At night is when, in Izaya's opinion, the most interesting people are active. That's why he rarely slept at night, and usually he just started his day with a few hours of sleep in the morning. His beloved humans –and his job, for the matter– were far more important than his sleeping schedule.
But there were particular nights like that one, when nothing happened, the forums were dead silence, and therefore he was stuck in his apartment with the only company of his secretary, Namie. He hated these days, because the lack matters to put his attention into made too easy to succumb to merciless and vicious thoughts he didn't want. But it was almost the middle of the night, and he knew of two persons who were having a date in Ikebukuro, and that brought questions that remained unanswered in his head.
And he knew because even if he weren't the best informant of Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, only one event could make Namie as furious as she was. Her dear brother had a date with Harima Mika.
“Tell me, Namie, why do you endure it? You don't have to, but you still do anyway.”
She turned form her desk to look at her boss, but he wasn't looking at him. His eyes were on the enormous window that covered an entire wall, looking at, in her experience, nothing in particular. Just enjoying the hustle of Shinjuku.
She kept quiet, waiting for him to elaborate in his question. That was something he did, throw some important-sounding words and go back to silence for brief time. It was a functioning technique for when he wanted to get information out of someone: you make them nervous, make them think you know more than what you actually do.
Namie knew better than to fall for his tricks.
“I mean your brother. Or to be more precise, the girl he's dating. She's always all over him, and that enrages you, but you don't do anything to stop it. You could get rid of her. You have the contacts, the information, the lack of moral and, with how much I pay you, I'm certain you have the money to do it.” Another pause, probably with the same finality than the first one.” Nothing stops you from getting her out of your way, and no one would ever know, except for probably me. Seiji would be all yours again. So, what's holding you back?”
And that's how, even when he is the one asking for information, he makes you feel like he saw the bigger picture, like he had the upper hand. So prepotent, she understood why that Masaomi kid always had face of wanting to punch Izaya.
If she had to ask help of someone so nefarious, she would also have that attitude.
But an amusing thing, at least in Namie's opinion, was that Izaya would have been capable of deducing the reason, was she anyone else. The problem with Izaya's “brilliant” method of reading people depending of him being an observant, not to be personally involved with the subject of study.
That meant that, when he became closer to someone, he lost all perspective. And even if him and Namie weren't on the best terms, working only the two of them in the same apartment every day for multiple hours would create a closer relationship between most people.
And, normally, the sole mention of her brother would be enough for her to ignore completely what was he saying, in a clear attempt not to get exasperated. But this was different, because this kind of questions were the ones he did in an attempt to understand something that escaped his grasp and, apart from her, there were only other two persons Izaya didn't understood.
And Heiwajima Shizuo.
This promised to be interesting.
“Because even if she dies, Seiji would still only love me as a sister, that much wouldn't change. And even if I hate that girl with each fiber of my body, she makes Seiji happy. So, if he can't love me like I love him, then at least I can do what's in my hands to make him happier.” Izaya had yet to turn back to see her, and that's why she left until the end her first move. “My love for him may be a taboo in this society, but at least it isn't poisonous to the recipient”
That cough his attention. Even if just for a second his shoulders stiffened the way they did when he was taken by surprise.
“What are you implying? You know as well as I do that my love for humans have done them no wrong. I just provide the information they ask for and answer the questions they haven't thought of yet. But their actions and the consequences, those are in their entirety their fault. I've never once obligated someone to make a decision.”
It was true, she knew that. And she was another of the hundreds that ended in a less than idoneal situation. Some chose to blame all on Izaya, maybe to feel a little more at ease with themselves, but she knew better than to make someone other than herself responsible for her actions and mistakes.
“I know that. Even if you appear in control, the truth is that you are not. You sell information, maybe plant ideas in someone's head, but they are the ultimate writers of their future. When they think you're the author of all their misfortune, they're wrong. They are idiots. But you are not, and so you know that's not what I'm talking about.”
That, he does was waiting, but still he deigned to turn to see her. That cruel smile and unnerving look, eyes full of the darkest emotions. If Namie believed in demons, she was certain they'd look like that.
“Then enlighten me, Namie, what are you talking about?”
His daunting laughter was all she needed to know she had hit the nail. She decided to ignore the chills that laughter produced her.
“Have you ever tried to be friends with Karisawa Erika? You already have a great conversation starter, your delusions about me and that monster you both seem to believe in. I'll admit I had you for a more reasonable woman. Who would have guessed I was so wrong about it?”
“I take back what I said, you do are an idiot if you though even for a fraction of second that you could trick me with such a pathetic technique of evasion.”
His smile didn't waver one bit. He knew not to let his expression betray him. This was his game, and no one won him on his game, unless they pressed the right buttons.
She knew which those buttons were.
“But I guess I can understand why you would try to evade the topic. Not even you would take delight in having such a devastating presence that you can't even care for someone without damaging them. Not even you sisters, whom you just took care of because your parents worked all day, saved themselves from your toxicity. Those girls are crazier that most people in a mental institution.”
“That's not true, I've told you I'm as much to blame for how they turned out as I'm to blame about any other thing.” He didn't hesitate, his voice didn't tremble.
