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How to Feel Real

Chapter Text

Izaya isn’t in the mood to be interrupted.

To be entirely honest, there is never a good time for an interruption. The detective agency for which Izaya works is never lacking for cases to investigate or pursue, depending on the skills of those assigned to handle an inquiry and the desires of their clients, which can range from vengeance to information to simple curiosity. Izaya is one of the best on the investigative team, a fact on which he prides himself, and enough in demand that even long strings of all-nighters seem to have no effect at all on the backlog of work that piles up on him.

Not that Izaya minds the work, or the lack of sleep, for that matter. The hours he spends in front of the pale glow of his computer screen or tapping messages into the transmitter that gives him a constant link to the flood of information that courses through the city like blood through the veins of some enormous, unthinking animal are as much a pleasure for him as anything else he can imagine doing. There is only so much satisfaction to be gained from food, or sex, or any of the other blandly normal ways the residents of the city may choose to spend their time; for Izaya, the truest expression of his humanity is in drawing together the fragments of information scattered like clues through the data link and the offhand speech of witnesses or suspects alike, of weaving a tapestry of understanding from the threads of seeming meaninglessness that surround every living organism in the city. Sleep seems pointless, when he’s in the middle of the expansive, all-consuming work of fitting those threads together into the cohesive whole they were meant to be; and worse even than such trivial physical considerations is the shattering distraction that comes with the rap of knuckles at the door to Izaya’s office, and the need for him to separate himself from the play of depthless information to return to the flat light of the present.

Shiki doesn’t wait for a response from Izaya. He never has, that Izaya can recall; as the direct supervisor of all the investigators in the department, he is free to go wherever he will, and as free to demand privacy when he needs it himself. Izaya has daydreamed about taking on Shiki’s role at some future point, when retirement or politics forces the creation of a vacuum in the present power hierarchy, but Shiki seems as ageless as if he were one of the androids that handle the more mundane tasks within the office, and what lines his face may show seem to be strength carved into stone instead of the advance of any kind of weakness. Whatever shift in power Izaya might hope for is long years in the future, if it comes at all; and that means for now Shiki is free to push open the door to Izaya’s office and invade the peace of the space while Izaya is still blinking to free himself from the distraction of the train of thought he was chasing down.

“Orihara-san,” Shiki says, the slightly nasal tone of his voice giving even his polite words a suggestion of sarcasm. Izaya has never yet been able to determine if that is intention or accident; even if the former, the man applies it so consistently that Izaya can hardly take personal offense, even if he were prone to such. Shiki ducks his head into a brief nod before lifting the unreadable dark of his gaze to fix on Izaya. “Is this a good time?”

Izaya twists in his chair to pivot away from his computer screen and lifts his hands out so he can shrug with as much eloquence as words might be able to grant him. “Does it matter?” he drawls. “You can interrupt anything I’m doing for your own amusement and there’s not a lot I can do about it.”

“I would not do so for entertainment,” Shiki says calmly, as if Izaya’s words might have been meant sincerely instead of as the clear mockery they are. “I know how much you have to work on.”

“Which means it’s something really important,” Izaya finishes for him, grinning brightly enough to make up for the fact that Shiki never gives him more than a twitch of a smile in return. “Or really interesting.” He rocks forward out of the support of his chair so he can brace his elbows at his knees and tip into the seeming of devoted attention as he opens his eyes wide to gaze up at Shiki before him. “What do you have for me today, Shiki-san?”

“A change,” Shiki says, and turns to look out the other side of the door, where the mirrored glass that makes up the sides of Izaya’s office blocks any line of sight Izaya might have on the subject as thoroughly as it manages the inverse. Izaya frowns as his attention shifts to follow Shiki’s gaze and his mind flicks rapidfire through possibilities: a key witness? An interview with a potential suspect? An informant with vital enough information to merit a personal visit? He’s turning over a dozen options in the span of a heartbeat, his thoughts skimming over all his presently open cases in the time it takes the object of Shiki’s gaze to step into view in the doorway; and then a dark shoulder comes into sight, coupled with the crisp white of a shirt beneath, and all Izaya’s possibilities crumble to dust in the instant recognition he has of the uniform that matches the one under his own dark jacket in perfect detail.

“Heiwajima Shizuo,” Shiki says, lifting a hand to gesture over the newcomer’s shoulder as if he means to push him through the doorway, though he stops shy of actually making contact. “This is the detective you’ll be partnering with, Orihara Izaya. He’s the best investigator we have in the department and should be able to teach you a great deal about the work.”

Ordinarily Izaya would be flattered by the compliment, although he would hardly admit any such thing aloud. Shiki gives out praise with exceeding rarity and never for a purpose as trivial as polishing interpersonal relationships; even if Izaya knows the range and depth of his own skills, it’s pleasing to know that they are sufficient for Shiki to take note of them as well. He does memorize the statement, tucking it away in the back of his mind to be more thoroughly appreciated later, but at the moment he has more pressing concerns even than the unprecedented occurrence of Shiki praising him.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Izaya says instead, fixing his gaze on Shiki rather than on the gentle-eyed young man standing beside him in the doorway. “I work alone. I’ve always worked alone.”

“You do not,” Shiki says without so much as a flutter in his steady gaze to offer the least apology. “You regularly work with Yagiri-san in gathering information and Nakura-san has requested your help on the last four cases he’s worked on.”

“That’s because Nakura is hopeless on his own,” Izaya reminds Shiki. “I keep telling you you should throw him out and get someone better.”

“Which we are attempting to achieve,” Shiki says without so much as missing a beat. “Heiwajima-san is one of the newest additions to the roster and he needs an experienced partner to work with him.”

“Why me?” Izaya asks. “You’ve never asked me to partner with anyone before. Why can’t I work with that new trainee Ryuugamine? He looks like he might actually have some potential.”

“We’re taking into account your own previous requests on this,” Shiki says, still with absolute, unflappable calm. “You have multiple requests to go out on field work in your file, and the algorithms determined Heiwajima-san to be the best match for your weaknesses.”

Him?” Izaya blurts, and looks back to the man standing next to Shiki. The newcomer is scowling, now, his forehead creasing on frustration and his eyes going dark with clearly building temper, but his slender build and delicate features belie any kind of threat to back up the frown he’s turning on Izaya. “He’s better suited to seduce himself into information than fight for it. Do you want us to play at being hosts for the next case?”

“I mean for you to work together,” Shiki says, his voice steady enough to force Izaya’s gaze back to him. There’s no surrender at all in the force of the other’s eyes as Izaya looks at him; the focus in them catches and holds all of Izaya’s attention without allowing for so much as the possibility of any other subject. “That is an order, Orihara-san.”

Shiki looks back to the new recruit next to him. “You can make use of the other desk,” he says, gesturing to the table that Izaya has commandeered for his own purposes as a makeshift bookshelf and the chair pushed into the corner when he’s not kicking his feet up onto it. “I’ll have a technician come by to set up a computer terminal for you later this afternoon. In the meantime you and Orihara-san can get to know each other. Perhaps you might go to the cafeteria to eat lunch together.” His tone doesn’t clarify whether this is meant as a command or a joke before he turns back to the hallway. “I have great hopes for your partnership.” And then he’s moving away, retreating into the hallway to leave Izaya and his forced partner alone in the space of the office.

Izaya looks back to Heiwajima as soon as Shiki is out of sight, while the other is still scowling down the hallway watching their supervisor go. He has the advantage of height, Izaya determines, standing several centimeters above Izaya’s own not insignificant size, but he lacks the sturdier build that Izaya would expect from someone assigned to compensate for his own demonstrable lack of raw physical strength. Other than his delinquent-blond hair he looks utterly unremarkable, perfectly ordinary except for the relative beauty of his features; but even that is undermined by the crease at his forehead and the set of his frown, both dug in so deeply that Izaya wonders how often he ever lets them go. He remains standing in the doorway, still looking after Shiki for a long span of time, until Izaya has grown bored with watching unobserved and throws himself back into his chair as he sighs gustily. The motion and sound together draw Heiwajima’s attention back around to him, and Izaya is ready to catch the other’s lingering scowl with a smile he drags into lopsided teasing as he kicks himself back into comfort in his chair.

“Well then,” he says, dragging the words into lilting mockery. “I suppose I’m stuck with you, aren’t I?” He lifts a hand to sweep wide and gesture to the space of the office around them, large enough for two but filled with the collection of information Izaya has made for himself in the isolated years since he began. Heiwajima’s gaze follows the movement of Izaya’s hand, his forehead creasing deeper as he considers the rows of books and sheaves of notes, and Izaya grins wider and slouches into his chair.

“Make yourself at home, partner,” he says. Heiwajima’s attention leaps back to him once more, his mouth dragging like the corners are weighted with lead, and Izaya’s amusement spikes higher as if electrified by the other’s clear dissatisfaction. “I’m not used to working with someone else, but Shiki-sama’s wish is my command. I’m sure we’ll be the best of friends.” This gets him a hiss of air from the other as Heiwajima exhales hard into a frustrated growl, and Izaya’s grin breaks into a laugh that he doesn’t try to soften from the razor edges it finds on the whet of his tongue.

If nothing else, he’s going to find some amusement from his new partner, whatever Shiki intends.

Chapter Text

Izaya gives up on continuing his work after Shiki’s interruption. He’s lost the thread of it now, it will hardly come back without another hour or more of steady focus to return him to the place he was when the knock dragged him into the immediacy of reality, and petulance makes a compelling argument to keep him from accomplishing anything else productive for the whole of the day. Shiki might force a partner onto him, might be able to wield the power of his position to override whatever sound, well-reasoned argument Izaya might muster to the contrary, but he can’t force Izaya to work well with the intrusion of another person over his shoulder. Izaya hardly expects that he’ll be able to lose himself in his investigation again without constant interruptions from the fresh recruit with whom he has been saddled; and besides, just at the moment the possibility of gaining a read on someone new is sufficient to hold his curiosity, and his attention, firmly to the new partner with whom he will henceforth be sharing his workspace.

Heiwajima lives up to his name in the regard of silence, at least. His frown doesn’t waver for the long minutes Izaya spends staring at him -- if anything it deepens further, a feat Izaya would have claimed impossible without having the proof directly before him -- but he doesn’t speak or turn to glare at Izaya, although the hunch of his shoulders says he’s intensely aware of the other’s focus. He just continues at the task to which he has apparently set himself, of clearing a space between the rows of books Izaya has set up over the other desk in the room to make space for the computer screen Shiki promised to send with the afternoon, with nothing to fill the quiet but the sound of his footsteps and the soft drag of paper moving across the flat surface of the desk.

Izaya lets the quiet resonate in the room, echoing back on itself until it’s full as rainclouds heavy with the promise of a storm as he keeps his gaze fixed on the newcomer with as much tension as his smile against his lips. Finally, as Heiwajima’s shoulders start to ease with the beginnings of comfort in spite of the pressure in the room, as the silence begins to shift into something almost calm, Izaya draws a breath and speaks loudly enough for his voice to break like glass shattering against the floor. “So do you talk at all, or is that frown the only means of communication you have with the world?”

Heiwajima turns at once, jerking around with as much startled speed as if Izaya’s words have cut through skin to gouge a path of red across his skin. “What?”

Izaya bares all his teeth in a grin. “It speaks,” he says, pulling the words into put-upon amazement. He shifts in his chair, just enough for him to catch the toe of his shoe against the floor so he can rock himself back and into the illusion of idle motion. “Why, with that we might even be able to communicate with each other. Here I thought I’d have to train you with hand signs and a dog whistle.”

Heiwajima’s forehead creases hard on irritation. “Of course I talk ,” he says. “I didn’t want to disturb your work.”

“Ah,” Izaya says. “Well, it’s a little late for that, I’m afraid you have ruined any hope I may have at achieving anything of use today. And for the days to come, probably, unless I can talk Shiki-san into reassigning you which is unfortunately unlikely. I’m just as stuck with you as you are with me so I’m relieved to know there may be some hope of actually interacting as human beings, assuming you are one.” Izaya leans forward in his chair, straightening from his recline so he can lean in towards Heiwajima in front of him; his new partner visibly flinches back from the advance, as if cringing from the edge of a knife. Izaya tilts his head to the side and lets his grin pull wider as he offers his empty hand in the gesture for a handshake.

“Orihara Izaya,” he says, the slant of his grin pulling the words into a purr as they spill past his lips. “And you are?”

“Shiki-san already introduced us,” Heiwajima grumbles, but he reaches out all the same as reflexive politeness apparently wins out over instinctive distrust. His hand is warm as he closes his hold to a surprisingly sturdy grip around Izaya’s fingers; it’s only the determined set of Izaya’s expression that keeps him from flinching from the bruising force against delicate joints. “I’m Heiwajima Shizuo.”

“Shizuo,” Izaya repeats. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Shizuo’s creased forehead says he does not particularly share in this sentiment. Izaya shifts his thumb in against the back of the other’s hand and presses in to dig against the soft space between thumb and forefinger. “I’ll be sure to take good care of you, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo hisses a wordless sound of protest, to the pain or to the nickname, and jerks hard against Izaya’s hold. Izaya doesn’t mean to let him go -- his intention is to force Shizuo into proximity and gain what psychological advantage he can make of intimidation -- but the other’s hand slides free from his as if he’s not holding onto it at all. There’s a moment of surprise that runs through Izaya, enough to knock his mask of amusement free for a split second, but Shizuo is looking up through the shadow of his hair over his face, and if he sees the shock in Izaya’s face he doesn’t comment on it himself. “ Shizu-chan ?”

“Of course,” Izaya says. “I need a nickname cute enough for my adorable kouhai.” He lets his hand fall slack over his lap again without shaking out the ache the other’s grip on his fingers left and grins up at Shizuo again. “I think it suits you perfectly.”

Shizuo stares at Izaya for a moment. The brown of his eyes is darkened almost to black by the weight of his hair in front of his face; the set of his mouth casts the whole of his expression towards the tension of a scowl. “I don’t like you.”

Izaya laughs out loud. “Don’t you?” he asks. “That’s a shame, I thought we could have a lot of fun together.” He tosses himself back into his chair without consideration for the squeak of protest the support gives at his weight pressing into it. “That’s fine. We can hate each other all we want. Shiki-san still says we’re partners, and that means we have to work together, regardless of how we feel about it.” Izaya brings a hand to his mouth to tap a finger deliberately at his lips. “Maybe we should get to know each other a little better first. What do you say, Shizu-chan?”

“I say you should stop calling me that stupid name,” Shizuo says. His voice is lower than it was in his first exclamations of surprise, as if rising temper is dragging gravel into texture against the words.

“I’m not a terribly interesting person,” Izaya says, continuing on with deliberate disregard for Shizuo’s irritation and protest both. “I spend most of my time here running investigations. Married to my work, you know, as they say. Though I suppose I might venture outside a little more often, if Shiki really is going to follow through and give us field assignments. It might even be worth putting up with you, if I can get some of those for myself.” Izaya lets his hand fall and swings his attention back to fix on Shizuo before him as he lets his mouth curve onto another mocking smile. “What about you? You look like a good kid, how did you get tangled up with detective work?”

Shizuo wrinkles his nose and shakes his head roughly, as if he’s pushing aside the teasing of Izaya’s tone to dig his way to what sincerity might be hiding underneath. “I’m just interested in it,” he admits. “I always liked the idea of being a detective.”

“That’s disappointingly boring,” Izaya informs him. “You don’t have any hidden trauma? No horrible accident as a child for which you’re seeking out vengeance with the hand of the law to achieve your end?”

“What?” Shizuo says, and shakes his head. “No, nothing like that. I had a normal family and a good childhood.”

“Normal childhoods aren’t all that peaceful,” Izaya tells him. “You’re abnormal in that, if nothing else.” He cocks his head to the side and hums in the back of his throat, as if just considering a thought. “Unless you never had a childhood at all. I hear they’ve got androids that can just live in normal society nowadays, like you’d never know they were machines at all. Maybe you’re a robot, Shizu-chan, have you ever considered that?”

Shizuo snorts. “Are you kidding?” he asks. “I’m as human as you are, I’m not a android.”

“That’s exactly what a program would say,” Izaya tells him. “You might not even know. They do memory implantation, sometimes, to give you the illusion of a history that you never had. You could tell yourself you’re a real boy. Maybe you’d live your whole life never knowing.” He cocks his head to the side and bares all of his teeth in the most vicious grin he can find. “No wonder that you’d end up working here, they’re always talking about how much trouble they have getting recruits to fill out the ranks.”

Shizuo rolls his eyes. “I am not an android,” he insists.

“Uh-huh,” Izaya drawls. “Whatever you say, Shizu-chan. Of course I believe you.”

Shizuo rolls his eyes. “Whatever,” he says, and turns away from the smirk Izaya is still fixing on him. “I can’t do anything else here until they bring my computer in. The cafeteria is open 24-7, right? I’m going to go get myself some lunch.” He steps past Izaya, taking long strides to cross the span of the office in a few quick steps; it’s only as he reaches to grab at the door handle that he pauses to look back over his shoulder. His face is still half-hidden in the shadow of his hair and the hunch of his shoulders, but some of the strain at his mouth has eased a little, enough to soften his voice when he clears his throat and speaks. “Do you want to come with me?”

“Mm,” Izaya hums. “No thanks, Shizu-chan. I make it a policy to not eat over machinery, you never know what the crumbs might do to the keyboard.” Shizuo hisses himself into a scowl and turns away to pull the door open with savage haste; Izaya turns around in his chair so he can tip himself back as he calls after the other. “Careful not to spill your drink, don’t want you short-circuiting your first day in the field!” Shizuo strides out into the hallway with enough force that Izaya can feel the jolt of his footfalls vibrating through the floor under the legs of his chair; the sound of the office door slamming is deafening and knocks a pair of Izaya’s books over from their upright position atop Shizuo’s desk. But Izaya’s laughing all the same, careless of whether Shizuo can hear him or not, and when he turns himself back around to lean in over his machine again it’s with his thoughts more closely tied to his absent partner than a return to the information still displayed on the glowing screen of his computer.

Chapter Text

“Alright, Shizu-chan,” Izaya says, speaking in an undertone as he rounds the corner of the street and steps free of the halo of flickering orange light spilling from the front of the store he’s just coming past. “You should be in place now. Are you all set up?”

“I’m here.” The voice hums from the depths of Izaya’s ear, a vibration from a tiny speaker set so close to his eardrum that Izaya can feel the sound of Shizuo’s voice go down the whole length of his spine and is sure even the teenaged girl angling past him to clear the corner and continue on towards the always-busy arcade district won’t be able to catch so much as a murmur of it. “I don’t understand what you want me to do, though. I’m just supposed to sit here the whole time? What’s the point of having me with you at all?”

“We’re partners,” Izaya reminds him, purring the words in the back of his throat so Shizuo will feel the shiver of them hum under his skin like a touch. “You’re here for backup in case I get into trouble. You remember what to do if that happens.”

“Call for help,” Shizuo says. Izaya can feel the petulance like the sound of dragging footsteps. “Shouldn’t I try to help you--”

“No,” Izaya says, sharply enough that the businessman he’s walking past glances at him for a moment before turning aside, too caught up in the glitter of the numbers playing over the inside of his glasses to spare much attention for any distraction in the real world he visits perhaps a few hours a day. “You’re connected to the agency and we don’t want to tip our hand. Treat me the same way you would some stranger.” He steps forward and into the blinking lights of the crosswalk along with a handful of other people forgoing the rail cars or whirring taxis to get to their destinations on foot. “Tell me you understand, Shizu-chan.”

There’s a beat of time. “I understand.”

Izaya smiles down the dim-lit street, careless of who sees him or what they think the cause of his smile is. “Excellent,” he says. A young woman glances at him and flickers a smile; he tips his head into a nod to sustain her complimentary misunderstanding before he lets his gaze slide on and away, forgetting her to the nameless, faceless crowd as soon as he looks on. “I’m on my way.” And he lets his own speech go silent as he speeds his footsteps to bear him forward over the smooth dark of the pavement leading along the edge of the street and to the front of the coffeeshop where Shizuo has been waiting for the last hour and a half.

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the shop in general. It’s one of a small chain, scattered through the main city and branching out into some of the more densely-populated suburbs; left to his own devices Izaya would choose something with a more unique flair or a more expansive menu to visit. But the woman they are looking for frequents this shop every evening on her return from the corporate office at which she works, and Izaya has some questions he’d like to ask without the official framework of a phone call or a summons into the agency itself.

The shop is warm, the glow of humid heat in the air intoxicating as soon as Izaya steps through the door. It’s a narrow space, long and thin rather than the wider footprint that a more pricey establishment could merit, and every available inch is crammed full with an unreasonable number of small café tables with chairs set into the support pole to be drawn out at need by any customers. It would be hard to navigate the space even if it were empty of anyone but the android staff on the other side of the glassed-in counter, but as it is every table has an occupant, some surrounded by a ring of three or four crammed shoulder-close to fit around the undersized tables. It’s cramped, crowded and noisy with the murmur of dozens of conversations expanded to fill the space around them; and Izaya pauses in the doorway, and breathes deep, and lets his smile spread warm across the whole of his face.

“Get going.” That’s Shizuo at his ear again; Izaya neither lifts his hand nor turns his head, but he can hear the sound of the scowl on the other’s face without needing to see it. “You’re blocking the doorway.”

“How considerate of you,” Izaya mumbles, hardly voicing the words enough that they’ll reach the microphone under the soft collar of the dark coat he’s wearing, and steps forward to move into the café. No one is paying any particular attention to him, beyond a small group of high school girls who are glancing at him in turn before turning in to titter among themselves; Izaya ignores them in favor of winding his way through the space and to the cluster of patrons that has formed in front of the order terminals. He takes his position at the end of the line and rocks himself back on his heels, shifting into greater comfort before he turns his head to look around the shop with seeming carelessness.

There really are a surprising number of people within the space. Every table Izaya can see is occupied, several by enough customers that they’re forced to share the stools that slide out from the tables on demand; but in spite of the groups of high schoolers or coworkers that are forcing a gathering place out of a too-small circle, several of the tables have only a single occupant with the hunched shoulders and determined frown of an introvert intending to avoid as much human interaction as possible. Shizuo is in the far corner, wearing his uniform and drawing as much attention, Izaya thinks, by that as by the scowl at his mouth or his generally good looks; Izaya doesn’t make eye contact with him, doesn’t indicate the least awareness that the other is there, just looks past him as if he’s gazing out the shimmering window of the café and to the street outside. There’s a table at the other corner of the shop, the mirror image of Shizuo’s own; from the back Izaya can see a heavy jacket and dark hair pulled up into a high ponytail that is spilling over the customer’s shoulder. It’s hard to identify anyone with so little, but Izaya is sure even before Shizuo’s voice at his ear says “Her,” in the rumble necessitated by speaking softly enough to keep his lips from moving. “That’s the one.”

Izaya doesn’t speak in answer, even in the undertone that would surely be lost in the murmur of the café. He just turns away again, pursing his lips as he makes a show of considering the menu for the few minutes it takes him to make it to the front of the line and place his order at the electronic kiosk. That returns him to another line at the other side of the counter, where the rest of the customers are waiting for their drinks. Izaya amuses himself with watching the others waiting in line for the kiosks and inventing stories for them for the lives they might or could be living; by the time his cup of tea has arrived at the other side of the counter he’s as comfortable as if he’s been coming to this coffeeshop for long years of his history. He claims his cup and brings it to his lips to taste a careful sip as he turns back to consider the rest of the space, looking thoughtful as if he’s truly considering his options. His gaze slides over Shizuo at the corner again, skips over the cluster of whispering high schoolers, moves across a pair of university students ducked in close over a textbook, and finally he starts to move forward, as idly as if he really has no goal in mind. He asks about a seemingly open chair, pretending not to see the bag alongside it, and then at another table, where the present occupant’s companion has just stepped outside to take a call, so by the time he makes it around to the corner he has been aiming himself for he can convincingly put on a pout of frustration for the woman leaning in over her steaming mug of coffee.

“Evening,” Izaya says, speaking with volume enough to pull the woman’s attention up to him where he’s standing with his cup of tea awkwardly balanced in one hand. She glances at him and he flickers her an apologetic smile. “Sorry to intrude. Would you mind me sharing your table? I wanted to drink my tea here but--” as he tips his head to indicate the crowded room, “--I’m thinking maybe I should have taken it to-go instead.”

The woman glances at the room, her attention following the suggestion of Izaya’s motion before she looks back to answer his disarming smile with a careful one of her own. “Not at all,” she says, and leans in to pull her bag closer to her side of the table. “Help yourself.”

“Thanks so much,” Izaya says, and sets his cup at the edge of the table before he reaches to press the button to expand the stool for the other side. He perches himself at the very edge of it, crossing his legs with careful grace as he sweeps his coat around behind him before leaning in to pick up his teacup and sip against the edge of it.

