Index: Part I – Part II – Part III – Part IV
Rated: E – NSFW
Length: 34,700 total
Warnings: child abuse, violence, betrayal.
Owe No Debt
Chuuya woke up alone in the middle of the forest that Corruption had leveled. The first conscious breath that he dragged in ached, and it came out around Dazai’s name with no need for thought, crawling out of his cracked lips before he was aware of it.
“Fuck,” he said next, louder, and that hurt as well.
He must have been asleep for a while, because the blood had caked over his hands and forearms already. Chuuya rubbed his left wrist against a patch of nearby grass, until he could see the bruises marbling his skin. Blue and black.
The tips of his fingers always hurt the most after using Corruption. He pushed himself into a sitting position with his fists rather than the flat of his hands, and then bit his tongue as he stood up, every muscles in his body sore for the first time in years.
His clothes were folded on the ground, his gloves resting gently against the black of his coat. Dazai might as well have left a thank you note.
Chuuya couldn’t help but smile.
His clothes were ruined anyway, except for the coat and gloves, so he rubbed the rest of the blood off on his pants. His face had been wiped free of it by a hand not his own while he slept.
Chuuya bent down to pick up the coat. It was awkward, balancing everything in his hands while trying not to bend any knuckle, but he managed somewhat. A quick glance to the barrack where Q had been kept was enough to tell him that he would find nothing there anymore; the thing had been mostly razed in the explosion that had gotten rid of the Guild’s monster.
Taking a breath in preparation, he plucked his phone out of the coat’s inner pocket. It seemed to be working, despite the shocks it had taken—this coat was very good. Chuuya still winced with every press of his thumb on the screen, and again when he had to hold it against his ear.
“Nakahara-san,” came Higuchi’s tense voice.
“Yeah. What are the news?”
“Are you all right? We’ve been waiting for you to return for—”
“I’m fine, Higuchi,” Chuuya cut in. He raised his free hand with the goal of running it through his hair—before thinking better of it.
He really wasn’t used to dealing with the aftermath anymore.
“I’ll be back within an hour. Q’s with the agency by now.” The thought stung, but Chuuya had been more or less ready for the possibility since Mori sent him anyway. “Tell me what’s going on with us.”
It was an effort, sounding self-assured rather than exhausted and in more pain than he’d felt in years, but it paid off. He practically heard Higuchi straighten up in her seat to answer him. “Yes, sir. There’s been no fight outside of your own confrontation, though I can’t tell about the ADA. But…”
Chuuya frowned. “But what?”
“Akutagawa-senpai is missing.”
He gave up, then, and did run his fingers through the sweat-sticky hair at his nape. “Well, shit.”
The rest was out of Chuuya’s hands entirely.
News of the Guild’s whale-like ship scheduled to fall onto Yokohama reached him quickly enough. No one knew who had given the information to them, whether it was the agency or a traitor within the Guild; Chuuya ignored the stench of Dazai all over them and didn’t waste time asking Mori for orders either. Mori knew his worth in keeping their numbers tight and would have sent him down to deal with them anyway, so Chuuya went, regardless of the pain radiating through his body and his still-blackened hands. The skin of his fingers burned inside his gloves every time he moved. Chuuya hoped in spite of hope that he would have no need to fight today.
It wouldn’t matter anyway, if the city burned.
Chuuya gave his orders and spent the rest of the day on the rooftop of headquarters, looking at the shimmer that Moby Dick drew against the clouds. Something this massive couldn’t make itself completely invisible. Sunlight poured through it as it would broken glass; when Chuuya looked from the corner of his eyes, the whale’s silhouette appeared to him in flecks of red, blue, green light.
“Are you worried?”
Chuuya turned his head sideways.
Kouyou crossed the length of the rooftop in long, easy strides, stopping right beside him. She took a glance at the thin strip of bruised skin between Chuuya’s glove and his sleeve, and her lips thinned.
“Worrying doesn’t change anything,” Chuuya replied. “Either the thing will fall or it won’t.”
“You’re saying we should put our trust into that fool?”
He smiled at her, brash and honest. “Akutagawa? Probably not. I doubt he’s up there alone, though.”
Kouyou leaned against the fence that Chuuya was sitting on. She looked over her shoulder briefly, down into the fall promised under Chuuya’s feet. When she looked at him again, her face looked carved in stone.
Chuuya kept his smile in place. “Don’t bother, ane-san,” he said lightly. “I already know what you want to say.”
“You shouldn’t expect anything out of these people,” she declared anyway. “Chuuya. You shouldn’t expect anything out of Dazai.”