“But it is true. You cared for them, and that was more than enough. They looked up on you an ended up like... that. And they will never heal, not even if they like you so little, they would trade you for a photo of Yuuhei Hanejima without giving it a second though.”
She was looking at Izaya's eyes, and even if the rest of his face remained impassible, a clear annoyance begun to fill his eyes.
“Maybe,” she continued, “that's something all the Orihara siblings have in common. An obsession with the Heiwajima's...”
And finally, Izaya started to take seriously the game.
“I have no obsession with Shizu-chan. I don't follow him around, I don't know what's he doing every minute of the day, and I definitely wouldn't try to cover a murder for him. Those conducts are obsessive, and I'd like to point out that is very precise description of your relationship with Seiji.”
He played with turn. He knew what to say, trying to enrage her and make her loose her objective. Smarte, and very effective, but this time it would be pointless.
“No, you don't do those things, because you're worse. You make him follow you around, you have a big archive of his information and refuse to sell even the littlest detail when someone ask, even when you wouldn't hesitate to sell your own parents if that brought you a benefit.” She started to almost spit the words but reminded herself she needed to maintain her composure.
“I'm doing humanity a favor, that monster must be killed. But you know what? I don't let that ruin my life. I don't do things crazy enough for me to end up a secretary of someone I despise. That would be really pathetic, don't you agree?”
That was low, even for him. Namie made a monumental effort not to hit him right there, but she had gone too far to give up now.
“You're right.” She started. “But you do would end up with a life you hate, fighting with someone you love on a daily basis at first, and then every time you go to Ikebukuro. Does it hurt? Hearing him say you would be better off dead, that you are just a piece of shit?”
Namie kept quiet for a moment, this time to let Izaya knew she was winning.
“How does it feel that the person you love would be happier if you died?”
That threatening smile finally left his face, and now another one just as cruel was on hers.
“Those are some strong accusations based on... what? That I don't sell information of him? That's as good as nothing. You can't just make up things and hope people fall for it: That's why you are the secretary and I am the informant.”
“Maybe for your business you need more than that, but I don't. I know I'm right, and so do you, so why keep on lying? You started the conversation, so now stick to it. What were you thinking?” She didn't even try to hide the pride on her voice. Even if it wasn't the first time, winning these arguments was rare, and usually it wasn't even worth it to try.
He turned around to look at the window once more, not emitting a word, but at least that meant he had stopped denying it.
And Namie thought of how depressing, sickening and loathsome was the fact that this man in front of her was the closest thing to a friend she had ever had. That definitely make her want to reconsider her life choices.
“Were you asking why Seiji being happy is enough for me, but Heiwajima's happiness isn't enough for you?”
“No, you don't understand, you can't understand.” He started rambling, more desperate that Namie had ever heard him. “It's not that it isn't enough, it's that the mere idea repels me. I need him to be miserable, just when I know I've ruined some aspect of his life can I breathe easily once again.”
It would be a lie if Namie said she was surprised, because she wasn't. She knew all of that, having deduced it long ago. But still, hearing someone say that the actually want the person they love to feel that miserable...
In her life, she had seen a lot of twisted feelings, be it in herself or in other, but this was by far the worst she had ever encounter.
And that was because she knew that, even if most people would disagree, it does was love.
Because she understood that love didn't have to be selfless, nor did it had to make you happy. It just had to made you passionate –and in most cases obsessive– about it. And, with that in mind, she was surprised no one else had realized Izaya's feelings. Maybe most people just didn't think of him like someone who could feel love, or even emotions in general.
For a moment, she asked herself what expression would be now on his face, and then discarded the question. She didn't want to know, it was probably something too close to human for her like. Even if scientifically terms she knew Izaya was just as human as everyone else, the knowledge that he could be so... fragile to feelings made her uncomfortable. And, exactly for that same reason, the next words that left her mouth were a big mistake.
“What's wrong with you?” Her tone wasn't even bitter, just curious. Because for someone to have those kind of emotions...
This time his laughter was almost in complete silence, and with something close to pain in it.
“My mother asked herself that for decades. In fact, I'm sure she still does. Taking me to psychologist after psychiatrist, she was begging each and every god to give her an answer. It didn't have to be one she liked, she just wanted a reason. Psychopathy, sociopathy, borderline personality disorder, even schizophrenia.”
Even if his voice didn't have a particular emotion, Namie was speechless. He never talked about his personal life.
“She's a good woman, and I guess a good mother too. She would have accepted if someone had told her everything was her fault, that she neglected me too much during my early childhood or that it was all an attempt to catch the attention she only paid to her work. She would have accepted any answer, and she would have done anything in her power to make it better and to assure me she would love me no matter what.” Another moment of silence, but this time, Namie thought, was for a completely different reason that before. It was because he didn't know how to tell that story. “The only thing she wasn't ready to hear was the answer every person she took me to give her.”
And she didn't have to think too hard to conclude what that answer was.
“That there was nothing wrong with you.” It wasn't a question, but still she waited for reassurance.
