Scale of Success

Sequel to Margin of Error.

Rated: M

Length: 6,200

Warnings: past domestic abuse, guns, non-graphic sexual content

Scale Of Success

Chuuya felt like an utter fool.

The feeling had become something of a constant companion over the last month. Ever since he had met eyes with the worst patient of his career and heard him say sweetheart with as much condescension as genuine interest, really.

Kouyou, ever-unhelpful, chose this moment to say, “You’re acting like a child.”

“Shut up,” he replied, glaring at her reflection in the mirror.

She was sitting at his desk, idly flipping through the latest editions of the medical journals he was subscribed to and hadn’t had the time to read yet. There was quite a lot of them, though not as much as when he still worked through the night.

“You called me here for my opinion, lad,” she went on evenly. “If you wanted to be coddled you could have asked someone else.”

“First off, I didn’t call you. You just showed up.” Chuuya fiddled with the line of his shirt collar once more. It looked too stiff to be worn without a tie, but the weather was too hot for one now, and wearing a tie could potentially make the evening out to be something more serious than it was. “Secondly,” he said, lowering his hands, “this is entirely your fault in the first place.”

“I’m not the one this man fell in love with.”

Blood rushed up Chuuya’s face hotly. “I should never have told you about that,” he muttered, avoiding his own eyes in the mirror.

Tie it was. At least it could act as something of a deterrent to Dazai’s enthusiasm—an extra piece of cloth wrapped around Chuuya’s body like armor. Chuuya opened the door of his closet, shoving the mirrored panel out of view and pushing aside hangers until he could reach the box where he kept his accessories. He picked the first one he found and unrolled it on the spot.

“He’s not in love with me,” he told Kouyou for good measure, even as his hands tied the knot around his throat, habit guiding every movement. “He’s off his rockers, he was under some heavy painkillers, and he thinks I’m hot. That’s all.” He turned around to face her. “How do I look?”

Kouyou glanced up from the papers she had pretended to read for the better part of an hour and looked at him from head to toe. “Like a shady handyman,” she replied.

“Good. I don’t want him to get any ideas.”

“Chuuya, I hate to break it to you, but Dazai asked you out on a date, and you accepted. He’s supposed to get ideas.” Kouyou’s smile turned mocking. “Although with his job, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found shady handymen appealing. You should wear sunglasses.”

“Damn it—”

The clock on the wall told him it was ten to five. He didn’t have time to find a different outfit, assuming Dazai got here on time.

Dazai’s promise of ‘two or three weeks’ had turned to out to be a little on the optimistic side. Chuuya couldn’t have told how he managed to keep his calm after kissing him that day, or why exactly he had indulged the obvious pleasure and joy on Dazai’s face and agreed to meet him again. He had spent the weeks after his departure reorganizing his life into a more diurnal rhythm, now that he and the rest of the doctors in the clinic had more time on their hands to breathe. It hadn’t stopped him from looking at his phone too often, or becoming distracted during conversations, until at last he had received a text from the number he had simply saved as Bastard.

He didn’t question why he had expected Dazai to know his number.

Busier than expected. Give me a couple more weeks to sort it out and we can have our date.

That was all it had said. Not even a term of endearment to go with it. Chuuya felt oddly disappointed at this, and oddly disappointed in himself for expecting more.

So Chuuya hadn’t seen Dazai at all since the man had vanished from the hospital grounds after kissing him soundly on the front steps. Thankfully his colleagues knew better than to make fun of him for the display—either because they were actually decent or because they remembered what had happened to the last person who meddled with Chuuya’s private life—though Atsushi had been a little subdued around him for reasons Chuuya couldn’t guess at.

He felt like a fool for letting excitement win over caution. He felt like a fool for allowing Dazai’s weird charm to get to him. He felt like a fool for standing in his bedroom for well over an hour, agonizing over what to wear, when the person he was about to meet had given him so little.

