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nakajima atsushi and the ongoing struggle not to kill anyone

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By the time Atsushi realizes his apartment is more of a dormitory than an actual, professional, open-to-the-public-for-rent building, he’s already a full member of the agency and owns not only a futon but also more than one blanket. In this way he’s essentially hostaged himself; blankets and futons are deceptively hard to carry around a city, and he doesn’t want to go back to sleeping without them. 

 

Dazai and Kunikida are his next-door neighbors, which is probably why he took so long to notice. Kunikida is always at the Agency exactly when he thinks he should be, which is way earlier than Atsushi thinks anyone should be, and absolutely no-one is required to be. Dazai always leaves the apartment either three hours into his shift or about five hours before, or he doesn’t come home the night before so the whole thing is obsolete anyway. Additionally, Atsushi never bumps into either of them on his way to work or on his way back, because Dazai either leaves work early or doesn’t show up and Kunikida essentially sleeps there.

 

He finds out about the dorm thing when his microwave officially breaks. The door has been hanging onto the body like gums to a way-late baby tooth and Atsushi has needed to move it up and to the left when he ever wanted to close it, but the microwave itself still seemed to work until he tried to make eggs in it like Dazai suggested.

 

“Never take advice from him ever again,” Kunikida orders. “Use the stovetop in the kitchen and try not to burn down the building.”

 

“Uh, what kitchen?”

 

Apparently, the first floor has not only a kitchen, but also some sort of living room and a haunted television. Atsushi has come home from work every day tunnel-visioned with the mission to find his futon and his two extra blankets and cocoon himself until the sun filtering through his moth-food curtains (or nightmares) forced him awake and then tunnel-visioned himself to work so he could get it over with and get back to his cocoon. So he never noticed.

 

“You need to work on your observational skills. You’re in the Armed Detective Agency now and that requires at least some ability to figure things out on your own.” Kunikida then pauses to push up his glasses in a way that they flash to conceal his eyes. It is both survival instinct and a kind of Pavlovian response to the movement that makes Atsushi tune out the rest of the lecture, though it continues for about twenty minutes. 

 

Living in the Agency dorms is nothing like living in the orphanage. There are less people to share food with, and most of them are older than him instead of the other way around. This means that Atsushi gets to make food whenever he wants, but also that he gets bossed around by senior members. 

 

“Crab for breakfast!” Dazai declares, breaking into Atsushi’s room on a day when they’re both off. It was unlocked. Atsushi is coming to expect things like this. 

 

Atsushi has made Dazai crab for breakfast. Atsushi has made Dazai crab for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, and each time Dazai just ate it out of the can as he was cooking and took barely a bite out of the finished product. “I’m making chazuke.”

 

“Chazuke again?” Ranpo pouts from somewhere in the hallway. Atsushi can, at this point in knowing him, imagine his exact expression— not that it’s much different from his regular face. Ranpo is pretty much constantly either pouting or eating food. “I want pancakes.”

 

“Crab cakes!” Dazai cheers.

 

“I don’t even know how to make those! Also, I really doubt they have anything to do with pancakes at all!”

 

Ranpo pokes his head lazily into view. “But even you can make pancakes, surely?”

 

“Yeah, but...”

 

Atsushi makes them pancakes. Chocolate chip pancakes. Dazai doesn’t eat more than two bites, but still somehow manages to be shoveling food in his mouth the whole time. Ranpo eats his own and half of Atsushi’s, which sucks because Atsushi actually wanted to eat his. 

 

Kenji also shows up for pancake time, and Atsushi actually volunteers to make them because Kenji is probably the only one in the building who will thank him for it. 

 

“Can they look like cows?” Kenji asks with actual stars in his eyes. 

 

Atsushi was never very good at art. “I can try.” 

 

Kenji also asks for tomatoes instead of chocolate chips, and also for tea with nine small spoonfuls of sugar and whipped cream. And a bendy straw. 

 

At the end of the ordeal, Kenji beams at his plate and declares: “They look like cow-spots! My favorite!”

 

Atsushi groans and finally drinks his coffee, though when he developed a caffeine addiction he has no idea. Probably from Kunikida through osmosis. 

