Growing Back

Rated: T

Length: 9,400

Warnings: torture.

Growing Back

There’s no better way to call how Chuuya feels now than restless. He’s no stranger to the feeling, no stranger to the weird, lulling periods that follow fast-paced action when his organization is put in jeopardy, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Everything had been fast-falling from the moment Dazai strutted back into the picture. Like a literal avalanche. Chuuya has dealt with it agreeably enough—he likes when things get tough, likes the too-rare occasion to actually use his damn fighting skills—but now, after the fear and stress of Dostoyevsky’s attacks, it’s like everything has come to standstill. At least for the port mafia.

Every day full of nothing grates at Chuuya’s nerves and makes him seethe. He hasn’t stopped wishing, since the moment he was released from that Guild member’s ability, that he would be given the opportunity to punch Dostoyevsky in the face himself.

Or Dazai, for that matter.

But Dostoyevsky is firmly guarded by the special ability department. No matter how much Chuuya’s worked with Sakaguchi, he doubts he’ll be given access, especially for something this futile. He’s also not actually stupid enough to expose himself to someone whom Dazai’s called a goddamn rival—and that is another thought making the thin-stretched irritation in him pull a little closer to snapping.

When his phone rings, and Dazai’s old number that he hasn’t deleted despite the years shines bright on the screen, Chuuya feels his patience run out.

“What the fuck do you want, Dazai,” he growls before he’s even shoved the device against his ear.

It’s not Dazai who answers.

“Hello, executive of the port mafia! Long time no see.”

“What—”

“I’m looking through Dazai’s things right now,” the person continues, as if Chuuya hasn’t frozen still on his end, mind rushing in its hurry to place the familiarity of their voice, “his dorm room is disgusting. I’m gonna make him pay me back so, so much for this.”

“Who is this?” Chuuya hears himself ask. His fingers are pressed too tight on his phone, and the plastic case gives something close to a crack. He has to will himself to hold on more loosely.

“Forgot about me already?” the man says. “Mr Fancy Hat.”

It clicks, then.

Chuuya’s lips curl, teeth bared to no one in the silence of his apartment. With the way Edogawa chuckles, it’s like he’s seen it anyway. “I’ll spare you the trouble of asking, I know you’re not the brightest of the bunch. Are you?”

“I’ll kill you,” Chuuya hisses. “How the fuck did you get this number?”

“See! Stupid. Obviously, I’m using Dazai’s old phone.” Edogawa pauses. “Did you know he has you saved as ‘Slug’?”

Chuuya does. He was there to see it happen.

“What do you want,” he mutters, rubbing his forehead with gloved fingers. It’s not a great idea. The leather is rough against his skin, which is still dirty from the two days and one night he’s just spent poured over record upon record of Dostoyevsky’s sightings in the last few years. He’s pretty sure he has ink on his nose as well.

He just wants a shower. Some sleep. Possibly to go out later and find someone to fuck the tension out of him until he’s not thinking so much.

Edogawa’s voice has lost its humor when he replies, “Dazai’s been arrested.”

Chuuya’s hand falls from his face. “That’s impossible,” he says.

“You would think so, yes. But he was, three days ago, in all due forms. Arrested and charged with… I think it was one hundred and thirty-eight murders, three hundred and twelve accounts of blackmail, and some other six hundred frauds. I lost count, to be frank.”

Chuuya’s chest feels very tight. He doesn’t realize he’s stopped breathing until the air trapped in his lungs starts aching brightly, and then it’s all he can do not to expel it at once and give himself away.

“Those records were erased,” he says slowly.

“Were they,” Edogawa replies.

Every trace of Dazai’s activities were gone from the mafia’s own archives the moment he defected. Chuuya never bothered to find out if he did it himself or if he had an accomplice. All he knows is that the special ability department lost them as well. For years, no one even knew, officially, if Dazai Osamu had ever existed or was just a figment of their collective imagination.

“Do you know who did it?” he asks.

“The police, obviously. It’s what happens when you’re a criminal.”

“Stop fucking with me.” Hearing Dazai being called a criminal shouldn’t make him feel anything—it’s what he is, clean slate or not, nothing can erase the blood he’s spilled except for God’s intervention—but there is something strikingly wrong about someone from the agency saying it. Especially the way Edogawa did. Chuuya breathes in through his nose and adds, “This is another of that asshole’s plans, isn’t it. Dostoyevsky.”

“Even if it is,” Edogawa says, “it wouldn’t be very smart of me to admit it to an enemy, would it?”

“You’re the one calling me,” Chuuya growls into the receiver. “Obviously you want something from me.”

“Maybe I just like torturing you! I didn’t stay long enough to watch you punch aimlessly at Poe-kun’s ability, after all.”

Chuuya swears, and kicks the shoe he’s halfway out of into the nearest wall, making the lit lamp on it tremble. “Just get on with it,” he spits out. “What do you want? Why tell me that Dazai’s been arrested? Like you said, we’re enemies.”

Edogawa is silent for a long time. So long that Chuuya starts suspecting that he’s left. The line is still live, still cracking with static in his ear, but not even the sound of the other’s breathing can be heard.

“Two reasons,” he admits eventually. “First, because I wanted to know if he really did kill and blackmail so many people.”

Chuuya says nothing.

“And so he did,” Edogawa concludes. “It’s more than I expected. He must’ve started young.”

“He was mafia,” Chuuya can’t help but say. It sounds defensive, and he has no idea what to do with that. “It’s what we do.”

“I wonder how many you’ve killed.”

The exact number is unknown, because Chuuya has never kept count the way Dazai used to, but it’s also in the hundreds. Probably. It feels like thousands when his victims’ faces stare at him in his nightmares.

“What do you want,” he repeats.

“I’d like you to break him out, of course.”

Chuuya aborts a gesture, his free hand raised to grab on nothing, and he’s absurdly glad that Edogawa isn’t here to see it.

“Fuck no,” he replies, less heatedly than he hoped. “Bastard got what he deserves. Break him out yourselves.”

