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nakajima atsushi and the ongoing struggle not to kill anyone

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+

Lucy leans over the table, chest almost touching the wood, hand slithering up Atsushi’s arm. “Remember how they used to make you clean until you could see the bones on your fingers?”

Atsushi nods. “Ugh, yeah. I didn’t know about the Tiger then, but with my healing it would take forever until they saw the results they wanted.”

Kyouka grabs Lucy’s wrist and swiftly removes her hand from Atsushi’s person. “I had a similar punishment under Akutagawa. He would kill warehouses full of people, and leave me to clean up the remains. If my skin wasn’t raw, I was shirking my duties.”

“God, that guy’s the worst. Sorry you had to deal with that, Kyouka.”

“It’s fine now. You saved me.”

Atsushi blushes. “Ah— I—“

Lucy snatches Atsushi’s arm back. “Well I never knew my parents either , Atsushi. Honestly I think we’re better off.”

“Yeah…” Atsushi nods. “The headmaster used to say that compared to what my parents did to me, what the orphanage was doing didn't count as abuse. I think they might’ve…  given me the Tiger.”

“That might be true. As you know, my mother gave me my ability,” Kyouka says. “Demon Snow was meant to protect me so that she would not feel responsible for my death. Because of her selfish decision, I was made into a monster and abused every day by one. I would rather she have slit my throat to save me than prolong my life and let me live in torment.”

Kyouka flushes. “That is, until I started living in the light. Now I can save people instead of killing them. I think this is a life worth living.”

Atsushi lowers his head. “Yeah, I understand you completely. I still hear the headmaster telling me that my life is a burden, and that it would be a favor to everyone if I just let myself die. It’s probably true, but so long as I keep saving people, I think I can make up for the sin of existing.”

Lucy open her mouth, but then glances at the clock and growls. “My break is over, but this is not.”

As she walks off, Atsushi turns to Kyouka. “What was that about?”

Kyouka looks blankly smug as she drinks her tea specially made by anyone but Lucy. “We were comparing traumas. I have more in common with you, so I win.”

“What if you lost?”

Kyouka shrugs. “You live in her closet instead. Next week we’re comparing the people we hate most in Yokohama.”

Atsushi’s brain is, for the first time, blank. These women have managed to shut up him, the a Tiger, and his hallucinations. It’s insane.

“Don’t worry,” Kyouka assures him. “Lucy thinks you like Kenji, but I know you secretly want to eat him. You will never leave.”

“That sounds like a threat?”

“...”

“Kyouka?”

 

+

Atsushi rates this kidnapping a three out of five. They gave him a shower, and clothes nicer than anything he owns, and food nicer than anything he’s ever eaten, but the world isn’t ready for luxury kidnapping just yet. Sometimes you just need a throwback to your first, incredibly dangerous and uncomfortable kidnapping. At least then you know what to expect.

Ozaki Kouyou had her men grab them right from their window. Kyouka fought at first, recognized them, and then played dead.

“Oh no, you’ve got me.”

“Kyouka!”

“Atsushi too, what a shame.”

The man restraining Atsushi’s left arm leant in close to his ear. “Just go with it. Kouyou’s invoking visitation rights.” 

“Oh.” Atsushi went limp, then narrowed his eyes and started struggling again. “Wait, that still doesn’t make sense—“

Then his vision went black. He wakes up in a fancy room decorated with literal fucking swords and a note that reads: I will not see you in that mime costume. 

It takes a brave person to insult clothes Yosano picked out. Even braver to insult an outfit which is basically just Yosano’s everyday look but in pants form. Atsushi is not strong enough to challenge the person who wrote this note. He changes.

Which brings him to this: Sitting next to Kyouka across from Nakahara Chuuya who is sitting next to Ozaki Kouyou, all of them enjoying tea and wearing fancy traditional clothing. What the fuck. 

“How is the agency treating you?”

“Fine. I enjoy my life there. Dazai is annoying.”

Nakahara exhales with all the force of his hatred. “God, yes. I can’t fucking stand that guy.”

“Which is why he’s texting you, is it?”