“I don’t fucking expect anything out of him.”
She took hold of his wrist, her fingers digging into the blood stains and burst vessels. Chuuya didn’t make any sound despite the pain, didn’t even flinch as she drew blood with the tip of her long, painted nails. “You went out of control,” she accused, venomous.
Chuuya shook her off. Let himself fall on the other side of the fence, toes beyond the edge of the roof.
He had never feared falling, for as long as he had been alive. There was no reason to.
“I did,” he replied, shrugging. “It was necessary.”
“Dazai told you it was necessary.”
And he was right, he almost answered. “Our opponent almost made it out alive against Corruption,” he said. “It was necessary, ane-san.”
Kouyou was silent for a moment. The day was nearing its end, afternoon sky darkening to evening, red spilling from the west like blood over the city. In this kind of light she always looked like her whole body was an open wound.
Chuuya looked away. Up. Wishing there was a way to lower the whale’s defenses so he could fly up and destroy it himself. He had the power for it.
He wouldn’t mind dying while doing it.
“Dazai will not come back to us,” Kouyou said, and Chuuya felt his blood turn hot and thick in his veins.
“Thank fuck for that.”
“So you say. Yet after four years of acting as if you couldn’t be happier that he’s gone, you entrust your life to him the moment he’s by your side.”
Kouyou’s eyes were piercing as a hawk’s. She didn’t have a hair out of place, not even right after coming back from being held hostage by the agency; her kimono folded around her as neatly as if she had just committed murder.
She said, “We can’t afford to lose an executive, Chuuya.”
Chuuya exhaled through his teeth. He jumped over the fence and back to the safer side of the rooftop, weightless over the hand he put on top of it. The contact was still enough to make pain race up his arm.
He made a show of dusting his coat once he was next to Kouyou. She watched him, eager and afraid, and he knew that her own hand must be wrapped around the handle of her blade inside those wide sleeves of hers.
“You’re upset,” Chuuya declared. He had the satisfaction of seeing lose her composure for the barest of seconds then, as her face tensed. “Because of that girl of yours. The one that got away.”
“Kyouka,” Kouyou murmured.
“That’s right. Kyouka.” Chuuya had only ever seen the girl in passing, locked as she always was in Kouyou’s quarters or hanging in Akutagawa’s shadow. He remembered how her eyes looked, however. “I’m not some little girl you need to keep a watch on,” he said lowly.
“Sometimes it feels like you are.”
Chuuya’s foot sank into the concrete when he stepped toward her, just enough to break it around the sole of his shoe—just enough to make the building shake under them. Kouyou paled but didn’t bow down, not even when Chuuya walked close enough that she could probably feel his words against her face.
“The debt I owe you is immense,” Chuuya said to her. “I will always be grateful for the chance you gave me. But you will not disrespect me like this again.”
He felt the tip of her blade against the crook of his wrist like a bug’s bite. He raised his hand without looking down, to avoid having blood stain his clothes once more.
It took a moment, but Kouyou relented. She huffed softly, lips stretching into a distant smile, blade sheathing itself back into her sleeve with only a whisper. “I do worry about you. We always seem to lose the people we thought we wouldn’t. Dazai, Kyouka… It seemed so unthinkable for them to leave.”
“Are you afraid I’ll leave?” Chuuya laughed as he said it. “Ane-san, where the fuck would I go?”
“I remember a time when you would blush after cursing in front of me,” Kouyou replied disapprovingly. Then, somber: “I am not afraid that you will leave. I am afraid that one day you will let Corruption ravage everything around you, and Dazai will not see fit to stop it ravaging you.”
Chuuya didn’t reply. He watched Moby Dick’s glimmer in the red sky from the corner of his eyes and tried to recall those same musings in himself. The moment of white-hot fear the night before when Dazai had looked at him and let him choose.
He couldn’t, though. All that came to his mind was the feeling of Dazai’s cold fingers wrapped around his skin. Dazai’s voice telling him to rest. Dazai breaking him free of the taint in his blood and making relief bloom in him, so much more powerful now than when he still took Dazai’s presence for granted.
Kouyou sighed. Her hand reached up, and Chuuya let her run her fingers through his hair without a word. “This might well be our last hour on this earth,” she said.
“Would you have any regrets if it were?”
Chuuya chuckled. “Are you trying to get a confession out of me?” Kouyou’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. It never did. Now, though, it seemed misery clung to her skin like the sun’s color to her hair. So Chuuya dislodged her hand from his nape and squeezed it between his aching fingers. “I don’t give a shit about regrets.”
