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Even if they manage to make it back to the Agency, they aren’t going to make it home alive. Kunikida is going to gut them. Sure, they’d just solved a case, but Atsushi is pretty sure that their unconventional methods and several-hour-long detour back to the office will never escape Kunikida’s partner-hardened eagle-eyed notice. On the other hand, Atsushi has never seen Dazai look so peaceful, sprawled out on the lush grass at the park. His eyes are closed and his face is tilted towards the late-afternoon sunlight. His breathing is slow and steady.

Atsushi bites at his lip. Surely a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt too much… Atsushi glances down at his phone apprehensively, dreading the call when Kunikida realises that they’re capital-L Late. Atsushi hopes that Dazai might wake up before then. (He knows that past experience should have taught him better than that.)

With a sigh, he turns his attention back to the inexplicable man beside him. If Atsushi is to be honest, it’s really quite rare to get an opportunity to study an unguarded Dazai up close like this, even if any such examination would probably lead to more questions than answers. Why the coat and meticulous bandages, even in the heat of the long summer? Why the weird darkness and ever-strange outlook on life? In some moments, when Dazai throws his head back and laughs and the corners of his eyes crease just so, Atsushi thinks that he might even seem at peace with the world. What made you the way that you are? What was your childhood like? Do you have any regrets? Did you ever pity yourself, Dazai-san?

Atsushi’s been staring at him, so he notices when Dazai’s forehead furrows neatly and his mouth moves. “Pity myself, huh?” Dazai murmurs, without opening his eyes. "Well, let’s see…"

Atsushi blanches when he realises what he must have spoken out loud. “I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean— That’s too personal, isn’t it.” At Dazai’s amused smile, Atsushi retracts his flustered hands and lets them fall to his sides, clenching awkwardly. "I didn’t mean to be—” 

He shuts up when Dazai hums thoughtfully, as though he hadn’t heard Atsushi’s apologies at all. “That’s a very good question, Atsushi-kun.” Dazai stretches out his arms and squints against the bright sunlight. Atsushi watches him apprehensively as he continues, a serious note in his voice, “On the night after they made me a mafia executive, I went to a basement bar and got hammered. It was my first time drinking and I can’t remember how much I had, but you could say that I was pitying myself pretty hard the morning after!”

Atsushi blinks at him. “Eh, I see,” he says.

“What about you, Atsushi-kun? Ever had any unspeakable escapades with your booze of choice?”

Atsushi warily shrinks back from Dazai’s sudden fever-eyed curiosity. “I’m still under the minimum drinking age, you know…”

“Details!” Dazai punctuates the word with an airy wave of his hand and a determined glint in his eye, turning away to the lapping waters of the bay. Atsushi releases a quiet breath and makes a mental note to be especially careful at the next Agency party. He’s about to broach the topic of maybe leaving right the hell now — if Dazai won’t, Atsushi will have to go back to the office by himself — when Dazai begins talking again.

“There was someone who did try to stop me that night, you know,” Dazai tells some faraway point near the horizon. “Some low-ranked mafioso who said it wasn’t a good idea to drink so much at once. I ended up at his place the next morning. He was a stranger then, but he made me porridge and sent me off with three sports drinks.” Dazai pauses then, face quite blank, soft light golden on his dark hair. “Some years later I went to another bar and got hammered again, but there wasn’t anyone there the next morning.”

There are a few smudges of white against the cornflower-blue sky, like remnants of a child's drawing. “But you still picked yourself up,” Atsushi says.

Dazai coughs out a startled laugh. “Yes,” he agrees, after a few moments. To Atsushi, he looks a little surprised, but it could have been a trick of the light. “And then I found myself a new job!” With that, Dazai jumps up energetically, grabbing his coat from the grass. Atsushi cautiously follows him up. “Do you think Kunikida-kun’s noticed by now that we aren’t back yet?”

Before Atsushi could speak, however, Dazai’s phone rings. Dazai extracts it from his coat pocket and answers it with a gleeful smile, even as he holds it away from his ear. Kunikida’s shrill voice cuts through the air.

“Dazai! What’s this complaint about stolen aircraft and illegal skywriting? And why aren’t you back yet? If you’ve been dragging Atsushi into your nonsense again…”

Dazai’s eyes sparkle and his muffled laugh carries, which only infuriates Kunikida further. Atsushi falls into step beside him as they begin the walk back to the Agency, under the lazy sun of the waning summer.