“Eh—“ Nakahara flinches back, then searches frantically for his buzzing phone beneath the layers of fabric.

“You know how I feel about phones during mealtime.”

“Sorry, Ane-san,” Nakahara says, looking genuinely scolded.

Kyouka calls Kouyou Ane-san . Nakahara calls Kouyou Ane-san. 

Holy shit they’re all siblings. 

“— I talked with Mori, and you’re still on my insurance. I expect you to attend therapy sessions like normal.”

Kyouka wrinkles her nose, but nods. “I will do so.”

Atsushi blinks because that’s the only thing he remembers how to do. “You go to therapy?” 

Kouyou answers for her. “Yes. All Port Mafia members are given the option for therapy as covered by their medical insurance. In many cases, we determine it mandatory for their health. Kyouka is no longer a Port Mafia member, but I will not have her undoing all of her hard work by not showing up to her appointments.”

“Medical insurance…” Atsushi muses. “Where have I heard those words before…”

“The Agency doesn’t offer it because Doctor Yosano is mostly free,” Kyouka explains. “Also, Kunikida runs the finances.”

“Oh yeah, Kunikida got invited to be on extreme cheapskates once. I think Dazai was just fucking— messing with him though.”

Kouyou glares at him for the slip, but she’s never not glaring at him so it’s fine.

“He’s Dazai’s new partner, right? Should send that guy a fruit basket.”

“They’re roommates, too,” Atsushi adds. “I think Kunikida is going to kill himself before Dazai does, at this rate.”

Kyouka nods. “We’re directly subordinate to them. Dazai’s formally in charge of us, but he mostly just bullies Atsushi while Kunikida runs around trying to get everything organized.”

Atsushi’s head droops like a delicate, wilted flower. “That’s true…”

Chuuya snorts. “And the Agency doesn’t have therapy, huh?”— here Atsushi nods— “Come out drinking with me sometime, you’re gonna need it.”

“Don’t let that boy push you around,” Kouyou advises. It’s matronly to Kyouka and somehow insulting to Atsushi. “He used to be the leading cause of death among his men— he was also the leading cause of alcoholism, but I’d rather you pick the latter.”

Atsushi kind of wants to cry. “Good to know.”

“Now, lad. If you’re going to be living with my Kyouka, I expect a certain level of care be into your appearance—“

Atsushi leaves with an invite to next week’s tea party, a new outfit, a list of brand recommendations, and a guest pass to one of the Port Mafia’s bars.

Kyouka leaves with a prepaid credit card. And immediately orders a crepe machine way too big for their kitchen. They’re going to need a better apartment. 

 

+

“Hey, Kunikida?”

“Yes, Naomi?”

“If you wrote, like, butt warmer, on a person and activated your ability, would it work?”

Kunikida coughs very suddenly, temporarily unbalancing himself from his chair. Straightening himself out, voice strained, he responds: “If it worked, that would be murder . If I were to do that, I would compromise my ideals forever, and I would not have the right to my life as I promised to live it.”

Dazai turns his head from where he’s sticking Tanizaki next to Kenji on the wall. “You know, that sounds almost familiar. Vaguely.”

Naomi groans. “Kunikida, if you don’t turn Dazai into a butt warmer right now I am going to compromise the ideals of the whole office.”

Ranpo called sick to work today, and Yosano called “FINALLY AN AGENCY MEMBER IS SICK CAN I TORTURE HIM PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.” Used to workplace politics by now, Atsushi knows that they just skipped to watch gory crime shows together. 

Ranpo and Yosano are their own little clique, being the two most senior members. Atsushi would literally do anything to join them if it means getting warned when this kind of shit is about to happen. 

“Why are you doing this?” Atsushi asks in the low, grating whisper of a man who truly doesn’t want the answer. 

Dazai sniffles. He’s been doing alarming shit like that all day. When he came to work (two hours late, one hour early in Dazai Time) he wore a healthy glow on his cheeks. When he sat down, he wrote two of the three characters in his name on his reports (as opposed to the usual zero) before giving up. When Atsushi asked him how he was, he teared up. 

