Margin of Error (Part I)

Next chapter + Sequel: Scale of Success

Rated: T

Length: 25,100 total

Warnings: past abuse, mild gore, none of this is medically accurate in any way.


Margin Of Error
Part I

Dazai had floated in and out of consciousness since the gunshot, torn with pain through all of his torso and mind too numb to form so much as a coherent thought, but he still recognized the wrongness of his environment as soon as Gin and Higuchi dragged him out of the car.

“This isn’t Yosano’s office,” he mumbled.

The words felt like glue in his mouth, stuck together for lack of ability to articulate. They both still understood him just fine, which shot some sort of bright affectionate feeling through his mind.

Weird.

“Yosano is compromised,” Higuchi said matter-of-factly. “Our allies in Tokyo recommended this place, remember? Said they wouldn’t make a fuss.”

Dazai gargled something. He wasn’t sure what he meant by it.

He still managed to shake off Gin when she tried to grab his legs and lift him up. If he was going to be tended to in an unfamiliar place, he wanted to come in on his own feet. He didn’t fancy anyone other than Yosano sneering at him for being weak.

Gin shrugged, and muttered, “Stupid.”

Wherever they were was obviously a long way from Yokohama. The very air lacked the sting of salt, felt heavier with streetly smells, with gas and heat. Dazai had not stopped sweating icily all over himself since that cut in his shoulder, and now that same sweat stuck shirt and slacks to skin uncomfortably, chafing with every step. That was almost worse than the pain in his side—the nausea, the bright burn through his veins whose origin was easy to guess at.

He faded off, grinning slackly, once they reached the lobby of the clinic. He thought he saw a flash of color by the entrance, the glowing ember of a cigarette being crushed underfoot as whoever had smoked it hurried inside, and then a voice—”Get a stretcher.“

Then he passed out.

He came to inside a corner of the ER, laid onto a scratchy bed whose sheets made the fire of the poison inside him flare, Higuchi and Gin standing guard by his sides. Privacy screens separated him from the rest of the room, but not enough that he could not hear the low moans of other occupants, or even the occasional snore. Considering that he was still dressed in blood-drenched clothes and in massive amounts of pain, he couldn’t have been out for more than a few minutes.

Gin put a hand on his shoulder when he tried to rise up, shaking her head firmly. Dazai sighed and obediently let himself fall back onto his pillow. The air coming out of his lips burned in his throat the way firesmoke did.

The privacy curtain was shoved hastily aside, and a man wearing a nurse’s uniform came in, carrying a tray full of menacing and glistening utensils and bottles.

They didn’t gleam as nicely as his hair. Or his eyes.

“Hello, sweetheart,” Dazai slurred happily. The man’s very blue eyes shot to him immediately. “Not that I don’t appreciate the sight, but I think I’m gonna need someone a little more experienced.”

He didn’t need to look aside to know that Higuchi was rubbing her face tiredly. It almost made him giggle.

The man didn’t seem to find the situation so funny. “Bullet wound, right?” he asked, irritation flashing over his handsome face. “I need to prep you for surgery—”

Two guns were aimed at him before he could finish.

Dazai would have liked to take out his own, loath as he was to aim a weapon at someone so good-looking, but his arm shook before he could so much as reach for his holster. He satisfied himself with the sight he must make surrounded by two very powerful women in suits. “No surgery,” he declared, fitting himself more comfortably against the rough pillow. He had never been so ill-bedded while Yosano was tending to him, and she was far from having the means that an actual clinic did. Was that where all the taxes he didn’t pay go? “Get a doctor here to take this bullet out of me and stitch me up and I’ll be out of your hands.”

To his credit, the man never showed fear at all. He glared at Higuchi and Gin both and replied, “Get that shit out of my face.”

They didn’t obey, of course, but even Gin’s aim faltered somewhat.

“Fine,” the nurse continued, this time to Dazai. Dazai thought he would have felt shivers crawl up his back under the weight of his gaze if not for the fact that he was already shaking all over. “I’ll get that bullet out.”

“I said I wanted—”

“You get me or you get the fucking cops,” the man cut in. His voice had a rough quality, a depth and scratchiness that Dazai would’ve liked to hear speaking other sorts of words. When he said, “Lie down,” Dazai almost made a comment of the kind.

Gin prevented it by holding his shoulder warningly.

The nurse put a cap over his tied hair—what Dazai wouldn’t give to see it untied, he thought drowsily—and pulled a pair of gloves out of a box set atop the wheeled table he had carried inside the booth. He leaned over Dazai, unhindered by the gun immediately pressed to his own side, and asked: “I suppose you don’t want any anesthetics either?”

“That would be ideal, yes,” Dazai replied with a smile. “I’m feeling a little paranoid, you see.”

“Suit yourself. It’s none of my business if you enjoy passing out from perfectly avoidable pain.”

Dazai’s next words died when the man pulled up his soiled shirt and touched the wound with his fingers; he couldn’t have helped the wheeze of pain that shook him if his life depended on it, and the man made no comment, just kept applying careful pressure around the area until he seemed to find what he was looking for.

“You were shot from far away?” he asked, and wiped the blood off of his gloves to grab something from the table. It left it with a sickening click of metal. “The bullet’s not too far in.”

“About fifty meters, I believe.”

The man looked at Higuchi and said, “Give him something to bite on. Piece of cloth or something.” Then to Gin: “And you can both drop the guns and hold him down instead. If he moves too much it’ll just make things worse.”

Higuchi took off her jacket and twisted one of the sleeves into a tight line. Dazai opened his mouth when she handed it to him, and the taste and texture of cloth under his teeth only made his nausea stronger.

His chest was starting to burn, his heartbeat to speed up. That was probably a bad sign. Maybe he should say something about the poison.

Maybe I shouldn’t, he thought, grinding his teeth onto Higuchi’s jacket as the man next to him cleaned the wound and held it open with two fingers. He refused to look down at himself this time, not even for the pleasure of the nurse’s handsome face. He stopped breathing when Gin and Higuchi’s hands pushed down on his shoulders and hips in tandem.

“Not that you need the warning,” the nurse said then, voice gone a tad gentler, “but this is going to hurt like hell. Try not to move.”

He allowed Dazai a second to breathe before getting to work.

