𝑫𝒐𝒏'𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒎𝒆 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝑰'𝒎 𝒅𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒇𝑨𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒍𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒐𝒐𝒏

(Alternative Ending to Everything or Nothing) Image
Content Warnings:

+ main character death
+ alcoholism / drug abuse
+ suicidal thoughts / attempts
+ infidelity
Despite popular belief, there is no one singular /worst/ day of your life.

Time isn’t a sea of painful pinpricks of moments. It’s a painting, one built in broad, indecisive strokes.

Some moments are /sharper/ than others, more searing—but Dazai would argue that more often than
not, life is about turning points.

A moment when the color palette shifts. The brightness gets turned down, and everything just...

Fades.

“What are you thinking about?”

He hums, staring up at the cheap, plaster tiles that make up their dorm ceiling, fingers stroking through
the shorter locks of hair on the right side of Chuuya’s head—and every time he remembers the /reason/ behind the asymmetrical haircut—

(An /anime/ character Chuuya liked)

—he /smiles./

“...I don’t remember,” Dazai admits, his cheek pressing against the top of his head. It’s a
lazy afternoon, big patches of sunlight filtering in through the window. From this angle, he can watch them dance across the redhead’s back, the shadows from the blinds making tiny patterns against the muscles of his shoulders. “I’m pretty sure...” he frowns, struggling to recall
(But he isn’t trying /that/ hard.)

“I was supposed to be somewhere today.”

His roommate lets out a low, discontented noise, leaning up on his elbows—and when those eyes stare up at him—

There’s /nowhere else/ that Dazai wants to be.

“Is it important?”

“...” Dazai reaches
down, cupping his cheek—and Chuuya leans into it so /easily/, humming against his palm. “I don’t remember.”

“Can’t be /that/ important, if you don’t remember.” Chuuya mutters, wiggling further up in bed, until their faces are level.

“Just stay here, instead.” Their mouths
brush together as he speaks, and Dazai smiles, his arms tightening around the small of Chuuya’s back.

“Stay with me.”

Always.

Dazai’s arms hold him even tighter, and his eyes squeeze shut.

/Always./

“Osamu?”

/No./

“/Osamu./“

His arms clutch at the space in front of him
even as the room fades.

When his eyes open—the dorm is gone.

Spring is gone.

Chuuya is /gone./

There’s just Dazai’s bedroom, dim and blank—and Odasaku sitting on the edge of the bed, his eyes apologetic.

“I let you sleep as long as I could, but...” He’s so /careful/, when he
speaks to Dazai now.

Everyone is.

“If we don’t get moving, you’re going to be late.”

/Right./

It isn’t that hard, dragging yourself through the motions. Not when you’ve already spent an entire lifetime pretending to be something that you weren’t.

Putting on a suit,
straightening his tie in front of a mirror—

Sweeping his hair back behind his left ear, because—

Chuuya always liked it like that.

The service is scheduled for 3 p.m.—Dazai is ten minutes early, more than prepared to take a spot in the back—but Rimbaud waves him forward,
leaning heavily on his daughter.

Dazai hesitates, his eyes drifting towards the casket—and every time he sees the hint of red hair peeping through the open lid, his composure threatens to snap all over again—

/Don’t be a coward./

But he makes his way to the front row.
No, Dazai wouldn’t qualify this as the worst day of his life.

It would have to compete with the moment his father walked out of the surgery wing doors, leaning against the wall with his head in his hands before he could even muster the energy to walk down the hall.

To tell
Chuuya’s /family./

Between the two, Dazai can’t figure out which one /wins./

Kouyou delivers the eulogy, pale and drawn as she stands behind the lectern, hands trembling as she focuses on the paper in front of her.

It’s heartfelt—and she manages to get through /most of it/
without breaking down, until she reaches the end.

“Everyone has been telling me that—that every person has their own private battle, with grief.” She swallows thickly, wiping at her nose quickly. “For me, I think the hardest part is knowing that there’s no one to blame.”
She takes a shaky breath, her eyes shining with tears. “My brother was deeply loved by everyone in his life—and if there was anything, any one of us could have done to avoid this outcome—we would have.” Her voice wobbles, then finally cracks.

“He knew that.”

Dazai’s nails bite
into his palms as his vision blurs.

If there is one thing he /doesn’t/ regret, it’s the last few weeks. The days he fought tooth and nail to /show/ the redhead how much he cared.

And Chuuya /knew./

“And if there’s one thing I know,” the tears are falling faster, and she’s
rushing to get to the end—just so she doesn’t completely /lose it/ standing up there for everyone to see, “it’s that he wouldn’t want any of us to blame /ourselves./“

Easier said than done, for some.

The family plot is underneath a willow tree—the freshly turned earth of
the new gave in sharp contrast to the thick, healthy layer of grass that covers his mother’s.

Dazai is the last to leave.

Probably because he’s the only one who doesn’t know where to /go./

He sits back against the tombstone, chin tilted back. It feels almost /vindictive/, that
it would be such a beautiful day.

“...” His lips tighten at the corners as his hand drops down, palm pressing flat against the marble face of the headstone behind him.

He hasn’t been able to read it yet. Can’t bring himself to.

𝑵𝒂𝒌𝒂𝒉𝒂𝒓𝒂 𝑪𝒉𝒖𝒖𝒚𝒂

“...you always did
move too fast for me, chibi.” He mutters, his bangs covering his eyes—but the tear tracks on his cheeks are unmistakable.

“You never wait for me to catch up.”

And he doesn’t regret those last weeks. Dazai /really/ doesn’t. They were for Chuuya, not him—and he /knows/ that they
did everything they could to make them count.

To make them /matter./

But now, Dazai doesn’t know what’s left for /himself./ What is he supposed to /do/ now?

“...They wanted me to sing today, you know.” Dazai mutters, hanging his head. “Your dad asked me, but I...” He swallows
hard. “I couldn’t do it.” He bites his lips, his shoulders hunching in. “I know you would have liked it—I’m—I’m /sorry./“

Fukuzawa got him in the habit of /practicing/ what he would say to Chuuya a long time ago—

Inadvertently preparing Dazai for conversations like this,
desperately trying to talk to someone who isn’t /there./

“Dazai?”

He freezes, not looking up—and Kouyou stands there for a moment, awkward and silent.

They didn’t exactly start their relationship on the /best/ foot, but—

None of that matters now.

“I’m sorry, if you need a
minute, I understand—“

“No,” Dazai’s voice is rough, hoarse from the tears as he wipes his eyes, straightening up. “It’s fine.”

“...” The redhead sighs, glancing up at the sunset. It’s beautiful—painfully so. “I just remembered I had these in the car—I wanted to make sure I got
them to you.”

Dazai turns around, only to find her standing there—as put together as ever, hair in a sleek pony tail, wearing a tailored black dress, even now—holding a shoebox against her chest.

“He wanted you to have these,” She explains, holding it out. “I know...I know it
isn’t that much, so if you think of something else of his that you want to have...you can always /call/, okay?” Kouyou stares at him emphatically. “I hope you know that.”

“...Yeah,” Dazai agrees, reaching out to take the box. “And the same goes for you guys, you know.”

Similar
promises are made. To keep in touch. Dazai /says/ that he’ll call, even when he knows that he won’t—and when she walks away, he’s left to stare down at the box.

Old, worn, with ‘Osamu’ scrawled in sharpie marker across the top—familiar handwriting.

And inside...

Are letters.
Stacks of them—/at least/ twenty, from what Dazai can see, but maybe more—carefully labeled and bound together with rubber bands.

And at the top of the pile, scrawled at the front—

𝘙𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵.

He waits until he’s alone again, sitting back against the trunk of his
car—and it isn’t long before tear drops are staining the page.

𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶,

𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴...𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯'𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘪𝘵. 𝘖𝘳, 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥--𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦
𝘢𝘨𝘰. 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘰𝘯.

𝘐 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴--𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘐 𝘮𝘦𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘋𝘢𝘥, 𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘭𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨
𝘭𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳.

There’s a pause, and then a skip in the line, like he had to walk away before starting again.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩
𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘢 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯 '𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳.' 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥. 𝘐'𝘮 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘰𝘭𝘦 '𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦' 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵.
𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐'𝘮 𝘴𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘐 𝘢𝘭𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶--𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵
𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰. 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘢 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘪𝘵. 𝘐'𝘮 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳...

𝘈𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥
𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘥𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴, 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.

Dazai’s fingers tighten around the page, trembling.

/Don’t ask me that./

/Please/, don’t ask me to do that.

𝘐 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘺𝘰𝘶
𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸:

𝘐 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘳𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘳𝘶𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴. 𝘛𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘺𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦,
𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘦. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘯𝘰𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘭 𝘬𝘪𝘥.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴𝘯'𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘐 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘐 𝘮𝘦𝘵
𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶--𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦.

𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵
𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴. 𝘠𝘰𝘶'𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘮𝘦--𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦.

𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘦𝘹𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘨𝘶𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵
𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦'𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳, 𝘴𝘰 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵...

𝘒𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘴 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯, 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘴 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘴 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘐'𝘮
𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘦.

𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘥.

𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘋𝘢𝘻𝘢𝘪.

𝘕𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘐
𝘢𝘮 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴. 𝘕𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘢 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘺, 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘦. 𝘐𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦.

𝘋𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩,

𝘊𝘩𝘶𝘶𝘺𝘢

And then—
𝘗.𝘚. 𝘐'𝘮 𝘨𝘭𝘢𝘥 𝘸𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴.

Dazai barely manages a choked laugh through the tears, pressing the letter to his face—wishing he could reach back through time and grab the hands that once held the same page.

But he /can’t./

And time moves on.
It’s not like there’s a handbook to losing someone.

People are awkward around widows and widowers as it is, unsure of what to say, and—

No one really knows how to /deal/ with Dazai. Not at first.

He doesn’t go back to school in the fall. No one /expected/ him to.

But they
also didn’t expect Dazai to disappear off the face of the earth /entirely./

Which he does.

Not a word. A call. Not a /trace/—

For six entire months.

Dazai tries to find a reason wherever he can. Reads the same letter, over and over.

He tries to find it at the bottom of
countless bottles. The end of a needle.

In faceless redhead’s he can’t even remember the names off—just warm bodies against his beneath hotel sheets.

And in Osamu’s experience, the only surefire way to /escape/ grief seems to be avoiding /sobriety./

It doesn’t feel /better./
Nothing ever /does./

It just feels like /nothing./

And when Dazai /doesn’t/ push himself into that sugar sweet oblivion, until his vision blurs at the edges, and he’s more of a wobbling mess of skins and bones than a /person—

Then, he feels /everything./

And he can’t do it.
There’s one vague memory, being sprawled up on a beach somewhere. Spain, or maybe the Caribbean—he really wasn’t keeping track back then—

And he remembers staring up at the stars, wishing the girl pressed up against him would just go back to her resort already—

That’s when
he realizes—

You can’t see that many stars in Tokyo. Too much artificial light.

But /here?/

Here, they’re an endless, glittering blanket—even more vibrant, under his chemical addled gaze.

And Dazai can remember, what feels like a lifetime ago, Chuuya telling him how most of
them were already gone—and that they just couldn’t /tell/ yet, because they were just that far away—and light travels that slowly.

Dazai said something along the lines of that being a really /depressing/ little fun fact to share during pillow talk, and Chuuya just—

He just
/smiled/, and he said he thought it was /comforting./

// “Even if they’re gone. People still see them. They still think they’re beautiful.” //

Dazai didn’t understand that, not then.

But now, with tears pouring down his cheeks as he wraps his arms around himself, trembling
against the cold as he stares up at the sky—

Dazai thinks he might /understand./

“You’re not an easy guy to track down, you know.”

It’s seven months in when he’s found in a dirty, downtown bar in Johannesburg, a beer halfway to his lips.

“Yeah.” He’s sardonic, even when the
alcohol in his system drags the syllables to a slur, “that’s the idea.”

“Well,” the man drops down into the seat next to him. “The tabloids have been looking all over for you.”

“Yeah, well—“ Dazai grunts, “—every vulture starts to look for it’s next meal when they catch the
scent of tragedy.”

“See,” the man grins just a /little/ too widely. “/That’s/ exactly why we’ve been looking for you.”

“You’re a vulture too, I’m assuming.”

That earns him a chuckle. “Not that kind.”

Dazai slurps down another mouthful. “You have until I finish this.”

“And
then?”

“I’m a stray dog,” the young man smiles thinly. “I get destructive when I’m bored.”

“...You have a talent with words.” He shrugs. “We’re just looking to capitalize on that.”

“/We?/“

“I work for Sony Records.”

“Oh,” Dazai snorts. “/Fuck/ no.”

“So emphatic.”

“I’m
already rich and famous.” Dazai rolls his eyes. “The rest is just extra work.”

“That’s true,” dark eyes glitter at him. “But it beats being bored, right?”

Dazai doesn’t agree because he’s interested. He just doesn’t have a better argument than /that./

But, however slowly, he
starts to find one thing—the /first thing/ since Dazai heard his father say—‘He didn’t wake up, Osamu,’—that makes Dazai feel /good./

When the stage lights go up, and the roar of the crowd fills the air—

Dazai can’t actually /see/ anyone in the audience.

He can pull himself in
front of the microphone, fingers settling on guitar strings—

// “Does it mean everything or nothing?” //

And Dazai can play /pretend./

// “That I think about you and I cry?” //

That there’s a redhead in the audience watching him. That he’s in a seedy college bar, instead of a
stadium full of strangers.

That there’s a different future instead of this one. That this is just /one/ bad ending, not the /real one./

// “Did I just get so used to something...” //

He can tell himself that life has a /rewind/ button. That the second he walks off stage,
Chuuya will be there, waiting.

And then Dazai /won’t/ take that call.

He’ll kiss him, Chuuya won’t /run/, he won’t /collapse/, and then—

And then, the rest of that—it never /happens./

But when the lights go out and the music stops—

Dazai is the out there alone.

// “I’m
gonna love you till I’m dead.” //

It’s ironic.

That’s how you /know/ it’s a good song—because as the months pass, it doesn’t feel any less /accurate./

Odasaku calls. Atsushi calls. Mori /wants/ to call, but doesn’t know /how./

Michiko tries, only to find that her number has
been blocked.

He’ll /always/ answer for Atsushi—unless he’s too strung out to read the caller ID—but otherwise, the family learns to keep up with Dazai’s life through press releases and world tour announcements.

One song hits the billboard hot one hundred that year. The next,
an album is selling over a million copies in a week.

There’s /one/ boy—in a bar, in Brooklyn. His hair is strawberry blonde, his face dimples when he smiles—

And when Dazai tries to count the freckles across his nose, he looses track.

/That’s/ enough for them to be stumbling
back into Dazai’s hotel room later that night.

He’s inexperienced—not /out yet/, Catholic parents—and Dazai is /just/ sober enough to remember his name.

Rory.

Oblivious. American. Doesn’t /know/ Dazai’s name, just knows that he’s a singer, well known overseas.

He enters his
contact information into Dazai’s phone before he leaves that morning.

Dazai doesn’t /delete/ it, even if he feels /so/ guilty every time the name pops up on his screen.

But the /best/ cure for guilt, in Dazai’s experience, is whiskey.

You can’t /regret it/ if you never sober
up enough to remember why you felt bad /to begin with./

And it’s nothing. Just someone to call when he’s in the city—a slightly familiar face underneath him, even if he /is/ half out of his mind half of the time.

But then, certain aspects of his /story/ start to stick, and it
all starts to feel...

He’s the oldest sibling. Two little sisters. Father’s a cop, mother is a nurse. He’s in university on a full scholarship—and he wants to be a teacher. High school social studies.

Enough pieces to put together the framework of a life.

Enough for Dazai to
realize that Rory is a /genuinely/ good person.

Too good for most people—definitely too good for /him./

And he isn’t /Dazai’s/ person.

He never will be.

But there /are/ brief little moments.

Getting dragged out to /shitty/ diners, nursing a hangover as the blonde encourages
him to eat another stack of pancakes, even though Dazai /insists/ that he doesn’t like them.

(Part of him is starting to realize that he really /doesn’t./)

He silently compares /everything/ the blonde does, knowing it’s unfair, that Rory is running in a race that he doesn’t
know he’s /in/, and—

He doesn’t push him, the way Chuuya did. On Dazai’s /bad/ days, he gives him space. When the brunette lashes out, he doesn’t try to push back, he tries to understand /why./

And Dazai never thought he needed that, that he /needed/ someone to push him, but—
But when you’re the smartest person in the room and you /know/ it, sometimes you just...

You just /need/ someone that is willing to call you an asshole. Chuuya taught him—

And every time Dazai catches himself /thinking/ like that, contemplating his compatibility with someone
/else/, he just...

/Freaks out/ and disappears from Rory's life for weeks at a time. Not so much as texting back or answering a call--not until the guilt fades long enough for him to even /look/ at him.

It isn't a relationship. Dazai is /very/ careful to set that boundary.
He's supportive when Rory mentions coming out to his parents--but he refuses to /meet/ them after, when it goes well. The things he /does/ know about the American's life--it's because he /chose/ to share them, not because Dazai /asked./

And the brunette shares little to nothing
about /himself./

The one time Rory does ask /anything/ about him, Dazai reacts.../poorly./

"Who's Chuuya?"

He freezes, in the middle of toweling off his hair after a shower. "...What?"

"Chuuya," Rory repeats, stretched out on his bed, eyeing him curiously. "You said his name
earlier, during..." Dazai is rigid, not turning around, and the younger man holds up his hands, laughing it off, "I'm not /mad/ or anything, it happens, I was just curious--"

Dazai doesn't /answer/, so much as he just...immediately reaches for his shirt, tugging it over his head
as he fishes around for his jacket--and Rory's face instantly falls.

"Wait, are you leaving? I thought we were going to--"

They /did/ have tentative plans for a movie, which seems so /stupid/ now, it alls seems so fucking /stupid./

"I can't go," Dazai mutters, fumbling for his
wallet. "I have a thing. I forgot."

"I'm sorry I said anything," Rory's tone turns pleading, which makes Dazai feel even /worse/, because it means--

It means Dazai has probably said Chuuya's name /before/, and the blonde finally got up the nerve to /ask./

"It's not a big deal,
really," he tries to /dial down/ the situation--and the poor bastard has no idea, it's already /way/ too late for that, but Dazai is too keyed up to /communicate/ that-- "I'm sure I've probably said my ex's name in bed before, it happens to everyone--"

"/Leave it/, alright?"
Dazai growls, literally white knuckling it as he zips up his jacket, and the blonde's mouth snaps shut.

"Okay," his voice is small as he sits back on his heels, watching as Dazai gets ready to leave in a flurry. "I'm sorry--"

"Stop /fucking apologizing!/" Dazai snaps. "You
don't even know what you did!"

He almost feels /worse/ when hurt, confused silence sets in, and he pauses next to the kitchen counter, his keys in hand, chest heaving.

No one ever explained to him that grief--it's /trauma./ No one talks about it like that, because--

Not
everyone has their math tutor ask about their opinion on /blowjobs/ when they're twelve. That's a unique experience. As time passes, and the discussion around the topic changes--no one has tried to tell Dazai that what happened /wasn't/ a trauma.

Not since his mother.

But
/grief?/

Everyone has lost someone. Or the will, eventually. Dazai isn't special. This pain isn't /unique./

But he's still so /terrified/ of feeling it--because he's /barely/ got his chin above water right now, and he's /desperately/ gasping for air.

It would only take one
good /yank/ to pull him under.

"Chuuya isn't my ex." He mutters flatly.

He can't bring himself to use that name in conjunction with the past tense.

Chuuya went into the ground as Dazai's boyfriend--and as far as Osamu is considered, he always will be. Calling him an /ex/
implies that if Chuuya was /here/, they wouldn't be together.

Like Dazai wouldn't have spent /every single day/ with him. Like Dazai doesn't wish that he went into the ground too. Like he doesn't still wake up /every fucking day/ and roll over, desperately hoping it was all a
just a dream--

But the spot next to him is /always/ empty.

No.

Chuuya isn't his /ex./ Just because he isn't /here/, that doesn't mean that Dazai isn't /his./

"I don't..." Rory starts, his brow furrowing with confusion, but before he can finish the question, Dazai is out the
door.

It's three months before he's in New York again, just as long before they speak. Dazai sleeps on studio couches, drinks until he ends up in the /hospital/ in Buenos Aires, vomiting blood.

And he honestly /hoped/ that would be it--but no.

He's /lucky/, and he makes a full
recovery.

And when he /does/ end up in the city again, he's sitting on the stoop of Rory's building, head hanging low when the blonde approaches, a backpack tossed over his shoulder.

"...Hey," he stops in front of him, a little unsure, and Dazai doesn't lift his head.

"Hey."
"...Do you want to come up?" He asks softly, extending a hand--and however reluctantly...

Dazai takes it.

But, while Rory always seems to forgive him, it isn't always /unconditional./

"Hey, /hey/--" He sticks a hand between them when they're inside his apartment, pushing Dazai
back firmly, with a hand against his chest, pushing the brunette's mouth off of his. "We need to talk."

Dazai backs off immediately, but he's /baffled./ "...About what?"

"..." Rory drops his backpack on the floor, and he isn't exactly an /insecure/ guy, but he's /never/ been
outspoken, and it's always been easy for Dazai to...bulldoze, in a sense. "I don't wanna do this anymore."

"I--" Dazai's eyebrows knit together. "Do what?"

"I--" The blonde takes a deep breath, "I /get/ that you don't want a relationship, and this isn't an ultimatum--"

"It's
starting to /sound/ like one--"

"Dazai, we've been doing this for /two years./"

/What?/

He's startled by that, trying to remember where /two birthdays/ went, two Christmases--is he /really/ twenty-one now?

"And I...I know you don't feel the same way about me, I get that."
Rory swallows hard, and--

And he doesn't /say/ that he loves him, but Dazai can /see/ the care in his eyes, this warm, /spidery/ feeling that creeps under Dazai's skin and laces him with /guilt./

"I care about you," Rory mutters, holding his elbow. "But this is /bad/ for me."
"...How is this not an ultimatum?" Dazai mutters, hands balling into fists at his sides as he realizes with this sick, /gut wrenching/ clarity--

He's known Rory for /twice/ as long as he knew Chuuya.

"Because, Dazai--" the blonde wipes his hands down his face, "you're a
drug addict, and an alcoholic. I don't want to be your boyfriend."

It's not like Dazai didn't /know/, but no one has ever said it out/loud/, not to him. Especially not /Rory/, who anxiously /avoids/ conflict.

"If you want a /friend/, I'll be there." The blonde wraps his arms
around himself. "But I'm about to graduate. I want an /actual/ boyfriend who doesn't /disappear/ for months at a time, who wants to meet my /parents/--and I..." He bites the inside of his cheek, embarrassed. "I get I went through that phase where I just thought /liking you/ and
/supporting you/ would be enough to make things work out. I get that was stupid, and I'm not asking you to /change/, but--what happened last time--I didn't /deserve/ that, just for asking the name you kept on saying while you were /fucking me/--"

"He's dead."

After spending so
long /avoiding/ it, pretending that it didn't happen, that he's just going to wake up one day and the universe is going to /take it all back/--

Saying it out loud is surprisingly /easy./ It almost feels /better/ when he does, lighter.

"...What?"

"Chuuya." He swallows thickly.
"He's my boyfriend." Then, after a deep, heavy breath--

"And he died, almost three years ago." The burst of confidence that came with saying it is /rapidly/ fading, because any sense of /freedom/ that came with admitting it is doused by the rapidly sinking /reality/ of it all.
Silence follows, neither one of them knowing what to say, and...Dazai doesn't know what he expects. Anger, maybe--accusations that he led Rory on--which he would normally call bullshit, but--

Two years is a /long time./

"...I'm sorry." Dazai jumps when he feels a hand sliding
into his own, squeezing gently. "Dazai, I'm /so/ sorry."

And for one, /brief/ afternoon--he feels like something /close/ to himself. Sitting on the steps with Rory, passing a bottle back and forth, just...

/Talking/ about him. And it's hard--he has to stop and breakdown a few
times, but the blonde never /judges/ him for it.

"Do you have any pictures of him?"

Dazai pulls out his phone, a little wobbly as he swipes through the passcode, and--

Even three years later, his screensaver is still the same.

Chuuya curled up in his lap, /trying/ to take a
selfie while Dazai kisses his neck, smiling and laughing as he pushes him away--and Rory smiles, leaning a little closer to him as he stares at the screen.

"Wow."

He doesn't miss the way Dazai stares at the screen, his eyes locked on that face like a /life line./

"Okay," he
sits back, kicking his feet out with a low whistle. "I can't compete with that. He was /hot./"

"/Yeah/," Dazai mutters, his fingers tightening around the phone.

He was /so/ fucking beautiful. It hurt to look at him /then./ Now? Now, it's /unbearable./

"He didn't know it,
though." Dazai mutters.

