Dazai receives the court summons with growing confusion the more he is in contact with the summons itself. It has arrived in his mailbox late, in dilapidated condition, and also, with more detail about a crime he had-had-not-commit that he could understand.
The court summons says that he has been abusing a child under his care. A child by the name of Yumeno Kyusaku. Q.
Dazai calls up Ango for an explanation. Ango sends him a zip file, and Dazai frowns some more.
His taxes are immaculate, unimpeachable. They depict an Osamu Dazai that is a version of reality just sideways different from this one.
The tax files Ango sends him points out an adoption certificate for Q he has never seen before, as well as several more documents on Q as a smaller child than Dazai has ever known him as – of which Dazai does not recall forging. There are receipts and documents on the childhood of Q, as well as frequent hospital visits that indicate a turbulent childhood life.
Ango texts him to tell him that Q now has a restraining order on him, and also Dazai is further suspended by the court from ever adopting children. And the children he has adopted have now have their guardianship transferred to someone else.
Fukuzawa, with a gravity that confuses Dazai, tells him that he may have to divorce Yosano, were it not for how grossly unconventional divorce is.
Mori, with a jollity that Dazai is familiar with, informs him of his condolences, the troubling circumstances of family court, and that he hopes Q adjusts well to their new home without Dazai. Mori goads Dazai into coming into the mafia headquarters.
“Don’t you want to see your child? You have to see your child, you didn’t even see them in court, can you remember when’s the last time you saw them? Come on, Osamu, come on back and at least say good bye to Q. It’s only kind.”
Dazai doesn’t take the bait. He’s still trying to understand what all this means. He reads through the tax files, the receipts, the forged documents of a childhood he’s never experienced. He remembers crafting the story as a younger person, remembers the marriage certificate he made, the adoption certificates.
It’s different now, Dazai twirls his pen in consideration. It’s not the same.
It isn’t. Dazai remembers typing out the court transcripts for his divorce, the vows for his second wedding. He remembers writing out a new story. And it is different. This new family is a step closer to reality than the old one was.
The sudden…confiscation of Q feels odd. It is the taking away of something he has never had to begin with, and Dazai cannot piece together a timeline for this child he has never contemplated before.
It’s when Chuuya calls him in the middle of the night, harassed and hoarse, that reality tilts on its axis and it fits. “How do you hold a toddler?” Chuuya demands.
“With care,” Dazai answers. “And that’s assuming the toddler wants to be held.”
“It’s a toddler,” Dazai can hear Chuuya’s eyes rolling. “You want to be held, right?” Chuuya asks. And Dazai hears faint shrieking in answer, he puts the pen down.
“What are you doing?” Dazai asks, trying to keep the aggravated hiss out of his voice. “Why do you have Q?”
“We’ve been juggling Q around,” Chuuya answers. “Not an easy kid, that one.”
Dazai’s fist clenches at the idea of Mori anywhere near a small child, and when he speaks again, the tension drools itself out of his tongue. “Q has a restraining order against me.”
“I know, I filed it,” Chuuya admits. No shame there. “Now come over and help me put the kid to bed.” Dazai checks the time at the mention of bed. It’s one in the morning.
“I can’t,” Dazai grits out. “I would be arrested. Has Q slept in the day?”
“You would be arrested if someone reports you,” Chuuya deadpans. “And how would I know if Q has slept? I was busy!”
Dazai takes a while to process the unreality of all that is now. He thinks of Kunikida’s notebook, the making of a concrete reality from pages. He thinks of his taxes, and the half-reality in them. “Chuuya,” Dazai tries to be as patient as he can. “Chuuya, you cannot leave a small child alone in an empty apartment.”
“I can’t bring Q with me!” Chuuya defends.
Dazai takes deep breaths. “Where have you been juggling Q through?”
“The Akutagawa siblings, Hirotsu,” Chuuya answers. “Kouyou refuses to touch Q, and all of us agree that Mori should not be allowed near Q. We’re not sure about Kajii.”
“Not Kajii,” Dazai says immediately. “I’ll send you Yosano and Atsushi. Why does Q have a restraining order against me?”
“Because you have tortured Q and threatened to kill them?”
Dazai breathes. Feels the scratch of his bandages against his throat, his skin, and remembers that breathing-is-good, he-can-breathe. “Fair.”
For a moment, all is quiet except Q’s screams from the phone – Chuuya juggling the child literally, for lack of any other alternatives to tire the child out. “Q likes brown sugar,” Dazai says.
“What – oh that’s where all Demerara sugar is gone! You little shit –”
Dazai huffs a laugh at Chuuya swearing, the sound of it familiar enough to hurt. Q shrieks some more in delight, and Dazai assumes that Chuuya is tossing Q in the air even more violently than he had before.