The first drag of metal inside the wound burned Dazai all the way to his throat. The cry he let out was smothered by Higuchi’s jacket, and his immediate sideways flinch prevented by two pairs of extremely firm hands. His eyesight flashed white with agony almost instantly; he couldn’t hear anything or feel anything past the immediacy of pain, the likes of which he had only ever felt through torture. Dazedly, through moans he didn’t recognize as his own and the icy sweat drenching him, he felt the nurse’s steady hand flatten itself against his stomach almost in reassurance.

Dazai wanted to pass out. More than anything, he wanted to answer the call of oblivion, the pull of blissful unconsciousness dragging him further and further away from this tough hospital bed. Yet Dostoyevsky’s pleased face flashed through his hazy mind; the two hours he had spent without news of Oda or Yosano ground into his brain with enough strength to match the agonizing drag of metal through his bleeding body. He couldn’t sleep, not now. Not ever.

He kept himself awake with every spark of energy left in him.

“Done,” said the nurse, and then the burning pain was gone.

Dazai barely heard the click of the bullet falling into a metal bowl on the table; he lurched aside immediately, pawing vaguely at Gin to get her out of way so that he wouldn’t retch all over her. With more deftness than he would’ve given him credit for, the nurse shoved a basin under his face. He held Dazai’s forehead as he expelled bile out of his empty stomach.

His hand was cool. When it left his forehead and pushed him back down onto the bed, it was careful. The man himself entered his field of vision again once he was laid on his back, and his face showed sincere surprise.

Dazai smiled at him shakily. “I’m tougher than I look,” he rasped.

“You should’ve just passed out,” the man replied, back to the same unimpressed voice he had used since his arrival. “I’m sure your bodyguards can take it from there.”

“I don’t like being unconscious in strange places very much.”

“Bit of a control freak, are you,” the nurse muttered. Dazai blinked vaguely at him. “I still need to stitch you up, you know. I don’t see the point of putting yourself through so much pain, it’d be better if you just slept through the night.”

“And miss the sight of you, gorgeous?”

“Boss,” Higuchi sighed.

Dazai tried to answer and found himself with a hand over his mouth—the man’s hand, pushing pills onto his tongue. “Painkillers,” he said. “Just fucking take those at least.”

Dazai kept the pills under his tongue, made a show of swallowing on nothing, but the man didn’t take his hand away. He raised a thin eyebrow expectantly.

“Very well,” Dazai relented. His words died onto the man’s soft palm.

He took the glass of water he was offered and swallowed the pills. His torso still ached numbly. Like distorted hearing after a shot fired too close to the ear; as if pain itself had to drag its way up to his brain to settle there and make itself known.

The nurse seemed satisfied with that. He replaced his gloves with new ones, opened a kit over the table and sat next to Dazai again. Without the pressure of the bullet inside him and despite the raw feeling of the wound, Dazai found the strength to actually strain his head downward and look at what he was doing.

The needle and thread hurt, every time they came in and dragged through his skin, and yet Dazai couldn’t help but be amazed at the speed and precision with which this man carried his work. He didn’t think he had ever seen such a tidy row of stitches. Shutting up the wound took barely more than a minute.

“I hope you realize,” the nurse said lowly, “how stupid it is not to check this more thoroughly. You might yet die.” He cut off the excess thread with graceful habit and rose up in his chair.

“I’ll be fine,” Dazai replied amiably.

“Right. I guess professional medical opinions bear little weight for yakuza scum.”

Dazai smiled and didn’t correct his assumption.

“Is there anything else I should be aware of, besides the bullet?” the man asked Higuchi next. “Anything broken, a blow to the head, a papercut?”

“I’m fine—”

“I think he’s drugged,” Gin cut in nonchalantly. “And there’s a stab wound in the shoulder.”

The man stared at her blankly; then he glared at Dazai, once again, with his unnerving blue eyes. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me about this?”

“It’s a scratch,” Dazai drawled, glancing unhappily at Gin. “It’s not even bleeding anymore. And I’m not drugged.”

“You were walking weirdly and sweating all over before being shot, boss.”

“Where’s the wound?” the nurse asked, frowning.

Gin tapped Dazai’s left shoulder with more strength than necessary; it jolted at the stitching in his side and the scabbing cut in his back, and he winced.

“Get on your front,” the nurse ordered.

“Very forward of you, but I require at least dinner for that,” Dazai replied. “Not that I wouldn’t love to have you examine me as thoroughly as humanly possible—”

His sentence died with a cry of pain as the man, running out of patience, took his shoulder and turned him over. His strength was surprising, even with how little fight Dazai could give in his current situation. He sucked in a breath when the upper part of his shirt, and the patch of gauze under it, were cut apart to expose the distant ache he felt between shoulder blade and spine.

The nurse’s fingers were not kind this time. “This is inflamed,” he muttered, poking and prodding at the area. Dazai knew it was swollen, hot to the touch, probably seeping pus or something equally unappealing. “Did you clean that?”

“I did,” Higuchi replied, peering close as well. “It didn’t look that bad the last time I checked.”

“It’s really shallow…”

“It’s nothing,” Dazai said through gritted teeth.

The man didn’t listen to him. He questioned Gin about the symptoms he had displayed before being shot, and the way he was leading her told Dazai all he needed to know about what he thought this was.

“Poison of some kind, then,” he concluded.

Dazai groaned into the pillow.

“Did you know?” Higuchi asked him, outraged.

“If it was a bad kind of poison I’d be in way worse shape,” Dazai replied. “It’s nothing—”

“I’m keeping you in for a few days.”

This time, Dazai found the strength to take his gun in hand. He leveled it with the nurse’s face swiftly, satisfied and saddened at once to find the very first inkling of fear in his bright eyes. Still, the man did not move. He stood his ground even as Dazai pushed himself off of the bed to stand in front of him. He didn’t flinch when the cold mouth of the gun rested against his forehead.

“I’m sorry, love,” Dazai said between pants. “Much as I regret departing from you, I can’t stay here for an hour longer.” For good measure, he flicked back the safety. The metallic sound it made rang ominously through the sudden silence; even the neighboring snores and moans seemed to have faded away. “Can’t have the police, or worse, knocking at my door.”

“Go ahead and shoot me, then,” the man replied through gritted teeth. “And I can guarantee that you’ll have the police storming this place within minutes.”

“Ah, see, this is why I hate upstanding citizens like you. Such naïve faith in law enforcement.”

To his surprise, the man laughed.

It was a gruff thing, his laughter, more suited to petty delinquents than one with such quick and healing hands. Dazai lowered his gun slightly.