“He doesn’t ask stupid questions like that. If I was glueing him to a wall he’d just go with it. He’d complain of course, but that’s just the kind of dog he is, always barking.” Dazai sighs deeply, like a lead actress in an old romance.

From slightly higher and to the left of Dazai, Kyouka hums. “You’re high.”

Dazai sags. “I tried to get the same mushrooms as last time, but no, they’re seasonal! Do you know how many countries have ideal conditions for my mushrooms this season? Twenty-six. Do you know how many are exporting them? Zero. This is but a cheap imitation of the death I was seeking.”

“You should stop buying off of Kaiji.”

“No one else is as fun as him.”

Atsushi considers escape through eating a hole through the wall, but then the tiny hour-hand clicks into place on the wall and Kunikida closes his keyboard, standing with purpose.

Finally. Atsushi really needs to cash in that cat-given-favoritism he gets from Fukuzawa. Maybe then Ranpo would have to warn him about shit like this. 

+

Atsushi still barely knows what soukoku even is. Kyouka does, but she tells it like a tall tale, and it doesn’t sound halfway real. He could ask Dazai, but that’s likely to be just as much a lie. 

Dazai builds up this shin soukoku shit like it’s some kind of honor, and Atsushi is genuinely grateful to be considered strong by his mentor, but he knows Dazai well enough to know when he’s being manipulated (which is just to assume that it’s 100% of the time, but he’s laying it on thick with this one). 

Really, he’d rather be set up in a fun partnership by Kunikida. At least Kunikida would probably choose Kyouka, and would have his best interests at heart. Dazai is only Atsushi’s mentor in that he was the one who recruited him, Kunikida’s the one that’s been picking up for all of the quality of life shit Atsushi has to learn as well as combat training. 

Dazai probably wants shin soukoku so that his own team becomes obsolete. Atsushi’s not so eager to give him an excuse to retire. 

Akutagawa’s fucking vibrating though.

Like a little bunny, the Tiger growls. Eat him.

God, I wish. But if Atsushi kills the evil coat man then Atsushi will have to forfeit any worth left to his life. Maybe, if he’s lucky, Akutagawa will die very slowly and painfully somewhere far away from Yokohama. And he’ll be notified directly afterwards so he can take time off with Kyouka to celebrate.

“Out of the way, Mantiger,” Akutagawa warns, straining forwards. “I will prove to Dazai that I am strong enough to do this alone, doing it through you is actually preferable.”

“Yeah, like that’ll do anything. I’m an immortal tiger-thing,” Atsushi scoffs, holding on even though Akutagawa’s ribcage is just as sharp and pokey as the rest of him. “We can’t just go charging in. He told us to avoid detection.”

“Witnesses don’t matter if everyone who saw you is dead. That’s how soukoku operates.”

Akutagawa says soukoku like they’re some kind of boy band. Atsushi, who has supernatural hearing and was present during the short-lived mistake of bringing a karaoke machine into the agency dorms, would rather die than let Dazai anywhere near music again. So, no.

“Aren’t you obsessed with Dazai? Can’t we just take his orders and go on with it?”

“No. I need to prove to him that I’m better than you.”

“You live in a penthouse apartment and your neck-tissue is designer. You don’t need Dazai to tell you you’re better.”

Akutagawa wrenches almost out of his hold. “Don’t speak about him like that.”

What follows is a series of mistakes Atsushi made on purpose: holding on to Akutagawa requires him to dig his tiger-claws into his coat, provoking an already-agitated Rashomon which then skewers Atsushi in the stomach, which makes him cry out and close his fists tighter on instinct, which makes Akutagawa cry out and and—

Basically they get noticed by the guards and then have to bust into the enemy base by force. Without murder. Because Atsushi insists. 

They stop at Yosano’s office on the way back—or, Atsushi accidentally lets onto the state of his body over an Agency-secure kind while the Tiger is still pissed at him for not killing Akutagawa and Yosano, who stalks these lines for this reason, insists he come visit her. And Atsushi recognizes a perfect opportunity to torture Akutagawa, so he brings him along.