There’s silence at the table for a few minutes. Izaya doesn’t look up to make eye contact with the woman before him; he has himself tilted sideways on the chair, as if he’s thinking of leaving at a moment’s notice, and the angle of his arm at the table is meant to convey the same. He keeps his gaze wandering the crowd, active but disinterested in anything in particular, as at the table in the far corner of the room Shizuo scowls down into his cup of coffee and grates words past the locked-tight line of his jaw.

“Say something.” It’s almost a plea more than a command; Shizuo sounds as anxious as if he’s the one meant to be initiating conversation. “Why are you just sitting there?” Izaya hums in the back of his throat, a sound that could pass for idle and will carry as soothing to Shizuo’s ear, and in his periphery Shizuo grimaces and tips in to down a swallow of his coffee.

“Do you come here often?”

The voice is clear, more feminine than Shizuo’s if husky in a similar way. In comparison to the murmur against the inner shell of his ear even the span of the coffee table feels impossibly far for a voice to travel. Izaya turns back to the woman on the other side of the table, opening his eyes wide into the seeming of surprise at being spoken to.

“What?” he asks, and then, with a smile before she has a chance to repeat herself, “Oh. Not at this time, I’m afraid. I drink a lot of tea but I don’t usually have such a crowd to wade through.”

The woman flickers an understanding smile. “Not one for after-work caffeine?”

“I’m usually still at work right now,” Izaya admits, and grins in answer to the laugh he gets. “I was hoping to have an indulgence for myself tonight, but it looks like that won’t happen after all.” He huffs a sigh and shrugs. “I should have stuck with my usual, I guess.”

“It’s usually pretty busy this time of day,” the woman tells him. “Not so bad if you get here a little earlier, but you showed up right with the rush.”

“My bad luck,” Izaya sighs. “Well, thank you for your generosity in sharing your table. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”

The woman laughs. “I’m glad I could help improve your night.” Izaya smiles and turns aside again to consider the rest of the café once more. It’s a polite opening, space for his companion to retreat from their conversation if she wants to; and implication enough of his own distracted interest that he’s sure he’ll secure hers. He listens to the shift of her cup against the table as she rotates the mug between her palms and draws a breath; and then she speaks at once, almost hurrying through the words as if she has to draw up her courage to get them out. “Are you waiting for someone?”

Izaya looks back to her, smiling as he shakes his head. “Not at all,” he says. “I’m just people-watching. It’s my favorite thing to do at shops like this.” He lets his smile pull wider at one corner of his mouth to tip his expression towards the invitation of secrecy. “It’s most fun in a crowd, after all.”

“Is it?” the woman asks. “I’ve never really understood the appeal of it.”

“Sure,” Izaya says, and tips sideways to rest one elbow against the edge of the table so he can gesture out towards the hum of the coffee shop around them. “Take that man for example. He’s wearing a suit, probably on his way back from work, or out on a break before he goes back to the office; but he’s smiling at his phone. Maybe he’s getting a text from his girlfriend, or reading his favorite comic. That couple over there are on a date, but he’s awkward and she’s shy. He’s trying to figure out how to ask to try her drink and she’s wondering if they should go to VR after this.” Izaya draws his attention around to a woman with her head over her phone and a coffee all but forgotten in her other hand. “And she has a young child waiting for her at home.”

The woman on the other side of the table stiffens. Izaya keeps looking away, pretending he doesn’t notice, the same way he pretends not to hear the strain on her voice when she musters a breath to speak. “How do you figure?”

“The charm on her purse,” Izaya says and lifts his hand to point. “That’s a cartoon character from a kid’s show. It’s cute but not the kind of thing a grown woman would have with her, unless it was a gift from her kid.”

“Mm.” The sound is noncommittal, but Izaya keeps his smile as he glances back to the woman on the other side of the table. She’s watching the charm he pointed out, her eyes dark and mouth set, but the tension flickers and vanishes as quickly as she looks back to him, evaporating to a bright smile instead.

“Alright,” she says, and rocks in to brace both elbows against the edge of the table. “What about me?”

“Hmm,” Izaya hums, and turns in to imitate her own position so he can turn the whole of his attention on the woman. She blinks as he looks at her, her expression going soft for a moment under his attention, and Izaya smiles wider and tips his head to the side.

“You look like a student,” he says. “Someone who always has a book on her to lose herself in. You like staying up late, I bet, when everything gets quiet that way it does after midnight in the city.” He purses his lips and squints as if he’s seeing anything at all from the wide-eyed attention in her face. “And you’re...a good cook.”

The woman blinks, looking startled for a moment; and then she laughs, as warm as if the sound is being jolted out of her. “That’s incredible,” she breathes. “How did you get all of that?”

Izaya smiles. “I’m good at reading people,” he demurs. “I used to want to be a detective, when I was a kid.” He rocks in over the table to make the intimacy of the space actively flirtatious. “Why don’t you try to guess me, now?”

“I don’t see how this is serving the purpose,” Shizuo’s voice hums in Izaya’s ear. “How is flirting with her going to get the information you want?”

Izaya lets his smile slip wider as the woman’s captured attention slides unsuspicious appreciation over his features. “Just give it a try,” he says. “It’ll be a fun way to pass the time, at least.” His present partner smiles, a little more naturally than she did to begin with; but it’s the huff of irritation at his ear more than the woman’s increasing warmth that grants Izaya’s smile the shape of sincerity.

Chapter Text

The crowd in the coffee shop has noticeably thinned by the time Izaya’s companion finally gets up to leave, offering an excuse about work the next morning and a busy day ahead of her that Izaya meets with a smile and the regrets for ending their conversation that she will expect, after almost an hour of talking over the table. She glances back twice on her way to the door; both times Izaya is watching her, and both times he smiles and waves goodbye. Finally she ducks out of the doorway and into the crowd on the street, and Izaya rocks back onto his stool and reaches into his pocket to draw out his data link to give himself an excuse for remaining where he is while he waits for the inevitable.

It doesn’t take long. The speaker in Izaya’s ear has been silent for over a half hour, as unresponsive as if Shizuo has vanished out of range, but the weight of the other’s footfalls is distinct enough from the shuffle of the remaining customers that Izaya doesn’t have to look up to know Shizuo is approaching, and he doesn’t need the action of Shizuo’s cup coming down at the edge of the table to announce the other’s presence.

“That was an incredible waste of time,” Shizuo tells him, his voice echoing in off-beat stereo between Izaya’s ears. Izaya grimaces and lifts his hand to the inside of his own collar to press off the microphone weighting against his throat before he turns to look up through his lashes at Shizuo looming over the edge of the table. “I can’t believe you dragged me out here for that.”

“Don’t be so negative,” Izaya says, and reaches up to catch his fingers at the crisp edge of Shizuo’s collar. Shizuo tenses at once, his whole body going taut as if Izaya’s touch is electrifying him; he doesn’t relax until Izaya has pressed his thumb to the power button for the microphone lying close against the line of the other’s throat and drawn back and away. Even then Izaya doesn’t let his hold go entirely; he trails his fingers down to hook into the belt loop of Shizuo’s slacks instead and tugs to urge him into the seat left vacant by their target’s departure. Shizuo stumbles at the force and throws out a hand to catch himself against the surface of the table but Izaya doesn’t flinch back from the impact, just braces his chin at his hand and tips his head to curve his smile at his partner with more sincerity than he offered to the woman. “We got all kinds of information.”

Shizuo snorts. “From you flirting with her for hours? You didn’t find out anything except what color her eyes are and that she likes painting.”

“Not true,” Izaya says, and lets Shizuo’s belt loop go so he can lift his hand in front of him and tick off items on his fingers. “She has a reason to head home after work instead of staying late most nights. She’s nervous around the subject of kids but doesn’t worry about being seen flirting with a stranger in a crowded room. She’s taking classes over the data link but not attending any of the in-person courses you can take here in the city. And she likes coffee but is still coming to a chain restaurant instead of going to one of the better cafés in the city.” Izaya turns his hand over and presses his palm flat to the surface before him as if he’s pinning down the shape of the life he’s just described. “She has a kid at home, on their own, without any spouse or partner to look after them. She’s new to the city or she would have found herself a better coffee shop to visit after work by now. And she’s not planning on staying, or at least not sure she’s going to, because she’s not sure when she’s going to have to bolt and take the kid with her.”

Shizuo stares at Izaya. His frown is still clinging to his lips but it looks more like accident, now, than intent. “How…” He blinks and shakes his head. “How did you get all that out of that conversation?”

Izaya angles his head to the side to smile at Shizuo. “Experience,” he purrs. “Are you impressed with your senpai yet, Shizu-chan?”

“Don’t call me that,” Shizuo says, but his eyes are still wider on surprise than tight on irritation, and he’s still turning the whole of his attention on Izaya as if he’s never seen him before, or as if he’s seeing details in the other’s face that have only just now come to his attention from the shape of the conversation. It’s the second time tonight Izaya’s been the subject of that look across this table; he finds it easier to draw up a smile in answer to this second round than to the first. “You don’t really need me here at all, do you?”

Izaya draws his lip down into a pout that creases his brows together at his forehead. “Now, Shizu-chan, what would make you think that? I always perform better when I have an audience.” He reaches out for the curve of Shizuo’s paper cup between them to draw it towards himself. “And I can do my best work when I know my cute kouhai is ready to offer me refreshment after my trials.”

Shizuo snorts. “You didn’t look particularly troubled.”

Izaya lifts one shoulder into a shrug. “It’s just a matter of acting,” he says. “It’s easier to get information when you’re playing the role your audience is expecting to see.” He lifts the cup to his mouth to press his lips to the edge and draw a sip of the lukewarm liquid in over his tongue, but Shizuo doesn’t protest that either. His mouth is still set on a frown but his eyes are on Izaya’s face instead of the cup of coffee, as if he’s trying to read the other’s expression by sheer intensity the way Izaya read the woman’s reactions by experience.

“Do you do this a lot?” Shizuo asks. “Flirt with people to get information out of them?”

“Sometimes,” Izaya says. “Sometimes I threaten them too, or act friendly. That’s easiest on the data link, where you can have multiple accounts all acting at once and there’s no way for people to know they’re all you. Shiki doesn’t want us going out on our own so I didn’t get as much chance to do it in person, unless he gave me a temporary partner with one of the other solo investigators.” Izaya braces his elbow at the table in front of him and leans into it so he can slant a lopsided smile across at Shizuo. “I’m thrilled to finally have a partner all my very own, Shizu-chan, you can’t even imagine.”

Shizuo snorts. “I can’t,” he says; and then, as his gaze finally drops to Izaya’s hand around the paper cylinder of his coffee cup, “Hey!”

“What?” Izaya asks, and lifts the cup to his mouth to press his lips against the edge with deliberate care. “Is there a problem, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo scowls at him for a moment, his expression stormy and his frown lining his face; and then he lets the tension go with a sigh, giving up the strain at his features to fall back into the appearance of the handsome young man he is when he’s not caught up in scowling at Izaya. “No,” he says, and eases back against the low stool on which he’s sitting. “I don’t really like coffee anyway, it’s too bitter.”

“Really?” Izaya asks around the edge of the cup at his lips, and draws a deliberately long pull of liquid over his tongue and down his throat. “I think it tastes delicious.” He sets the cup down against the table and dips his lashes at Shizuo again. “Or maybe that’s just you I’m tasting.”

Shizuo’s cheeks flush hot at once, coloring to pink with speed enough that Izaya is laughing even before Shizuo growls “Shut up,” low enough that Izaya feels it down his spine as if he never switched the microphone off at all. “You got the information you wanted, did you forget? You can switch off the flirting now.”

Izaya pouts. “But that’s no fun, Shizu-chan.”

“We’re not here to have fun,” Shizuo says, fixing his gaze deliberately over Izaya’s shoulder instead of meeting the other’s eyes. His mouth is set on a frown of intensity; it would be a more convincing display of professional focus if his gaze didn’t keep slipping to the curve of Izaya’s smirk or the weight of his stare behind his lashes. “We’re supposed to be working.”

“You really do play by the book,” Izaya observes. “Are you sure you’re not a high-functioning android?” Shizuo does look back at him, then, to fix him with a dark glare, and Izaya laughs and rocks back to make a show of his surrender.

“I’m not a robot,” Shizuo says, frowning around the words so they take on a growl of frustration at his lips. “I just want to do my job.”

“Is that as far as your ambitions run?” Izaya asks. “To be a good little detective and solve mysteries?”

Shizuo turns his head aside as if to dodge from the weight of Izaya’s attention; his mouth goes on holding to the strain of his frown, but with the shift in his focus Izaya images the set of it turning inward, as the focus of his judgment pulls away from his partner and towards himself. “I don’t know,” he says, as grudgingly as if Izaya is forcing the words from him. “I just want to help people get answers to their problems.”

“How noble of you,” Izaya purrs, and smiles when Shizuo looks sharply back at him. “Not that I’m complaining. That’s almost human enough to make me interested in you after all.”

Shizuo rolls his eyes. “Thanks, I’m so flattered.”

“You’re welcome,” Izaya says, with complete disregard for the sarcasm clear on Shizuo’s tone. He lifts the coffee cup to his mouth to swallow the last of the liquid within before he sets it back on the table, closer to Shizuo’s side than his own. “Fetch me a refill to go so we can get back to the office, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo rocks back in his chair, his brows knitting together in protest. “What? Why do I need to get a coffee for you?”

“Because I want it,” Izaya tells him. “And we’re going to be working late tonight. This is a major piece of information I just got us for this case, after all.” He braces his chin at his hand and tips his head to smile at Shizuo. “I thought you wanted to solve mysteries and help people, Shizu-chan.”

“I--” Shizuo starts, still frowning at Izaya across from him; then his attention drops to the cup, and his expression eases out of his creased-forehead tension. He ducks his head and heaves a sigh.

“I do,” he says, and reaches to grab the cup as he pushes to his feet. “I’ll be right back.”

“You’re so well-programmed,” Izaya purrs as he sits up straighter from his lean over the table. “You’re the best partner I’ve ever had, Shizu-chan!” This gets him a snort in answer, and Shizuo striding away across the café towards the ordering kiosks; but Izaya’s grin doesn’t waver, and Shizuo doesn’t move fast enough to completely hide the tension of repressed amusement at the corner of his own lips either.

Chapter Text

Izaya does finish all of the coffee Shizuo buys for him, and another cup of tea besides. Shizuo lasts another hour after their return to the office, with his yawns steadily increasing in force and duration; it’s only after he’s fallen asleep over the corner of his desk that Izaya finally puts down the records he’s cross-referencing long enough to throw a few pens at him to wake him up so he can stumble out of the office with some mumbled intention of returning home for the few hours of sleep he will be able to fit into what remains of the night. Izaya watches him go, and finishes the last of his coffee, and then he sets the empty cup at the edge of his desk, and turns in towards the glow of his computer screen, and lets the occupancy sensors for the overhead lights flicker him into unilluminated dim as he takes advantage of having the space to himself for some hours of work. On the other side of the glassed-in walls he can hear the murmur of the simplistic cleaning droids working along the hallway, operating in the same darkness in which his own lack of motion has placed him, but he doesn’t look away from the screen, and he lets the hours slide past without so much as the interruption of noticing them to affect the focus of his gaze on his monitor.

The office begins stirring early. Shiki is the first to arrive, with his entrance telegraphed by the lights flickering on all down the hallway before him, a triumphal procession of light and machinery the only audience for his arrival. It’s another hour after that before the next of Izaya’s sometimes coworkers arrive, but Yagiri brings with her the first trickle of early risers, and by the time the door of Izaya’s office comes open Izaya has been listening for an hour to the murmur of humanity filling the space around him like water trickling in through a slow-widening crack.

“Orihara-san.” It’s not Shizuo; Izaya could hear the difference in the approaching footsteps, these rushed and scuffing instead of the steady, long-legged tread that Shizuo drops into when he’s not pushed into the faster, harder pace of the temper Izaya is already finding his best amusement to fill the long hours of work. But Izaya knows the whine of that voice, as if pleading for leniency for some error only just now discovered, and he doesn’t bother to more than cant his head to the side to give Nakura in the doorway a sideways glance. “D’you have a minute?”

“I really don’t,” Izaya says, without any apology on his words as he keeps typing at the keyboard before him without looking at it. “I’m on a case of my own today, you’ll have to find someone else.”

“Please,” Nakura implores, pulling the word into the drawn-out whine he likely believes to be persuasive. If it is, Izaya thinks, it must only be in spiking the listener’s desire to cut it off at the source; for anyone less interested in Nakura’s particular brand of slow-motion failure, he thinks it must be a persuasive argument to shove the other away and lock the door in his face. Luckily for Nakura Izaya is interested in exactly that former, although Nakura himself might not call it luck; if it weren’t for Izaya’s deliberate intervention, he would have long since lost his position and be well on his way to a different career far better suited to what questionable talents he possesses. As it is he requires some kind of help, grudging or otherwise, to finish the majority of his assignments, and increasingly everyone except for the ever-tolerant Orihara-san has less and less patience for his demands. “I’m in a really tight spot here, Orihara-san.”

“You have my sympathies,” Izaya says, as sincerely as he can make the words sound. “But I’ve been working on this all night and I need to see it through to the end.”

“Come on,” Nakura attempts again. “I just need a minute of your time. Just a hint about where to look, or something that stands out to you.” He’s still watching Izaya, his mouth dragging onto a frown of desperation; he doesn’t look at the sound of the approaching footsteps, doesn’t seem to notice the steady rhythm of the stride coming towards the doorway he’s leaning through. “Please, Orihara-san, I’m really stuck on this.”

A shadow passes over the far side of the glassed-in walls, followed immediately by a huff of an exhale. “Excuse me.”

“Just a sec,” Nakura says without really turning around to look. “You can take a minute off, can’t you? If you worked all night you’re way ahead, even Shiki-san can’t expect you to put in that many hours.”

“I worked all night to make progress on my investigation,” Izaya says levelly. “I don’t want to let Shiki-san down on the first field case he’s assigned me.”

“Come on,” Nakura says again, his tone whining to that irritating catch once more. “You can’t leave me hanging now, Orihara-san.”

“Excuse me.” There’s somewhat less patience on the words, this time, and less on those that follow when Nakura doesn’t turn around. “That’s my office.”

Nakura snorts a laugh. “Don’t be stupid,” he says as he turns to look back properly for the first time. “This is Orihara-san’s office.”

“Yeah,” Izaya says, speaking clearly so he can pull Nakura’s gaze back to him before he ducks his chin to nod towards Shizuo on the other side of the door. “Now it’s his, too. I told you Shiki-san finally got a partner for me.”

Nakura looks back to Shizuo, his expression falling slack with shock as he takes in the reality of the other’s presence. “Him?” he blurts, as if there’s anyone else Izaya could be referring to. “You actually have a partner?”

“Did you think I was lying?” Izaya drawls, making no attempt at all to hide the amusement on his tone. When Nakura gapes at him he tilts his head to the side and flashes his teeth in a smile. “Shizu-chan has a lot of potential, too. Now would you mind stepping to the side so he can actually come in and sit down?” Nakura stares at Izaya for another moment, looking as shocked as if the other has suddenly transformed into a completely different person; and finally he shuffles to the side to clear the doorway for Shizuo. Shizuo moves past him with no more acknowledgment than a gruff “Thanks,” but Nakura still stares after him for a long moment before he turns to retreat back down the hallway and out of sight. Izaya keeps watching until the door has swung shut to leave he and Shizuo in some measure of relative privacy before he lets himself relax into the support of his chair and rocks back to hang his head upside-down over the back and smile at Shizuo.

“You saved me,” he purrs in the most saccharine voice he can find. “Whatever can I do to repay you, Shizu-chan?”

“Don’t call me that,” Shizuo says as he crosses the room towards his desk and shrugs his overcoat off his shoulders. “Izaya-kun.” He stumbles a little over the casual name, as if he’s fighting with his impulse towards appropriate respect, and Izaya grins and kicks to turn himself around from his computer screen entirely.

“Did you get a good rest?” he prods as he leans forward in his chair to bring himself somewhat closer to where Shizuo is standing. “You still look a little tired. If you need to take a nap there are couches in one of the break rooms. You could probably fit most of yourself onto one, if you don’t mind hanging your legs over the side.”

“I had trouble sleeping,” Shizuo says as he folds his jacket and drapes it over the back of his chair before looking back to frown at Izaya behind him. “What about you? Did you even go home at all?”

“Mm,” Izaya demurs. “I was working on the case. I feel fine.”

Shizuo sighs. “I shouldn’t have bought you that coffee.”

“If you hadn’t I would have bought it for myself,” Izaya informs him. “I’m supposed to look after my kouhai, you don’t need to mother me back.”

“Sure,” Shizuo says, sounding absolutely unconvinced. He glances back towards the shut door, frowning as if he can still see Nakura hanging off the frame. “Do you look after that guy, too?”

“Nakura?” Izaya says. “I help him out when I can spare the time.” He tips his head, considering the set of Shizuo’s mouth and the crease at his forehead as a smile starts to curve itself onto his lips. “Why, Shizu-chan, are you jealous?”

What?” Shizuo looks back to Izaya, his irritation flickering into shock for a moment before he grimaces and shakes his head. “No! He just bothered me.” He looks back to his chair and reaches out to smooth his jacket needlessly over the surface. “Does he always ask you to do his work for him?”

“Nakura struggles,” Izaya says in succinct dismissal of the other’s worth and the question at once. “You are jealous. What a surprise, here I was thinking androids would be spared such things.” He rocks back into his chair and favors Shizuo with a smile as the other looks back to glare at him. “Are you having the first flickers of simulated love in your electronic heart, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo’s cheeks flush to pink, though it’s impossible to say if it’s embarrassment or anger coloring beneath the surface of his skin. “I’m not a robot.”

“No denial to the rest of it?” Izaya suggests. “I’m flattered, you know. I thought it would take you at least a month to cave to my charms but you really are a romantic at heart, aren’t you?”

Shizuo groans and lifts a hand to push roughly through his hair. “I should have stayed in bed.”

“Probably,” Izaya allows. “Are you going to sit down and get to work or do you mean to stand there all day flirting?” Shizuo drops his hand and turns to stare at Izaya with wide-eyed disbelief; Izaya meets him with a flash of his teeth into a grin as he braces a foot at the floor and tips back to rock himself into motion. “You may have the time to spare but I’m really very busy, Shizu-chan, this investigation isn’t going to run itself.”

Shizuo coughs a laugh in the back of his throat without shifting the stare he’s turning on Izaya. “I really hate you.”

“That lying functionality must be part of the latest models,” Izaya says. “You’re not bad at it, you know. I mean it’s transparent, of course, but what else can you expect from an experimental release?” He braces his hands at the arms of his chair to push himself to his feet and makes a show of stretching with luxurious slowness while Shizuo remains staring at him; it’s only once he’s worked out a night’s worth of strain from his shoulders and wrists that he lets his arms fall to his sides and returns a smile to Shizuo. “I think I’m in the mood for breakfast this morning, actually. What do you say, Shizuo, want to join me in the cafeteria?”

Shizuo’s mouth twitches as if he’s thinking about laughing in spite of himself. “I didn’t think you knew where the cafeteria was.”

“Of course I do,” Izaya says, and turns to stride towards the door with more elegance in his motion than he strictly needs to put there. “One thing you should learn early on, Shizu-chan.” He pulls the door open and tips his head to beam back over his shoulder. “I know everything.”

Shizuo’s smile actually breaks free for a moment this time before he reins it back in. “I’m starting to see that.”

“Then you’re already better than Nakura,” Izaya says, and steps out into the hallway so he can hold the door open for Shizuo. “Come on, Shizu-chan, we have a date with our coffee cups.” He pauses for a moment before lifting his shoulder into a shrug. “Or milk bottles, as you like.” That wins a laugh from Shizuo, if only a brief one, and more importantly urges him into motion to follow Izaya. He reaches to catch the door from the other as Izaya turns to step forward down the hallway, and by the time Izaya is rounding the corner to the cafeteria Shizuo is following as closely as his shadow.

Chapter Text

“Alright,” Izaya says, leaning far back in the chair set up in the private booth he’s rented for the span of the next hour. The space is cramped, hardly large enough to contain both the fold-down desk built into one side and the chair left to be used in conjunction with the desk or on its own, as Izaya is at present; but all he really needs is a space where he can speak into the microphone attached to the collar he’s holding out in front of his mouth without worrying about pitching his voice low enough to go unheard and to hear the rumble of Shizuo’s answering responses clearly. The soundproof booth is perfect for his purposes; with silence weighting an almost oppressive force down against him, Izaya can even hear the rasp of Shizuo’s breathing working against the chill of the air outside. That’s something else he’s glad to be out of; even the fur lining on his coat isn’t enough to entirely chase away the effect of the wind that spills down the steel fronts of commercial buildings to gain cold along the way, and the space designed to guarantee complete privacy is also small enough to feel cozy even without any deliberately heated air spilling from the vents laid into the flooring under the legs of the chair. “Are you ready to spread your wings and fly free of the nest, Shizu-chan?”