 

Naomi and Junichiro are the only Agency members that Atsushi for sure knows don’t live in the dorms. When Atsushi asked why, Kunikida broke his third pen of the morning (the first two going 1. when Dazai tried to drink Kunikida’s special calligraphy ink and 2. when Dazai recommended dick acupuncture as a method of increasing longevity), so Atsushi figures it’s better he doesn’t know the reason. 

 

“How’s hazing?” Naomi asks cheerfully. Atsushi jumps, kind of forgetting she was there when focusing on the stack of paperwork she was handing him. At least half of the stack has Dazai’s name printed on it. 

 

“Hazing..” Atsushi mumbles, soul ascending about four feet. “I’m being hazed…”

 

Naomi grabs Atsushi halfway to the angels and stuffs him back in the prison of his own body. “You can’t tell me you didn’t figure it out yet.”

 

Atsushi considers this: Dazai harasses him even when they are not physically in each other’s presence, Ranpo orders him around like a little errand boy, Kenji lulls him into a false sense of security by being a genuinely good person, and Yosano scares the living shit out of him. 

 

Atsushi considers Dazai’s treatment of Kunikida. Atsushi considers everyone’s treatment of Kunikida. 

 

“Does the hazing ever stop?”

 

“Aw, poor baby,” Naomi coos. “You can always move in next to me and Junichiro! We have neighbors right now, but they’re always gone within the month!”

 

“No thanks.”

 

+

 

When Atsushi discovers Kyouka’s moved in with him, his inventory is: blanket (2), futon (1), tea kettle (1), tea boxes (2), microwave (parts), outfit (1), and pillow (1). After the fact, she takes the futon and one of the blankets and also the pillow and Atsushi sleeps in the dark, cramped closet. 

 

He wakes up every morning thinking he’s still in the orphanage. He wakes up hearing the headmaster’s voice, or nothing at all, and the latter is worse. 

 

He wakes up smelling tea Kyouka made (and chazuke, eventually) and knows he’s in the first place that he’s ever owned, sharing it with the first person he ever really saved. 

 

Kyouka is the fanciest person Atsushi knows, and she must have some mafia money stashed away because, although she burns through all of his, he knows he didn’t have enough for all her food and those kimono he shares his closet space with. It might be simpler just to ask the president to just wire both of our checks to Kyouka’s account, really, it all goes to her anyway— not that he minds, but as much as Kyouka wants to leave the mafia behind she by no means intends to leave the luxuries too. 

 

“Where did we get the money for this?” Atsushi manages, though his mouth muscles are stiff under the ever-tightening face mask. 

 

Kyouka doesn’t look up from where she’s applying Doctor Yosano’s (quite impressive) nail art. “Ane-san says that there is always money for basic necessities.” 

 

Dazai nods, face covered in some moisturizing cream that Kyouka had to forcibly apply. “Ane-san is a very wise woman. When does your next care package come, again?”

 

Atsushi has been homeless before. Dazai saved him from literally starving to death. If someone gave him a tube of nice-smelling face goo he would’ve tried to eat it. 

 

He has this weird feeling that Dazai’s never been poor before. Odd, for a man that eats crab straight from the can and wears the same pair of clothes everyday and only showers twice a week if Kunikida even manages to catch him that many times. 

 

“What’s this?” Kunikida says, walking into the common room.

 

“Kyouka doesn’t want ugly coworkers!” Dazai enthuses. “We’re making her feel more at home.”

 

Atsushi squacks, which is a weird noise to come out of a tiger. Kunikida makes the same noise. 

 

Kyouka nods. “The Port Mafia was hell, but no one was unattractive. Except Kaiji, maybe. And Akutagawa.”

 

Kunikida chokes, and so does Atsushi at first, but it’s also actually a fair assessment. Kyouka probably knows best, anyway. 

 

“It’s the neck thing,” Atsushi agrees. “The neck thing makes it weird.”

 

“I know,” Dazai says, deeply serious like he never is ever. “If he went for a high collar, and maybe cut the weird white shit off his hair, he’d be much better off. But no, he’s got to go completely goth. It’s so fixable— he refuses to help himself.”