“The Port Mafia has far superior medical facilities—“

Kyouka interrupts him with the most expression she ever wears. “Why is he here?”

Atsushi smiles something tiger-like. “To see Doctor Yosano.”

Kyouka relaxes into her usual blankly smug expression. “I will help escort him.”

“I don’t need your traitor hands on me,” Akutagawa hisses. His coat does too, actually. 

“I insist.”

Atsushi goes first, and he can see the oddly pleased expression on Akutagawa’s face as Yosano allows him to watch (oddly, because seeing him pleased is a nightmare in itself), but Akutagawa’s own tortured screams are better revenge than anything the Tiger’s cooked up in the horrors of their shared mind. 

Dazai walks into the Agency later than usual and with his clothes slightly more messy than their already rumpled normal. “Hm. That sounds familiar.”

Then he casts his eyes on the two most junior members of the Agency, standing uncharacteristically close to Yosano’s office for anyone with any survival instincts. 

Kenji looks up too. “Wow, Atsushi, I didn’t know you could smile like that!”

Dazai wipes a tear that doesn’t exist but probably would if he bothered putting any effort into an act no one would buy. “This partnership is going even better than I expected!”

 

+

“Eating people isn’t murder. It’s more like… rehoming. I’m rehoming you in my stomach and you’re a part of me now. Yeah, that’s right.”

Kajii nods. This guy… this guy Atsushi likes. The rest of the Port Mafia are weird, but this guy gets it. “I agree! Another beer for the weretiger!”

Chuuya holds out a hand to stop the bartender. barman. bar something. This is Atsushi’s first time in a bar. “Cut him off. If he’s making sense to Kajii then he’s one drink away from losing his liver.”

Atsushi glares and tries to steal Chuuya’s drink instead. Except it smells terrible so he kind of just flinches away from it. “You’re one drink away from losing your liver.” Haha. That’ll tell him. 

“Yeah, well I’m not trying to eat people— Oh! Hey, Gin. Kajii, go fuck off, you’re in Gin’s seat.”

Gin sits down when Kajii abdicates, the bar guy immediately handing her an apple-juice on the rocks. Atsushi knows because he can smell it. Apple-juice was only for good kids at the orphanage, so Atsushi never had any. Gin must be a really good kid. 

Atsushi tells her so. Gin, with her mask down for easy apple-juice access, blushes. Then signals the bar guy for another apple-juice.

Gin gives Atsushi the apple-juice. Gin is Atsushi’s new favorite Port Mafia member. 

“I fuckign.. I fuck… No one’s ever given me apple-juice before…”

Chuuya shakes Atsushi by the shoulders. “Stop crying. Why the fuck do you have apple-juice trauma this is insane— THIS is why the Agency needs medical insurance. You and Kyouka should just join up with the Port Mafia. Again, I guess. Again and a half.”

Atsushi sniffles. “But murder . I’m against murder.”

Gin, in her beautiful sweet angel voice, says: “You can just eat people. That’s not murder.”

Atsushi, in an awesome impersonation of Kenji’s star-eyes, replies: “You’re right.”

“I— sure. That’s good. Join the Port Mafia and eat people. Awesome.” Chuuya raises his hand at Mr. Bar Dude. “Ai, I don’t want to remember tonight. Give me literally everything you have.”

Mr. Bar Dude Whose Name Is Ai nods. “Dazai Special it is.”

“WHY DID YOU NAME ANYTHING AFTER THAT BASTARD—“

Atsushi doesn’t know how much time passed between then and when Chuuya picked a fight with everyone in the bar and when they ended up at his apartment, but by then he’s got the worst headache in the world.

“Jus’— Jus’ kill me,” Atsushi whines, lying facedown somewhere next to Gin’s stomach. 

“No hard feelings, but I actually do want to murder someone right now.”

“Please.”

“If you’re gonna kill each other, do it in the bathtub,” Chuuya orders and it’s way too loud fuck you Nakahara— “If you stain my carpets my next rug is gonna be tiger-fur.”

Gin drags Atsushi to the giant bathroom and into the giant tub. They could probably fit like, three more people in there with them. 