“But your power’s so convenient!”

It makes him hesitate; he knows Dazai’s told the agency about him, but he doesn’t know if he felt the needed to mention Corruption. It would be the smart thing to do, but Dazai is nothing if not secretive, and he has a thing about Corruption. Doesn’t like mentioning it and doesn’t like when Chuuya uses it. Chuuya can’t imagine anyone calling his power convenient if they knew.

“Not the most useful for a break-in,” he replies. “I know you have a guy who can materialize shit. And another who can make himself invisible. Sounds way more fitting for infiltration.”

“Kunikida just got out of jail, it seems wrong to send him back so soon,” Edogawa whines.

“What the fuck do you mean, jail? And why should I listen to you anyway!” He shifts his hold so he’s yelling directly into the mic, and his forehead is starting to ache from frowning, too, like the rest of him. Fuck, he really wants to sleep. “I don’t have to deal with Dazai’s bullshit anymore, he’s your burden now. Good fucking luck.”

“So loud!” Edogawa laughs. “Well, I’m running out of time, so I guess I’ll just tell you. The others aren’t sure they should break him out. I’m in a bit of a bind about it.”

“That’s the most stupid shit I’ve ever heard.”

“Isn’t it? Law-abiding citizens can be so bothersome.” This is wrong, too, Edogawa agreeing with him, but Chuuya feels too torn to care. “So, since we never officially broke off our alliance—even after you tried to attack us and kill our director…” Edogawa’s voice is low enough to send a shiver down Chuuya’s back when he continues: “I thought I’d ask someone from your side to help him.”

“You thought you’d ask the criminal organization he betrayed to help him,” Chuuya replies dryly. “Genius idea.”

“It is a genius idea,” Edogawa says. “There’s three reasons for that as well.”

“Go off.”

“The first is that you’re in more danger than us if he decides to talk about what he knows. Took quite a bit of intel with him when he left, didn’t he?”

He had. Including a copy Chuuya’s own record. Chuuya doesn’t reply, his mind too busy trying to find a way out of the situation—he can break himself out of any facility easily enough, jail included, but he would rather not deal with having his face known to the public like that. He doesn’t fancy going into hiding or having to change his appearance.

“He’ll die if he talks,” he replies. “He knows that.”

“Mmh. Well, if not that, then consider it payment for trying to kill our director. That should’ve broken the alliance, in my opinion.”

“Yeah.”

“You don’t have any remorse, do you?” Edogawa doesn’t sound surprised. “The second reason, more obviously, is that it wouldn’t do well for agency members to break criminals out. We have the ministry breathing down our backs with everything we do. I prefer Dazai out because there’s no telling what someone might do to him in there, and because we’re better armed against Dostoyevsky with him. Plus, he’s fun.”

“Fun,” Chuuya mutters. “And hang on—that means we’d have to hide him, on top of breaking him out.”

“Of course. Just for a while. Until I can convince everyone here that we should hide him.”

Edogawa’s already talking like this is a settled thing. Chuuya clenches his teeth and retorts, “Are you fucking dumb? Everyone here wants him dead, you’d be handing him over just to be killed. What the fuck kind of plan—”

“Which brings me to the third reason I’m calling you,” Edogawa cuts in evenly, completely unbothered. “You won’t kill him.”

“Oh, won’t I?”

“No,” he replies simply. “You care about him.”

The phone almost slips from between Chuuya’s fingers. As it is he has to reign down on his own breathing to keep it from hitching and betraying the jump he’s felt through his belly and chest, the second of freefall that’s just made him waver.

“I don’t,” he replies, from the very end of his lips. “I don’t give a shit if he dies.”

“Please,” Edogawa scoffs. “I guessed the moment he talked about you the first time, and you pretty much confirmed it when we met. You won’t kill him.”

“This conversation is over.”

“You’re very childish,” and this is almost enough to push Chuuya into hanging up outright, but Edogawa goes on, “but in this case it plays in our favor. You won’t let him rot in jail because you won’t risk the mafia’s dirty laundry being leaked to officials, and you won’t harm him because you like him.”

It’s fucking obnoxious, the immediate need to ask him what he means by that, exactly. This isn’t something Chuuya has acknowledged to himself, let alone anyone else. His face burns as he remembers the type of empty hook-ups he’s gone through in the last few months—the type he was planning on finding tonight. Tall and lanky men with lopsided grins who don’t satisfy any of the itch he’s carrying under his skin but who make do for a couple hours.

Of course, this is the moment Kouyou chooses to pay him a visit. He hears the click of her key in his front door and meets her eyes as soon as she steps in; and her mouth slips from smile to frown, her brows creasing in concern at the sight of him.

“Fuck you,” he says emptily.

“Is that a yes?”

Fuck you. Yeah, okay, fine.” He takes a deep breath. “I’ll break that bastard out. You keep your fucking mouth shut and better get me some damn good wine in exchange.”

“I’ll put it on Dazai’s tab,” Edogawa answers brightly. “Well, pleasure to do business with you, Mr Fancy Hat.”

“I have a name.”

“Can’t seem to remember it. I’ll text you the prison’s address and contact you once I get the others to agree to keep him.”

He hangs up. Chuuya lets his arm fall down his side slowly, his phone gripped tightly between his fingers.

“Chuuya?” Kouyou asks.

“I’m fine,” he replies automatically. And then—”No, fuck, I’m not fine. Dazai’s been arrested.“

She takes a small, gasping breath. Chuuya lets her approach, a silent glide of silk on wood, and runs his hand through his hair. He knows he looks unkempt, clothes rumpled and exhaustion bruised under his eyes, knows that she will try to comfort him for it, but he still tenses when she touches his shoulder. She lets go warily.

“Sorry,” he lets out.

“It’s quite all right,” she replies. “What do you mean, arrested?”

Chuuya takes in a long, settling breah. “Someone somehow got their hands on his records.” He glances at her, sees the confusion on her face. “All of it,” he presses. “From when he worked with us. He’s been charged with over a hundred murders.”