"Bullshit," Rory smiles softly. "Look at him, he /knew./"

"...He was sick, most of the time." The brunette explains, his throat tight. "It kind of skewed his perspective a little bit."

"What was he like?"

"He, um..." Dazai wipes at his nose, his eyes
red at the corners. "He was an artist."

"Was he any good?"

"/Yeah/," Dazai nods emphatically. "And he was funny." That sounds so...inadequate, in comparison to everything Chuuya /was./ "And he...cared about people /so much./" He's wiping at another wave of tears, wishing the
bottle they were passing back and forth was something /way/ stronger. "Even if he didn't /like/ you, he'd go out of his way to make sure you were okay. And he--he was so /petty./" Dazai laughs brokenly, "He--he was mad at me, so he started giving /everyone/ in our dorm Paninis
except for /me/--"

"/Paninis?/" Rory questions, raising an eyebrow.

"It's--it's a /long/ story." Dazai wipes a hand down his face. "But the /point/ is, he was just..." He shrugs, for once, at a loss for words, and there's really only /one/ way to say it.

"The love of my life."
Tears streak down his cheeks silently. "He was /it/ for me. I was /done./"

If Chuuya was alive right /now/, they'd--

Dazai doesn't know /where/ they would be, or what they would be doing--but he knows they would have been /together./

And that even if Chuuya had said /no/ to
marrying him, Dazai would have asked /every single day/ until the redhead said yes.

/That's/ where he would be right now. That's where he's /supposed/ to be right now.

"...Does it get any easier?" Rory asks slowly, and Dazai is too exhausted to /lie/, hunching over the bottle.
"/No/," he mutters, shaking his head. "It feels like..." He bites his lip until he almost breaks skin. "Like there's a string between me, and the moment he was gone. And the longer the distance between me and that moment gets..." Dazai shakes his head. "The more it hurts."
"And I know," he continues, his voice shaking, "it would get easier if I stopped telling myself it wasn't real. That I'm gonna wake up, and he'll be there. But I--" Dazai hunches further in on himself, "If I /stop/ believing that, I don't think I'll be able to wake up anymore."
The /only/ reason he gets up in the morning is under the pretense that someday, he'll /actually/ wake up.

That there's just /no/ fucking way that /he's/ still here, not when the /only/ person that has /ever/ mattered is gone.

How would that be fucking /fair?/

And maybe, the
hardest part of it all is--

Dazai /knows/ Chuuya wouldn't be happy, if he could see him now. If he saw how many /huge/ steps backwards the brunette had taken, backpedaling away from the person he was /becoming/, clinging onto every negative coping mechanism he's ever /had./
He'd be /disappointed in him./

And knowing /that/ hurts the most.

But it doesn't mean that Dazai knows how to /stop./

It's been three years since he was home, and it isn't easier.

Then, it's four.

/Four years./

The kids they started school with are graduating. Getting
married. Starting families of their own. Yuan and Gin are engaged--Dazai sees the pictures online, but can't bring himself to so much as /comment./

And Dazai...

Is living on tour, winning awards--showing up to ceremonies high out of his /mind/, not lucid enough to accept them.
He's taking anyone /close/ enough to a memory to bed, running away from /anyone/ in his life who knows him well enough to /help him./

But you can't run from everything, no matter how far you go. No matter how hard you try.

He's stumbling out of a bar in Berlin--and /yes/, he's
drunk, but he's a /functioning/ drunk at this point, so accustomed to the world spinning that it barely even phases him anymore.

"Osamu?"

He freezes, hand frozen halfway in the air, from where he was about to hail a taxi.

It just stopped raining, and under the streetlights,
the pavement is glistening. Berlin is a relatively quiet city, for one so large--and aside from the cars on the street, there isn't enough background noise to distort /that/ voice, one that Dazai would remember anywhere.

"What the /fuck/ do you want?"

Sayako recoils at his tone
Surprised by the hostility of it.

And Dazai can’t /fathom/ it, how /she/ deserves to be /surprised./

“I—I just thought I recognized you.” She mutters, hugging the strap of her purse tightly. “I thought you might want to—“

Dazai turns around, and her voice gets smaller.
“...talk.”

The man standing in front of her /now/ is /nothing/ like the boy she knew ten years ago.

Not bright eyed, intelligent, or hopeful.

He’s pale, /gaunt/ really—red, slightly sunken in eyes, messy hair, a thick layer of stubble on his cheeks—

And there’s /nothing/ in
that gaze.

Nothing but hurt, rage, and...emptiness.

She’s never seen someone so utterly /hopeless/ before.

“Am I supposed to believe that you didn’t follow me here?” Dazai asks flatly, and she stiffens, biting the inside of her cheek.

“I—“

“What job did you get fired from
this time? Another teaching position?”

“I don’t see how you can laugh about it when your /father/—“

“That wasn’t me laughing.” Dazai takes a step closer, “And I haven’t spoken to my father in over a /year/, so maybe you should go talk to /him./“

“I—“ she frowns when he turns
to leave, reaching forward to grab his arm. “Osamu, /wait/—“

He wrenches away from her, so violently that she stumbles backwards. “Don’t /touch me!/“

“What—“ She sputters, looking him up and down, trying to find even a /trace/ of him that seems familiar. “Dazai, what /happened/
to you?”

“...” He stares at her for a long, hard moment, his lips pressing together into a thin, tight line. “Let me tell you what,” he turns back around. “You answer /one/ question for me, and I’ll call whatever the fuck school you want and tell them it’s all a
/huge/ misunderstanding.” He smiles at her, but there is absolutely /no/ warmth in it, and she’s somewhat hesitant.

“...What sort of question?”

“I keep remembering—back when I would get scared, and I’d say I wanted to /stop/—“ she opens her mouth to protest, and he holds up a
finger, silencing her. “You’d talk about how /none/ of the other guys in my grade could get a girl like you,” he reminds her slowly, “that there were plenty of other guys in your year /drooling/ after you. You remember?”

She nods, her brow creased with confusion.

“Why didn’t
you go after any of them?”

“I—“ she blinks, not understanding. “What?”

“The guys in your year,” Dazai repeats, “the ones /your age./ Why didn’t you sleep with any of them?”

“Because...” She frowns, biting her lip. “I didn’t have a connection with them. What we had—it was
special.”

“...Was Sigma special?” Dazai asks flatly. “Or was he just a lonely, /vulnerable/ kid that looked up to you?”

She looks startled, and he can tell—she never realized that he /knew./

“Well,” he reaches up, pushing his hair back “I’ll go ahead and answer your question—
You happened to me.”

She opens her mouth to try to say something else, /anything/ else, because there’s this desperate need to /dodge responsibility/, “You can’t blame—“

“The /fuck/ I can’t!” Dazai snarls, pushing up his sleeves. “You know something? I know I didn’t exactly win
the /luck of the draw/, having the kind of mother that I did," his voice is a little unsteady, somewhere between rage and a pain that is so violent, it's become a serrated age, grating his voice into a snarl every time he speaks. "But my /Dad/ gave a shit about me. I probably had
a /chance./" He shakes his head, bitterness sour on his tongue. "And then /you./"

"I didn't--"

"You fucking /ruined/ me." He isn't /crying/, but his voice is so /agonized/, maybe it would be easier if he /was./ "Do you know what I /did/ to myself, when you left every night?"
"Daz--"

He tears the bandages off of one wrist, and--

And some of the scars aren't /old./ Not anymore.

She flinches, turning her head, and he lunges forward, grabbing her jaw between his fingers, turning her chin down.

"You don't get to /look away from this/," he hisses,
forcing her to /look. "I did /this/, Sayako. I did /this!/" He lets her go, shoving her back, and she's so /floored/ by the violence of it, she doesn't know how to speak. He didn't /hurt/ her, not /exactly/, but--

"Is that how you /live with it?/" Dazai shakes his head, "You
tell yourself it's /everyone else's fault/ but yours? See, I--" He presses a hand to his chest, and /now/ he's laughing, but there's no mirth in it--it's a strained, desperate sound. "I have a goddamn /stack/ of things I can't look with, so I'm looking for advice--"

"Stop it--"
"Why the /fuck/ should I stop?" Dazai is shouting now, and--

And he's /lucky/, in the sense that he /outgrew/ his own monster. Most people can't, but Dazai--he can make his /cower/--and he wishes he could say that it doesn't feel /good/, but--

But that would be a /lie./

"Are
you /scared?/" Dazai hisses, "Because the last time I checked, that wasn't a /good enough reason!/"

"You weren't /scared/, you were just--"

"I wanted to fucking /die/, do you understand that?" Dazai shakes his head. "I just didn't know /how./ I barely even /survived you./ You
know who didn't?"

Human skin barely fits around this anger. It's trembling and snarling in his chest, a wounded beast, ready to rip it's way out and roar at the sky until it /shatters./

"/SIGMA!/" She stumbles back, surprised by the force of his voice, tripping and landing on
her ass against the curb, the heels of her palms scraping against the concrete as she tries to brace herself. And /now/, the tears are welling up. "He asked me about you before he did it, you know." Dazai whispers, his chest heaving, and Sayako is staring up at him with wide eyes
and trembling lips. "Asked me if it was /normal/ for a girl that much older than him to put her hand down his pants." Dazai shakes his head, and shame is /burning/ in him, tearing through his gut in a self destructive inferno.

He never told /anyone./ Not Fukuzawa. Not his family
Not even /Chuuya./

"And you know what?" Dazai shakes his head, breathing hard. "I fucking /lied./ I told him I didn't know what the fuck he was talking about." He tilts his chin back, looking up at the sky. "And three days later, he was gone."

Admitting that to Sigma back then,
that would have meant admitting what happened to /himself./

And Dazai was so /ashamed/, so /confused/--he had no idea how to /do that./

"That wasn't my..." She trails off, struggling to catch her breath. "That wasn't my /fault/, I was--"

"It doesn't matter." Dazai mutters.
Shaking his head. "It doesn't matter how much time passed, or if you weren't around anymore. Who are you gonna blame?" He tilts his head to the side. "/Sigma?/"

"I--/no/--"

"His parents? For trusting you?"

"I don't understand why you're /doing this/--"

"Because I /made it./"
Dazai's hands balled into fists. "I was getting /better./ I--" He shakes his head. "I had someone," he takes a shuddering breath, "who made me want to /try./" His nails are biting into the skins of his palms. "And he was the /only/ person who /always/ made me feel like I fucking
/mattered./ And you know what?" Dazai exhales sharply, like this rage is a /poison/, one he can exhale through his breath. "He's /gone./" His eyes slowly slide back over to her, glazed over with tears. "And /you're/ still here." His face tilts back up towards the sky.

"I don't
understand that."

He prays, these days--but not because he's trying to find /salvation/, or /peace/--

It's just like what Kouyou said that day--it's hard, when someone is gone and you have no one to /blame./

Dazai hasn't stopped looking for a culprit, and God works just fine.
"...Don't contact me again." Dazai mutters, wiping one hand down his face. "If you do, I'm leaking your name to the press. I don't give a shit about what happens to me."

He turns around, starting to walk away, and she scrambles to her feet. "/Wait/, you--you said you'd write a
letter if I answered your question, I--"

"Oh, yeah." Dazai turns his head, glancing at her over his shoulder. "I lied."

She freezes, trembling in the night air, clutching her purse against her side--and somehow, in spite of it all, Dazai smiles.

"You trusted me, right?" His
eyes glint at her vindictively. "I used that to get something I wanted from you, even if I knew it was going to hurt you. Cool trick, right?" He turns away, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walks back down the street.

"I learned it from my tutor."

No one questions it when
he walks into the studio at three a.m. No one pulls him out of bed when he sleeps past five in the afternoon.

Sometimes, confrontations like that--they can be /cathartic/, they can burn away scar tissue, but in Dazai's case...

All it made him do was realize that he had spent an
entire decade of his life treading water, and he...

He just doesn't want to /swim/ anymore.

So, he stops trying.

Keeps drinking when he /knows/ he's had too many. Snorts, swallows, /injects/ anything that's pressed into his hands, occasionally mixing them together until he's
just /floating/ in a haze for days on end, /begging/ any higher power that will listen to never let him come back down.

But he /always/ does. Shivering and naked under the cold spray of a shower, a stranger in his bed.

And the come down gets lower and lower each time.

There's
no /controlling/ it anymore, but Dazai isn't /trying/ to.

It's like the moment you /know/ you're about to get in a car accident, that you can't slam the brakes, can't turn the wheel--that it's just /too late/--

And Dazai doesn't /want/ to stop it, so he just /lets go./

Of
course, it's not a cry for help. It's a screeching /siren/, paired with several alarm bells and a megaphone--

But no one is close enough to /hear it./

That doesn't mean that there weren't /any/ signs--not if you listened to what he was singing, clutching the microphone, an
entire stadium enraptured by him--

And that's the thing everyone /loved/ about watching Dazai Osamu perform.

It was /visceral/, personal--like every word from his lips came straight from his /gut./

// "Don't tell me if I'm dying, 'cause I don't wanna know..." //

If /this/ is
dying, he /doesn't care./ It's easier than /trying./ It hurts /less./

// "If I can't see the sun, maybe I should go." //

Hell, sometimes, if he's /just/ far gone enough, he sees him.

That bright, shining face, smiling at him in the crowd--and Dazai doesn't care if it's not
real, or if it's the last thing he ever /sees./

// "Don't wake me cause I'm dreaming, of angels on the moon..." //

On the last night, his fingers slip from the mic, reaching blindly, trying to grasp onto a memory, fingers slipping past the edges.

// "When everyone you know,
never leaves too soon." //

He doesn't know /what/ city he's in, couldn't tell you what day of the week it was--or even what /month/--hell, Dazai probably couldn't even tell you what his own mother looked like anymore.

But you know what he /could/ tell you?

He could tell you
the exact number of freckles on the tip of Chuuya's nose. Or the list of places he wanted to see before the end. He could list /every single/ studio ghibli character with /no/ shame, because--

Because they're the /shreds/ of the only life that Dazai /wanted./

// "Yeah, you can
tell me all your thoughts about the stars that fill polluted skies." //

And the moment he lets /go/ of them, Dazai...

There's a party after the concert--and somewhere, between the pulsing lights, the music, the writhing bodies--

It's /too much./

Dazai doesn't want to be here
anymore.

// "And tell me where you run to, when no one's left to take your side..." //

He stumbles out into the street, gasping the cool night air into his lungs.

It /must/ be winter now--he can see that it's starting to flurry slightly, his breath fogging up in the air.
There's a railing on the opposite side, curved stone and wrought iron, marking the edge of the canal.

// "Don't tell me where the road ends, cause I just don't wanna know..." //

He braces his palms against the edge, gulping down the fresh air, staring at the vast, empty
blackness underneath him.

His heart is pounding in his chest, pupils slightly blown.

And there's one quiet, /sharp/ moment of clarity.

/I don't wanna do this anymore./

His hands ball into fists, and he /wishes/ he--he wishes he could--

He presses the heels of his palms
against his eyes, gritting his teeth.

"I'm /sorry/, baby." Dazai mutters. "I /really/ tried."

(And maybe, if he was being honest with himself, he would admit that he /didn't./ That he self sabotaged every single step of the way, because he didn't know how to let Chuuya /go./)
He reaches into his pocket, pulling out his phone--and the minute the screen flickers to life, he stares at that face, the soft spray of freckles, the dimples in his smile, he--

He can't, he can't, he /can't./

His lips tremble as he kisses the screen, hanging his head for one
long, final moment.

// "Don't tell me if I'm dying..." //

The phone slips from his fingers, falling into the water below after a brief pause, and--

It's not /that/ hard, he's tall enough that the railing is waist height.

All Dazai has to do is stop trying /not/ to fall.
// "Cause I just don't wanna know..." //

And he /does./

There's /beauty/, in the act of just /falling./ This moment where the world stops /pretending/ to make sense, when the illusion of control slips away.

Everything is fresh, cold, and /clear/--and it's /then/, when Dazai
Osamu realizes that he's about to /die/--

/Finally/, it's there, blooming in the pit of his stomach.

/Peace./

His back makes impact with the water first, a dull /boom/ reverberating through his bones--and then the water is rushing over him, sucking him under.

/Cold/, so cold
that it makes him suck in a surprised gasp--until the water is rushing down his throat, into his ears, his lungs--

And Dazai doesn't fight it.

His lips go limp as his eyes slide shut, and he can't tell if the lights overhead are streetlights, or stars, but--

But it doesn't
matter, does it?

They're probably gone already anyway.

Just like him.

And then, just like that, there's nothing.

Sweet, blissful, /nothing./

"Osaaaaamuuuuuuu...."

His nose twitches.

"Dazaaaaaaai...."

The brunette rolls over with a grunt, pulling the covers over his head.
"It's too early."

"/Oi/, don't be a baby..." Hands push at him through the comforter, tugging--and when it finally comes down, and Dazai cracks one eyelid open--

The sun is streaming in through the window, drawing out the blonde highlights in his hair, catching the blues of his
eyes just right, and--

Dazai's own eyes widen.

"..." Chuuya tilts his head to the side, raising an eyebrow. "What are you looking at, weirdo--/hey!/" He gasps sharply as they're flipped over, and he's on his back against the pillows, trying to catch his breath. "What the--?"
Dazai's hands tremble as they press against his face, his gaze intense as he takes him in--from the freckles across his nose, to the tiny scar on the top of his right hand, and--

/God/, did they /really/ look that young, back then? It hasn't actually ben /that/ long, right?
"Is this real?" He whispers, his thumbs stroking over Chuuya's cheeks, trying to take every inch of him in. It doesn't /feel/ like a dream. He's warm, /solid/ under Dazai's touch. "I'm not dreaming?"

"..." Chuuya frowns, reaching up to wrap his arms around Dazai's neck. "It's
real, Osamu."

The sob that rips out of him doesn't even sound /human/ as he sinks down, his hands sliding down from Chuuya's face to wrap around his back, holding him /tight./ "I-I'm /sorry/--"
"Hey," warm hands rub at his back, and when Dazai buries his face in his hair, it
still /smells the same./ "Hey, it's okay--"

"I didn't--" Dazai chokes on the words, holding him so close, it's a miracle Chuuya doesn't /break/, "I didn't do /anything/ that you asked me to do, I--"

"I asked for a /lot/," Chuuya mutters, holding him /just as tight./ "It's not
your fault, okay?"

Dazai doesn't understand how it /isn't/, because he knows that he didn't really /try/, especially not in the /end/, but--

But Chuuya was /always/ too easy on him, too willing to forgive him when he messed up.

"I missed you," the brunette mutters, pulling
back to kiss his cheeks, his nose, his forehead, not stopping until he's gotten every scrap of bare skin he can find. "God, I missed you /so/ fucking much."

"I--" Chuuya swallows hard, blinking back tears of his own, his lips trembling, "I missed you /too./"

"Don't cry," Dazai
whispers--like a /huge/ hypocrite, because his cheeks are already streaked with tears. "Don't cry sweetheart, I'm here now."

"I didn't wanna leave you," Chuuya mutters, tears rolling down his chin as he turns his face into Dazai's neck. "I tried," his fingers tighten in the
back of his shirt as he struggles to steady his breathing, "I tried /so/ hard, I--"

"I /know/," Dazai shakes his head, leaning down to kiss him, and--

And it's like he'd been suffocating for so long, he forgot what /breathing/ felt like--his first breath coming from Chuuya's
lips.

"I /know/ you did."

"But..." Chuuya's lips tremble under his own, fingers digging into Dazai's shoulders. "We deserved so much more /time./"

"I don't care," Dazai mutters, pressing closer until their foreheads are leaned together. HIs palm slides between them, laying
flat over Chuuya's chest--and he can feel his heartbeat there, steady and strong. "As long as I'm with you, I don't care where it is."

"...God," the redhead chokes, kissing him deeper. "How did I even /deserve/ you?"

"You were /perfect/," Dazai replies instantly, "you were /so/
perfect."

Chuuya snorts, shaking his head. "You would be the only one who thought so."

"Don't care."

"I made so many /mistakes/--" Chuuya croaks, only to be silenced by another kiss.

"You were perfect for /me./" Dazai whispers fiercely. "I wouldn't have changed one thing."
"..." Chuuya leans into the kiss with a contented sigh, and for the space of that moment, everything is /absolutely okay./

There's no aching, no wanting. Nothing is wrong. Nothing /hurts./

"Dad!" A voice calls in the distance, behind a closed door, somewhere down the hall. "Can
we have pancakes for breakfast?"

Dazai pauses, lifting his head to look back, his brow furrowing with confusion, because /who...?/

"...In a minute!" Chuuya calls, fingers sliding up to stroke his fingers through Dazai's hair, rubbing soothing circles into his scalp. "There's
someone I want you to meet."

"Chuuya--" Dazai glances down at him, raising an eyebrow, "Who is that?"

His boyfriend opens his mouth to explain--and /god/, is it a /long/ story, until--

/Thud./

The entire room goes out of focus for a moment, before snapping back into place--
And Chuuya's face falls, just as Dazai goes still, looking around them, trying to find the source of the commotion. "...What was that?"

"I--" Chuuya forces a smile, sitting up a little as he hugs Dazai closer, their cheeks pressing together. "I don't know."

He's /lying./
Chuuya has never been particularly great at hiding the truth to someone's /face/, which is probably why he's burying his face in Dazai's neck /now./

"Chuuya--"

/Thud!/

// "Someone give him another 800 of cordorone!" //

The room snaps back into focus, and the /panic/ sets in.
"You said I wasn't dreaming," he mutters, and Chuuya looks away, sitting up with a forced smile.

"You're not," he mutters, squeezing Dazai's hand. "C'mon, let's--"

"Dad! Are you coming?"

/Thud./

// "He's ready for another shock!" //

/No./

The realization is slow, a sinking
pit in his core--and the warmth of that moment seeps away, leaving only the cold behind.

"Chuuya," his voice wavers, and the redhead's smile fades. "I don't wanna wake up."

"Osamu--"

"Baby, /please/," no mater how tightly you cling to them, memories slip through your fingers.
And it's so /cruel/, because it reminds you that there was nothing left to hold onto anymore.

"/I don't wanna wake up./"

"..." Chuuya's lips tremble as his hands press to his cheeks, still so warm, so /real./ "I /know/, baby, I know."

Dazai's hands cling to his shoulders,
like that could somehow /stop/ what’s happening, like it’s /his/ choice. “I love you,” he mutters, like /that/ is enough.

“/I love you/,” he repeats, holding /tighter/, silently /hating/ himself for all of the months he wasted /not/ saying it.

“I love you too,” Chuuya’s fingers
press underneath his chin, and—

And when their eyes meet, Dazai sees that /he’s/ crying too.

“It’s gonna be okay.”

The brunette shakes his head vehemently, because it /isn’t./ It’s /never/ going to be okay, not of Chuuya isn’t—

“Look at me.”

He does, his gaze wide and
desperate, because god, he could spend a lifetime just /looking/ at him—

“No one is ever /really/ gone,” Chuuya murmurs, leaning in—pressing their foreheads together, and he feels so /small/ in Dazai’s arms, fading, and he’s holding on with everything he /has/, because he
doesn’t /want/ to go back, wants to stay /here/, just here, forever—

And then, Chuuya reminds him of something he forgot, thought Dazai isn’t quite sure /when./

“And no matter /what happens/,” Dazai breathes him in one last time, “I am /always/ going to be there.”

His eyes
Open just as the room fades—and Chuuya’s face along with it, blurring, fading into black.

Just like that, Dazai’s arms are empty—and Chuuya—

He’s gone again.

It’ll be long—too long—before Dazai sees him again. /Decades/ too long.

An entire lifetime that he never /asked for./
There’s a soft, robotic beeping when he finally does wake up, trapped underneath a haze of monitors, unable to speak.

His eyes are wide, burning into the ceiling as frustration sets in, and when his gaze drops /down/, Dazai—

Dazai sees his /father/ in the chair beside his bed.
Mori is haggard--older now, than he was when Dazai saw him last. Streaks of gray through his temples, new lines under his eyes.

And in any other circumstance, Dazai might have have been /happy/ to see him, but--

But right now, all he feels is this /desperate/ kind of
frustration, his fingers twitching, trying to remember the things they once held.

/Let me go back./

That wasn't a /dream./

When he remembers Chuuya's mouth against his own, his smile, the smell of his hair--

That was /real./

/Let me go back./

"You gave us quite the scare."
Dazai's teeth clench tightly together as he stares at the ceiling, nostrils flaring "...Where am I?"

"Paris." Mori answers quietly, and when Dazai notices the french text scrolling across the bottom of the television screen in the corner, that makes sense. "His family was here.
Dazai stiffens at the mention, and his father continues. "Rimbaud and Ozaki, at least. They were worried for you." Mori glances down at his watch, checking the time. "I could call them later, and let them know you woke up--"

"No," Dazai rasps, his voice roughened from oxygen
tubes and whatever they've been pumping into him through his IV. "You don't have to do that."

He can't deal with that right now.