“Q doesn’t take to a regular sleep schedule,” Dazai continues. “They can sleep anywhere, but they don’t like sleeping for extended periods of time. So they’ll sleep in intervals.”
“So you mean I have to keep track?”
“Sort of,” Dazai nods even though Chuuya can’t see it.
“Alright,” Chuuya hangs up.
Dazai does send Atsushi and Yosano to Chuuya, and does his paperwork out of nerves. Ranpo had made a face at him, but didn’t bother to comment. They come back the next day, 16 hours after Dazai sent them off.
They arrive with Chuuya, and Q somersaulting in the air behind them. Kunikida stares in bafflement, and then flushes angrily at Chuuya for having the audacity to be a mafia in his presence. Chuuya bares his teeth at Kunikida and growls.
“There, there. No need to bite, doggy,” Dazai says cheerily. He eyes Q, unsure, and doesn’t move until Chuuya gives him a nod. Dazai picks Q out of the air, hyperaware of how the ADA’s attention is on him.
Q whines, screams, fights. Kicks their feet out in aggravation and Dazai holds them through it nonetheless. He is cognizant of Chuuya watching him, and Dazai hopes he’s learning from the demonstration – this is how you hold a toddler.
Eventually, Q grows exhausted from fighting and lets No Longer Human lap over them in sweet calm. They falls asleep fist clenched knuckle white against Dazai’s coat, and Dazai takes the couch and reads while he waits it out.
Q sleeps a full 8 hours and Chuuya levitates him back to the mafia base. Yosano tells him later that Q refused to sleep, spooked by the new people. Dazai calls Chuuya, and after much bickering that turns into not-yelling and more veiled threats that grow increasingly more explicit until one of them decide the other is right, a routine is established.
Every day, before Chuuya goes off to work, he drops Q off at the Armed Detective Agency and either he comes back to pick Q up, or Akutagawa will. That one odd occasion, Fukuzawa drops Q off back at the Port Mafia base.
For a while, Q is wary and hissy at being put into Dazai’s hands. But more often than not, minutes after they are put into Dazai’s hold, they fall asleep. And Dazai falls into the habit of doing his paperwork diligently with Q dozing against him, lulled into concentration by the quiet rhythm of breathing.
When Q wakes after a few hours and is still vulnerable and blinking with open curiosity at the world with no hint of distrust or guard, Atsushi feeds them, learns the flavours they like. Sugar, cinnamon, tamagoyaki, tobiko. Q won’t eat ginger, but tolerates it if it’s pickled and vibrantly coloured.
It’s very Pavlovian, Dazai knows, but it’s easy. And Atsushi delights so much in getting Q to trust him little by little.
Q sleeps some more after eating. And wakes up to staring warily at the ADA from behind the safety of Dazai’s desk. They seem to have decided that while they despise Dazai, Dazai is a familiarity to them that they can comfortably be in proximity with, relative to the rest of the ADA.
Times like this is when Ranpo comes along and manages to half-coax, half-goad Q out to play, Fukuzawa supervises when he’s in the office. Q gets seduced easily with colourful things like glitter and marker and colouring pads. Dazai hasn’t known Q to shriek with the same shrill pleasure he’s heard the child do with Chuuya, but Ranpo comes closest when he introduces them to glow sticks and brightly coloured diodes.
Play tires Q out, but if Q isn’t asleep, Kunikida seats the child down and educates them with all the forcefulness of a natural disaster. Q is petulant through learning Kanji, and it seems to help that Kyouka struggles alongside them. By the end of the month, Q can write their own name. Kyusaku Yumeno.
Dazai takes a picture of Q’s achievement, grateful for the length of his arms as he catches a steady picture. Q naps soundly, half spilled across his lap. He sends the picture to Chuuya, and without thinking about it, adds the caption “proud of my kid”.
Oh, Q’s your kid now they’ve learned to read and write, I see how it is comes Chuuya’s reply. Dazai frowns at it, uncertain of what to make of that reply.
What do you mean?
Well, shitty mackerel Chuuya starts. You’ve made up the sweetest stories about you, me, and all the protégés kids, but what about the actual kid there? Is Q allowed to be your kid now that they’ve earned it?
Dazai would have called Chuuya and properly asked him what he’s talking about, but he doesn’t want to disturb Q. You put a restraining order on me for Q.
Q murmurs in their sleep and shifts a bit before settling again. Dazai smooths their hair down with the flat of his palm. Q’s soft hair catches slightly on the fibres of the bandage. I’m outside, come down, bring Q is Chuuya’s reply.
