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How to Feel Real

Chapter Text

Shizuo is the one to move away first. He’s in no rush to do so -- he and Izaya lie tangled together in the sheets of the bed for what must be a half-hour or more before he braces an elbow to push himself up so he can get to his feet -- but Izaya thinks it will be a span of hours before he’s ready to take on the struggle of urging his exhausted muscles and spent body to anything like deliberate motion. The most he can persuade himself to do is to turn onto his side against the support of the bed beneath him, letting the mattress take his weight so he can watch Shizuo from across the width of the room. It’s a small apartment, with the tiled square of the shower built into the far side with no more than a transparent half-door to keep the spray of the water from the rest of the space; an inconvenience, maybe, in other circumstances, but one Izaya appreciates just at the moment for the chance it gives him to keep his eyes on Shizuo while the other rinses his hair and washes his body clean with practiced efficiency. It’s not that Izaya is afraid of being alone, not that he really thinks he’s going to lose himself in the few minutes it takes Shizuo to shower back to cleanliness, but there’s something stabilizing about having the other in sight, as if his very presence is a weight to tether Izaya’s consciousness to the present instead of wandering astray into the fractal details of their half-forgotten history.

Izaya thinks there is nothing that could persuade him to make the effort of rising to his feet from the comfort of the bed, but by the time Shizuo has shut off the shower and emerged to towel himself dry the warmth of their joined bodies has faded to the chill of just Izaya’s, and in the humidity from the shower hazing the room Izaya feels the stick of sweat on his skin the more keenly. He makes the effort to sit up while Shizuo is still rumpling his hair dry under the weight of the towel, grimacing through the force needed to push up from the support of the bed beneath him with arms that tremble protest to this additional effort after long hours of excessive strain, and if he gets himself upright of his own accord he’s painfully grateful to the support of the hand Shizuo offers to urge him to his feet and walk his stumbling steps across the floor to the shower.

Izaya doesn’t try to keep standing alone. The tile is wet and his legs are shakier than his arms, far too exhausted for him to trust his footing even with more traction than the slick floor will give him, and when Shizuo eases his hold Izaya lets himself drop to sit at the square of the shower floor so the wall behind him can have the keeping of his weight. The water is warm against his face when Shizuo turns it on, the splash of it a comfort as it soaks his hair and trickles over the back of his neck and across his chest, and Izaya shuts his eyes and savors the comfort of the heat as it seeps into the knots of his muscles to ease them free into languid, trembling exhaustion. Shizuo stays nearby, kneeling on the other side of the shower door while Izaya collects himself into the effort necessary to wash his face, and hands, and thighs, and when Izaya reaches up to shut the water back off Shizuo is ready to wrap him in a towel and take over the work of drying his hair and skin while Izaya ducks his head in overt capitulation to the other’s care.

It’s soothing, to have Shizuo’s hands pressing against his head to urge the soft of the towel against the wet of his hair and tousle the locks towards dry. With the stability of those hands against him Izaya can shut his eyes under the shift of the towel and let his mind wander into the unexplored possibilities so newly open to him. His past is tatters, his future a perfect unknown; but in the present Shizuo’s hands are against him, and his body is aching the pleasant comfort of exertion and release, and Izaya’s thoughts can reach for the opportunities of the future with more idle curiosity than true fear. He tests the shape of the next hour, the next day, the next week, tasting the form of them against his tongue and framing the conclusions they may bring, and when he speaks it’s without lifting his head from beneath the weight of Shizuo’s towel working against his hair.

“Shizu-chan,” he says, without any attempt to force his speech to volume enough to be heard clearly past the barrier over his head. “What are we going to do if I forget again?”

Shizuo’s hands don’t hesitate, Shizuo’s touch doesn’t stall. “I’ll remind you.” There’s no uncertainty in Shizuo’s tone, no acknowledgment of the pure impossibility of his plan; it’s just a statement, a fact as simple as if he’s following a chain of evidence to the only logical conclusion.