“Yes,” she replied, “you always were a headstrong boy.”
He let go of her hand. “Now you’re the one sounding like you’re saying farewell,” he mocked, staring into her eyes.
He hadn’t heard his own name come out of anyone’s mouth so softly in years. Not since taking the executive’s seat that Dazai had vacated four years ago. Kouyou had latched onto nothing after that, and then onto the demon girl who bore the same ability as herself.
Chuuya did not have time in him for regrets. His life was a story of survival, of striving forward, of not looking back; it was dealing with teenage frustration by becoming the best martial artist in the mafia and it was doing what Dazai had done a hundred times better, so the bitter looks would stop following him, so Mori would stop looking at him in furious disappointment. It was picking up the pieces that Dazai had made of Akutagawa and giving the boy a job he could lead with minimal restraint.
No, Chuuya did not have regrets. Regrets were always Dazai’s thing.
He watched the whale’s see-through shape fall down toward the harbor with Kouyou standing still by his side. He watched a government plane crash into it from above, destroying it. He saw the great machine’s belly hit the water, too far away to cause more than a minor flooding of the shore, killing no one.
He realized that he hadn’t doubted for one second that Dazai would find a way to stop it.
Mori Ougai took over the aging, insane boss a week before Chuuya’s second birthday spent between the walls of the port mafia’s headquarters. He held an inheritance ceremony on the twenty-eighth of April, during a cold spring evening that left the women in attendance shivering, goosebumps riding over the skin of their bare arms.
It was during that ceremony that Chuuya met the boy-prodigy.
He had seen Dazai before. They had crossed paths in hallways, running errands, carrying messages. He had seen the other in the doctor’s company every time doctoring was needed. He had looked into Dazai’s eyes and found them lacking, and he had never thought about him more.
Chuuya left the ballroom where the ceremony was taking place long before his time was due. He opened one of the reinforced glass panels leading to the balconies outside, crawled to his knees, and made his way unseen behind the legs of all the guests. He stood up once he was out of sight and made himself weightless, until his feet stopped touching the floor he walked on and he could feel the air caught between his back and the façade of the building. Higher, higher, so that he had all of the city spread open beneath his feet, so that the expanse of gleaming water ahead shone like fire in the sunset and burned itself into his eyes.
And then something took him by the wrist, and he fell.
Weight settled itself back into Chuuya’s body with violence. He opened his mouth but couldn’t even scream; his heart had risen to his throat and choked off all of his airways. In the eternity between his race downward and the sudden halt it took, Chuuya felt, more than anything, the emptiness where his ability should be. It was as if he were trying to touch something without being able to feel it, no matter how strongly his fingers pushed, no matter how much of his own skin he split open in the process.
His shoulder screamed with pain when the resistance at his wrist cut his fall short. For a long moment Chuuya could do nothing more than dangle, eyes shut close and a helpless sob pressing against his throat, spilling bitter on his tongue.
He let it out, and he looked up.
The boy was the one holding him up. Both of his hands were holding onto Chuuya’s wrist, and his face was red and sweaty from the effort. Chuuya looked at him with his mouth open, unable to speak any words.
“You might want to start climbing,” the boy said, voice strained. “Before I drop you.”
Chuuya closed his mouth.
He grabbed the upper edge of the topmost window of headquarters, right under the roof where the boy appeared to be lying down. Every push of his muscles ripped another terrified moan out of him—only adrenaline prevented his grip from trembling and letting go altogether. Chuuya hoisted himself onto the roof, blood pumping harder through him than he had ever experienced. The shaking started as his knees found traction onto the concrete and he crawled under the barrier. He kneeled there, a few feet away from the edge, completely unable to think.
The boy wasn’t so still. He crawled back toward where Chuuya was sitting—slowly, until he looked sure enough that he wouldn’t accidentally fall off. Then he sat onto his behind and peered at Chuuya through his hair, curious and amused.
Chuuya gasped in a breath before speaking. “T-Thank—”
“Oh, don’t thank me,” the boy cut in. His smile widened. “I’m the one who made you fall.”
Chuuya could only stare at him in silence.
The boy chuckled, and said, “Sorry about that. I saw you floating there and I got so envious, I just had to do it.”
“What the fuck?” Chuuya didn’t realize that he had spoken at all until his words drew another smile out of the boy, colder and even less inviting than the first.
“My ability,” the boy continued, “is to cancel other abilities.”
There was silence. Chuuya’s eyes were burning, watering, with how hard he refused to blink; his body was still caught in the stupor and relief of the previous minute, sluggish, slow; but the smile on the boy’s face didn’t disappear, and when Chuuya tried to press onto the ground and make it crack, his fingers trembled against it uselessly.
