The day Dazai leaves the Port Mafia is a dreary one. The sky runs with rain, like all the tears are being wrung out of the puffy cumulonimbus clouds above him, and the sunlight is no more than a gray haze settled over every blade of grass and paved inch of street. He leaves with nothing but his cell phone in his pocket and his pistol in its holster. The hotel he stays at is on the other side of town, room booked day by day until he can find somewhere else to lay low.
He cuts his ties quite neatly, snips the threads of them one by one with the sharp metal scissors of distance, and does his research and planning after he makes his move, unusual as it is for him. And impulsive or not, it’s the most genuine decision he’s ever made in his life— one driven by grief and anger, a bright blur of intense, almost surreal emotion.
Chuuya is still in France when Dazai calls him.
It’s 3 AM in the morning, and he’s been staring up at the ceiling of the apartment he’s moved out to, speckled with crumbly off-white paint cast in gray-blue shadow. He talked to Taneda of the Special Abilities Division just two days ago and moved out of Yokohama as suggested, paying the deposit on and renting out a cramped unit in Kawasaki despite the short notice. He has a futon and a rice cooker, boxed curry on the counter and canned beer in the small fridge, and a kotatsu to be delivered next week.
Chuuya is still in Lyon, where he’s been for the last three weeks and will remain to be for two more. He’s gotten called away on foreign trips so often in this past year that Dazai has barely had time to see him. They spent a week together at a time, only for longer when Mori needed Double Black for some organization toppling mission or the other. The time Chuuya and he shared was usually taken up by emptying out the wine in the other’s new cellar since he’d moved out from Kouyou’s, and by playing video games or reading books together. Dazai would lay on his stomach on the plush rug, decorative sofa pillow propping his arms up and leaning over a well-worn novel while Chuuya would be splayed out on the couch above him, overfilled cup of red in hand and muttering lines of poetry over and over under his breath.
As quiet as those moments were, narrowed down points of attention to the small space of one room, to the acute angles of folds shifting on Chuuya’s jacket as he moved or on the hush of his murmuring breath, they weren’t the same as before these missions started happening.
Chuuya didn’t read over his shoulder anymore, and Dazai didn’t fall back onto the other’s feet; it was like there was the thin skin of surface tension between them that couldn’t be broken after months forgetting what the other’s voices even sounded like. The only points of contact were the moments after corruption was used. He undid the ghastly spell and cushioned Chuuya’s head until he woke, or dragged him back to the waiting transport with arms wrapped around torso.
It’s not something he thought often of, though. It’s not that Dazai didn’t miss the casual touches in his life, since he practically grew up with Chuuya, but something about the careful distance that kept between them was comforting. It’s hard for a hand on your arm not to scald when it’s been so long since the last one, after all.
Chuuya’s still abroad and he’s replaced his own phone with a burner and an international SIM, so Dazai calls his personal one and lets it run to voice mail.
“Hey, half-pint. Don’t call me when you get back, but I thought you should hear this from me instead of Mori: I left. Completely, so don’t try anything. Mori’s let me go for now and I don’t want you to make it worse. I don’t know if we’ll see each other again, so I left you a little parting gift! Hint: check your car.”
The phone beeps when Dazai ends the voicemail, and he can’t keep the corners of his mouth from rising slightly. Said parting gift is a bomb left under the hood of Chuuya’s sedan, one they’d deactivated four months ago from the car that came to pick them up from some reconnaissance mission. Chuuya had tried to disable it for a solid two hours on his own before Dazai stepped in and finicked around with it for 14 minutes and 37 seconds (timed, courtesy of Chuuya’s phone) and done the deed instead.
Chuuya had been fuming at the time, foot stomping on the pavement hard enough to crack it and with steam practically shooting from his ears like some sort of animated character, and Dazai had laughed the hardest he had in recent memory at the expression and actions.
Chuuya would probably be fuming once more when he came back only to find the bomb again. A gift that’s really an exercise in patience and one that failing means a loss of car— and had it been anyone else but Chuuya with his impenetrable gravity barrier, a loss of limbs too.