“You don’t know anything about this place, do you?” the man said, grinning brashly—and the sight of it made blood Dazai didn’t know he still possessed crawl up his neck and face warmly. “You’re not the first criminal I have to patch up. Our boss has a bit of an understanding with local yakuza groups—they come here, we don’t blabber, they pay us handsomely. Of course, this means the place is very scrutinized by the police. They’ll barge in at the slightest excuse… such as a gunshot.” He crossed his arms across his chest and asked, “Who recommended us to you?”

By Dazai’s sides, Gin and Higuchi exchanged a glance.

“Fukuzawa Yukichi,” Dazai replied.

You’re a friend of Fukuzawa’s?” the man said.

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

“The people he sends us are usually way less grating than you.”

At this, Dazai had to smile. “What can I say,” he drawled. The familiar light-headed numbness of blood loss was starting to get to him, threatening to swallow everything to black. “I like to make an impression.”

He tried to say something else, and his legs gave under his weight.

He was caught, not by Higuchi or Gin but by the man himself, who linked both arms under his and pressed him against his front. It wasn’t until then that Dazai noticed how much shorter than him that man was, or quite how solid his body felt, more soldier than hospital staff. The man seemed to have no problem at all sweeping him up and putting him atop the bed once more; it took another minute before the room stopped flashing white and black in Dazai’s eyes, and a few seconds more for it to stop turning around itself ad nauseam.

“You’re staying here,” the man said once he was done making sure Dazai hadn’t fainted. He snapped the gloves off of his hands and threw them in a plastic bag hanging from the tray. “You’re going to at least take painkillers, let me get rid of that infection, and try and figure out what you’ve been poisoned with.”

“I’ll file a formal complaint to your superior,” Dazai mumbled in answer. “The care here is abysmal. I’ll get you fired.”

The man quirked another smile, too close to Dazai’s own face for Dazai’s eyes not to trail over his lips and almost tip his head back for a kiss.

“Feel free to try,” he replied.

His breath, smelling faintly of tobacco, washed over Dazai’s face warmly.


Dazai didn’t remember falling asleep, but he did remember startling himself awake after taking a breath and finding his nostrils filled with unfamiliar smells.

He opened his eyes to a single white room with brightly-lit windows. Gin had curled into a chair by his side and seemed to be sleeping. Higuchi was sitting in another, by the tiny table in the corner on which she had installed her laptop. It took a minute for him to be able to breathe past the splitting pain in his chest and shoulder, where he guessed that nursed the night previous had cleaned the wound again and patched it up properly. A look at the crook of each elbow told him that he had probably been given blood, as well as some sort of a sedative. He was hooked onto transparent liquid now.

“I should have you killed,” he croaked in Higuchi’s direction.

“Gin did it,” Higuchi replied without turning around. “Pretended to be your sister so she could give consent in your stead. Your official name is Tanaka Tarou. Also, I have news of Oda and Yosano.”

Dazai pushed himself upright in the bed with a grunt. “Are they—”

“They’re both fine. Oda escaped without a scratch, Yosano got a little beat up but she’s in a safehouse taking care of herself. Hirotsu and Sakaguchi are handling the organization in your absence.”

Relief coursed through Dazai’s body, so strong it made his empty stomach clench and growl. Flushing slightly, he asked, “What about Dostoyevsky?”

“No sign of him since he fled yesterday,” Higuchi answered. She turned her chair around to look at him and grimaced, probably because of how filthy he looked. At least he had been changed out of his blood-caked suit and into a clean gown. “Sakaguchi says he’s probably going to come after you again right away, boss.”

“Of course he is,” Dazai muttered, rubbing a hand over his face. It was shaking.

He still felt nauseous, though not nearly as much as right after the poison-laced knife had dug into his back. He wondered if someone had found out what he had been poisoned with and administered an antidote.

“Did that nurse come back?” he asked, falling back onto the bed. He regretted the action immediately—his side ached so sharply at the contact that his eyes burned with unspent tears. “The hot one,” he forced out despite the pain.

“Once,” Higuchi said. “Hooked you up to the IV and everything. He’s actually pretty nice to talk to when no one’s being an ass to him.”

“It’s called flirting, Ichiyou-chan.”

“I think that was closer to sexual harassment, personally. And that’s not counting the death threats.”

“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” Dazai grunted. He looked at the wall clock. “Where the hell is lunch? Do they not feed their patients here?”

The door of the room opened.

“We do feed them,” said the woman who had just entered, accompanied by a meek-looking nurse pushing a tray forward. It was stacked with food.

Dazai was too busy looking at her to look at the food, however.

Maybe it was the very sharp cut of her suit, maybe it was that, like the nurse from the night before, her hair shone an unnatural red. Dazai knew how to recognize authority when he saw it. There was no need for a name tag or an introduction when someone entered a room carrying so much presence.

Instinctively, his back straightened. He rose into a sitting position without the help of Gin, who had startled awake as the door had opened; he squared his aching shoulders into the most professional posture he could achieve while bedridden and wearing only a gown.

“You’re the head of this place, I presume?” he said amiably, extending a hand.

The woman smiled and shook it firmly, curtly, before letting go. She took hold of the pad stuck to the front of his bed and replied, “You’re right. I am Ozaki Kouyou, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Likewise,” Dazai murmured. “So is it customary for the big boss to visit every new patient, or should I expect the police to come in after yourself, doctor?”

“He wasn’t lying about you being paranoid,” Ozaki replied mildly.

She sat in the chair Gin had vacated, close enough to Dazai that he felt a semblance of discomfort. There were too many ways to hide weapons under such a fine-cut suit. Dazai watched her flip through the notes that the unfortunately attractive nurse must have written the night before.

“I’m here first of all because toxicology is one of my specialties,” she went on, “and to tell you that although we couldn’t identify what exactly you were poisoned with, it seems the dosage wasn’t enough to be lethal. Your vitals look good, what we gave you seems to be working just fine. We’re keeping you here another forty-eight hours just in case, but if everything keeps going the way it is you’ll be right as rain in no time.”

“I’d like to be discharged now,” Dazai said. “I would hate to take a bed away from someone who truly needs it.”

Ozaki smiled. “That’s up to Nakahara-sensei,” she replied. “He’s the one overseeing your case, and he gave the order.”

“Surely as his superior—”

“I have complete and utter faith in his judgment. If he thought he could discharge you now without risk, he would have.”