The boy laughed.
“Give it back,” Chuuya gasped. “Give it back—”
“It’ll be back in a moment, don’t worry.”
“What the fuck,” Chuuya repeated. “I could’ve died.”
“But you didn’t.” There was nothing but honest glee on the other’s face. No remorse and no worry. “Who knows, the drop from here is so long—you might even have been able to summon it in time to stop yourself from crashing.”
“You don’t know that!”
The boy rose to his feet with laughter racking through him. Red sunlight hit his face once he was up, and for the first time Chuuya noticed the stained bandages around his wrists and neck. The boy’s eyes were still stuck to him—looking down on him, mirth as cold as ice shining in them. Chuuya jumped to his feet and found, regretfully, that he couldn’t make the rooftop tremble under his feet yet.
“You’re crazy,” he declared. Annoyingly enough, the other boy was a good head taller than him. “Do you attempt to kill everyone you fucking meet?”
“Do you swear like this when in ane-san’s presence?” the boy replied, and Chuuya shut his mouth, face warm. The boy chuckled again. “I’ve been curious as to who you are. Nakahara Chuuya… I could only find out your name.” His eyes roamed over Chuuya’s body quickly. “Hard to believe you’re not twelve.”
Chuuya saw red. “Fuck off,” he replied. “Who the fuck are you? Acting so smug just because the boss changed, huh?”
“I’m supposed to find myself a partner,” he replied. “To start going on missions.”
“Is that how you’re going about it?” Chuuya scoffed. “No thanks.”
“I haven’t asked anything yet, pipsqueak.”
Chuuya’s foot moved forward on its own, still with only his body’s weight for strength. The boy watched him approach without losing his smile.
Chuuya stopped a foot away, eyes trained onto the boy’s hands, remembering the feeling of falling to his own death.
“Smart,” the boy murmured.
“I can tell when I’m being made fun of,” Chuuya retorted. “What do you want?”
The boy watched him. It was a piercing sort of scrutiny, the kind Chuuya only ever went through when he visited Kouyou of when running errands for the Black Lizard squad leader. Chuuya held the other’s looks without flinching—and the boy smiled again, eyes alight with interest. “My name is Dazai,” he said. “I’d like you to become my partner, Nakahara Chuuya.”
Dazai extended a bruised hand forward.
Chuuya eyed it silently.
“You want me to explain my reasoning,” Dazai sighed, once he understood that Chuuya wouldn’t budge. “Fishing for compliments?”
“Considering punching you in the face, more like.”
“If you can reach it.” Dazai still looked like he thought Chuuya was beneath him. It wasn’t even because of the comments on Chuuya’s height; it was all in his eyes, uncaring even through his enjoyment. It made the short hairs at Chuuya’s nape rise on his skin as if someone had pressed an ice cube against his spine.
“Why should I want to partner up with you?” Chuuya asked between his teeth. “There’s nothing in it for me.”
“Mmh, perhaps not now. When I’m an executive, however—”
Chuuya laughed, bright and sudden. His chest deflated with it and his eyes burned with unspent tears—he had to turn away from the other so he could wipe them with the back of his hands.
“That’s not very nice,” Dazai commented. “I was being serious.”
“An executive?” Chuuya couldn’t even pretend to take him seriously.
But Dazai didn’t seem fazed by it at all. If anything, his face relaxed. “Boss Mori has very high hopes for me,” he said. “I anticipate that I’ll be climbing the ranks very quickly.”
“You’re what, fifteen?”
“Fourteen,” Chuuya repeated, lips stretched wide enough to show his teeth. “And I should invest my time with you for no reason but because you deluded yourself into thinking that maybe, in fifteen years, you’ll be a fucking executive.”
“Less than fifteen years,” Dazai replied easily. “Five or six at the most.”
Dazai shook his head a little, so that his hair would stop falling into his eyes. They weren’t black, Chuuya noticed then; they were brown, and the warmth in them was belied by an edge that he had only ever seen on the likes of Kouyou or Hirotsu. Staring into them for too long made his skin shiver as if wanting to jump off his bones.
He didn’t dislike it. That was maybe the most surprising thing of all.
Dazai took a step forward. He was practically breathing down Chuuya’s face, now, but Chuuya didn’t move back. He threw back his head to stare right back at the other.
“I’m very close to Boss Mori,” Dazai said. Chuuya could feel how the air moved out of his mouth—his face warmed before he could help it, but Dazai didn’t comment on it, simply kept going as he was. “I really shouldn’t be talking about this to anyone, let alone one of Kouyou’s errand boys, but… I assure you that associating with me will only make it easier for you to make yourself known.”