“Shut up,” Shizuo says without any indication of appreciation for Izaya’s lighthearted teasing. “Why couldn’t you have taken this one on yourself?”

“Because I’m not her type,” Izaya answers at once. “Our girl’s data records indicate a distinct preference for dangerous men, in looks at least, and while I could change my hair color it would be such a pain to bother with taking it back, and I don’t make as pretty a blond as you do.” He kicks his feet up to brace his heels against the underside of the desk folded up against the wall and pushes to rocks himself farther into the support of the chair behind him. “It’s not a big undertaking, anyway. All you need to do is get her personal phone number so we can figure out if our witness has been in communication with her or not.”

“This is stupid,” Shizuo growls. “You just don’t want to do this mission so you’re sticking me with it.”

“That’s right,” Izaya agrees, grinning wide enough that the shape of his amusement must be clearly audible to Shizuo on the other end of the line. “I knew you were smarter than you looked. Or is that your AI finally picking up on enough data to start forming conclusions of its own?” Shizuo growls at that, wordless protest to Izaya’s well-worn path of teasing, and Izaya laughs outright and kicks himself into a turn in the chair he’s slouching in. “You had to have a first mission eventually. This one is as good as any other, you might as well try your hand at subterfuge all at once. Besides, you’re getting to do the fun stuff right off the bat, shouldn’t you be grateful for that?”

“I didn’t become a detective to flirt and lie to people,” Shizuo tells Izaya, though he’s speaking low enough that Izaya thinks the words are either intended for Shizuo’s own irritation or that he’s drawing close enough to the subject of this particular quest that he needs to soften his tone before he is noticed. “I wanted to solve mysteries and find answers to questions.”

“You are,” Izaya tells him without so much as flinching. “The question right now is ‘did our guy talk to this girl before he saw the attack he claims he did?’” Shizuo huffs an exhale that might be protest and might be acknowledgment and Izaya tips his head back to smile up at the ceiling. “You don’t get to pick what questions you want to answer when you’re trying to solve a case, Shizu-chan, you make do with what you’ve got.”

“Fine,” Shizuo tells him. “I got it.” He sounds sullen rather than understanding but the sound of his footsteps is audibly slowing and Izaya doesn’t press him into a true temper. “I’m here.”

“Good luck,” Izaya says. “I’ll be right next to you the whole time. In spirit, at least. Just think of me as the angel on your shoulder.” The force of Shizuo’s exhale speaks more clearly than words to what he thinks of that particular conceit but Izaya’s grin doesn’t so much as flicker; he just settles himself more comfortably in his chair, his gaze still fixed on the ceiling overhead but his attention so entirely wrapped around the sound of Shizuo’s breathing at his ear that his eyes might as well be shut for how much attention he’s giving visual stimuli.

Shizuo’s footsteps really are slowing, though they’re landing with as much force as ever, bearing the intensity that he seems to always have to any motion he takes, as if he’s ready to simply push through any obstacle in his way to attain his goal. Izaya wonders distantly if he ought to coach Shizuo on this, if some practice might not pay off in the other’s ability to feign idle motion a little more convincingly, but a few words murmured in his ear are more likely to serve as a distraction than help, and Izaya is too caught up in his own interest in how Shizuo will approach the present problem of beginning a conversation with the woman he’s meant to flirt with while waiting at this district’s train station. So he stays quiet, his microphone far enough away that Shizuo will only hear the faintest hiss of Izaya’s breathing at the other side, and he waits for the start of what he’s sure will be the best source of entertainment of his day.

It takes some time. Izaya wonders what it is Shizuo is doing, if he’s struggling to reach for the words to cross the gap to make a stranger a conversational partner; maybe he’s trying to lay the groundwork before he begins speaking in the cast of sideways glances or flickering smiles. That’s what Izaya would be doing, if he were in the other’s shoes; but he can’t imagine Shizuo managing any such thing, no matter how he tries, and that just makes the silence from the speaker at his ear ring loud with self-conscious awkwardness. Izaya tips himself back in his chair, and considers the curve of his fingernails, and shrugs himself into greater comfort against the soft fringe of his jacket; and finally he takes a breath and says “What are you waiting for, Shizu-chan?” just as Shizuo’s voice at his ear says, “Waiting to meet someone?” There’s a stutter in the other’s voice, a waver of uncertainty; Izaya doesn’t know if it’s the effect of his own interruption or just general awkwardness, but he presses his mouth shut in any case and rocks back to upright so he can turn his full attention on the sound of the voice at his ear.

Izaya can barely hear the woman’s response. She’s too far away from Shizuo, and the microphone is designed to pick up the vibrations of the speaker’s voice without losing them to the white-noise distractions that may surround it, but he doesn’t need to know the details of the speech he only hears as a murmuring hum when he can get the gist of it from Shizuo’s reply.

“No.” The reply is direct, harsh with its immediacy; Izaya cringes for the force of it even before Shizuo goes on in a tone that sounds like a steel door slamming shut on the possibility of more discussion. “I’m on my way home from work.”

“As what, a mortician?” Izaya asks, speaking low from consideration of how closely the matching speaker is set to Shizuo’s ear rather than from any real fear of the other’s companion catching any murmur of his voice. “You’re the one who started the conversation, there’s no need to sound like you’re thinking of murdering her for continuing it.” He rocks forward over the desk in front of him so he can brace an elbow at the surface and catch his chin in his hand. “Ask her about one of her hobbies. Nicely, this time.” There’s a pause of such ringing silence that it speaks more clearly to Shizuo’s confusion than words would do; Izaya rolls his eyes and makes no effort to mask the taunt in his voice when he speaks. “Try looking at what she’s carrying, or wearing, or doing. You want to be a detective, don’t you? Try detecting.”

Even with this direct prod there’s a beat of silence before Izaya hears Shizuo clear his throat to speak again. “Do you read much?” His tone is better, at least, not actively tense even if it still falls short of openly welcoming; Izaya would be willing to talk to that voice, at least, especially if it came with a face like the one Shizuo has been gifted with. There’s more enthusiasm in the woman’s voice, too; Izaya still can’t make out the details, but the rising cheer in her tone is unmistakable even with the blurred unintelligibility of the words themselves. It sounds like something very nearly like success, or closer to it, and then:

“No,” Shizuo says again, and Izaya lets himself fall forward to weight his forehead at the support of the desk. “I don’t really like reading.”

“You’re an idiot,” Izaya says without lifting his head. “Way to kill the mood, Shizu-chan.” He collects himself to sit back up and push a hand through his hair in an attempt to recollect himself to deliberate focus, since Shizuo clearly requires more support than what he’s been left to. “Tell her you do.”

“I do?” Shizuo says, his voice swinging up onto uncertainty that makes his question as much for Izaya as towards the target.

“Yes,” Izaya says, concocting a story for the other’s lips as quickly as his thoughts can jump. “You don’t think of it as reading, though. It’s like losing yourself in the story, almost like watching a movie.”

There’s the faintest pause of uncertainty from Shizuo’s microphone. “I don’t really think of it as reading.” He sounds unwilling, as if he’s being forced to the words at knifepoint, which isn’t the most compelling presentation but is the best Izaya supposes he can hope for, under the circumstances. “It’s...more like watching a movie, once you get into it.”

“Better,” Izaya tells him. “An improvisation, but fine. Maybe sound like you actually might enjoy her company in some possible lifetime and you’ll do even better. Ask her who her favorite author is.”

“Who’s your favorite author?” Shizuo is making some effort to follow Izaya’s suggestions, or at least Izaya thinks he is. Unfortunately Shizuo’s frustration is coming through far more clearly, and with more sincerity, so he sounds more like he’s pasting a smile over gritted teeth than as if he actually cares about the answer to his query. There’s an answer from the woman, with distinctly less enthusiasm than what went before, and Izaya jumps in at once before Shizuo can put his foot wrong again. “Ask her what she likes about them. Try to look interested.”

“What do you like about them?” There’s still not a lot of cheer on Shizuo’s tone, nothing like the easy flirtation that Izaya would fall into if he were in the other’s place, but it’s enough, or maybe the steady focus of his dark eyes sells his clumsiness as endearingly stoic instead of just unpleasantly awkward. That gets him an answer, at some length and gaining in speed as he remains silent, and Izaya breathes an exhale of relief and lifts a hand to press against his forehead to ease some of the tension that had made its way there. They’re back on a steadier footing, now, if still no farther along than when they started, and then the distant murmur says something that Izaya can’t make out, and Shizuo’s breath catches with force enough that Izaya can hear the intake of air even before the other speaks.

“You really like that?” There’s no softness on these words at all; they’re solid as steel, hardened by the temper Izaya can hear starting under the other’s voice. “That trope doesn’t make any sense. The whole pacing of the story is thrown off by the wrong focus.”

Izaya groans and drops his hand to the table in front of him so he can lean in and press his fingers against the speaker settled into his ear, as if the weight of his touch will somehow carry to comfort against the back of Shizuo’s neck. “You’re supposed to be flirting, not picking a fight. Let it go.”

“No,” Shizuo says, so immediately on top of Izaya’s words that Izaya thinks at first the rejection is for him. But Shizuo is still speaking, blurting back half of an argument in reply to the portion Izaya can’t hear, and from his tone alone it’s rapidly turning towards a full-blown shouting match.

Shizuo,” Izaya snaps, and pushes to his feet as if the physical motion will lend greater force to his words. “Shut up.” But the tumble of the other’s voice continues, grating down as temper drops it low and dark with irritation, until Izaya can feel the force of it in the back of his teeth and running down the texture of his spine like a touch. His heartrate is picking up, adrenaline flooding into his veins as if he’s the one Shizuo is growling at, as if he can feel the heat of the other’s furious glare fixed against his own features instead of those of a stranger; and then there’s a crack, the sound sharp and clear enough that Izaya can hear it even with the distance the collar microphone puts him from what’s happening on Shizuo’s end of the connection. Shizuo’s words cut off sharply, stalled to quiet by what Izaya assumes is shock; there’s a rattle of sound, the woman’s voice jumping high and brittle on anger that comes through far more clearly than the actual structure of her words, and then silence so thorough it speaks better to Shizuo’s isolation than speech could.

Izaya waits a long moment for any kind of feedback; it’s only when the quiet has stretched over the span of a handful of heartbeats that he draws breath to speak. “What happened?”

Shizuo’s exhale gusts loud as a spill of wind against his collar microphone. “She slapped me.”

Izaya doesn’t try to restrain his amusement as he snorts a laugh. “Fair enough,” he says, and falls back into the chair behind him again. “You deserved it, from the sound of it.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Shizuo doesn’t sound nearly as irritated as he did even a minute ago; his temper has faded as quickly as it rose, it seems, flaring up before spending itself as rapidly as the crackle of a short-circuit.

Izaya hums in the back of his throat, pulling over the sound against his microphone as he leans forward to brace an elbow at the desk and set his chin at his hand, as if Shizuo can read the angle of his shoulders just from the sound of his response. “What’s wrong, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo growls in the back of his throat but even that lacks real force. There’s a pause before: “I messed this all up.”

“You did,” Izaya says, at once, without any attempt to soften the blow of the direct statement. Shizuo hisses but Izaya keeps talking without waiting for whatever protest the other might muster. “And spectacularly, too. Even I didn’t think you’d get yourself hit. And with me coaching you through it, too.”

Shizuo huffs. “Shut up, Izaya.”

“Don’t blame me,” Izaya says. “You got yourself into trouble all on your own, this time.” He heaves a dramatic sigh, loud so Shizuo will be sure to hear him. “I guess it was a little early to send you out on your own. I’ll keep you close to hand next time, so you can study up close and personal.”

There’s a beat of silence. “What are you planning?”

“Me?” Izaya purrs. “Nothing at all, Shizu-chan. I only have your best interests at heart.” Shizuo snorts disbelief at this but Izaya just grins at the far side of his rented cubicle and braces a foot at the edge of the desk so he can push himself back and away. “There’s no point in trying anything else today. Come to pick me up and I’ll buy you a drink to celebrate your first rejection.”

Shizuo shorts again. “It wasn’t a rejection, I was never interested in her in the first place.”

“Ah, so you’re the bitter type,” Izaya says in a tone of deep wisdom. “Sour grapes, is it?”

Shizuo groans. “Are you kidding me?”

“Mm,” Izaya hums. “Not about the drink, at least.” He pushes to his feet and turns towards the door. “Stop complaining about your senpai treating you and come pick me up, Shizu-chan.” That gets him a growl, in a tone that might be protest from someone else, but with the shiver of answering heat under his skin all Izaya feels is the electric thrum of amusement in his chest.

Chapter Text

“I hate you,” Shizuo says past teeth gritted so hard Izaya would swear he can hear them grinding. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”

Izaya trills a laugh, letting it skip higher and brighter than he ought to, technically, if he is to keep his present disguise convincing to the crowd parting around them. It’s not as if it truly makes much of a difference, of course; they make an unobtrusive enough couple that the only glances they get are appreciative ones, for one or the other of them depending on the viewer’s tastes. “Oh, Shizu-chan, you’re always so mean to me! I don’t know why I’m still seeing you at all.” Izaya tosses his head to make a show of looking away out of the sweep of heavy hair weighting across his shoulders to hang nearly to his waist. “I could find myself a much nicer boyfriend any day.”

Shizuo doesn’t so much as glance sideways, even for the arc of hair a perfect match for Izaya’s own in color, if not in length or style. “I loathe you.”

Izaya wrinkles his nose and steps in over the inches Shizuo keeps inserting between the two of them so he can lay claim to the angle of the other’s elbow jutting out as if to make a wall between them. Shizuo’s hands are both deep in his pockets, his arms so tense Izaya is certain he’s making fists of both of them within the dark fabric of his pants, but Izaya doesn’t fight to free one so he can interlace their fingers to a clasp. That Shizuo had jerked away from entirely, when Izaya tried it shortly after emerging from a private room looking significantly different than when he went in, and Izaya is willing to content himself with what other illusion of intimacy he can make under the circumstances.

“You don’t mean that,” Izaya lilts, drawling the words to something between teasing and pleading. He winds his arms around Shizuo’s braced-out elbow, wrapping his hold close against the other’s arm and pressing so close the curve of the false breasts that round his figure into something soft and sultry urge up against the resistance of the other’s tricep. “Come on, Shizu-chan, you really love me, don’t you?”

Shizuo’s jaw flexes. Izaya can see tension cording in his neck, can see embarrassment flushing crimson across the other’s cheeks. “Cut it out, Izaya-kun.”

Izaya dips his lengthened lashes in mock surprise. “Izaya?” he repeats in the put-upon heights of the range he has presently adopted. “Who’s Izaya, Shizu-chan? You’re not cheating on me with a guy, are you?”

Shizuo shuts his eyes for a moment and lifts his head into a motion of such obvious exhaustion that it pulls Izaya’s mouth towards a grin even before the other hisses over a breath of intensely determined patience. “Cut it out, Kanra.”

“Mmm,” Izaya hums, and tips his head in to rest against the support of Shizuo’s shoulder before him. “Gosh, Shizu-chan, you know I love it when you call me by just my name. But isn’t it a little intimate in front of all these strangers?”

Izaya can hear the deliberation in the inhale Shizuo draws past his nose and into his chest. “Of course, Kanra-chan,” he says, sounding as mechanical as the machine Izaya teases him about being. “I lost track of where we were.”

“Of course you did,” Izaya says, rolling the words in the back of his throat to make a flirtation of them. “I always forget where I am when I’m with you.” He makes a show of shutting his eyes and nuzzling closer against the inflexible wall of Shizuo’s arm against him; it feels like cuddling a steel cable, but Izaya’s smile just pulls wider against his lips instead of slipping free. “If I could have you with me all day I don’t think I’d ever leave the house at all, Shizu-chan.”

“Maybe that would be for the best.” Shizuo is still not looking at Izaya, though his cheeks are flushed to color that belies his show of casualness. It’s good enough, anyway; Shizuo’s acting doesn’t need to be hugely compelling for his embarrassment to be mistaken as the affection it’s not, and Izaya is confident enough in his own presentation as a lovestruck young woman hanging off her boyfriend’s arm that he doubts anyone will spare them a second glance, unless it’s to admire Shizuo’s features or the length of the legs left bare by the highrise hem of Izaya’s skirt brushing his thighs. “Then you wouldn’t have to inflict yourself on the world. I’d be doing the city a favor, keeping you indoors.”

“Ooo,” Izaya purrs. “Is that a promise?” He comes up onto his toes -- a needless effort, with dark heels to cover most of the height difference between himself and Shizuo, but one that flexes his legs to greater tension and rides his skirt up a little higher over the top of the high stockings he’s wearing. Shizuo tenses as Izaya reaches to rest his fingers against the other’s shoulder, his whole body taut with the desire to lean away from the proximity of his partner, but he doesn’t flinch as Izaya half-expects him to, and instead Izaya tips in so close his lips brush the fall of yellow hair over Shizuo’s ear and his breathing spills a gust of overheated sound to the other’s hearing.

“Turn left at the next major crossing,” Izaya says, in a sultry tone that will make him sound like he’s offering innuendoes under his breath to the boyfriend whose arm he’s clinging to. “It’s three doors down, on this side of the street. Act like you’re desperate to have me and can’t wait to get back to your apartment.” Izaya lets his hand at Shizuo’s shoulder draw across the line of the other’s shirtfront to drape his arm over Shizuo’s chest as he turns his head to angle himself into suggestion and urges his mouth close enough to ruffle Shizuo’s hair as he murmurs an undertone of heat to the other’s hearing. “Like you mean to have me screaming your name within the next five minutes.”

“Fuck,” Shizuo spits, with force enough that it will pass for the heat it’s not instead of the temper it is, and he pushes against Izaya’s shoulder with strength enough to break the other’s hold and send him stumbling backwards from Shizuo next to him. It’s only his own dexterity that lets Izaya catch his balance instead of tumbling over his own heels, and the sound draws a few heads turning away from the glow of the datalink surrounding them to blink at the bland reality that has gained sharply in interest, but before Izaya can open his mouth to snap back the illusion of an argument Shizuo is reaching out to grab his hand with strength enough to ache through every knuckle of Izaya’s fingers at once and pull to drag him away into the crowd hesitating before them. Izaya stumbles in his wake, pulled nearly off his feet by the force of Shizuo’s grip, but it just catches at the corners of his mouth and pulls his voice up into a spill of amusement bright enough that he doesn’t have to struggle to let it pass for the feminine vocal range he’s adopted.

“Where are we going, Shizu-chan?” he asks as he drops into the closest thing to a jog he can find while wearing his present shoes. “Your apartment’s the other direction, isn’t it?”

“That’s not where we’re going.” Izaya can’t see the expression on Shizuo’s face to gauge how compelling his presentation of unfettered desire may be, but the grate of sound over his voice is persuasive enough that Izaya’s stomach tightens in answer, the response too innate for rational awareness of their true situation to override it.

“We aren’t?” Izaya catches up to Shizuo’s speeding footsteps, at least enough to ease some of the strain Shizuo’s hold is putting on his shoulder, and lifts his free hand to push back the weight of the long hair spilling down his back. When he looks up to Shizuo’s expression the other’s jaw is set, his face hot, and his eyes so dark Izaya thinks they do all the work of persuasion left incomplete by Shizuo’s acting skills. Shizuo is the very picture of a man driven from himself by his own desire, too lost to physicality to compose himself; Izaya completes the set by opening his eyes wide as if on maidenly innocence, a young woman entirely unaware of the effect her presence has had on the man gripping her hand. “Where are we going?”

“Here” and Shizuo takes the turn so sharply that Izaya would be pulled entirely off his feet were it not for his own expectation of the motion. He still makes a show of stumbling, to keep his anticipation from being noticed, and when the neon illumination of the building in question comes into view he lets his lips part on the appearance of sudden epiphany. The front of the building is shifting, glowing with the lights built into its facade to offer the curves and motion of suggestion that never quite breaks into open obscenity but instead flirts with innuendo, teasing without claiming. It’s intended to be sensual, intended to stir the pulse and draw the eye of anyone who happens to glance at it through the haze of their own data connection; Izaya doesn’t have to act at all to let his lashes dip heavy shadow over his eyes or to soften his lips towards the pliancy of willingness.

“Oh,” he says, and casts his gaze up sideways at Shizuo striding forward next to him. “You’re paying for a room?”

“Come on,” Shizuo says without looking to meet Izaya’s gaze, and tugs to urge him forward along the street. He’s still taking overlong steps, making full use of the whole length of his legs without consideration for Izaya’s less steady motion, but Izaya urges forward to fall into step with the other, giving over the appearance of grace for the illusion of desperation. By the time Shizuo has drawn them up to the door of the hotel Izaya is crowding up against him, as urgent in pushing through the doorway as Shizuo himself.

There’s a young woman on the other side of the desk as they come in, or at least something with the appearance of a young woman. Her features are a little too regular, her eyes a little too disinterested; one of the cheap early-version androids, designed more for functionality and a lower price point than the latest ones that can blend seamlessly into a crowd. Izaya doesn’t let his hold on Shizuo’s arm go, however blank the girl’s polite stare may be; cameras are more effective than human memory for capturing details, and there’s no way to know who could be reviewing the footage now or look through it later. He turns up instead, barely sparing the android a glance before he fixes the sultry weight of his lash-hazed eyes on Shizuo next to him.

Shizuo doesn’t look down. “A room,” he says, sounding abrupt and rushed before he grimaces and forces himself into politeness. “Please.”

“It’s an android, Shizu-chan,” Izaya tells him. “You don’t need to be nice to it, it’s just a machine.” He pushes his hair back behind his shoulder and reaches out to touch against the front of Shizuo’s shirt and mark out the initial foray to replacing his hold around the other’s body. “You should be nice to me instead.”

“Of course,” the android says with perfect calm. “How long would you like?”

“Two hours,” Shizuo says.

“Three,” Izaya corrects immediately, and has a smile waiting when Shizuo cuts his gaze sideways at him. “If you’re going to drag me off the street with you you’d better plan on satisfying me thoroughly.” Shizuo’s cheeks flame crimson and he looks back to the android girl instead.

“Three hours,” the android repeats back. “Do you have a room preference?”

“Get 054,” Izaya purrs. “For my birthday, Shizu-chan.” The android blinks, her gaze going unfocused for a moment as she processes the request before ducking her head into a nod.

“Room 054 for three hours,” she says. “That will be 85 credits. Would you like to purchase any add-ons?”

“No,” Shizuo says, sharply enough to cut off any conversation with a human partner, but the android just smiles blandly and ducks her head into another nod as Shizuo reaches to press his thumb hard against the ID pad. The pad flickers once as it registers before chiming acceptance, and the android’s gaze goes distant for another moment.

“You’ve been keyed for access,” she says before turning her mechanical smile on Izaya next to Shizuo. “Would you like to grant a key to your partner?”

“No,” Shizuo says, and, after a pause, “Thanks,” sounding as if he can’t keep the sound back in his throat. Izaya laughs again but doesn’t bother putting words to his amusement, and Shizuo just tightens his grip on the other’s hand and turns away to tow Izaya down the hallway to the lift that runs through the midpoint of the hotel.

“Are you going to keep me locked up in the bedroom, Shizu-chan?” Izaya purrs, speaking low more for the heat the tone will grant his voice than out of an actual need to hide the meaning of his words. “You sure know how to get a girl excited, the way we’re going I’ll be lucky to get my skirt off at all.”

“Shut up,” Shizuo snaps, and strides forward so quickly he almost runs into the sliding door to the lift before the occupancy sensors can make space for them.

Izaya follows hard on his heels, stepping in to crush himself close against Shizuo’s arm in the space of the lift. “Make me,” he purrs, and slides a hand into the loop of Shizuo’s slacks so he can pull the other in and against him. Shizuo stumbles at the force, his eyes going wide as he throws out a hand to catch himself at the wall over Izaya’s shoulder, and Izaya hums in the back of his throat and reaches out with his free hand to hit the button to take them to their room.

“There are still cameras set over the door,” he murmurs, speaking very softly even though they should be out of range of any kind of microphone that might pick up his voice. He doesn’t need to project his tone in any case; Shizuo is leaning in so close over him that the weight of his hair is brushing Izaya’s own as if in the sketch of a kiss. His eyes are very dark in the shadow of his tilted-in shoulders. Izaya flutters his lashes over his own gaze before lifting his chin and parting his lips. “Act like you’re kissing me, Shizuo.”