“That’s impossible,” she replies. “He erased everything when he left.”

“Yeah, well, it happened. Edogawa from the agency wants me to break him out while he convinces his idiot friends to stop being cowards about it.”

Kouyou looks at him in silence.

It’s hard not to fidget under her stare when she does that. Chuuya is no expert at hiding how he feels, and he lets out more in her presence than in anyone else’s. She won’t report anything to Mori, he knows, but it is poor consolation when he wants no one to be able to read this out of him.

The fact that some genius from the enemies’ side figured it out in a minute makes him want to break something.

“Infiltration is not your strongest asset,” she says eventually.

He snorts. “I can pull off breaking someone out of jail.”

“I don’t doubt it.” She sighs. “Ougai-dono won’t be too happy to hear about this.”

“I’ll let you handle him,” he mutters. “If that’s okay.”

She nods wordlessly.

His phone buzzes again. Chuuya opens Edogawa’s text mechanically, commits the address on it to memory before erasing it. His and Dazai’s conversation box stands empty after that, because he’s stupid enough not to delete a number out of misplaced nostalgia, but not enough to leave past exchanges for anyone to see. Including himself.

Kouyou watches him do it without comment. He can practically feel her sympathy, and it’s not what he wants at all. He straightens his back.

“I’m taking care of this today,” he says, already thinking about who to take with him—whom he can trust enough not to gossip or to try and kill Dazai on sight.

Mori’s approval, or lack thereof, will weigh in heavily. Loath as Chuuya is to admit it, the fact that neither side broke off the alliance is a good thing.


Mori approves, unsurprisingly. Dazai being out of the game is of no help when a common enemy still poses a threat, even if that enemy is currently physically restrained. It’s not an hour before Kouyou is back to Chuuya’s place to tell him, and that’s enough time for him to shower and fill his stomach with takeout and coffee. He’ll sleep when this is done.

Chuuya takes Gin and Higuchi with him. It’s too many people for a simple prison break—way too much brute strength—but Higuchi handles communication like no other, and Gin is, frankly, the person he trusts the most by his side outside of Dazai himself.

Sometimes he wishes he could lie to himself better and pretend he doesn’t trust Dazai at all.

“This is overkill,” Gin murmurs once they’re behind the prison complex.

It stands outside the city proper, surrounded by the simplest grey wall and barbed wire combination. Chuuya is pretty sure that half of the cameras surrounding it are out right now for lack of maintenance money. Higuchi confirms it once he’s done bugging them.

“We could just walk through the front door, Chuuya-san.” Gin looks deeply offended by the fact.

“Shut up, I get it,” he replies tiredly. “I don’t want to be here either.”

They’re both dressed for the occasion, in soft and silent black clothes for ease of movement. Hair tied tightly together under their caps and scarf-like masks now hanging low over their necks. Chuuya stretches his shoulders while Higuchi secures their eyes inside the building, and he can’t help but smile when he sees Gin do the same, regardless of her disdain. He’s trained her well.

“All good,” Higuchi says. Her equipment is scarce, a simple laptop and a couple walkie-talkies, spread around her on the roof. “Outside cameras are on loop for the next five minutes.”

The building they’re on is close enough that Chuuya can carry himself and Gin with the Tainted Sorrow over to the prison and drop literally in the backyard. Gin lets him grab her by the upper arm and doesn’t even flinch as weightlessness settles inside them both; he positions them over the edge and kicks as powerfully as he can with his legs. He doesn’t dare redirect gravity to the direction he’s aiming at to facilitate it, because he’s not sure Gin can experience that without puking, but that’s fine. The momentum carries them through the distance easily, and Chuuya drops them in the empty yard of the prison with no sound.

It’s pretty much night time. The sky is a thin grey line of light in the west, the dark thick enough already that no one on ground could’ve seen them unless they were looking for them. Higuchi caused preemptive technical issues with the street lamps outside, and the lights of the prison itself only face inward.

Stupid, he thinks.

“Don’t kill anyone if you can avoid it,” he says, muffled through the mask. He feels Gin nod by his side. “Come in, incapacitate, don’t be seen, come out.”

“Rope?”

He pats the side of his backpack. “Stupid fucking ability-nullifier. He weighs a ton, too.”

Gin doesn’t really grin, ever, but the way she looks at him is mocking all the same.

Chuuya leads the way along the wall and toward where the first guard stands. It’s easy enough to stand watch while Gin does her job, quick and silent as a shadow. The man doesn’t even sigh as he falls unconscious, and Chuuya slides the pass card out of his pocket before he touches ground. The door leading inside the building unlocks with a faint click.

They need to find where Dazai is kept, first. Higuchi guides them toward the main offices of the prison with clipped words, not commenting as they fell more guards and shove their lifeless bodies in bathroom stalls and cupboards. The chloroform will knock them out for at least an hour, so that’s about all the time they have from the moment the first one went to sleep to get Dazai out.

It’s too easy.

Gin’s boredom is almost palpable. Chuuya can find some amusement in the situation because he doesn’t often do infiltration, but she’s an expert at it, and he knows this is so below her level it’s almost insulting. She would have felt insulted, if it weren’t him asking her for help. She’s never been able to refuse him anything, and he takes care not to abuse that privilege. Chuuya downloads the blueprint of the facility onto the tiny Kajii-made tablet he’s carrying and enters Dazai’s name into the computer.

“He’s not registered yet,” he mutters when the search result comes out empty. “Or at all.”

“Figures,” Higuchi replies. “The one in charge for this shift is called Mishima—office on the third floor, eastern wing. Last door on the left.”

“We’ll head there.”

The guards are mostly relaxed from habit, the inmates mostly asleep. Chuuya doesn’t bother incapacitating the ones who walk in front of the cells; he crawls along the high ceiling, above the suspended lights that keep the hallways under them bright—Stupid, he thinks again—and Gin crawls with him, holding his ankle with one hand. They drop when they reach the east wing and climb up the stairs quickly.