“Maybe I don’t want to be known,” Chuuya lied. “Maybe I’m fine being a messenger.”
“Please”—and Dazai’s voice was so dismissive, Chuuya felt it crawl over his skin unpleasantly—”this would be the most disappointing thing I’ve seen of you yet.”
Chuuya took a step back. “You need to work on your people skills, Dazai.”
Dazai laughed again. His voice broke for a second, making his face flush ever-so-slightly—Chuuya smirked in his direction once the other looked back. At least his voice hadn’t cracked in more than a year.
The other cleared his throat, hand over his mouth but not hiding the blush on his cheeks. “I’ve been looking for someone with a good ability,” he said. “Seeing you earlier, I thought, why not? Gravity manipulation seems very useful.”
Chuuya hit the ground with his foot, and the concrete cracked under his sole as if made of glass. Finally. “Yeah,” he replied.
“You’re my age too. You have no influence. You wouldn’t hinder me.”
“Boy, do you tempt me.”
“See?” Dazai smiled, condescending. “An adequate match. We could do great things together, Nakahara Chuuya.”
“Just Chuuya’s fine.”
“All right. Don’t call me by my first name, though.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Still, you’re a bit of a mystery, aren’t you,” Dazai continued thoughtfully. “The most I could gather out of Hirotsu-san was that you begged your way into the mafia. Why’s that? Is Chuuya even your real name?”
Chuuya’s lips thinned. The hot animosity in his veins dwindled to cool suspicion, and Dazai missed none of it, his hard eyes peering into Chuuya’s as if he wanted to split open his head and look directly inside. “That’s none of your business,” he answered.
“Fair enough,” Dazai nodded.
Chuuya looked away. The sun was almost gone now, and the bay’s waters looked nearly black. Because he and Dazai were standing so high up, the light still reached them, glowing around them the way Chuuya knew he glowed with his powers.
It was as though they were the only ones awake anymore. The last ones touched by daylight. The thought kept the chill of the height and evening at bay.
“You’re interested,” Dazai declared. Chuuya didn’t look at him and didn’t bother denying it. “You know I’m right.”
“You probably say this to every idiot you try to rope into following you around like a dog.”
“You’re right, in a way,” the other replied. “Because you’re the only one I’ve asked.”
And Chuuya couldn’t help the tightness in his chest and the big, empty gap in him that always looked for praise. “Fuck you,” he replied, heart beating fast. “I’m not so easy that I’ll fall for that.”
“Are you easy in other ways?”
Chuuya’s foot smashed onto the rooftop, making the ground crack open under Dazai’s feet—Dazai stumbled, just for a second, only quick enough to find his footing again.
It was enough for Chuuya.
His fist connected with Dazai’s cheek, weighed only by his own physical strength; but Chuuya’s physical strength was more than enough for him to feel the shock to Dazai’s skull and how his skin burst beneath his knuckles. Dazai fell sideways, his smart mouth gasping now; when the whole of his body connected with the ground, Chuuya’s heart soared with bone-deep satisfaction.
Dazai spluttered. He spat out pink-tinged saliva onto the ground. When he looked up at Chuuya, his eyes were wide with shock.
“Next time you try to know shit about me,” Chuuya said, jaw aching around his smile and teeth bared, “make sure to ask around the dojo next to ane-san’s house.”
Dazai, for the first time, seemed speechless. Chuuya burned the sight of his face to memory, savored each twitch of his lips on his own silence and watched with appreciation as Dazai’s cheek turned from red to purple. The friction of his gloves had made him bleed, and Chuuya followed the first red drop as it rolled down Dazai’s cheekbone and got absorbed by the cotton already stuck to some previous wound on his chin.
“I’ll think over your proposal,” Chuuya continued. He tugged his gloves back in place and ignored the joyful tingling in his fingers. Never had punching someone felt so rewarding. He wasn’t even mad anymore. “I’ll be going now, if you don’t mind.”
Dazai laughed. He pushed himself back into a standing position and straightened his back so he could hover over Chuuya again—but one of his cursed hands was holding his cheek, and he didn’t look so smug anymore. “You’re an absolute pain in the ass,” he said.
“That’s nothing more than you deserve, ass.”
“I know. It’s sickening, how fitting this seems.”
Chuuya smiled before he could help it, feeling warm in ways he hadn’t in weeks, maybe even months.
