupid conversation, his fingers hover over the words as the indecision plagues him.

But what if you need him? The thought wraps sinuous, traitorous tendrils through his thoughts.

Chuuya is not weak. He is not pathetic. He is a Port Mafia operative with god knows how many deaths on his hands. He has never failed a mission. He is quite capable of handling his own shit. He does not need Dazai.

He saves the contact as 'Mackerel' two minutes later. Hates himself a little more for his weak, pathetic need to have some kind of contact with the asshole who walked away as if he was nothing.

Dazai is a bastard. Dazai left him behind, betrayed the Organisation, betrayed their partnership, betrayed the only true friendship Chuuya had ever thought he'd had, betrayed Chuuya's lo- no, that was quite far enough.

It was all a lie.

Maybe they had never been friends at all. Maybe they had always been no more than rivals, destined to burn each other up in the darkness until there was nothing left at all.

I hate you.

He still can't let go.

I hate you.

But that's okay, he can work with this feeling, turn it into hatred, use it to hone himself into an even more powerful weapon, and maybe when he meets Dazai next he'll actually believe it.

I hate you.

Right now...it still sounds like a lie.