Mishima is, as Higuchi said, in the prison head’s office. Lazily filling out paperwork in front of a lit TV screen that’s currently running an old drama. His eyes are glassy when they find Chuuya and Gin; by the time they’ve widened in surprise and his fingers are on their way to the alarm button hidden under the desk, Gin has a knife at his throat.

“Shush now,” Chuuya says when Mishima starts whimpering. His nose twitches at the sudden acrid scent of sweat that fills the air; he takes out his own knife, hoists himself onto the desk soundlessly, and pushes the man’s right hand flat over the table. His blade comes to a rest above Mishima’s pinky.

“I don’t have any money,” Mishima stutters, staring fixedly at his own hand.

“Not here for that,” Chuuya replies evenly. “Tell us where you keep Dazai Osamu.”

“I d-don’t know who that—”

Chuuya starts cutting, and his blade is sharp enough that a simple press draws blood from Mishima’s knuckle and turns his whimper into a high, muffled moan of terror and pain.

“Please, please stop—”

“Tell us where he is.”

“I don’t know anyone by that name!”

Gin’s knife, blunter than his, digs threateningly into Mishima’s neck.

Fat tears have started rolling down the man’s face. He’s completely red, his nose running with clear snot that leaves a shiny trail over his trembling lips. Sweat gleams at his receding hairline and catches all the light in the room like a beacon.

“He was brought in three days ago,” Chuuya says encouragingly. His grip hasn’t faltered on the knife; blood pools over the polished surface of the desk, and he pushes away the documents that the man was working on earlier—he knows how much of a hassle bloodstains can be. “Tall guy, on the thin side,” he continues. “Scarred all over his arms, probably tried to talk the guards’ ears off when he arrived. He’s awaiting trial for murdering over a hundred people.”

He ignores the knowing glance Gin gives him over the man’s bent-back head; Mishima’s face has flashed with recognition, at last.

“I, I didn’t know his name,” he whispers, “he’s in solitary right now, in this wing, first floor—”

Chuuya lifts the knife. Mishima slumps in his leather armchair like a puppet cut from its strings. Only his head remains up, Gin’s blade still pressed under his chin.

“Thank you,” Chuuya tells him. Then, to Gin: “Get rid of him before he pisses himself.”

“I have to give a signal every hour!” Mishima shrieks. “They’ll be there in a minute if I don’t reply—”

“Oh, thanks for telling us,” Chuuya replies, before hitting his temple with the handle of his knife.

Gin has enough sense to retract hers before Mishima accidentally slits his own throat as he falls.

It’s nothing bad. He probably won’t even be concussed, just wake up with an awful headache, and they’ll be long gone by then. Chuuya takes care of the signal—a button right next to the alarm under the desk—while Gin shoves the man’s unconscious form into the bathroom at the back of the office and locks the door from outside with the tip of a screwdriver. Chuuya wipes the blood off the desk quickly. He shoves the dirty cloth into a pocket of his pants afterward; it’s better than letting it sit around.

Things start feeling off the moment they step out of the office.

It’s nothing he can put his finger on. The air feels like it’s shimmering, but it might just be a trick of the light on dust that makes it look like snow for the barest second—until Higuchi’s voice rings in his ear, tense on something she must be able to see that he can’t, “Watch out!”

Something grabs Chuuya by the shoulder, someone’s hand, loaded with strength; surprise makes him unable to react in time to avoid being tripped and shoved face-first onto the floor, and then he stops struggling, because the end of a taser presses into the side of his neck.

“Who are you?” asks a voice. It’s faintly familiar.

He hears Gin choke on something—turns his head long enough to glimpse disembodied hands wrapping around her neck and holding her up. The person holding him down grabs the earpiece he’s been using to talk to Higuchi and rips it off.

If it’s broken, he’ll never hear the end of it. Kajii is too protective of his stuff.

Chuuya’s mind is running. These aren’t guards. It’s unlikely that any of the ones they’ve knocked out has had time to wake up yet, and as far as he knows, communication between them only happens if some emergency comes up. The ones who are still conscious should be unaware.

“It’s polite to introduce yourself first,” he answers.

The person—man?— turns him around with practiced ease; there’s no way out of the hold that Chuuya can feel, which is worrying in itself, because this is something he knows and is good at. Whoever caught him is as good a martial artist as himself. Perhaps even better.

He doesn’t say anything as he falls to his back and his mask is tugged down. He doesn’t need to, anyway, because the person pauses in surprise just long enough for Chuuya to shove a knee between them and kick them away with all his strength. The taser finally leaves his throat.

He doesn’t hear the sound of them crashing into the opposite wall. He crouches on the floor, eyes fixed onto where Gin is still struggling to free herself of her invisible opponent, ears tuning out her gasps to focus on any sound.

“Wait,” says the person. “Hang on—Tanizaki, drop Light Snow.”

There’s a suspended second, during which Chuuya has enough time to recognize that name—and then two men from the armed detective agency appear amidst the greenish glow of an ability.

Gin steps harshly onto Tanizaki’s foot; he yelps and drops her, and she kicks him away.

“Now this is overkill,” Chuuya mutters, rising to his feet. His eyes are staring at the man who held him down. Kunikida, he knows, though he’s only seen him once.

“What are you doing here?” Kunikida asks, face scrunched in indignation.

“Same thing as you, I’m guessing.”

Chuuya glances at Gin in askance. She nods slightly, and some of his tension drops.

“Fuck,” he sighs, rolling his shoulders. The right one still aches from Kunikida’s hold. “Well, whatever. You’re here for Dazai, right?”

Tanizaki and Kunikida tense visibly. “Are you here to kill him?” Tanizaki asks.

Chuuya lets out a brief laugh. “I wish. No, I’m here to get him out, actually—you guys didn’t tell any of your friends you were coming, did you?”

He doesn’t need to look at them to know the answer. His eyes roam over the floor until he catches sight of the earpiece. He picks it up and sets it back in place.

“Higuchi?”