Ozaki’s tone was nothing short of frighteningly final. With the white light surrounding her, she looked something like porcelain. Her eyes gleamed like painted beads. Dazai wouldn’t have been surprised to see her skin turn to wax, her agreeable smile twist into one from a nightmare.

With difficulty, he admitted, “My staying here any longer may put this hospital in danger.”

Something sharp flashed through her eyes for a second; and yet she smiled the next, polite and easy as she had been since coming in.

“I’m sure Nakahara-sensei will not let anything happen to you under his care,” she replied. “He spent the whole morning in the labs trying to figure out what poison got to you, you know.”

“And when do I get to actually meet this Nakahara?” Dazai retorted, thinly holding back his frustration. Yosano was hurt, Oda was stranded, he was a hundred kilometers away from Yokohama—he didn’t have time to stay here and recover, a sitting duck for Dostoyevsky’s rifle. The hole in his side screamed at the thought alone. “So far I’m not very satisfied with your nurses. The one I met last night was particularly rude.”

For some reason, Ozaki’s eyebrows raised with faint surprise. “Nurse?”

“Yes. Red hair, very cute, terrible bedside manners.”

Ozaki stared at him; then she brought a hand to her lips, hiding them with the tips of her fingers, not fast enough for Dazai to miss the wide grin she was trying to cover. For a second he thought she would start laughing, and he wondered at the ways he could make someone pay for making fun of him while lamenting the thought of harming such a beautiful woman—but then Ozaki lowered her hand, mouth twitching, and said, “My sincerest apologies. I’ll be sure to have a word with him.”

The next moment was spent in silence, as the nurse who had come in with her placed Dazai’s lunch on the mobile shelf attached to the bed. Dazai felt little like eating food whose provenance he couldn’t check, but a bigger part of him knew Dostoyevsky would not try poison again while he was in a hospital, and an even bigger one was simply famished.

He ate.

Ozaki made conversation as he did, under the watchful eyes of both Gin and Higuchi. Neither of them said a word, and Ozaki made no comment of their presence outside of visiting hours either. At least the bed was more comfortable here than it had been in the booth he had occupied upon his arrival; some of his relaxation he knew came from whatever medication was being given to him via the needle in his arm. Ozaki gave him a rundown of them when he asked.

The door opened once again as Dazai was considering whether the unappealing piece of pie that constituted dessert was worth biting into, and in came the man from the night before.

Dazai opened his mouth to make a comment—on the man’s disheveled hair, on his rumpled clothes, on how much better he looked with daylight bringing color out of him—but Ozaki beat him to it with a warm, “Ah, Chuuya-kun, I’ve been expecting you.”

The man—Chuuya, Dazai thought delightedly—stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her.

“What?” he let out. He looked baffled. Exhausted too.

“Tanaka-san here had some complaints about the way you handled him last night.”

Chuuya ground his teeth together and said, “Tanaka-san can shove his complaints where the sun—”

“I think it’s high time I left,” Ozaki cut in politely. Then to Dazai, “Someone will come fetch your tray in about half an hour. I wish you a quick recovery.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Dazai replied in kind.

Chuuya stopped her by the door to speak to her in a low voice. The room wasn’t quite large enough for distance to muffle noise, however, and Dazai had always had a very sharp ear.

“What are you playing at?” he asked, and Ozaki replied, smiling, “Nothing at all.”

The door closed behind her with a soft noise.

Chuuya rubbed his face tiredly. It was even easier now to see the marks of sleeplessness on him; he had carried himself with a strength of will Dazai was used to seeing only amongst his own men, yet now he slouched, his eyes staring at nothing and his hands idle.

“Right,” he said at last. “I need to check on your injuries.”

“By all means,” Dazai replied.

“I also need your bodyguards out of the room.”

Dazai smiled and said nothing.

With one last grunt of displeasure, Chuuya approached the bed and pushed the shelf and tray aside. “How’s the pain?” he asked plainly, as he shoved the covers down and dragged up the hem of the thin gown Dazai had been put in.

There was no helping the shivers that struck Dazai at the touch of his hands, gloved as they were. He had only ever been so sparsely dressed in the company of a beautiful man in one other set of circumstances, after all.

“Manageable,” he replied, which was true.

“Mmh.”

Chuuya checked his side first. His fingers were quick despite his obvious fatigue, not shaking for a second as they ripped away the gauze and examined the stitches. Some pain made itself known as he touched their edges. Dazai bore it with a straight face.

“I know you can stand, but I recommend using a wheelchair if you wanna go farther than the bathroom,” Chuuya said evenly. “You don’t want to tear those up. No excessive movement for at least a week.”

“Duly noted.”

“Now get on your side, I need to check the cut.”

Dazai followed the order with something close to a thrill. The cut didn’t hurt as much this time when Chuuya touched it. He applied some sort of lotion over it before dressing it again, and the contact was so careful that Dazai didn’t hiss or hold his breath once.

He definitely wanted to feel more of those hands. Without gloves, and with a lot less clothes in the way.

“Everything looks good,” Chuuya announced once he was done.

“It’s been said often,” Dazai quipped.

Chuuya gave him a very tired glance before continuing, “Take a shower around seven if you can. I’ll be back at eight to check again. If you’ve got a problem in the meantime, Kunikida-sensei will take care of it.”

“I thought the one taking care of my case was named Nakahara,” Dazai said, a little snappishly.

The new dose of painkillers was starting to kick in, and drowsiness was spreading through him, slowing his mind and his body both. Dazai hated medication of all kinds on a good day, and he hated them especially when he was stuck in foreign turf, bedridden, and with an assassin after him. He needed to plan his escape for the night, not fall asleep again.

His thought process was interrupted when Chuuya frowned at him and said, “That’s me, yeah.”

“What?”

More frowning. “Nakahara. That’s me. I’m the doctor in charge of you.”

Dazai blinked at him slowly.

“But you’re a nurse,” he managed eventually.

“I’m not a nurse,” Chuuya replied, impatiently this time. “I’m a doctor here. What, you thought they wouldn’t have a doctor look at a patient coming in with a bullet wound and poison in their body? Are you stupid?”

“But—”

He looked at Gin, who was filing her nails, then at Higuchi, who was studiously typing on her laptop.

“You were wearing a nurse’s uniform,” he accused.