The old boss was dead. Chuuya wouldn’t have to run to and from corpse-riddled battlefields to count casualties anymore. And the new boss’s pet project wanted him as a partner.
He didn’t see Dazai’s smile soften from amused to endeared.
“See you around,” he said, turning on his heels. “Dazai.”
His legs were shaking when he walked toward the stars, but only from excitement.
Chuuya had lied that day.
Abilities were a mystery to everyone as far as he knew. The mafia accepted them as unshakeable truth, but Chuuya didn’t know anyone who actively researched the truth of them. They just existed. They changed things about people’s appearances, sometimes. There was no genetic way for Chuuya to be born with red hair, and yet somehow he was.
Some people took years to discover theirs, and some people knew theirs inside out as soon as they were born.
Chuuya was part of the latter. For the Tainted Sorrow had sung inside him for as long as he could remember. He came into the world without the fear of falling and without the fear of heights; he thought, when he allowed himself to, that maybe his recklessness in this had led his parents to being how they were.
He made things fly. He made himself fly. He crushed the ground under his feet. He turned himself as heavy as whales or as light as feathers.
When he was eleven, Chuuya’s fear won over his love. He touched his father’s bloody fist between blows and made him weigh nothing—less than feathers and less than mist—made him soar toward the sky as far as he could go, and then, before his love could win again, he let him fall.
He ran until he could convince himself that he hadn’t heard the sound that his father’s body made as it hit the ground.
It took very little to convince the beautiful and deadly woman that his mother had told him about to let him work for her. Some groveling, some tidying up, and of course, some flying. Kouyou was as cold to him as she was to anyone else, but she took him in. She gave him enough money for him to rent a room in one of the port mafia’s establishments and sleep without fear for the first time in his life.
When Chuuya told Dazai, There’s nothing in it for me, he had been lying. He was interested in climbing the ranks. He was interested in proving himself worthy.
He was interested in Dazai.
Mostly, though, he was interested in what he knew he hadn’t done yet. He was interested in the restless power in him that told him he could do so, so much more. That he could lose himself entirely to the fear that had made him kill his own kin—lose himself enough that he wouldn’t feel bad about it.
Three weeks after meeting Dazai on the rooftop of the mafia’s headquarters, Dazai broke into Chuuya’s room. He tried to wrestle Chuuya, and Chuuya pinned him down onto the floor without even breaking a sweat, lips stretched wide enough to match the gleeful smile on Dazai’s face.
Dazai told him that he had a plan. A non-Mori-approved plan. And Chuuya agreed to it with only the heat in his veins for a reason.
That night, he used Corruption for the first time.
That night, Dazai Osamu touched the black-bruised skin of his wrist and made him stop.
That night, Mori Ougai upgraded him to a suite inside of headquarters, his thoughtful gaze crawling over Chuuya’s skin like ants, and Chuuya hung heavier to Dazai’s stiff shoulder, working pride out of the pain wrecking his entire body.
It was sickening, how fitting it all seemed.
The port mafia needed Q back. Chuuya wasn’t happy about it, but he swallowed down his protests in front of the other executives. He was the only one who disagreed with Mori on this.
Mori had a choice. He could send Kouyou for negotiations with the armed detective agency, as she had already proven to be able to establish non-violent contact with them, even if she had been a hostage at the time. Or he could send Chuuya.
Considering that Kouyou had flirted heavily with treason during her time as a hostage, the choice was quickly made.
Chuuya clenched his teeth on his own annoyance as he walked through Yokohama. Summer was never too hot on the city thanks to the sea-wind, but he made without his coat anyway—both because it was needless and because he was supposed to appear non-threatening.
It didn’t matter how non-threatening he looked. Or that he did the polite thing and knocked before entering the agency. Yosano Akiko had a machete to his neck as soon as he stepped in, and a man he didn’t know was pointing an actual gun in his direction.
“I come in peace,” he drawled, annoyed. “Where’s Dazai?”
The man with the gun seemed to struggle between his need to be polite and his need to be hostile. “No here,” he settled on. “Why are you here?”
“Come to finish our fight?” Yosano asked, not very good at hiding the excitement she felt at the idea.
Chuuya bared his teeth at her. “Tempting, but no. I do actually come in peace.”
There weren’t many people in the office, now that he was looking around. The boy with blond hair that he had met a few days prior was gone, and so was Dazai, of course. Out of the reports Chuuya had heard from Akutagawa and Kajii, only the weretiger seemed to be here.
He was a frail thing. Tall for his age but very skinny, with tan skin and white hair and obviously not-human yellow eyes. Chuuya spent a moment looking into the boy’s curious face and wondering what he was hiding, for Dazai to call him by name with such affection on his voice.