“I’m here,” she says. “Is everything okay? The cameras in your corridor stopped working—”

“We’re good,” Chuuya answers, lips curled into a smile. “The agency’s here, though.”

“Yeah. Sorry. I was trying to warn you, I’ve seen that ability before.”

“It’s fine.” He looks back at the two men; they’re standing close together now, not doing anything to attack but not looking very friendly. “I’m doing this as a favor to Edogawa,” he tells them. “He asked me to get Dazai out and hide him while you lot were taking your sweet time deciding what to do. You need to work on your communication skills.”

“Why did you accept?” Kunikida asks, glaring at him. “Dazai was pretty clear about the fact that you, specifically, hate his guts.”

Chuuya ignores the question. “Dazai’s on the first floor,” he says. “Let’s just get him out before the guards we took out start waking up, we can fight after that.”

Gin falls alongside him when he steps away, not bothering to hear their answer. There’s only one answer the agency could give when offered to help one of their own.

It is a surprise to feel Tanizaki’s ability fall over the both of them as well, though. Chuuya blinks as his own body disappears from sight, murmurs a word of reassurance when Higuchi starts fretting at the loss of visual feedback again. It’s definitely easier to walk around a guarded place when no one can see or hear him. He doesn’t even need to mask his face again; he steps in front of a man in uniform and the man doesn’t even flinch when he waves a hand in his face, his eyes still fixed onto the row of cells he’s watching over. They all reach the first floor with no incident.

“What the hell did he do to land himself in solitary after only three days?” Kunikida mutters with the voice of a man who knows exactly the sort of shit Dazai could do.

Chuuya smiles. He doesn’t need to hide it, either; no one can see him.

They watch the reinforced door of the cell for another minute. There are two guards in front of it, whom Chuuya knows will not have the key to it. He tells the others as much.

“This door’s too heavy to be broken,” Tanizaki murmurs.

“I can break it,” Chuuya says. “But it’ll make a lot of noise.”

“No need for that.” Kunikida. “All the keys here look roughly the same, right?” There’s the sound of cloth being ruffled and then the scratch of a pen on paper. Kunikida whispers something, too low to be heard; the air shivers with the unmistakable feeling of an ability coming alive. “Got the key,” he says once he’s done.

“Gin,” Chuuya calls.

It’s near-instantaneous. The first guard falls with nary a sound, and the second barely has time to realize that it’s happening before he loses consciousness as well. Tanizaki’s illusion, or whatever it is that keeps them all concealed, drops at last. Kunikida makes his way to the door with one disapproving glance toward Gin, who stares back, unimpressed. The key he’s holding slides smoothly into the lock of the door. It opens with a creak of ill-oiled joints.

It’s criminal in itself how useful these powers are without being used for crime. Chuuya’s seen the damage that Kunikida has done to Akutagawa, that Tanizaki has done to Higuchi; he’s met with the doctor who left Kajii for dead and the boy who lifted a train track with his bare hands; he knows Kyouka’s vicious and natural ability to kill. Coupled with their man-tiger’s strength, with Edogawa’s skills, with the Silver Wolf, with Dazai… The armed detective agency could one day decide to turn sides and start encroaching on mafia territory, and there would be very little to do about it except wage war and hope to win.

Mori must have realized that a long time ago. The thought puts some of his recent decisions into perspective.

Chuuya is broken out of his observations by the faint sound of Dazai’s voice humming through the now open door. He walks in alongside Kunikida while Tanizaki and Gin stand watch outside, and Dazai blinks lazily at them, his singing cut short.

“Now I’m really dreaming,” he slurs, looking between the two of them slowly.

There’s something wrong with him. It’s visible immediately despite the dark of the solitary cell. He’s wearing the prison’s uniform for one, an ugly grey overall thing that’s about a size too big for him but still manages to rise short at the ankles. His hair has been shorn closer to his scalp than Chuuya has ever seen it, leaving his face and forehead strikingly bare. His eyes look immense without bangs to hide behind, and their pupils are blown so wide that all trace of his irises is gone. When Chuuya drops to his knees beside him and touches him, his skin is clammy.

“He’s drugged,” he tells Kunikida. Dazai makes a low, vulnerable noise when he drops his wrist—Chuuya doesn’t let himself acknowledge the tug of worry he feels at it.

“Knew it was in the water,” Dazai says, stretching the words as if he’s forgotten how to pronounce them at all. Chuuya glances at the untouched tray of food by his side. “Didn’t wanna drink it but I was so thirsty…”

Kunikida makes himself useful, at least. He drops by Dazai’s other side and helps Chuuya drag him up. It becomes quickly obvious that Dazai can’t walk by himself, so Kunikida drapes him over his back and hooks his arms under Dazai’s thighs. Dazai’s head bobs almost comically on his shoulder. He’s looking at Chuuya’s black cap.

“Where’s your hair?” he asks.

“I cut it,” Chuuya replies.

Dazai stares at him, wide-eyed, childlike.

“Let’s get out of here,” Chuuya mutters, turning away from him.

He doesn’t feel so interested in Tanizaki’s ability the second time it surrounds him.

He’s grateful for the agency members’ presence anyway. Carrying Dazai as he is now would’ve been difficult, and climbing the wall in the courtyard with him as complete dead weight even more so. With Tanizaki and Kunikida they get to literally walk out of the front door with no one the wiser; Kunikida fishes the fake key he must have produced on his way in out of his pocket and opens the heavy portal, and not a single one of the people standing guard behind it notice the sound or sight. They walk away completely unseen.

It’s not until they reach a park a few hundred meters from the prison, back into the city itself, that Kunikida drops Dazai on a bench and Tanizaki lets his power fall. Chuuya gives Higuchi their coordinates in clipped words, eyes still on Dazai’s unfocused face. He’s started humming again.

“You’re a terrible singer,” Tanizaki jokes weakly.

Dazai pauses to look at him. “Chuuya’s a good singer,” is what he replies.

Chuuya shifts on his feet to address Kunikida, heart beating bruises into his chest. “You don’t have a place to keep him, do you?” he asks.