“It was the end of my shift, I was about to go home, saw you come in and grabbed whatever was available at the time because I’d already changed,” Chuuya replied with a roll of his eyes. “Because of you I had to spend the morning in the labs, for nothing, since apparently whatever you were poisoned with doesn’t fucking exist on this planet. You’re lucky Ozaki-sensei figured out what to give you. You got a nasty fever, and your heart gave us a good scare around ten.”

Dazai had to take a moment to absorb this information. At least that would explain why he felt so utterly weakened.

“Well,” he said. “I’m alive.”

“No thanks to putting additional trauma on your body by having me extract a bullet without anesthetics,” Chuuya grumbled. “Anyway. Kunikida will take care of you until my shift tonight, so try not to be an ass to him. He’s already got plenty to deal with.”

“You ask so nicely, it would be remiss of me to disobey.”

It was fleeting, barely perceptible, but Dazai thought he saw the shadow of a smile at the corner of Chuuya’s mouth. He thought he saw his serious face relax, his features soften, his brow ease.

He swallowed, and felt his heart beat at the roof of his mouth. You’re lovely, he wanted to say.

“See you tonight, then, doctor,” he said instead. It came out stiffer and more polite than intended.

“Yeah,” Chuuya replied. “Don’t cause any trouble.”

Dazai looked at Higuchi and Gin in turn as soon as the door closed behind Chuuya’s back.

“You knew,” he said.

Gin shrugged. Higuchi raised her head and replied, “As I said, he’s a good conversationalist when no one’s hitting on him.”

“I just thought it was fun to watch you make an ass of yourself in front of your doctor,” Gin said evenly. “Boss,” she added as an afterthought.

“I wish I was dead right now,” Dazai moaned, falling back onto the bed. “I really do.”

“They have a resident psychia—”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, Gin-chan.”


The doctor named Kunikida went by Dazai’s room only once during the afternoon. He was handsome too, in a different way than Chuuya was—tall and severe, the kind Dazai wanted to see flustered more for laughs than out of base desire. He asked some brief questions, never commented on Gin and Higuchi’s continued presence, nor the bag of toiletries and clothes Higuchi had gone out to buy for all of them an hour or so earlier. He left once he found everything to his satisfaction. Dazai thought it both impressive and slightly concerning that not even one person had said anything about the gun resting on his bedside cabinet.

“This isn’t a yakuza-run establishment,” Higuchi explained to him, “but apparently Ozaki Kouyou used to be a pretty famous underground doctor. There’s regular patients here too, of course, but most of the staff used to do less-than-legal jobs, and almost all the criminals in the region come here to get patched up when they don’t want police to be notified.”

“Why have I never heard of this place before?” Dazai asked tiredly.

He hated painkillers. His tongue felt like rubber.

“They don’t advertise themselves at all. It’s all hearsay.”

“Found anything about dear Nakahara-sensei?”

Higuchi closed her laptop and said, “I’m not helping you stalk your crush.”

The mousy nurse who had brought him lunch before came by again to ask if everything was fine. Dazai tried to coax her into talking, but Izumi Kyouka, as she was called, was a woman of few words. Her gaze was almost as implacable as Gin’s. In the end she left Dazai with no more information on his handsome doctor but a lot of questions about why, exactly, a frail nurse was carrying a badly-concealed knife at her hip.

He got more out of the young man working at the small café-snack corner located in the lobby. Dazai left his room shadowed by Gin, who was so good at hiding her presence that he lost sight of her before reaching the elevators. He would’ve liked to make the way on his own feet, but the stitches in his side pulled painfully when he tried to stand up in full. He had no choice but to borrow the wheelchair left by his bed by Izumi.

Nakajima Atsushi was a lively young man with uneven hair and an uneven smile, who carried coffee cups and food the way one would porcelain and seemed to count each step he took. Dazai took on a different approach with him than he had with Chuuya or Ozaki. He put on a gentler voice, a softer smile, the kind that had made even Oda blush one memorable time.

The boy spluttered and smiled back helplessly.

“Nakahara-sensei?” he said, once Dazai had convinced him to sit with him. There were no other people to be waited on right now, and Atsushi seemed eager for conversation. “He’s great, isn’t he? All his patients love him.”

“Really?” Dazai asked, with more interest than he should show. “He seems pretty rude, to say the least.”

“Ah, well, he can be… he can be a little blunt, but he’s one of the best doctors here.” Atsushi took a careful sip of his tea, rubbing his thumb over the rim of the paper cup nervously. “One time I… um, I came here with some pretty bad burns, and he was great. It took a while for me to recover, and he was there every day. Even overtime, I think. Just sitting by my bed and talking to me whenever he was on break, to distract me from the pain.”

There was a story here that the young man did not want to go deeply into, Dazai felt. He let Atsushi fade out of whatever painful memory had struck him and shadowed his face. He smiled again, then, the kind of smile that crinkled tiny lines around his eyes and made old ladies in the street chuckle at him, very far from knowing the kind of criminal he was.

Atsushi took another shaking sip. It must’ve gone down the wrong way, because he put the cup down harshly and coughed into his hand, his face completely red. “Anyway,” he said once he was done, voice breathy, “he even went out of his way to find me a job here once he found out I was unemployed.”

“He seems like a very kind man,” Dazai said agreeably.

Atsushi nodded, eager and obviously in love.

Dazai pressed his own thumb onto the side of his cup. He hadn’t touched his tea at all, not trusting any food that didn’t come directly out of the hospital’s kitchen for now. It had been hard enough to convince himself to eat lunch earlier; his chest still ached slightly, as if remembering for him that his heart had almost stopped.

“And what about his life outside of the hospital?” he asked nonchalantly. “Anything of notice?”

This made Atsushi’s brow furrow and his eyes glint with vague suspicion. Dazai faked taking a sip of his cup, hoping to look disinterested enough.

“I wouldn’t know,” the boy replied eventually. “He doesn’t really talk about himself much. I heard—”

He shut his mouth loudly, guilt flashing over his face.

“Yes?” Dazai said encouragingly.

“It’s, it’s really not my place to…”

“I understand. I’ve been taking too much of your time.”

It did the trick; Atsushi raised his hands placatingly, shaking his head and muttering, “No, not at all—I’m sorry if I made you feel unwelcome, Tanaka-san.”

“You didn’t,” Dazai replied cheerfully.

“It’s just…” Atsushi hesitated another second. And then: “I heard he went through a bad break-up recently and he was absent from work for a couple weeks and no one really knew what happened except Ozaki-sensei’s secretary who got fired after that for spreading rumors,” he said in one breath. His face was flushed by the time he finished; he gnawed on his bottom lip until blood pooled out of a tiny cut.