He had really thought his last relationship had cured him of such stupidity.

“Chuuya,” Kouyou called, rising up from his desk chair.

Chuuya blinked, erasing the blurred image of his bed, which he had been staring at thoughtlessly. He watched her approach him and didn’t react when she deftly undid the knot of his tie and pulled the fabric off of his collar. She rummaged through his open closet and pulled out one of his silk shirts.

“Put this on,” she said, handing it to him.

He didn’t think to disagree for one second.

Undoing the top buttons of the stiff shirt he had picked was quickly done. Chuuya pulled it over his head and threw it over the bed, too used to Kouyou’s presence in his life to feel embarrassed. He was wearing an undershirt anyway, and it wasn’t as if he or Kouyou could have any interest in each other that way.

Silk definitely felt better on his skin than cotton. His newfound work-life balance had allowed him to recover some of the pleasures he had lost over the past year, and Chuuya had been only too happy to indulge again in taking great care of himself. Expensive lotions, shampoos, shower gels once more crowded the shelves of his bathroom; his skin had gone back to his pre-break-up softness, allowing the fabric to brush over him without sticking to him as silk was wont to do.

He was barely done tucking the shirt into his slacks before Kouyou was in front of him, a very familiar strip of leather hanging from her fingers.

“No way,” he said immediately.

“You used to always wear those,” she replied mournfully. “They suit you so well. I’m sure Dazai will agree.”

“I haven’t dressed like that in years—”

“You haven’t gone on a first date in years either.”

Chuuya’s mouth opened and closed without sound. “Damn you,” he said at last, and took the choker from her hand without looking at her. “If he makes fun of me I want a raise.”

It was true that Chuuya hadn’t worn any of his chokers, collars, or other jewelry in a long time. Ace had appreciated his looks until he hadn’t, and though Chuuya’s change in style had happened long before things truly went south between the two of them, Chuuya couldn’t help but wonder if he should have taken his ex’s insistence and disapproval as a warning sign back then.

The choker fit into place around his throat familiarly. It didn’t feel nearly as restrictive as Chuuya had expected. He spent a second after securing the buckle breathing out of his nose, expecting someone to tell him he looked ridiculous.

“So,” he said once no voice came to berate him. He looked at Kouyou once more. “Still look like a yakuza?”

“More like a high-end escort,” Kouyou mused, smiling thinly.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

“A really, really expensive one.”

“I’m too old for this,” Chuuya groaned, turning around and pulling his tall mirror into view once more. “What now, should I wear eyeliner? Re-pierce my lips? Since you really want to see me go back to being eighteen.”

“No need,” Kouyou replied, placing a hand on his shoulder and standing behind him. “He already saw you looking like death warmed over, and that didn’t seem to bother him. You’ll be fine.”

For a moment neither of them said anything. Chuuya tried as hard as he could to avoid looking at himself. As he stood now, despite Kouyou’s settling presence at his back, he couldn’t understand the self-confidence and flirtation he had shown in those two days Dazai had haunted his steps and thoughts. He knew he would find fault with his image if he were to examine it; he knew he would shake and hesitate at the core of himself if he were to think too hard on the fact that he was going out with intent and desire.

“I should—” change, he didn’t say. Couldn’t say.

Truly, he should cancel the whole thing.

Kouyou’s thumb stroked the back of his neck. “It’s just a date, Chuuya,” she murmured. “You’re supposed to have fun. If Dazai can’t handle you being yourself then he doesn’t deserve you, and you can cut things off right there.”

It didn’t reassure him as much as she had hoped, and she must have seen it on his face, because she turned him around with both hands cradling his arms.

“You used to enjoy dating,” she said, meeting his eyes insistently. “I know you miss it. You’re not the same now as you were before, and Dazai isn’t Ace.”

“He’s neck-deep into organized crime.”

“So was I. So were you.”