Kunikida is obviously hesitant to answer. He’s looking between Dazai and Chuuya like he’s trying to read things Chuuya doesn’t even know exist. It’s enough to make his irritation flare. He’s truly exhausted now, with the weight of two days and a night spent on his feet, buried into work.

“No,” he admits eventually. “We didn’t—we didn’t think that far.”

“I’ll take him,” Chuuya says. At the way Kunikida bristles with suspicion, he adds, “I won’t hurt him, fuck. I made a deal with Edogawa—just take it up with him and contact me once you’ve secured a place.”

“Why should any of us believe the port mafia?” Kunikida replies lowly, taking a step forward. Chuuya’s stance shifts reflexively, and the way Kunikida eyes his feet and shoulders speaks of the kind of hand-to-hand experience that almost makes him wish he could indulge in a good fight right now.

He’s just too tired to.

“I don’t care if you don’t believe me,” he says. “But I don’t have anything to gain by hurting him now. I need to figure out if he talked, and killing him while he’s drugged out of his mind would be too easy.” He smiles darkly. “I’ll give him a fair fight when we reach that point, Kunikida.”

Kunikida only seems faintly surprised that Chuuya knows his name, but it’s enough to secure the tiny bit of resignation he needs to make him relent. He sighs, and looks at Dazai once more. His eyes are full of pity.

“Did he really kill all those people?” he asks.

It’s a fair question. Dazai now looks like he couldn’t hurt a fly, let alone a person. Chuuya’s familiar enough with him to know that he can put up a good innocent front. He’s seen him enough times in the past months to realize that what he originally thought to be a front may even have become reality. Dazai isn’t the same now as he was when they were partners; and it’s unsettling, yes, but also weirdly comforting.

“Ask him yourself,” Chuuya replies. “Once he’s in a state to tell you.”

Kunikida accepts the answer with a nod.

Dazai may yet lose what he’s gained after leaving. It was stupid of him to think that what he did wouldn’t one day catch up to him. But the fact that his colleagues came to his rescue despite being divided, despite not knowing for sure whether the accusations leveled against him were real… this is not the sort of loyalty earned with false devotion. Dazai must be worth it to them in some way. Whether as a friend or as his own person, unrelated to personal feelings.

Kunikida and Tanizaki stay until Higuchi’s car parks in front of them. They help Chuuya set the now barely-conscious Dazai over the backseats. Chuuya takes his own seat at his other side, and suffers a brief moment of paralysis when Dazai drags himself closer and puts his head in his lap. Gin and Higuchi at the front make no comment, though their eyes linger.

“Do you have any cigarettes in here?” he asks as soon as the car’s engine starts.

Higuchi hesitates before answering, “Glove compartment.”

Gin rummages through it and emerges with a crumpled pack of Marlboros and a bright pink lighter. “Thanks,” Chuuya grunts out when she hands them over. He opens the window to Yokohama’s night air and lights one, sucking in a fifth of it in one breath. He coughs a little, throat burning pleasantly. The smoke hovers in front of him for a second before losing itself to the wind outside.

“Where’re we going?” comes Dazai’s voice.

His eyes are closed when Chuuya glances at him. His face turned to Chuuya’s stomach, his nose an inch from Chuuya’s belt. It’s weird to see him without his usual mop of hair—like the sight of his ear exposed to the chill of the night only highlights that his throat is open for the edge of any knife, without even bandages to hide it. Whoever chopped off his hair didn’t bother to make it even. The cut is horrid, has left an inch of length in places and almost cut him bald in others.

Anyone could kill him now. No need for genius, for drawn-out schemes, for necessary cruelty. A child could stab a blade into him, and Dazai would probably just watch himself bleed out and blink in confusion.

“My place,” Chuuya replies hoarsely.

Dazai only hums.

Chuuya keeps his hand on his own knife for the rest of the trip. He doesn’t ask himself why he feels the need to.

Higuchi drops him off at the bottom of his apartment building. It takes some effort to get Dazai to stand enough and be able to walk somewhat, and Chuuya can’t even use the Tainted Sorrow for help, but he manages. He carries the brunt of Dazai’s weight to the fourth floor where he lives and drags his key out of the depths of his backpack, under the rope he never did get to use. The door opens, closes behind him; he takes Dazai to his bedroom and drops him atop his bed with a sigh.

He takes off his cap and mask as he walks back to the kitchen, unties his hair out of its tight bun with what feels close to a moan, once tension releases from his scalp. There’s an unopened bottle of water in his fridge that he grabs and takes with him to the bedroom. Dazai has rolled to his side on the sheets; he holds the bottle when Chuuya hands it over, looking at it with vague suspicion.

“Drink it,” Chuuya says. “It’s not drugged.”

In the end he doesn’t manage to open it by himself. Chuuya has to twist the cap off for him. He does drink, though, with some greed. He probably didn’t let himself have too much of the spiked water in his cell, despite the thirst.

“I knew you were lying about your hair,” he mumbles when he’s done.

“What?” Chuuya says distractedly, placing the half-empty bottle on his nightstand.

“Your hair,” Dazai repeats. “You didn’t cut it.”

Chuuya huffs. “Of course I didn’t. Like I’d ever do that.”

“I’m glad.”

He sounds so sincere. The words spilled out of his lips like a secret held dear. Chuuya meets his eyes in the dark of the room, and the hallway’s glow from the open door is just enough to shine in Dazai’s slack face, making him look close to tears. Chuuya knows he isn’t—he’s never seen Dazai cry in his life, isn’t even sure Dazai knows how to cry at all—but his chest tightens all the same.

He walks to the end of the bed and tugs off Dazai’s shoes. “Go to sleep,” he says, setting them down. Dazai rolls over obligingly when he starts pulling at the blanket so he can throw it over him. He drags it closer to his body afterward. Wraps himself into it and comes to a stop once he’s lying on his front.

“Good night, Chuuya,” Dazai says into the pillow.

“Yeah,” Chuuya replies.

He doesn’t know what else to say.