Interesting.

Dazai entertained Atsushi with more small talk after that, steering clear of the topic of Nakahara Chuuya. The fact that he found the young man charming did not come to him as much of a surprise; he screamed of orphan, of the hazardous ways of life that brought the forgotten in places they had not expected. Oda had rubbed off on Dazai for too many years not to leave a fondness for strays at the hollow of his heart.

He took a shower after dinner had been served and once a young nurse named Haruno helped him remove his bandages. The pain of moving his arms lessened the pleasure of finally getting rid of all the grime and sweat he had accumulated, but he still felt better afterward. Slipping into fresh sheets smelling of cleanliness rather than blood was a very specific sort of relief.

Chuuya came by at eight, as promised. This time Dazai refrained from immediately teasing him, contenting himself with the sight of his serious face and the feeling of his hands checking his wounds carefully.

He really had nice hands. Dazai let himself, for a bare second, imagine feeling them bare on his body in places meant for pleasure rather than pain.

“Looks fine,” Chuuya said at last, helping Dazai back down. “You’ll be free to go the day after tomorrow.”

“I’m starting to think I like being here,” Dazai replied before he could help it, eyeing the hollow of Chuuya’s throat and then the sharp line of his waist, visible through the opening of his white coat. “The view’s not too bad.”

To his surprise, Chuuya retorted, “Either try to get me fired or try to hit on me, but you can’t have both, bastard.”

Dazai grinned in delight. “Does that mean I get to have—gah!”

“Oh, sorry,” Chuuya said, sounding not sorry at all. He took his finger off of where he had poked it, right next to the bullet wound. “Must’ve slipped.”

“That’s okay,” Dazai let out, breathless and through gritted teeth. “I like a little pain.”

Chuuya snorted—and immediately seemed angry at himself for doing so. His face darkened with embarrassment.

The sight was riveting.

“When’s your break?” Dazai heard himself ask, still looking at the tips of Chuuya’s ears, which had turned as red as his hair.

“After your bedtime,” Chuuya snapped. “Which is about now, so stay put. I’ll see you in the morning.”

He left with a nod in Gin and Higuchi’s direction, the loose white coat he wore unfortunately hiding his backside from view.

It was already night. Chuuya had turned off the light as he went out, and only the glow of Higuchi’s phone now kept things visible. The outline of the bed trailed sharp and shifting shadows over the walls every time she moved it. Dazai observed them for a moment, letting his mind err toward the unpleasant thought of Dostoyevsky attacking him in his sleep and the more pleasant ones of Chuuya dressed out of his clothes.

“Oda’s coming here tomorrow morning to relieve us,” Higuchi said all of a sudden, breaking the silence. When Dazai turned his head aside to look at her, she was squinting at her phone, the light of the screen bleaching her face of color. “He can only take one person with him, so you have a choice between Akutagawa and Tachihara.”

“Akutagawa,” Dazai replied.

“He’ll be delighted,” Gin commented tersely.

“Michizou-kun talks way too much. Your brother might hate my guts, but at least he’s silent about it.”

She shrugged, coiled her body into the space of the armchair she occupied, and settled in for a nap, buried under her coat.

“Ichiyou-chan,” Dazai said next.

Higuchi tensed. “No.”

“I need you to find out when my delightful doctor takes his break.”

“And how the hell do you suppose I do that, boss? It’s a miracle I’m even allowed here at night without being a patient myself—”

“That nurse who came in earlier thinks you’re hot,” Dazai cut in, patting his side carefully. The light pressure of his own fingers still hurt more, somehow, than that of Chuuya’s had. “Haruno was her name, I believe.”

Higuchi struggled for a second with the way she should answer. She settled for, “You think so?” with a very faint voice

“Mmh. She certainly wasn’t looking at your eyes, unless your eyes are somewhere around your chest. Or your thighs.”

It was always hilarious to see prim and proper Higuchi Ichiyou lose her countenance about trivial things like this. Dazai embraced shamelessness because he frankly didn’t care, but Higuchi could never entertain the idea of anyone being attracted to her without becoming weak in the knees. Considering how handsome she was, how ruthlessly competent and in appearance unashamed of herself, the contrast was cutting.

Dazai concealed his smile at her flailing and added, “She should still be working. I heard her say that she was to spend the evening at the burn unit, so I suggest checking there first.”

“Right,” Higuchi said shakily. “I mean, if it’s an order from you, boss…”

“Obviously you can’t refuse.”

“Obviously.”

“Shut up and go, for God’s sake,” Gin muttered from under her coat. “Some people are trying to sleep, you horny fucks.”


Higuchi came back to the room forty minutes later, lipstick smeared over her mouth and multiple strands of hair falling out of her usually severe bun.

“Nakahara takes his break at eleven,” she whispered, trying and failing to adjust her shirt. She had buttoned it wrong. “According to Haru—I mean, from what I could gather, he usually eats in the staff room on the second floor, near the maternity, then has a smoke outside the main entrance. He never takes more than a half hour.”

“That’s more than enough,” Dazai replied pleasantly. “Thank you for your hard work.”

Higuchi took the jab for what it was and glared at him. It still didn’t erase the flush on her cheeks, nor the satisfaction radiating off of her. Dazai felt a pang of envy at that; much as he wanted to believe Chuuya would fall into his arm that same night, he knew he would have to put in a little more work than that.

That he was even willing to put in that work was frightening.

Dazai left his room ten minutes before eleven, aware of Gin waking up the moment he moved from the bed and blending with the shadows behind him. A hospital at night was a peculiar sight; Dazai had not much experience with those, preferring Yosano’s underground office to any sort of official establishment, but he could recognize a haunt when he saw one.

Too many souls had come and gone by here for ghosts not to linger. He felt them on the sanitized air, saw them in each flickering light, each door ajar. The atmosphere distracted him from the pain in his side—he had opted to leave the wheelchair behind, and crutches were out of the question. Each of his steps was tentative. His back was bowed forward to lessen the pull of the stitches.

He found the staff room right where Higuchi had said it would be, door open and light filtering out. When he pushed past the threshold, only Chuuya was inside, back turned to the door. He had his hands in his hair.

Dazai stilled at the entrance, pain entirely forgot, as Chuuya pulled out the tie holding his hair up. He watched the length of it fall onto Chuuya’s shoulders, brush the slight swell of where spine turned into nape; he watched Chuuya run quick fingers through it and felt his own tingle, aching to touch.