/Coward./

"..." Mori nods, his lips pressing together as he surveys his son, and he looks so...

/Disappointed/ isn't the right word, but there's so
much /sadness/ in his eyes, Dazai almost /resents/ it.

What does /he/ have to be so fucking /sad/ about?

"The police tracked down your cellphone," He murmurs, nodding towards a ziplock sitting on the table next to his bed. "Not that it's usable anymore, I'm afraid."

/Right./
Dazai turns his head, staring at the cracked screen, mud encrusted on the edges, and now, when he's finally /clear/ enough to put the pieces together, he remembers--

That bridge--

He'd /been there before./

// "I can't be your boyfriend, Chuuya." //

It was snowing then, too.
// "I'm sorry." //

It was the first time he ever allowed himself to admit how much he /needed/ someone, that in the end, all he needed was just to hear Chuuya's /voice./

// "Don't be." //

Sometimes, the memory of something is even more cruel than the absence of it.

"I need
you to tell me something, Osamu." His father sighs, staring down at his hands.

"Did you jump?"

"..." Dazai doesn't answer, but the /lack/ of it is enough to be an affirmative. "How much longer do I have to stay here? I'm supposed to start the next leg of the tour next week."
Mori is quiet at first, before answering--

"The tour was cancelled, son."

Dazai pauses, his eyebrows twitching with confusion. "What?"

"Your label--they cancelled the rest of the tour." Mori explains. "And you won't be released for at least another 48 hours."

".../Why?/"
"..." Mori takes off his glasses, wiping off the lenses. "Your label cancelled the tour, because they have insurance to cover any losses in the case that the headliner becomes incompetent. Given the number of people with their livelihoods on the line, I'm sure they made the best
decision for themselves and their staff."

He explains /that/ with a certain amount of distaste--because he's been watching a large, multinational corporation benefit off of his son's mental anguish for /years./

Because when grief becomes /profitable/, why not /use it?/

And
in the last few years, he's been forced to watch as it /destroyed/ his child.

"And you aren't being released because you're 24 hours into a 72 hour psychiatric hold." Mori mutters, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"...A /what?/"

"You threw yourself into a canal, Dazai." Even
/saying/ it is physically painful. "This can't be coming as a surprise."

No, the only /surprise/ is that Mori is actually /here./ Dazai and his father have spent half of the last decade turning the act of avoidance into /performance art./

"Great," Dazai mutters, his head
dropping back against the pillow, staring at the ceiling.

"...They're going to give you an evaluation," Mori explains softly. "After that, you're going to be flying back to Tokyo with me."

"...What?" Dazai responds flatly, his gaze jerking back over to his father. "/No./"

"I'm
not asking, Osamu."

"I'm almost /twenty-three years old./" Dazai snarls, his hackles instinctively rising. "You can't /make/ me do anything."

"...I can't," Mori agrees. "That's why they're going to evaluate you." His voice is low, controlled, talking to Dazai like he's a
/patient./ "And if they find you're still a risk to yourself, they're going to recommend in patient treatment." He glances up at the clock on the wall. "Given our family's position, they've agreed to transfer you to a facility in Japan."

"I'm not /asking/ for treatment--"

"And
I'm not asking if you /want it./" Mori cuts him off firmly.

"Oh, so you just magically decided to give a shit when it became a /public embarrassment/ for you?" Dazai snarls, and Mori's eyes harden.

"This isn't an /embarrassment/, Osamu. I'm worried, we /all/ are--"

"If you
were so worried, where the /fuck/ have you been for the last four years?" Dazai glares before coughing, throwing an arm over his mouth, his body wracked with it.

"I've been trying to give you /time/," Mori mutters, "but that clearly isn't /working./"

"Maybe I don't fucking
/want it/ to work, did you ever consider that?!" Dazai snarls, and he winces after saying that, knowing it doesn't exactly /help his case./

"I /know/ you don't," Mori stands up, glancing back to see the E.R. doctors moving down the halls, performing their rounds. "That's why
I'm here."

The rest of the day is filled with nurses asking him about his comfort level. Wanting to scale and 'manage' his pain.

There's nothing they can /give/ him for what's actually hurting.

He's on a constant, low dose of morphine--trying to wean him down without
triggering painful withdrawals.

There's only one psychiatrist there who speaks Japanese fluently--a blonde man with long hair and a patient gaze, leaning on his elbow as he speaks to Dazai, his pen tapping against the paper.

"I know this has been an inconvenience." He murmurs.
Dazai can't stop staring at the name, stitched into the front of his white coat in black thread.

/Verlaine./

It reminds him of some poet Chuuya liked--laying across his lap in front of the fireplace, reading verses in French while Dazai stroked his hair, watching rain drops
smack heavily against the window pane.

"It's fine." Dazai mutters, staring out a different window now.

Different place, different company.

But that's okay, he isn't the same either.

"If you were released," Verlaine tilts his head to the side, watching Dazai with this close,
penetrating gaze, one that makes Dazai feel almost violated.

There are different levels of actually /wanting/ to be dead. Dazai has become intimately familiar with them, like different steps leading down a staircase he's been dragged down his entire life.

Higher up on the
stairs, there's this point where the thoughts are just random and intrusive. Standing on the edge of a tall building, thinking about how /easy/ it would be. Gripping the steering wheel a little tighter, wondering if the right jerk of the wrists could end it all /quickly./

And at
that point, when you're just sinking into the jaws of the beast--you don't /want/ to fall the rest of the way in. You get scared.

You don't /try/ to pretend it's okay. You act out. Change your appearance. Lash out at the people close to you. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes,
people notice.

Chuuya noticed.

"Where would you go?"

Sometimes, it doesn't work.

Sometimes, you slip further down that staircase, hands weakly grasping at the railing as you build momentum, and the things holding you back wear down under the strain.

Self worth. Friendships.
Family.

The climb back up starts feeling steeper and steeper. The work of it feels /daunting./

The act of /trying/ itself becomes /terrifying./

And eventually, you stop screaming.

You stop asking for help.

People call, and sometimes you answer, going through the motions of
being /fine./ Other times, when you're too tired, you don't.

And you just go back and forth between the two, irregularly--until people get /used/ to you not answering. It doesn't make them /worry./

Then, the fact that you /want/ to be gone, that you're trapped on a car with no
brakes, and you just want to /crash/--it becomes a /secret./ A crime, hidden underneath your thoughts--something you carefully hide, because you don't /want/ someone to stop you.

You don't /want/ someone to save you.

"...My tour got cancelled," Dazai explains tiredly, "so I'm
not sure."

"That must be disappointing," Verlaine agrees. He hasn't asked him anything direct since the beginning of the conversation, with--

// "Have you been experiencing suicidal thoughts?" //

Now, they're just dancing around the edges of the issue, and Dazai is starting to
feel boxed in.

"How long has it been since you spoke with your father last?"

"...A few years, I guess." Dazai mutters, not looking away from the window. There's no attempt at smugness, no coy smiles or spiteful turns of phrase.

Whatever mask he would normally wear, he's too
tired to wear it now.

"Did something happen between the two of you?"

Contrary to popular belief, Dazai doesn't /blame/ his father for Chuuya's death. If anything, the only one that blames Mori for that is /himself./

"No, we just...grew apart."

"And your mother?"

"I choose
not to have contact with her." Dazai mutters. "That was before."

"Before?"

"..." Dazai winces, closing his eyes, and Verlaine opens up his folder.

"You know, when the police were investigating what happened to you, your family gave them access to your iCloud." He explains.
"And I have to admit, I see some strange things in this job, but..." he glances up at Dazai. "I've never seen someone go four years without taking a single photograph."

"..." Dazai doesn't answer as a print is pushed across the table, directly under his gaze--

Dated 5/18/2022.
A redhead in big, sparkly costume glasses, wearing a neon green head band and wrist bands, holding the shoulders of an older man in dark aviators, both of them beaming at the camera in what /seems/ to be a skating rink.

"...Who are they?" Verlaine asks, his tone infuriatingly
gentle.

"..." Dazai stares down at the photograph, forcing himself to look longer than he can /stand/ to, driving the blade into his /psyche/, since there isn't one on hand for his skin. "My grandfather," he whispers hoarsely. "And my boyfriend."

"Why is that the last picture
you took?"

"..."

Dazai can't really imagine that he once went so many /years/ without crying--because now, he has /no/ ability to stop the tears that slip down his cheeks.

He could lie. He could try to force a false level of indifference.

He's too /tired./

It's /too much./
"There was nothing else worth remembering after that."

That's what you take pictures /for/, right? Why take any more, when there's /nothing/ else you want to hold onto?

What image is worth preserving, when the only face you want to see isn't /there?/

"After what, Dazai?"
Medical professionalism removes /pity/ from Verlaine's voice, but...

But Dazai can /feel/ it there, heavy in the air.

"...After they were gone." Finally, he sinks down, his face resting in his forearms as his body is wracked with sobs, ripped from his throat as something inside
rips open at the seams.

As one might imagine, whatever the /goals/ of the evaluation were, whatever standard of /okay-ness/ he was supposed to meet--

Dazai fails to do so.

He's sitting on a bench at the end of the psych wing, his belongings sealed into a clear, plastic bag,
laying across his legs.

"Believe it or not," Verlaine is leaning against the wall beside him, arms crossed as they wait for hospital security to come and escort him downstairs, where his father (and /more/ security), will take him to the airport. "I actually /do/ understand."
Dazai doesn't make a sound, slumped forward, his elbows resting against his thighs.

"My wife," the doctor explains. "In a car accident--it was three years ago."

It's baffling to him, the way that something this sharp, this /profound/, can be such a common experience. That so
many people can just /walk around/ with this, like a crushing weight on their back, dragging them down.

Dazai /can't./ Doesn't /want to./

"There isn't a single day when I don't get angry," Verlaine sighs, "or that I don't wish it was /me/, instead."

If he /really/ understood,
Dazai doesn't think he'd be helping the /enemy/ right now, loading him on a plane to some sort of /treatment/ center that might as well be a /prison./

"But I have three daughters." Verlaine continues. "A sister. Friends. And just because /she/ won't be there--that doesn't make
my time with them any /less/ meaningful."

"..." Dazai's fingers tighten until his knuckles are white.

And it isn't /just/ Mori, waiting for him downstairs.

Standing next too him, hands shoved in his pockets, is...

His brother.

Twenty-seven now, a full beard in place, but--
But his eyes are the same.

The first hug is tense, /awkward/--Dazai doesn't quite remember how to be in someone's arms anymore.

"Do I get to be in the family disappointment club /now?/" Dazai jokes tiredly.

Oda's arms tighten around him.

"No."

The facility is just outside of
Tokyo. Expensive--the kind that looks more like a nice /hotel/ than /rehab./

Dazai's /first/ stint lasts for 30 days.

He's back in after being out for five, when he's wrestled to the floor of a bathroom, fingers fighting to keep his grip on a razor blade as Odasaku holds him
down, screaming in his father's face as someone calls an ambulance.

// "Just let me /go!/" //

// "Get /off of me!/" //

Eyes red-rimmed with tears and rage, looking into Mori's face as he screams,

// "I fucking /HATE YOU!/" //

The next time, it's 60 days.

When he makes it
out, he lasts a month--a new record, honestly--before he bumps into someone he used to know from tour, and /that/ lands him in the back of a nightclub with a needle in his arm, /knowing/ he can't handle as much as he used to, injecting it anyway, staring hopefully at the ceiling
as the colors start to swirl together, and conscious thought starts to /fade/, but--

But he doesn't see Chuuya there.

Not even when the paramedics are working over him, attaching an AED to his chest, pushing Narcan up his nose as they fight to get his heart beating.

/Stop./
His eyes roll back into his head as his body jerks, and, like it's some sort of /cruel joke/, one of the paramedics has /red hair./

"Stay with me!" Her hands work over his chest, compressions forcing his traitor of a heart to start /beating/ again, even when he's begging it to--
/Stop./

He makes it. Even when he's the /last/ person to deserve second, third, or /fourth/ chances, he /always/ makes it--waking up in hospital rooms, getting signed in for /another/ round of treatment, watching even /Odasaku/ breakdown, sobbing next to his bedside, /begging/
him to just /try/, because he doesn't want to /do this/ anymore.

"I--" His brother's hands tremble as he hangs his head, fingers knotted in his hair. "I've spent the last /five years/ trying to write a eulogy for you, Osamu. I don't want to have to keep /doing that./"

He knows.
He /knows./

It's on his 97th consecutive day of treatment, that Dazai gets a visitor.

He's gained weight this time, actually filling out the gray, standard issue sweats--and the force structure of it all, a shower every day, having someone standing over him as he combs his hair
it creates this false /illusion/ of being clean cut, of looking better than he feels.

The teenager sitting at the table in the visitation room is /almost/ unfamiliar, but the minute he looks up, and Dazai sees those /eyes/, he freezes.

"...Niisan?"

It's cautious, hesitant,
like he isn't sure what /reaction/ he's going to get--

And Dazai's /instinct/ is to feel /ashamed./

Because he's the big brother. The one who he's supposed to look up to. The one who was supposed to /be there/ for him, because--

Because Dazai promised him that he would never
/leave./

But he did that /anyway./

"..." His lips turn up tiredly, "Hey, 'sushi."

That's all it takes.

The chair screeches back against the tiles, rocking backwards with a clatter, and--

And then, there are arms around Dazai's middle, and a face buried in his chest.
"I /missed/ you," the middle schooler cries, hugging him so /tight/, Dazai can barely /breath./ "I missed you so much!"

"..."

// "Just because she won't /be/ there--" //

Dazai's hands /shake/, as they start to wrap around Atsushi's back, hugging him closer.

// "--that doesn't
mean that the things I share with them aren't /meaningful./" //

Finally, /finally/, he...

He's starting to /get it/, hugging his brother /close./

// "I don't want you to stop doing things, just because I'm not there." //

And Dazai--

He starts crying with him.

"I--" he
presses his face into Atsushi's hair, and he finally lets himself /admit it./

"I missed you /too./"

For so long, the idea that he could miss /anyone/ else, that there was /anyone/ else he wanted to see--

It made Dazai feel like that would mean that he missed Chuuya /less./
But he doesn't.

Spending hours with his brother, talking about school, the friends he's made, it--

It doesn't make that constant, painful ache in his chest /easier./ It's /never/ gotten any easier.

But it /does/ mean that Dazai has admitted that there's enough room for
something /other/ than just...

Than just /missing him./

Atsushi visits every single Friday. Sometimes he brings bento--other times, he'll show Dazai some of his projects from school.

He draws, now--and he's actually /pretty good/ at it.

When Dazai looks at the character
designs, the prevalence of /tigers/ makes him smile--

Because he /knows/ where Atsushi got /that/ fascination from.

And somehow, along the way--without actually /realizing/ it was happening, Dazai found that he was /looking forward/ to something.

To Fridays.

Then, when his
Dad starts visiting again, Saturdays.

"I'm sorry."

There's a lake, next to the facility grounds--one framed by Sakura trees, with little ducks floating gently across it's surface.

He sits there with his father on Saturday afternoons, aimlessly tossing birdseed into the water.
"For what?"

"...I think it got easier for me to blame you, at some point." Dazai mutters, leaning his chin against his knee. "That wasn't fair."

"...Yeah, well," Mori sighs, "if that's what you needed, I can take it."

"Yeah, but..." Dazai bites his lip. "I don't think it
actually was. I think..." he takes a deep breath. "I think I was just being a coward."

"Oh, no." Mori shakes his head, his eyes not leaving the water's surface. "I don't think so." Dazai's silence is disbelieving, and he expands on it, "If anyone is the coward in this situation,
it's me."

"Dad--"

"I couldn't talk to you." Mori admits, his hands tight in his lap. "I couldn't face the fact that I...felt like I had let you down."

Dazai bites his lip, looking away. "You didn't."

"I /did./ Plenty of times. And, after Chuuya, I just..." Mori sighs. "I knew
that you needed me, but I didn't know how to /face/ you. I told myself I was giving you space, but..."

In the end, he repeated the /same/ mistakes he made before.

Giving Dazai /space/ when he thought Dazai didn't want to see him. Letting him /spiral/ instead of facing it.

But
after what Dazai has been through in the last five years, how much time and effort and /pain/--not just his own, but that of everyone /around him/--into running /away/ from his grief...

Dazai finds himself /understanding/ his father, the person he was /back then/, the person
that he is /now/, more than he ever wanted to.

"...Did you lose someone?" Dazai asks slowly, and Mori goes still for a moment, his breath halting.

"Not..." he closes his eyes. "Not like /that/, no."

"Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"..." His father runs his fingers through
his hair, turning to face him head on. "I knew how important your relationship with your grandfather was--and I never wanted to make it complicated for you."

"...Grandpa?" Dazai asks slowly, trying to /understand/, but...

"Her name was Shige," Mori explains quietly. "I met her
when I was in university. And she..." his father shrugs, clearly not trying to linger on the memories /too/ much. "Was special to me."

"...What does that have to do with Ojiisan?"

"Shige was..." Mori pauses for a moment, regaining his composure. "You have to understand, this
was thirty years ago, and she wasn't..." the doctor presses his tongue to the roof of his mouth, struggling, ".../born/ female."

/Oh./

"But..." Dazai frowns, remembering how /accepting/ Natsume was when /he/ came out, how much he /loved/ Chuuya. "Ojiisan wasn't a..."

"He
wasn't." Mori agrees. "He didn't have a problem with her personally, he didn't mind that I had a relationship with her, but when I wanted to /marry/ her," Mori winces slightly at the memory, "there was an election coming up."

"And he didn't...?"

"I think he justified it to
himself by saying he couldn't pass laws to /protect/ people like Shige without getting elected, but yes. He told me I couldn't marry her." Mori feels so /tired/, remembering it. "And when I said I was going to do it anyway--he offered to write her a check."

"...She took it?"
Mori nods, and when Dazai grimaces, he adds,

"But none of it /excuses/ the way I treated you, your mother, or your brothers. I was in pain, yes--but I didn't have the right to inflict it on everyone /else/ in my life."

"It doesn't make what happened to you /less/ fucked up,"
Dazai mutters, looking away.

Mori reaches over, squeezing his shoulder appreciatively. "But it doesn't make me any /less/ responsible for my own actions, either." Dazai seems to accept that much, and his father adds-- "...It made Chuuya seem even more special to me, actually."
"..." Now /Dazai/ is the one struggling thickly, struggling for composure. "It did?"

"When your mother offered to write him a check, do you know what that boy did?"

"..." Dazai shakes his head, and Mori /smiles./

Even if the memory is bittersweet now, he isn't any less fond of
it.

"He /laughed/, and he made Lion King jokes about it."

"..." It's the first time in /god/ knows how fucking long that Dazai has been able to /smile/ when thinking about his boyfriend. "He did?"

"/Yes/, he told me that she told him to... '/Leave, Simba--and never return./'"
Then, Dazai is /laughing/, hunching over and grabbing his stomach, finding that there's a fine line between amusement and heartbreak--

But he's learning to walk it.

"/God/, he was such a /dork/--"

"You're telling /me/, he was the one always asking me to check and see if his
/organs/ looked normal."

That makes Dazai laugh even harder, because Jesus, who even /asks/ that?

He's never been able to talk about him like this, not since that day with Rory, and--

And it feels /so/ good, just /talking about him./ Dazai feels like he could do /just that/
forever.

"Osamu?"

"...Yeah?"

"I don't know if I ever /thanked you/, really."

"For what?"

Mori rubs the back of his head, glancing up at the sky, watching a small flock of songbirds springing from a nearby Sakura trees.

"Bringing Chuuya into our lives."

"..." Dazai wraps
his arms around himself, his throat thick with emotion. "I..." He stops, unable to voice what he's thinking, and Mori--

He /gets it./

"It was an /honor/," he squeezes Dazai's shoulder again, "getting to know him. And I want you to understand--"

Dazai's hand, even if it's
shaking, reaches up to cover his, squeezing tightly.

"--we're /always/ going to view him as a part of our family. No matter what happens."

"..." Tears flood his eyes again, but letting them fall doesn't feel like /failure/ anymore, it just--

It just feels like /honesty./
"Dad, I--" he croaks, and they speed up, falling down his cheeks even faster, "I still miss him /so much./"

"Oh, /kid/," he's twenty-five, he isn't a kid, he shouldn't /feel/ like a kid, but--

But that doesn't stop him from braking down, crying against Mori's chest like he's
small again, clutching at the back of his shirt. But this isn't about a broken toy, or falling down and scrapping his knee.

This isn't something anyone can /fix./

"I /know/ you do."

Dazai doesn't know if the sobs are /angry/ or /tired/, maybe /both./

"And it's not fair,"
Mori admits, his own voice unsteady as he sheds a few tears of his own, "and I wish I could change it."

He /can't./ No one can.

"But I'm /so/ glad you met him," Mori clenches his teeth, trying so hard to keep it together for both of them "Because he loved you /so much/, Osamu."
Dazai /knows./

No one /ever/ made him feel like that before Chuuya. Like no matter how much he messed up, no matter how /hurt/, and /angry/ he was--

That he still /mattered./

That there were thing about him that were /worth/ loving. Even when Dazai absolutely /hated/ himself.
"I don't know how to do this without him," Dazai mutters, "I told him I did, that I was gonna be fine, but--"

But that was just to make Chuuya /feel better/, honestly. Dazai was never under any delusion that he knew how to live /without him/, he didn't even know how to live
/before him./

"But I don't know what to do."

"...That's okay," Mori hugs him tighter, letting his son cry into his shirt until he has nothing left, hands rubbing up and down his back.

"You don't have to figure that out by yourself, you know."

Dazai has been in treatment for
128 days by the time he starts /really/ trying. It's a slow transition, and some days, he backslides.

But god, he fucking /tries./

He stands up in a circle of folding chairs, holding a crumpled up piece of paper in his hands, eyes blurring as he tries to tell groups of
strangers about what it's like, missing /Chuuya./

And somehow, every time, there's always /one person/ that finds him after, squeezing his arm, telling him--

// "He sounds like a /really/ special person." //

He starts taking his meds /willingly./ Instead of wasting his therapy
sessions glaring at the wall, Dazai forces himself to start /talking./

And as day 150 starts to roll up, he's on the verge of another discharge, and...

And Dazai wants to make it /stick/, this time.

Before he does--he has one last visitor, and...

It isn't who he expected.
When he steps into the visitation room, a familiar mop of messy, strawberry blonde hair greets him, and--

"...Rory?" Dazai blinks, honestly /shocked/, "How did you know I was here?"

The American scratches the side of his neck self consciously, "I--uh, I get it if you think it's
creepy, but--" he frowns, squirming a little sheepishly, "Okay, fuck it, it /is/ creepy, but I saw the papers talking about you being in rehab, and I just sort of...called around until I found you."

"..." Dazai tilts his head to the side, staring, and Rory keeps squirming,
silently anxious, wondering if this was too much. It's /probably/ too much, right? "Why?"

It's been over a year now, since they've seen one another--and even if they were on friendly terms, Dazai never expected...

"...I just wanted to see if you were doing okay."

It sounds so
simple, but it really /isn't./ Dazai's first instinct is to distrust it, but--

Actually, it's been almost /two years/ now, hasn't it?

But Rory's gaze is so open, so /sincere/--

Dazai thinks he actually /means/ it.

"...You bought a plane ticket to /Tokyo/," Dazai asks slowly,
struggling to process it, "just to make sure I was /okay?/"

That's /thousands/ of dollars--and for someone with the salary of a /high school teacher/, that's--

That's a /lot/ of fucking money.

"...Yeah," the blonde admits, his cheeks turning slightly red. "I'm sorry, I know
I should have tried to have them warn you ahead of time, but my Japanese still isn't that great, and I--"

"It's okay," Dazai shakes his head, and--and it's just--

It's been a /really/ long time since /anyone/ has done something like that for him. Especially someone who didn't
/have to./

Originally, he was only supposed to get an hour--but when Dazai explains to the staff how far Rory traveled, they let him stay for three.

He still lives in Brooklyn--but now he teaches Global History to tenth graders, and he only hates it a /little bit./

"Honestly,
I /would/ like it more if I didn't get paid next to /nothing./" Rory groans, kicking his feet up on the sofa. "But the little shits are worth it, I guess."

"Who?"

"The bright future minds of America, or whatever."

It's the first time in a /long/ time that Dazai doesn't feel
like /shit/ for laughing with someone else.

He does, however, start to feel a /little bit/ of guilt when he notices the ring on Rory's finger.

"...What's his name?"

"Oh?" He glances down, his eyes softening slightly with affection. "It's funny, actually--turns out you've met."
Dazai blinks, raising an eyebrow, trying to think of someone they would have in /common./ "Who?"

"His name is Mark? He's a photographer, he said he worked with you a few times."