Chuuya hesitated, but there was nothing he could really say to refute her words. Ace had been perfectly normal, with no ties to anything illegal that Chuuya or anyone in their social circle knew of—so innocent in a way that at first Chuuya had worried that he would be the one putting Ace in danger. It had taken a long time for that fear to abate.

Perhaps that also explained why he had allowed Ace so much control over their lives. Over his life. Fear and guilt were powerful motivators, much as Chuuya liked to pretend he was immune to them.

“I understand why you’re overthinking this,” Kouyou continued levelly. Her fingers left his shoulders to settle at the back of his head instead, and Chuuya felt her pull off the tie holding up his hair. His scalp tingled at the release of tension. “But it’s the first time since you left that man that you give anyone a chance, and whether or not it ends up working out, I think you’d regret not trying.”

“Right,” Chuuya huffed. “What’s the worst that could happen if I have a falling out with a mafia boss, after all?”

“From what I know of Dazai, not much. He’ll spend some time moaning about it and move on.”

He had to smile at this. “Stop using your wife as a spy,” he said, pushing her away. “I’m sure Yosano has better things to do than sell you intel on her clients.”

Kouyou accepted it gracefully, stepping aside so he could once more look into the mirror. He tugged at his choker with a finger, strangely pleased with the long-forgotten feeling of leather on bare skin. He didn’t miss the skin-tight pants and heavy bracelets, and only occasionally regretted not being able to idly tongue at the rings once encroached to his bottom lip, but the collars… he could get used to those again. Occasionally. Maybe re-pierce his tongue as well. That was discreet enough for no one at work to notice.

“I think your gentleman caller has arrived,” Kouyou declared.

She was holding the curtains of his window open an inch wide and peering down into the street, from which the unmistakable sound of a car stopping at the gate of Chuuya’s house reached them both. Not fifteen seconds later, the doorbell rang.

Throat suddenly tight with anticipation, Chuuya shot Kouyou a glare and said, “Don’t move.”

He didn’t wait for an answer. He shoved his suit jacket under his arm awkwardly, deliberating putting it on the whole way down the stairs and across his wide living-room. The spark of confidence that Kouyou’s words had suffused in him seemed to have vanished, the certainty of Dazai’s presence blowing it out like a candle.

His clothes felt too thin on him, the silk stinging instead of soft, the choker tight around his neck. Nakedness clung to every visible part of him, hands and face and the hollow of his throat, where his open collar failed to hide anything.

Chuuya opened his front door with more strength than necessary. Dazai looked up from his phone and locked eyes with him.

Instead of anything polite, or witty, or welcoming, Chuuya said: “You’re three minutes late.”

“And you are a sight for sore eyes,” Dazai replied before embarrassment had time to settle, eyes glinting as if lit by the sun. “You’re positively edible, Chuuya.”

He had forgotten.

A month was not that much of a lapse of time, all things considered. Despite his fluttering uncertainty and sudden changes in resolve as far as Dazai was concerned, Chuuya had been busy enough rearranging his schedule and taking care of his patients, enjoying his free time, pampering himself like he hadn’t done in years. Weeks had gone by quickly. Chuuya had waited to meet Dazai again, sometimes with excitement, sometimes with dread, but he hadn’t expected to be surprised by the sight of him.

He had forgotten his own weakness for the man standing before him. He hadn’t recalled with enough clarity the handsome lines of his face and body, hadn’t remembered the way his voice drawled across the syllables of Chuuya’s name as if tasting it out, the shameless way he looked at him, whetting a different kind of appetite.

He hadn’t remembered just how much he enjoyed that.

Dazai had a different allure now. When he had arrived at the emergency room, his fancy suit had been stained with blood, his face pale with blood loss and sweaty with fever and poison. In the following days he had worn hospital gowns and then comfortable, ample clothes. He already looked good enough like that.

Now he could stand to the full of his height without trouble. He could wear a suit so finely fitted that it looked entirely creaseless, and his face and hair were clean. There was nothing at all to distract from just how attractive he was.