Shizuo huffs an exhale. “You’re joking,” he mutters, in a tone roughly equivalent to Izaya’s own careful remove.

“I am not,” Izaya tells him, and slides his hand up against Shizuo’s wrist to brace his hold around the other’s forearm. “Act like you’re kissing me or I’ll take charge and there won’t be any acting at all.” He pulls hard against Shizuo’s arm; there’s less movement resulting from his effort than he expected to achieve, but Shizuo still tips in closer to him, and when Izaya arches up off the wall at his back he can get close enough to fit himself to the span of Shizuo’s slack palm. Shizuo’s fingers tighten, his arm tenses, and Izaya lets his hold go so he can reach up and wind an arm around the other’s shoulders to steady himself before he leans in to ghost his lips against the shape of Shizuo’s ear. “We’re on our way to a hotel room where you’re going to fuck my brains out, Shizu-chan.” Izaya dips his lashes and lets his breathing strain into the sketch of a moan. “At least show a little interest in the prospect.” He pauses for a moment, as if considering, before he continues. “Or did they not program a sex drive into your pretty robot brain?”

Shizuo makes a low noise in the depths of his chest. There’s anger on it, temper enough that Izaya thinks for a moment that he’s going to be shoved away entirely, that Shizuo is going to throw over this attempt at subterfuge as entirely as he did his last. He’s still thinking that when gravity veers under him, the world tips sharply back, and he loses all the air in his lungs in a sudden gust of shock. It’s only as Shizuo’s shadow falls over his face that he realizes what’s happened, that it was his own body jolting rather than the world, that in fact gravity has held constant even as his balance was shoved away from his feet by the grip of a hand against his shoulder. Shizuo leans in close, tipping towards Izaya to hold the other back with the presence of his body as he weights his elbow to the wall and cants himself close so the angle of his face blocks Izaya’s expression from the impassive consideration of the camera over the door. Izaya’s more grateful for this than he expected; for the first moment of startling action, he had no idea what his face looked like at all, much less whether it was still convincingly feminine and amorous.

“I don’t believe you,” Shizuo growls against the weight of Izaya’s length-heavy wig, somewhat more tousled now by their abrupt movement than it was by their pacing along the street. “This cannot possibly be a necessary part of being a detective.”

“Maybe not,” Izaya purrs. “But it’s so much fun.” Shizuo makes a sound that Izaya generously chooses to take as agreement and Izaya renews his hold around Shizuo’s shoulders so he can press his lips to the other’s ear as he arches away from the support of the wall behind him. “Grab my ass, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo huffs. “You had better not hold this against me.”

“Try it and find out what I might hold against you,” Izaya purrs, and pulls against Shizuo’s shoulders to press himself flush to the other’s body. His balance is still precarious but he just lets Shizuo take his weight so he can hook one leg up and around the other’s hip. Shizuo rocks into the force, moving with helpless instinct, and Izaya hums in the back of his throat and reaches to replace his grip on Shizuo’s wrist so he can pull the other’s hand down the dip of his spine and towards his hip. Shizuo hisses a breath, sounding like he’s fighting for air; and then his head tips forward, he gusts an exhale, and his fingers press down all at once to dig in against the back of Izaya’s skirt. Izaya’s back arches of its own accord, curving as if all his bones have turned to liquid heat, and when he parts his lips it’s to groan with as much throaty heat as if there were a microphone pressing against the very shift of his mouth on the sound.

Shizu-chan,” he offers, his hips coming forward to press close against Shizuo’s before him. Shizuo growls something against Izaya’s hair and ducks his head as if to hide his face in the dark weight of the same, but Izaya turns his chin up, the illumination of the lift playing across his features as he lets his expression fall into the slack surrender of overwhelming heat. “Shizu-chan, yes, take me.”

“I hate you,” Shizuo says, soft and starkly clear, and he digs his grip in tighter against Izaya to pull the other almost off his feet and close against him. Izaya’s weight comes forward in answer, his hips press tight against Shizuo’s for a moment; and then the speakers set over the door crackle with the chime announcing their arrival, and Izaya opens his eyes and tilts his head to look towards the door.

“Shizu-chan,” he gasps, in a tone appropriate for the flush painting his cheeks and the damp part of his lips. “Shizu-chan, we’re here.”

Shizuo doesn’t lift his head from the tangle of Izaya’s hair, but he does take a step back, drawing away from the wall where his force pushed Izaya in his effort to cover his expression. His arm comes around Izaya’s waist and tightens with force enough for Izaya to have a suspicion of the other’s intention even before Shizuo’s hand against him slides down to pull hard underneath the span of his thigh and lift him off the ground. Izaya is willing enough to comply in lifting his other arm up to join the first around Shizuo’s shoulders, and letting Shizuo take his weight so he can hook his free leg around the other’s hip to hold himself closer, and then Shizuo turns and strides out of the lift and down the hallway as easily as if Izaya weighs no more than the thin jacket he has wrapped around his shoulders.

“Oh, Shizu-chan,” Izaya lilts, tipping his head to press hard against the side of Shizuo’s own. “You’re so strong.” Shizuo doesn’t dignify this with a response, which is no more than Izaya expected; if anything the other’s stoic silence makes him grin wide enough that he’s glad for the cover of Shizuo’s shoulder to hide the giveaway of his expression. He presses his face in against the line of Shizuo’s shirt, and tightens his arms around the other’s neck, and when Shizuo draws to a stop in front of their door Izaya doesn’t even turn around for the focus he’s turning to clinging hard to Shizuo before him.

“Shizu-chan,” he moans, flexing his thighs and arching his back to grind closer against the other’s hips pressing against his own. His skirt is rumpled up, and short enough that the wrinkles offer a sincere danger of actual impropriety, but the rooms around them all have soundproof doors shut tight against what might spill from the space within, and none of them show any sign of giving up whatever occupants are inside them. Izaya doesn’t think he’d care anyway; for the role he’s presently playing, there should be no space in his head for consideration of an audience or propriety. Enough to have Shizuo’s hand pressing hard under his thigh to hold him up, and Shizuo leaning in against the door to room 054 to press his thumb hard against the scanner just over the knob as if he can’t bear the necessarily delay to gain access to the space. Izaya whimpers and arches himself closer, shifting his weight like he can’t bear to be apart from the lines of Shizuo’s body, and then the door slides open with a gust of air between two different pressures and Shizuo comes forward to bear them both inside.

Yes,” Izaya wails, letting his voice break high and needy as Shizuo gets them past the entryway and into the room itself. “Yes, Shizu-chan, please--” and the door slides shut again, and he drops his put-upon falsetto to lift his head and look towards the entrance. There’s a hiss as the door settles into place and locks itself back into privacy, and Izaya lifts his chin and shakes his head to clear the weight of his hair from his face.

“Alright,” he says, and eases the tension of his legs around Shizuo so he can free one and get the heel of his shoe braced against the floor beneath them. “We should be in the clear now.” Shizuo’s hold on his leg loosens as Izaya takes his own weight back over his feet and steps away so he can push his hand up and smooth his hair before drawing back to consider the room around them. “I’ll start a timer so we remember when we have to get back out of here.”

There’s a huff of an exhale from Shizuo behind him. “Just like that?” he asks. “We make it through the door and you drop the whole act?”

“Of course,” Izaya says. “It is an act. There’s no love hotel in the city that puts cameras in the rooms, and this isn’t one of the ones that takes audio recordings either. With no audience there’s no need to put on a show.” He tips his head to the side so the weight of his hair spills over his shoulder and his gaze casts dark and sultry through his lashes. “Unless you disagree, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo is still standing just inside the doorway, his feet braced out and his hands heavy at his sides. His gaze is fixed full on Izaya, his brows drawn together around a deep crease written into his forehead; his cheeks are still flushed hot with the same color he has been wearing across his expression since Izaya pressed them together on the path running alongside the main road below. Izaya lets his gaze linger deliberately on the other’s face before dipping his lashes and skimming his attention down and over the span of Shizuo’s body.

“What’s the matter?” he asks, and shifts his weight back so he can draw a heel behind him and arch his back into deliberate elegance. “Did your dick get a little too caught up in the act?” When he drops his gaze to the front of Shizuo’s slacks he cants his head to the side to make the change in his attention deliberate. “I can’t really blame you for that. From what I felt there can hardly be any blood left above your waist at all, Shizu-chan.” Shizuo’s face flares brilliant, anger eclipsed entirely by painful embarrassment, and Izaya lifts his gaze to meet the other’s eyes as he bares his teeth into a slow smile. “Do your need some help from your senpai before you can get your mind back on work?”

Shizuo’s jaw flexes so hard Izaya can see the pull of muscle at his neck as the other glares at him. “Fuck you.”

“Is that a yes?” Izaya asks, and Shizuo turns sharply away to hide the strain at the front of his pants with the angle of his shoulders instead. Izaya spills a laugh and pivots on his heel to turn his back on the other in turn before pushing his hair back over his shoulder and stepping forward to the far side of the room dominated by a bed and a couch, with a low dresser that promises all manner of exciting possibilities within its drawers. “Start searching in the bathroom. Check all the corners and the backs of drawers, places where they won’t think to check during a cleaning pass. I’ll start out here.” Shizuo doesn’t answer, doesn’t even hesitate long enough to glance back at Izaya before the sound of his footsteps speaks to his obedience to Izaya’s suggestion. Izaya moves forward instead, stepping carefully in his heels to make his way to the couch so he can pull up the wash-faded cushions and check for any hints their current subject might have left here on his latest visit.

It’s less likely to yield fruit than the dusty back corners of the drawers in that dresser, but Izaya intends to save those for later. It’ll be funnier to have Shizuo there with him to blush over what they find, and in any case he’d like to wait for his erection to ease a little before he starts searching through a dresser full of sex toys.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe how many assignments Shiki has for us,” Izaya says, speaking loudly for the benefit of the companion trailing in his wake in the flickering illumination of the city street. “I thought it’d be months before he really loaded us up, to give us time to get used to each other and for you to come up to speed with everything. He must really think highly of your abilities.” Izaya tips his head to look back over his shoulder and flash his teeth into a grin at the set frown that his partner is turning on him. “You really are such a benefit to me in these kind of missions, you know, Shizu-chan.”

“Shouldn’t you be a little more subtle?” Shizuo growls. “We’re supposed to be undercover.”

Izaya laughs outright and turns to walk backwards along the street, trusting to the self-preservation of the rest of the crowd to part them in advance of his unseeing progress. “We’re sure not going to blend into the crowd with you looming over everyone. That height with that hair will make sure everyone who so much as glimpses you remembers seeing you.”

Shizuo lifts a hand to touch against his hair for a moment, but when his arm falls it brings a frown with it enough to resist all the taunting Izaya’s tone offered to him. “I’m not going to change my hair color for a work assignment.”

“Aren’t you?” Izaya asks. “You’re hardly a real detective at all, then. You should be ready to change anything about your appearance, any time the agency wants you to. Clothes, hair, appearance; I know one guy who had plastic surgery to be less recognizable.”

Shizuo misses a step as surprise gets the better of him. “Really?”

Izaya lifts both shoulders into a shrug. “Sure, maybe. He definitely had the surgery, at least. Though I think that had more to do with getting away from an angry girlfriend than something for work, now that I think about it.” Shizuo’s brief consternation settles back into the creased forehead of temper and Izaya laughs out loud without attempt to restrain his voice in consideration of the crowd around them. “Don’t worry, Shiki won’t have you change your face for work. Though he’ll make the most of it if you do, anyway.”

Shizuo stuffs both hands into his dark slacks and frowns at Izaya. “Cut it out,” he says. “Are you always this irritating?”

Izaya purses his lips into a pout and hums pleasure. “Only for you, Shizu-chan,” he purrs, with as much warmth as if they are shaping a confession of love between them. Shizuo takes a longer step forward to edge in on the distance between them and Izaya darts backwards, speeding his own steps in perfect sync with Shizuo’s forward motion. “Maybe Shiki will transfer you to someone else’s keeping, if you plead really nicely.”

Shizuo’s mouth twists and he lets his pace fall back to its usual deceptively languid pace. It makes him look like he’s out for a stroll, as if he and Izaya are friends instead of coworkers forced into proximity by necessity as much as by choice, but the length of his legs keeps him moving forward at such a pace that Izaya has to drop into a skipping pattern for his own motion just to keep his partner-in-training from overtaking him. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he says, falling back towards something like calm in his tone again. “I’m not going to ask for a transfer.”

“Aww,” Izaya hums, and has a smile waiting when Shizuo glances back up to his face. “Have you imprinted on me already, Shizu-chan?” He turns away to resume his forward motion through the crowd. “That’s almost romantic, you know.” Shizuo huffs a breath with enough force that it sounds nearly like agreement, and Izaya smiles out into the collection of strangers before him as he goes on cutting a path for them down the street without concern for whether or not Shizuo can keep up with him.

He does keep up, of course. Izaya’s most abrupt turns have never generated the least sign of distress from the other; Shizuo seems capable of following Izaya anywhere the other goes, as if he’s tracking him by radar or maybe by scent, like one of the hounds only the very wealthiest residents can afford to keep within the city limits. The thought of Shizuo on all fours and with a leash around his neck makes Izaya smile to himself, and he’s still smiling when he sees the flickering illumination of the sign for the street he’s been looking for.

“This is our turn” and he moves immediately, cutting sharply to the left to step directly in front of Shizuo’s steady forward motion and towards the narrower sidestreet. Shizuo hisses at Izaya’s motion, stumbling and almost falling in his effort to keep from running full into the trajectory of the other’s path, but instinct still brings his hand grabbing at Izaya’s shoulder to catch his weight and save him from collapse.

Izaya reaches up to pat gently against Shizuo’s hand at his shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he says, in the soothing tones one might use with a small child. “There won’t be anyone there. Shiki says the storage unit’s been abandoned for months.”

Shizuo growls in the back of his throat. “I’m not worried,” he says. “You--”

“Are just that irresistible?” Izaya asks, and tips his head to flutter his lashes at Shizuo again. “I would have thought the skirt would have been more tempting but maybe jeans are more your thing than I thought. Can’t you at least wait to manhandle me until we’re off the main street, Shizu-chan?” Shizuo snatches his hand away from the line of Izaya’s shoulder as if the contact has burned him and Izaya grins up at the other and tips his head before Shizuo has a chance to find words for the emotion blossoming crimson over his cheeks. “Let’s at least get a little more privacy for ourselves before we get carried away.” And he turns to take the lead down the side street, moving quickly so Shizuo won’t have any choice but to follow him. It’s a moment before Shizuo collects himself enough to pursue, or maybe before he’s done considering the ramifications of just walking away and leaving Izaya to his own devices; but Izaya is barely halfway down the block before the rhythm of footsteps promises the pursuit of his companion.

“I wasn’t trying to...harass you,” Shizuo says as he draws up alongside Izaya. He has his hands back in his pockets; Izaya suspects they may be curled into defensive fists there, to avoid any kind of accidental contact with the other. His head is ducked forward and down, his hair falling to shadow his eyes, but from his slightly lower height Izaya can look up and see the color staining the whole of Shizuo’s face, not just his cheeks, to vivid red. The flush makes him look younger by a handful of years, as if he’s a high schooler fumbling through a confession to a classmate; Izaya bites his lips to hold back a grin that goes unseen for the embarrassed attention Shizuo is turning on the pavement before them. “You stepped right in front of me, I almost ran into you and I was trying to catch my balance.” There’s a pause that Izaya lets slide by unfilled by any comment from his own lips, and Shizuo hunches farther forward and struggles himself into another breath. “You look fine like you are. I don’t...I didn’t mean…” He’s going redder, the flush darkening as he fumbles over his speech under Izaya’s silent stare. “You look...normal.”

Izaya heaves a sigh. “You sure have a way with words,” he says, and then Shizuo looks sideways at him and he can’t fight back the bubble of laughter that’s been forming in his chest. “I thought it was the skirt that had you so flustered but it’s really just the teasing, isn’t it? I should have started flirting with you days ago.”

“Oh my god,” Shizuo groans, and lifts a hand to press over his face. “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“I can’t help myself,” Izaya informs him. “You’re such an easy mark. Have you always been this gullible, or is it something that was programmed into you recently?”

Shizuo lets his hand fall so he can turn a glare on Izaya. It would carry more force if it weren’t still coupled with the fading remnants of the embarrassed flush across his cheeks. “I’m not an android.”

“Oh, sure,” Izaya drawls. “You’re perfectly human, with a loving family and a normal childhood and perfectly ordinary past. Everything about you is entirely usual.” Izaya tips his head to the side so when he looks up at Shizuo his gaze is tilted off-center from the sideways glare the other is giving him. “When did you lose your virginity, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo’s glare cracks on shock, his footing catches to send him stumbling forward. "What?” He looks back over his shoulder down the street behind them, as if someone else would have any cause to be following a narrow road to a seemingly abandoned storage unit. “What does that have to do with anything.”

“It’s revenge,” Izaya tells him with perfect calm. “For the sexual harassment.” Shizuo looks back to him, his eyes still wide on surprise, and Izaya gives him back a slow-spreading smile. “How about it, Shizu-chan? It’s pretty normal to sleep with a boyfriend or a girlfriend in high school, or at least to go to a love hotel with a coworker or something after graduation. There are even those sex bots, if you can’t manage to get a human partner. What was it for you?”

Shizuo presses his lips together as if to hold back the information in his head by physical force. “That...this has nothing to do with anything.”

“Come on,” Izaya wheedles. “We’re partners, aren’t we? Surely we should be able to trust each other with trivial secrets like this. How old were you? Sixteen? Eighteen? Did you wait until you were twenty?”

Shizuo turns his head aside. “It’s none of your business,” he says, the words harsh enough to stand as defense for him; but his face is going darker, spilling information over his features in the form of dark-flushed red, and Izaya has made reading that knowledge his life’s work.

“Were you younger than that?” He takes a step closer to Shizuo standing with his shoulders hunched and his hands in his pockets; the other glances at him before looking away, but the tilt of his head isn’t enough to hide his expression from the focus of Izaya’s gaze. “Older?” Shizuo’s mouth tightens, his cheeks darken; Izaya draws up close enough to be almost touching him, even before he lifts his hand to brush his fingertips against the front of Shizuo’s shirt. “Could it be you’ve never taken anyone to bed, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo draws back a half-step to shed Izaya’s touch against him. “Shut up.”

“It is that,” Izaya says. “You’re a virgin, Shizu-chan?” Shizuo turns his head aside and Izaya purrs a laugh in the back of his throat. “I’d never believe it. With a face like yours you must have had your pick of the girls in school.” He pauses to ostentatiously lift a shoulder into a shrug. “Or the boys, for that matter. Didn’t you ever think to give it a try?”

Shizuo shakes his head. “I didn’t have the opportunity.”

Izaya laughs bright and overloud. “You can’t just sit around and wait for these things, Shizu-chan,” he says, drawling the words into teasing as he draws closer again. Shizuo glances at him but doesn’t pull away, although there’s space enough for him to retreat by another pair of steps. Izaya lifts his hand to touch his fingertips to Shizuo’s hair and smooth a lock of it back behind his ear as he leans in to bring his lips nearer to the other side. “You have to take some initiative for yourself.”

Shizuo swallows, the motion of it desperate enough that Izaya can hear it working in his throat. “I...Izaya-kun?”

“It’s my job to see you well-trained,” Izaya says, murmuring the words against the fall of Shizuo’s hair before his mouth. Shizuo is tense before him, his whole body unmoving as if he’s expecting Izaya to drive a knife into him at any moment, or press his mouth to his skin, but he’s still not pulling away. “As your senpai.” He shifts his weight to press in a little closer, almost enough to weight his chest against the tense flex of Shizuo’s arm. “I’m meant to take good care of you. Shiki-san’s orders.”

Shizuo takes a breath. “Izaya--” Another pause, a hesitation almost too brief to notice. “Senpai?”

“Mm,” Izaya hums, and presses in close enough for his lips to touch and drag against Shizuo’s hair. “You’ll be my first too, in a way.” He pauses for a moment to let this sink in before he continues. “I’ve never fucked a robot before.”

It’s a moment before Shizuo reacts. It speaks to his distraction, Izaya thinks, that it’s the span of a heartbeat before he jerks back as his hand comes up to grab at Izaya’s arm and all but throw him off. The force is shocking; even with Izaya expecting it he goes stumbling backwards across half the width of the street before he can catch his balance. Still, the impulse does nothing to stem the spill of laughter at his lips as he gets his footing back under himself and looks up to grin at Shizuo red-faced and glaring at him.

“You should see your face,” Izaya taunts. “You’re such an easy mark, Shizu-chan.”

“Shut up,” Shizuo says, and turns to stride away down the street again.

Izaya straightens to follow him, moving into the speed of his skipping action so he can catch up with the other the sooner. “Was it last week? Have you been daydreaming about me after showing me off on your arm for an evening?” Shizuo keeps moving at speed, keeps his gaze locked firmly before him, but Izaya doesn’t need a response to bear him forward as he falls into pace with Shizuo’s furious stride. “Did you think all your dreams were coming true, that I was going to push you up against the wall and take your dick down my throat while we’re in the middle of a mission? Come on, Shizu-chan, even I would wait until we’re off the clock. Probably.”

“Stop talking,” Shizuo says with his face glowing nearly neon with color. “I hate everything about you.”

“You don’t seem to mind my face that much,” Izaya points out. “Or you didn’t a minute ago. Are you sure that hate isn’t just repressed sexual desire?” as he reaches sideways to slide his fingers in under the line of Shizuo’s vest.

Shizuo lifts a hand to shove hard at Izaya’s shoulder without looking. “Cut it out,” he says, with more stony frustration on his tone than the heat Izaya wanted to draw from him. There’s no shift in his expression either; he’s kept his gaze fixed on the street in front of him, not so much as glancing at Izaya next to him. Izaya doesn’t know what exactly is motivating the distance, if it’s anger or a different kind of heat that Shizuo is afraid of feeling, but regardless there’s not much fun to be had in toying with someone who won’t respond to his teasing, and Shizuo’s too much entertainment to push him to the breaking point now. Izaya falls silent instead, obedient at last to the rough demand in Shizuo’s voice, and he doesn’t speak again, even when Shizuo glances sideways at him, until they reach the end of the street and emerge into the narrow courtyard surrounded by the soaring heights of steel-front apartment complexes.

There’s no one in sight. The older sketches of the city mark this as a park, some decades back, but the slow loss of the trees and grass that once served as a haven of peace in the middle of the dull roar of the city left no more than an empty lot on which to place yet another of the towering housing units that form homes for several hundred of the city’s endless residents. Some of the complexes above them might have windows that face out into the courtyard, but none of them are illuminated for Izaya to see the outline of the frame, and barring an actual fight no one is likely to interfere. It’s not combat that they’re looking for in any case, but the row of rented storage units at the bottom of one of the apartment buildings, with the doors latched with a row of mismatched padlocks belonging to their separate owners.

Izaya steps forward immediately, moving while Shizuo hesitates at the far edge of the courtyard. Teasing is well and good as a means to pass the time, but what he’s really after is on the far side of one of those doors, and information takes precedence, even over winning a blush from his adorably innocent partner. Izaya makes for the unit indicated on the notes still on his computer back at the office, moving with easy grace as if he is the rightful owner of the material contained within as he comes in to reach for the weather-rusted lock hanging from the latch.

Izaya,” Shizuo growls, and strides forward to follow Izaya’s straight-line path. Izaya doesn’t look up in answer to his demand; he keeps his head down and his attention on the slide of the knob under his fingers as he works it through the pattern of the combination. “What are you doing?”

“I’m unlocking my storage unit,” Izaya says with perfect equanimity. “What does it look like I’m doing?” He pulls against the lock to set the last dial into place before continuing on in an airy tone. “I’m just here to check my storage unit in the middle of the night with a hired android to watch my back. Probably I just hired him to help me carry whatever is inside back home, that’s entirely reasonable.” Shizuo growls and Izaya grins as he winds the dial back. “No one’s looking and no one will care even if they see us. We were hired to find out what happened to this guy and this is the best place to start.” He yanks hard at the lock and grins as it gives way in his hand; the lock goes into his pocket, his hand returns to the latch of the storage unit. He braces his wrist and pushes hard against the sliding mechanism; and it doesn’t budge, as if the lock is still firmly in place. Izaya grimaces. “Shit.”

“What?” Shizuo’s temper has evaporated as if it wasn’t even there; he sounds more concerned than anything else, now, as he shifts in as if to make a wall of his shoulders between Izaya and the imagined audience they have. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s rusted.” Izaya shifts his feet so he can throw the weight of his body behind his pull against the latch but that achieves no more than his first attempt. He shakes his hand out and reaches to set his grip more tightly against the handle. “It must have been months since anyone’s opened this. It won’t give way at all.”