/Oh./

"Yeah..." Dazai mutters, conflicted for feeling /disappointed./ "Mark...he's a great guy."
"Yeah," blue eyes shine back at him, full of affection for someone /else./ "Honestly, I feel kinda bad--he's so /worldly/, y'know? And he makes a /lot/ more money than me--"

"No," Dazai cuts him off with a wry smile, bumping his shoulder against his from where they're sitting
next to one another, "He got the better end of the deal, definitely."

"..." Rory grins, and Dazai didn't realize it back then, he was so focused on comparing every sight in front of him to something--some/one/--else, but--

It's beautiful.

"You're actually /nice/ when you wanna
be, it's so /weird./" It's playful, and Dazai...

Smiles back at him, shaking his head. "...I never did get to apologize for that."

"For what?"

"...I was a dick," Dazai mutters, looking away. "You didn't deserve /any/ of that--"

"Hey, hey--" Rory reaches over to take his hand,
squeezing it gently, "I wasn't perfect either."

Compared to /him?/ He actually /was./

"I was a twenty-year-old /idiot/, who thought I could fix the guys I dated just by the grace of my /charms/ or whatever." Rory shakes his head. "That wasn't fair to you, either."

Honestly, no
one /else/ was trying to fix Dazai, so he actually thinks he should be /thanking/ Rory for that, but--

But he gets his /point./

"...We're thinking about adoption, you know." He mentions later. "That's crazy, right?"

"What?"

"Me? Someone's /Dad?/"

Dazai looks him over. "...I
think you'll be a good one, actually."

Rory bites his lip, tilting his head forward. "You really think so?"

"Hey, hey--" Dazai reaches over, grabbing his chin instinctively, making the blonde look at him. "What's got you so worried?"

Rory stares back at him, slightly dazed.
"...My Dad wasn't exactly a /nurturing/ guy," he admits softly, and Dazai's eyebrows shoot up.

"/Was?/"

"...Yeah," Rory mutters, a familiar feeling cropping up behind those eyes, and Dazai...

He doesn't know /how/ long the hug lasts, but he's glad that he made it long enough
to give it.

"I'm /sorry./"

"It's okay..."

"No," Dazai murmurs, because he /knows./

"It isn't."

He visits for three days in a row, several hours each time--and part of Dazai learns to be /relieved/ that he's married, and unavailable.

Because then, he never has to /address/
the feelings lingering in his gut whenever their eyes meet. He doesn't have to feel /remorseful/, like he's /betraying/ the memory of someone else.

He tries to protest when Dazai buys his ticket home, but the brunette /insists/--

And he flies back to New York. To his husband.
To a /future/ that Dazai is honestly /happy/ that he has.

And Dazai...

He's discharged, and this time, it actually /does/ stick.

By the end of three months, it's been almost six years since Chuuya's funeral--and he's /finally/ made it an entire /year/ sober.

He doesn't have
any /proof/ that Chuuya would be proud, but--

Dazai likes to tell himself that he /would be./

He lingers around the house, gets to know his little sister--who is just now starting kindergarten. He takes Atsushi to baseball practice. He meets Oda's /fiancé/, who was eager to
finally be introduced. She's /nice/, with warm eyes and a kind smile--Dazai likes her.

It's at the end of those three months when people start asking what he's going to /do./

Going back to the label /is/ an option, but--

Dazai wants that part of his life to be /over/, because
it more of a /crutch/ than a job, and--

There's /way/ too much temptation to be had in record studios and backstage in 50,000 capacity arenas, and Dazai has fought so /hard/ to be where he is now.

He doesn't want to give that up again.

But he's also twenty-five, aimless, with
an entire /lifetime/ ahead of him--

And he has no idea what he wants to /do/ with it.

But he starts /trying/ to figure it out.

The first step, of course, is getting to something that he put off for /way/ too long.

His bedroom is half packed, half not, boxes everywhere--and
after so many years in and out of treatment, halfway across the world--Dazai thinks he was just avoiding /this/ bedroom, and the old, worn shoe box, carefully stored underneath his bed.

He pulls it out, blowing off a thick layer of dust as he sits down on the edge of his bed,
staring at the name scrawled across the top--

And it's the first time since it /happened/ that he's been able to look at that handwriting without bursting into tears.

/Osamu./

Of course, he's carried the /first one/ with him for years, hasn't been /without it/ since the day he
read it, looking at the words over and over, trying to find a /reason/ to keep going in there somewhere--but all it ever did was remind him of just how much he /loved/ the person who wrote it.

It wasn't a /first/ love, not something clumsy and unsure.

It was something bone deep
a fierce sense of attachment that came straight from his /gut/, and it hasn't /lessened/ with time, hasn't gotten /easier./

Dazai doesn't miss him /less/, if anything, he misses him /more/, because--

Because there was so much /more/ ahead of them, and he's still /pissed/ that
Chuuya isn't /there./ It still feels /unnatural/ and /wrong./

He's resolved himself to the fact that he just met the love of his life /too early/, that he might have /other/ things in life, hell, he might /look/ at other people, might /want/ other things, but--

But everything
else /pales/ in comparison to Chuuya, because Chuuya--

Chuuya wasn't just his boyfriend. Wasn't just a roommate. Wasn't just some guy that Dazai met in a college bar.

Chuuya was his /world./ Chuuya was his /reason./

Someone so goddamn /perfect/, even when he was being
goddamn /infuriating/, that he forced Dazai to believe in the concept of /soulmates./

Because he still /feels/ Chuuya in him, like a weight in his chest--like his every beat of his heart is for /both/ of them, not just him.

And if you could rip his chest open, if there was a
way to take a picture of the space between his heartbeats—

Chuuya would be there.

He’s /always/ there.

And now, looking at the stacks of letters underneath his nose—

Dazai can /see/ the different labels. For holidays, birthdays—there’s one that’s even marked for Dazai’s
/wedding/ that makes him feel a little sick, but...

He finds a few that are unmarked, and, half a decade after reading Chuuya’s first letter—

Dazai finally opens another one.

𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶,

𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘦, 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘹𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘺. 𝘠𝘰𝘶
𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘥. 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘪𝘥, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵.

𝘐'𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘮 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩
𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺. 𝘓𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘦𝘳 — 𝘐 𝘴𝘢𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘺 𝘥𝘢𝘥.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶. 𝘈𝘵 𝘧𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵, 𝘐 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥. 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘴 — 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴
𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘧𝘶𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘐 𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘺 —

𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘦𝘯𝘥 𝘶𝘱 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘥. 𝘖𝘳, 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘴
𝘪𝘮𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳, 𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘶𝘨𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘦𝘳𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.

𝘓𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘴𝘶𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦
𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘣𝘪𝘨, 𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘨𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘐 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯'𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘭 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘴 𝘪𝘧 𝘐'𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘦, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘩𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵
𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘮𝘦.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺...𝘐'𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘮, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳, 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦, 𝘮𝘺 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘪𝘦𝘥.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩
𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘧𝘶𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘭, 𝘣𝘶𝘵...

𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳, 𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘪𝘴𝘯'𝘵 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘣𝘪𝘨. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵
𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘫𝘪 𝘴𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘯.

𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘣𝘦 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘮 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴...𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘐 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘮𝘦.
𝘔𝘢𝘺𝘣𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘸 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐'𝘮 𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺
𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘷𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘳, 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦.

𝘉𝘶𝘵, 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘻𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺 𝘨𝘰𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘯 𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦:

𝘞𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺
𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭.

Dazai pauses, looking up from the letter with a /laugh/, whispering, “What the /fuck/, chibi?” Before settling back onto his bed more comfortably.

𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘮𝘦 𝘰𝘶𝘵:

𝘐𝘧 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘦, 𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘰𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺
𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶. 𝘋𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘣𝘦 𝘧𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥, 𝘐 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘧𝘪𝘨𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘓𝘢𝘻𝘺 𝘧𝘶𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘳. (𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶)
𝘚𝘰, 𝘪𝘧 𝘐'𝘮 𝘢𝘭𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘣𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘐 𝘧𝘪𝘨𝘶𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘐'𝘥 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘥𝘰 𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘣𝘢𝘥 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸?

𝘐𝘵'𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶
𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘺, 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘳𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤.

God, Dazai /knows/ he’s trying to make him laugh, and it’s /working/, even if it still /hurts./

𝘚𝘰, 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘵-𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘴 𝘨𝘰
𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘦. 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘌𝘨𝘺𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺'𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘣𝘶𝘳𝘺 𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘧𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯
𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘦.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘴𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘴𝘢𝘧𝘦.

𝘈𝘯𝘺𝘸𝘢𝘺.

𝘛𝘸𝘰: 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘤𝘵 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘢 𝘰𝘶𝘪𝘫𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘢𝘳𝘥, 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘊𝘩𝘶𝘶𝘺𝘢, 𝘐 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭
𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘥𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘉𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘠𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯, 𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘐'𝘮 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘤𝘬
𝘢𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘨𝘰𝘵𝘩 𝘬𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘬 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘴? 𝘕𝘰. 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘺, 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘺 𝘣𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦, 𝘩𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘺 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘴.

(𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘰𝘳
𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩, 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯.)

𝘛𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘦: 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘺, 𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘮 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘭𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘮𝘦, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵
𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘶𝘱 𝘺𝘦𝘵.

/That/ one makes Dazai choke up, clapping a hand over his mouth, the tears threatening to spill over again, but—

𝘍𝘰𝘶𝘳 : 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘶𝘺 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘪 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳, 𝘐'𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘬 𝘪𝘵. 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘐
𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘪𝘵, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘵𝘰𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘥. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘨𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘢𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘦, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦!

𝘐𝘵'𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘺, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘢
𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 — 𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘯𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘪𝘷𝘦 : 𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘰 𝘨𝘰 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘯 𝘓𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴, 𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘭𝘦𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘰
𝘣𝘺 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧. 𝘐𝘧 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯, 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘥𝘰, 𝘸𝘦'𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘢𝘵
𝘉𝘶𝘻𝘻𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰:

𝘞𝘦'𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭.

𝘐'𝘮 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘦. 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯'𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘯 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘥 — 𝘐 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵
𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘴𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺...𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘐 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘚𝘰, 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸, 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦.

𝘐'𝘮 𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘴𝘯'𝘵
𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘱. 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵.

𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦. 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘵𝘰
𝘭𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘥, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘐 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘳.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘐 𝘨𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴
𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘋𝘢𝘻𝘢𝘪 𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶.

𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵, 𝘰𝘳 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘦 —

𝘖𝘳 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥
𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘵. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘱𝘪𝘦𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘵 — 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 —

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, 𝘺𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘶𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵'𝘴
𝘰𝘬𝘢𝘺, 𝘪𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦.

𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴. 𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵.

𝘏𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴,
𝘊𝘩𝘶𝘶𝘺𝘢

“...” Dazai flops back on his mattress, staring at the ceiling, trying to.../digest/
that. "So, /you're/ the one who's been stealing my sweatshirts?" He murmurs, his lips quirking up into a small, endeared smile.

There's a faint creak near the door, and logically, Dazai /knows/ it's just from the air vents, or the pipes--

But he makes the choice to tell himself
otherwise.

"That's okay," he lets out a heavy sigh. "They always looked better on you anyway."

the letter is carefully folded back up, and he starts keeping it in his jacket pocket almost constantly, right next to the first one.

And he still hasn't figured out exactly what he
wants to do with his /life/, but--

But he's figured out what he wants to do right /now./

"...Going somewhere?" Mori raises an eyebrow when Dazai traipses down the steps, one of those big, travel backpacks thrown over his shoulders.

Atsushi pauses, his toast halfway to his
mouth, looking at the /parka/, which is a weird choice for late summer.

"Yep," Dazai agrees, kissing Elise on top of the head as he snatches a piece of bacon off the table. "I'll be back in a few weeks.

"Care to share /where?/"

He hitches the bag a little higher up on his
back.

"Norway."

He packs /pretty light./ A few sets of clothes, hiking boots, the bare essentials--

Along with two letters, a photograph, and a stack of post-it notes.

He can't get them /all/, the romantic movie ending has basically been ruled out for him at this point,
but...

He's going to /try./

Let's make it very clear: traveling from Tokyo to /Svalbard/ by yourself isn't /easy./ Actually, it's long, cold, and /boring/ when you're traveling alone, but...

Dazai has already made a habit of talking to himself. Well, not to /himself/, but
that's what everyone else /assumes/ he's doing.

He makes friends waiting on the ferry, takes photos for couples on their honeymoon.

Four days later, he's standing on a blanket of snow under the arctic tundra, staring up at the lights overhead, and...

God, it's /so/ fucking
beautiful, casting golden shadows across his cheeks as he stares up at something that feels like it wasn't even /meant/ for him, like he isn't even capable of really /appreciating/ just how gorgeous it is.

Chuuya probably would have, though.

And Dazai finds himself having
another angry moment, rage building up in his chest.

He used to liken it to a beast, like something that could rip out of his chest, screaming at the sky until it /shattered/, and it doesn't feel that different /now./

Because /fuck it/, Chuuya /should/ be here.

Why the /fuck/
isn't he /here?/

It's the kind of grief stricken, addled rage that isn't /supposed/ to make sense. Hell, even /Dazai/ doesn't understand it, because he's been through this /over/ and /over/, telling himself that he /knows/ that Chuuya is gone, that he isn't coming back, that
being /angry/ about it doesn't do /anything/, but--

But neither does kneeling down, scraping together snowballs and just /hurling/ them at the sky.

But what the /fuck/ is he doing now?

/That./

Most people stare at sights like this in awe, take pictures, propose to their
significant others, or /pray/, even--

But not Dazai Osamu.

He throws fucking /snowballs/ at it, /screaming./

Not terrified screaming, and he's not sure if that would be more or less disturbing, if someone happened upon him like that.

/Angry/ screaming. Roaring until he feels
his throat getting /raw/, until it feels like the sky really /might/ split open, and God might just appear, scratching her head, throwing her hands up and saying,

// "Well, gee, I didn't think it was gonna be /that/ big of a deal." //

He finally stops, breathing hard, his
chest heaving as the air fogs up in front of him, angry tears hot against his cheeks.

And it actually /does/ feel a little better.

Really, now that it's off of his chest, the sight almost seems a little /more/ beautiful. Like the lights are a little brighter.

Sure, maybe it
wasn't /exactly/ what the chibi had in mind when he wanted to come here, but--

/Thud!/

He jumps, his head rocking forward when something small, light, and /cold/ hits the back of his head, exploding in a small burst of powdery snow against the back of his head.

.../What?/
Did someone just throw a /snowball/ at him?

He turns around, peering into the darkness around him--but he doesn't /see/ anyone nearby. He didn't come out with a tour group or anything like that, just a small hiking map.

"...Is anyone there?"

No one answers, stepping forward to
take credit for the icy projectile, and after a few minutes of persistent searching for other footprints in the snow...

Dazai doesn't find any.

He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the letter, fumbling with his gloves as he unfolds it, re-reading one /particular/ line--
𝘐𝘧 𝘐 𝘤𝘢𝘯, 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘵𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘧𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.

"..." He looks from the paper, back up to the lights overhead, and...

The smile that spreads across his face isn't /angry/, it isn't /sad/, it's--

It's /so/ damn /happy./
"...You made it, huh?" He mutters, pressing the letter to his lips.

/Yeah./

His fingers tighten against the paper, and the tears in his eyes--

They aren't /sad/, either.

"I'm /really/ glad, sweetheart."

Ghost /are/ real, huh?

On the south side of Tokyo, there's a cemetery.
It's quiet, far from the roaring traffic that the city is known for--and /always/ peaceful.

There's one particular grave that sits beneath a willow tree, carefully maintained--and the flowers that sit before it are /never/ wilting, replaced at least once a week.

A man visits
every Sunday, making sure that it's been cleared, that the flowers are fresh--and before he leaves, he always leaves something behind.

A postcard, and a photograph--each carefully lined up along the bottom in a neat little row.

The first one, of course, is from Norway.
𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘣𝘪,

𝘐 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘯𝘰 𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦 —

𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘰𝘸 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘥𝘰𝘶𝘣𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵
𝘨𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘚𝘛𝘐𝘓𝘓 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘳𝘮, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵?

𝘐'𝘮 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘮 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘐'𝘮 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘺.

𝘐 𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭
𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶. 𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘥𝘢𝘺.

𝘐 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘍𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥,
𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶

𝘱.𝘴. 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘦.

The attached photograph is a selfie, his hair faintly dusted from the snow, the northern lights overhead, and—
The smile actually /does/ look genuine.

More join it—some from Australia, other from Europe—

There’s one from Botswana where Dazai is doing a /very/ nervous thumbs up next to a lion, /not/ one in a zoo—

(The post card attached bemoans, ‘the /things I do for you.’/)

There’s
another in New York, where Dazai is wearing ‘2028’ glasses next to a smiling blonde.

It’s the one and /only/ time someone is introduced in a letter—briefly, but—

Dazai does mention that Chuuya would /like/ him. Or, at least, he hopes that he /would./

He doesn’t manage to hit
/every single thing/ on the list, but he tries.

After /way/ too many tries, he wins a crane machine game—and his reward, a small Pikachu plush, joins the postcards on top of the grave.

He doesn’t just ride a motorcycle, he /buys/ one, the first /real/ commitment he’s made to
anything in /god/ knows how long.

He gets a tattoo—a camellia design, one they found on Chuuya’s tablet after...

It looks slightly out of place, on someone like him—but it feels /good/, having it there.

It takes longer than the few weeks that he told his family to expect.
It actually takes /six months/, but when he /does/ come back to Tokyo, Dazai /stays./

Not the same person he was before. He’s older, a little /gaunt/—and his hair is long enough now, he has to pull it up into a bun to keep it away from his face—

But he’s better than he /was./
Getting stronger every day.

Hell, some people think the constant layer of stubble even /suits/ him.

And that fall, after /years/ of running away, of trying to avoid moving forward, because that felt like moving away from /Chuuya/—

Dazai goes back to college.

No one /asked/
him too. He certainly doesn’t have a /financial/ motive, but that isn’t /why./

He only had three years left, and when he takes summer classes and utterly /throws himself/ into it, he finishes it in two.

Odasaku gets married in that time. Atsushi starts high school.

Rory and
Mark end up using a surrogate, and they have a /beautiful/ little girl named Riley.

She has /blue eyes/, freckles, and /Dazai/ is her god father.

When people find out that he’s going to medical school, there’s always surprise, at first.

Almost /everyone/ assumed he would go
back to performing eventually.

Most people don’t walk away from that level of fame and success. They don’t know /how/, but—

But that never really /mattered/, not to Dazai.

No one was surprised when he excelled, either—that was almost /expected/, but—

It’s /rare/ for someone
on the surgical track to want to specialize in pediatrics. Even /more so/ when they want to focus on /cardiothoracic/ surgery in children.

It isn’t an /easy/ track to be on. Especially not for someone starting his residency at 30. Most people can’t handle it, but Dazai—

He
hasn’t actually /seen/ Chuuya again. Not since the night he jumped.

But when he sits on a patient’s bed, telling them what to expect from a procedure, and telling them that he’s going to do /everything/ he can to make sure they walk out /just fine/—

He sees that /look./

That
hopeful, desperate need to be a /normal/ kid. To be able to do what /everyone else/ can do.

And when he sees that—

It’s as close to seeing /him/ again as the young doctor ever gets.

It isn’t perfect. It isn’t what he wanted. It isn’t /everything/—

But it’s better than
/nothing./

It’s been eleven years since he lost him.

And Dazai has missed him for /every single day of it./

It still isn’t /easier./

But there’s more /meaning/ to it now. There’s a reason to /wake up/ in the morning.

(But sometimes, he lingers.)

That’s when Dazai meets her.
He’s thirty-one now, the age at which most people have silently decided that he’s moved on—or, if he hasn’t, that he /should/—

And as such, people start /expecting/ him to settle down.

The pressure never comes from Mori. Never from his /family./

But it’s never the prying
questions or the judgmental looks that bother him.

It’s the /pity./

It’s the way that Odasaku almost seemed /sorry/ instead of /excited/ when he told Dazai that his wife was pregnant.

Or the fact that his friends avoid /telling him/ when they get engaged.

No one ever /says
it./ They never /need to./

They all know that Dazai isn’t married, isn’t having kids, isn’t settled—because the person he wanted to do those things with isn’t /there./

Dazai doesn’t /mind/ living alone. Well, not /exactly/ alone—he took Mii-chan in once he started med school,
and while she passed two years before, he still has one of her kittens that lives with him now.

Chibi always wanted a cat, anyway.

But he has /other things/ in his life. Atsushi is in college now—the visual arts program at Todai. He has his nephews.

He still talks to Rory
at least once a week—and he comes to New York once or twice a year.

Riley is four, now—and she calls him /Uncle ‘Samu./

Put all of those things together, and it’s a /life./ Maybe not the life Dazai /wanted/, but...

Still a life worth living.

The quiet does bother him
sometimes.

Not /all the time/, just...

Just on weekend afternoons when he can’t pick up an extra shift, and his apartment feels so /quiet./

His solution ends up being a quiet cafe at the end of Motomachi street—the kind with outdoor seating, where he can stretch out under an
umbrella with a book, listening to the laughter from a nearby playground, the wind playing through a set of chimes by the door.

He’s there almost every Friday and Saturday afternoon, to the point where he becomes somewhat of a fixture.

And eventually...

“Excuse me?”

He
glances up, only to find a young woman standing in front of him.

Pretty, in a simple sort of way—with long, dark hair, and deep blue eyes.

“I’m sorry to bother you, or if this is a prying question, but—“ she points to the book in his hand, “—what makes that book so special?”
Dazai glances down, raising an eyebrow, then back up at her. “Why do you ask?”

“I—well—“ she reaches up, tucking her hair behind her ears self consciously, “I’m here almost every day, and I couldn’t help but notice you always have the same one.”

“...” Dazai considers that.
“A good book is always good,” he shrugs, “no matter how many times you’ve already read it.”

“I—“ she pauses, thinking about that, and then she smiles. “...I guess you’re right. I never really thought about it that way.” She holds out a hand, “I’m Mizutani, by the way.”

After a
brief pause, he takes it. “Dazai.”

They end up sitting around and talking for the rest of the afternoon—and Dazai doesn’t know if he was just bored, or lonely—

But he /genuinely/ enjoys himself.

She’s a graduate student—astrophysics, to be more specific—working on her thesis,
which is why she’s been there every day, catching sight of him.

She doesn’t approach him /every/ time she sees him—but more often than not she’ll come over, sitting down beside him and making idle conversation.

Eventually, Dazai gets her first name—Shizuko—and the blank spaces
of her personality start to fill in.

The youngest of four children, and an avid ghibli fan. She’s baffled by how Dazai knows so much about the movies, despite claiming to not be much of an anime fan—but he never explains.

And, once they discover a mutual love for baseball, she
invites him to a Tokyo Giants game.

He puzzles at first, about whether or not he should /actually/ go—because he can /see/ that she has a romantic interest in him—

One that isn’t /entirely/ unreciprocated, But it almost feels /dishonest/, going along with it.

He ends up going.
And it /is/ fun. Sitting in the high up seats, sharing popcorn, screaming encouragement as the players run the bases.

She shouts /aggressively/ when the refs make a bad call, and Dazai actually finds it somewhat /endearing./

One baseball game turns into a trip to the movies,
then, they aren’t going on ‘dates’ exactly, but Dazai makes it a matter of routine to take her out to dinner on Saturday’s—nice ones, since she’s in grad school, and she doesn’t get a nice meal often.

She always /laughs/ when he shows up to a fancy restaurant in something casual
or /ridiculous/, but he always points out—

It’s the easiest way to annoy rich people, and he’s never quite grown out of it.

He meets her roommates inadvertently, bumping into them in the kitchen when he comes over to help with a rat that got in during the night.

Shizuko has a
phobia, as it turns out—but she /pleads/ with him not to kill it, so he does, carefully trapping it in a shoe box before releasing it outside, and—

And he can see the way her roommates are watching him, the things they whisper when his back is turned—

/Oh, he’s /great.//

/He’s
so /nice.//

And that only ever makes him feel /worse./

She kisses him first, when they’re leaving a play one night, just before Christmas—leaning up on her toes, grabbing the lapels of his suit—

And Dazai has been with /plenty/ of people in the last twelve years. But they were
all faceless strangers. People he brought home from bars, then went off to work before they even woke up in the morning.

With one exception, none of them ever /meant/ anything.

But this—this is someone that he /knows./

Someone that he /likes./

And kissing her back, it feels
bittersweet.

Because her lips are /warm/, her hair is /soft/ under his hands, and she smells /so/ good—

And she isn’t him.

She never /will/ be.

But that doesn’t mean that Dazai doesn’t /like/ kissing her, that he doesn’t /want/ to.

And when he takes her up to his apartment
that night, he /does/ feel guilty about it.

Not in the same way that he did so many years ago, when he would wake up next to a sleeping blonde and not /want/ to sneak away.

He doesn’t feel the fact that he actually /has/ a girlfriend now as /invalidating/ the way he feels about
Chuuya.

His affections are thirteen years old now, they’ve survived long enough to reach puberty, and they aren’t /ever/ going away.

He still visits him once a week. Sundays, specifically. He brings lunch, stays for a couple of hours, and tells him about his entire week.
Sure, some people might find it a little /grim/ that he calls them ‘dates,’ but—

Dazai doesn’t care.

He sends back a postcard and a photo from every single vacation.

