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"Ah... I Think We're In What They Call A Hate/Love Relationship."

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“And if you think it ended there, no , he went on for another half hour trying to reason out whether drowning or hanging would be more convenient. I swear I’m this close to pushing him off the balcony myself . Of course, I wouldn’t want to grant his wish, but at least it’d get him to shut up for a minute, and note that I said minute , because I’m sure he’d just spring back up again, the bastard .”

“I’m so sorry, Chuuya-san,” Tachihara enthuses from Chuuya’s left, amber eyes glinting in the moonlight. “Your roommate sounds terrible!”

“I have an annoying roommate, too, actually” Akutagawa begins quietly, on Chuuya’s right, but is immediately interrupted by Tachihara’s gushing sympathies.

“You know, Chuuya-san, you can always stay in my dorm, if he gets too irritating. The Board won’t mind, probably, just a few times. If you want.”

“Thanks, Tachihara, but then he’d just be even more annoying afterwards.” Chuuya heaves a long-suffering, theatrical sigh. “There’s no escaping it. I have resigned myself to my fate.” He glances at each of his friends in turn. “You… still have my emergency wine stores, right?” At their nods—Akutagawa’s resigned and Tachihara’s fervent—Chuuya sighs with relief. “Good. Dazai replaced all of mine with vinegar. Twice.” He shudders, still able to taste the shocking pang. “And worse than that is… he’s always on my mind. Really. I can’t go a minute without wondering what bullshit he’s pulled today. Every time I get back to our dorm, I stand outside the door for at least a minute, bracing myself to deal with whatever’s waiting, and there’s always something. It’s like he spends all his time plotting ways to annoy me, I swear he does.” He kicks a stray pebble down the street, watching it bounce into the darkness. “Next time I’ll set his precious bandages on fire.”

“You should do that,” Akutagawa says, eyes shining the color of the moon. “And you should record it and send it to me.”

“Ah…” Chuuya glances at him. “He was your tutor for a while two years ago, right? You used to rant about him every day.”

Akutagawa gives a barely perceptible shudder. “...That’s in the past. We don’t speak of that month.”

“No,” Chuuya agrees, “we don’t.”

They walk on in silence, and then Tachihara ventures, “Hey… Chuuya-san? If you want something to take your mind off Dazai… well, there’s this app I found that lets you make a profile and answer some questions, and it suggests potential matches from other users of the app, and you can browse through all sorts of people and message them. It’s supposed to be a dating app, but it’s fun for just talking to different people. I mean, it might be nice, to talk to other people, since you’re stuck with Dazai all the time.”

“...Hm.” Chuuya pulls out his phone. “That… doesn’t sound bad, actually. What’s it called?” He types the name in as Tachihara dictates, and looks up. “Ah, you guys go on. I’m going to stop at that Internet cafe for a bit.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow, then.”

 

-

 

Sitting with a cup of coffee blacker than Dazai’s soul (though not quite as hot, anymore, as Dazai’s face—although, of course, Chuuya doesn’t think that), Chuuya stares at the questionnaire presented to him by the app.

Username: Tainted Sorrow

Age: 22

Gender: Male

Nationality: French and Japanese

Occupation: University student

Hobbies: Reading, writing, running, driving around aimlessly

Likes: Wine, books, music, hats

Dislikes: My roommate

There are others, questions about his tastes in books, movies, friends, and partners, about his interests in studies, and more. Chuuya works through them quickly, answering as the words pop into his head, and when he finishes, the old spinning wheel of doom begins to turn. Processing. After a moment, several boxes appear on the screen, each a snapshot of a profile with percentages indicated the degree of the match. Chuuya scrolls through them idly, unable to summon interest for any. 70%, 65%, 80%, 62% … 97%. Chuuya stops scrolling and blinks. The number does not change. 97%. Tapping the box, he looks into this person’s profile. He is twenty-two, like Chuuya, and also a student in university. His interests don’t seem to coincide with Chuuya’s at all, however, and he wonders how they could possibly be a 97% match. Still, the man’s username intrigues him— No Longer Human . It’s strange; he wonders what it means.

97%.

Chuuya hesitates for a moment, and then quickly types out a message and hits send.

 

-

 

“Chuuya-san, she wants a kitten. I don’t know how to do those.”

Chuuya finishes restocking the coffee machine and takes the latte from Gin.

“Look,” he says, and she does, watching with sharp eyes as he carefully shapes the foam into a  kitten’s smiling face. “There, see? It’s not difficult.”

“Easy for you to say, Chuuya-san,” Gin sighs, taking the cup back and passing it to the customer. “You’re a natural.”

“I’ve worked part-time here since high school,” Chuuya shrugs. “Ask Akutagawa, he’s the reason I had to learn.” He shakes his head. “Always making me draw skulls in his lattes during his emo goth phase. The irony was almost physically painful.”

Gin smiles; she, too, can remember her brother’s edge phase all too well. Some say it never truly ended.

Today is Sunday—there are no classes today, so Chuuya will spend the whole day working at what is usually a part-time job in a cafe next to the campus. It isn’t a fun job, but it pays for groceries and laundry, especially with his talent for latte art, so Chuuya won’t complain about the extra hours.

He resists the urge to check his phone again for a message on the new app, a response to his text of, Hey, apparently we’re a 97% match.

Gin disappears into the back room, and the bell above the door tinkles. Chuuya pastes a bland smile onto his face and turns to greet the customer.

“Chuunibyou~! I didn’t know you worked here!”

Chuuya’s smile freezes, and he lets out a low growl. “Of course you did, you bastard, or else you wouldn’t be here, although how you found out, I don’t even want to know.”