Dazai manoeuvres Q carefully into his arms. The child’s head crowds under his chin, the hollow of his neck, and Dazai loops Q’s legs in a lazy dangle around his waist as he leans the child against his side. Q murmurs something, and the hazy static of Dogra Magra hums against No Longer Human.
Chuuya is waiting at the back of the ADA offices, smoking a cigarette to kill time. He tosses it away when Dazai approaches him, he stares but doesn’t make any move to take Q from him. Dazai has the lingering suspicion that Chuuya doesn’t actually know how to hold anything, given For the Tainted Sorrow, much less how to hold a child. Chuuya is scared of holding Q.
“Get in,” Chuuya gets into the driver’s side, doesn’t bother to see if Dazai is following or not. Dazai considers it. Not ‘put Q in the back seat’, but ‘get in’. Dazai does get in, slipping curiously into the car.
“What’s going on?”
“Mori found out, threatened to report it,” Chuuya says as he starts driving. Q squirms some more, but settles eventually. Chuuya watches them out of the corner of his eyes. “So we’re getting out of Yokohama.”
“What,” if it were not for Q in his lap, Dazai would have reacted more. “We can’t – just – leave. Everything is here.”
Chuuya stares at him oddly. “Everything for me is already in this car,” Chuuya murmurs. “Get some rest, it’s a long drive.”
They drive north, and find out that Q doesn’t really like cold. They gets fussy about layers and needs them to be just right, but gets antsy after staying the same position for a long time.
They’ve managed the drive up to Ibaraki, but it’s going to get colder as they go. And Q dislikes the disruption to their routine, and nothing short of pulling over and letting them wander around the roads distracts the child into some semblance of being soothed.
Chuuya leans against the car, breathing out cigarette smoke and cold as he watches Dazai carry Q around his shoulders, pointing out stars and constellations. Q is proving to be a tactile child, not quite asking for physical contact, but clearly prefers it. Quiets easily to gentle touches.
Later when Q is asleep in a nest of blankets and coats, Dazai asks him again. “Why the restraining order?”
Why this? Why protect Q? Why give me Q?
Chuuya’s hands tighten a fraction on the steering wheel, leather creaking. He struggles to put to words what he was thinking when he wrote down a story for Q, his identification papers. Kyusaku Yumeno, he writes. But he’s thinking “Q” in the gentlest voice Dazai is capable of as he wakes the child up.
Born in Fukuoka, he writes. But he’s thinking of Q with his arms around that dreadful doll, Mori’s hand on his shoulder, and the other on Dazai’s. Parents were soldiers, he writes. But he’s thinking of the torture Dazai inflicts on Q, on Akutagawa, because Mori never really taught Dazai how to be nurturing.
Pulled out of school early, he writes. But he’s thinking of how – between them – Dazai can teach Q to read and write and learn. He’s wondering if Dazai would read to Q fairy tales, or just the nearest book he has, something philosophical and complex and not child-appropriate reading. He’s thinking what kind of parent Dazai would be, if he were given a child.
The half-god pulsing in his blood does not understand how Dazai hopes. The detailed descriptions of how Dazai wishes. The half-god in him thinks, if you want something, why not just take it?
If it doesn’t exist yet, why not just make it?
Chuuya doesn’t know how to put into words the unerring god-impulse of his blood – translated into action. He just asks, “so where do we go?”
Dazai stares at him strangely, before properly considering the question. Chuuya keeps driving. Q wakes up and fusses enough to merit a stop, and demands Chuuya play with them.
It’s after his ears are ringing with Q’s shrieks of delight and For the Tainted Sorrow is a rhythmic buzz across the surface of his skin, that Dazai answers him. He takes Q from Chuuya, holding the child with an ease that Chuuya can’t emulate. “Aomori.”
Dazai is blinking away something hazy and nostalgic, and Chuuya is exhausted from driving. They’ll probably have to stop at the next town for a full week to recover, but Dazai repeats what he says again. “Aomori.”
“There’s a Yokohama there.”
Chuuya rolls his eyes. “No.” Dazai huffs a laughter at his own joke and shifts Q slightly against himself, rocking the child a little. “There was a home there,” Dazai murmurs, more a whispered promise to Q than an answer to Chuuya.
“There’s a place called House of the Setting Sun,” Dazai says. “A child can grow up there. It’s in Kanagi.”
Chuuya considers the wedding registration form with Dazai’s details. Born June 19th, in Kanagi, Aomori Prefecture. A child can grow up there, he says. I grew up there as a child, he doesn’t say. I wish I grew up there, is what the papers mean.
Chuuya wants to say, Q can grow up there. We can raise Q there. We can make a home there.
Instead, he nods and gets into car, knowing Dazai will follow.