 

They take a second to imagine it. 

 

“Maybe glasses, too,” Yosano adds. “To keep the weird poet vibes.”

 

Atsushi and Dazai chorus “Yes!” and then no one ever speaks about it again. Coming to an agreement with Dazai is a little traumatizing every time it happens, so Atsushi appreciates it. 

 

It’s happening more and more nowadays. 

 

+

 

Living with Doctor Yosano is a lot like being held captive by a serial killer, except you’ve reached the point in Stockholm Syndrome where she can let you out every day and you’ll just come back.

 

“I’m thinking of having a yard sale,” Yosano says, coming into the kitchen where Atsushi is making blueberry pancakes for half of the agency. 

 

“What’s a yard sale?” Atsushi asks, but by the time he gets to yard everyone but Yosano is already gone. 

 

“Aw, you’ll figure it out,” she says, sitting down at Ranpo’s plate where the most heavily stacked and syruped pancakes find their home. She stabs Ranpo’s discarded fork directly into a blueberry and lets it bleed out, grinning like it’ll split her face wide open. “Come to my room! You can help me pick out what to sell.”

 

This is when Atsushi’s inner voice says: God, I wish I could say no. Atsushi’s inner voice is usually drowned out by his Headmaster hallucinations and the Tiger, so Atsushi’s less concerned with the fact that he has three voices in his head and more just happy to know that none of them have killed each other yet. 

 

Yosano lives on the same floor as Ranpo, though they both have their own rooms and several more separating them. Kunikida says this is because neither Yosano or Ranpo need to be watched, either because they’re not suicidal or because they’re not former mafia assassins. 

 

(Dazai covered his mouth with one hand and explained very loudly to Atsushi that it’s actually because no one could ever stand to live with either of them. Kunikida then grabbed that hand and used it to swing him into the nearest brick wall.)

 

When she opens the door, the first thing Atsushi thinks is wow, that’s kinda cluttered, and the second is holy shit, that’s a whole shelf full of human fingers. 

 

“Come on in!” Yosano says, smiling. The Tiger, in a rare moment of charity, says We can eat her before she eats us, don’t be a pussy— but even she doesn’t sound sure. 

 

He goes inside, all three voices a little perturbed. The bed is covered in ripped-out and balled-up pieces of notebook paper, with a somewhat equal amount of books tossed open on the bed and the floor. The sheets and carpet are covered in stains that Atsushi recognizes as blood of differing ages and the whole room is humid with the disgusting smell of preservation chemicals. 

 

Yosano’s shelves are covered in various jars, coffee cans, and take-out tupperwares with taped-on labels. One of the larger glass ones reads KUNIKIDA and is mostly full of left big toes. There’s an empty cylindrical container that still smells vaguely like soup labeled NAKAJIMA. 

 

Half of Yosano’s face is covered in shadows, probably because her curtains actually work. “Atsushi, babe, why are you shaking?”

 

“I- I need to go. Please.”

 

Clawed hands dig into Atsushi’s upper-arm. “But you promised to help, didn’t you?”  

 

Yosano’s yard sale turns out to involve a lot of weighing jars and taking pictures of them from different angles. Never the ones labeled with the names of Agency members, but the ones like RICH MEN and DOCTORS WHO THINK THEY'RE BETTER THAN ME. She then uploads the photos with starting bid prices to a website she calls “Maybe when you’re older, Atsushi,” and “Somewhere on the deep web.”

 

The small one labeled STUPID DUMBASS MAFIA SCIENTIST sells to Lemon_God667 for about 300 million yen, which is about 300 thousand bowls of chazuke. 

 

Atsushi’s inner voice says: Hey, we can heal too, let’s sell Atsushi jars! And Atsushi is in total agreement until the Tiger tells them she’ll let them die. 

 

The Tiger also wants to eat the FRESH— TO BE SORTED jar. The Tiger has absolutely zero brainpower spared for good ideas. 

 

+

 

The problem of working an office job (or a half-office, half-get-yourself-murdered job) is that if the secretaries don’t like you, you’re screwed. 