“You’re going to hurt your hand,” Shizuo says, and reaches out to catch at Izaya’s wrist to urge him off. “Let me try.”

Izaya snorts. “Of course, because your hands are so much stronger than mine.” But he lets Shizuo’s grip on his arm pull him away all the same so he can give up the position in front of the storage unit to his partner. Shizuo reaches out for the latch to drag against it; Izaya is ready to claim his own effect in loosening it if it gives way, but it remains as stubbornly fixed as during his own attempts, and he lets his protest give into a huff of bitter amusement instead. “See? We’re going to have to get a laser cutter and break through the latch directly.” Shizuo grimaces and lifts his hand to push through his hair; when he reaches back out it’s to fix his grip the tighter before he sets his feet into position to brace himself.

Izaya hisses frustration. “I tried that already,” he says. “We’ll just need to come back, it’s not--” and then there’s the screech of metal, the sound piercing even before it reverberates off the sides of the buildings around them, and Izaya yelps and lifts his hands to cover his ears before he’s determined the cause of the sound. Shizuo is still standing in front of the storage unit, his grip still tight around the latch; which is pulling back, Izaya realizes, as Shizuo’s grip shifts away from the side of the storage unit. But the sound is too loud to be rust giving way, too much the sound of machinery protesting than just a latch dragging free; and then Izaya blinks, and realizes that it’s not just the latch sliding but the entire door of the unit dragging and crumpling to Shizuo’s force like a piece of paper capitulating to the careless flex of idle fingers. Shizuo pulls at the latch, drawing the hardened steel of the door aside as if he’s pulling at the weight of a curtain, until it’s half-open and he lets his grip go with a sigh.

“I think it’s welded in place,” he says. “If it were rust it would have given way a lot earlier.” He shrugs and lets his hands drop to his sides. He’s not even sweating. “You wanted it open, right?” He turns his head to look back to Izaya standing behind him and his expression tightens at once, as instantly as if he’s pulling on a mask. “What?”

Izaya is staring. He’s making no effort to hide it; even if the thought occurred to him he thinks he would choose to offer the overt shock in answer instead of a more composed response. One of the two of them ought to be behaving rationally, at least. “What did you do?”

Shizuo rocks back onto his heels, his jaw tightening visibly as if he’s steeling himself for a fight. “I got the door open.” He ducks his head and brings his shoulders up towards his ears. “I’m sorry about breaking it. I didn’t mean to.”

Izaya coughs a sound from the back of his throat. It could be a laugh, perhaps, if one stripped of any humor at all. “You didn’t mean to?” He lifts a hand to gesture towards the ripple of the ruined door in front of them. The lines of Shizuo’s grip are pressed into the metal; Izaya’s sure he could see fingerprints against the door, if he looked for them. “You mean that was an accident?” He laughs again, as humorlessly as the first. “I’d hate to see what you would do if you were trying. Would you have ripped the foundations of the building out bare-handed?”

Shizuo grimaces, his forehead creases. “I didn’t--”

“Mean to,” Izaya repeats. He shakes his head; the motion helps return him to the moment, helps him reclaim his traction on a world that usually makes at least some kind of sense. “I know. You mentioned.” He glances around and heaves a pointed sigh. “Someone will come out to investigate eventually, and there’s no way to hide our arrival now. I might as well get in and see if there’s anything of value in there but musty furniture and short-circuited tech.” He strides forward to the destroyed door, brushing past Shizuo’s hunched-shouldered position alongside the storage unit; it’s only when he has a hand touching against the indentations of Shizuo’s fingers in the crumpled steel that he pauses and speaks without looking back.

“I was joking,” he says, speaking deliberately without turning away from the shadows of the storage unit. “But you really are a machine, aren’t you?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, even in the huff of an exhale; he just ducks through the space Shizuo’s casual pull has made for him, turning sideways to slip through the opening so he can search through the darkness within for anything that might give a clue as to where their target has vanished.

They have reason to hurry, to be on their way before the police droids or their human keepers show up, but Izaya takes a few extra minutes in the moment of isolation he can claim for the purposes of searching, and if his gaze keeps sliding to the shape of Shizuo’s fingers pressed into the metal of the door, at least there’s no one to see him.

Chapter Text

They come straight back to the agency. There are too many items to easily manage them, even between the two of them, and Izaya can feel the familiar prickling of curiosity at the back of his mind at the possibility of what new information analysis of the containers and boxes might produce. Shizuo carries them without being asked, and Izaya is grateful enough to the convenience that he only teases the true source of the other’s inhuman strength a handful of times before they return through the nondescript doors at the front of the agency. Shizuo retreats to the cafeteria after dropping off the boxes they brought in, pleading an empty stomach for his departure; Izaya stays where he is to give instructions for the tests to be run before he returns back to the office with the pleasant hum of anticipation to keep him alert in spite of the lateness of the hour.

There are messages to be reviewed, of course, an array of notifications and questions that require more of an answer than Izaya can easily or willingly compose while he’s away from his keyboard. Shizuo returns less than an hour after Izaya begins working through those, bearing with him one of his apparently perpetual bottles of milk with the lid peeled back and half the liquid within gone; Izaya doesn’t look up to greet him and Shizuo doesn’t speak beyond mumbling an incoherent statement and coming in to drop into his own chair. Silence falls over them both from there, draping itself around them like the weight of a blanket urging towards something like comfort, and that’s where they remain until Izaya is drawn back to the present by the beep of a new message coming in. The first DNA traces on some of the items from the storage unit have come back, with probable matches for the half-smudged fingerprints pressed into overlapping patterns across the surface. At least two are useless, family members already interviewed and on-call for any information the agency discovers regarding their loved one’s disappearance; but that leaves another half-dozen to look into before Izaya can conclude they are valuable or no more than a mistake.

Izaya has no idea how long it’s been when he finds the connection. He doesn’t track time when he’s wandering through the sea of information the data link provides him; duration is a distraction, unimportant except for such things as meals or sleep, and when he’s in the middle of drawing together the delicate tapestry of possibilities into a unified whole he has attention to spare for neither. He’s holding onto three different connection points for the man they’re investigating: a distant relative, a former coworker, and a long-term neighbor; when he opens up the family register for the fourth possibility, and everything falls into place at once.

Izaya can’t explain how he comes to the epiphany of knowledge. It breaks on him all at once, like the rare sunlight brilliant enough to penetrate to the haze of the city streets far below the distant sky; as if all he needed to do was see a certain word, or glimpse a half-familiar face, and some slow-forming suspicion in his mind can leap into fully-formed reality. In this case it’s the family register itself, with only two entries for an unemployed mother and a young daughter, and Izaya can feel the haze of uncertainty clearing as if on contact, a fog burnt away by breaking dawn. He scrolls through the rest of the data file, just to be sure of his suspicions; and then he braces his hands at the edge of the desk and pushes back with a gusty sigh of certainty.

“Solved,” he declares, speaking loud so his voice will cut through into whatever Shizuo is occupying himself with on the other side of the room. There’s the sound of a chair shifting as Shizuo turns to look back; Izaya waits until he’s sure he has Shizuo’s attention before he tips his head to look over his shoulder and flicker a brilliant smile at the other. “I know what happened to that guy we’re looking for.”

Shizuo blinks. “What?” he blurts. “How?” He pushes back from his desk to cross to the other side of the office so he can look over Izaya’s shoulder at the other’s computer screen.

Izaya lifts a hand to gesture vaguely towards the display on his computer. “Her.” He reaches out to press his left hand to the keyboard so he can bring the open family register to the side of his screen and display it alongside the identification photo of the woman in question. “She’s our answer.” Izaya lifts his hand from the keyboard to point to the line in the family register. “He’s got another family on the side that his wife doesn’t know about.”

Shizuo scoffs. “How did you get to that?”

Izaya heaves a sigh, adding drama enough to make his patience at needing to explain this abundantly clear. “It’s the storage containers.” He leans forward in his chair again so he can press both hands to the keyboard without looking and call up another of the tabs open on his screen. “They’ve got prints from a whole bunch of people. Their owner, of course, that’s to be expected. Some are probably old friends who helped him move or old marks from visits with coworkers. But this one” as he returns to his original tab after cycling through and discarding the other options as quickly as he speaks to them, “She has no obvious connection to our object. She’s never had a job, they’ve never lived anywhere near each other. The only link is from years ago, when they went to the same high school.”

Shizuo snorts. “That doesn’t mean anything at all. There were five hundred students in my graduating class, I hardly knew two dozen of them.”

“Sure,” Izaya says. “Or at least that’s what your memory implants tell you,” glancing away from the computer screen to flicker a teasing grin at Shizuo. Shizuo’s mouth tightens as his attention drops to track Izaya instead of the screen and Izaya smirks and looks away. “Not that they’re wrong. I knew a few more but not everyone in my class, by any means. I probably work with some old classmates now and don’t even know it.”

Shizuo takes a deep breath and lets it out deliberately. Izaya imagines he can hear the effort it’s costing the other to hold his temper on the sound. “So?” he says. “What does any of that have to do with this storage unit? That’s no connection at all.”

“Right,” Izaya agrees. “No connection at all.” He presses his fingers to the keyboard to call up the first tab again. “So what are her fingerprints doing on the box from a storage unit he only rented out a year and a half ago?” Izaya glances up at Shizuo to watch the tension in the other’s expression fade and ease into understanding; it’s only once he’s sure of his partner’s focus that he shifts over to call up the bio data again. “And what has she been doing to support herself and her daughter all this time?”

Shizuo frowns. “She could be living on the basic stipend” but Izaya is shaking his head before the other has even finished speaking.

“Not a chance,” he says, and reaches to point to the address on the woman’s identification card. “This is in the nicer part of town. Not the best by any means, but considerably pricier than what our subject was staying in. And he makes enough to live somewhere better, when I looked into it. His wife is as stressed about the lack of money as about his absence, I bet. She wants to have our results by the end of the month; if she can declare him officially missing, she can receive a payment of temporary support by the next rent day.” Izaya tabs back over to the original subject, a middle-aged man gazing straight into the ID camera with the blank expression that everyone adopts after a few decades of similarly unflattering identification shots, before pushing away from his desk to rock back in his chair. “He kept in touch with his classmate out of high school. Maybe he was still seeing her when he met his wife. She gets pregnant and asks him for money to support them, so he gets a fancier job and starts giving her the bigger part of his paycheck before he takes home what’s left to his wife.” Izaya lifts a hand to wave aside the picture before him and turns to face Shizuo leaning over his desk. “We’ll find him at the mistress’s house, probably with his last paycheck in hand. He’s not missing at all, he just intended to lie low until his actual wife was convinced he was gone and closed out the investigation.”

Shizuo’s jaw tightens, his forehead creases. “That’s…” He shakes his head, still scowling at the screen as if the image of their target is likely to materialize into the man himself for the intensity of his attention. “That’s awful.”

Izaya shrugs. “That’s humanity,” he says. Shizuo looks down at him; his expression is still set into unhappiness, but it’s not directed at Izaya for the first time Izaya can recall seeing. “It’s just how people are. Good, bad, moral or not, everyone makes their own decisions and lives their own life.”

Shizuo’s frown deepens. “And you’re okay with that?”

Izaya cants his head to the side and lets his mouth tug onto a smile. “It’s not a matter of being okay with it or not,” he says, drawling the words slow so Shizuo will be sure to listen to them. “We’re hired to answer our client’s questions, not to judge the purity of the answers they get. What would you prefer, to lie to the wife about her husband’s affair when we have all the truth of it in front of us?”

Shizuo grimaces and glances back to the computer screen. “No,” he says, but he sounds like the word is being pulled from him at the extreme of unwillingness. “It’s still wrong, though.”

Izaya heaves a sigh and turns back around to the keyboard in front of him. “There’s no space for right and wrong in this,” he says, speaking clearly so he can be sure of Shizuo hearing the words. “We deal in information, collecting it and putting it together to answer our client’s questions. If they don’t like the answers they get they shouldn’t be asking the questions in the first place.”

Izaya can feel the weight of Shizuo’s eyes lingering on him but he doesn’t turn around to look back at the other. After a long moment Shizuo huffs an exhale and ducks his head, a motion Izaya watches in the dim reflections from the dark portions of his computer screen. “Is that really enough for you?”

“It is,” Izaya says without hesitation. “That’s why I got into this in the first place, to give answers to people who want them.” He tabs to a new line on his screen, hitting the keys hard to serve as punctuation. “I’d think you’d understand that best of all, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo snorts. “Because I’m a machine?”

His tone is sarcastic, making a mockery of the words, but: “Exactly,” Izaya says, as evenly as if Shizuo were being perfectly sincere. “I’m glad you’ve finally accepted who you really are.” He tips his head to look up at Shizuo and flash the other a smile while his fingers go on pattering over the keys. “That’s the most important thing, really.” Shizuo gives him a flat look before pushing up to straighten from the desk, and Izaya grins and looks back to his screen as the other strides away across the room. Shizuo drags his own chair back and throws himself into his own work while Izaya writes up the result of their latest investigation into a report as cool and clinical as any android could wish.

Chapter Text

“So what’ll it be this time?” Shizuo asks as he follows at Izaya’s side along the pedestrian walkways of the city. The paths are less crowded than they are during the crush of midday, but there’s still something to be said for Shizuo’s unhurried stride clearing the way before them. Izaya doesn’t know how he does it -- there’s nothing terribly intimidating in the handsome lines of the other’s face or the lean shape of his body -- but the passersby sense something beyond what is obviously presented, or maybe it’s just appreciation that pauses their stride and pulls their gaze. Izaya doesn’t care what their reason is, except that it is easier to maneuver down the side of the street with Shizuo at his side to clear the way in advance of their approach. He doesn’t have to watch where they’re going, beyond a cursory glance as they round a corner to a new crossing, and that leaves him free to cast his gaze sideways and up at Shizuo as the other strides easily next to him. Shizuo is looking at him too, if only through his lashes, and there’s tension against his mouth, like he’s fighting back an expression Izaya doesn’t need to see to read. “Are you going to get yourself invited over to a complete stranger’s home, or am I going to serve as the distraction again?”

“No need to get all worked up,” Izaya tells Shizuo, and grins in answer to the grimace this gets from Shizuo in turn. “All you need to do is ask and I’ll be happy to give you as much entertainment as you like off the job.” He tosses his head and turns back to fix his gaze ostentatiously on the near-empty pathway before them. He can feel Shizuo’s attention prickling electricity down the whole of his spine without needing to see it, anyway. “Who said it always had to be about seduction? I keep telling you, Shizu-chan, this isn’t all a life of glamor and disguises.” Shizuo draws a breath to respond -- with protest, Izaya suspects -- and Izaya keeps talking, speaking loud as he speeds his steps to move ahead of the other so he can pivot and walk backwards in front of his frowning partner. “We’re just going to go talk to a few people. Sometimes the best way to get information is to ask for it directly, after all.”

“Oh of course,” Shizuo deadpans. “Just asking people questions. What an obvious idea, why didn’t I think of that?”

Izaya slows his steps to let Shizuo draw close enough to him that he can reach out and press the façade of a comforting touch against the other’s shoulder, completely overlooking the audible sarcasm on the other’s words. “Don’t beat yourself up about it too much,” he says in a tone of the best false sympathy he can find. “You’re still learning, that’s why you have me here to show you the ropes.” Shizuo rolls his eyes towards the darkening sky overhead and Izaya grins and falls back into step alongside the other, albeit close enough this time that their sleeves are brushing together with each careless swing of Izaya’s arm alongside Shizuo’s hands stuffed into the safety of his pockets. “All we have to do is meet our source and ask her a couple of questions before heading back to the office. Even you can’t mess that up.”

“That’s very reassuring,” Shizuo tells him. He sounds sour but he’s not pulling away from Izaya’s sleeve brushing him; Izaya doesn’t know if that’s intentional or just that he hasn’t noticed the contact, but either way it’s enough to keep a smile tugging at Izaya’s lips as they make their way down the street to the even more rarely-used parts of town their source has named for their meeting spot. “Couldn’t you handle this all on your own, with your skills the way they are?”

“Of course I could,” Izaya says without so much as hesitating over the words. “But our fearless leader refuses to send me out on missions alone, and besides it’s so much more fun to have you at my side. Even the most mundane tasks take on a certain special sparkle with you there, Shizu-chan.” Izaya tilts his chin up and cants his head to the side, coming in close enough that he would be actually resting his head at Shizuo’s shoulder were it not for his partner reaching out to push at his arm and urge him away, albeit with the tug of amusement at his lips enough to prove his own enjoyment, however hard-won.

“Cut it out,” Shizuo says. “We’re almost there by now, aren’t we?”

Izaya blinks to bring his gaze back into focus on his data feed overlay, instead of lingering over the greater details of that person immediately present. “We are,” he says, and presses a finger to his temple to shut off the visual feed entirely. Shiki’s not plugging into their perspectives for something as minor as this, and Izaya would prefer to have no distractions at all, however adept he may be at looking through the glittering white of text and maps and numbers overlaid over his sight. His vision dims slightly, dampened by the removal of the electronic illumination as he shuts it down, but when Izaya blinks hard his eyes adjust to the greater darkness around them to bring out details from the shadows that he couldn’t see before. There are the details of walls coming together, the outline of shut doors laid into smooth façades in dark-on-dark specificity; and then they round the corner before them, and Shizuo reaches out to touch against Izaya’s sleeve in a motion Izaya suspects to be more reflexive than intentional.

“I see them,” Izaya murmurs, speaking as softly as if they are still plugged into each other’s ears by the intimacy of collar mics. He doubts Shizuo can hear him over even the night-softened hum of the city around them, but the point carries through, or maybe conscious thought takes the lead over instinct to drop Shizuo back into the seeming of neutrality. His hand drops away, the contact stripping Izaya of the immediate tell for his partner’s presence, but Izaya doesn’t need to look back to feel Shizuo falling into step behind him, and when he comes forward it’s with all the self-confidence in his stride that comes of having the strength to crumple metal trailing in the blind spot over his shoulder.

Izaya doesn’t need to look back to be sure Shizuo is following him, and he doesn’t need to see the tension accumulating in the other’s shoulders to tell him that something is wrong. That fact is clear as quickly as the shadowy figures lining the space come into his view, standing out clear to his night vision even holding statue-still where they have been set: at least a dozen strangers and closer to two, if Izaya were to take a guess, far more than the two or three people they ought to be meeting. But they are far from the main road, and long minutes away from any kind of official help even if Izaya gives up the potential of the interaction in exchange for a plea for support. Most importantly of all, Izaya can feel his pulse coming faster in his throat, can feel his attention clarifying into sharper focus with the building awareness of danger, and his feet bear him forward in answer without his thought at all, his movement falling towards graceful nonchalance even as the figures around the edges of the space shift and sharpen in the periphery of his attention.

“Good evening,” Izaya finally calls, pitching his voice loud as he draws himself to a halt at the far edge of the narrow space that their audience has surrounded. Shizuo steps up just behind him but doesn’t push to claim the frontmost position; Izaya is silently grateful to Shizuo’s intuition or his own brief training holding the other back until he’s needed. “I wasn’t expecting to meet with quite so many people here this evening.” He cants his head to the side and draws his lips together into a pout. “Or so many men. I think I can satisfy some of you, at least, but you should know my partner is too inexperienced to be of much help. If only you had let us know you were planning a welcome like this I would have been able to be much better prepared.”

There’s a snort of a laugh, pitched to such deliberate volume that Izaya can hear it clearly without straining. He lets his gaze slide over the shadowy shapes before him to the far side of the space in which they are arranged, where one of the crowd is shifting to come forward from the rest.

“Now, now, no need to talk big.” It’s a man speaking, judging from the sound of his voice, but there’s not as much breadth to his shoulders as Izaya would have expected, from the crowd of followers he apparently has. It’s hard to place an age to him from within the shadows that are wrapping them all; the best Izaya can do is to say he’s likely older than Izaya or Shizuo appear to be, and still well shy of his middle years. He’s wearing sunglasses over his eyes, an entirely needless affectation with the weight of night around them, and more immediately a foolish decision, given the effect they must have on his own vision, but his grin speaks to self-assurance in the cluster of followers he has formed around him, as if ready to rely on a simple body count more than any demonstrated skill. “I know we aren’t who you expected to be meeting out here, after all.”

Izaya lifts his shoulder into a shrug as careless as he can make the gesture seem. “Plans change,” he says. “We wouldn’t still be in this line of work if we couldn’t cope with a few surprises now and then.” He lets his gaze shift away from the man who has claimed the position of leader and to the shadows of the figures around them, considering their relative height and built against the sound of the voice he had spoken to previously. “Does Haruna exist at all, then, or is she just a filter you put over your voice for live calls? You’re better at playing a university student than I would expect, honestly.”

The speaker tenses, so visibly affronted Izaya doesn’t even have to look at him to see the strain of reaction. “She’s real enough,” he snaps, apparently unaware of the giveaway his temper makes of itself as he speaks. “A living human and all. Though she might as well be an android, for how well she knows to do what I tell her to do.”

Izaya hums in the back of his throat. “So she’s just a front,” he says. “Are you blackmailing her into obedience, or does she think she’s actually in love with you or something?” The man hisses in the back of his throat, sounding as offended as if Izaya has landed a physical blow on him, but Izaya doesn’t wait for more of a response than that. “Not that it makes a difference. You wanted us out here for something, right? Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve been at work all day and I have better things I could be doing tonight than standing out here talking to you.”

The leader laughs. It’s meant to be disarmingly calm, Izaya thinks, but his voice is too strained for the illusion of composure to pass and he just ends up sounding tense. The momentary delay before the rest of the men around them pick up the amusement only highlights the misstep, and by the time quiet has fallen again Izaya isn’t even trying to hold back the more sincere laughter tugging at the corner of his mouth. The leader doesn’t notice; from behind the dark of his sunglasses, Izaya isn’t sure he can see he or Shizuo clearly at all, and if he can he’s too caught up in the lilt of his own speech to notice Izaya’s amusement at his expense.

“What indeed?” The man tosses his head to flip the weight of his hair back from his face; another affectation, Izaya thinks, meant to seem off-hand but just showing up the deliberate intent behind every action he takes. “What use could we possibly have for a couple of private detectives who have their fingers in every sordid affair in the city?” Another flip of his hair, this time accompanied by a hand raising to urge the strands back and away from his face. “You make a living off information, don’t you? I hope you don’t think you have any particular value beyond that.”

“I never overestimate my value,” Izaya says without any of the insult he is sure the man is expecting to draw from him. “But I try not to underestimate it either. It’s more than my job is worth to spill any of our client’s secrets beyond the ones they pay for. I’d be lucky to find myself just out of employment; Shiki-san would have the head of any employee of his who dares sully the confidentiality of his agency.”

“Oh, sure,” the man says, nodding with force as if to set himself in agreement with Izaya’s statement. It’s no more convincing than any of the other displays of acting that he’s put on so far, but Izaya refrains from reacting more dramatically to this than to any other. “Being out of a job is a real bummer. Especially with things the way they are in the city. And maintaining standards is important, I’m sure.” He lifts his hand from his side to snap his fingers with the appearance of idleness; it takes a moment before his backup recall their cue, or perhaps decide to follow it, in stepping out of the shadows and towards Izaya and Shizuo near the entrance to the clear space around which they are set.

“I guess an upstanding guy like you would be willing to put his own life on the line for what he believes in,” the man says. Behind Izaya there’s the scuff of shoes and a low grunt of surprise from Shizuo; Izaya doesn’t need to turn his head to know that at least a pair of the leader’s hired muscle have stepped in to flank Shizuo just behind him. “But do you feel the same way about your dear partner?”

Izaya doesn’t turn his head to look at the overt threat certainly being offered to Shizuo behind him. He ducks his chin instead, letting his head fall forward as he lifts a hand to press his fingers to the bridge of his nose and heave a sigh. “I really wouldn’t try that,” he says.

“Why not?” The leader is sounding manic, now, edgy and excited with the tension hanging in the air, as if assumed victory is a drug he’s pulling into his veins with every frantic-fast breath he takes. “If it’ll motivate you to tell me what I need to know I’ll do whatever it takes. Now, if you want you and your partner to still have legs to walk out of here, you’d better start talking.”

Izaya heaves a sigh and looks back over his shoulder. Shizuo is hemmed in by two strangers, both dressed in clothes so dark they seem to be drinking in the shadows around them to haze their outlines out of clear sight. Shizuo is clear, though, standing between them with the white of his shirt crisp over his slack shoulders and the relaxed angle of his arms, and he’s looking at Izaya rather than at either of the two bulky figures presently crowding in against him as if to press him to immobility by the force of their presence. Shizuo’s mouth is set onto a frown, the corners of his lips dragging down sharply as he watches Izaya with complete focus behind his eyes, and Izaya meets his gaze with a smile as warm as if they aren’t currently surrounded by dozens of attackers.

