Chuuya wakes up on a couch that is not his, wrapped in a striped blanket. For a moment, he is confused—and then he remembers.
The door opened to reveal a tired-looking, very confused Tachihara, but Chuuya ignored him as he walked straight into the dorm and collapsed onto the couch, burying his face into a pillow.
“Ah… Chuuya-san?” Tachihara’s voice floated into his mind, not processing as Chuuya curled in on himself.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! You thought Dazai stopped being an asshole just because? You thought you’d become friends now? Idiot! As if that would happen.
The clink of glasses drew his head up from the cushion. Tachihara was setting two full wine glasses down on the table, a bottle of Petrus 1889 accompanying them—from Chuuya’s emergency stock, no doubt. His ex-roommate sat down beside him as Chuuya pulled himself into a sitting position and hands him a glass.
“What happened?” he asked cautiously.
Chuuya didn’t answer, instead taking a long sip of the wine. He took another, then one more, and after another nearly finished the glass, he said, “It was Dazai.”
The fact that Tachihara realized what he meant instantly, his eyes taking on a sympathetic look, did not help Chuuya’s mood. He finished the last of the glass and rubbed his head; already, he felt fuzzy. But that was good, considering.
“I’m sorry,” Tachihara said quietly, taking the glass. “Did he… know, the whole time?”
Chuuya nodded slowly. “He said it was a… an enjoyable game.” Despite starting out harshly, the words trembled towards the end. He blinked rapidly, startled by tears gathering in his eyes, but it did no good.
Stop it! Don’t start crying over that bastard, come on…
Salt water made rivulets down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” Tachihara said again. Chuuya shook his head.
“No, th-there’s nothing for me to be upset about anyway… it wasn’t like I even liked him, or anything. I don’t know why I’m…” He broke off, swallowing hard, and wiped savagely at his eyes. It didn’t work.
Tachihara’s hand settled awkwardly on Chuuya’s shoulder, and Chuuya slumped against him, shaking but glad for the comfort of his friend’s arms around him.
“I wish,” he muttered, “I wish they’d never transferred me out of here.”
“I do, too,” Tachihara mumbled, but Chuuya didn’t hear him as his eyes sagged shut.
“Oh, Chuuya-san, you’re awake already?”
Chuuya sits up, rubbing his aching head and shifting to see Tachihara standing behind the couch. There are dark circles under his eyes.
Chuuya flushes, eyes dropping to his hands. “Sorry… about last night. I… well, Akutagawa’s got a roommate of his own now, and I couldn’t go back there and I…” He shakes his head, wincing at the flash of pain it causes. “But, still, I’m sorry for causing you trouble.”
Tachihara’s eyes widen, and he waves his hands in front of his face. “N-no, it’s fine! You can come over any time, it’s really okay. We’re friends, after all.” His smile looks a little strained at that last part; but, of course, Chuuya doesn’t notice. “Is your head okay? I’ll make you some coffee.”
Chuuya’s upbringing tells him he ought to stand up and insist that he’s caused Tachihara enough trouble already, that he’ll leave now—but his headache tells him to stay put and keep his mouth shut.
His friend comes over a few minutes later, holding a steaming cup of coffee, which Chuuya takes gratefully.
“Chuuya-san,” he asks cautiously, “are you going to go back to your dorm now?”
Chuuya flinches. “I have to, don’t I?”
“Yeah. And you should probably talk to Dazai, as well. About all that.” Chuuya opens his mouth, but before he can protest, Tachihara hurriedly continues, “You’ll be living with him for at least another year, probably more. You can’t just avoid him forever.”
Chuuya is silent. Tachihara is right, of course, he knows that, but even so, the idea of going back sets butterflies filling his stomach. Only, they’re vicious, man-eating butterflies, with sharp teeth, and they’re eating him alive. And after eating through his stomach, they die, but not before shitting out enough barbed wire to fill a house.
(Sometimes being a poet isn’t very fun.)
Chuuya looks up and nods. “Yeah. Yeah, I know, I’ll… talk to him. Soon.”
Tachihara doesn’t look convinced, but he says nothing as Chuuya stands and moves towards the door. He flashes his friend a brief smile.
“Thanks. For, you know, everything.”
Tachihara waves him off. “That’s what I’m here for.” As the door closes, he calls, “Don’t forget what I said!”
“I won’t!” Chuuya calls back, and then very firmly puts what Tachihara said out of his mind.
Once again, his feet hit the pavement, but heading away from the dorms, this time. Chuuya runs along the river, although his clothes and shoes were not made for running, and the wind bites at his face as red leaves crunch beneath his feet. He runs until his lungs burn, and then some more, and if he were thinking anything he’d be in extreme pain but, as it happens, Chuuya is not thinking. He runs until he stops, suddenly, gasping for air and gripping the railings along the edge of the path. Slowly, his breaths steady, coming out in ghostly wisps of white.
Chuuya stares at the river, glittering in the early sunlight. It’s barely past dawn, mist curling around the trees and covering the ground, and there are hardly any other people here.
Talk to him. Talk to him! I can’t talk to him. What am I even supposed to say?