A sight left his lips, and she briefly wondered if everyone would fear him as much if they knew how close he was to his limit.
“Exactly. The night she gave up she cried herself to sleep, not even my father could calm her down. Because they told her nothing was wrong with her son, but she knew something was. Maybe she was right, maybe not. She never took the twins to see someone, she was too afraid of having the same answer and, truth to be told, she knew on some level it was my fault. Anyway, the moment I turned eighteen I left my home, sick of seeing her suffering every time I opened my mouth. She tried to stop me, but my father convinced her that it was for the best, that she wasn't doing me any good by being so depressed all the time.”
And that was the moment Namie realized her mistake, because she didn't want to know any of this. Because it was so... tragic, even she was sympathizing with him, and that wasn't good. Izaya was as bad as it could get, he didn't disserve anyone's sympathy. And still, she didn't have the heart to stop him when he started talking again.
“I still see her once a year. She comes to Shinjuku to hang out with my sisters and me. If I had a choice in the matter, I would have stopped all communication with her, but Mairu and Kururi love her, and they know it would break her heart if she didn't see me. So, they would come and scare off every client that came, and that would be terrible for the business, so I agree to their little pretend game for a day. The twins and I pretend to get on well, because it calms our mother to think that I look after them now that they live alone. Kururi talks a little more, Mairu leaves at home those stupid glasses she doesn't need, and I pretend I'm some kind of private detective or something. She bothers me with how I'm too thin, or why do I have so many scars, but in the end, she pretends to believe everything's okay, because she knows that if she pressures for more, I'm out, and she prefers to at least have her son back with her once a year. Maybe a little selfish, but I'm no one to judge.”
Namie didn't know what to do. She wanted to punch him still, or maybe tell him he's just an asshole, maybe even to leave without saying a word.
But none of that sounded like good options in her head.
Izaya turned again, leaning on the glass, and she expected any expression except from the one of absolute apathy he had. It was as if the story he just told wasn't his at all, and Namie had the horrific realization that he actually didn't care about any of that. At all.
Maybe she was the one wrong, and he really wasn't able to feel emotions or something.
“I can't read your mind, Namie, but if you're thinking I don't have emotions, then I'm afraid you're wrong. I just don't care because none of them are important to me. Yes, I love them, but just as I love every human. I can't love someone more than the others, remember? My family is no exception.”
“I'm thinking all the story is bullshit.” It was a lie, but it was better than not answering at all. If only her voice didn't sound so weak...
“No, you're not. It's just easier for you to think I spawned as some kind of heartless demon, with the only purpose of ruining lives. Giving a story makes me more human in your eyes, it makes you want to understand why I am like this. If I'm not a demon, if I'm not ill, and if it wasn't my parents, why? Well, if you come to a conclusion, feel free to tell my mother.” And with that he left to the kitchen, and Namie heard the coffee machine as she tried to process the surreal scene that just happened in front of her.
She had caught glimpse of Izaya's life, she had heard him talk about the twins (and complaining about Mairu's fake glasses), but nothing like this. She even wondered if he wasn't planning on killing her for knowing too much. It didn't made sense any other way that he allowed her to know so much about him.
He came back with two cups of coffee and gave her one.
Maybe, in his particular way, he also considered her a friend.
“Don't you think, Namie, that life would be far better if we didn't have to carry the burden of feelings?” He sat at his desk and pretended to look at the papers on it.
She took a sip of the coffee, and it was horrible. It was ridiculous he couldn't even make coffee right. How had he survived so many years living on his own before her?
“Your feelings are only a burden if you don't know how to deal with them.” She kept drinking the coffee. “At least for you. I'd say your feelings are the biggest burden in Heiwajima's life. He's an idiot, but I don't think he has ever done anything so wrong as to deserve the catastrophic destiny of having to deal with the poison you call love.”
This time there was no laughter at all. And she didn't know why, but she almost preferred when there was. The overwhelming desire of punching him was better than... whatever she was feeling right now.
“No, he hasn't. But I can't let him go, it would be as giving up breathing. You asked how it feels, and it is atrocious. Being stabbed hurt less. I honestly think than being burned alive would be a relief in comparison. But some days the only thing that keeps me going is that pain, the knowledge that that agony means he' still in my life, even if against his will.”
She was starting to feel sick. She started to appreciate the fact that Izaya was liar, that he never let anyone to know what he felt or what was he really thinking.
That was the real favor he was doing to humanity.
Just hearing him was enough for her to feel the need of a bath of hours. She had just heard a tiny fragment of what was going on his brain, and it was enough for her no never want to hear anything else ever again. How could he keep on living being so wrong in the head? She didn't know, but honestly, she didn't care anymore.
She just took her purse, ready to go back home and forget this entire day ever happened. It was the best for her mental health.
“Are you afraid of a little of honesty, Namie? I thought you were the one that was trying to pry into my head in the first place. Did I not meet your expectations?”
She didn't answer, and she didn't look back on her way to the door. He could be left alone with his thoughts, but she wasn't paid enough to deal with them.
And if she heard the beginning of a cry before closing the door, she forgot it with the rest of the conversation that had place that day.