He’s helped Kouyou make sure that Rimbaud never spends a Christmas, birthday, or Father’s Day alone.

It was
hard at first, getting back in touch with them, because he didn’t want to /face/ it, but—

Kouyou’s wife, Yosano, has become one of his /closest/ friends—so close, in fact, that he was their /best man/ when they finally /did/ get married—and between their daughter, Odasaku’s
boys, and Riley—

Dazai is a proud uncle of /four./

It’s only ever hard for him when Kyouka offhandedly asks him, or her mothers about /Uncle Chuuya./

Because he /knows/ how much his boyfriend would have /adored/ her.

Chuuya’s place in his life is /fixed./ There’s a space
for him, no matter where Dazai goes, not matter what he does, no matter what he’s doing.

And every now and then, when a t-shirt goes missing, or he has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning—

He smiles, his eyes slipping shut as he mutters—

// “Alright baby, I’ll sleep
a little longer.” //

And Dazai remembers—ghosts are /very/ real.

What he /does/ feel guilty about; what he /always/ feels guilty about—is the fact that he can never love /her/ quite that much.

And he /does/ love her.

It happens slowly, not the rushing free fall that hit him
all at once, the way it did with Chuuya.

With Shizuko, it’s more of a /choice./

To fall for the little dimple in her chin when she smiles; or the way she actually /snorts/ when she laughs too hard.

then, making her laugh that hard becomes a /goal/, and he doesn’t even play
/fair/, pinning her against the mattress and tickling her until she /screams/ with laughter, punching his back in protest.

Or the way that she’s there when it’s /hard./ On the days when Dazai loses a patient, when he wants a /drink./

She spends an entire weekend with him after
a six year old girl goes in for surgery and doesn’t wake up. She puts up with the tears, the frustration, hell; he’s fucking /mean/ when she stops him from going to a bar—

And Shizuko is there through that, never holding it /against/ him afterwards.

Weeks turn into months, the
compromise of ‘just one’ baseball game turns into two years of dating.

He meets her parents when she graduates, and they /like/ him—her older brothers /try/ being intimidating, and he goes so far as to play along.

But eventually, expectations start to form—ones that Dazai
/knows/ he’ll fail to meet.

She doesn’t /say/ that she wants to get married, not explicitly.

But she /hints./

Mentions how a friend got engaged, or that if /she/ ever gets married, she doesn’t want a /destination/ wedding, she thinks those are /weird./

Dazai never takes the
bait. Never engages in the conversation until she asks him /directly/, if he’s /serious/ about her or not.

“I /am/,” he admits, however hesitant—and it’s silly. He’s almost /thirty-three/, and he’s still not /that/ different from the boy in that bar fifteen years ago.

“Do you
not /believe/ in marriage or something?” Shizuko frowns, scratching Baki behind the ears as he curls up in her lap, purring.

“...It’s not like that,” Dazai shakes his head.

“Is it /me?/“

“/No/, it’s—“

There was a time in Dazai’s life when he would have run away from this
conversation.

But not now.

Now, he does what is maybe the /hardest/ thing he’s ever had to do, and...

He tells her about Chuuya.

Not in short form, no—his boyfriend was never something that could be contained to a few short chapters with an open ended conclusion.

No, he
tells her /everything./

“...And you’re still in love with him?” She finally asks, staring at the tabletop, trying to brace herself for his answer. “That’s why?”

Dazai is silent for a moment—and then he reaches over to take her hand, squeezing it gently, waiting for her to look
up at him.

“You deserve to be the love of someone’s life,” he explains quietly—his smile is a picture of softness, even as his words /ache/,

“And I already had mine.”

She takes some time after that. Takes some /space./

And he /understands/ that. He never blames her.
But, two months later, on a Sunday, Dazai doesn’t come /alone./

She’s nervous, a bouquet of tulips in her hands, asking if that’s /okay/—

And Dazai smiles encouraging, because Chuuya would have /loved/ them.

Finally, standing under a willow tree, Dazai kneels down, pressing
his palm against slightly worn marble, stroking his thumb over familiar kanji characters.

“Hey, sweetheart—there’s someone I want you to meet.”

Shizuko doesn’t come with him /every/ week, she understands he needs that time—but it’s at least once every couple of months.

His
family is /shocked/ when he starts bringing her to events, but—

But the /pity/ starts to go away, and it’s replaced by /relief./

She doesn’t get a big, romantic proposal—it’s quiet, practical, and he /warns/ her, the way he has every step along the way.

That he probably won’t
be a perfect husband. That his problems aren’t ever going to go /away/—

And that part of him is /always/ going to belong to someone else. That she deserves more than that, and he won’t be /angry/ if she ever decides to walk away.

But, in spite of all of that, Shizuko says yes.
It’s not a long engagement—after three years of dating, it doesn’t really need to be.

The ceremony is small, family and close friends only.

Dazai finally reads /that/ letter, an hour before he’s supposed to meet her at the end of the aisle, and he /barely/ manages to compose
himself before he’s supposed to make it out there; because—

𝘐'𝘮 𝘴𝘰 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶.

God, it’s still so fucking /hard./

Every damn day, it’s /hard./

And he isn’t exactly proud of /himself/, not when every milestone is still tinged with a hint of regret.
He spends their honeymoon wondering where /Chuuya/ would have wanted to go.

Moving into a house of their own doesn’t feel like he’s starting his /actual/ life, more like...

More like he’s trying to live /someone else’s./

But there are still /good/ moments.

Like finding out
that Shizuko was pregnant, or seeing the sonogram for the first time.

He’s nervous of course, god, he’s /so/ nervous, but—

Chuuya wrote letters for that, too.

Telling him what a /good dad/ he would be, how lucky his kids would be to have him.

It’s bittersweet, but it /helps./
Dazai Yuko is born that spring. She has her mother’s eyes, deep blue, almost black—and her father’s wild tangle of brown curls.

And for a time, everything just /works./

Dazai and his wife are better friends than anything else, but it’s /parenting/ where their partnership really
shines.

She’s the disciplinarian, he’s the one who can deal with just about any sort of tantrum.

He never minds getting up in the night to rock her back to sleep—and she’s always the first up in the morning, getting her ready, putting together breakfast.

Dazai never was a
morning person, but most days—/especially/ weekends, he tends to linger a little longer, pressing his face into his pillow, mumbling words that Shizuko never tries to decipher.

They aren’t /meant/ for her.

They form a tight knit little family unit—with the house in the suburbs,
the white picket fence, going to parks and aquariums on the weekends.

Always Saturdays, never Sundays.

Yuko is two years old when things start to /turn/, and tension starts to grow.

It’s slow, subtle. Dazai doesn’t notice the building frustration in his wife’s eyes until it’s
already poignant, and by then, he doesn’t know what to /do/ about it other than pretend he /doesn’t/ notice.

It never gets in the way of their /parenting/—honestly, they’re so careful about it, their daughter never notices—but the tension is ever mounting.

And it stems from the
one source that Dazai /knew/ it always would.

Does it have to be /every/ Sunday?

Why doesn’t he ever call /her/ baby, or sweetheart?

He even mentions it in therapy, picking at the hem of his sleeve while Fukuzawa watches him, sipping a cup of tea.

He retired three years ago,
but he’s kept his longest standing patient on the roster.

“I keep saying his name,” Dazai mutters, hunched over, his hands clasped tightly together.

“When you’re intimate?”

“No, no—in my sleep,” he mutters, biting his lip. “It’s driving her crazy, but I don’t know how to make
it stop.”

“...I don’t think there’s a way to do that,” Fukuzawa admits. “Are you having trouble sleeping? You could get a prescription for—

“No,” Dazai shakes his head. “I sleep fine, I just...dream a lot.”

“Are they disruptive?”

Not /exactly/, but he wants his marriage to
/work/, so when the sleeping pills are prescribed, he takes them.

And he sleeps dreamlessly.

It removes one final layer of comfort that Dazai didn’t even realize he was /holding onto/, and he finds himself growing to resent it.

One argument /starts/ to boil over, and finally,
he snaps back, slamming his fist down on the table in the middle of a passive aggressive spat after dinner—

“I /told/ you it was always going to be like this,” He points out, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “I /never/ tried to make you think this was something that I was
going to be able to /get over/, so why are you /mad at me?/“

“I don’t /know/, Osamu, I guess,” She presses her hands over her temples, struggling between guilt and infuriation, “I guess I just—I didn’t /believe it/, okay? I thought—I thought you just needed more /time./“

“I had
/eleven years/ before I even /met you!/“

“And you didn’t have a family then!” Shizuko shakes her head. “I’m not asking you to forget about him, okay? I’m just asking you to /try/ to be a little more /present/ with us—why is that too much?!”

“I /am/ trying!”

It culminates to
the point where he’s in their bedroom, angrily shoving his clothes into a suitcase, planning on checking into a hotel for a few days to cool off, when—

“Daddy?”

He freezes when he sees Yuko, standing in the doorway, her blanket dangling from her hand.

“Where you goin’?”

She’s
only three, now, she doesn't really /know/, but--

But Dazai can't help but /remember./

// "Mom? Where are you--?" //

// "Oh, Osamu, thank /god/, you can help me pack." //

"..." His clothes slip through his fingers as he turns away from the suitcase, reaching down to snatch
her up into his arms, hugging her close. "I'm not going anywhere." He mutters, kissing the side of her head, the muscles in his jaw working as he fights to keep his cool.

"Daddy isn't going anywhere."

It's a /strained/ marriage, and /neither/ of them have fair expectations of
one another, but Dazai /stays./ He /tries/ to make it work, and--

And he knows /she's/ trying too. Even if he gets /frustrated/, even when it seems unfair, he never /hates/ her--

If anything, he resents /himself/, because he knew, going into this, that he could never be what
she needed.

And what happens /next/--it isn't /their/ fault, it isn't /anyone's/ fault.

But sometimes, the hardest things in life just /happen/, and you don't have anyone to blame.

He's coming off of a forty eight hour rotation, fresh out of the shower, ready to go /home./
The longer shifts are always /harder./ He's had three surgeries in two days--and the last one was /eight hours/ and /complex./

He pulled through, he's the /toughest/ little nine year old Dazai has ever worked with--and the way his father hugged him so /tightly/ after he walked
out, it made him want his /own/ daughter in his arms, as soon as possible.

She's the /one thing/ about life /after/ Chuuya that hasn't been paired with some form of disappointment, or hurt. And seeing her--there are some days when that's the /only/ thing that drags him out of
bed.

He's just about to get into the elevator when his phone buzzes in his jacket pocket--and normally, he'd just call them back after the end of the ride, but when he sees the contact name--

Isn't it the /middle of the night/ over there?

He lifts the phone to his ear, "Rory?"
The voice on the other end of the line is familiar, but what's even /more/ recognizable is the /tone/, the rawness when he speaks, wobbling with tears, "D-Dazai, I'm--I'm sorry for calling so late, but--"

"No, no, it's--" he checks his watch (a my neighbor Totoro one--the kids
love it, and Dazai can think of someone else who would have loved it /too./) "--four p.m. here. What's wrong?"

"I--it's Mark," the other man chokes, and Dazai's stomach /drops./

"What happened?"

"I--I don't know, the police aren't--they aren't explaining anything to me, t-they
said something happened at his office, a-and he's in surgery now, but t-the doctors said there's--something w-wrong with his heart, and they're trying to fix it, but I don't--" he sobs, trying to catch his breath, "I don't understand--"

"Hey, hey," he takes on a firmer tone, =
waiting until the crying quiets down enough for his friend to actually /hear/ him, "Did you get to see him before he went in?"

"N-no, he w-was working late, and--and I had to wait for my sister to come g-get Riley, I c-couldn't bring her with me--"

"Is there a nurse with you?"
He passes the phone off to someone else, and after a broken, chaotic conversation, with Rory making it clear he's giving /consent/ for her to share details, Dazai manages to get a grasp of what happened.

And it isn't...

Dazai knows, when she starts describing the /nature/ of
the injury, that it probably can't be fixed.

When the phone is passed back, there's some level of desperate hope in Rory's voice, "D-do you know what's wrong?"

"..." He leans against the wall, wiping a hand down his face. "Are you sitting down?"

".../Dazai/--"

"I need you to
sit down."

"I-I /am/, but I don't understand--"

"What they're doing right now," Dazai takes a deep breath, "is trying to repair a large tear in his aorta, which is causing a significant amount of blood to fill his abdominal cavity, along with several metal fragments in his
spine."

"His--his /spine?/" Rory repeats breathlessly, and Dazai never realized how /hard/ it was to hear someone /else/ going through it. How agonized /he/ must have sounded that day. "I don't u-understand, w-why would he have /metal/ in his--"

"The police are going to explain
it to you," Dazai reassures him quietly. "Is there anyone there with you?"

"N-no, I just--got down here as fast as I could--"

"You should call your mom," Dazai mutters, swallowing the lump in his throat. "And if there's anyone in Mark's family who can make it down, I would call
them too."

"...Is he not gonna make it?" It's that broken, /horrified/ whisper that feels like a /knife/ in the gut, ripping him open all over again.

// "What do you /mean/, he didn't wake up?!" //

"...I'm sorry," Dazai clears his throat, fighting down his own emotions. "But I
don't think so."

The weeping is almost /unbearable/ to listen to, but Dazai /does./ He sits there, leaning against the wall, muffling his own tears with a hand over his mouth, bearing witness to utter /heartbreak/--something he's done /many/ times before--

But he never wanted
someone like /Rory/ to know what it felt like.

"...They're going to give you a chance to go in and see him, later." Dazai explains quietly. "You should go."

"I--Osamu, I don't think I /can/--"

"I know," he mutters, gritting his teeth, "I know it's hard, but you'll regret it if
you don't."

"I--" Grief like that, it can seem like this vast, /bottomless/ chasm when you first tumble over the edge. It /terrifies/ you, swallows you whole, chews you up, and spits you back out, only to leave you on the verge of tumbling over the edge again. "Dazai, I can't do
this--"

"You can," Dazai reassures him gently. "I know it /feels/ like you can't right now, but you /can./"

Mark Twain's time of death is called at 4:30 a.m., May 17th, 2037.

There's a brownstone in East Brooklyn, sitting at the end of a quiet street. Kids play in the park
down the block. Expensive town cars sit in overpriced parking spots next to beat up bicycles.

It's /halfway/ between families that have lived on that block /forever/, and young professionals who gobbled up the real estate as soon as it was available.

On the stoop, there's a
girl with blonde hair, pulled into low braids on either side of her head. She's still wearing a black dress that her aunt forced her into, but she snuck out of the ballet flats, pulling on an old, beat up pair of tennis shoes, doodling on the sides in black sharpie.

"Interesting
fashion choice," a deep voice rumbles from behind her, polished black shoes clacking down the steps before he drops down onto the stoop beside her. "I like it, really pulls the entire outfit together."

"..." Riley's lips press together, because she doesn't /want/ to smile. Not
anymore.

You're not /supposed/ to smile when someone with a gun walks into your Dad's office, and then he never comes home.

"Did Daddy send you down to get me?"

"...Yeah," Dazai sighs, leaning back on his hands. "He's pretty tied up with your grandparents right now."

She
scribbles out whatever clumsy doodle she was making--something close to a daisy, but not quite--with an unnecessary amount of aggression. "I don't wanna go."

"To the funeral?" Riley nods, and Dazai lets out a slow breath. "Why not?"

"...I don't wanna see him like that." She
explains. She's seven, old enough to /sort of/ understand what happened, and /definitely/ old enough to know that she doesn't want to /see/ her Dad that way.

When he went to work that day, he was smiling. He was wearing the tie she got him for his birthday.

She wants to
remember that. She wants to push that day /down/, somewhere /deep/ beneath the sadness, and just /forget./

Just pretend it was a /mistake./ It was someone /else's/ Dad, not /hers./

And if she doesn't have to see him like that, in a casket--

She can keep pretending as long as
she doesn't have to see /that./

"...I know you don't want to," Dazai sighs, "but you have to."

Riley bites her lip, gripping the marker tightly. "/Why?/"

"Because you'll feel worse later, if you don't."

"...Did you go to Uncle Chuuya's funeral?"

It's funny, they were never
/married/, but people always talk about them like they /were/, with the natural presumption that Chuuya was on the same level as a spouse.

"I did," Dazai agrees. "He would have been sad if I hadn't gone."

"...You think Dad would be sad if /I/ don't go?"

"I think he would."
"..." She leans against Dazai's side heavily, and the older man opens his arm, reaching out to wrap it around her shoulders, squeezing her close. "Was it scary?"

Dazai thinks back on that day, the way they /wanted/ him to sing, but he couldn't. Trying to look at the casket, but
flinching away every time he saw that red hair.

"...Yeah," he admits. "It was /really/ scary."

She swallows hard, shrinking even more against him. "My Dad was the one who always got me through things when I was scared."

The one who would let her cry, let her take a moment,
then pull her back up to her feet, and say--

// "I /know/ it's scary, kiddo--but I'm right here, okay?" //

"...I be with you the whole time, okay?" Dazai murmurs, rubbing the back of her head. "And if you don't want to look, you don't have to."

"..." Her eyes well up with
tears all over again, but she nods, turning her face into the side of his jacket.

And he /does/ stay with her--even when her father is busy accepting condolences, or comforting her grandmother. He holds her hand the entire time, and even though it /is/ terrifying, she /does/
end up walking down to see the casket, trembling like a /leaf/ while Dazai holds her shoulders, but--

But her Dad doesn't /look/ wrong.

He's still, unnaturally so, but he isn't /pale/ or /waxen/, he just...

He just looks like he's sleeping.

"Uncle Osamu?"

"Yeah?"
"Why couldn't they fix him?"

She's holding onto his leg, watching as they lower the casket into the earth, her fingers trembling--and Dazai /wishes/ he had a good answer, but he doesn't.

"...There are some things that you just can't fix," Dazai mutters, stroking her hair.
"...You probably could've fixed it," she mutters, her lower lip wobbling, and--

And Dazai laughs weakly, but there's no joy in it. "Trust me, kid..."

If there's /one/ thing he's learned in the last sixteen years, it's--

"There are /so/ many things that I can't fix."
They're the last ones to leave--and she's disbelieving at first, when he tells her that /talking/ helps, but she--

She /tries/, standing awkwardly in front of the headstone, fiddling with her hands in front of her.

"...I check under the bed by myself now," she mumbles, rocking
back on her heels. "I don't wake Daddy up, he doesn't sleep that much anymore. I just get down there and look." Riley swallows hard, "I thought it was gonna be too scary at first, but--then I kinda realize the scariest thing has already happened." She wipes at her nose,
struggling to find what she wants to say, but Dazai never /prompts her/, he just stands there with her, waiting.

"...I'm sorry I didn't kiss you goodbye before you went to work that morning," she swallows hard, tears welling up. "I-I didn't know it was gonna be the..."

She
didn't know it was going to be the last time.

"I love you," she mumbles thickly, wiping at her eyes as the tears start to slip down, "I love you forever, and--and I'm never g-gonna love anyone's meatloaf more, and n-no one is ever gonna make the s-same stupid puns like you."
By the time they leave, she's just about cried out, exhausted, hitched up on Dazai's hip, her head resting on his shoulder as he carries her away from the cemetery.

"Uncle 'Samu?"

"Hmm?"

"What was the last thing you ever said to Uncle Chuuya?"

For the first time that day,
he actually /smiles./

"I love you." He murmurs, holding the girl a little tighter as they leave the graveyard behind.

"I said I love you."

Later that night, he's back on the stoop--this time, with Riley's father, instead.

"Thanks, for being with her today," Rory mutters,
holding a wine glass tightly between his hands. He looks like /hell/, but Dazai wouldn't have expected anything /less./

"It wasn't a big deal," Dazai mutters, taking a swig from a bottle of water. "You had a lot to deal with today."

"It was a big deal for her," Rory sighs. "And
for me."

Dazai hums in acknowledgement, but doesn't say much else. They don't have to say anything more.

They're both ready to just...sit in it.

"...Has it gotten any easier for you?" He asks softly, eyes swollen and hollow as he stares out at the empty street--and Dazai
wishes that he could lie to him.

"No," he admits. "It hasn't."

Rory nods, like that makes /sense./ "...He wasn't even supposed to have a gun, you know. He drove down to Virginia to get one." He takes another long, slow swig from his drink. "And he didn't even /know/ Mark."
Dazai pauses, honestly surprised by that. "Then why did he...?"

"One of the models he was working with that day," Rory explains tiredly. "Apparently he'd been stalking her for months--and when he showed up on set, Mark let her hide in his office." He swallows hard. "I know I'm a
shitty person for wishing that he hadn't, because she would be /dead/ otherwise, but..."

"No," Dazai shakes his head, "you're not a shitty person."

"I'm just /mad/ at him, you know?" Rory whispers. "And I feel /awful/ about it."

"That's normal."

"/Is/ it?"

"Yeah--honestly,
I'm glad you got to the angry phase so fast," Dazai smiles lopsidedly. "It's the best one--and it took me /forever/ to get there."

"There's a /better/ phase?"

"Yeah." Dazai nods. "And it's definitely the anger. You should go to one of those bars where you can pay to break
plates by the hour. You'd like that."

"Is that what /you/ did?"

"Oh, no--" Dazai snorts, shaking his head. "I threw snowballs."

"At /who?/"

"I dunno," the brunette sighs, leaning back on his elbows. "God, I guess."

In spite of it all, /that/ actually manages to make Rory
/laugh./

Dazai flies back to Tokyo at the end of the week--he didn't have /that much/ time to take off out of nowhere.

Back to his wife, back to his daughter--and he holds them both just a little /tighter/ than he did before.

And if that was the end of it, Dazai probably could
have lived with it.

He probably could have lived with /himself./

But talking to Shizuko doesn't get /easier./ She's turned Sundays into this strange /ultimatum/, and Dazai is holding onto them as that one, /final/ thing that he refuses to give up.

/Anything/ but that.

Her
irritation only /grows/ when Dazai /is/ willing to skip the occasional Sunday--but only if he's going to be /out of town./

And /all/ of his vacation days seem to be geared towards flying out to New York. She doesn't complain, doesn't tell him he /can't/ go, because she
understands why he /wants/ to be there. That there's a little girl who doesn't /have/ her Dad to go to special events anymore. That her husband /likes/ feeling like he can /fix/ things.

But he can't fix /everything/, and there's a little girl in Tokyo who needs her /actual/
father just as much.

"You didn't have to come, you know."

Dazai pauses in the middle of picking up paper plates--clearing up after a birthday party.

Riley's eighth birthday party, to be specific.

"Yeah," Dazai nods, continuing with his work, "I know."

"...But she was really
happy that you did," Rory sighs, rubbing his arm, leaning back against the back railing of their porch.

"I know," Dazai smiles, tying off the bag. "That's why I wanted to come."

Summer is starting to settle in--it's been an entire year, now, since it happened. Rory handled it
better than he did--and honestly, Dazai thinks the blonde could handle /anything/ better than him--

But he also had /Riley/ to look after, and that makes a difference.

Not to mention the fact that they're /both/ so different from the people they were when Dazai met him 14 years
ago.

They aren't /young/ anymore, both in their mid-thirties. Dazai isn't gangly, strung out, and /angry/ all the time.

He kept the long hair, and he always seems to be halfway between stubble and a beard these days, but it suits him.

Rory's eyes have lines at the corners,
and his hair is cropped shorter than it used to be--but Dazai doesn't actually miss the longer cut.

This way, you can see his eyes more.

And after Chuuya and Yuko, the only thing that Dazai has loved enough to /miss/ has been those /eyes./

"I'm really glad today was good for
her." Rory sighs, pressing his hands against his cheeks. "It's probably gonna be the last birthday she has in this place."

Dazai pauses, raising an eyebrow. "You're moving?"

"...We don't exactly bring in enough for this place on my salary," Rory snorts, shaking his head. "We've
been getting by on Mark's life insurance settlement, and he did leave some money behind for Riley, but..." he sighs. "I want to save that for her college. I'm not going to have enough time to save it back up if I burn through it now--"

"I could get it." Dazai blurts out, and
Rory pauses, staring at him.

"...What?"

"This place," Dazai nods towards the building behind them, "I could buy it for you."

"..." The blonde's jaw goes slack. "I can't."

"It's literally a drop in the /bucket/ for me," Dazai shakes his head. "I want to."

"This is /Brooklyn/,
Osamu, it's probably /millions/ of dollars--"

"I've got millions to spare." Dazai shrugs, looking him in the eye. "I don't mind."

Rory is sputtering, because it's a /lot/, it's /way too much/, but it's not easy to say /no/, either. "I didn't bring it up because I wanted you to
/fix/ it--"

"I know," Dazai reaches over, taking his wrist, squeezing it gently, and Rory--

Rory swallows /hard./

"I know you didn't," the brunette's voice is gentle, so understanding, it almost /hurts./ "And I get that it's a lot, but you should let me do it."