 

The problem of working a job where there are only about ten people there (especially when most of them live together) is that gossip spreads like mono on a soccer team. Atsushi and Kyouka are especially good examples of this, being that they: 1. are roommates, 2. hate all the same people, and 3. are so overprotective of each other that they function as siblings. They generally spend the few hours between work and sleep complaining about clients, Dazai, coworkers who aren’t Dazai, Akutagawa, and everything else ever.

 

Kyouka told Atsushi who was overheard by Haruno that Haruno’s cat creeps her out. Atsushi told Kyouka that was overheard by Haruno (and Naomi who she had quietly signaled over) that even the Tiger didn’t want to eat it, which is actually a fairly good signal that the cat is not to be trusted. The Tiger judges good character by wanting to consume it. 

 

Now Haruno and Naomi and Junichiro are pissed at the both of them, and although they haven’t seen him, the President can hardly be expected to side against both a cat and Haruno.

 

The rest of the Agency, not wanting to endanger themselves by getting involved in drama with the people who screen their phone calls and give them missions and reports, are ignoring the Atsushi-Kyouka alliance. Even Dazai is only bothering them 60% the amount that he usually does. 

 

Being Dazai’s favorite and easiest target, Atsushi can’t help but wonder who is picking up the slack for him. Dazai has bruises on his neck, so he assumes it’s been Kunikida, strangling him.

 

“Not Kunikida.” Kyouka denies. “Ane-san says he’s in the on-again phase.”

 

“On-again with who?”

 

They’re interrupted by Haruno carrying an extra-large stack of paperwork that is not only Atsushi and Dazai’s, but also Kyouka, Ranpo, Kenji, and Junichiro’s. Kunikida’s calendar marks today as the day before Deadline Day, where Yosano has drawn a little skull. 

 

Haruno drops it on Atsushi’s desk, causing both a large thud and several needles to come out of the stack, which means that Naomi asked Yosano for advice, pitting yet another coworker against them. Awesome.

 

“Your ability turns you into a tiger, right?” Haruno asks. Atsushi has only seen popular girls in the movies that Kyouka watches because the internet says fourteen year-olds need to, but right now Haruno looks exactly like the evil bitchy ones. 

 

Atsushi nods. The movies have taught him that popular girls have recorders on them at all times, specifically to frame their enemies by sharing their words out-of-context on their school’s loudspeaker. It’s best to keep his mouth closed at all times. 

 

Haruno groans and rolls her eyes. “ Ugh . You’re telling me I have to come in and see your stupid crooked bangs every damn day when I could be looking at a fucking cat right now?”

 

The neutral, allied, and enemy parties all straighten up in realization. 

 

Dazai materializes in front of him and leans in, wearing an expression not unlike the time when he ate those poison mushrooms. “Why is it that we haven’t seen your tiger form since your first couple days at the Agency, At-su-shi?” 

 

“Uh…” because she wants to eat you and I’m pretty sure she’s eaten people before too—  “I can't control it very well?” 

 

“But the President’s ability should help with that,” Ranpo points out, spinning on the most expensive chair in the office (Kyouka is plotting to steal it, but the odds of her succeeding are about the same as Kenji going through an emo phase— which Atsushi has already bet against Yosano on because never happening ). The shadows of the Agency members grow up the walls and form evil grins of their own, except for Kenji’s which just has a regular smile. Atsushi gulps.

 

Kunikida huffs. “The President’s ability is great, but we have better things to do than indulge in petty curiosities. All paperwork is due in two days at fourteen o’clock, and I’ll not have you embarrassing the agency with late work.”

 

Atsushi’s ready to jump into Kunikida’s excuse, but Kyouka, his rock, his compass, his safety blanket, meets his pleading gaze with a much cuter, much more effective one. “I’ve never seen you as a tiger.”

 

Atsushi’s done. His fate is decided. Even before the President comes out of his office and orders him to try “for the better of the Agency.”

 

He’s never done it consciously, so it takes a minute:

 

This is stupid, says the Tiger.

 

Yes, says Atsushi’s inner voice. But, like, I kinda do want to try. Without you killing anyone.

 

See, that’s the stupid part. You’re stupid as shit. If we were different people I would eat you first.