“Wait, this is my only white shirt that doesn’t have blood on it—“ Atsushi labors through unbuttoning it and tossing it to the far corner of the bathroom. “Okay, you can kill me now.”

Gin raises her eyebrows at Atsushi’s obviously rocking bod. “You need to eat more.”

Atsushi rolls his eyes, which, ow. This headache is the worst. “You can feel your brother’s ribs through Rashomon, start there maybe.”

Gin shrugs, says “Fair,” and then stabs deep into Atsushi’s throat. And then repeatedly stabs everywhere else too. 

Chuuya finds them in the morning after he almost throws up but doesn’t, thankfully. Gin is in the bathtub leaning against a giant white tiger, who is licking up the bloodstains that cover the tub and the walls. 

“Wait, is that Atsushi? Eating his own blood?”

The Tiger scoffs. No, this is ME, eating my weakling jailor’s blood. There’s a difference. 

Gin nods. 

Chuuya groans. “Ugh. What the fuck do you even feed a tiger? Tell him to change back so we can eat and get to work on time.”

Atsushi gets Gin’s phone number (“Thanks for letting me stab you, let’s talk more.”) and Chuuya’s (“Next time we’re going back to Gin’s. Also, you’re cleaning up the bathroom.”) and heads to work only kind of late.

Yosano sees him and grins. “Is that blood on your pants?”

“Yeah, but I healed, so it’s fine.” Atsushi explains, subtly putting distance between them. “Apparently getting killed is a hangover cure.”

Dazai whines, flopping over on his desk. “Lucky , I’ve always wanted to try that!”

Atsushi blinks. Looks to Dazai. Looks to the clock. “How  are you here before me? You’re never here.”

Dazai smiles, which is always a bad sign, and sidles up to Atsushi’s left. “I heard you went drinking with the hatrack! You need to tell me all about it!”

Atsushi feels kind of threatened. No talking about going to Chuuya’s apartment then. “I. I don’t remember most of it, to be honest. I think I might’ve made friends with that lemon guy. Oh, and Gin.”

“Ew.” Yosano shivers. “That dude’s gross. He keeps buying his toes back from me like he can reattach them or something.”

Kyouka squints. “Why do you have his toes in the first place?”

Yosano’s teeth flash with the power of a thousand tiny knives— which coincidentally was her last online purchase, delivered to the front steps of the dorms. “Would you like to see them?”

“No, thank you.”

“Really , it’s not a problem—“

“No. Please.”

 

+

Akutagawa finds him in the rubble. Atsushi wasn’t waiting for him, but he wasn’t going to leave without seeing him either. 

“Weretiger—“

“Atsushi.”

Akutagawa fixes him with his dead eyes and nods so minutely that if Atsushi was anyone else he wouldn’t have seen it. “Nakajima . You’ve killed before.”

Atsushi winces. Akutagawa lifts his head, satisfied. “I suppose you can stop preaching nonviolence, now that the truth is out.”

Here’s the problem: Akutagawa and Atsushi have been at their game for long enough that they’ve established rules. Akutagawa needs to be aggressive and unhelpful, and Atsushi needs to be defensive and restraining. This way Akutagawa can feel like he’s done a good job being a ruthless mafia executive and Atsushi can feel like he’s doing his part as a good citizen to keep him in check.

But. That’s really not who they are. 

Atsushi has a Tiger in his head that’s spent his whole life protecting him, healing him, and encouraging him to kill rather than let anyone hurt him again. Atsushi’s been told over and over again that his life is useless, he’s been tortured and abused and traumatized. Shibusawa isn’t the only adult he’s had to kill, he’s just the only one to come back. 

Akutagawa has most of that, sure, but he also has a sister who loves him. He has mandatory therapy sessions to try and help what Dazai made him into. He gets his clothes dry-cleaned. He goes shopping with his sister and with Chuuya. He’s a good executive, his subordinates respect him, and he’s a model employee. Sometimes Gin texts Atsushi about how great of a guy he is when he’s not reacting to any mention of Dazai. Or killing people. The only real fucked up thing Akutagawa did besides mass-murder was use Dazai’s training methods on Kyouka— something Atsushi will never forgive him for, but that’s almostnotreally Dazai’s fault too. 