"Osamu, I--"
"For Riley," he murmurs, and--

Rory can't /argue/ with that.

"It's not like I could ever pay you back," he mutters, looking away--but Dazai's other hand catches his chin, tilting it up carefully--and when he smiles, there's so much /warmth/ in it.

"I don't care about that."
The fact that the kiss happened—it was /kind of/ Dazai’s fault. He didn’t /initiate/ it, but what the hell was Rory supposed to /do/ when he was looking at him like that?

But kissing Rory /back?/

That was /definitely/ Dazai’s fault.

Not with any hesitance, but
enthusiastically, because god, it isn’t the /best/ kiss Dazai has ever had—

That honor is reserved for a rainy day in the park behind a hospital, after screaming ‘I love you’ at the top of his lungs.

Second, third, fourth—hell, maybe the first dozen—they’re all Chuuya.

But
It’s the closest he’s gotten /since./

It’s the closest he’s been to /breathless/ in so damn long, the closest he’s been to loving someone without feeling /guilty/—

But it stops.

/He/ stops it, before it gets any further than that, leaning back sharply, breathing hard.
“I can’t.”

Shame is immediate, sour on his tongue, burning in his gut.

Rory swallows hard, pressing a hand over his mouth, looking /just/ as guilty— “I’m sorry—“

“I’m /married./“

Nausea is twisting inside of him, the old, never /quite/ kicked habit of self loathing making a
roaring comeback.

Every ugly memory. His mother crying, throwing things at the wall. His father in his office, breaking down every facet of their family, just because he didn’t want to face that it wasn’t /working./

What did he /do?/

What the fuck did he /do?/

And maybe it
was only a kiss, but—

But the kiss itself was proof that he had been doing so much /more/, betraying his marriage /emotionally/, and maybe Shizuko could accept that from a /ghost/, but—

But Rory is /very alive./

It’s a moment that he dissects in his mind, over and over on the
plane ride back.

He tells himself that he didn’t /start/ the kiss. That he stopped it before it became something /more./

But he did kiss him /back./

Not the same /level/ as anything that his father did, no—but that doesn’t make it /excusable/, does it?

And maybe, if life was
simple, if it took predictable little paths, he would be able to go home to her, to tell her that he was /sorry/, that it was a /mistake/, one that he /regrets./

But life isn’t simple.

He makes it back in the middle of the day—when Yuko is still in school, and Shizuko is still
at work—

Or, well, that’s where she was /supposed/ to be.

But when Dazai gets to the front door, he’s surprised to notice her car in the driveway—and that the door is unlocked.

For one, /hilarious/ moment, he starts to wonder if she somehow /knows/, and she’s waiting behind
the door to jump out, point, and tel him how /awful/ he is—

But she isn’t.

No, when Dazai opens the door, he finds himself faced with quite possibly the /last/ person that he ever expected to see.

Standing there, in the middle of Dazai’s house—his living room, to be more
exact—wearing nothing more than a low riding pair of sweatpants—

Is Dazai’s coworker, Shibusawa Tatsuhiko.

The anesthesiologist he’s most typically paired with, actually. They’ve worked together for years.

Their families have gone on trips to the lake together, recently.
Their daughters are friends.

And he’s standing in Dazai’s living room, drinking coffee from one of Dazai’s mugs—

Presumably, after fucking Dazai’s /wife./

They both just stand there, frozen, eyes wide, and the other doctor’s mouth is /comically/ agape, coffee halfway to his
lips.

Honestly, Dazai knows that the past seventeen years have left him a little emotionally /warped/, but he’s silently shocked that he’s the most offended about Shibusawa using his /mug./

The /audacity./

“You should get going,” there’s faint thuds as she makes her way down
the stairs, putting on her earrings as she adjusts her blouse, “His flight gets back in an—“

She freezes at the bottom of the steps, her eyes fixing on Dazai’s face, and he’s still staring at the /mug./

Honestly, if you’re already going to fuck someone’s wife in their bed,
you must feel /bad/ about it, right? You’ve already done /enough/, couldn’t you just leave the goddamn mug out of it? Or bring a /travel cup/ at that point? Or just use /any other mug?/ They have /so many/, and that one has the hospital logo on it, it’s /obviously/ his—
“I—Your flight was early?”

Right. Back to the situation at hand.

“...” Dazai nods, arching an eyebrow silently at the other doctor, who is slowly growing pale under his gaze, shrinking with shame.

“I...I should go,” Shibusawa mutters, grabbing his jacket, wallet, and keys from
the couch, and when he starts to rush past Dazai, making his way towards the door, he’s stopped with one hand on his shoulder, a grip like iron, and he freezes—

Expecting to get punched in the face, or /worse/, but—

Dazai just plucks the mug out of his hand before letting go.
“I can see that touching other people’s things is a bad habit of yours,” Dazai muses, “but this is mine.”

“...” Shibisawa just ducks his head in response, stepping out the door, and slamming it shut behind him.

Silence is /heavy/ in the air as she stares at him, nervous and
/ashamed/—

While Dazai is just lifting up the mug, staring at it. /God/, did the man have /any/ coffee with his creamer?

It smells like pure hazelnut half and half.

“Osamu, I—“

“Did you pick the mug out for him, or did he just grab this one?”

“I—/what?/“

“Seriously, out of
all of the cups in this house, he used /that/ one? It's obviously mine--"

"What the /fuck/ are you worried about that for? How are you even /here/ this early--"

"The time difference is shorter right now," Dazai reminds her flatly, his eyes closed off. "Daylight savings time."
/Oh./

She pauses, processing that information, fiddling with the hems of her shirt sleeves.

/His/ shirt, actually, one of his old ones, from med school.

"...How long has this been going on?"

She's pale, drawn, clearly /horrified/, but she answers. "I--around ten months."
Dazai lets out a low whistle, drumming his fingers against the mug. "...Wow."

"I--"

"I /work/ with him, Shizuko."

"I know, I--"

"Of /all/ people--"

"What do you want me to say?!" She whispers, wrapping her arms around herself. "That I'm /pathetic?/ I already know that."
"...You don't have to do that," Dazai doesn't know /what/ he's feeling. He knows anger is /there/, but it's torn between confusion, guilt, and /sadness./

"Do /what?/"

"Try and make me feel /bad/ for you."

Her eyes narrow with anger, and she shakes her head. "No."

"What?"

"I
know I /fucked up/," She mutters, "but you don't get to act like this was /all/ me."

"I just walked into my house to find my /friend/ for the past /five years/ walking around /shirtless/ after fucking my wife." Dazai glares. "I think I get a /few minutes/ before I start dividing
up /blame./"

"He /paid attention/ to me, Osamu," She throws her hands up, "you were literally flying halfway around the world to get away from me, and he /paid attention/ to me!"

"And I don't /pay attention?!/" Dazai stares at her like she's /lost/ it, and she looks like she's
ready to /scream./

"You paid attention to /someone else's/ family--"

"I don't get why you were so upset about me taking Sundays for myself," Dazai muses, "you clearly had someone to keep you busy."

"And you expect me to believe that /nothing/ has happened between you and
Rory?" She hisses, trembling with anxiety, guilt, and /anger./

"...No." Dazai tilts his head. "Something did happen." There's vindication in her eyes, like after so many months of paranoia, she finally knows she wasn't /crazy/-- "We kissed. And then I immediately flew back home,
ready to tell you the truth, and to apologize." He glances her over, "But I didn't do any of that to /hurt/ you." He points to the door, where Shibusawa just walked out. "I don't understand how this could have been about anything /but/ hurting me."

Her eyes are flooded with
tears, and that's the moment when he realizes--

She genuinely /had/ believed that he was having an affair.

"...I'm sorry," she mutters, hanging her head, wiping her nose with her hand. "I'm /sorry/, I--"

"You /what?/"

"I didn't know what else to /do./" She mutters, and Dazai
doesn't...

He doesn't even know /what/ he thinks anymore, what he /feels./ He's caught in between different planes of fault, like he's spinning out on a bout of emotional motion sickness.

"You didn't /talk/ to me."

"I /tried/, Osamu, I /tried/, but you always--"

"I always
/what?/"

"Pushed me /away/," She shakes her head, "I'm--I can't make an excuse for /this/, but--I--I don't /love/ Tatsuhiko." She shakes her head. "Can you look me in the eye and say you /don't/ love him?"

They both know that he /can't/, and her lips tremble with sadness.
"I didn't /sleep/ with anyone else--"

"And I've never /loved/ anyone else," She mutters, the tears finally slipping down her face, "I knew I was never going to win against Chuuya, but /Rory?/ How is /that/ fair?"

"I love you," he shakes his head, "you /know/ I do--"

"No, I
/don't!/" She shakes her head. "You've been pushing me away for /so/ long, and then you try to act like it's not even /happening/--"

"Because I wouldn't stop /visiting him?/"

"Because you drop /everything/ for someone halfway around the world, but you can barely even /look/ at
me!" She chokes, and the tears just pour down faster. "Because you work yourself to /death/, and our daughter and I get /one/ day a week with you, because you spend your other day off in a /cemetery!/ Because, when you found out I was sleeping with another man, the /first/ thing
you asked about was a FUCKING /MUG!/"

"I don't give a /SHIT/ about the /GODDAMN MUG!/" Dazai finally snaps, hurling it aside until it smacks against the wall and shatters, coffee sliding down the wall sluggishly.

"YOU COULD HAVE /FOOLED ME!/" She sobs, "And you're not even
/angry/ that I was with someone else, you're just--" she shakes her head, "I don't know /what/ this is, but--"

"You don't think I'm /angry?/ You're my /wife!/" Dazai shakes his head.

"I /am!/ I /am/ your wife," she presses her hands against her chest, "and I'm the /same/ person
I was when you married me, but you've been pushing me away /ever since/--and I never knew what I did /wrong/--"

"You didn't do /anything/ wrong--"

"And you know what?" She shakes her head, "I figured it out. I know /exactly/ what happened, and it wasn't /me./" She points to the
door. "You know why it's so /easy/ for you to want him? Because he was married to someone else. He was /unavailable./ You couldn't /have him./"

Dazai's jaw goes slack.

"And when our relationship was temporary, before you decided to /commit/, you loved me like that." She shakes
her head.

"I /still/ do--"

"But you stopped talking to me." She whispers. "You stopped /trying/, Osamu. I never did. I /never/ did."

"You /cheated/--"

"And if you don't forgive me for that, I understand." She mutters, her eyes burning with shame. "If you--if you ask me for a
divorce, I'll understand."

"This doesn't /sound/ like that," Dazai shakes his head. "This /sounds/ like you only did this to /punish me/--"

"I did it because I was a /coward./ I did it because I was /angry/, and--" she presses her face into her hands. "/Yes/, I wanted to hurt
you." She looks up at him. "I am a /living/, /breathing/ person, and I /fucked up./ And--and I guess I /did/ want to punish you." She admits, exhaling shakily, her hands trembling at her sides.

Dazai is silent, trying to put that together, because--

Jesus, it's /complicated./
But she isn't completely /wrong./

It's not /one/ conversation. It isn't /one/ fight.

Yuko is like an oblivious little referee, and her coming home from school, her bedtimes--they mark off the distance between rounds, and they each win some, and lose some.

She apologizes, more
times than Dazai can count.

And he doesn't /know/ if he forgives her. He doesn't even know if he's /angry/, or just hurt, or--

"I don't know why you're acting like /I/ have something to apologize for!" He snaps one night over the kitchen table, /exasperated/, but not nearly as
much as /she is./

"Because the fact that /I/ fucked up doesn't change what /you did!/"

"And what did I /do?/"

"Oh, I don't know, had an emotional affair with your friend for almost the /entirety/ of our marriage?"

"It wasn't /like/ that until the /end/--"

"Was it longer than
/ten months?/"

And she has him, there.

But he has /her/ on other points.

"You kept trying to /change/ me."

"No, I never--"

"I told you from the /very/ beginning that Chuuya was /always/ going to be a part of my life--"

"I never said that he /couldn't be!/ I just wanted you
to make us a bigger part of your life--"

"You get me /every day!/" Dazai shakes his head, "You get wake up to me /every single morning/, you fall asleep next to me at night, you get a /future/ with me. Why isn't /that/ enough?"

"Because I /didn't/ have you, you were /running
away, and--" she shakes her head, "you don't /want/ a future with me, you want a future with someone that is /never/ coming back--"

"I /warned you/--"

"Just because you /warned me/, that doesn't make it /fair/--"

"But I never tried to /say/ it was."

And it's true.

He didn't.
But there's /one/ thing she says to him, three weeks later, tears pouring down her cheeks, hunched over a chair on their patio--

"You never warned me that you would start treating /me/ like a ghost too."

--and it /sticks/ with him.

"I'm /here/, Osamu. I'm /not/ gone. And I
would understand it if you just didn't want to be with me anymore, but I'm tired of feeling like you're running away from me because you're scared of /losing me./"

It doesn't /justify/ what she did, but after a while--and it does take /time/, it takes /months/--

Dazai starts to
realize that she was never trying to /justify/ what she did.

She just wanted him to /understand it./

And...

He does.

Because, when he forces himself to take /stock/ of the last six years--

He /did/ start pulling away from her.

Maybe not as early as she /thinks/, but after
the wedding, definitely.

The moment he acknowledged that his feelings for her ran that deep, he tried to /distance/ himself from them. Because he didn't--

He /barely/ survived it, with Chuuya. He's been at the /bottom/ of that staircase, and he doesn't want to /fall back down/
again.

He /did/ start working more.

And yes, he /did/ start putting less effort into his marriage.

That doesn't /excuse/ what she did, but--

But her mistakes don't /erase/ his behavior either.

Choosing to /stay/ wasn't easy. In a way, it felt like a gift wrapped /out/ was
being dangled in front of his face. A way to do what he's /been/ doing for so long--

Running away from the /fear/ of loss, because experiencing it again would /hurt too much./

Things aren't /automatically/ better. They still don't trust one another. He still finds himself
staring at Rory's contact a little too /longingly/ on his phone screen, and she still has to fight back a comment when he gets up on Sunday mornings, but...

But they start going to baseball games together again.

He surprises her with flowers sometimes after work. She goes
through the truly /excruciating/ task of actually /pulling off/ a surprise party for a genius when his birthday rolls around--but the gaping look of surprise on his face when everyone jumps out with confetti is /worth it./

He allows himself to remember just how much he /loves/
her laugh--

And he starts trying to make her laugh /again./

They weren't /trying/ for another baby, so their son came as a /surprise/--but a welcome one.

He's born right around the holidays, and he looks /just like/ Dazai, right down to his eyes, his hair, the shape of his
chin.

They name him Sousuke--/close/ to Soseki, but not /quite/ naming him after Dazai's grandfather.

And when Dazai sees her like that, cradling their son in her arms, stroking Yuko's hair as she leans in to look at her little brother--

Dazai--and he knows how /ridiculous/ it
is, that it took him /this/ long, but--

He /finally/ accepts it.

That /this/ is the person he's spending his future with. /This/ is his partner. The mother of his children. Maybe not the love of his life, but she'll love him for the rest of it.

And he isn't going to lose her.
But the moment he /accepts/ that is exactly when he /does./

She doesn't bounce back as fast as she did after having Yuko. She pushed herself to go back to work as soon as she could, but her energy didn't come back.

And she lost so much /weight/ so /fast./

Dazai /worried/, only
for her to insist that it was the breastfeeding--and sure, that /can/ happen, but--

But not like /this./

At first, he tried to tell himself that it /might/ be post partum, and he /tried/ to get her to talk to someone--only for psychiatrists to tell him that she was just /tired/
even when he knew in his /gut/, that wasn't the case.

It's six months later, when she couldn't get out of bed one morning, tears in her eyes as she tried to sit up, clutching at her back, when Dazai /knew./

They would spend the rest of the day in waiting rooms, with their son
bouncing against his leg, going through scan after /scan/, waiting for answers.

And at first, the answer wasn't /that/ terrifying.

A mass on the right ovary, one they /should/ have screened for after she gave birth to Sousuke, but they /caught it./

They schedule a procedure
to have it removed three weeks later, and it's successful.

And for the next six months, it feels like things go back to normal.

Her energy is back, she's out in the yard, playing soccer with Yuko while Dazai fusses over building a movie projector set up on the patio.

The first
time it comes back, they catch it /so/ early--and the next step is a full hysterectomy. They weren't looking to have any more children, but recovery was /hard/, leaving her bedridden for weeks at time--

And with one seven year old and a toddler, that was a /nightmare./

But they
get through it. She's /strong/, and Dazai is /right there/--a little /too/ used to holding someone's hair back while they vomit into the toilet, or brushing their hair when they're too exhausted to lift their arms over their head--

But he's /there/, he's /always there./

And the
next two years pass without a fight.

But the /second/ time it comes back--it's different.

Because it's moved into the breasts and lungs. Because the next step is /radiation/--

And because Yuko is old enough to understand that her mother is /sick./

Dazai never realized how
/fast/ it went with Chuuya. That three months wasn't a /long/ decline--

Because this goes so /slow./

/Three years/ of treatment. Three years of watching her slowly shrink, hollowed out from the inside. Piece after piece cut away, until finally, one doctor admits that they've
'run out of surgical options.'

And at forty years old, Dazai is back in the /same place/ he was in when he was nineteen.

Holding someone he /loves/ in his arms, stroking her back as she cries into his shoulder.

Not because she's /scared/, but because she's /angry./

Because
she wanted so much /more./ Because their children are so young, and there is /so/ much of their lives that she's going to /miss./

"W-what if they forget what I look like?"

"They'll remember." Dazai murmurs, holding her closer as she trembles in his arms.

"But Sousuke is so
/little/--"

"I won't let him forget." He shakes his head. "I promise."

"..." She buries her face tighter into his neck. "I'm...Osamu, I--"

"What?"

"I'm /scared./"

"...Yeah," Dazai swallows hard, resting his chin on top of her head, fighting not to break down.

"So am I."
The last weeks are the hardest, because there's so much /pain/, and there's nothing he can /do./

It's hard to find a good /hour/, much less a good /day/ to have the kids around her--because neither of them want Sousuke and Yuko to see her like /that./

And on the last day, after
Yuko spends a few hours sleeping next to her, still wearing her school uniform as she curls up against her side, and Sousuke give her his favorite bear--

(Because /he's/ always scared of going to sleep in his room by himself, and he doesn't want /Mommy/ to be scared too.)

When
they're alone, and she's struggling to take breaths, in and out, strung out on painkillers, she squeezes his hand, her thumb rubbing over his wedding ring.

"'Samu?"

"..." He lifts her hand up, careful not to disturb her I.V. as he presses her palm against his cheek, leaning
into it. "Yeah?"

"Thank you," she mumbles, eyes moving restlessly under their lids.

"...For what?"

"I know...I wasn't the love of your life," every word is a fight, but they're /important/, so she gets them out.

"But you were the love of mine."

Her fingers tighten weakly
against his cheek, and his eyes sting with tears that he's /afraid/ to shed, because--

/God/, she deserved /so much better./

Even if she wasn't perfect. Even if she made mistakes.

They /both/ did--but she gave him /so/ much, more than he /deserved./

"I /love you/, Shizuko."
He holds her, in those last few hours, climbing into bed with her, letting her rest against his chest as her breathing slows--

And for the first time in seventeen years, Dazai sings.

Softly, next to her ear, and she smiles weakly, the oxygen tube around her nose crinkling
slightly. "You...you actually wrote a song for me?"

His lips press against her temple, "Just for my best girl."

It's the only nickname he ever gave her--and hearing it now, actually makes her /smile./

// "Look at the stars, look how they shine for you..." //

Her eyes slip
shut.

// "And everything you do..." //

// "And they were all yellow." //

A lifetime can feel so /long/, when you spend every single day of it waiting on someone that isn't /there./

And before you know it, you can look up, and realize how much time went by.

// "Your skin, oh
yeah, your skin and bones...." //

The /memories/ that you didn't realize that you were making.

// "Turn into something beautiful..." //

The /people/ you didn't realize that you were losing.

And Dazai spent so much time /comparing/ his attachments, setting every single person
to fail next to Chuuya, because how /couldn't/ they?

But that didn't mean that his time with Shizuko wasn't meaningful.

It didn't mean that he didn't love her. That she didn't love /him./

That what they had didn't /matter./

// "Do you know I love you so..." //

And he wasted
/so much time/, trying to pretend that he /didn't/ care as much, that he /couldn't/, because he was afraid of feeling /this/ again.

// "You know I love you so..." //

He's humming, crooning in her ears until the pain doesn't feel quite so /present/, and her breathing starts to
slow, she murmurs, "'Samu?"

"Mmm?"

"I'll..." her head slumps against his chest, she doesn't have the strength to hold it up anymore.

"I'll tell...Chuuya," she swallows thickly, offering him the only thing she /can/, "...h-how much you...you still..."

"..." His arms tighten
around her, his face pressing against her scarf, his breaths trembling.

Because she was way, /way/ too good for him.

"It's okay," he croaks, fighting with every /ounce/ he has left, not to break down. "You don't have to--"

"W-/want/ to..."

His eyes squeeze shut, and he
doesn't have anything /left/ in him, doesn't have any words that could make this /better/, so he just keeps repeating the only words he /has./

/I love you./

/I love you./

/I'm sorry./

/I love you./

He feels it, when her lungs stop moving. Feels the /stillness/ before the
heart monitor gives one long, final beep.

And for the first time in far, far too long--Shizuko doesn't feel any /pain./

The next breath she takes is long and /full/, and her limbs feel so /light./

When her eyes open, she isn't alone, there's a hand in hers--strong, warm.
She's seen the face in photographs, heard his voice in recordings, but--

Osamu wasn't exaggerating.

That smile really /is/ special.

"Thank you, Shizuko-san."

"I--" She blinks against the light, squeezing his hand in return, baffled. "For what?"

"For staying with him."
Dazai is becoming an old hand at funerals--

But the /kids/ aren't.

Yuko puts on a brave face, hands bunched into fists at her sides during the service, but--

But Sousuke is /four/, and he doesn't /understand./

"Daddy," he frowns, tugging at the front of Dazai's suit, "why are
they putting Mommy in the ground?"

"..." Dazai hugs him closer, and--he has /no/ idea how to answer that question, has no /words/ to explain /why/ Shizuko isn't coming home.

"She's not gonna like it down there," he mumbles, tugging at Dazai's shirt insistently. "Tell them they
have to stop--"

But he doesn't. No matter how much Sousuke cries and pleads, the coffin is lowered into the ground, none-the-less.

And it's /hard./

Making it to the /top/ of that staircase, only for the door at the landing to open up, and for a hand to just /shove you back
down.

But Dazai doesn't fall. Not this time.

He grips onto the railing with /everything/ he has. He holds his son, whispers any comforting words he can find.

He holds his daughter's hand, helps her walk to the front to look, even when she's /scared./

And even when he slips,
even when he feels himself starting to fall back onto the next stair down--

There's a hand there, pressing against his back, fighting to catch him.

"You didn't have to come all the way out here," he mutters, his head in his hands.

The blonde doesn't turn around from where he's
loading /so much food/ into the fridge, carefully tucking different bits into Tupperware containers.

“I know.”

No conscious decision was made. There was never a real /discussion/ about it.

He came to help with the funeral, to pick up with the slack with the kids while Dazai
had to go back to work.

It was summer, so he and Riley were both out of school /anyway/, and the older girl—fourteen, now—

Yuko gets so /attached/ to her, following her around the house like a lost puppy.

Days go by, then weeks—

And it doesn’t get easier.

Dazai doesn’t
expect it to.

But when the worst thing has /already/ happened, and you /survive it/—

// “Scars aren’t ugly.” //

Dazai pauses one morning, in the middle of pulling on his scrubs for work, staring at the inside of his wrist.

// “They just mean that you gave yourself the chance
to heal.” //

—you learn to find the beauty in scar tissue. To understand the purpose of it.

The summer ends—

And Rory never flies back to Brooklyn.

Riley enrolls in a local middle school for the fall.

His things slowly migrate from the guest room, into Dazai’s bedroom.
They never have a conversation about it. They never /have/ to.

Dazai never has to /pretend/ that he isn’t missing someone. There’s never any /illusion/ between them, that what they have had to be the /end all be all/ of their lives to be /meaningful./

When Dazai falls asleep
with Rory in his arms, it isn’t /lonely./

When he takes the blonde apart underneath him, it doesn’t feel like /betraying/ or /misleading/ anyone.

It just feels like /home/, even if it isn’t the one he would have chosen for /himself./

When they get married two years later, it’s
more for residency and work authorization purposes, not particularly /romantic./

They don’t call each other husbands. Rory already had one—

And there’s only /one/ man Dazai ever wants to think of that way.

But partners—partners works for them /just fine./

And on one quiet
afternoon—not a Sunday—someone visits a grave, standing underneath a willow tree, carefully brushing away leaves that have blown over the tomb stone over the last few days.

