Chapter 1: At the Bar – Don't talk, don't speak, don't say a word, darling (You'll regret it all)
He was dying.
Of course, Chuuya knew, it wasn't that surprising. After all, life as a Port Mafia executive wasn't exactly the safest. With the added threat of the Armed Detective Agency and the Guild, it was touch and go for a while. But this... this was different.
He sat at the edge of the bar, sipping at the Pinot Noir he'd ordered as he observed his companions. To his right, Tachihara and Kajii were both arguing over something, their banter light and easy as they traded verbal blows. A little further on, Akutagawa sat with his sister, Gin, quietly talking together. Behind them, Higuchi hovered over Akutagawa, unwilling to part from her superior even on their supposed rest day. To his left, Hirotsu was chatting away with Nee-san, who had tucked away her fan in favor of carrying the conversation comfortably. All in all, it was peaceful.
Yet as he sat there, tendrils of darkness snuck in and out of his vision, skittering away when he turned to look, but slowly creeping back whenever he focused on something else. He could hear the whispers that followed him, the voices that taunted and teased at his sanity, coyly inviting him deeper into the madness. He gripped the glass harder, gritting his teeth as he willed his demons away.
It hadn't been this bad, at first. When Chuuya first activated Corruption, it'd been exhilarating. The sheer amount of power that flowed through his veins, the amount of destruction he'd been capable of – it'd been both terrifying and amazing. He'd ploughed his way through the enemy, heedless of the screams and carnage left in his wake as he laughed, laughed as his ability swirled to life in intoxicating power that thrilled as much as it burned.
But the more he used the power, the more he noticed that the voices that came with it, a hidden price that dulled his senses and slowed his reflexes. It was easy to hide the weakness at first, what with For the Tainted Sorrow augmenting his strikes and blows against his foes, while his subordinates shot those that he missed. Yet by the time Dazai had left Port Mafia, he'd been struggling to hold the madness back, relying more and more on his knives to subdue the enemy. He'd beaten it back for a while, not using Corruption, but fighting Lovecraft alongside that stupid bandage waster had made matters worse...
He was brought back to the present by the clattering of chairs as Kajii and Tachihara's fight escalated to petty shoving, while the bartender looked on with resigned despair as liquids spilled from jostled glasses. Chuuya held back a sigh of exasperation, throwing back the Pinot Noir and swiftly regretting it as he choked. Worried eyes scorched his back as he coughed, thumping his chest until the burn receded, giving way to a familiar gut-wrenching lurch. He brought his hand up quickly, covering his mouth as he nodded reassuringly to Nee-san and Hirotsu while he made his way to the bathroom, ducking into the nearest cubicle and locking the door before he dropped in front of the toilet bowl and puked.
Blood stained the water red as he vomited, hands gripping the sides of the toilet bowl with growing pressure until it cracked, For the Tainted Sorrow activating unconsciously. He spat the last of the blood and bile into the toilet, gasping for air as he laid his cheek against the cool porcelain of the rim of the bowl. Dimly, he registered the door to the toilets opening, soft footsteps making their way nearer until he heard the click of the lock. He shivered involuntarily as hands gripped his shoulders and turned him to face Akutagawa's worried visage, Rashoumon active as it reached out to support him.
"Chuuya-san?" He didn't answer, still focused on not puking on his subordinate while simultaneously fighting back against the roaring of the voices in his head. A gentle shake of his shoulder had him turning back to retch into the toilet bowl again, Akutagawa graciously holding his hair back while he dry-heaved into the mess he made earlier. Slumping to the side, Chuuya gratefully accepted the offered handkerchief and wiped away at his mouth, while Rashoumon reached past him to flush the vomit and blood away.
"...How long has this been going on?"
"...Ever since the truce." Chuuya turned his head away, horribly aware of the openness of the cubicle. Noting his discomfort, Rashoumon was sent to guard the door, while Akutagawa knelt in front of his superior.
"Is it because of Corruption?" He avoided Akutagawa's gaze, gripping the bloodied handkerchief to hide the shaking of his hands as he nodded. With a grunt, he lifted himself up, staggering slightly as he put his weight onto wobbly legs. Pale hands reached to steady him, and he acquiesced, allowing the younger man to help him to the sink. Rinsing his mouth, he spat into the sink once, twice, before turning to the Mad Dog, wiping his mouth dry on his sleeve.
"Don't tell anyone about this."
Akutagawa hesitated, before caving in and nodding assent.
"I won't." Grey eyes alighted on the handkerchief, and Chuuya noted the gaze.
"Sorry 'bout your handkerchief."
"It's fine. I've got plenty more. Chuuya-san can keep this one since he needs it more," Akutagawa stood awkwardly for a moment, before rushing on to speak, "If there's anything I can do to help, Chuuya-san – "
"No." His reply was sharp, biting. He gripped the Mad Dog's shoulders, blue eyes boring into startled grey ones. "There is nothing you can do, nothing that anyone can do without putting themselves in danger, and I'm not about to risk that." His grip slackened a little, as Akutagawa nodded frantically.
"The best way for you to help me is to keep this a secret."
Hopefully, there wouldn't be any cause for him to use Corruption again.