But he has to say something , or else the next two years of his life will be living hell. Maybe… maybe if he says that he doesn’t care about Dazai at all, that he was only angry yesterday at being used as live entertainment…? Chuuya groans, dropping his head into his hands. Like hell that would work; he can’t act for shit .
Cursing every blameable entity he can think of, Chuuya stumbles back to his dorm.
Dazai is not there when he arrives—thank god—and Chuuya goes straight to the shower. He stands under the warm water for what feels like an age, but when he steps out it still feels too short. Dazai still isn’t back. Chuuya pulls on a white shirt with sleeves that are still too long (damn it, Kouyou, he told her this would happen) and shorts, and sits on his bed, absentmindedly drying his hair with a white hand towel.
What to say, what to do… argh, it’s his fault, anyway, he should be the one to say something!
From the living room, he hears the click of the lock. Chuuya’s breath stops, but somehow his feet carry him out of his bedroom to see Dazai setting a plastic bag with the on-campus convenience store’s logo on the table. His roommate looks at him and freezes. Chuuya realizes he’s still holding the towel to his head, but he can’t bring his arms to move, or any part of him for that matter.
There’s a beat of silence. Then—
“I wasn’t toying with you.” Dazai speaks hurriedly, as if worried that Chuuya will try to interrupt again. “That isn’t what I meant.”
“No?” Chuuya is surprised at how cool his voice is; he’s having an emotional breakdown inside, but his voice is calm and steady. “You didn’t mean you were playing a game with me when you said the whole thing was an enjoyable game?” Now his voice drips with sarcasm—if only Chuuya could figure out how to make that happen at will.
Dazai’s eyes flicker to the side, then back to Chuuya. “Yes, I did make a game out of it. I found it amusing that you never realized it was me, and thought it would be entertaining to drop hints and see how long it took you to puzzle it out. But that was all that I meant when I called it a game. None of the rest was. Believe me.” He hesitates, and it seems almost like he has to force himself to say, “Please.”
Did. Did he just say please ? Did I hear that? Did that happen?
“Then…” Chuuya frowns. “You actually weren’t just… messing with me?”
“No, I wasn’t.” He pauses. “Well. Actually, when you texted me, I immediately realized it was you, and I thought I could use that to get blackmail material—”
“You what ?!”
“Oh, don’t look so surprised, you know me.”
“You have a point,” Chuuya concedes, and this, this is more comfortable, this is more like what their conversations usually sound like. Of course, Dazai has to ruin it almost immediately, his voice slipping back into that softer, quieter tone from yesterday.
“But then I realized that I actually liked talking to you. So I did—on the app, of course, but our in-person relationship improved, too. And then, two or three weeks ago, I had a revelation.” He pauses significantly—for dramatic effect, Chuuya thinks, and what does it say about him that he isn’t even surprised? “I had the revelation,” Dazai says, “That I liked you .”
Chuuya nods, and then stops and blinks a few times, and then opens his mouth, and then closes it, and then opens it again. “You what now?”
Dazai smiles at him—and it’s one of those beautiful, genuine ones, goddammit—and repeats, “I like you, Chuuya. I like your obsession with old books and wine. I like your ridiculous taste in hats. I like how when you’re angry you start yelling in seven different languages at once. I like that you’re the sleepiest, rambliest drunk on this planet. I like how you’re always ready to fight everyone. I like how soft your hair is, and how your eyes always show exactly what you’re feeling. I like your voice when you sing and you think no one’s listening. I like your smiles, and how you have a different one for every occasion. I like you.”
“I’m sorry,” Chuuya says. “One more time, please?”
“Chuuya,” Dazai whines, “don’t make me go through that whole sappy spiel again .”
“Okay.” He sways slightly where he’s standing, and decides that, for this, he might need a shock blanket.
Dazai tips his head to the side, smiles at him again, and reaches forward, tugging the towel out of Chuuya’s grip and catching his hand as it drops.
“Well? After I just gave that whole speech, you at least have to give me a response.”
And Chuuya wants to give a verbal response, really, he does, it’s just that his mind has stopped functioning and he can’t seem to form coherent thoughts, let alone words—so it’s entirely justifiable when, in answer, he stumbles forward and grips Dazai’s collar, pulling him down to bring their lips together.
Later, when Chuuya comes to work, the manager of the store tells him that he needs to stop biting his lip when worried—swellings like that just prove her point.
Chuuya flushes scarlet, and hits Dazai with a menu when he starts laughing.
By evening, the whole university knows. Five different people seek him out to ask if he’s gone completely mad, three of which are Dazai’s previous roommates. And when Dazai himself appears, babbling something about a suicide convention until Chuuya shuts him up with a kiss, Chuuya could swear he hears at least two people mutter, “ Satan-whisperer .”
But that’s alright—partly because he is , in all honestly, but partly because he’s happy .
Chuuya is the happiest he’s ever been—disgustingly so, as Akutagawa so helpfully puts it one day—and, to his relief, even as the high of the first day fades, he stays happy.
At least, that is, until Dazai has a new idea.
“Hey, Chuuya, will you double-suicide with me?”