It’s been over twenty years, but the plot is well tended to, well /loved./

“Hey, there.” The American
kneels down, leaning his elbows against his knees with a sigh. “After this long, I figured we might as well come face to face.” He tilts his face down to the grass, frowning awkwardly. “Or—well—you get it.” He sighs, looking back up. “I’ve just been thinking lately, about how I
would feel, if I had to be up there—watching Mark go through all of the shit Dazai has been through in the last twenty years, and...”

Rory winces. “I’m sure it hasn’t been /fun/ for you, so—“ he reaches forward, resting one hand on top of the grave marker. “You can take it
easy now, okay? I’ve got it from here.” He pauses, thinking that over. “Well, unless I die in a freak accident, or catch some deadly illness—but I’m pretty sure we’ve both met our quota on that.” He straightens up.

Postcards and photographs are worn, now—but still in place, even
though it’s been /so long./

“And don’t worry,” he sighs, shoving his hands in his pockets, “I know he’s all yours, just—“ his smile is bittersweet, his voice a little raw as he makes one request—

“I’ll take care of your guy for you if you look after mine, okay?”

The leaves
rustle gently in the wind, and the sun keeps on shining, and—

Rory doesn’t have any /proof/ that Chuuya heard him. That he isn’t just talking to thin air.

But it /feels/ like he did. Like there’s a faint wait on his shoulder—the ghost of a hand.

And Rory keeps his promise.
It takes the kids longer to adjust—and for Yuko, it’s the longest.

There are days when she gets so /angry/, that she can’t stop crying, throwing things at the wall.

Sometimes, that anger is directed at /her father/, because she doesn’t know what else to do with it. Because
she’s thirteen, and a world without a mother is /terrifying./

And there are days when it would be easier for Dazai to just accept it. To let her push him away.

But he never does.

Even when he has to spend hours sitting against her bedroom door, talking her down as he waits
for her to let him in.

Because she always /does/ let him in, in the end. And when she cries into the front of his shirt, whimpering out apologies, feeling like she’s losing her mind, because it’s been two years, snd she shouldn’t /feel like this/—

Her father never makes her
feel that way. Never tells her that her emotions are /wrong./

“It’s okay, sweetheart.”

“N-/no/,” she mutters, holding on /tight/, tears dripping down from her chin, “I-I shouldn’t have y-yelled at you—“

“...” Dazai kisses the top of her head, rubbing her back. “You were
angry.”

“Yeah, b-but—“

“And you should be, because the fact that your mom isn’t here—“ he closes his eyes, swallowing hard, “—it’s /so/ unfair.”

But it’s not his fault. It’s not /anyone’s/ fault.

“And that’s so much harder when you don’t have anyone to /blame./“

She just
cries harder, and he hugs her /tighter/, let’s her scream it out against his chest until it feels like the world might /shatter./

If she needs to be mad at someone—he can take it.

Honestly, when he remembers all of the pain he caused his father, his /brothers/, after Chuuya—
It’s not like he doesn’t /deserve/ it.

Some days are easier—but there are others when it all feels like /too much/, and he’s just sitting out on the back porch with his head in his hands, still wearing scrubs from work, waiting for the pain between his temples to subside.
Honestly, he looks a little ridiculous, sitting out there barefoot like this—slurping a juice box—they keep them around for Sousuke, and since Dazai hasn’t touched a drink in almost twenty years, it’s as close to happy hour as he gets.

“That’s an interesting fashion statement.”
Arms wrap around him from behind, a chin coming down to rest on top of his head—and Dazai is so /tired/, but he smiles, leaning back into her.

“I like the juice box,” Riley hums, hugging him tighter. “It really ties the whole look together.”

“You think so?”

“Oh, yeah.” The
high schooler smiles, turning her cheek to rest against his hair. “You’re killing it.”

He snorts, reaching up to squeeze her arm gently. “How was school?”

“/Boring/,” she whines, “I think I’m gonna drop out.”

“/Right./“

“Really! I can just follow my dreams.”

“Which are?”
“Being a trophy wife, obviously.”

Their relationship has always been /unique./

Dazai isn’t exactly her /father/, but he’s more than an /uncle/, someone who’s been there for all of the /important/ moments in her life.

And no matter /how/ shitty he feels—Riley can always make
him /laugh/, just like he is now, his head tilting forward as his shoulders shake.

“/God/, you’re such a disappointment.”

“I know,” she grins, laughing with him. “I’m the only /actual/ member of the Family Disappointment Club.”

“/No/, I’ve been the president for years.”
“Then where are the club jackets?”

“I’m working on it, I swear.”

She hugs him closer, letting out a slow sigh as the laughter dies down. “...Can we learn some new chords today?”

Dazai isn’t sure if she actually /wanted/ to learn how to play the guitar, or if she just asked
because she thought it would make him /happy/, but—

But it /does./

Rory always gives them space on nights like that. Or he’ll bring dinner up to Dazai’s office, then leave him be.

Dazai always comes to bed eventually, and when he does, Rory lets him settle down heavily against
his chest, arms tight around his middle as he slowly drifts off.

He mumbles someone else’s name in his sleep—he has for /years/, and it’s doubtful at this point that he’ll ever /stop/—

But Rory doesn’t mind.

Years slip by, and family photos slowly start to fill the walls.
Riley /does/ graduate, but college wasn’t exactly /for her/—

But music, as it turns out, was.

They rent out a restaurant for Dazai’s fiftieth birthday—it’s full of family, friends, and it’s so /strange/ to Dazai, that he had so many people come into his life over the years, and
he never /noticed/ until they were all here like this, gathered in the same place.

Dazai doesn’t love the attention (Rory knows) but the kids wanted to do something /special/, and for that, he deals with the balloons, the confetti, even the obnoxious speeches as half drunk
friends get on stage and talk about how Dazai has made their lives /special/ in some way, shape, or form—

And then, when it’s Riley’s turn, it turns into something else entirely. Something that /genuinely/ surprises him.

“Hey, everyone—“ she waves at the crowd, guitar in hand
as she pulls up a stool, “I know most of you have known my Uncle Dazai as a doctor, or maybe as brother, or an annoying neighbor—“

(She snorts when Dazai flips her off from his seat by the corner, getting a light smack in the arm from his partner.)

“—but /some of you/ might
remember that he was /actually/ a pretty good singer back in the day,”

Dazai /groans/ with embarrassment, wiping a hand down his face, because /Jesus/, that was almost thirty years ago by now—

“And this one has always been my favorite, so—“ she gives the strings a testing
little strum, “Happy Birthday Uncle Osamu.”

Dazai doesn’t know what song he was /expecting/, but—

A familiar set of chords starts to play, and the world just seems to slow down.

// “Does it mean Everything or Nothing...” //

/Oh./

Dazai’s eyes widen—

// “...that I think
about you and I cry?” //

—and then they fill with tears.

// “Are you going to /explain?/“ //

// “I don’t know, I just got /concussed./“ //

He reaches for Rory’s hand, squeezing tightly, swallowing hard as the memories threaten to overwhelm him.

// “Did I just get so used to
something...” //

// “What do you mean I can’t /have one?/“ //

// “They’re for gays only.” //

God, were they really /that/ fucking stupid?

// “...that became engraved in my mind?” //

// “I don’t /want/ a choice, Chuuya, I never did!” //

// “...And did I really fucking love
you?” //

// “You’ll /always/ be there.” //

Dazai barely sits through the song—and by the time he’s hugged her and thanked her for the performance, he’s excusing himself, retreating to the back until he can regain his composure.

Yuko sits by the bar, sixteen now, frowning as
she watches her father slip out of the room.

She’s heard that song before, growing up. It comes on the radio sometimes. And she /knew/ that her father wrote it—but he also wrote /quite a few/ songs back in the day.

Why is /that one/ so special?

Later that night, she’s curled
up in front of her computer, tapping her mouse lightly beneath her finger as she caves, finally deciding to give it a Google search—

/ Everything or Nothing — Dazai Osamu. /

The basic stuff pops up—lyrics, fan covers—but she keeps scrolling down, until she finds—

...Is that
her /Dad?/

He’s so much younger there—not much older than she is now—

And it’s weird to see him with that kind of hair, or no beard, or /piercings./

But the /biggest/ difference between the man in the video, and the one who /raised/ her, is the fact that he doesn’t look so
/damn sad./

Honestly, it wasn’t until she saw him like /this/ that she realized he /always/ looked that way.

And when she scrolls down to the comments—

She finds the article, clicking blindly when she sees her father’s name in a headline, and—

Who is /Chuuya Nakahara?/ Image
The more she scrolls, the more she finds—article after article detailing what can only be described as a /love story/, and—

And then, Chuuya’s death at the age of 19.

After that, the rest of the news coverage seems to be showing her father’s life imploding in slow motion.
And she can’t help but wonder—

Why did she never /know?/

When she asks her grandfather, it’s obvious that he /knew./

The same with Odasaku.

She even drops by her Uncle Atsushi’s office downtown, stepping past assistant artists, ducking under workers carrying posters for the
re-release of his most popular novel, 'Beast.'

"Uncle Sushi?"

The older man pauses, tucking a pencil behind his ear, a clipboard in hand as he turns around. "Is that my favorite little chunky monkey?"

She winces at the nickname, but the smile and the hug that follow are more
than enough to make up for it, "Hey--I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Yeah?" He pulls back, raising an eyebrow when he takes in the notch in her eyebrow, the stud in her nose, or the array of new piercings in her ears. "Is it about the punk phase?"

"/Hey/--"

"I'm not
judging, I married a /goth/," Atsushi snorts, "I was just /wondering/, it's new."

Well, her Uncle Ryuu /is/ a traditional goth and a practicing pagan, so Yuko can assume with a level of certainty that the teasing doesn't come from a place of /judgement./ "Why has no one ever
told me about Chuuya?"

His expression freezes, and then his smile fades. "...Okay," he lets out a sigh, "do you want to talk about this in my office, or--?"

"We can't talk about it out here?"

"We /can/, but I'm assuming you don't want to talk about it in front of my interns."
Well. That's true. She doesn't.

They walk back inside until they reach his corner office, glass walls giving him a clear view of the city, and she drops down in the chair beside his desk, playing with the stress ball that he keeps with him, with a cartoon tiger face on the front
"What do you want to know about him?"

"...Why was he a secret?"

"I don't think he was a /secret./" Atsushi frowns, kicking back in his chair. "I think people just feel...bad for bringing him up."

Yuko frowns, squeezing the stress ball a little tighter. "Why?"

"I guess the
habit started when you were just a baby," Atsushi frowned, "it used to upset your mother."

Yuko's lips press together into a tight frown.

"And after she passed...I don't know," the ivory haired man sighs. "It...it's really hard for him when you bring Chuuya up. So, we don't."
"...You say that like you all knew him," Yuko mutters, staring at the small foam ball in her hands, and Atsushi blinks owlishly.

"We did--Chuuya-nii wasn't around for that long, but he was an important part of all of our lives." He sighs, his eyes saddened. "We all miss him."
"...He sounds pretty special." She picks at a fraying piece with her thumbnail.

"He was," Atsushi agrees without hesitation. "And I know it must all seem kind of tragic--"

"/Kind of?/"

"But he saved your father's life," there's not an ounce of doubt in Atsushi's voice. "Osamu
wouldn't be here now if he hadn't met him."

Objectively, looking at all of the evidence the internet has laid out before her, it looks like meeting Chuuya Nakahara /ruined/ her father's life.

"He changed a /lot/, after he met him," Atsushi explains. "And I get that all of this
probably seems confusing right now, but no one was intentionally keeping this from you—especially not your dad.”

It’s hard to /believe/ that.

But she /tries./

She manages to hunt down an old video of them, walking out of a hospital and getting into a limousine.

She sees how
protective her father looks—which isn’t that unusual, he gets that way with her and her brother all the time—

But the way he /looks/ at Chuuya.

That’s different.

She tries to examine it closer. To compare it to the way he looked at her mother, but it isn’t the same.

Even now,
when she watches him with her stepfather...

There’s affection in Dazai’s eyes when Rory brings him a cup of coffee in the mornings. He leans into it when the blonde kisses the side of his head.

They don’t offer one another affection for show, it’s real.

But it isn’t the same.
She turns it around in her head, over and over again. Tries to reconcile herself with the fact that her father’s life /clearly/ hasn’t turned out the way that he wanted it to.

But if it /had/, then he never would have met her mother.

If it had, she wouldn’t exist.

At first, it
breeds resentment.

This person only knew her father for an entire /year/ of his life. She's sixteen years old now. Does /she/ not make him happy?

Is /she/ not enough?

And it's /hard/, being that young--and realizing that maybe, no matter how much your parents love you--

That
there are things about their life that exist completely /outside/ of you.

And yes, maybe you /aren't/ enough.

But that doesn't feel /fair./ It's not /her/ fault. She didn't /ask/ her parents to have kids. She didn't /ask/ to be born, and now she feels like she's this /burden/
on him, an obligation, part of a life that he /never/ wanted.

Dazai doesn't know /why/ she pulls away for a few months. She's gone through those phases, ever since she lost her mother--but there's something a little more /hostile/ about this.

Days where he sits by her door for
hours, but it never opens.

Riley rolls her eyes and calls it an 'angsty' phase when she visits home. Sousuke is in middle school now, /perpetually/ clueless, and /he/ just asks her if it's /that time of the month./

(Rory smacks him for it, but he's thirteen. It happens.)

The
summer before her third year of high school, she meets a boy.

His name is Kazuo. He goes to her school, but he doesn't really /participate/ in anything. Yuko has the habit of /looking/ like she belongs in a punk rock band, but she always turns her homework in at the end of the
day, participates in clubs--

She's not /actually/ a delinquent.

At first, she assumes that's what he is. From the messy hair, to the piercings, and the sarcastic smiles. She catches him slouching near the vending machines, sneaking cigarettes between classes.

And there's this
/need/ inside of her, to break something just because she /can/, just to feel like she has control over it--even if that thing is /herself./

That's why she walked up and said /hi/, the first time. Because he looked like the sort of boy that could /ruin her life./

And he did,
but not like that.

When she tries to bum a cigarette off of her, his response is 'hell no,' and when she gets /offended/, he tells her--

"You've never smoked."

"I /have too!/"

"Yeah?" He lets her take /one/ drag, and when she ends up coughing and sputtering until her face is
red, and he snatches it back. "I didn't think so."

"I just haven't gotten /used to it/, yet--"

"Why would you /want to?/"

"I don't know," She hurls back, embarrassed, "why do /you/ smoke?"

And his answer wasn't some dark, stereotypical response that you would expect from the
'bad boy' character in a movie.

It was just--

"My parents smoked." He shrugs.

It's a /simple/ answer, it makes sense--

But the look in his eyes when he says it is so /sad./

The motivations for talking to him slowly begin to change. From self destruction, to...

Convincing
him to try the books she looks, then getting /mad/ when he doesn't like them, but--feeling a little giddy that he read them at /all./

She's no good at cooking, but she /is/ good at the art of deception, so she asks her step-dad to make an extra box lunch for him sometimes, and
she just takes credit and tells him she did it /herself./

(He knows she didn't, but he finds the attempt at sneakiness /funny/, so he lets it go.)

It's /slow/ with him, like feeding an alley cat that hisses and bites you at first. It takes him /weeks/ to stop telling her to
go away. /Months/ for him to start opening up to her.

She realizes that he wasn't staying away from everyone else because he was /disinterested/ or some sort of budding criminal (which was what everyone assumed, not just her)--

He was staying away because he didn't know /how/
to talk to anyone.

His home life isn't /easy/, and this is his /third/ high school.

He doesn't have a single friend.

So, when they exchange numbers, it's under the pretense of wanting /company/, but before long she's staying up half the night, biting her lip as she stares at
at the screen, waiting for what he'll say next, thinking about what she'll say /back./

She convinces him to come to club meetings, to actually /show up/ to things--and however slowly, he stops seeming so /terrifying/--

And he /smiles/ more. At everyone, but there's /special/
one that he saves for her, where his eyes just /glow/ with an affection that feels so /overwhelming/, because the trust behind it was /earned./

The first kiss is on the roof, pressed back against the chain link fence, cautious, hesitant, but then it's /more./

It's /so much/
more. Like the kind of rollercoaster ride you never want to get off of. It's like there's been this emptiness, this /ache/ inside, and his mouth against hers doesn't make it go /away/, it never goes /away/, but--

But it makes it /bearable./

The first time she brings him home
for dinner, she's /antsy/, prepared for a fight.

Her father has an /infamous/ track record with Riley's boyfriends. To be fair, her type is /handsome/, regardless of what kind of personality they /actually have./

(She's confided to Yuko privately that a good sense of humor
is not the /primary goal./)

But he's made it into a little /game/, psychologically tormenting them until they /flee/, and she's almost /prepared/ for him to do that now, hackles raised, ready for him to judge Kazuo at the outset, but--

But the minute Dazai sees the kid on his
doorstep (and he's /nervous/, his back straight, hands tight in his pockets)--he smiles, opening the door a little wider, and he invites him inside.

She's cautious, watching him all evening, her eyes narrowed--

But, oddly enough, Dazai never makes the boy feel anything less
than /welcome./

He comes over again, and /again/, until it's almost normal for him to be over multiple nights a week--and they just set another plate out for him out of /habit./

Sousuke /idolizes/ him, which Kazuo finds a little weird at first, but--

But it's /nice./
Eventually, not looking at her, with flushed cheeks, tripping over his own words, he asks her to be his girlfriend.

She's leaning against the wall, not looking at him /either/ when she stammers out a /yes./

Dazai's only condition when she lets him know is that Kazuo has to quit
smoking. She finds that /ridiculous/, but--

But her boyfriend agrees. He wears the stupid patches, gets /cranky/ in the middle of class when he gets a craving--

And she thinks it's ridiculous, that he probably could have gotten away with lying and saying that he did, but...
The fact that he was /willing/ to do it, to /honestly/ do it--

That means /so much./

She doesn't see the way her dad watches them, when they're sitting next to each other on the swings in the backyard.

Doesn't see the /happiness/ in his gaze, even if there's always just a
little bit of heartbreak along with it.

To some extent, Yuko really /did/ think she understood loss. That she'd learned it early on, watching the woman who raised her slowly waste away.

But that was only one /type/ of pain, and--

She didn't learn the other until the accident.
When he didn't text her goodnight, she was /worried./ When he didn't send a good morning text either, that feeling only grew.

And when he wasn't at school, she...she felt this sinking /pit/ in her stomach, growing by the minute.

Someone calls her out after the lunch hour, and
when she makes it to the front office, Rory is there--looking tired and strained.

The only reason they /knew/ was because he was brought to the hospital where her father /worked./

She doesn't remember the car ride, she just remembers running down the hallway, tossing her
backpack down as she skids around the corner in her school shoes, hands trembling as she reaches the surgical wing, only to run headfirst into Dazai's arms.

"Where is he?!"

"Sweetheart, take a breath--"

She's frantic, pounding at his chest as she wrestles to get past him.
"I don't understand, I--someone just tell me /where he is/, I--"

"He's in surgery," Dazai explains, his arms like iron around her as he holds her close, no matter how much she screams, cries, because--

Because you never expect your story to have that kind of ending. Life
conditions you to /expect/ a happy ending, with every loose end neatly tied up in a bow. That the show doesn't end mid season. That the boy gets the girl, and they live happily ever after.

It's not something that Dazai ever /wanted/ her to understand.

That /agony/, it's not
something he would have wished on /anyone/, but--

But not Yuko.

Not his /baby./

His father didn't survive the accident--there's no one left but /her/ to sit by his bedside, and she does, sitting in the ICU for hours at a time, clutching his hand under a mass of wires.
She goes in and out between phases of /praying/, clutching his hand against her forehead and silently /begging/ him to wake up.

She weeps, screams at the nurses when they explain there's nothing more they can do.

She sleeps on the couch in her father's office, his coat draped
over her shoulders, but she never catches more than a couple of hours at a time.

It's a story that Dazai has seen before. One that he's lived over and over, enough times to be /too/ familiar with the ending. And he /knows/ what's coming, can see the staircase looming open
behind her, and he /wants/ to catch her, but--

But no one could catch /him/ before. He had to climb back up, make his way to the top on his own. And he's /terrified/ of watching that happen to /her/, but--

It wasn't until now, that Dazai realized he had stopped believing in
happy endings.

That he had taken it /for granted/ that tragedy--it isn't the /automatic/ result of happiness.

Because this time, the worst thing /doesn't/ happen.

This time, the boy in the hospital /wakes up./

When he watches Yuko leaning over him, sobbing frantic tears of
/relief/, and he's laced with guilt and /jealousy/, but--

But mostly /relief/, for her.

His recovery isn't /easy/--he's wheelchair bound for months, and after that, it takes even longer for him to get through physical therapy, to take his first steps again.

But he /does./
With his own father gone, he ends up staying with the Dazai's--which makes more /sense/, anyway, since Yuko's father has the expertise to help him with the care he needs at home.

And every day, when she wakes up, there's one terrifying moment, when she worries that it was all a
a dream. That she'll walk to the guest room down the hall, and he won't /be there./

But he always is, and she always clutches her chest, tears in her eyes as she stares at him, grappling with the fear of what she /almost/ lost, and...

One night, when she can't sleep, she finds
herself back on her computer again, scrolling through old social media pages, trying to piece together what /she's/ feeling now, with the pain that she's always /resented/ her father for carrying for so long.

But now, staring photographs of a man she never met, she understands. Image
It only takes three trips to the local library, going through death records all the way back to 2022--over thirty years ago, now--to find the cemetery. And from there, she just has to hunt down the specific plot.

To her surprise, for a grave that's so /old/, it doesn't look that
way. There isn't any overgrowth. It's still carefully polished--and the vase of red camellias in front of the marker, with not a single petal wilting.

That's when she finds them.

Postcards, photographs, notes.

And she feels /wrong/ for reading them, like she's trespassing on
something that wasn’t /meant/ for her, but..

But she spends hours there, until she’s leaning back against the grave, reading over one card postmarked from New York,

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘴𝘭𝘦𝘦𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘴𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘺𝘴. 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥
𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘥 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘩 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘵'𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘦𝘺𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘭𝘭.

𝘚𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘴𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘮𝘦 — 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘝𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘦, 𝘐
𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘪𝘮 — 𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘪𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘐 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯'𝘵 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯'𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸.
𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘥𝘳𝘰𝘱 𝘪𝘯 𝘛𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘚𝘲𝘶𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘶𝘭.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯'𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘪𝘵.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸
𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘸𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘐 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘥𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘐'𝘮 𝘵𝘳𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳.

𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘥𝘢𝘺, 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺.

𝘏𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘺 𝘴𝘪𝘹 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘴, 𝘣𝘢𝘣𝘺. 𝘐'𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦
𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘰𝘯.

𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶,
𝘖𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘶

“...” Tears pour down her cheeks, and she wipes them away irritably, because she doesn’t /get/ to cry, not after the way she’s—

Not after the way she’s /felt/ for the last year.

“...I’m sorry,” she croaks, her hands tightening
around the postcard for a moment before she carefully tucks it back into place.

She says it over and over, and at first, she doesn't even /know/ what she's apologizing for, because she never met Chuuya--she doesn't /owe/ him anything, but--

But she knows, now, what her father
has been carrying around for so long. That, for the most part, he's been carrying it alone. That she hasn't made it /easier./

Guilty for /resenting/ someone who clearly brought her dad so much /happiness./

The change is sudden, unexplained--and it baffles Dazai, the way his
daughter suddenly becomes so /attentive./

Rory is usually the one that makes sure he /eats/ something, or who throws a blanket over his shoulders when he falls asleep at his desk.

Yuko's intentions are similar, but her /methods/ are more aggressive.

She shakes him awake with a
jerk and makes him go to bed--or she all but forcibly shoves toast in his mouth in the mornings before he walks out the door for work.

She starts saying, "I love you, Dad" again at the end of every phone call, something she hasn't done since she was /twelve/, and--

The first
time she does it again, he realizes how /long/ it's been, and he gets /so/ choked up.

She doesn't lock herself up in her room at night, or focus /solely/ on Kazuo--

She makes her way down to the living room, crawling onto the couch next to him and Rory, leaning against his side
as they watch old re-runs, and...

She doesn't understand /quite/ how much it means to him, but she knows it makes him /happy/, so she /tries./

She graduates the next year, but she doesn't go /far/, enrolling in Todai that fall, and normally, Dazai would be /skeptical/ about
letting his eighteen year old daughter get an apartment with her boyfriend instead of making her spend her first year in the dorms, but--

But he /understands/ why she wants all the time she can get with him, and he doesn't protest.

She struggles to pick a career path at first,
nothing really seems to /stick/, but--

One thing she picked up from her father--and /Chuuya/, without realizing it--was the habit of writing things /down/, when she needs to get her feelings out.

And, as it turns out, she's pretty /good at it./

Sousuke /teases/ her for using a
pen name at first--but she actually thinks that /Tsushima/ suits her, and after her father's experiences when he was young, and watching Riley go through it now--

She isn't exactly /interested/ in being famous herself, she'd rather let the stories stand on their own.