“Good evening,” Dazai said lowly.

Chuuya’s self-consciousness evaporated at once. He pressed an arm to the frame of his door and leaned his weight upon it, relishing in the quick glance downward that Dazai gave at the movement, and replied, “Good evening, bastard.”

He made no move to get away as Dazai stepped into his personal space, anticipation hot through his chest, pleasant and heady. If he felt any hesitation in the face of Dazai’s obvious intent, it vanished as Dazai leaned down and he leaned up—at least until the last step of his stairs creaked behind him, and Dazai’s eyes stopped looking at his mouth to look over his shoulder instead.

Chuuya resisted the urge to make his frustration audible.

“Good evening, sensei,” Dazai said. His words trailed over Chuuya’s cheek as he straightened up, a less eager smile thinning his lips. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

“I think we both know that’s a lie, but I’ll let it slide this once,” Kouyou replied politely. “It’s good to see you again, Dazai-san.”

“Likewise. I hope the people I sent you are working to your satisfaction.”

“They are, as I’ve already told you during our last exchange. You have my thanks once again.”

“If you’re quite done,” Chuuya said, not knowing which of them he was addressing.

Kouyou chuckled, fingers over her mouth in a show of demureness. “I’ll leave you to your evening, then,” she said. “Chuuya, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

There’s not a lot of things you wouldn’t do, he thought.

She winked at him as if she had heard him.

Kouyou walked past them briskly, grabbing her own coat from the hanger and quickly joining the road. Chuuya’s house was at the corner of two streets; soon enough she had turned in the direction of her own home, and her silhouette was gone from their line of sight.

Then it was just Chuuya and Dazai at the doorstep, wrapped in the elongated shadows of late afternoon, looking at each other wordlessly.

Chuuya was the first to break the silence. “Are you going to tell me why you wanted us to meet this early, then?” he asked.

“Yes,” Dazai answered. “I will.”

There was silence.

“And?” Chuuya prompted at long last.

Dazai stared at him intently, brows furrowed, looking agitated. “Follow me,” he said, before turning on his heels and walking away.

It took Chuuya a moment to obey.

The driver’s door opened before they reached Dazai’s car, answering the question of whether he had come alone. Chuuya hadn’t expected him to, considering the risks involving his job, but it was still a little disappointing to have to share their date with a third wheel, no matter how necessary. It wasn’t as if Chuuya couldn’t defend the both of them if need be.

At least the person who emerged from the vehicle was familiar. Chuuya took a second to place a name back onto the closed-off face of the young man, but once he did, his smile was genuine.

“Akutagawa, right?” he said, extending a hand. “Nice to see you again.”

Akutagawa watched his hand with wide eyes, as if he expected it to stab him. He shook it tentatively. “Doctor,” was his only reply.

“Just call me Chuuya.”

“That is so unfair,” Dazai moaned dramatically at their side. “You didn’t want me to call you Chuuya at all when we met, but he can? Just like that?”

“Who says I want you to call me Chuuya now?” Chuuya retorted, smiling quickly at Akutagawa. “I don’t remember giving you the right.”

“I thought it was implicit, what with us dating and all.”

“Right now we’re not anything. We haven’t even left. I’m still waiting to see if you’re all talk and no action, Dazai.”

The word action lit a very predictable light in Dazai’s eyes, and Chuuya pushed him through the open door of the back of the car before he could put his sleazy thoughts into words.

Dazai’s car seemed normal on the outside, if a bit on the expensive side, what with its spotlessness and tinted windows. Inside was another thing altogether; individual seats had been replaced with a couch-like sprawl of leather, probably capable of seating four people comfortably. A small but pricey flat screen occupied one side of the separation—also tinted—between driver and passengers, and the other side was home to a minibar. Sleek polished wood joined the pieces together.