“Hey Shizu-chan,” Izaya says, speaking far more loudly than he needs to for the other to be able to hear him clearly, loudly enough that his voice redoubles off the sides of the buildings around them to echo into a mockery of itself in the clear space in which they are all standing. “Remind me what it is you’re always telling me?”

Shizuo grimaces, his scowl deepening for a minute. “That I’m not a machine?”

“That’s it.” Izaya lifts a hand to gesture at the space around them. “Here’s a perfect opportunity to prove yourself.” He tilts his head to the side and flashes Shizuo his brightest smile. “Androids can’t hurt people, right?” He drops his arm, letting it fall as bonelessly as if the strength is draining from him as quickly as his smile slides off his mouth. “We could really do with some protection right now.”

“What are you talking about?” one of the two hemming Shizuo in asks. He turns away from Shizuo, giving over his attempted intimidation on the unthreatening blond in exchange for fixing his gaze on Izaya’s flat consideration. “You looking for that fight after all?” He lifts one hand in front of him to brace it in the hold of his other and squeezes with deliberate force to crack all his knuckles at once. Izaya doesn’t flinch even as the other takes a deliberately long step forward into his personal space. “An android’ll just make this easier to deal with, then. If there’s only one of you that’s a real person anyway…” and he lifts his balled-up fist over Izaya, sketching out the end of his sentence by action instead of words. Izaya keeps his gaze on the other’s face, meeting threatening eyes without offering so much as a bat of his lashes by way of fear, and he doesn’t look aside even at the rush of movement from the shadows behind the other, as pale hair and a white shirt come forward with more speed than even Izaya was expecting. His attacker bares his teeth into a grin savage on expectation, his shoulder flexes as he lifts his fist the higher, and then an impact slams into the side of his face, knocking him off his feet and the breath from Izaya’s lungs in the same motion.

Shizuo follows through the blow with the full motion of his shoulder, swinging even as the first weight of his punch throws his opponent back by several feet to collide hard with the side of a closed-up building. Not that he’s in danger of losing his footing; his feet shift as smoothly as his arm did, pivoting in and under him to take him into a turn in time to lift his opposite arm and block the blow the second of the two threats is lurching in to offer. There’s no trace of training, none of the calculated grace that Izaya has seen from recordings of martial artists on the datalink or occasionally from the street experience of fistfights that are captured as evidence for one or another investigation he’s helping with; Shizuo moves with a speed too great to rely on thought and a strength too much to be formed by training alone. He reacts instantly, moving with a kind of preternatural grace that must come from instinct more even than intuition, and when his blows land they fit themselves into the same structure, brief, brutal explosions of violence meant to remove a threat rather than the show of aggression those around them are exuding. The second opponent goes down as quickly as the first, his greater care with Shizuo’s fists doing him little good that Izaya can see, and by the time Shizuo is straightening to look over Izaya’s shoulder at the rest of the crowd the lot of them are shouting and collecting to storm them and overcome by force what can clearly not be managed by skill.

Izaya doesn’t even turn around. His hands are at his sides, slack and heavy without even an attempt at violence in the curl of his fingers, and whatever strategy there might be in taking him hostage there is no thought at all in the surge of defensive violence breaking over them now. Shizuo’s strength is too great, too much to bear in calm; it must be met with instinctive resistance, a bone-deep terror to drag either flight or fight from its viewers. The men around them are too brawny to have experienced much of the former, too well-trained to lean towards the latter; and so they throw themselves at Shizuo while Izaya stands still and disregarded, and Izaya watches Shizuo go through them as if their blows are no more than the eddies of wind that rumple his hair and tug at the seams of his clothes. Shizuo moves with absolute confidence, with perfect grace in every part of his body working together smoothly; more elegant than training, more efficient than a machine. Izaya has only seen a handful of the domesticated pets that are such a rarity within the city limits, and only glanced at old photo reels of the larger animals that humanity has chased far afield from the spaces they prefer to inhabit, but Shizuo’s movements call to mind the heavy shoulders of a predatory cat, something as large as a grown human and lean with muscle housing startlingly dense reserves of strength. Izaya stares, eyes wide and breath absent and hands slack, until after what can only have been a handful of seconds Shizuo swings around to slam his elbow into the chest of the last of his attackers and the flurry of violence is over as abruptly as it began.

There’s a breath of silence in the space. The pavement around them is littered with the collapsed forms of the opponents Shizuo so summarily dispatched; other than Shizuo straightening to push a hand through the tangle of his yellow hair, Izaya can only hear the panic-strained breathing of one other person still behind him. He didn’t see the leader launch himself into the fray and didn’t expect him to; with his brute force protection so dispatched of, he offers so little threat it’s not even worth facing him. It’s Shizuo whose gaze slides over Izaya’s shoulder to find the only other person still standing in the space; Izaya watches his brows come together on a crease, watches his mouth drag hard onto a scowl of irritation.

“So,” Shizuo says, and takes a step forward from the circle his efforts kept clear just around his feet. “Do you feel like talking yet?” There’s a sharp rush of air, a hiss of an inhale dragged to panic in the other’s chest, and then the scuff of footsteps, as shoes ill-suited for sprinting are applied to exactly that goal against the pavement. Izaya turns his head to glance at the leader as he stumbles past the unconscious shapes of his supposed comrades in pursuit of an escape, but the man doesn’t glance at either of them, doesn’t spare a breath to take in anything around him but the exit waiting before him. He accelerates as he comes up to it, rocking forward over his feet as he clears the immediate obstacles in his path, and then he’s gone, sprinting away down the street and towards the wider main roads that might offer him some cover, perhaps even enough to lose their pursuit if he makes it to a large enough crowd. Shizuo turns his head to watch him go, his attention following Izaya’s idle consideration, but he doesn’t move to chase after him, only huffs frustration and grimaces at the man’s retreating back.

“It’s going to be a pain to track him down,” he grumbles before turning to bring the weight of his gaze back to Izaya standing in front of him. “I guess you’re going to want me to chase him?”

Izaya jerks his head sharply. It’s true that Shizuo could probably catch the man that’s just vanished into the shadows of the alley -- he’s fast enough to make up the distance in a handful of blocks, at least -- and it’s further true that with the lead on Niekawa Haruna having clearly fallen through that they have nothing better to start with. But they are surrounded by men who can’t possibly have been paid enough to keep their mouths shut if they’re asked, and Izaya can describe the leader’s features for the artists at the agency even with the minimal disguise his sunglasses provided; and more than that, Izaya finds he doesn’t care at all about the young woman they’re meant to be looking for any more than the laughable threat of the man they actually found. “You’re human.”

Shizuo blinks as if startled; his weight shifts as he comes around to face Izaya more fully and turn the whole of his attention on the other instead of just the portion he was mustering. “What?” His forehead creases; the corners of his mouth dip hard. “Again? Are you going to bring this up every single time we go out? I keep telling you, I’m not--”

“A machine,” Izaya finishes for him. “I know. You’re not.” He takes a step forward towards Shizuo in front of him. His hands are still relaxed at his sides, his arms still as entirely threatless as they remained for the whole of Shizuo’s brief combat with their attackers, but Shizuo rocks back over his heels as he didn’t for any of his previous assailants, tipping away as if afraid of what Izaya might be coming in to do to him. He doesn’t take a step, though, however much his shoulders angle back, and Izaya’s second stride carries him toe-to-toe with Shizuo in front of him, close enough to all but press himself against the front of the other’s white shirt.

“You’re not an android,” Izaya says again. “I was wrong.” He lifts his hand from his side, keeping his fingers slack and visibly defenseless as he reaches out over the distance to Shizuo; Shizuo doesn’t rock back in towards him, doesn’t give up the uncertain angle of his shoulders, but his lashes flutter when Izaya’s fingers skim the back of his collar, and when Izaya slides his hand up to press to the back of the other’s neck Shizuo’s chin tips down in time with the set of his mouth softening to parted lips around the huff of a breath. Izaya watches Shizuo’s face, tracking the tilt of dark lashes and the easing of the tension in the other’s features as he winds his fingers up and into the pale tangle of Shizuo’s hair; it’s only when he’s stripped that first instinctive uncertainty into pliant surrender that he draws a breath to speak again. “I owe you an apology.”

Shizuo’s lashes come up. His gaze is very dark in their shadow; his eyes only flicker to meet Izaya’s own for a moment before his attention drops to cling to the other’s lips. “Izaya-senpai?”

Izaya lifts his other hand from his side. Shizuo doesn’t flinch from this motion at all; when Izaya touches fingertips gently to the side of his jaw, Shizuo’s lashes dip towards the weight of a blink, and Izaya takes the motion as invitation to rock up onto his toes and over the gap between his height and Shizuo’s. Shizuo’s lips are parted before he presses his own against them, soft with surrender before he asks for it, and they’re as fever-warm as the other’s skin, radiant with the same human heat that is glowing against Izaya at every point he and Shizuo touch. Shizuo huffs a breath against Izaya’s mouth, the sound of it stifled to a vibration Izaya feels spill down his throat to burn at the inside of his chest, and when Izaya tightens his hand at the back of the other’s head Shizuo tips in towards him in capitulation to the urging of Izaya’s hold on him. Izaya braces Shizuo’s head between his hands, spanning the whole of the other’s voluntary obedience in the reach of his fingers, and when he touches his tongue to Shizuo’s Shizuo’s hand finds its way to his waist, just above the curve into his hip.

Fingers tighten, Shizuo’s tongue shifts, and then Shizuo takes a step in and Izaya is moving, carried backwards by his own instinct and Shizuo’s impulse at once. His heel catches at something, the pavement or the outflung arm of one of the unconscious opponents scattered around them, but Shizuo’s hold doesn’t allow space for him to fall, even one-handed, and instead of tripping they just cross the distance to the nearest wall the faster. Izaya’s shoulders hit first, running up against the metal behind him with force enough to break his mouth away from Shizuo’s with a gasp of shock, but his lungs are still emptying when Shizuo’s body crushes the rest of him back to pin him against the surface. Izaya groans in answer, the sound too immediate for him to modulate it to protest or pleasure, and so instead it falls somewhere between the two as his hands in Shizuo’s hair tighten to reflexive fists against the strands. Shizuo’s weight against him eases for a moment, his balance drawing back as he takes a breath that suggests apology, and Izaya drags at his hair to bring him back in without waiting for sympathy.

They don’t hesitate in pressing against each other. They had practice in this already, when Izaya was feigning moans in a range well above his own and Shizuo’s fingers were fumbling over the pleats of a skirt instead of gripping at the texture of tight-fitting pleather; but there’s no feigning at all in the notes breaking in Izaya’s throat now when Shizuo gets a leg between his and pins him back against the wall with the flex of his thigh, and when Shizuo turns in to catch the sound with the cover of his mouth Izaya offers it up without hesitation at all. One arm catches around Shizuo’s neck, his palm bracing tight over lean shoulders that carry strength enough to crush bone and bend steel; the other Izaya angles between them so he can spread his fingers and slide down the front of Shizuo’s shirt and over his chest. Shizuo has one hand at Izaya’s hip and the other caught against the back of the other’s neck; when Izaya’s palm presses down to cup against the heat inside the straining front of his slacks both tighten with sharp, startled force, enough to print bruises before Shizuo can loosen then and drag himself back from the friction of Izaya’s mouth against his. “Izaya.”

“What?” Izaya asks. He means the word to be taunting, slick with amusement, but the heat of Shizuo’s blood has spilled into his throat and his voice has dropped off with it to rasp sultry in the depths of his chest. “I’m not teasing you this time.” He presses his palm in harder, grinding in close enough that he can feel the full heat of Shizuo’s arousal clear against him. Shizuo’s mouth comes open, his shoulders hunch; Izaya can feel the muscle of Shizuo’s thigh pressing against him jump with instinctive heat. His own cock aches with the burn of desire coursing through him. “Do you want me on my knees? With my mouth open? Say the word, Shizu-chan, I’ll give you anything.” Izaya curls his fingers in against the back of Shizuo’s shirt, tightening his hold to a promise as he pulls himself in close enough for his lips to drag over the shape of the other’s ear. “But we’re not going back to the office until I’ve seen you coming for me.”

Shizuo groans all the way in the back of his throat, a sound so low and desperate that Izaya wonders for a moment if he won’t see through his promise rather sooner than he expected to. But the motion of Shizuo’s hips bucking against his palm is brief, a stutter instead of an intentional effort, and it’s followed almost immediately by the hand at Izaya’s neck dropping down to clutch at his wrist instead. Izaya can’t resist the force of Shizuo’s hold pulling his grip away and doesn’t try; he lets Shizuo pin his hand to his chest as the other rocks back by a few inches, enough for Izaya to see the flush on his cheeks and the heat soft at his mouth but not so much to lose any of the radiance caught between them to the cool of the air.

“Not here,” Shizuo says, and shakes his head as if to center himself in his statement. “We’re in public.”

“That wasn’t stopping you a minute ago,” Izaya observes, but he doesn’t really care about starting the argument and Shizuo sounds like he’s saying later instead of no. “Where, then? Should I ask the datalink for the closest hotel?” He’s calling up the map to lay over his vision without waiting, giving up some of his attention to Shizuo’s face in favor of finding them a space where he can forego interruptions entirely, but Shizuo is shaking his head again, the motion clear enough for Izaya to see even with the glittering pattern of the city map laid over it.

“I live near here,” Shizuo says, and ducks his chin to indicate the general direction of the street they just came from. “My apartment’s only a few blocks away, we can be there in five minutes.”

Izaya lets the map fall away from his vision. “Good enough for me,” he says. He tightens his fingers at the back of Shizuo’s shirt as he straightens from the wall at his back and tips himself forward; Shizuo’s lashes dip to surrender as quickly as Izaya tugs to urge him downward, and his mouth is as soft as if he’s melting to the urging of Izaya’s lips at his when Izaya kisses him. They stay there for a long moment, pressing as close as their mutual distraction can bring them; then there’s a groan of pain instead of heat from one of the attackers Shizuo so summarily dispatched, and Izaya lets his grip on Shizuo’s shirt go to fall back and away.

“Let’s go, Shizu-chan,” he purrs, drawing his hand up to ruffle into the other’s hair as he slides free of Shizuo’s hold so he can move backwards down the alley towards the main street. “I want to see what else your human potential has to offer me before the night is over.” He flashes his teeth into a grin sharpened to teasing by the angle of his head, but when Shizuo growls a response it’s more heat than anger, and when he steps forward to follow Izaya twists to take the lead to the main street, even without knowing where they’re heading.

Shizuo catches up with him well before they rejoin the main current of humanity, which necessitates another delay of several seconds in stealing their breathing and bruising their mouths to heat. But Shizuo is smiling when they emerge onto the main street, without any apparent concern for the mess Izaya’s grip has made of his clothing, and even with all the people of the city spilling around them Izaya only has attention to spare for the one before him.

Chapter Text

Izaya wants to pay attention to the details of Shizuo’s apartment. Up until the span of a few hours ago he had still more than half-believed the other to be the android his strength would make of him, living in a charging cubicle where he took on memories of a personal life borrowed from someone more humanly capable of actually living the mundanity of a day-to-day existence in the city. He hasn’t spent much time wondering about the other’s home when he didn’t entirely think it existed, and in the half-hour since his opinion inverted he has had too much to occupy him with the man himself to worry overmuch about the inner workings of his private life. It’s still a golden opportunity, one Izaya would hardly have expected to receive even if he really believed this space existed, and some part of him wants very much to collect the fragments of information into his head to be taken out and fit together at his leisure, when he can play at finding the borders in the puzzle of a life they make.

Unfortunately that desire is going to have to wait, perhaps for some time, because Izaya is presently in the grip of a far more demanding one.

Their clothes hardly make it past the door. The elevator only needs to cover the distance of a half-dozen floors, barely a third of the way up the generic apartment complex in which Shizuo makes his home, but Izaya makes use of the dozen or so seconds after the door squeaks closed on them to unfasten as much of Shizuo’s uniform from around his body as he can. Shizuo huffs some response to this, with enough growl on the sound that it might be protest and enough heat that it could be just want, and Izaya takes Shizuo’s hands claiming his hair as far more telling encouragement. By the time the elevator doors open Izaya has Shizuo’s tie undone and the first three buttons on his shirt unfastened, and Shizuo’s fingers are shoving up at the back of the other’s shirt as if desperate to find their way to the heat of Izaya’s bare skin. It’s Shizuo who gets them out of the elevator and down the hallway, mostly by tightening his hold on Izaya and bearing the other bodily with him as he stumbles over the intervening distance, and after a misprint at the ID reader Shizuo manages to get his thumbprint lock to open so Izaya can shove the door ajar and leave space for them both to topple inside.

Izaya is ready to make quick work of Shizuo’s clothes, ideally before the door has slid shut behind them to grant a modicum of privacy to them both, but Shizuo proves faster even than his own reaching fingers can achieve. Izaya’s shirt is off his head before he has yet reoriented himself with the remaining buttons on Shizuo’s, fingers are reaching to curl into his hair and weight at the back of his neck, and when Shizuo leans in to press his mouth to the line of Izaya’s collarbone all Izaya’s efforts with the other’s belt recast themselves into a hold that is an absolute necessity for him if he intends to stay upright on his own two feet. His fingers tighten, his balance veers, and it’s only the pull of tension across his shoulders that lets him topple forward and against Shizuo instead of falling back into the open air behind him.

Shizuo doesn’t give any impression of noticing. His hands are pressing close against Izaya’s skin, his palms fitting near to the strain in the other’s body, and when Izaya stumbles forward Shizuo catches himself without any indication of discomfort at having the whole of the other’s weight against him. His hand at Izaya’s neck drops, his arm comes around to catch to a hold around Izaya’s waist so he can urge the other in against him, and Izaya lets his head angle to the side and gives up the whole keeping of his balance for Shizuo’s hold. There’s no uncertainty in that hand at his back, no flinching in the span of the chest before him, and with Shizuo occupied in keeping them both on their feet Izaya can pull open the front of the other’s slacks and slide his hands down and into the loosened cover of the fabric.

Shizuo groans with the press of Izaya’s fingers against him. His thighs flex to rock him forward, his hips buck up to grind against the friction of the other’s palm, but Izaya’s breathing is coming just as fast, his own arousal purring in the back of his throat in seamless answer to the sound of Shizuo’s incoherent want. Shizuo’s cock is hot against his hand, heavy and long and so full that Izaya can feel the radiant heat of it like a heartbeat against the weight of his fingers. Izaya hooks his thumb around the solid weight of the shaft -- Shizuo’s just as big as Izaya’s imagination has painted him, it’s a struggle to curl his fingers to a steady grip -- and he’s just drawing his palm up to work against the slick at the head when Shizuo’s hand at his back drops, and force catches under his thigh, and Izaya has to reach to grab around Shizuo’s neck to keep from falling as Shizuo lifts him one-handed off the floor. Shizuo strides forward as quickly as he gathers Izaya in against him, his footsteps thudding hard against the floor with the joint weight of the two of them together, and Izaya frees his hand from the inside of the other’s slacks so he can wind both arms around Shizuo’s neck instead and pant air from the line of Shizuo’s throat, where the tension of anticipation is radiating fever-heat over bare skin. Shizuo crosses the floor in a very few strides -- his apartment is no larger than the standard-issue ones for single occupants, with hardly enough space for a bed against the far wall -- and when he moves to drop Izaya to the support of an unseen mattress he tips in too, following the other down to the clean-crisp of the sheets as they fall.

Izaya doesn’t wait for more invitation than that. Shizuo’s hand is bracing at his leg and fumbling up against the seam of his pants in search of the waistband, but he’s already found his way inside the other’s clothing, and with the bed to support him he can turn both his hands to the problem of stripping Shizuo’s pants off his hips. A shove does the job to get the clothing sliding down Shizuo’s thighs and around his knees, and Izaya brings one leg up to kick against the tangle of clothing while he occupies one hand with bracing at Shizuo’s hip and the other with returning his grip around the other’s cock. Shizuo jerks with the contact of Izaya’s fingers again, his whole body cresting forward to buck against the curve of Izaya’s grip, and Izaya lies flat on the bed and turns the dark of his gaze on Shizuo’s ducked head and the weight of pale hair falling in front of his face.

“Get my clothes off,” he says, clear so Shizuo won’t have any chance to mistake the words. Shizuo lifts his gaze from the attention he has been turning to Izaya’s grip around him; there’s color staining his cheeks and trembling at his mouth, but his eyes are so dark Izaya can’t see anything but the shadows filling the room in them. Izaya tightens his fingers around the shaft of Shizuo’s cock and squeezes, pressing his fingers in hard enough that Shizuo’s lashes flutter and his throat works on a sound so low it’s impossible to parse it as a groan or a growl. “You feel like you’re about thirty seconds from coming and if you’re not inside me when that happens I’m never sleeping with you again.”

Shizuo groans again. “Fuck,” he blurts. “Are you serious?”

“About not fucking you?” Izaya asks. “You could try it and see.”

Shizuo grimaces and shakes his head. “No,” he says, and drags his gaze back up to meet Izaya’s with as much effort as if the action is demanding every part of his too-much strength. Izaya can feel himself come alight with electricity under the shadows of that gaze. “You really want me to…”

“Fuck me?” Izaya finishes in Shizuo’s apparent lapse of coherency. “What did you think I wanted from you after you took me back to your apartment? You could have had me right against the wall of that alley, it’s only your compunctions that insisted on a bed.” Shizuo’s lashes dip again, fluttering under the weight of imagination apparently too much for his attention to bear, and Izaya lets his hip go to reach up and fist his hand into Shizuo’s hair so he can force the other’s gaze up to meet his own before he speaks.

“Yes,” he says, clear and loud so his voice will carry through Shizuo’s heat-dazed inattention. “I want you to fuck me, Shizu-chan. Get my pants off, put your dick in me, and fuck me until I forget every stupid nickname I ever gave you.” Shizuo’s eyes widen, his expression goes slack on shock, but Izaya keeps holding his gaze without flinching, letting the force of his eyes carry the intention of a dare with them. For a moment they’re both still, Izaya’s fingers tight in Shizuo’s hair and Shizuo staring at Izaya like he’s never seen him before; and then Shizuo ducks his head, and lifts his hand, and Izaya is groaning the anticipation of satisfaction even before Shizuo’s fingers fumble into a hold against the slick fabric clinging to his legs.

Shizuo takes instruction well, in any case. His hands might be clumsy with heat but his fingers make quick work of the fastenings on Izaya’s pants, and when he pulls there’s careless force enough to peel the clothing halfway down Izaya’s thighs on his first motion. Izaya lets his hold on Shizuo’s cock go, willing to surrender the contact in expectation of more, and reaches up over his head to make a fist of the tight-pulled sheets wrapped around the mattress under him. He’s glad of the support; when Shizuo grabs at the waistband of his pants and pulls it comes with force enough to drag at the whole of Izaya’s weight, and he’s not sure he wouldn’t have gone along with the pants sliding free were it not for his hold keeping him where he is. Instead the fabric slips away from his legs, inverting on itself and falling free under the force of Shizuo’s hold, and Izaya draws his knees up and open as quickly as he gains the freedom to do so, to make an open invitation of his position spread out over Shizuo’s bed.

“Lube,” he says, speaking with the force of a command as if Shizuo really is the android Izaya thought him to be and might lose track of what the next step is if he’s not urged into it. Shizuo’s head comes up from where he’s kicking his slacks free after tossing Izaya’s pants aside and Izaya meets his gaze in full as he uncurls one hand and brings his palm down to press against the flat of his stomach. Shizuo’s gaze trails the motion, following Izaya’s fingertips as they urge down to curl under the base of his cock and reach between his legs, and Izaya keeps watching Shizuo’s face, relishing the color rising to the other’s cheeks as much as the familiar friction of his touch dragging against himself. “Or lotion, or oil. Whatever you’ve got, Shizu-chan, get your fingers wet and get back here.” He drags his touch up over himself, pressing his fingertips against the tension of his entrance before he pulls up and over the weight of his balls and along the shaft of his cock; Shizuo watches him, tracking Izaya’s motion like he’s memorizing it, until Izaya’s curling his fingers around himself to move into the slow rhythm of sustained arousal. It’s only then that Shizuo blinks hard, and swallows harder, and looks away so he can push to his feet and stride away across the narrow space of the one-room apartment.