“You shouldn’t call your valued customers ‘bastards’, Chuuni, it isn’t good customer service. How have you managed to keep this job, with that mouth on you?”

“Are you going to order, or have you just come to annoy me, like always?” Chuuya counters.

Dazai waves him off. “I’ll have whatever you’re best at.” He smiles. “I’ve heard about your… art skills, too.”

“What do you want, then?”

“Surprise me.”

Chuuya scowls at him. “All right.”

He prepares Dazai’s latte with meticulous care, paying special attention to the shaping of the foam, and hands the cup over with a sweet smile.

“Here you go. On the house.” He turns it so that the writing, perfectly calligraphed into the foam, faces his roommate: dickweed .

Dazai smiles back just as sweetly. “Thanks.” When he turns to find a seat, Chuuya sticks his tongue out at him.

From the door to the back room, Chuuya hears Gin muffle her laughter.

“Shut up,” he grumbles, brushing past her. “I’m on break. Take over for me.”

 

-

 

Chuuya sinks into a chair in the back room with a sigh. That shitty Dazai, now he’s got to make my work life a misery, too? His phone buzzes in his hand, and he startles, glancing down at it.

New Message From: No Longer Human.

In spite of himself, Chuuya’s feels a grin spread across his face. He replied!

 

[No Longer Human]

Hm~ Apparently.

Well? What about it?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Nothing. I just thought it would be interesting to talk.

 

[No Longer Human]

Fair enough.

Then, for our first subject: your username is ridiculous.

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Yours is, too, so shut up

 

[No Longer Human]

Aggressive. Let me guess, you’re either short, or a redhead, or both.

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

FIGHT ME

 

[No Longer Human]

Both, it is.

In any case. Your bio says you’re a university student. What courses?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Literature and Poetry, and various languages.

 

[No Longer Human]

Languages?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Japanese and French, which I was raised with, English and Spanish, which I studied in school, and Latin and Greek, which are new.

 

[No Longer Human]

Damn. What’s the point?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

I write poems in all those languages, and a few others. I’m compiling an anthology.

And I want to translate books between languages, and maybe translate ancient texts.

 

[No Longer Human]

Sounds boring.

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

What’re you studying, then?

 

[No Longer Human]

Law, political science, blah blah

I’ll go into politics, probably

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Like that isn’t boring as hell

 

[No Longer Human]

Alternatively, I might end up taking over my adoptive father’s mafia

You know, one of the two

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

...You’re joking, right?

 

[No Longer Human]

Perhaps ;)

 

“Chuuya-san!” Chuuya looks up from his phone to see Gin standing in the doorway. “Chuuya-san, it’s my break now. I’ve been calling you for ages.”

“Sorry.” Chuuya stands quickly, typing out a hurried goodbye to No Longer Human , and rushes out to take his shift.

Dazai walks to the door as Chuuya approaches the counter.

“Bye, Chuuni~! Thanks for the coffee! I’ll come back soon~”

Chuuya curls his hands into fists to keep from throwing the coffee machine at him. “ Don’t .”

But his roommate’s laughter as the door swings shut doesn’t inspire any hope.

 

-

 

Of course, Dazai doesn’t even need to come back to make Chuuya’s life miserable; he manages that the moment Chuuya walks into their dorm and is greeted by Dazai lounging on the couch with yet another new edition of his precious suicide manual, informing Chuuya that they once again have no food while not moving an inch himself.

“I should go to a restaurant,” Chuuya seethes, pulling his coat back on. “I have enough money. Or I could go to Tachihara’s, he’s always got too much food.” Snatching his hat off the hook and placing it firmly on his head, he grumbles, “I should just eat out and let you starve on your own. I should—”

“But you won’t,” Dazai says pleasantly, not looking up from his book.

And Chuuya wants to punch him, because he’s right.

 

-

 

But it’s okay, all is not lost—Chuuya has been fuming down the aisles of the supermarket for five minutes when his phone buzzes again.

 

[No Longer Human]

So, you grew up with French and Japanese? That’s an odd combination.

 

Chuuya smiles, dropping some vegetables into the cart with one hand and typing with the other.

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

My mother was French, my father was Japanese.

 

[No Longer Human]

Was?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

They died when I was six. But my adoptive mother wanted me to remember the languages of both my cultures.

 

[No Longer Human]

Ah.

You said you write poetry. Send me one?

 

[Tainted Sorrow]

Ah… okay.

 

Chuuya bags the last of his groceries and walks out of the store. What poem to choose…? He’s good at what he does, great, even—that much he knows… but Dazai’s dismissal of his works was a harsher blow than he cares to admit. Still… he has to send something. Finally, Chuuya chooses one of his favorites, one he plans to put at the end of his anthology. He pastes it into a text and waits anxiously for No Longer Human’s response. Chuuya walks for three minutes, waiting, and is just about to put his phone back in his pocket on the stairs of his building when it buzzes.

 

[No Longer Human]

It’s beautiful. You’re brilliant.

 

After that, he goes offline, but Chuuya is already glowing with pleasure, nearly dropping his groceries as he comes to a halt in front of the door, reading and rereading the message until the words burn in his mind.

Brilliant. He called me brilliant .

Chuuya only wishes he could rub this in Dazai’s face—but that, of course, would only lead to more teasing. Well, no matter. Chuuya’s mood is sky-high now, and nothing can sour it, not even Dazai’s lazy comment that Chuuni is such a good housewife when he cooks their dinner.

Chuuya does not get along with his roommate.

But he has No Longer Human , and he thinks that more than makes up for it.