All in all, it looked exactly like the cars Chuuya had been in while accompanying Kouyou on shadier deals, back when he still divided his time between studying medicine and playing bodyguard.

“What do you think?” Dazai asked once the door had closed behind them and Chuuya was seated.

“Gaudy,” Chuuya replied, but he was already looking through the drinks available to them. A respectable collection of whiskeys and rums, some expensive beer, and a chilled bottle of Pommery. “Do you have to be a walking cliché, bossman?”

Dazai was laughing when Chuuya handed him the champagne. He seemed at ease while opening it in spite of the movements of the road, and soon enough he was pouring it into two flutes, the gold-pink shade of the drink almost too bright against dark wood. Gas escaped from the mouth of the bottle in thin volutes, at least until he stoppered it and put it back into the cooling compartment. Chuuya took his glass carefully.

He met Dazai’s eyes as he took the first sip, cold and sharp, bubbles bursting on his tongue pleasantly. Dazai stroked the rim of his own glass without drinking from it, apparent satisfied with watching Chuuya enjoy himself.

“It’s good,” Chuuya said. “You should try it, since you paid for it.”

“I’m not much for wine,” Dazai replied, “but I trust your word.”

“More of a whiskey guy, huh.” Chuuya once again eyed the bottles visible through the glass door of the bar. “I like those as well, but I don’t do too well with strong stuff.”

“That’s good to know. I wouldn’t want you to pass out on me.”

Chuuya didn’t know what else to say. Being in Dazai’s immediate vicinity always seemed to loosen his defenses, to make him more honest and spontaneous; he had feared that this would disappear once the solid wall separating doctor and patient was gone, but it had remained as they kissed on the parking lot of the hospital. He had felt at ease. Confident, if a little wary.

Now he couldn’t quite find his footing. Dazai still made him feel wanted and good in a way he hadn’t experienced since long before Ace stepped over the line, yet Chuuya still had tension running through his back no matter how soft the leather seat was, no matter how heavenly the champagne tasted.

He wondered, not for the first time, if he would ever feel entirely safe again in the company of someone he wanted. If he would ever stop looking for anger, expecting insults, watching out for backhanded blows.

He drank more from his flute, letting the spike and coolness of alcohol distract him for a moment so that he could gather himself.

Dazai hadn’t stopped watching him. The car rolled down the roads of the city until hilly countryside found them, rounded and gold-lit, and at last the man spoke.

“You know,” he said, “I wanted to do everything perfectly.”

Chuuya swallowed the last of his champagne. “What?” he asked roughly.

“This date,” Dazai answered, gesturing between the both of them. “I have—had—everything planned down to the last detail, have for weeks now. Odasaku called me obsessive over it. And we’ll still do it all, the fun stuff and the nice restaurant and the walk afterward, if you want to, but I’m starting to think luck is against us.”

Chuuya stared at him. Dazai stared back, smiling cryptically.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Chuuya let out once he was sure Dazai would not elaborate.

Dazai leaned toward him suddenly, causing Chuuya’s heart to jump in his chest, but he was only aiming for the bar. He took out the champagne and refilled Chuuya’s glass, still smiling, still without spilling a drop despite the now-uneven road. He didn’t draw back fully once he was done.

“I was planning on kissing you twice,” Dazai said. “Once when I arrived to fetch you and once before leaving you for the night. I wanted to prove to you that I can be proper and gentlemanly, not just a condescending bastard, as you once called me. Not just someone who wants to sleep with you either, though of course I really, really want that.”

That… was perhaps the sweetest thing Dazai had said in the short time they had known each other. Not that Chuuya would tell him, or let him know in any way.

“You can’t plan kissing,” he said, hot in the neck nonetheless. “That’s just not how this shit works, have you never dated anyone in your life?”

“This is what I’m realizing right now,” Dazai replied, still close enough that their shoulders knocked together at every bump of the road. “We’ve been interrupted twice now. I don’t want to tempt fate a third time.”

