"Dazai," he says. The man in question looks up from his glass. "Are you busy tomorrow?"
Dazai taps his index finger against his cheek. "Hmm, it depends. Why are you asking?"
"Do you want to go out to lunch with me?"
Dazai gasps dramatically. "I didn't know you thought of me like that, Odasaku! Did I accidentally seduce you with my handsome looks? Or was it my magnetic personality?"
He shrugs. "Something like that."
Dazai pauses for a second at the casual admittance. A second later, he speaks again. "Where to?"
"There's a curry shop that just opened up next to the shopping district that I wanted to try out, if you're fine with that."
Dazai grins. "It's a date, then~"
They meet up around 5 pm the next day to walk over to the shop, Oda leading the way.
The door to the restaurant chimes happily as he pushes it open.
Soon enough, they're sitting in a small booth in the back corner of the restaurant, a worker having taken their order.
"So," Dazai says, resting his chin in one hand.
"So?" he asks.
"So," Dazai repeats. He pauses for a second before continuing. "What made you choose this restaurant?"
"Ah. I heard it had just opened, so I wanted to try it out," he replies as he looks around the shop a bit. It's relatively crowded in there since it's a new place and in an area that gets a lot of foot traffic, so they had been pretty lucky that a booth opened up right as they had arrived.
Dazai raises an eyebrow. "Why not that curry place you always go to? Freedom, I think it was called?"
Oda feels ice dripping down his spine and his train of thought comes to an abrupt halt. How did Dazai know about Freedom? It was pretty out of the way and he had never mentioned it by name before, so-
He cuts his racing thoughts off. It shouldn't be so surprising that Dazai, as infamous as he is for his intellect and abilities, would have been able to find out about the shop. Still, it's a reminder that the person sitting in front of him is Dangerous, with a capital D, even if the two of them are on good terms.
He knew full well what Dazai was capable of when he asked him out, but it wasn't something he was expecting to have come up on a date. He chastises himself internally. He should have known better than to forget something like that.
Even as he thinks this, his expression doesn't change at all.
"I like to have some variety occasionally. I will admit that Freedom has some of the best curry I've ever eaten, though," he answers.
Dazai hums noncommittally in response.
Further conversation is cut off by the arrival of their food. The dishes are both the same, Dazai having copied his order with the explanation that Oda was the expert in curry, so he'd follow his lead for this.
He takes a scoop of his food, being careful to balance the amount of curry and rice on his spoon.
He brings the spoon to his mouth and lets the flavours slowly spread out on his taste buds.
Hmm. It wasn't bad. In fact, it was pretty good. They had found a good balance between the spices they used and the heartiness of the meat, and the potatoes and carrots in it were perfectly cooked. However, their rice was slightly overcooked and a tad bit soggy as a result of that, which is quite the disappointment to him since they had failed at what could be considered one of the easiest steps.
Nevertheless, he would still eat all of it, as it wasn't bad enough to ruin the rest of the dish and because he did not like the idea of wasting food.
He begins to eat at a steady pace, mind wandering a bit, when something catches his eye from across the table.
Dazai is eating rapidly, but that isn't the interesting part.
Every time he looks down at his food, he notices that Dazai quickly stops eating to take large but quiet gulps of his water. And when he starts to look back at Dazai, the man frantically places his cup down and starts eating again with a forcefully casual grin on his face.
Was... was Dazai bad with spicy foods? And was he trying to hide it for some reason?
He mentally shrugs, files the piece of information away in his brain, then goes back to eating. If Dazai didn't want to admit that he should have ordered a less spicy dish, or show a form of 'weakness' to him, then he wouldn't be the one to call it to attention.
After they finish eating, they start chatting about random things. Dazai goes on a long rant about a rival that keeps repeatedly thwarting him during every one of their recent confrontations, and Oda only realizes ten minutes in that Dazai is actually talking about a stray dog that lives near the headquarters.
Normally, when hanging out, their conversations would turn towards their jobs, but being in a public place that isn't connected to the Port Mafia means that they're careful to steer the conversation away from things that might get them in trouble. It's surprisingly nice, being able to talk about normal things like this.
Oda absentmindedly glances at one of the clocks mounted on the shop's walls and realizes with a start that they've been talking for over an hour and a half. How had time gone by so quickly?
He goes up to the front counter to pay the bill, then he and Dazai leave, with Dazai still detailing his plan on how to assert his dominance against his "archrival" during their next encounter.
They're walking past one of the many stores in the shopping district when Dazai starts to frantically tug on the left sleeve of his jacket.
He's pointing at one of the clothing stores they're passing by, where a few outfits are on display.
"Isn't that hat hideous? It looks like something Chuuya'd wear!" he exclaims loudly.
Oda walks closer to the window. "It's not that bad. I think it'd look nice on him."
Dazai jerks back, a hand on his chest. "And here I thought you had taste when you asked me out." A second later, a wide grin stretches its way across his face. "Hey, Odasaku, let's see how it looks on you!"
Before he can say anything, Dazai opens the door and dashes in, leaving him to make his way into the store slowly at his own pace.
A flash of turquoise catches his eye on the way in. He picks up the item to get a closer look, looks over to Dazai, then looks back to the thing in his hands.
A few minutes later, he has a small box in his pocket and his wallet is a few hundred yen lighter.
"Odasaku, where are you?" Dazai calls out from another section of the store.
He turns around and makes his way to where Dazai is standing, hat in hand. The moment he gets close enough, Dazai stands on his tiptoes and drops the hat onto Oda's head.