 

The promise of If this goes well, I can let you out more often! actually sells it for her, and so Atsushi loses his body to the Tiger.

 

“Aw, he’s so cute!” Naomi and Haruno say, at about the same time.

 

Yosano laughs horribly. “Pretty sure that’s a girl tiger.”

 

Dazai laughs louder and even more horribly than Yosano. 

 

The Tiger growls. Atsushi, whose mind-scape manifestation is standing as far away as possible from the Headmaster and the Vault Of Repressed Memories, winces.

 

Has he ever tried suicide-by-tiger? I would like to recommend suicide-by-tiger. Atsushi, when you get out, tell him how great suicide-by-tiger is.

 

It’s kind of hard to argue against eating people when the Tiger’s instincts overwhelm any human ones. But if Atsushi had to choose an Agency member to eat, hypothetically, Dazai would probably be second-to-last after Kyouka for very different reasons than Kyouka. 

 

He’d love to give Dazai the one thing he actually wants— which is, you know, death — but twenty-two year-old skinny guys who don’t shower and regularly try to drown themselves in the polluted Yokohama harbor aren’t exactly the kind of people he’s going after when he finally succumbs to cannibalism. The first person on his list is Kenji.

 

Grass-fed... GMO free… The Tiger is drooling. There’s something to that health craze shit, I’m telling you.

 

“Can I… pet you?” Kyouka asks, startling the Tiger from her visions of Kenji-stew. Kyouka uses a lot of fun-smelling perfumes and hair products, so it’s not that they think she’ll taste bad , but even the Tiger doesn’t want to eat their Agency-assigned little sister. 

 

Ugh, no way. The Tiger murmurs, but lets Kyouka scratch behind her ears. 

 

Kenji, who joined Kyouka the second she managed to touch the Tiger, pouts. “Why isn’t she purring? Does she not like being pet?” 

 

“Big cats don’t purr,” Kyouka says with the 100% certainty of a girl who spent some of her first days of freedom watching tiger documentaries. “I think that if she didn’t like it, we wouldn't have hands now.”

 

Kenji gapes, star-pupiled eyes wide. “Wow, Kyouka, you’re so smart!”

 

Hm…. The Tiger tilts her head to give the two access to neck-scritches. Free-range hands… home grown…

 

Atsushi doesn’t know why he doesn’t spend more time lazing around as a tiger. Human morals seem so pitiful in the face of fun tasty human meat and fun comfy petting. Then he casts his metaphysical gaze on the looming form of the headmaster and the Vault and remembers. 

 

The President squats in front of the Tiger, holding a dried-out jerky approximation of a fish. 

 

The Tiger stares.

 

The President waves the fish back and forth like a little bell. With the same expression he wears when declaring war on enemy organizations, he says: “Pspspspsp.”

 

The President is third-to-last on his PEOPLE I WANT TO EAT list because of his old, stringy meat. But the President is only about forty-five, so… 

 

He doesn’t smell THAT old, The Tiger pouts. Just a little bite?

 

Atsushi considers: This is true, and it’s not like he’ll be killing anyone…

 

Ranpo elbows Dazai who jumps forwards like a particularly upset toddler. “No fair! I wanna pet Atsushi too!”

 

Atsushi screams when Dazai’s touch cancels his ability and leaves him red-faced on the ground. His coworkers are all affecting different shades of disappointment, except for the President who is wearing the sad version of his singular expression. 

 

“Please don’t make me do that again,” Atsushi begs. 

 

“Aw, why not?” Ranpo asks, wearing pout number 7 and slouching over forwards. When Ranpo asks questions it really means he just wants you to admit the answer out loud, so Atsushi doesn’t give him the pleasure of vocalizing what they both already know:

 

We were JUST about to eat that guy, the Tiger complains. Ugh, I hate your friends. Tell Dazai about that suicide thing, yeah?

 

I HAVE HUMAN TASTEBUDS NOW!!! THAT IS NO LONGER APPEALING!!! DO YOU HEAR ME TIGER IM NOT GOING TO DO THAT STOP GROWLING DO YOU—

 

+

 

 

Chapter Text

+

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?”