Chuuya’s glass was still pressed against his lips when Dazai’s hand reached for the side of his neck, his long fingers splaying there to cover as much skin as possible; Chuuya inhaled too sharply, his nose itching with alcohol vapors and tiny bursts of liquid, a cough burning up his throat.

“So,” Dazai said, eminently satisfied, “I’d like change the schedule a bit and kiss you now, if you don’t mind.”

Chuuya found himself in the embarrassing position of trying not to explode into a coughing fit and trying to make sense of the slow, burning want crawling up his belly. He met Dazai’s eyes as he took another sip of his glass. Once it had soothed the wrong turn that the previous gulp had taken, he waved the glass between their faces and said, “See if you can compete with the champagne, then.”

He barely had time to lower the glass before Dazai’s mouth was on his.

Despite his previous comment, Chuuya had no doubt that Dazai had dated, or at least slept with, other people in the past. As luxurious as the back of this car was, it still wasn’t the same as being seated on a couch; Dazai’s head would hit the roof if he rose too high, their leg space was limited, and it was impossible to fully face each other. Still Chuuya moaned appreciatively at the way Dazai’s hands fit around his neck and waist, at the way he twisted around so as to limit discomfort and make the experience fully enjoyable. Chuuya grabbed back with no hesitation whatsoever, his fingers tangled in soft hair as he moulded their lips together, satisfied when once again Dazai let him lead the exchange wherever he wanted.

Chuuya sucked the smile off of Dazai’s mouth hungrily, one hand crawling down from scalp to shoulder so he could dig his fingers into the stiff fabric of his suit jacket and feel the muscles and bones underneath. Dazai crowded further into him, forcing his back to hit the corner of the car, but all awkwardness was lost in the face of just how much Chuuya wanted.

He wanted to stop the car and drag Dazai to the closest hotel—wanted to cancel whatever fancy restaurant reservation Dazai had made to eat takeout with their legs tangled together instead—wanted to climb on him right there as if he were still twenty and in the habit of fucking men in the backseat.

His breath caught when Dazai’s finger hooked into the strip of leather at his neck.

“What’s this?” Dazai asked, his wet lips still stuck to Chuuya’s, as if separation was unthinkable in this moment. He pulled on the choker, slithered his hand under it so that it pressed tightly to Chuuya’s throat. “You weren’t wearing it before.”

“What do you think?” Chuuya replied heatedly.

“I think I want to see you dressed in nothing but this, Chuuya.”

Chuuya laughed. “I don’t put out on the first date,” he said.

It was a reminder he believed in less and less the more Dazai looked at him. Still he patted Dazai’s cheek as patronizingly as he could, pleased when Dazai’s flush darkened and his mouth hurried back for another taste of him. This time he opened his lips first, high on the moan of appreciation Dazai gave at the permission, content to let himself be held and kissed until air was but a memory, until every nerve ending in his face burned, until his mouth was numb everywhere Dazai’s tongue touched.

Dazai parted from him at long last. Silence hung heavily as they caught their breath, heat gathered in the space between their faces as if their blood was boiling over.

“You were right,” Dazai said breezily. “This champagne is amazing.”

Dazai took him to a shooting range.

It looked nothing like a shooting range—in fact, the building paraded as an old-fashioned gaming arcade, which made Chuuya more than skeptical once the car stopped in front of it—but as soon as the manager saw Dazai enter with Chuuya and Akutagawa in tow, he directed them to a door behind the counter.

The range was in the basement. They were left alone there, Akutagawa tastefully placed outside the door and with his back turned to them while they got ready inside.

“Ever handled a gun before?” Dazai asked him. Every word out of his mouth had been smug since their make-out session, and Chuuya, for once, found it hard to berate him for it.

He took the Glock he was handed, weighing it in his palm and rolling his shoulder. “Once or twice,” he replied. “I was just a bodyguard, though. Guns aren’t that easy to obtain when your job consists in following around an underground doctor.”