Izaya turns his head to watch him. Shizuo’s motions are as elegant now as they were in the middle of the fight, all lean strength and startling speed, but stripped of the cover of his slacks Izaya can see the pull of muscle in the length of the other’s legs, can track the unthinking grace in the familiar motion of walking that is bearing Shizuo forward to the far corner with the sink and mirror-fronted cabinet built into the wall. His shirt is loose around his shoulders from the buttons Izaya unfastened, his tie dropped somewhere while Izaya wasn’t paying attention; when he turns back around with a bottle upended over his fingers so he can pour wet across them Izaya can see the motion of that same latent power across his chest, even in the minimal effort that comes of recapping the bottle and setting it aside. He undoes the rest of the buttons on his shirt one-handed as he approaches and shrugs the crisp white of it free to fall forgotten to the floor, so by the time he’s returning to drop to a knee on the mattress under Izaya there’s nothing between their bare skin but the heat thrown off from the radiant desire in their bodies.

Izaya gives up his hold on himself at once, leaving his cock to ache untouched at his stomach so he can reach for Shizuo’s neck instead. Shizuo doesn’t flinch from the grip of Izaya’s hand against him, doesn’t even lift his gaze; he’s looking down, his attention following the instruction of Izaya’s spread thighs to pursue the tension of the other’s body waiting for the slick of his fingers. Shizuo reaches out to press his touch against Izaya, his fingers slipping wet against the other’s entrance; the contact is hesitant, light enough that Izaya can feel Shizuo’s uncertainty in the weight of his touch. Izaya opens his mouth to speak, to offer instruction cast into the teasing that will urge Shizuo to speed; and Shizuo pushes up and into him, forcing hard enough to thrust the whole length of a finger into Izaya at once, and Izaya’s words fall into a moan of shocked heat instead of the mockery he had intended.

“Fuck,” Shizuo blurts, his voice low with surprise and heat at once. He reaches for Izaya’s hip, his fingers catching around the other’s skin and tightening on bruising force, and he moves again, sliding his touch back to thrust in with the same immediate strain that his first action offered. Izaya’s head goes back, this time, his throat pulls taut around the sound he makes in answer, but he can hear the sound of Shizuo’s breathing rasping and he can feel the heat of his own burning in his chest and trembling down the whole of his spine. Shizuo is moving fast, thrusting with his finger like he means to fuck Izaya into orgasm right where he lies, and Izaya can feel a knot of tension forming itself low in his belly, fixing itself around the pressure of Shizuo’s touch inside him.

“Oh,” Izaya says, the words spilling from his lips like they’re being forced from him by the urging of Shizuo’s touch. “Shizu-chan.” Shizuo growls in the back of his throat, a sound too low and rasping for Izaya to understand it as either satisfaction or irritation, and when he thrusts in again Izaya rocks back over the bed without regard for the one-handed grip he still has on the sheets over his head. Izaya whimpers, his body tightens around Shizuo’s touch, and when he opens his mouth: “More” is what he blurts, almost sobbing over the word as his thighs tremble around the too-much not-enough of Shizuo’s touch. “More, please, mo--” and the plea breaks open as Shizuo obeys with speed, as the slick coating his fingers overrides the friction of tension to let his touch stroke deep into Izaya on his first attempt. Izaya groans loud enough for his voice to echo off the too-close walls, and reaches to fist his hand into Shizuo’s hair, and Shizuo takes the encouragement that is intended and moves harder, pushing as deep into Izaya as his fingers can reach with that same desperation-fueled haste guiding the strength of his motion.

Izaya can’t take it. Shizuo is going too fast, moving with all the careless haste of someone who has never experienced the friction that he’s pushing for, who has no personal experience of the care needed to unravel strain into pleasure, to coax arousal from pressure. But there’s instinct under his motion, the rhythmic certainty of desire behind the work of his fingers, and Izaya finds himself giving way all the same, gasping for breath and shaking against Shizuo’s bed as his body opens to the other’s demands the faster for how insistently unreasonable those same are. His knees tip open, his feet slide across the sheets, and when Shizuo rocks in over him to push harder with a growl in his throat Izaya gives him back a moan of response without any need to feign the heat on his tongue. His cock is aching, throbbing with the same want trembling in his thighs and crushing against his chest, and when Shizuo draws his touch back with the same too-much haste he showed in thrusting in Izaya just drags a breath to offer encouragement instead of protest and reaches to give up his brace at the sheets to hold to Shizuo’s hair instead.

“Yes,” he says, but the word is low in his throat and more for his own relief in speaking than intended for Shizuo’s hearing. “Yes, please, please.” Shizuo isn’t listening, or is moving too quickly for Izaya’s words to be anything other than agreement; he’s pushing hard at Izaya’s hip to steady himself as he pins the other to the bed and reaching slippery fingers up and under Izaya’s canted-open knee so he can push the other’s leg wider as he aligns their bodies. His head is ducked down to fix his attention between them, where the heat of his cock is straining impatience up from his hips and Izaya’s skin is slick with the persuasion of Shizuo’s touch; when he pushes at the underside of Izaya’s knee his hold urges the other’s whole body up and off the bed. Izaya is left caught between Shizuo’s two hands, his hip pinned down and his thighs spread open by the force of the other’s hold, and then Shizuo slides a knee in under him, and rocks himself forward, and presses the head of his cock hard against Izaya before him.

It takes some maneuvering. Shizuo is holding Izaya still but the angle isn’t quite right for the first moment, between the tilt of Izaya’s hips and the line of Shizuo’s force; and Shizuo is big enough that fitting them together necessitates some care, even with Izaya’s entire body quivering with desire to be filled. Izaya can feel himself tense with reflexive resistance as Shizuo shifts his balance and the breadth of the other’s cock urges hard against the pressure of his body; but then Shizuo rocks himself forward, the angle of force shifts, and when he presses the head of his cock urges past the strain of Izaya’s entrance. Shizuo groans a breath, sounding like all the heat in the world is caught against his tongue, and as his thighs flex to buck him forward Izaya’s restraint gives way, melted by the sound of Shizuo’s desire spilling over him. His body eases, his thighs relax, and when Shizuo thrusts forward he drives as deep into Izaya as the length of his cock can reach.

Izaya has no memory of the sound he makes. There is something, surely, heat voiced from the helpless excess of that first long stroke of Shizuo penetrating him; but his attention is scattered, as distracted from his hearing as from whatever input his wide-open eyes aren’t seeing. All he can think of is sensation, the stretch and hurt and heat and satisfaction inside him as his body tremors strain around the force of Shizuo’s desire; he doesn’t feel his legs shaking, doesn’t feel his fingers flexing, doesn’t feel the heat of Shizuo’s groan spill across his shoulder as the other tips down over him. Those are all pieces he has to find afterwards, in the dizzy distraction where he finds himself after that first overwhelming thrust, with his hands fisted in Shizuo’s hair and Shizuo’s shoulders curled in to hunch over his gasping breaths and Shizuo’s hands, mouth, cock against and on and inside him, pressing and taking and claiming every part of Izaya for their own.

Shizuo is only still for a moment. Izaya can hear the drag of his breathing, can parse the effort of arousal bearing down against his chest as he pulls inhales and sets them free, but he doesn’t try to catch his breath before instinct demands motion from him again. Slick fingers dig in under Izaya’s thigh to push back in pursuit of resistance, a strong hand clenches at Izaya’s hip to draw him down and hold him steady, and when Shizuo pulls back Izaya doesn’t have time to so much as whimper before Shizuo thrusts forward again and all Izaya’s focus is scattered by the overwhelming force once more. There’s heat under his skin, knotting in his belly, aching in his cock, and under it all, most of all, it’s inside him, radiating out from the pressure of Shizuo working into him with the ragged rhythm of instinct urging him on. Izaya’s hands are fists in Shizuo’s hair, his arms are trembling from shoulder to wrist with the too-much strain rising in him, and over him he can feel Shizuo’s body working on that stunning strength, tensing into an implicit warning for the next thrust of force driving into Izaya beneath him.

Izaya isn’t saying anything. His mouth is open, his lips are parted on too much heat for him to imagine closing them, for him to remember what it is to press himself to silence around the grate of his breathing, but speech has been stripped from him, that portion of his awareness has given way to leave him staring wide-eyed and voiceless at the flickering illumination in Shizuo’s apartment. Shizuo is moving hard, seeking out greater speed for his movement from the trembling capitulation of Izaya’s body pinned beneath him, and Izaya holds to Shizuo’s hair and quivers under Shizuo’s movement and feels himself giving way, his body opening up and his vision fading out and his breathing sticking in his chest, heat condensing to steam to short-circuit every reflex of movement in his lungs. Shizuo’s cock is laying a new pattern for his breathing, rewriting long-held knowledge with the power of raw force, and when he bucks forward to sink himself fully into Izaya again Izaya jerks, and shudders, and comes as if ordered to it, as if Shizuo’s motion flipped a switch inside him to send him into the convulsive spasms of pleasure. His head goes back, his mouth opens on soundless heat, and when his cock jumps Izaya shudders with each spurt of heat over his stomach, every pulse of sensation a new wave of blinding electricity coursing through his veins.

“God,” Shizuo groans. “Izaya.” He sounds undone, his voice lower and heavier than Izaya has ever heard it; but maybe that’s just the ringing in Izaya’s ears, the static of distracted heat that is making even the most minor sensations overwhelming and unbearable. Shizuo’s fingers tighten at his leg and Izaya trembles, Shizuo’s breath spills at his shoulder and Izaya jerks with heat, and then Shizuo draws his hips back to resume his motion and Izaya loses track of details like the sound of his breathing, or the hammer of his heartbeat, or the jolts of orgasm that keep breaking over him to clench strain into overworked muscles. He would be screaming, he thinks, if he could find the breath for it, or maybe moaning encouragement even as his vision blurs the neon sparkle of the lights outside to the illusion of stars hovering around him, but his chest is empty of breath and his tongue is blank of speech and all he can do is shudder silently beneath Shizuo as the other’s movements overfill his body with more pleasure than it was ever intended to bear.

Izaya loses all his grasp on time, held down by Shizuo’s hold at his thigh and with the heat of the other’s body bearing down against him. The passage of seconds gives way, unimportant and distracted by the thrust of Shizuo’s cock into him; the span of his breathing fades from his focus, replaced instead by the strain of Shizuo’s coming harder and hotter at his skin as the other’s arousal is urged higher by the persuasion of Izaya’s involuntary shudders of pleasure. Izaya feels like he’s been here forever, like an eternity has slipped from his hold to spill itself to heat between his body and Shizuo’s over him, and he can’t find it in him to care any more than he can focus on the light from the window to pick apart the illumination into night-bright neon or the dull haze of daybreak. All there is is the heat, at his skin and against his leg and inside his body, and then Shizuo drags a breath as if bracing himself to speak, and tightens his hold to bruise at Izaya’s knee, and Izaya’s body goes brittle-tense on anticipation of something more even than what has broken over him already.

“Izaya,” Shizuo says, or growls, or groans; Izaya feels his name run down the length of his spine, skipping from one vertebra to the other to arch his spine and tense his shoulders with expectation. “I’m--” His hips jerk forward, his rhythm fractures, his breath whines. “God, I…” He seizes a breath, sounding like he’s fighting the air for the right to draw it into his lungs. “Izaya” and he’s thrusting forward, he’s groaning heat, he’s spilling into orgasm, and Izaya finally finds voice to moan something broken-open with relief at the feel of Shizuo coming into him. His body tightens again, flexing through a helpless convulsion as Shizuo shudders over him, and then Shizuo groans a breath of relief and lets the strength of his body go, and Izaya sags into the slack weight of utter exhaustion as Shizuo collapses atop him to bear him down to the sheets of the mattress beneath them.

Izaya’s attention fixes itself to the neon light at the window. The colors are flickering, one after the other in a distant almost-pattern that he can almost but not quite predict amidst the hazy inattention of his thoughts. His hands are still in Shizuo’s hair, if sapped of the strength of his grip; they are slack, now, as heavy with their own weight as the angle of his legs spread open around the urging of Shizuo’s hips between them. Shizuo’s head is at his shoulder, his breathing deep and dragging towards something like calm with each inhale he manages, and for once Izaya doesn’t feel even the faintest desire to disturb the other’s peace. They just lie still, quiet spreading out to fit itself into what gaps it can find around instead of between them, and when Shizuo shifts it’s only to fit his arm around Izaya’s waist so he can hold them closer together. Izaya feels Shizuo’s fingers press against his back, parses the tension of tight-wound strength eased to languid calm by physical satisfaction, and when he draws a breath it’s to press one hand against the back of Shizuo’s head so the weight of his arm can draw the other closer against him. Shizuo turns against his neck, and breathes in against his skin, and Izaya gazes up at the reflection of neon lights at the ceiling and lets their not-quite-regular pattern lull him into a daze of achy, bone-deep satisfaction.

Chapter Text

Izaya beats Shizuo into the office the next morning. This is hardly unusual; since they were assigned to work together Shizuo has only ever arrived after Izaya, sometimes hours later depending on how little sleep Izaya got or how invested he is in solving a particular puzzle. But this time Izaya is thinking of his partner when he comes down the darkened hallway to lay claim to the still-empty space, and considering the picture he makes when he arranges himself in front of his powered-down monitor screens. Even when they are illuminated and gently flickering information to him the greater part of his attention is lingering on the doorway beside him, and the hallway beyond it, waiting for the heavy tread of footsteps to announce his kouhai’s arrival.

Shizuo arrives earlier than he usually does. As a rule he appears in the doorway a few minutes before the expected arrival time for most of the employees, an hour or two after Shiki strides through the office to settle the weight of authority into the agency and encourage the early-morning attendance of those particularly invested in their work or particularly anxious to curry favor. Today it’s only been a few minutes since Agent Yagiri’s stern footsteps clicked down the hall before Izaya feels the dull thud of Shizuo’s approach in the floor under his feet, and those footsteps approaching with such speed that Izaya finds himself smiling at his monitor with utter disregard for the information contained upon it. He sets his wrist against the edge of his touchpad, lifts his other hand to brush his hair back from his face and tug the hem of his shirt a little lower over his hips, and he’s just leaning himself back into the appearance of perfect unconcern when Shizuo’s steps come to a halt on the other side of the door. Izaya listens to the silence on the other side, the quiet that speaks as loudly to Shizuo’s uncertainty as the thud of his footsteps proved his tight-wound anticipation, and he’s feigning no part of the smile at his lips when the door to the office finally unlatches to let Shizuo join him in the space.

Izaya can almost feel Shizuo’s uncertainty, even without turning to look over his shoulder and see the way the other is looking at him sideways. It catches amusement at the corner of his mouth, though he doesn’t let the shape of it entirely free and certainly doesn’t turn his head to look. He just keeps his gaze forward, pressing a finger to the touchpad and scrolling across the screen to feign attention to the information he’s not reading a word of, and waits until Shizuo draws together the intention to take a breath and speak. “Morning.”

“Good morning, Shizu-chan,” Izaya says without turning his head away from the monitor. “You’re in early.” He cants his head to the side by an inch and casts his gaze sideways through his lashes at Shizuo. “Late night?”

Shizuo is staring at Izaya, his forehead creased and mouth set onto the frown that he bears when he’s off-balance in a given situation. His cheeks flame hot at Izaya’s question, the burn of self-consciousness bleeding all across his face before he can turn his head and look away as he clenches his jaw to work himself back towards composure. “I’m fine,” he says, which is certainly not an answer to the question that Izaya didn’t mean anyway. Shizuo glances back at Izaya to find the other still watching him and looks away again, faster than before, as he clears his throat and lifts a hand to gesture towards his desk. “I’ll just get to work.”

“A noble pursuit, given that you are at work,” Izaya tells him. Shizuo’s jaw tenses but it seems frustration can’t get traction against the self-consciousness still crimson over his cheekbones, and he doesn’t offer a retort before striding forward over the distance of the office to claim the chair in front of his own desk. Izaya turns back to his monitor to resume the illusion of focus, complete with occasional scrolling and even typing a few words here and there, but he doesn’t even have the lesser part of his attention to give to his screen now that Shizuo is in the room with him. He can hear the shift of the other moving as he settles himself into his chair, can track the slightly-too-fast pace of Shizuo’s breathing and the uncomfortable strain that is preventing him from achieving anything like comfort; Izaya imagines he can feel the weight of Shizuo’s gaze catching at him as the other looks back over his shoulder and Izaya breathes in to catch the heat of Shizuo’s skin against his tongue. Every particle of air between them feels electrified, lit up into the coursing force of an electrical current by the experience neither of them have yet acknowledged, until Izaya is glad his back is turned to keep Shizuo’s tentative glances from finding out the color of adrenaline glowing across his cheeks.

They are both silent for another span of time; four minutes, by Izaya’s clock, but with every second straining on expectation it feels an eternity. Izaya is staring at his monitor without seeing it, without even remembering to blink if he doesn’t put conscious effort into it; he thinks his fingers must be trembling visibly and has to exert himself to keep his shoulders slack in the appearance of calm. Every sound of Shizuo moving seems as loud as a shout to telegraph the other’s strain, as if at any moment the distance between them must become unbearable and fling them both across it to meet in the vacuum, and then Shizuo draws a breath and shoves back from his desk with such force his chair nearly hits the opposite wall before he can stop himself and surge to his feet.

“I’m going to visit the cafeteria,” he says. “Do you want me to get you anything, Izaya?”

“Aww, how thoughtful,” Izaya says to the monitor of his computer. “And here I thought you were going to just kick me out of bed and be done with it.” He tips his head to crane his neck over the back of his chair so he can flash a grin up at Shizuo standing behind him. “I should have known you’d be the type to make breakfast the morning after.”

Shizuo’s flush eclipses his entire face, this time. “I…” he starts, and then evidently can’t decide how to continue the sentence so he cuts himself off instead. He grimaces and turns his head to look away from Izaya’s grinning consideration. “So you do want to talk about it.”

“What is there to talk about?” Izaya asks. “Did you want to review it in a play-by-play?” He tips his head to the side and lets his smile pull wider against his lips. “I’ve got no objections, but it would be more fun to just do a live reenactment, if that’s what you’re interested in.”

Shizuo’s attention jumps back to Izaya’s face in spite of the embarrassed color suffusing the whole of his features. “That’s...you want to?” He grimaces and swallows before attempting to continue speaking. “Again?”

“If you want you can lay me out over your desk and have me for breakfast,” Izaya purrs without looking away from the dark of Shizuo’s eyes. He lifts a foot to kick against the far corner of his desk so he can turn himself around and face Shizuo directly before sliding down by an inch in his chair to drape himself into languid elegance against the support. “What do you say, Shizu-chan, feeling hungry?”

Shizuo stares at him. “You’re not serious.”

“Aren’t I?” Izaya asks. His knees are angled wide by his heavy slouch in his chair; he braces one foot at the desk to hold himself steady and lifts the other to touch the toe of his dark boot to the outside of Shizuo’s leg, just over his knee. “What would I have to do to persuade you of my sincerity?” He trails his foot up, turning his ankle so he’s pressing the toe of his shoe against the outside of Shizuo’s thigh. "Want to tie me up and interrogate me?” He slides his foot sideways, pressing his foot against Shizuo’s leg as he moves towards the front of the other’s pants; he makes it almost to the crease at Shizuo’s fly before a hand comes out to close steel-tight around his ankle and stall the motion of his foot half-formed.

Izaya,” Shizuo growls, his voice dipping towards shadows that are maybe meant to be intimidating and that Izaya can feel shudder heat down the length of his spine, a spark jumping from the back of his skull all the way down to nestle low in his hips. Izaya casts his gaze up through his lashes without lifting his head from the attention he’s turning on Shizuo’s pants; Shizuo is still flushed red over his face, but his brows are drawn together onto the intention of a scowl while his mouth tightens to fight back what Izaya suspects to be a smile. “We’re at work.”

“That’s why I suggested you play detective,” Izaya tells him without missing a beat. “You’re already putting me in restraints.” He slides farther down in his chair to give up the support of his leg to Shizuo’s hold on his ankle. “I’d hold out for a while but I’m sure you could figure out some way to get me to break, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo’s smile slips free of his restraint for a moment, curving across his mouth and dimpling against his cheek before he can catch it back, and even then the warmth of it is still visible in the bright of his eyes. “I give up,” he says, and pushes Izaya’s leg aside and away from his clothes. “You’re hopeless, Izaya.”

“Mm,” Izaya hums. “Maybe.” He puts his feet on the floor and pushes himself to sit up properly again, aware as he moves of Shizuo’s gaze following the motion of his body and drawing the action perhaps somewhat longer than it needs to be as a result. “Is all this a dramatic way of you breaking up with me?”

Shizuo rocks back on his heels. “What?” he blurts. “We’re not dating.”

“We’re fucking,” Izaya tells him, and grins when Shizuo flushes again. “We fucked, anyway. Several times, if you recall. Your stamina is really something else.” Shizuo’s face is glowing crimson with the force of embarrassment under his skin but he shifts his footing to adjust his stance, and Izaya doesn’t need to look down to know that memory is having the same effect on Shizuo as it is on him. “Was I really such a bad lay that you only want me a half-dozen times or so?”

“Oh my god,” Shizuo groans. “It wasn’t six times.”

“Maybe not for you,” Izaya says, and grins in answer to the look Shizuo gives him, something between shocked and considering. “Come on, Shizu-chan, that just means I owe you. Next time I’ll get on my knees and we can find out if you taste as good as you feel.”

God,” Shizuo blurts, and turns away to rub a hand over his face as if to scrub the color from his cheeks by physical force. Izaya suspects it will have about as much effect on his blush as on the arousal pressing to the front of his pants, but he doesn’t comment beyond his grin. “I can’t believe you’re saying this. We’re partners.”

“In more ways than one,” Izaya says. “It’ll be good for our teamwork, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo drops his hand and shoots a glare at Izaya. “Do you say this to everyone who’s assigned to you?”

“There is no everyone,” Izaya says honestly. “You’re my first.” The tension in Shizuo’s face eases, his expression softening to gentleness, and Izaya can feel warmth rising under his own skin in answer, heat flushing across his cheekbones until he imagines he can see the color glowing across them as if seeing himself through Shizuo’s eyes. He clears his throat with more force than the action requires, fighting himself back towards composure as best he can, but it’s hard to bring his voice back to level with Shizuo looking at him the way he is. “I don’t know about you but I really prefer the sexual tension to be resolved rather than hanging over my head.”

Shizuo’s eyebrows go up, his mouth quirks at the corner. “Is that what that was all this time?”

“Of course,” Izaya tells him, and leans back into his chair so he can cross one leg over the other and swing his foot ostentatiously into the space between the two of them. “You didn’t think I actually hated you all this time, did you?” He shakes his head with mock resignation. “You really need more practice flirting, Shizu-chan.”

“Sure,” Shizuo says, his tone dry but his smile spreading slow warmth across his face. “Are you volunteering to train me in that too?”

“I suppose I must,” Izaya sighs. “It’ll take a lot of work, I’m sure, but I’ll see you properly educated if I have to put in all-nighters for a week.” Shizuo’s lashes dip, his expression softening in a flicker of irrepressible heat, and Izaya tilts his head to the side and smiles up through the shadow of his hair. “It’s cruel of Shiki-san to give me such a massive undertaking right off the bat, but I’m determined to come out on top.”

“What is cruel of me?” The interruption to Izaya’s appreciative consideration of Shizuo’s flushed cheeks and dark stare is so entirely unexpected that they both jump, startled out of their attention to each other and into twisting to stare at the door. Izaya, at least, catches himself sufficiently to lift his chin and compose his expression by the time he’s meeting the level consideration of the man standing in the doorway of their office; Shizuo is far less successful, judging from the radiance of the flush Izaya can see in his periphery, but Izaya doesn’t turn his head to consider the other’s response, however entertaining it must be.

“Shiki-san,” Izaya says, in the most insincere tone he can find. “What a surprise. How long have you been standing there?”

Shiki doesn’t so much as blink at Izaya’s overblown show of shock. “Are you still finding your new partner not to your liking?” he asks, his nasal tone as stripped of visible tells of emotion as it always is. “I hoped you could overcome your differences and work together, given your complementary abilities, but if you would like me to consider reassignment…”

“Absolutely not,” Izaya says. “Shizu-chan and I may have had our differences but we’ve sorted all that out.” He lifts his hand from the arm of his chair and reaches out to clasp Shizuo’s hand in his and interlace their fingers as he turns his head up to give Shizuo the most doting look he can manage. “I wouldn’t have another partner for the world, now.” Shizuo’s flush darkens as he glances down to meet Izaya’s gaze for only a moment before he growls some incoherent protest and jerks his hand away so he can push his fingers roughly through the weight of his hair, but Izaya just grins and looks back to Shiki at the doorway, who looks neither impressed nor surprised by this particular performance.

“All the better,” Shiki says, and looks down as he lifts his hand from his side so he can press against the buttons lining the side of his digital wristband to call up a glowing blue readout over the span of his white suit jacket. “I have a new lead for you for that kidnapping case you were looking into last night. I could send out one of the other pairs to investigate it, but it’ll be easier if you’re free to take it on since you’re already up to speed.” He lifts his gaze from the attention he’s turning to his wrist and looks through the blue-hazed glow of the hologram to meet Izaya’s gaze with level consideration. “Are you two up for it?”