Dazai tosses his phone aside and grabs his laptop. It’s new and cheaper than his old one, bought with the money he kept in his second bank account, personal and unrelated to the Port Mafia. His original account has yet to frozen, though he doesn’t think on it too much or take the bait of using it. It seems far too dangerous when he’s still unsure if Mori wants him to be gone like this, to drive him away due to fears of Dazai taking over as the next successor— completely unfounded fears at that, because Dazai can barely take care of himself most days, much less a criminal empire.
It’s a bit difficult to head a Mafia when the slowest of your time is spent burrowed in blankets and grief.
Chuuya is still miles and miles away across an ocean, and Dazai spends the rest of the night watching mindless foreign dramas until he falls asleep, just as the sun rises yet again.
Chuuya calls him back two weeks later, right when his flight would’ve landed. Dazai doesn’t pick up, of course, but hearing the voicemail as it plays out hurts. Something about the sound of his friend’s voice when everything familiar to him has already been taken away in the span of a month makes his chest ache like someones injected his heart with poison.
“What the fuck are you talking about,” Chuuya says, sans greeting. “You wouldn’t do shit, call me back when you get this or come over, we’re talking about your shitty idea of a joke.”
It’s another three hours before Dazai gets the second message.
“I heard about what happened,” Chuuya starts, tone steady and grim. “About Oda Sakunosuke. Sorry. He didn’t deserve it.” There’s a breath that rattles the other end of the line. “Call me back, whatever happened we can work it out, alright? I’ll help.”
Dazai stares at his phone after that, shiny new and the same gray as his gun, asking if he wants to replay the message, and wills himself not to think about the event again. He’s decided now that he’s not going to trap himself in a cycle of bereavement when Oda told him specifically to go, be productive, do something. Maybe repressing these feelings isn’t healthy, but he’s been doing that for most things in life and he’s managed so far.
As barely as the managing was, until now.
The third voicemail comes the next day, while Dazai’s watching late-night television and having one of the popsicles from the pack he got from the nearby convenience store. This one is orange flavored, but it tastes more like too-sweet candy than anything citrusy.
“I’m going to kill you !” Chuuya yells into the receiver, and Dazai has to hold it away from his ear as he inadvertently smiles. “What the fuck is wrong with you, I can’t even get this stupid car running because I had to check it all over to find whatever you did to it and this is your shitty excuse for a parting gift? You’re such a little bitch , I’m going to actually kick your ass when we see each other again!”
The fourth voicemail is just under an hour after that. “What the fuck,” Chuuya screams. There’s a rushing in the background that Dazai knows from experience is the tinny roar of an ongoing fire heard through a phone. “I hate you so much, you piece of shit— I liked that car, you bastard! Why would you even do this, you’re so annoying, pick this fucking phone up right now I know you’re getting these! Just fucking answer me you asshole!”
Dazai doesn’t pick up, not this one or the next one or the rest of the rolling list of voicemails that flood his phone for the next week. Chuuya is, expectedly, incandescently angry at him. Dazai wants to call back and respond to what he’s saying, wants to say ‘hey, no , don’t throw away Kitchen you uncultured swine, that book slaps,’ or ‘fine take my hoodies all you want but don’t overwrite my save file on Metal Gear, you don’t even know how to play,’ or ‘sorry for leaving, I promise I really did think of you as a friend, and I did care about you’.
He can’t though, because he’s on the run from one of the biggest organized crime syndicates in Japan and just barely outside its radius of control. And because he wouldn’t know how to face Chuuya about the other things: Talking about Oda would just tear his heart open all over again, and talking about Ango? He can’t even begin to think about him without feeling angry tears forming in his eyes.
Dazai’s never been much of a crier, hasn’t done so outside of stray, trickling drops at broken limbs or gouged sides in years, but this? It’s impossible to convey the vastness of his feelings any other way. He hates the automatic response, but he can’t do anything to control it other than repress it.
So repress he does. He stays up at all hours of the night watching midnight blocks of talk shows and 2 AM runs of anime. The insomnia is so much worse than it’d been before, but considering he doesn’t have a job now and spends even his best days lazing around doing nothing, it’s not the worst problem to have.
It’s not like he has friends right now, so he doesn’t have anyone to go out with, but sometimes he’ll walk down crowded pathways and gaze at storefronts just for the hell of it. Listening in on strangers’ conversations and people-watching turns out to be pretty relaxing as well, which he’d never expected before.