"Hmm," Dazai says, staring at Oda with a curious look on his face. He twirls his finger. "Can you turn around?"
When Oda makes no move to do so, he pouts a bit and just walks around Oda instead.
After Dazai has made two revolutions, there's a quick flash of motion and his head feels a bit heavier for some reason. He turns slightly to look at his reflection in a nearby mirror and sees a large fancy hat on his head.
It looks absolutely ridiculous on him. Not only was it a completely different style from the rest of his outfit but it was also a garishly bright color. The base cloth that hat is made of is a bright yellow, and it has a neon pink ribbon wrapped around it with colorful flowers and lace glued on seemingly at random.
He's actually a bit impressed that Dazai managed to find a hat this hideous. Dazai is slightly hunched over in front of him, hand in front of his mouth, as he tries to not burst out laughing.
Oda stares him in the face and slowly raises an eyebrow. "What's so funny? I think it compliments my hair quite well."
Dazai loses it at that, and the small store is filled with his loud laughter that slowly transforms into outright wheezing.
A minute later, Dazai stands up straight, still giggling slightly, and carefully takes the hat off of Oda's head to place it back on the display head.
After they leave the store, he silently passes the box over to Dazai.
"What's this? A present for me?" Dazai asks. "How sweet~"
Dazai swiftly opens the box and pulls out the gift. The moment he processes what it is, however, his face scrunches up.
"I, ah, appreciate the sentiment, Odasaku, but there's no way I'm going to wear a bolo tie. I have a sense of shame, surprisingly enough."
"You need more color in your outfits, Dazai."
"I'd rather kiss Chuuya than wear this."
Oda shrugs. He can't exactly force Dazai to use his gift, even if it hurts somewhat that the other man immediately discarded the possibility of wearing his gift.
He does take note, though, that Dazai has carefully placed the tie back into its box and slipped it into one of his coat pockets.
Eventually, they end up sitting on one of the riverbanks, watching as the sun sets.
Dazai is leaning against his side, and that plus the general summer heat means that Oda is uncomfortably sweaty, but he doesn't move.
They just keep watching the sky as it transforms, as colors appear and meld together, until there's only a sliver of light left from the sun.
The river before them is a marvelous sight as well. Myriads of color dance across the surface of the water, like light scattered from a prism.
Dazai sighs a bit and shifts further back, lowering his head until it's on Oda's shoulder.
They sit quietly, peacefully, for a few more minutes until Dazai breaks the silence.
"Isn't it sad?" he asks.
"The microorganisms in the river. They struggle and struggle everyday in order to survive, then get gobbled up by the uncaring fish. No matter how hard they try, their fate has been sealed from the moment they were born. They can't change a single thing."
"You can look at it like that, I guess," Oda replies.
"Hmm?" Dazai makes an inquisitive noise. "Do you view it differently, then?"
"Even though you think their lives are short and meaningless, they're vital to this world. Without them, the rest of the animals in that river wouldn't be able to exist."
Dazai looks up at him for just a moment, face unreadable, but doesn't say anything before turning his head to face the river again.
The silence returns, but the mood has shifted, even if Oda can't exactly pinpoint what has changed.
He's eventually broken out of his thoughts by the sound of light snoring.
Dazai is asleep, head still resting on his shoulder.
Oda spends a moment taking in Dazai's sleeping face.
If this were a romance novel, Oda thinks, he would probably think something along the lines of "Dazai looked younger, less burdened, in sleep's grasp. For just a few precious hours, Dazai could be free of the darkness of his own heart."
But his life isn't a romance novel, and thus that isn't what he sees. Dazai's brows are slightly furrowed, and he keeps shifting every few seconds, as if he's ready to wake up at a second's notice to deal with a threat.
Even in his sleep, Dazai is still Dazai, with all his walls and defences as present as ever.
Oda shifts slightly to shake Dazai awake, but the moment his hand gets close to him, Dazai's eyes fly open.
In the same moment, Dazai rolls to the side, ending in a crouch. A second later, he blinks and stands up, brushing the dirt off of his clothing.
"Ah, did I fall asleep on you? My apologies."
"It's fine, it didn't bother me."
Oda stretches a bit as he stands up, his limbs having fallen asleep at some point.
The two walk back in silence, hands occasionally brushing, as they make their way to Dazai's apartment.
It isn't a very long walk, and soon enough Dazai points out the complex. Oda follows him up to the door, then stops, shifting slightly from foot to foot as Dazai unlocks it and crosses the threshold.
Dazai turns around to face him, taking a breath as if he were planning to say something, but nothing comes out.
He opens his mouth, then closes it, repeating this a few times as Oda still stands silent before him.
Right as Oda prepares to speak himself, he gets interrupted.
"Today," Dazai begins, "was... nice and-" Dazai cuts his sentence off abruptly. After a few moments, it's clear that he isn't planning on finishing it.
He moves to close the door, when Odasaku says, "I enjoyed it too."
His words just hang there, with neither of them being willing to continue speaking.
A minute passes, then two.
"Next Saturday-" Oda finally says.
"I'm busy," Dazai says immediately. He must have seen something change in Oda's expression though, for he speaks up again, almost hesitantly. "I should be free Friday evening, though."
This time, when Dazai closes the door, nothing stops him.
He isn't sure if it's his eyes playing tricks on him or not, and it's almost too dark to notice anyways, but for a split second, right before the door closes, Oda swears he can see a soft, gentle smile forming on Dazai's face.
"I'll be seeing you, then," he murmurs quietly, before he turns and heads home.