When he moved forward, it was with the same burn in his chest that he had felt from Dostoyevsky’s poison.

Chuuya turned around in his chair the second he heard footsteps—and then he was jumping up, face tense with anger, saying, “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Just taking a walk,” Dazai replied, sitting in the chair facing the one Chuuya had occupied. “It’s so hard to sleep while in pain, you know. I am tormented every hour.”

“You are so full of—”

As Chuuya struggled to find the words to match his anger, Dazai busied himself examining what he had put on the table. A lunchbox, a paper cup full of water, files that must belong to patients of his. With little surprise, he recognized his own.

“Get out of here,” Chuuya hissed, falling back into his own chair and rubbing his forehead with his palm. “You’re not supposed to walk around at night, you idiot. What if you fall, or tear your damn stitches?”

Dazai smiled darkly and replied, “A man like me is never alone.”

Chuuya’s look then was the same as the very first; unimpressed, tired, and maybe a little amused.

He truly was lovely. Dazai had ached to see him with his hair down each of the three times they had met, and this ache had been well-founded. It was too easy to imagine reaching across the table and touching his face, too easy to picture dragging him by the nape to crush their mouths together. He could almost feel that hair caught between their lips or making his eyelids flutter.

“Did you come here walking?” Chuuya asked, cutting through the silence.

“I did.”

“How much do you regret that right now?”

Dazai’s side flared, punishment and reminder alike, and he said, “I could never regret seeing you, doctor.”

“Spare me,” Chuuya grumbled. “Lift up your shirt.”

Any teasing Dazai might have made at the order died as Chuuya crouched by his side and exposed the stitches to the light. He was not wearing gloves this time; his fingertips trailed warmly over Dazai’s wound, and Dazai’s tongue stilled as if frozen to ice.

Chuuya’s hand left his skin with what felt like a caress. Dazai’s next breath was precise, controlled.

“So, Chuuya,” he said with some difficulty.

“I don’t remember being on a first name basis with you,” Chuuya replied in a huff, standing up once more.

“You’ve been closer to me than most people.” Dazai pulled his shirt back down. He put his chin in his hand and watched the doctor fall back into his own chair, red hair brushing over his face. “At least most who lived to tell the tale. I gave myself the permission.”

“I can see that,” Chuuya muttered. He glanced at Dazai’s file, spread between them on the table. “Tanaka Tarou-san.”

“My friends call me Dazai.”

“And you want to be my friend, don’t you.”

Dazai smiled, soft and lopsided. “So, Chuuya,” he repeated. “Aren’t you a bit young for a doctor?”

Chuuya opened his lunchbox without looking at him and said, “Aren’t you a bit young for a yakuza boss?”

“I am no yakuza.”

“Organized crime is organized crime no matter how you wrap it up,” Chuuya replied evenly. He took a sip of water; Dazai eyed the movements of his neck as he swallowed. “But I guess it makes sense. All the yakuza I treat are polite to a fault.”

“You never answered my question.”

The look he was given would have made a lesser man falter. “I’m thirty-three,” Chuuya said. “Not that it’s any of your business.”

It is when I try to bed someone, Dazai didn’t say.

Inside Chuuya’s lunchbox were neat sandwiches and a salad. Chuuya didn’t seem bothered at all that someone was watching him eat; indeed he barely gave Dazai so much as a glance, and if Dazai knew he would be forcefully accompanied back to his room once the other was done with his break, he intended to enjoy every second until then.

He leaned into his chair carefully. The cut in his back was almost forgotten by now, only the wound in his side still bothered him, as well as leftover weakness from the poison. With any luck, and Oda’s help, he might be able to leave the following day. That was probably what Oda had planned anyway.

The thought wasn’t as appealing as it should be.

“Someone make that for you?” Dazai asked lightly, gesturing to the lunchbox. “A girlfriend perhaps, or a wife?”

Chuuya took his time to finish swallowing before answering, “Is that your convoluted way of asking if I’m gay?”

“Well,” Dazai grinned. “Are you?”

He was almost sure that Chuuya was. He wouldn’t have been so matter-of-fact about Dazai’s flirtation if he weren’t, wouldn’t carry himself the way he did, wouldn’t give Dazai the time of day. Nakajima Atsushi wouldn’t have had such an honest and long-lasting crush on him without hope of reciprocation, or at least of being well-received.

Chuuya met Dazai’s eyes through the dimly-lit space separating them. He held his gaze for a long time—long enough for Dazai’s smile to fade at the edges.

“I’m going to explain to you why you’re not going to get what you’re after, regardless of whether I’m gay or not,” he said lowly. “So I encourage you to listen.”

He was closing the box now, though half of the food inside was untouched. Dazai didn’t look away from his face and, for once, did not say anything.

“The most obvious reason is that you’re my patient, and it would be highly unethical,” Chuuya went on.

“I won’t be your patient for much longer,” Dazai couldn’t help but point out.

Chuuya ignored the interruption. “But the one reason I know for sure I could never let someone like you have his way with me,” he continued, “is because earlier today, Atsushi came to see me, bordering on a panic attack, apologizing again and again for sharing private details of my life with you.”

The anger on Chuuya’s face was not for show anymore. It was not simple fatigue, or straightforward irritation. It drew color out of his eyes until they shone like steel.

“I’m sure I don’t need to draw you a picture about the sort of life he’s had,” Chuuya said, almost a murmur, so cold it seemed to slip under Dazai’s skin and reach into his bones. “Atsushi’s a good guy. He trusts people easily when they’re nice to him, because he’s so used to people hurting him. Of course he didn’t notice that you were manipulating him for information—he couldn’t forgive himself for betraying my trust, and insisted I get him fired like I got Kouyou’s secretary fired when she spied on our phone conversations just to get gossip material out of my relationship troubles. It took me twenty minutes to calm him down.”

Dazai opened his mouth with no plan at all on what to say. He was saved the trouble of coming up with a reply by Chuuya speaking again.

“You know perfectly well that I don’t have a wife or girlfriend waiting for me at home,” he said flatly. “And since you’re so enthusiastic about digging around about my life despite how obliging I have been with your privacy, I’m even going to tell you all the juicy details myself.”

“You don’t have to,” Dazai let out meekly.

He felt as though something had twisted his insides sideways; he felt cold through his stomach, through his chest, as if he had just drunk a handful of streamwater.