And something he never could’ve guessed: he goes and visits Heigenji Temple every week. It’s not that he’s devout, since he’s never thought much of the ideas of higher beings nor spared spirituality more than a passing glance, but something about being at a sacred place, one person among a throng of people, is comforting. It’s the din of temple-goers to the ear, the heat of the sun on his head, and the scent of smoky incense inside the temple that all comes together to create a foreign yet familiar atmosphere. He walks up the stone steps and leaves who he is behind, climbing one by one until he’s just another person among many. It’s not liberating so much as it’s peaceful.
One man out of many, or somedays, maybe someone who they perceive as a woman, out of many.
Dazai’s eye catches on a dress in a store a few months into his self imposed exile. He buys it on a whim, remembering the ones he used to wear around the house a couple of years ago. The now too small dresses gathered dust back at his apartment, and were left and abandoned there along with the rest of his clothes and material items when he stole away. Hopefully, Chuuya had taken care of them when he’d cleaned out Dazai’s apartment, taking what he wanted and also what he didn’t want but thought best to keep from Mori’s hands and eyes.
The dress he gets this time is far simpler and cheaper, just a plain dark brown with flowing sleeves and a cinched waist. Dazai hasn’t tried something like this on in a while because it’s been out of his mind, fairly put— it’s hard to summon up any want for something like this when you’re too busy wallowing in your own misery.
But now that he’s started anew, feels more clear-minded than he had in months, he steps into the dress in front of a mirror and examines himself. It’s a bit baggy, hangs in loose folds down to his elbows and knees, doesn’t really match well with the length of his hair. But he looks in the mirror and really sees himself for the first time in far too long, and holds the edges of the skirt up, like a curtsey without the bowing. Turns from one side to the next, admiring his reflection in the mirror. There’s something familiar that rides in his chest, lodges in his throat. It’s akin to excitement but also to giddiness. Not quite there, but definitely something positive and light and it makes the mouth of his reflection curl up.
Dazai orders a bra and a wig online that night, wrapping a string around himself and then holding it beside a straight-edge to figure out the sizing, and hits express delivery because it’s not like his overseas, overfilled bank account can’t take it.
He starts going out like that on his trips to the temple and to get groceries occasionally. It starts as once a month, then evolves to around once a week. Some of the locals start to assume he has a twin sister, and it’s never not pleasing when the kindly old couple who runs the nearby ramen shop asks, “Osamu-san, how is Dazai-chan doing lately?”.
Of course, it’s not all perfect, because sometimes he’ll wake up and stare at the wig or one of his new dresses and not know what it means, will look at it and want nothing to do with it. Other times he’ll go out wearing them and even then something will still feel off. Someone will refer to him in feminine terms and he’ll feel like an imposter. It’s not incredibly often though, and those moments are incomparable to the genuine joy of getting referred to as a girl on a good day, and the giddiness he gets at the simple concept of being to swap between being a boy and a girl whenever he wants to. It makes the days go from miserable to tolerable to bearable to completely okay. Turns other days even pleasant.
It’s those little things in life, getting to wear a dress when he feels like it and go out like that, getting to hear Chuuya’s voicemails, as sparse as they become over time, and wasting hours at the temple doing nothing but listening to chatter, that keep him going.
Those are the things that give him peace as the weeks turn to months then turn to one and a half years, over the course of which he eats through a library’s worth of novels and a cabinet’s worth of games. When he finally moves back to Yokohama, first taking an entrance exam for the still-new detective agency and receiving a key for the rickety dorms built nearby, he’s accumulated just enough things , material possessions from clothes to nicknacks to entertainment to fill his apartment. It’s smaller than the one in Kawasaki, which means it’s crowded with all of his possessions, but this is the first time in his life one of the places he’s lived has ever not looked barren. It’s certainly not the worst feeling.
Chuuya’s stopped calling him lately, probably having deleted his number at this point, but he still lasted longer than Dazai thought he would and the voicemails are still saved in his phone. Dazai doesn’t delete the contact, because Chuuya’s been one of the only constants in his life over the years— as pathetic as it sounds for someone he hasn’t been with often for two years or met in person for another set— and he still means something to him.
But other than that, the rest of this? His new life from Kawasaki, the way he cautiously steps into the agency a few months in only to not have anyone blink an eye at his attire, how none of them question him even when they get drunk out after work together?
It all feels like a fresh start.