Seeing the scars Shibusawa wore, fighting together with their secrets out in the open— it has consequences. 

Atsushi looks at Akutagawa— who is too tired to try to look mad, who is for once staring at him like he’s seeing him and not Dazai— and wonders when they switched places. 

Atsushi looks down at the torn-apart pavement. “I don’t want to kill anymore.”

It’s not true. On a primal level, Atsushi likes killing. He’s not a creature made for pacifism, even without the Tiger. When someone can't hurt him anymore, that’s good. When their blood is on his teeth, he smiles to display it. The cage in the orphanage used to be just another baseless punishment, until Atsushi gave them the monster it was built to contain. But a child who doesn’t remember when his first kill was? A child who never bothered to count? What reason is there for the world to have a child like that? Why should Atsushi stick around if his only purpose is to hurt other people? 

If Atsushi saves people, that means he’s needed. That means they wouldn’t have survived without him. That means the world owes him the value of those lives. It makes up for letting a monster like him keep breathing. 

“It doesn’t matter what you want,” Akutagawa says. “It’s what you’re good for.”

Kyouka comes up behind Akutagawa and, with a suspicious glance to her former tormenter, makes her way to Atsushi’s side.

Kyouka holds up her phone to show him a text, but Atsushi’s eyes can’t focus enough to read it. “Yosano’s coming to get us, she stole a car.” 

Yosano tortures people for fun. Ranpo gets excited when people die. Kenji has no problem breaking people’s insides into slushies. Tanizaki jumps way too readily at every opportunity to kill someone for his sister. Dazai doesn’t care who lives or dies and manipulates the only people he does care about with that in mind. Kyouka was forced to kill people for a living and doesn’t denounce her family for doing the same. 

The Agency is made up of a bunch of horror stories waiting to happen, controlled by Kunikida and the president. Atsushi can’t condemn himself without condemning them. 

Atsushi sighs. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go home.”

 

Chuuya doesn’t show up to the next installment of Atsushi vs. Alcohol, but that’s alright because Gin is there and she’s ten times as fun.

They end up leaving the bar early, because Ai’s decided to cut them off at three beers when Chuuya’s not around to supervise. This doesn’t mean they’re really any less drunk, though. Gin is only a little bit less of a lightweight than Atsushi, and Atsushi keeps accidentally walking off of the sidewalk and onto the road before Gin can pull him back.

Atsushi’s new bright idea is this: “We should— we should go to Chuuya’s. Chuuya will give us drinks.”

Gin’s totally on board with this, but she’s not drunk enough to be talkative yet so she just nods. Atsushi leans into her and closes his eyes. “Gin, you’re my best friend. Outside of Kyouka. Kyouka is my very best friend forever . But you’re close.”

Gin nods again. Atsushi knows this means Yes, you’re my best friend too. They text like, all the time. Gin is actually really talkative in text. She says she’s just insecure about her voice, because it ruins her image as a hired killer. Atsushi really likes her voice, but it does ruin the look a little. He understands.

They manage to get to Chuuya’s half-collapsed on top of each other. When the elevator door opens onto Chuuya’s suite they kind of flop over right there. Their heads manage to hit the couch though.

Chuuya’s holding two glasses of wine. He’s dressed up even more than usual, and his hair is down. It’s a good look for him. “What the hell are you two doing here?” 

Gin points her knife at him and demands him to “give us the drinks” at the same time that Atsushi tells him he “looks nice today.”

Gin frowns at him. “Atsushi, don’t play good cop. There are no good cops.”

“Oh, right.” Atsushi turns back to Chuuya. “Sorry, you look terrible. Give us alcohol or die.”

“Ai cut you off.” Chuuya would make a good detective, with that kind of brain. He sighs. “What makes you think that I would give you more. I specifically told you not to come back to my place.”