Izaya doesn’t lift his head from Shizuo’s hands working over him. “Every time?”

“Yes.” Shizuo’s palm presses against Izaya’s head, pinning the towel in place. “Every time. Any time. Whenever you need it.” The weight of his touch shifts, the towel slides over Izaya’s head and back to fall around his shoulders; Izaya lifts his chin to find Shizuo gazing at him with full focus in his eyes, with no more hesitation in his expression than there is weakness in his hold at Izaya’s shoulders.

Izaya meets Shizuo’s gaze for a long moment. There are flecks of color in Shizuo’s eyes, soft brown and touches of bronze that melt to warmth in light enough to see them; it’s too dark to pick them out here, in the nighttime dim of Shizuo’s apartment, but Izaya sees them all the same, drawing them up from memory to layer over his present with all the rich weight of nostalgia. It makes his chest ache, makes his heart clench as if it’s being caught in the grip of a fist tightening around it, but he doesn’t lift a hand to ease the tension, doesn’t flinch from the dull hurt of affection too much to bear. He just goes on looking at Shizuo, mapping his self in the known color of those eyes, finding fragments of his identity in the steady focus of that gaze, until finally he dips his chin into a nod of agreement rather than surrender. “Remind me.” He holds Shizuo’s gaze without blinking away, without letting his vision disintegrate from his grip pinning it to the present. “Who am I?”

Shizuo smiles at him. With his expression relaxed the curve at his mouth reaches to the soft of his eyes, crinkling at the edges of his eyelids and fitting itself to ease the distant good looks of his face into something as breathtaking as it is familiar to Izaya’s gaze. “You’re Izaya,” Shizuo says. He lifts his hand from his hold on the towel around Izaya’s shoulders to smooth at a lock of damp hair and tuck it behind the other’s ear as he trails his thumb over the line of Izaya’s cheekbone. The texture of his touch glows heat under Izaya’s skin in its wake. “You’re my partner.” His palm catches at Izaya’s jaw, his hold steadying the other’s head and seeking the comfort of physical contact at once. “Who am I, Izaya?”

“Mine,” Izaya says, and reaches out to catch his hand around the back of Shizuo’s neck so he can urge the other in towards him. Shizuo leans in immediately, giving way to the gentle pull of Izaya’s hold as if it’s an outright command, and Izaya shuts his eyes to focus on the press of his mouth to Shizuo’s, on the fit of his lips meeting and matching the soft of Shizuo’s own. Shizuo kisses him back as readily, tipping his head and giving up the heat of his mouth for Izaya to taste, and Izaya lingers there with him until his lips are soft with forgetful warmth and he has to draw away to find his way back to coherency. His hand has found its way to Shizuo’s hair, his fingers curled into the yellow waves; Shizuo’s knee is pressed alongside Izaya’s thigh, his free hand brushing gentle fingers to Izaya’s waist. They stay there for a moment, drawing deep breaths of the humid air between them, and when Shizuo swallows to clear his throat Izaya can taste the words to come in the air between them.

“Izaya,” Shizuo says, murmuring the shape of Izaya’s name almost against his lips, as if to press the knowledge of it permanently into his skin. “Do you love me?”

Izaya opens his eyes to look at Shizuo, at the details of his face separated into component parts by proximity: the length of his lashes, the part of his lips, the line of his jaw. Then he draws back, retreating by an inch to bring the whole back together; and beauty becomes familiarity, fragmented appreciation coalesces into something that aches in his chest and tightens his throat as he sees it. Izaya looks at the whole of Shizuo, as he is, as he was, memory and present melding together into a single, absolute conclusion, and he draws a breath to render his verdict.

“Yes,” he says, final proof in the sound of his own voice and the certainty of his declaration. “I love you, Shizuo.” And he leans forward, and catches Shizuo’s mouth with his, and lets Shizuo kiss him into himself.