Chuuya wakes up to the buzz of his phone on the floor. He doesn’t move at all, too busy blinking crust out of his eyes so he can identify the pattern of the back of his couch. His apartment smells like the coffee brew he reserves for lazy mornings and which he hasn’t had the occasion to use in some time now; it chases the last dregs of sleep out of him, allows him to identify the sound of water running from his bathroom and to remember why he slept on his couch in the first place.

It’s comfortable enough, though the armrest is a little high and has left a definite ache in his neck. The belt of the pants he wore the night before to infiltrate the prison has dug deeply into his stomach during the last hours, and he groans, loosening it a little. It’s the most movement he allows himself.

Eventually the shower stops. Footsteps filter in from the thin walls. Chuuya hears the bathroom door unlock and open, and he closes his eyes again before Dazai can reach him. The couch shudders under the weight of him as he leans over to peer down—this time the smell of Chuuya’s own shampoo hits him, tickling his nostrils. He scrunches his nose.

“So,” Dazai says above him, and his tone is enough to tell Chuuya that he’s back to himself entirely. “You broke me out of prison.”

Chuuya opens his eyes.

Dazai has folded his arms above the back of the couch. He’s probably been digging through Chuuya’s clothes for something to wear—this shirt is loose on him but a little short at the wrists. He raises one hand to put his chin in his palm once he notices Chuuya looking, and smiles down at him.

“I had some help,” Chuuya grunts in answer.

“Oh, I remember. You can’t imagine how much I regret not being lucid enough to properly watch you and Kunikida-kun interact.”

Great.

“Go away,” Chuuya says, pushing his entire face into the couch.

Dazai laughs, brightly enough that Chuuya can tell he’s hiding something. He’s too freshly awake to tense outright, but his stomach knots. All it does is make it growl. He hasn’t eaten anything in too long.

“Breakfast?” Dazai asks lightly. “I made coffee.”

“Sure. Whatever.”

Chuuya rolls over to his other side once Dazai steps toward the kitchen. He rubs his eyes, drags his fingers over his mouth, tastes the dryness of his own tongue with some disgust. There’s a message from Mackerel on his phone when he picks it up. It’s an address.

“Your pals found you a hiding place,” he calls.

“Mmh.”

Chuuya drops his phone on the couch and pushes himself into a standing position. The room only wavers for a second around him. He shivers at how cold the floor is under his bare feet but makes his way to Dazai regardless, pushing his hair out of his face.

He doesn’t look at him, not even as Dazai pushes a mug full of coffee in his direction. The burn of it on his tongue is enough to snap him back into himself, and he drops into a chair.

“Fuck,” he lets out. “I have to drive you there before I get to work. You’re too much trouble for what you’re worth.”

“Right now I’m tempted to agree.”

Dazai’s tone is level, his words easy and not wrong per se. Still, Chuuya glances at him over his next sip, meeting eyes that seem too dark now for the person Dazai has become. The haircut makes it worse, somehow.

“You look like shit,” he says.

“Once more—I have to agree.” Dazai grimaces. “Prison hair really doesn’t add to my dashing self, does it?”

“Your previous hair didn’t either.”

“Now you’re just lying, Chuuya.”

It’s the way he says his name—Dazai’s always made a game of it, always lingered on it as if it’s a joke, as if it’s an insult. Now, as if it’s something worthy of a smile.

“Shut up,” Chuuya says, draining more of his coffee. Dazai really made the good stuff. He must have brewed it in a pot over the gas, poured the sugar in directly then, because it burns in Chuuya’s mouth and drags shivers out of his scalp, sweet and dark and wonderful. “You’ll be out of my hands in an hour. Good riddance.”

“Why did you accept?” Dazai asks. He hasn’t touched his own cup.

“Why did I accept what?” Chuuya answers.

“Someone from the agency must’ve asked you to help me.” He pauses, looking up at the ceiling. “Ranpo-san, probably. Kunikida-kun and our director must’ve been too busy telling the others that a mass murderer getting arrested for his crimes is, in fact, the way things should be.”

“Kunikida came to help too, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” Dazai replies. “I’m still a bit confused about that part.”

It makes Chuuya snort softly. Of course he would be confused about that.

“Boss was up for it,” he says, eyeing the cupboards above the table. He’s truly hungry now that his mouth doesn’t taste like a dead thing, but he’s not sure hunger is worth getting up to pull anything edible out. “Someone needed to make sure you didn’t go and snitch on us. Did you, by the way?”

“No,” Dazai replies lowly. “They tried to make me talk, but official prisons don’t do real torture. Petty abuse is easy to deal with.”

It’s not, but Dazai is not someone who would acknowledge or even see it. “Well, you’re out now,” Chuuya says, leaning back into his chair to look at him. “And officially on the run from the law, not just the mafia.”

“I’m not running from you anymore, am I?”

Chuuya’s next breath fades into nothing, doesn’t even make the steam of his coffee shiver. He doesn’t look away from Dazai’s eyes or let himself show the agitated current that’s just risen under his skin.

“We’d know where to find you anyway,” he replies.

He can’t tell if Dazai’s eyes flash in disappointment or not. Dazai looks away and finally sips from his own mug. The silence that unfolds then is twenty different kinds of heavy.

Chuuya ends up breaking a piece of bread out of his pantry and eating it without anything else. He deserts the kitchen to go back to his room and make himself more presentable. Dazai has gone through his stuff, left most things a mess in his wake—several of Chuuya’s pants are thrown across the floor, which makes him roll his eyes. Dazai’s simply wearing the prison pants, short and ugly as they are, the top part of the overalls hanging from his hips. In the end he probably only took a shirt out of Chuuya’s closet.

Chuuya changes out of his clothes, brushes his teeth, combs his hair until it doesn’t look like he’s just woken up quite as much, and walks back into the living-room.

“You could’ve tidied up after yourself,” he says, irritated. “I’ll have to iron all that shit you pulled out again.”