Atsushi pushes himself up some, but with the way they’re piled together he kind of smushes the side of Gin’s boob. Gin stabs him in the arm and he moves with the knife still in it. “But you’re the biggest alcoholic we know! You should give us some!”

“No way, go home.”

“You’re mean. You're a giant meanie. I hate you.”

Gin rips her knife out, which hurts a lot more than the stabbing because Atsushi yells this time. “Seconded.”

Dazai walks into the living room/parlor thing Chuuya has going on and takes one of the wine glasses. “Oh? What’s this? You’re bullying the children?”

Atsushi is already kind of tired of holding a hand to the stab wound. Alcohol is a blood thinner, so maybe he’ll bleed out fast and the Tiger will prioritize the injury and heal him. He lets go to wave: “Hi, Dazai.”

Dazai waves back, and by his smile he seems genuinely amused. It’s a nice look on him, he’s rarely ever genuinely anything. “Hi, Atsushi. Was Chuuya being mean to you?”

Atsushi pouts. “Yes . You should make him give us booze.”

“He skipped drinking with us,” Gin adds. “It’s only fair.”

“Of course Chuuya skipped!” Dazai leaves forwards, putting a hand between his mouth and Chuuya like it’s a secret, but he just talks normally. “It’s date night!”

Chuuya blushes. “No! You’re just breaking in and stealing my food again. A planned break-in with food stealing by candlelight. Yeah.”

“Makes sense,” Atsushi agrees. More than date night anyway. “It’s good that Dazai’s eating, I was starting to get worried about him.”

“I—“ Dazai stares blankly. Not like Kyouka, because Kyouka just can’t really move her face any other way, but like Atsushi does whenever Rampo opens his mouth. “You were worried?”

“You’re like… the number first most worried about Agency member. But you’re also the number first most difficult, so it’s hard to check up on you ‘cause you’re always glueing us to random shit. You look really good now, though! Like, actually happy. And you’re less pasty and skinny. It’s awesome.”

Gin pokes Atsushi in the knife wound. “You forgot the word one.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

The only thing about Dazai that’s moving is the wine rippling in his glass. The rest of him is shock-still. Atsushi figures it’s still his turn to talk, so he talks to Chuuya instead.

“Thanks for letting Dazai break in to steal your food and booze. You’re a really good boyfriend.”

Chuuya sets down his wine glass. “Get the fuck out before I kill you well enough that you stay dead.”

Atsushi and Gin get the fuck out.

They resume the weird leaning that got them to Chuuya’s, except this time heading west and trailing Atsushi’s blood behind them. 

“I live…” Gin points vaguely to one fancy apartment building, but her aim is off so it could also be the one poking out three blocks behind it. “There . My brother’s legal. I will make him buy us booze.”

“Your brother hates me.”

Gin shakes her head. Atsushi can’t see it, but since her head is pressing against his it kind of hurts. “I have a plan.”

Akutagawa, coming in from the front door dripping with other people’s blood, stares horrified at the sight that awaits him. “Why is the weretiger in our apartment.”

“Not the weretiger,” Gin says. “This is my new cat… Catsushi. Sushi. My new cat Sushi.”

Nah… the Tiger says, yawning. S’ Byakko… 

Akutagawa’s eyes widen even further as they track the trail of blood that leads from the tiger on the couch to the slightly-ajar bathroom door, where awaits him something out of a saw movie. Gin got creative this time, since it’s her house and where all of her torture supplies are. There’s a certain threshold where, even slow from drunkenness, the Tiger will recognize an injury as fatal and start to heal it. That threshold lies somewhere between the handsaw and the tweezers. “Is that blood?” 

Gin sticks her tongue out and points at where Rashomon is shaking itself out like a dog. “Is that blood?”

Akutagawa coughs. “I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“I don’t appreciate the interrogation,” Gin yawns. “You should go buy me alcohol to make up for it.”

“Absolutely not. Go to bed.”

Akutagawa drags Gin off of Atsushi’s tiger form, which causes him to growl because fuck that Gin was warm. 