“I need to thank you,” he told the weretiger. The boy yelped and flinched back, and Chuuya ignored it. “I heard that you and Akutagawa killed that Guild guy and saved us all from inevitable death.”
“Oh.” The boy lowered the hand he had raised to cover his face. “Um. You’re welcome?”
“Are you asking or saying it?”
The man with yellow hair stepped further into Chuuya’s personal space, almost pressing his gun into Chuuya’s face. “What do you want with us, port mafia executive?” he asked hotly.
“Get that thing out of my face,” Chuuya replied. He touched his fingers to the mouth of the gun quickly and tried not to laugh when the thing fell out of man’s hands, now weighing just enough to break open the floorboard without outright falling through it or dislocating the man’s shoulder. The other made a sound of surprised pain and stepped back immediately. He felt Yosano’s machete leave the back of his neck carefully as well. “I’m here for Q,” Chuuya said once that was settled. “My boss is willing to open negotiations for his retrieval from the agency, and he sent me to conduct them…”
He trailed off, because a chill ran up his spine and took hold of his breathing, halting it suddenly. Chuuya turned on his heels with one hand raised and the other hovering uselessly at his hip—his brain chose this precise moment to remind him that Dazai had never given him his knife back.
The man standing behind him and Yosano was tall and grey-haired, with lines on his face that weren’t at all from smiling. He looked down at Chuuya with neither contempt nor hatred, but Chuuya didn’t for one second think that he wouldn’t use the katana hanging from his hip if need be.
He had never felt so vulnerable in front of an opponent before.
“Honorable of a man like Mori Ougai to attempt negotiations before attempting murder,” the man said. His voice was deep and his tone was absolute. “I would go so far as to say unthinkable.”
Chuuya smiled faintly. It took effort like none other to lower his guard. “Well, no one’s said anything about what happens when you refuse our offer,” he replied. “But Boss Mori has really taken to the idea of a ceasefire of sorts between us, and wishes to extend it now that the Guild is gone.”
He hadn’t. Chuuya didn’t know what Mori was planning, exactly, but there was no way he wasn’t planning something. He didn’t think any of the other executives were in the know either.
Kouyou might have been, if she hadn’t so openly let her support of the killer girl’s defection show.
Dazai had been the only one Mori truly shared plans with. Dazai had been raised from infancy to be Mori’s right hand man. For all Chuuya knew, Mori was still sharing schemes with Dazai even with Dazai on the side of the enemy.
Chuuya straightened up entirely, closing his legs once more and taking off his hat. “In exchange for that ceasefire, the mafia expects you to deliver Q to us without a fight.”
The man—Fukuzawa Yukichi, obviously, stared at him silently for a moment before speaking again. “No.”
Chuuya smiled. “We’ll reign in Akutagawa as well.” He heard the weretiger take a loud breath behind him. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid on his own anymore. Your employee will finally be left alone.”
Fukuzawa looked over Chuuya’s shoulder briefly, but his face didn’t change. “Am I to expect that if I refuse, your man will be encouraged not to leave Nakajima Atsushi alone?”
“That could certainly happen,” Chuuya murmured.
Atsushi. That had been the name. Now that he was hearing again, Chuuya could recall Dazai saying it through bloody lips and with a smile.
“I see.” Fukuzawa shook his head. “I must refuse anyway. Kunikida, walk our enemy out.”
“Yes sir,” the man with yellow hair replied instantly.
A single dark look in Kunikida’s direction was enough to deter him from trying to lay a hand on Chuuya, but though Chuuya led himself to the door without prompting, he still said, “Tell Dazai to give me back my damn knife,” to Yosano as he went.
He walked out of the office with Kunikida hot on his heels and irritation tight in his stomach. They stayed a distance away from each other as they walked down the stairs, Kunikida because he was probably wary after the gun thing, Chuuya because he was struggling to remember what Akutagawa had said about Kunikida’s ability.
Chuuya was about to reach for the front door’s handle when Kunikida asked, “Why did Dazai steal your knife?”
Chuuya’s hand faltered in midair, weightless and unbearably heavy at once. “Because he’s a piece of shit,” he replied.
He heard Kunikida shuffle on his feet. When he spoke again, his voice was unfriendly but polite. “You’re Nakahara Chuuya. His old partner. From… when he was with the port mafia.”
“That’s right.” So Dazai had ratted him out to his new group. Chuuya didn’t know whether to feel annoyed or happy about it, so he turned to look at Kunikida’s tense face with a smile instead. “You’re Kunikida Doppo. His new partner.”