Chuuya’s smile was a dark and joyless thing. He leaned over the round table, his voice turned secretive, and Dazai leaned in as well, inescapably. “I was in a relationship, you see,” he said. His words felt the way his hands did—warm, careful, precise as carved woodwork. “For five years. Until one day the man I was sharing my life with started getting angry that my job took up so much of my time. He got fired from his own workplace, had no luck getting hired anywhere, got angrier and angrier.

“It started with small things,” Chuuya continued, mindless of how still Dazai was, of how hard his heart was beating from proximity and apprehension alike. “Aimless arguments, petty insults. He accused me of not really being at work, of seeing other men on the side, demanded I show proof of where I was going and why, went through my phone… You know how it goes.”

Dazai did know.

“It escalated until we were arguing every day. Funny how quickly four and a half years of almost perfect happiness can fall apart. I decided to break up with him, and you can imagine how he reacted to the news.”

“Yes,” Dazai replied quietly. “I can.”

Atsushi had said that Chuuya had to take two weeks off of work, after all. Dazai had been curious about it; now he wanted anything but to know exactly why Chuuya, who was so diligent in his job, had to go on a sudden vacation.

Chuuya seemed to want to bear witness to Dazai’s full absorption of the news. In his gaze was the same focus he had applied when stitching his skin back together—and there was some irony, some poetry perhaps, in that opening up took for Chuuya the same energy that fixing others did.

“So you see,” Chuuya said. “I don’t like controlling bastards like you. I could tell the moment you first talked down to me that you’re a condescending prick who’s never been told ‘no’ a single day in his life, and who’s more than willing to use violence to get what he wants. A pretty face and some smooth talking don’t change that.”

“I wouldn’t—”

“Sure. You wouldn’t.”

Dazai opened his mouth. Closed it again. He couldn’t blame Chuuya for scoffing at him, not with how he had behaved, not with what Chuuya knew of his life. The fact that he was familiar with being controlled and led around was not something he could use as an excuse now.

His side ached when he straightened up in his seat. Chuuya had looked away by now, staring thoughtfully through the window and to the nightly view outside. He turned back around when Dazai spoke.

“I apologize,” he said, with the same stone-hard bluntness he used to give orders. “Both for distressing Atsushi-kun and for bringing back painful memories with my behavior. I wouldn’t have insisted if I thought you genuinely minded it, but I obviously misread you.”

For a second he thought Chuuya would not react at all to his words; but then Chuuya breathed out a chuckle, running a hand over his face and half-hiding a smile.

He had dimples.

“Never mind,” he said, cutting through the haze that the sight of him had just trapped Dazai in. “This isn’t the first time a patient pulls a gun on me. Don’t become so serious all of a sudden, it’s throwing me off.”

“I guess you’re just irresistible to criminals,” Dazai joked weakly.

“I’m usually better at ignoring you lot when you try shit like that, though.”

His voice was firm, but his eyes bore humor again. Dazai let the line of his shoulders relax. He smiled back.

Chuuya didn’t touch his food again. He put it back into a small fridge in a corner of the room, where other meals wrapped in plastic bags or labeled with names sat waiting. Then he gave a light kick to the foot of Dazai’s chair and said, “Come on. I’m taking you back to your room.”

Dazai stood up, slightly hunched forward. Chuuya didn’t try to take his arm or touch him in any way, which he regretted, but he still walked level with him. He still let their arms brush together with each step.

The way to his room felt both longer and shorter this time around. Dazai couldn’t feel Gin’s presence at all, though he knew she must be in his immediate vicinity—he felt some guilt at the idea that she must’ve heard what Chuuya had talked about—but the air was less heavy now. Less haunted with the cries of souls in pain.

The light of Dazai’s room was off. Higuchi must still be sleeping, for not even the faint glow of her electronics could be seen.

“I’ll be there in the morning for your check-up,” Chuuya said softly. “Try to actually respect one hospital rule and not walk around by yourself at night.”

“That’s a long shift, isn’t it?” Dazai asked, avoiding the order altogether. “You worked all morning too. Don’t you get tired?”

Chuuya shrugged. “It’s what’s needed. We’re not exactly overflowing with staff.”

Dazai thought he would leave, then. He couldn’t think of another thing to say that wasn’t about how much he wanted to touch the underside of Chuuya’s chin, to press his lips to his forehead, to unravel him piece by piece.

But Chuuya hesitated upon turning around. He glanced at Dazai’s face again and said, “About what you said earlier. Misreading me.”

Dazai’s heart gave a shiver. “I got it. Don’t worry.”

“No, I mean…”

It could’ve been a trick of the light, if there were light to go around; it could’ve been wishful thinking, if Dazai weren’t too used to what he wished for escaping from his grasp. Chuuya tucked some lose hair back behind his ear, and his face had darkened.

“You didn’t really,” he muttered. “I was pissed as hell about Atsushi, that’s why I said all that stuff, but I didn’t really… well. I usually don’t care about patients flirting with me, but you—”

He was turning redder by the second. Dazai felt his lips curl with delight, his chest give another beat of thrumming heat. “I what?” he whispered, taking a step closer.

The glare Chuuya gave him was entirely worth it. His next exhale, Dazai felt over his chin.

“You didn’t misread me,” he admitted at last. Then, as Dazai was opening his mouth to speak: “I still think you’re an arrogant piece of shit and a control freak, don’t misunderstand me. But I wasn’t uncomfortable or anything until Atsushi told me about what you did.”

“Can you find it in yourself to forgive me?” Dazai asked, failing not to smile too widely. “I only meant to find out more about the man I’m intending to sue for malpractice, I assure you.”

“Fuck you, bastard.”

“I wish you would.”

Chuuya’s mouth twitched helplessly; his cheek dimpled again, one line creased into his skin that softened all of him at once, and Dazai’s hands burned as if touched by fire.

He resisted the urge to thumb at the corner of Chuuya’s mouth. He did not resist that of reaching between the two of them and taking Chuuya’s hand in his own, mindful of the minute tremor that shook it. Chuuya did nothing but watch as Dazai brought it to his lips.

“Good night, doctor,” Dazai said, brushing each word over Chuuya’s knuckles.

For the barest second, so quickly that Dazai could have imagined it, Chuuya’s fingers squeezed his own. He took his hand back slowly.

“Yeah,” Chuuya replied in a gentler voice. “Sleep well, Dazai.”

Next chapter

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