“You don’t sound too upset about it.”

“I prefer knives, actually,” Chuuya said. He didn’t think he imagined the appreciation in Dazai’s eyes at his words, which made him want to roll his. “Or my bare fists, but you knew that.”

“Do I ever.”

It vaguely occurred to Chuuya that shooting targets for fun wasn’t exactly first date material, but then again, he was in the company of a criminal. A criminal whose life he had already saved twice—once by beating an assassin unconscious.

He put on the protective glasses and earmuffs and shot at the crudely drawn outline of a man on the other side of the room.

The worst thing was—it was fun. Chuuya was too much of a doctor to ever appreciate handling anything that killed instead of incapacitating, but there was definite satisfaction to be found in the shock of recoil, in the ache of holding up a pistol, in the focus that aiming required. All his remaining tension bled out of him with every shot he took. Because Dazai was Dazai and Chuuya was Chuuya, it soon turned into a contest of sorts between them, the both of them aiming at the same target instead of respecting any sort of safety rules, shoulders knocking together so that each could feel the other move.

“I’m winning,” Dazai told him at one point, moving the protection off his ear to whisper directly in it, sending shivers down Chuuya’s nape. “It’s okay, Chuuya, I’m more experienced.”

“We’ll see about that,” Chuuya replied thinly.

He grabbed Dazai’s ass during his next turn. Dazai’s bullet embedded itself into the wall a foot above the target’s head.

The restaurant Dazai had booked for them was in Yokohama. They weren’t shown any favors there outside of what regular money could buy, which Chuuya appreciated. As fun as Dazai’s displays of power were, he enjoyed feeling on even ground. In fact, although they were now on Dazai’s territory, Dazai made no mention of the port mafia at all. He didn’t show Chuuya any more secret places or private backdoors. Aside from a few mentions of the people Chuuya had already met, Dazai didn’t discuss his job at all.

Night had fallen by the time they finished dinner. They walked along the ocean shore together, relishing in the sea-scented wind, cooling down from the food and the drinks. Chuuya had his first smoke of the evening with his shoes in one hand and his bare feet in the cold sand, watching the waves move under the city lights.

He felt the distant need to kiss Dazai again right there. Consideration for Akutagawa, who was still watching them from afar, held him back. He and Dazai stood close together, walking aimlessly in comfortable silence; Chuuya thought of the men he had dated in the past, of the men he had slept with in his youth, of the beginning of his and Ace’s relationship.

He knew, intellectually, that no two relationships could be the same. He still found it surprising every time. He still found it reassuring.

His musings were abandoned when Dazai plucked the cigarette from between his fingers and brought it to his own mouth. He finished it in a deep inhale, the ember glowing fiercely, before crushing it between his fingers.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Chuuya said softly.

“I don’t,” Dazai replied. “It helps to pretend, though, in some situations. And I count that as an indirect kiss, by the way.”

“Stop counting them already, you child.”

Chuuya didn’t protest the arm the Dazai linked around his back. He let himself be led away from the sea and toward the empty streets, where the same car as before seemed to be waiting for them. Akutagawa had disappeared; the man driving it wasn’t anyone Chuuya knew.

They didn’t drink on the way back. Chuuya felt mellowed out, drowsy with contentment rather than just fatigue. He let Dazai stroke his face and play with his hair, leaning forward occasionally to steal kisses as light as as air, to brush his mouth to the side of Dazai’s chin, to rest his head on his shoulder.

“I hope I managed to thwart all your damn plans,” he muttered into the side of his neck.

He felt Dazai’s chuckle vibrate against his lips. “You’re far beyond any plan I could come up with, Chuuya.”

It didn’t answer anything, but Chuuya thought he could trust him at least this once.

Dazai accompanied him to his door like the gentleman he definitely wasn’t, obscenely proud of himself, his smile gleeful. Chuuya would deny finding it endearing for as long as he lived.