Dazai’s on the couch now, thumbing through the book Chuuya started reading weeks ago and never found the time to finish. He probably displaced the bookmark, just to be contradictory.

“It’s not my fault all your pants hems don’t go below my knees,” he replies.

“You’re wearing too-short pants now.”

“At least these close around the waist.”

“You look fucking ridiculous,” Chuuya snaps, ripping the book out of Dazai’s hands and throwing it back onto the coffee table. “Get up, I’m getting you to your safehouse so you can die of boredom there and finally rid the world of your presence.”

“This isn’t how I wanted to go at all,” Dazai sighs. “That man really messes with all my plans.”

It gives Chuuya pause. His eyes roam over Dazai as he stands up, and for the first time he realizes that Dazai has lost more weight than should be possible in three days, even three days spent refusing to feed himself. His face had always been deceptively soft as a teenager, something that carried over into adulthood the few times they had met after that. Now his cheekbones are more defined. The skin under his eyes darkened by insomnia. His new lack of hair only makes him look thinner.

“You’ll get him,” he hears himself say.

Dazai is tired enough—or weak enough—to let his surprise show. He smiles, after that, and says mockingly, “I have to, don’t I?”

“Dazai.” Chuuya steps closer to him and lifts a hand; Dazai doesn’t move away when he grabs his shoulder, and it does feel thin under his palm, bonier than it ought to. “You’ll get him,” he repeats. “So just—stop looking like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like you’re about to die. Or I don’t know, like you regret everything you’ve ever done. It pisses me off.”

“It pisses you off,” Dazai repeats slowly. “Well, we wouldn’t want that, would we. God knows how pathetic you get when you’re angry—you’re already not very useful as is, and considering the situation, we can’t afford to make our odds worse.”

“I’ll kill Dostoyevsky myself if I fucking have to,” Chuuya growls. “What are you trying to do, antagonize me? You can’t antagonize me more. Get yourself back in shape instead of saying useless shit like this.”

“But that’s the thing, isn’t it?” Dazai replies. “Everything I do is useless.”

Chuuya stares at him. Dazai stares back. There’s nothing but honesty in his eyes, nothing at all except for bone-deep fatigue.

“No,” Chuuya says. Then, before Dazai’s open mouth can spill more poison—”No, shut the fuck up. You don’t get to call yourself useless. You’re not alone in this.“

“Please,” Dazai sneers.

“You’re not. Fucking hell, Dazai, the detective agency broke you out of prison, they asked me to help break you out—obviously they give a shit about you, or you’d still be rotting there!”

“They broke me out because they need me now—”

Chuuya’s hand tightens on his shoulder, the grip harsh enough that Dazai’s face flashes with pain for the briefest second. “I can’t believe I have to spell this out for you,” he says between gritted teeth. “They care about you. Yeah, they won’t be happy when you tell them that you did kill all those people, but they’ll fucking get over it.”

Dazai looks at a loss for words. His mouth opens and closes, his lungs still behind his unmoving chest. It costs Chuuya something he doesn’t know how to name to take back his hand and clench it on nothing by his side.

“Stop looking like death warmed over,” he orders. “I’m getting you to that safehouse, and you’re gonna use that miracle brain of yours to find a way out of this mess. Got it?”

He turns around before Dazai can answer. It’s too hard, somehow, to watch him struggle to understand something that simple.

Chuuya puts on his shoes by the front door, grabs his car keys out of the clay pot sitting on the cabinet there. The address Edogawa sent him is about forty minutes away from his place by car, which means he’ll be late for his meeting with Kouyou at nine; he puts the keys in his pocket and takes out his phone instead, blinking blearily at the screen as he tries to find the words to write her with.

“Chuuya,” Dazai says from beside him.

An eternity of training himself out of surprise allows him not to jump. He hasn’t heard him approach at all. “What,” he replies, dragging his eyes away from the phone’s screen to look up at him—except he doesn’t need to look up at all, because Dazai leans down and kisses him.

Chuuya’s inhale dies before any air can reach his lungs. Dazai’s lips are warm from drinking still, wet because he must have licked them right before pressing them to Chuuya’s. He stays down for a second longer before pulling back, and the gentle drag of him on Chuuya’s mouth unlocks his body’s ability to breathe once more.

“Thank you,” Dazai says. The words hover warmly on Chuuya’s face.

Chuuya grabs him by the nape and pulls him down again.

This kiss is less startled, less tentative than the first. Chuuya can feel the flutter of Dazai’s eyelashes on his cheek, and he closes his eyes much the same—lets himself be taken by nothing but the slow, warm blood rushing to his face. He opens his mouth to suck in Dazai’s bottom lip, opens it again to lick into part of Dazai’s, and the breath that rushes over his face from Dazai’s nose at that is so, so much sweeter than any coffee. Dazai’s hand is grabbing clumsily at his waist now. His lips pressing and dragging over Chuuya’s and his tongue flicking back languidly.

Chuuya drags his fingers into the uneven hair at Dazai’s nape, scratches his nails along his scalp until Dazai moans into his mouth, almost too faintly to be heard. That single inch of length is still soft under his fingers. It would’ve been even softer if Chuuya had done this only three days ago.

Chuuya pulls away from Dazai’s swollen lips and says, “I’m going to kill the guy who cut your hair.”

Dazai laughs; all the air of it is a caress on Chuuya’s face, a pull for more that he has to resist bodily. “Hair grows back,” he replies.

He looks more like himself now than he has since waking up. The light of day brings color out of him, shines warmly on his hair and in his eyes. It’s hard to understand why Chuuya has denied himself the true name of how he feels when Dazai stands before him like this—alive, shaken but strong, flushed from kissing him. Chuuya can still taste him on his tongue.

Dazai’s hand comes up to touch the side of Chuuya’s face, to slide fingers into the locks at his temple. There’s no resisting the kiss he leaves at the corner of Chuuya’s mouth, or the one he brushes on his lips once more, soft and breathless. When he steps away smiling, the sight doesn’t make Chuuya tense with worry or anger at all.

The itch under his skin has eased.

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