At least according to Akutagawa’s always mediocre reports.
Kunikida tensed but didn’t lose his composure. “I hate to be associated with him like this,” he muttered.
“We have so much in common already.”
“I need to know if he’s fraternizing with the enemy,” Kunikida continued, serious as a tomb. “I don’t like the two of you delivering private messages as if we’re not at war with each other—”
“Hold on,” Chuuya cut in. “First of all, there’s no fraternizing with Dazai. Everyone’s an enemy to this fucking guy, so take this as advice and never let yourself believe that he’s become your friend.”
Kunikida’s mouth was gaping slightly. It was cute, in a way.
“Second, even if this asshole had the ability to be nice to anyone, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him.”
“So…” Kunikida was visibly struggling with his own thoughts. “You two didn’t like each other either?”
“No,” and Chuuya wasn’t lying, because like was so much of a non-truth for what he felt about Dazai that even thinking it made his stomach revolt. “Dazai’s only ever had one friend, and it wasn’t me.”
Chuuya’s hands spasmed by his sides.
The most annoying thing about Dazai, possibly, was the fact that he was so good at disguising his own presence. Chuuya remembered telling him that thinking so much about dying made him feel like a dead man already, and it wasn’t a lie; Chuuya had never managed to prevent Dazai from taking him by surprise when he wanted to.
The front door of the building was open from the outside, and in its frame stood Dazai, one hand over the handle and the other clutching Q’s shoulder.
His eyes were unreadable.
Chuuya turned to him and channeled the pit of nervous heat in belly into tight anticipation—and a smile that he hoped looked as feral as it felt. “Dazai,” he said, each vowel spreading over his tongue, warm and familiar. “Give me back my knife.”
“Did you come all the way here just for this?” The smile on Dazai’s lips was immediate, though insincere.
Q by his side had anxiety written all over his nightmarish face.
“I’m here for you,” Chuuya told Q, and paid no mind to the small whimper that the atrocious boy let out. “The agency has kindly refused our offer for peaceful transfer, so it’ll have to be war. Dazai,” he barked at the other then, “give me the knife, and next time I ever agree to one of your stupid plans, remind me to punch your teeth out instead.”
“If you can reach them,” Dazai replied lowly.
He slipped a hand into the lapels of his beige coat without letting go of Q with the other. Chuuya’s Ka-Bar emerged from the folds, the thin stripe of the blade not covered in cloth glinting icily.
Chuuya grabbed Dazai’s wrist twenty centimeters away from his throat; only then did he realized that the knife’s blade was turned toward Dazai. He had been so focused on stopping Dazai’s movement, he hadn’t seen the other hold it with the handle up front. Judging by Dazai’s smirk, this had been intentional.
“Fuck you,” Chuuya growled. He tore the knife out of Dazai’s grip, or at least he tried to—Dazai let it go easily but hooked a finger under his glove as he did, cold against the heel of Chuuya’s palm.
Chuuya couldn’t help it; the skin-to-skin pressure made the bruises flare, and he winced.
Something dark went over Dazai’s face, more reminiscent of year-gone times than all his bravado weeks earlier in the headquarter’s underground had been. He took his finger out of Chuuya’s glove carefully and stepped back.
“You’re not going to be punching anyone’s teeth in the near future,” was all he said.
“Dazai,” came Kunikida’s furious voice then; Chuuya had almost forgotten that he was here. “Bring the kid upstairs, it’s Atsushi’s turn to keep watch.”
Dazai took another long second to look away from Chuuya’s eyes and over his shoulder instead. “Sure, Kunikida-kun.”
“‘Kid’,” Chuuya sneered softly. “Is that what this is about, then?”
Kunikida made a confused noise. If Dazai understood what Chuuya meant—and he probably did—he showed no sign of it. He walked past Chuuya without another look, brushing their shoulders together, hand firmly stuck to Q’s upper arm.
Chuuya adjusted his glove back in place. “You’re pathetic,” he said. “You’re really going to end up dead, trying to live like this.”
“Good,” Dazai replied lightly. “You know that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Liar, Chuuya thought.
There was nothing more to be said. Dazai wasn’t part of his life anymore, and Chuuya knew better than to want to change that. Not for anyone, and especially not for someone who was trying so very hard to wash his own hands clean of blood. He clenched his teeth on the dark, ugly shadow of nostalgia, bit into it until he tasted metal; then he pushed open the door in front of him and stepped out of the building, into the summer light, wind and seasalt on his tongue.
Chuuya’s hands were already plenty tainted.