“So how was it?” Dazai asked as Chuuya unlocked his front door. “Not bad for a first date, right?”

“You get a passing grade,” Chuuya replied.

“You must be the worst teacher in the world.”

He snorted. “Thank God you’re the only one I’m grading, then. No one else has to suffer my critique.”

The door fell open before him, light spilling inside from the street and sharpening the silhouettes of his furniture, the first steps of the stairs leading to the upper floor. Chuuya blinked at the inside of his home blearily.

“Good night, then,” he told Dazai.

“Yes,” Dazai replied. “Good night.”

They stared at each other for a still second before leaning forward as one. Their lips were almost touching when a car horn struck through the quiet just at the corner of the street, followed by tires screeching, and Chuuya and Dazai both reeled back in surprise.

Fuck,” Chuuya breathed out, heart drumming in his chest.

“See!” Dazai exclaimed loudly. “I told you! Luck is against us, I was right to kiss you before now.”

“That’s just a coincidence, Dazai.”

“If you don’t believe that fate is trying to keep us apart…”

“God,” Chuuya laughed, grabbing Dazai’s collar, “shut up already.”

This kiss was not interrupted, though their smiles kept it off-balance for a good few seconds, resulting in something closer to awkward adolescent fumbles than anything adults their age should do. Chuuya ended up having to bite his way into something more heated—something Dazai was only happy to offer once he had both hands on Chuuya once more, pressing them together more forwardly than any time before.

This sort of messiness had been lost to Chuuya in too long to remember. What few kisses he had exchanged with Ace in the last months of living with him had been devoid of passion; the rare intimacy they had shared had felt clinical, more duty than love, and left Chuuya feeling heavy in ways he hadn’t understood.

He had forgotten that intimacy could be like this: new, powerful, enticing. Hot and unfamiliar and messy and entirely desirable.

He very much wanted to indulge himself once more that night.

Dazai, of course, beat him to the chase. He pulled back from him and said, “I don’t suppose you feel like inviting me over for coffee—”

“Fine,” Chuuya interrupted, “fine, just come in. You win.”

“I always do,” Dazai replied.

He still struggled out of their next kiss, red-mouthed and bright-eyed, fumbling with the pocket of his jacket in search of his phone.

“Need to warn them I won’t be back for the weekend,” he panted.

“Who said anything about a weekend, jackass? And I’m pretty sure your bodyguard is smart enough to understand what’s going on.”

“No battery—well, whatever. TACHIHARA!”

Dazai’s yell must have woken up the entire neighborhood, but at least his driver seemed to hear him. He unrolled the window of the car and called, “What’s up, boss?”

“I’m scoring tonight, so no need to wait for me!”

“I hate you so much,” Chuuya muttered, his whole face burning with embarrassment, pulling Dazai inside with him. “So fucking much.”

“I don’t think that’s true at all,” Dazai replied, grinning.

“I’m throwing you out in the morning.”

“As long as I get to stay the night…”

Dazai’s mouth was soon too busy to utter another word. Chuuya pressed his back against the door, pulling him down so that they could keep kissing, tugging off his jacket and tie.

He didn’t think at all about the past, about uncertainty, about shadowy fears of commitment and disaster. He took Dazai to bed in the midst of stumbling laughter, unraveled him piece by piece until they both lay naked in a tangle of limbs; he drew a map out of everything within touching distance, Dazai’s neck and mouth and shoulders, his bony ribs, his backside and thighs; he drank in every breath that Dazai delivered to his neck and lips, meeting every thrust with a roll of his hips, his mind clear of everything but his heightened arousal.

It felt good. It felt different. Chuuya rode out the crest of pleasure with Dazai burning inside him, and when Dazai fell onto him, heavy and sated, he felt no guilt at all.

Not even for the fact that he did allow Dazai to see him dressed in nothing but the choker.

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