Post-Shibusawa, Atsushi and the Tiger are much more… combined. This means that the Tiger still has her own voice, and can still take over when she needs to, but a lot of the control is moving into Atsushi’s hands. Atsushi could probably go a week in his tiger form without eating anyone. If he doesn’t go near Kenji at all during that week. 

Akutagawa manages to get Gin into bed with a complicated maneuver involving using Rashomon to lift her, keep distance between them, and create a shield that prevents her throwing knives from hitting him. He carries her down a red-painted hallway and shoves her into a room with a KEEP OUT label like a middle school boy. He locks her bedroom door by using Rashomon to move the furniture in front of it, barricading her inside.

“Now,” Akutagawa says with all the regality of a twelve year-old trying to be cool. “It would be in your best interest to leave, Weretiger.”

Akutagawa stares at Atsushi. Atsushi stares back. 

Akutagawa sighs and points at the carpet. “Fine, if you’re going to be a big dumb animal, you can sleep on the floor.”

Atsushi stares some more. 

Rashomon’s arms come up tipped with drills as if to attack, but then his eyes fall down to his watch— a fucking Rolex. And he’s jealous of Atsushi— and he growls. He turns away without a word, heading to an undecorated door closer to the beginning of the hallway. 

The room itself kind of reminds Atsushi of a bad drawing. Like, the kind Kenji does on the back of those little coloring sheets they give to kids at restaurants when he only has two crayons and one of them is just the nub. The mirror looks like it came stylistically broken, but it was installed on a black-painted vanity with twisting vines carved into the wood to make it look like it grew that way. The rest of his furniture (nightstand, bed) is done in the same style. His bed is a black four-poster with a red canopy and it’s fucking huge. The walls are maroon and covered in weird monochrome sculptures. They kind of look like Rashomon if Rashomon tied itself into several really sharp knots.  

Also, Atsushi is literally standing on a tiger-fur rug. 

“What the— When did you get in here, Weretiger. Get out.”

Atsushi shifts back, blue light flashing against mirror and making Akutagawa squints. When he comes out of it, he’s shirtless and his pants are ripped up to the knees. He’s also holding the tiger rug to his chest, pouting.

Akutagawa jumps. “Put some clothes on, you ingrate!” Then he pauses. “Why were you shirtless with my sister?”

“I only have one good shirt, I didn’t want to get it messed up when she stabbed me,” Atsushi says. “Now, I get that you hate me, but contributing to the poaching of white tigers? An endangered species?”

“I’m a mafia executive. I’ve long since cast aside ridiculous grievances like that.”

Atsushi checks under the fur and his shoulders relax. “Oh, good— the tag says it’s fake.”

Akutagawa huffs. “It’s a placeholder, until i can skin you.”

“You probably like, could— but I’d just grow another one.”

Akutagawa stares again. “It’s five in the morning and I have to leave for work at nine. Get the fuck out of my room.”

Yeah, and Atsushi would love to do that, but that bed looks awesome. Also, he likes annoying Akutagawa, so—

“You turned into a tiger again.”

Atsushi growls pleasantly and stretches out on the floor like the rug.

Akutagawa’s shoulders sag. “I just— fine. Sleep there. If you’re still there in the morning I will kill you so many times it will finally stick.” 

So like, it’s not that Atsushi thought Akutagawa couldn’t take his coat off, but that’s exactly what he thought and watching him peel the blood-sticky Rashomon off of him is a bit like watching him peel his skin off. It’s horrifying. The intense stare he’s leveling at Akutagawa means Atsushi has to notice his scars, because there are so many of them. There are also ones that are definitely from him, claw marks and bullet holes making his body look like an overused tic-tac-toe board. 

Atsushi likes seeing his scars on Akutagawa. It’s proof that he can hurt him, proof that for all Akutagawa is feared for his power Atsushi is still his equal. It’s a tiger instinct, probably. He hopes. 

Akutagawa crawls into bed. Atsushi waits until his breathing becomes steady, and then flops on top of him and goes to bed. 

Apparently, Akutagawa isn’t a morning person. Gin is though. 

“HOLY SHIT ATSUSHI WHY ARE YOU SHIRTLESS IN BED WITH MY BROTHER?”