And they
do.

“Of Dogs and Walls,” hits the best seller list shortly after publishing. She wins awards, has articles in magazines—

And she starts to move into the world, on her own, as an adult.

It’s terrifying for Dazai to watch, when his instinct is to expect the next worst thing—
But god, if he isn’t so damn /proud/ of her.

Sousuke is the only one that was /reluctant/ to leave the nest—probably because Rory always babied him, /but/—

In Rory’s defense, he was /cute./

Which is exactly why the young man gets /dragged/ to his college orientation, with his
father holding his arm.

And it’s /awkward/, because they look /exactly/ alike, Dazai just has more wrinkles, longer, graying hair, and he looks like he could buy an entire wing of the library if he wanted, so—

Obviously, he attracts /attention./

“I don’t even /like/ school—“
“You don’t like work,” Dazai cuts him off, strong arming him towards the building where orientation is being held.

“You know, forcing kids into the educational pipeline is a big problem these days—“

“Do you want to get a job?

“I’m telling you, Dad, I have a /YouTube channel/—“
“And I’ve recorded some home videos in my life too, that doesn’t mean I get to call it a career.”

(Has Dazai ever /actually/ made a sex tape? No. Is watching his son cringe at the implication fun? Yes.)

“But—“

“If you think you can pay your own bills off of a YouTube channel,
then by all means—but as the person who just paid your car statement, I’d advise you to think that over carefully.”

He /sulks/, but he /stays./

And despite the fact that he was /forced/, he doesn’t /hate/ college.

Sure, maybe the barista in the student cafe has a little more
to do with that than his classes, but /hey/, he also takes after his mother, and he /likes/ astronomy.

Not to mention the fact that he gets to study in the cafe every afternoon, and figuring out how long it takes to get her to pour a drink over his head each time is a /fun game/
He doesn’t get a date the first year, but he /does/ snag one on the second.

Then just /one/ dinner turns into another, and another—

And the last twenty years of Dazai’s life, they seemed so /agonizingly/ slow—

But now, it all goes so /fast./

He doesn’t speak to his Mother
again before she passes. When he goes to the funeral, he learns she married several times over again, before the end.

But none of them seemed to last.

Yuko gets married two summers later, to the boy who woke up—earlier than they had planned, but—

She wanted Mori to be able to
see it.

He’s nearly eighty, by then—leaning heavily on a cane, but still proud to watch his son walking his granddaughter down the aisle.

It was a heart attack, ironically enough, that nearly put him out of commission the summer before—and his decline has been slow, but steady
ever since.

Dazai finds the sight of him in the old, family house bittersweet—familiar. Resting back in a wheelchair while the sun shines through the window, a cat resting comfortably in his lap.

“I never thanked you.”

The old man opens one eyelid, raising an eyebrow.
“For what?”

His son sighs, sitting in the chair beside him, watching the sunlight stream in.

He’s always liked this place more now, than he did when he was young.

Before, it reminded him /too much/ of Chuuya.

Now, he enjoys remembering.

“For not giving up on me.”

He sees
the flash of doubt in Mori’s eyes, and he shakes his head. “I know you kind of feel like you did, but...”

Dazai shrugs.

He’s in his mid fifties himself now—and while those years when they grew apart /hurt/...

Mori has made up for that so many times over, by now.

“...I’m
proud to be your son.”

The benefits of being an old man /himself/ now, is that he knows what his father has always /needed/ to hear—and he can give him that, before the end.

“I always have been.”

He’s laid to rest that winter, in the family plot—near Natsume.

Dazai never
realized that the closest thing to a life long hobby he would have would be visiting graves.

Chuuya has had every single Sunday (excluding when Dazai has been traveling) for the past thirty years. Now, Mori and Shizuko trade Saturday afternoons.

It was /hard/, getting closer to
retirement, having an empty house to contend with—

Rory helps. He’s never /alone/, and after fifteen years together, the blonde knows how to keep him busy.

Then, three summers later, his grandson is born.

And Dazai was prepared to go through the entire spectrum of emotions,
but—

He wasn’t prepared for it when Yuko explains that they named him /Chuuya./

They’ve talked about his boyfriend, since she was in highschool. She comes with him, some Sundays—

And when Dazai expresses his shock, she explains—

“It’s a name that belongs in the family.”
She has a daughter, two years later. It isn’t long before Sousuke has twin boys.

Riley takes the /longest/ to settle down, and she never does have children of her own—but she’s /very/ serious about her title as the /fun/ aunt.

Dazai’s sixties are spent watching his family
expand—sitting back and taking in the view as his children learn how to become parents on their own—

And they always ask him how he /did it/, because it’s a frustrating, often thankless task, but—

Fatherhood was never the hardest thing that Dazai has ever done.

Chuuya—Dazai is
the only one who calls him Junior—has the closest relationship with his grandfather. He was always quiet compared to the other kids, /very/ lazy, happier to lounge inside and watch TV with him on the afternoons, playing games on his tablet.

He’s /also/ Dazai’s most frequent
companion on Sundays.

He was /fascinated/ by it, excitedly pointing when he was old enough to read the characters on the grave marker. “He has the same name as me!”

Dazai’s smile was /pained/—

But also /happy/, even if that happiness /aches./

“He does.”

“Who was he?”
“...” It isn’t as easy for Dazai to kneel down now, as it used to be—but he’s been coming to this cemetery for so long, the town council actually installed a /bench./

He sinks down, reaching over to rest his hand on top of the headstone.

There are so many different ways to
describe what Chuuya was. No single one does it justice.

But when Dazai pauses, the leaves rustle overhead in the breeze—one falling, slowly fluttering in the breeze before it lands against his thigh—

And the man smiles, taking it between his fingers.

“He was everything.”
And because of him—

Dazai has /never/ had nothing.

Yuko tries to insist that her father is being ridiculous, that she and the kids are more than happy to make the trek every weekend to make sure the plot is tended after—

But Dazai doesn’t miss a single week.

Someone usually
accompanies him—but the last time, Dazai goes alone.

Both of his knees have been replaced at this point—and bending over is a /daunting/ task, but he does, setting down a bouquet of red camellias, settling down on the bench with a heavy sigh.

50 years.

It’s been /50 years./
He doesn’t write letters as well as he used to—so he settles for talking, and he thinks Chuuya is listening.

No, he /knows/ that he is.

“My son,” he leans his head back, watching the clouds pass overhead, “he’s an astronomer now, you know.” His fingers stroke over the top of
the tombstone. An old, affectionate habit. “I know that just sound surprising, after I complained for so long about how /lazy/ he was—but he’s serious about it, brings his work home all the time.”

Dazai sighs.

“And lately, when I’ve been thinking about how long it’s been—I’ve
been feeling guilty, because...”

He doesn’t cry anymore. He used to cry /so often/, but now—he’s gotten so used to the pain in his chest, that he never needs to shed a tear.

“...I love my family. I loved my wife. I love Rory, but...” his fingers tighten over the headstone.
“I would have given it all up, to have that time with you.”

It’s not something he can admit to anyone /else/, it’s only something he can say like this, when they’re alone.

He’s had a /long/ life, he’s had a /good/ life—

But it wasn’t the one that he /wanted./

And he went
so many years, wondering if he wished that he would have /died/ that night, on the bridge.

He knows now that he doesn’t. That he’s /glad/ to have had the years that followed.

But it was never his dream.

Not like that would have ever been /achievable./ Not when...
Well, if there’s one thing Dazai has learned by now—it’s that the lyrics he scribbled out in his youth, they stood the test of time.

Because he’s spent a lifetime dreaming of Angels on the Moon.

And everyone you know—they always /do/ leave too soon.

Before you’re ready.
And sometimes, it isn’t anyone’s /fault/, and you might be trapped with that anger, because there’s no one to /blame for it/—

No one to blame for the fact that he lived a /life/ with half of himself /missing./

But eventually, after pushing through that pain—making the choice
the get up, every single day, to climb that staircase, /knowing/ that the person he wanted was never going to be waiting at the top—

Dazai didn’t do that for himself.

Dazai did that for /him./

And, eventually—he learned not to be angry, because he lost him.

Dazai learned to
smile, because he /had/ him.

He’s /always/ had him, every step of the way.

“And the other day,” he glances back down, his eyes drifting over decades worth of postcards, each one carefully placed, “he was explaining a theory that recently got confirmed, and apparently, of he’s
to be believed, there are multiple universes.” Dazai tips his head to the side. “And for every possible series of events—there’s a universe where they have already occurred, happening al at once, in infinite order.”

The breeze stirs his hair, and he smiles.

“It was a lot to
wrap my head around at first, but...” he bites his lip—and for the first time in /many/ years, his eyes well up with tears.

“That means there’s a universe where you never left.”

A lifetime that they spent together.

Somewhere, in the vast, infinite expanse of reality, there’s a
version of himself that still has Chuuya in his arms.

And it’s not enough. It doesn’t /fill/ the void inside of him.

But it brings him /peace./

That’s all anyone ever looks for in the end.

He kisses him goodbye one last time, pressing his lips to his palm, then the headstone.
There’s a family dinner that night—with Yuko fussing around in the kitchen while Riley sits on the counter, a glass of wine in her hand while she teases her for being so high strung.

Sousuke is playing soccer in the backyard with the grandchildren, and Rory greets him at the
door, kissing his cheek as he helps him out of his coat.

It’s a quiet, relaxed evening—one filled with laughter.

Junior is twelve now, the sort of age where you would /expect/ him to start thinking it was /boring/, hanging out with his grandfather—

But he’s happy to stay up
after dinner with him, playing cards, asking for stories until someone tells him it’s time to let his grandfather go /to bed./

“Right—goodnight, Ojiisan!”

It always turns into a rush after that, with all of the grandchildren piling in at once to say goodnight, their parents
following soon after.

Yuko follows him upstairs, making sure he’s /actually/ going to sleep; not sneaking off to his study to play more cards with Chuuya.

And she kisses him goodnight, her lips gentle against his cheek as she whispers—

“I love you, Dad.”

He drops into the
the mattress much more heavily now, than he used to—and he feels Rory climbing into bed beside him, not long after.

It’s warm, beside him.

In the past twenty-five years, Dazai had never had to sleep alone.

It’s a /good/ rest, that night. Deep, filled with dreams—whispering the
same name, over and over again.

He stirs that morning when the mattress shifts, feeling it as his partner gets up to head downstairs, probably to get started on breakfast.

And Dazai starts like he /might/ sit up, might get out of bed one more time, and start another day, but...
A warm, heavy feeling is seeping through his limbs, and the bed feels so /soft/, so inviting—

And Dazai smiles, turning his face back into the pillow with a tired, endeared sigh, whispering the same thing that he always has—

“Alright, sweetheart...I’ll sleep a little longer.”
His eyes slip shut, as sleep begins to pull him back down, gently pulling him under.

There’s no pain. No sadness, or fear.

It’s quiet, /peaceful/, even.

Dazai Osamu doesn’t wake again.

In the end, it didn’t feel like falling /asleep/, so much as it felt like coming /home./
There’s little debate in the family, when it comes to making arrangements.

Ozaki Kouyou is /surprised/ to receive the request—but it’s one that she accepts.

Dazai Yuko kneels beneath a willow tree, before two graves—one worn with time, and the other with freshly turned earth.
It would have felt wrong, to lay her father to rest anywhere else.

She smiles faintly, reaching over to touch faded postcards, letters, and photographs, her thumb stroking over the name--

Chuuya Nakahara

Then, her hand drifts to the side, her palm pressing flat against freshly
hewn marble.

Dazai Osamu.

The dates are /so/ far apart--

April 29th, 2003 -- June 18th, 2022

June 19th, 2003 -- October 4th, 2072.

But finally, they're next to each other again.

"...I always used to wonder why you were so stubborn about coming here," she sighs, her lips
turning up into a tired smile. "But you were just waiting to come home, huh?" Her thumb strokes gently over her father's name. "I get why you couldn't say so."

Her husband's hand is heavy on her shoulder, comforting in it's weight. "He was proud of you, you know."

"..." She
reaches up, covering his hand with her own, squeezing gently. "Not as proud as I was of him."

She straightens up, breathing in the autumn air, glancing back at her children, standing around with the other grandchildren, laughing, telling stories about someone they /all/ loved.
Someone who wasn't /always/ a good man--

But he chose to become one.

Yuko watched him struggle to make those choices--and she knew he was ashamed of the fact that it never came /easily/ to him, but...

She found it more /meaningful/, in the end--that despite every instinct
telling him to run, her father chose to /stay./

The saying on his tombstone was always one of his favorites--and she understands it now, understands /him/, now, more than she ever thought that she would.

One that sounded so /sad/ to her, when she was young--but not anymore.
/ The weak fear happiness itself. /

In the haze of grief, making the /choice/ to feel happiness again--that's the most terrifying thing that there is.

But it's the /right/ choice--and all you have to do is /make it./

"Ready to go home?" He kisses her hair, and she leans into
him, wrapping one arm around his waist with a smile.

"Yeah," they start walking away, and she finds Chuuya with her other arm, wrapping it around him and pulling him close against her side.

The wind blows through her hair, and despite the time of year, the sunlight feels warm
against her back.

Somewhere, in the far expanses of the universe, known and unknown--he's there.

And wherever he is--Yuko knows that he's /happy./

"Let's go home."

Even after her father's passing, the graves aren't left unattended.

They visit as a family--always on Sundays.
Leaves and overgrowth are carefully cleared away. They bring lunch, talk, /laugh/--and talk about the week that they had.

It's a bit of a /macabre/ family tradition, but Yuko and Sousuke have been raised to have a healthy appreciation for remaining close to those who have passed
Family photographs begin to line the ground. Holidays. Weddings. Post cards from vacation.

And Dazai Chuuya was raised to never think of cemeteries as a place of /sadness/, but rather--a place to see the people you love /the most./

A few months later, after they finish going
through her father's things--Rory passes along a box.

Old, worn cardboard--with her father's name scrawled across the top in worn sharpie marker.

And Yuko might be a grown woman now, but she cries like a /baby/ reading the letters inside, each one opened over the course of
the decades.

𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯'𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘐 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘦𝘭𝘵 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘭 𝘐 𝘮𝘦𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶, 𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦
𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 --𝘐 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶.

𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦.

She wipes at her nose with the back of her hand, clutching the letter close to her chest.

"He chose you too," she whispers, not sure /who/ she's talking to, but--

It /feels/ like
someone is listening.

"Every single time."

She grew up /hearing/ about Chuuya, trying to /understand/ the man who had such an irrevocable impact on her father's life--

And now, through these letters, she feels like she /does/ know him.

She realizes that the love her father
held for him wasn't the act of a grieving man putting someone on a pedestal. That he wasn't making it into something more than it was, just because he was in /pain./

No.

The letters are /real./ The love between them was /deep/, equal, and so, /so/ much more than she had ever
realized.

It's a moment that makes you change your perspective. Re-evaluate the things that you thought were true...And Yuko realizes, her entire life, in a way, has been the epilogue of someone /else's/ story.

And now, she thinks--it's time that she started writing her own.
She sits under the tree in her front yard, watching her family mill about, her notebook propped up against her legs, a pen between her teeth.

Looking for the /right/ words, not the /witty/ ones.

And now, scrawled across the page, is a phrase she's heard /so/ many times in her
life—but now, they’ve taken on a whole new meaning.

Maybe, if she can learn how to understand them for /herself/, she can untangle the man who wrote them /first./

𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘳 𝘕𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨

And where better to start, than the beginning?
Over the course of a long life, Dazai has developed a healthy appreciation for /sleep./

Even now, his eyelids are squeezing tighter under the light, irritated by it, because he just wants to sleep a little longer.

God, he always wants to sleep just a /little longer./
There's a slight weight in his arms, warmth against the side of his neck, and he grunts softly, turning his chin, only to feel his cheek pressing against something warm, soft--

And even now, /familiar./

Finally, his eyes slide open, squinting as they adjust to the morning light
The bedroom is familiar, but alien at the same time.

He's never seen it before, but he knows it's /his/, that he /lives/ here. There's a stack of plants by the wall--a guitar leaning against a chair in the corner--paint splattered boots next to the dresser.

He feels the weight
of a wedding band on his finger, even though he hasn't worn one in /so/ many years.

And when his eyes turn /down/, he sees...

He sees a tangle of red curls, tousled with sleep, freckled skin, and--

And big, /bottomless/ blue eyes, staring up at him.

Pink lips quirk up into
a lopsided smile as Chuuya turns his head, his cheek resting just over Dazai's heart, listening to it beating steadily under his ear.

"Morning, sleepy."

Kind of hypocritical, when the redhead's voice sounds rough with sleep too, but--

Dazai doesn't /care./

For a moment, he
just /stares/, his eyes wide, taking him in. He waits for the room to disappear, he waits for the dream to dissolve--

But it /doesn't./

"...Chibi?" He whispers shakily, and Chuuya's smile widens as he presses closer, his arms tight around Osamu's waist.

"Yeah?"
Dazai's eyes are frozen on his face, trying to silently re-memorize as much as he can, because /god/, they were so young, and--

/Fuck/, he was /so/ beautiful. Dazai never forgot, but it's been so /long/, he--

"Am I dreaming?"

"..." Chuuya leans up on his elbows, and there's
a hint of sadness in his eyes, but--

/So/ much love.

Those eyes always loved him like /no one else./

"No," he lifts one hand up to his cheek, and Dazai leans into it, startled, but /starved/ for the warmth of it. "This is real, Osamu."

"..." He lifts one hand up to cover
Chuuya's, trembling as he squeezes it tight, and...

He feels a wedding band under his fingers, matching his own.

He sits up quickly, without thinking about it--and his muscles are young, and strong again, able to lift the redhead up into his arms without a struggle.

Chuuya
moves with him easily, arms sliding around his neck as he straddles his waist, and his boyfriend just stares up at him, his jaw slack, eyes filled with /tears/, and--

Chuuya's are /too./

"It was so /hard/," Dazai mutters, his arms tightening around the small of Chuuya's back as
he presses his face into the redhead's chest, more tears ripping through him as his shoulders start to shake, "Chuuya, it was /so hard./"

"..." Chuuya bites his lip, a few tears of his own sliding down his face as he holds him close, so /close/, burying his face in his hair.
"I know," he mutters, fingers sliding through the waves at the base of Dazai's skull, his other hand rubbing his back, "I was /so/ proud of you, Osamu."

That makes the brunette cry even /harder/, hugging Chuuya so hard that, in any other situation, it probably would have /hurt./
Because that's all he /wanted./

All he ever tried to /do/, was show everyone the person that Chuuya fell in love with. Not the man that he used to be, but the person the redhead /brought out of him./

Someone worth knowing.

Someone worth /loving./

"I was there," Chuuya
whispers hoarsely, kissing the side of his head, "you were right, baby, I was /always/ there."

Dazai knew.

He /knew./

"...Did you really throw a snowball at me?" He chokes out, and Chuuya manages a broken laugh, hugging him tighter.

"I did promise, right?"

"Yeah," Dazai
whispers hoarsely, “you did.”

He leans back, surging up in Chuuya’s arms, and—

His mouth feels like /home./

His arms feel /so/ safe.

And kissing him is the closest to heaven that Dazai has /ever/ been.

“I love you,” he mutters between kisses, repeating the words over and
over again.

I love you.

I love you.

/God/, I love you /so/ much.

So passionately, so frantically, the redhead barely manages to keep up under the frenzy of affection, one that he’s returning just as frantically, peppering Dazai’s face with kisses as soon as his lips are free.
“I missed you,” the redhead admits, his own voice wobbling with a long held pain, because—

No one ever realizes, just how much the /dead/ mourn the /living./

“I’m /here/,” Dazai murmurs, their foreheads leaning together, “I’m right here.”

His hands press against Dazai’s
cheeks, thumbs stroking away the tears there, and—

And he /is/ here.

He’s /finally/ here.

“...Your son was right, you know,” Chuuya mutters.

“What?”

They’re pressed so tightly together, Dazai has no idea where Chuuya ends, and he begins.

“There are so many different
versions of our lives, happening all around us, all the time,” he whispers.

Life doesn’t move in one steady direction. Life is a /kaleidoscope/ of technicolor, always moving, shifting, moments splitting apart before coming back together again.

“And in every single one of them,”
their noses bump together, and Chuuya isn’t crying because he’s /sad/, or because he’s hurting.

He’s crying because he’s /happy./ Crying because there’s /no room/ left in his heart to hold it in, because Dazai has occupied every bit of space inside of it,

“You’re always the
/best/ thing that ever happens to me.”

Even when it hurts. Even when they make mistakes. Even when their story ends /way/ too soon.

Dazai makes every chapter, every line—ever /moment/ worth it.

There’s more to see, now. There’s more to do. Other people are waiting, just
outside the bedroom door.

His father, his grandfather—the children that were never born, a smiling woman with Chuuya’s hair, who has been waiting /so/ long to meet him.

But for now, he’s /exactly/ where he wants to be—and he doesn’t want to let Chuuya /go/ until the ache in his
chest begins to /ease./

Then, they can walk out of here together, and Dazai can figure out the rest. He can find Mark, and tell him that Rory was /okay./ He can reunite with Shizuko, and show her that the children /never/ forgot her.

But this moment—this is just for /them./
And even if this moment lasts the length of a /lifetime/, that’s /fine./

Because Dazai has learned, over the years, how to /wait/, and—

The best dreams, in the end, are the ones you don’t have to wake up from.

“I love you, Osamu.”

And this time, Dazai /never does./
// END

Thanks for HANGING IN THERE I KNOW IT WAS A TOUGH RIDE

Reminder that this is the ALTERNATIVE ending, and that the Sequel (where they’re both ALIVE) is coming in April

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More from @cataclysmiceve1

1 Mar
the side of the fandom that is waiting on stormbringer translations vs the side of the fandom reading Twitter spoilers
someone: HE’S A ROBOT

me: oh wow

someone else: STFU THEYRE LYING

me: oh wow

another person: Dazai said something romantic—

me: oh wow

half of the fandom: SHUT UP it’s just SHIPPERS

me: oh wow

asagiri: SKK makes out

me: oh w—
The making out thing was A JOKE BTW
Read 4 tweets
1 Mar
Authors: I wrote an AU!

Most people: yay!! Thank u 🥺✨

🤡: that isn’t in the canon though :/

Authors: well.. yea... it’s... an alternative... universe

🤡: also it’s pretty OOC

Authors: the characters have completely different backgrounds, so...

🤡: lame :(

Everyone else:
Like I see it happen to pretty much every author I know (including me) and like...ya’ll realize it’s the online equivalent of knowing you don’t like cheesecake, eating someone’s homemade cheesecake, then spitting it out in their face and saying “I don’t like cheesecake”
Like, no one made you eat it Samantha, maybe just choke on it next time instead
Read 4 tweets
27 Feb
The one thing I think about with the wall-of-tags fic is the fact that it’s exposed how entitled we feel to services from a platform that operates as a non-profit

I don’t think that AO3 doesn’t want to make changes, I think they lack the financial and logistical means to do so
And I’m not saying that the platform doesn’t exist in a way that encourages harassment, because it does. We’ve all seen it. But I’m not sure if there’s an obligation to the user when they aren’t profiting off of the site itself. There isn’t a customer/client relationship
And I wish something could be done about it, I really do, because there are some serious flaws in the platform that could be fixed with better moderation and a more secure set up, but that would require them to hire programmers and moderators that they simply can’t afford
Read 7 tweets
27 Feb
Spoilers for the next could you be mine update without context:
Read 15 tweets
26 Feb
i think it's important to remember that "cis" should not be considered a default, and neither should heterosexuality.

when people call making a character who's gender identity and sexuality haven't been explicitly discussed LGBTQIA+ "bending the canon" that's pretty rough
like, unless the character has explicitly said, "this is my sexuality," or "these are my pronouns / how I identify," they could be anything. You don't know. So, you might see them as straight, or cis, but that isn't any more grounded in reality than someone else's interpretation.
like, i personally view Dazai as bisexual in the canon, even though it's never explicitly said one way or the other. And I prefer to view Chuuya as a genderqueer character. Other people don't, and that's fine, but presuming one is more valid than the other is not cool
Read 8 tweets
26 Feb
Now that I have awoken, this song is the inspiration behind the Sequel to everything or nothing, “Unconditional,” which is a much more HOPEFUL story lmao

The themes are similar to angels on the moon in the sense that it does focus on recovery, but it’s less about grief in this sense and more about trauma.

It picks up around six months after Chuuya’s surgery, and while Everything or Nothing and Angels on the Moon focused more on
Dazai’s emotional growth, Unconditional is going to be more even handed in the sense that you’re going to see a lot more of Chuuya’s growth as well.

But overall it’s a happy story and there’s going to be comedy, smut, and fluff to go with everything, and a happy ending!
Read 4 tweets

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