“Absolutely,” Izaya says without waiting for Shizuo’s response. “Send the data over and we’ll take a look at it.”

“Great,” Shiki says, and swipes his touch across the wristband to clear the display for sending. “Take a look at it today. We’ve got an anxious father willing to do anything to get his daughter back, and I’d hate to disappoint him.”

“Hate to lose the contact, you mean?” Izaya asks, and grins. “We’ll take care of it.” He tips his head back against the support of the chair and kicks against the floor to rock himself towards Shizuo standing alongside him. “Hear that, Shizu-chan? It’s date night again tonight.” The teasing gets him a hiss, and a blush, and a shove at the back of his chair to push him away again, but none of that has the least effect on Izaya’s grin, and from the curve at Shizuo’s own lips he has a willing enough partner in spite of everything.

Chapter Text

“I hope you’re ready for this,” Izaya says, striding down the pathway running alongside the street without looking back to watch Shizuo following behind him. “Training is over. You’ll get to see the reality of this job now, and we’ll see if you sink or swim.”

“Is it only just now over?” Shizuo asks. He sounds more amused than irritated; Izaya imagines he can feel the warmth of the other’s gaze lingering at the back of his head, can picture the comfortable slouch of Shizuo’s shoulders and the easy press of his hands into his pockets as the other follows him without any indication of concern at their present situation or the one to which they are bound. “I thought training was over as soon as I started throwing punches.”

Izaya lifts a hand to brush through the air and wave Shizuo’s teasing aside. “That was your last test,” he declares. “I needed to make sure you were able to protect yourself if you needed to.”

“Sure,” Shizuo drawls. “By asking me to protect you from a mob.”

“Don’t sound so bitter,” Izaya says, and tips his head to smile back over his shoulder at the other. Shizuo is indeed watching him, his dark eyes fixed full on Izaya like he isn’t even seeing the rest of the crowd parting and flowing around the pair of them, and his lips are curving onto a smile so easy Izaya isn’t completely sure Shizuo knows he’s bearing it. It softens Izaya’s own mouth into a grin of his own even as he tosses his head to throw his hair back from his features. “You passed with flying colors, Shizu-chan.” He angles his chin to let his gaze go heavy with the tip of his lashes as he gazes up at his partner trailing behind him. “Didn’t you enjoy your graduation celebration?”

Shizuo’s cheeks color, but the flush is closer to pink than the crimson it was even this morning, and when he moves it’s to take a swing at Izaya’s shoulder. “Shut up,” he says as Izaya tips sideways to dodge the insincere attempt of the blow. “We’re on the clock, be professional.”

“You’re lecturing me on how to behave now?” Izaya asks. He shakes his head as he lifts a hand to mime wiping a tear from his cheek. “They grow up so fast, don’t they?”

Shizuo groans. “I said shut up,” he says, and Izaya lets the swing of Shizuo’s arm brush against him this time, just to feel the unchecked power go gentle as soon as Shizuo’s sleeve touches his. The easing of force makes the blow fall into something like a caress instead and leaves Shizuo’s arm pressing against Izaya’s for a moment; a moment which Izaya claims to lean in close against the other’s side.

“I like you better all grown up anyway,” Izaya says. “You definitely proved yourself a man last night.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Shizuo says. “Are you going to stop flirting long enough to get this job done or not?”

“I could do both,” Izaya tells him. “What, am I distracting you, Shizu-chan?” He flutters his lashes as he looks up to see the frown Shizuo is turning on him; they only hold eye contact for a moment before Shizuo’s cheeks start to color and he has to turn and look away again.

“I’m--” he starts, and Izaya watches the color in his cheeks darken as Shizuo presses his lips together and fights himself back to coherency. When he clears his throat Izaya grins, feeling the victory of the moment before Shizuo speaks. “Yes, you’re distracting me.”

“Can’t keep your mind on the job?” Izaya asks, but in spite of the purring tone on his words he straightens from where he’s been pressing to Shizuo’s arm so he can walk alongside the other instead. “Alright, I’ll take pity on your inexperience. No distracting while we’re on the clock.”

Shizuo glances sideways at Izaya with his expression locked down into skepticism enough to satisfy even Izaya as to the effect of his training. “Are you serious?”

“Very,” Izaya says. “I’ll be as professional as even Shiki could hope while we’re out on missions.” He pauses for a moment to let this claim sink in, just until Shizuo’s shoulders have started to relax from the tension of self-consciousness, before he draws breath to speak again. “So long as you make it up to me when we’re not.”

Shizuo cuts his gaze sideways at Izaya, his mouth pulling sharply down at the corners, but even the color staining his cheeks isn’t enough to distract Izaya from the way Shizuo’s gaze slides down over his close-fitting shirt and closer-fitting pants that catch the illumination from the signs lining the street into oil-slick shine across his thighs and down to the tops of his boots. Shizuo’s attention dips, his gaze going dark under the shadow of his lashes, and by the time he looks away and clears his throat Izaya’s teasing grin has softened into the heat of a smile he doesn’t struggle to restrain as Shizuo clears his throat.

“Yeah,” Shizuo says. “I can do that.”

Izaya hums in the back of his throat. “Good,” he purrs, dragging the sound down into the depths of his throat to make a caress of the word; and then he turns his head down, and lifts his arm wrist-up in front of him so he can connect to the datalink and pull up the reference information he fully memorized before they left the office. “Let’s review, Inspector Heiwajima.” Shizuo scoffs disbelief in the back of his throat but Izaya doesn’t look up at him; he’s highlighting the information of immediate relevance to them from the spill of details they and Shiki have collected for this particular case so he can pull it up to hover over the dark background his long-sleeved shirt makes. “We’re still a few blocks out from the meetup point with our latest source. She should be there waiting for us already, judging from what she told Shiki; if she’s not there we’re only meant to wait for her for fifteen minutes before we assume it’s a setup and leave.”

“How likely is that?” Shizuo asks. “That it’s a setup? We walked into one of those for this girl already, right?”

Izaya waves his hand. “Some amount of danger is to be expected,” he says airily. “You can’t constantly be fretting over that if you want to pursue this line of work, Shizu-chan. And it’s not like you have anything to worry about, anyway. You can just punch anyone who comes after you through the wall of a building and be done with it.” He turns his head to fix his attention on Shizuo next to him and purses his lips into a show of consideration. “Although that might not work so well if they were illegally armed. Does your superpower extend to catching bullets out of the air, too?”

Shizuo cuts his gaze sideways at Izaya. “It’s not a superpower,” he says. “I’m just strong.” He looks forward again and hunches his shoulders up towards his ears as if he’s trying to defend himself against a wind far colder than the breeze that has lost itself amid the span of the sleek office buildings rising skyward around them. “It’s caused more problems than it’s solved, so far.”

“Mm,” Izaya hums. “Well, you’re in the right career now, at least. You look non-threatening enough that you should have no problems getting people to open up to you, if you ever figure out how to have a conversation like a normal human being instead of picking a fight. And if anyone thinks to take advantage of you, you have the means to disabuse them of that idea in a matter of seconds.” He slides his hands into the pockets of his jacket and tips himself back into a stroll as he grins up at Shizuo. “Or if anyone thinks to take advantage of me.”

Shizuo snorts. “I’m starting to think you like having me at your beck and call more than any other part of this. You’re hoping for a fight out of this assignment, aren’t you?”

“Of course not,” Izaya drawls. “Why on earth would you think I would want to watch you tear through a crowd of attackers with your bare hands out of your devotion to keeping me safe?” He glances up through his lashes at Shizuo. “There is absolutely nothing about that that would be a ridiculous turn-on, Shizu-chan.”

“You’re unbelievable,” Shizuo tells him without making eye contact, although his cheeks are flushing pink again. “I thought you were going to be professional.”

“I am,” Izaya tells him. “This is exactly the same way I used to treat you, don’t you remember?” Shizuo cuts a glare at him and Izaya laughs and tips his attention back to the crowd shifting around them with all the ease of water giving way to the prow of a boat. Most of the people moving past them are caught up in their own lives, mumbling into a collar mic or tracking the details of incoming messages or some kind of entertainment flickering over their vision while they autopilot through their day; even the few who don’t have their implants on to offer a more-exciting overlay than the dim of the street are still looking down at the all-consuming focal point of a stroller or a lover’s hand clasped around their own and don’t spare even a glance for Shizuo or Izaya. In the sea of distraction around them it’s easy for Izaya to skim for a pair of eyes that don’t duck away as soon as he meets their gaze, and from there to pick out the slim, blank-faced woman standing just alongside the door to a restaurant spilling dull yellow light from its windows towards the street before it.

“Izaya,” Shizuo says, his voice far softer than it was, and Izaya tips his head into a nod as he shows his teeth in a flickering smile for their audience.

“I see her,” he says, and draws forward to take the lead in cutting through the flow of the crowd to the eddy of peace formed alongside the restaurant door. The woman doesn’t move as they approach, doesn’t so much as shift the vivid red of her heels where she’s standing; Izaya takes in the certainty of her stance, the set of her feet and the line of her shoulders and, mostly, the controlled blank of her stare, and some of the tension of expectation bleeds out of his shoulders as he draws within earshot.

“Oh, come on,” he says, speaking loudly to be heard over the buzz of the crowd as he draws within more-or-less speaking distance of the figure standing waiting for them. “Shiki seriously sent us out to take a transcript of some robot’s recitation?”

Their contact turns to look at him, her head shifting to fix him with a cool gaze. There’s no particular judgment behind her eyes, just flat consideration that goes unaffected by the motion of her lifting one gloved hand to press bright red frames a little higher up the bridge of her nose. “I don’t know what Shiki-san told you, but I am not an android, if that’s your implication.”

Izaya shrugs. “You’re a cyborg, then, with enough parts replaced to make almost no difference. Though I guess you might be able to punch Shizuo here, if you wanted to. Not that it would do you much good, I’ll tell you that right now.”

“I have no interest in doing physical harm to either you or your companion,” the woman says, without any indication of feeling ruffled by Izaya’s deliberately aggressive phrasing. “I simply wish to share information your department may find of some interest.”

Izaya sighs. “Sure,” he says. “A little less exciting than last night, but that’s good enough, anyway. Shiki said you’ve been in contact with Niekawa Haruna? Her father is desperate to find her, though judging from the welcome we had last night she’s less than anxious to be found.”

The woman adjusts her glasses again. It’s a needless gesture; Izaya thinks it’s the first sign she’s given that she might actually be human as she claims. “Indeed. As regards Niekawa-san --”

There’s pressure against Izaya’s arm, the buzz of an incoming message vibrating against his wristband. He glances at it and grimaces at the blocked number indicator glowing against his jacket.

Their informant has stopped speaking. “You ought to take that.”

Izaya had been intending to swipe it to voicemail, had his hand raised to do so -- it’s more likely to be an automated advertisement or some similar spam, anyway -- but the woman’s voice suggests a chance to duck out of a task that has gained in mundanity in the last few seconds, and he answers her suggestion with the brightest smile he can claim.

“I think I will,” he says, and turns aside. “Take down the information she has to offer, Shizu-chan. I’ll be right back.” He steps away from the front of the restaurant to move out towards the greater flow of people along the sidewalk, where he can lose the details of his conversation in the overlapping murmur of dozens all around him, before he presses a finger to the blue notification button and drags it to the side to answer the call.

“Hello,” he says, projecting deliberately into his collar microphone. “Orihara Izaya speaking, how can I help you?”

There’s a drawn-out sigh on the other end of the line, too loud and too close to the receiver so it crackles to static in spite of the speaker’s built-in buffer for exactly that. “It is you.” Izaya doesn’t recognize the voice, even if he can identify it as a young woman’s, or at least the seeming of one, but he does recognize the shrill edge of mania under the words, the tone of tight-wound adrenaline that speaks to danger enough to tighten his shoulders even knowing it’s only the speaker’s voice that is in range.

Izaya deliberately eases his stance in the middle of the crowd, draws up a dragging smile onto his lips, and when he speaks it’s with his gaze set on the distant end of the street, where the details of his vision fade into the flickering haze that comes of ever-present smog backlit by neon lights. “Sure is, sweetheart,” he says in as light a tone as he can find. “Glad you got in touch with me at last.” He pauses for a moment, just enough to touch his words with gentle self-consciousness. “Who are you, though?”

There’s a trilling laugh, just as manic as the voice and just as careless of the limitations of microphones and speakers. Izaya doesn’t flinch even as the sound scrapes painful echoes against his ears. “I thought you would know that by now,” the speaker tells him. “After all this time you’ve spent stalking me, it only makes sense for you to at least know my name.”

Izaya frowns. There is something familiar in the voice, underneath the skidding heights of static that are interrupting the statement with such painful intensity; and in the context of the statement, the only person who could claim Izaya’s interest other than the partner standing a few feet away is-- “Niekawa Haruna.”

Laughter again. “That’s right! I knew you couldn’t be just a normal person, not if you were able to beat Takashi. I have to admit I’m impressed you handled him, I thought he’d be able to deal with anything short of an army.”

Izaya doesn’t have to force the smile this time. “He probably could have,” he says. “I guess we just had more manpower, you could say.”

“Yeah,” Haruna says. “That’s what Takashi said. Well, actually--” as she breaks into another manic laugh, “--he said that was your partner, really. He said you didn’t touch anyone at all.”

“If you have the right people watching your back you don’t need to get your own hands dirty,” Izaya says. “I’d think you would understand that, from what I saw last night.”

“Oh no,” Haruna says. “You misunderstand.” There’s a weird sound on the other end of the line, a murmur of something half-familiar; Izaya frowns and presses his fingers to the receiver in his ear, turning his head so he can catch the notes of recognition from the background static. “Takashi was protecting me because he loves me. Just like I love him.”

Izaya has almost his whole hand pressed to his ear from how hard he’s listening. Haruna is drawing closer to the sound, it’s almost clear enough for him to make out the separate details of it; the separate words, he realizes, as they fall into the alignment of sentences. The words are familiar too, strangely immediate in his thoughts, but the voice even more so, growling into a frustration Izaya knows as well as he knows...and he lifts his head, turning to stare at Shizuo gesturing with visibly fraying patience at the woman still standing perfectly calmly before him. She’s holding his attention, Izaya realizes, Shizuo has his back to the crowd and to Izaya as well, and it’s as he realizes what’s happened that there’s a voice, perfectly clear even with his hand fallen slack on surprise at his side.

“I have no problems at all getting my hands dirty.” It’s from over Izaya’s shoulder, that same mania-taut tone but stripped of static to fall into the realm of reality, now. Izaya’s shoulders tighten, his body floods with adrenaline, and in the moment of decision he doesn’t try to turn, doesn’t so much as lift a hand to shove away the aggressor just over his shoulder. He draws breath instead, filling his lungs with air to speak, and when he shouts “Shizuo!” he has just enough time to see the other woman’s gaze flicker to meet his own, to see Shizuo start to turn back to look at him, before there’s a sensation too fast and blinding to even be called pain, and Izaya’s consciousness cuts off at once.

Chapter Text

There’s already someone in the office when Izaya comes down the hallway towards the shut door. It’s early, still, so early the rest of the department is only beginning to stir with the first indications of human presence, and when Izaya sees the glow of illumination turning the mirrored-dark walls of the office golden with light he thinks at first it must be Shiki in the space, just as a necessity of the hour. But when he reaches for the door to let some of the light spill into the hallway and give himself entrance, there is no sign of Shiki’s dark head and crisp suit, only shoulders slumped over the far desk and a head of bleached-blond hair tipped in over crossed arms.

Izaya steps through the doorway of the office and lets the door click shut behind him before he comes forward to cross the distance to where Shizuo is slumped over his desk with every indication of being entirely asleep. His footsteps are deliberately soft, although Shizuo looks as if he’s fully lost to any of the distractions of the waking world and doesn’t so much as stir as Izaya approaches. Izaya comes up to stand alongside the other’s chair, looking down at what he can see of his partner’s unusual calm for a moment before he pushes his hands into his pockets and clears his throat with deliberate intent.

“Sleeping on the job, Shizu-chan?” Shizuo’s shoulders flex, his head tips down against the support of his arms folded into a pillow, and Izaya grins even without an audience for the flicker of the expression. “And here I thought I had trained you better than that.”

Shizuo groans and lifts his head from his desk so he can push a hand through the sleep-tangled waves of his hair. He blinks hard, looking like he’s struggling for focus; and then his shoulders tense, his head turns, and Izaya finds himself looking down into the most shock he’s ever seen on Shizuo’s face.

Izaya” and Shizuo is surging to his feet, rising from the chair in which he was slumped without pausing to take the time to push it back from the edge of his desk. Izaya’s gaze follows him up, lifting to hold Shizuo’s shocked attention as the other rises to his full height. Shizuo is staring at him as if he’s never seen him before, his eyes wide and his lips parted on shock; his attention is flickering over Izaya’s features, jumping from his eyes to mouth to hair and back again. His hand lifts from his side; for a moment Izaya thinks Shizuo’s going to reach out to actually stroke his hair back behind his ear. “You’re okay.”

Izaya raises an eyebrow. “I am,” he says, speaking with as much mocking slowness as he can drawl over the words. “I know the dangers of the night are multitudinous, but surely you didn’t expect me to leave my kouhai here to look after himself.” He cocks his head to the side and lets his attention slide down to the desk that was so recently serving Shizuo as an ill-suited bed. “Or are you still not completely awake? Were you dreaming about me, Shizu-chan?” Izaya lets his smile pull wide as he turns his attention back to the partner before him. “I’m flattered, of course, but surely you should keep your private fantasies, well, private.”

Shizuo fails to flush into self-conscious defensiveness at this the way Izaya expected him to. He just shakes his head, the motion abrupt and jerky as if he can almost not be bothered to respond to Izaya’s needling. “No,” he says, and his tone is harsh too, tense on emotion that Izaya didn’t expect to draw from him. “It was--” He grimaces and shakes his head again. “It wasn’t a dream.”

Izaya lets both his eyebrows rise, this time. “No?” he asks. “So you really do spend your free time worrying about my health and well-being?” He laughs and takes a step sideways to move around the wall of Shizuo’s position in front of him. “I’m touched, really, but you ought to go and get your settings adjusted. That level of paranoia isn’t going to pass as normal around real humans.”

Shizuo is reaching for Izaya’s arm, lifting a hand as if to close his fingers around the other’s wrist and stop his attempted movement short of completion. He goes still at the sound of Izaya’s words, his gaze jumping back up to the other’s face as his fingers go slack instead of completing the obvious intention of their movement. He stares at Izaya for a moment, looking like he’s too shocked to be confused, before his brows angle together and he rocks back onto his heels. “What did you say?”

“Real humans,” Izaya repeats, deliberately loudly, and takes a step backwards and out of range of Shizuo’s still-lifted hand. Shizuo doesn’t move to reach for him as Izaya half-expected him to; he looks like he’s forgotten his hand is raised at all, as if he’s been knocked right out of his awareness of his body by surprise. Izaya lifts his own hand to gesture towards himself with a flourish. “Like me, Shizu-chan. Not machines like you.”

The fingers of Shizuo’s upraised hand tighten in against his palm, curling into a fist, but there’s no threat that comes with the motion. His arm drops to his side as if dragged down by the too-much weight of tension in his fingers. “I’m not an android, Izaya.”

Izaya waves his hand. “Exactly what an android would say,” he says. “I’ll believe you when I see proof that you have an actual life outside of work, though I have to tell you finding you asleep over your desk isn’t a great starting point.” He turns away, leaving Shizuo standing in the middle of the office while he draws his own chair back and swings himself around to fall into it. “I’ll take you out on another training mission later today and you can at least practice your acting abilities. You might be able to get yourself an admirer, if you polish your flirting skills a little more.”

Izaya tips his head to grin back over his shoulder at Shizuo. The other is still standing in the middle of the office, his hand still curled to a fist at his side. The surprise that was wide in his eyes is gone, now, overcome by a crease tight between his brows and a frown at his mouth. He looks hurt, more than anything else, as if Izaya’s teasing has actually struck home where it never has before; it’s enough to ease the tension of Izaya’s smile at his lips into the soft of uncertainty instead, as if his expression is mirroring Shizuo’s rather than obeying his own intention. They stare at each other for a moment, Izaya’s mouth gone soft under the force of Shizuo’s gaze, until finally it’s Shizuo who turns aside to break out of their eye contact as he lets the tension in his fingers fall slack at his side.

“I’m going to get something to eat,” he says, and steps forward across the room towards the door. “You don’t want anything, do you?” There’s almost no upswing to the question; it falls with the weight of a statement, as if they’re going through the motions of a previously-staged play before an absent audience. Izaya blinks at him, too off-balance to think of anything to say in answer, and Shizuo reaches to open the door and step out of the office before he can come up with a good enough reply. The door slides shut between them, cutting off the light in the office from Shizuo on the other side of it, and Izaya is left to gaze at his distorted reflection in the mirror and wonder what kind of nightmare could have left his partner-in-training in such a bitter mood.

Chapter Text

“I don’t understand why you wanted to come out here so badly.” Shizuo is growling the words, dragging them through such a low range Izaya wouldn’t be able to understand if they weren’t pressed as close together as the crowd of the coffee shop around them demands. “Whatever you want to do would be more comfortable in the office, wouldn’t it?”

Izaya rolls his eyes ostentatiously. “Comfort isn’t the point here, Shizu-chan,” he says, tipping his head to look up through the shadow of his lashes at his partner. Shizuo is facing forward, his shoulders set and his jaw tight with the same barely-withheld temper he’s maintained almost without ceasing since Izaya came in the door of their office, but for all his attempted nonchalance Izaya isn’t surprised to find the other’s gaze lingering on his face all the same. Shizuo’s mouth tightens as Izaya looks up at him, tensing on pressure that looks a little like hurt and can be nothing but barely-repressed anger, but Izaya just smiles the wider in answer. “Have you learned nothing from me so far?”

Shizuo grimaces and turns away entirely from the curve of Izaya’s smile. “What’s the point, then?” he asks. “Do you just want to people-watch, is that all?”

“That’s a benefit,” Izaya admits. “Mostly I just wanted to take my cute kouhai out on a date.” That brings Shizuo’s attention back to him, as it was intended to do, and Izaya tips his head farther to the side to make an overt flirtation out of the curve of his smile. “I have to take advantage of my captive audience while I have him, don’t I?”

Shizuo’s forehead creases, his mouth tightens. It’s the same tension Izaya’s been watching all day, flickering across his features like the clouds of some distant storm Izaya can’t so much as see. Izaya would take it for anger if Shizuo’s jaw were a little tighter, if his eyes were a little harder; but he can’t quite make sense of it as temper with the dark of the other’s gaze so strangely soft, as if all the shell of resistance in his expression is just the cracking façade over the melting emotion just beneath. Shizuo’s gaze lingers on Izaya’s eyes for a long moment, holding the other’s stare as if he’s trying to read some untold novels of meaning from the mundanity of flirtation; when his attention slides down it’s slowly, trailing across Izaya’s features like he’s trying to recall them against some hazy memory. His focus sticks at the other’s mouth, tangling itself against Izaya’s smile for a span of heartbeats, and when he finally breaks free it’s only by ducking his head to drag his attention down to the hardened plastic of the floor beneath them.

“I guess so,” Shizuo says, with more strain and less amusement on his tone than Izaya was hoping to hear, and Izaya draws a breath so he can heave a deliberately exhausted sigh and urge Shizuo’s attention back to him as he looks away himself.

“This is ridiculous,” he declares. “I see why you got yourself into such trouble on that assignment I sent you out on alone. Have you ever flirted with anyone, Shizu-chan?” Izaya lifts his hand to wave aside whatever protests Shizuo might make before they’re formed. “You can’t have been very successful at it, anyway. Look, I’m doing you a favor here. All you have to do is pretend to be at least fractionally interested in me, right?” He looks up through his lashes again to flicker a smile at Shizuo next to him. “Or would you prefer that I change into a skirt again? You seemed to like the view a little more that time, at least.”

Shizuo’s gaze drops from Izaya’s face and down the length of his body. It would be subtle if Izaya weren’t watching him do it; as it is Izaya can feel all his skin flush to heat as if Shizuo’s attention is truly stripping his clothes off him instead of just obviously contemplating the possibility. Shizuo’s focus slides down Izaya’s chest, over his hips, presses close against the clinging dark of his pants, and then swings up and away, returning to the electronic display at the front of the shop as he clears his throat with needless force. “Why do I have to practice flirting with you in the first place?”

“Because you’re terrible at it,” Izaya says. “And because I’m willing to help you out of the goodness of my heart.” Shizuo snorts disbelief and Izaya grins in willing surrender to the other’s skepticism. “Those good looks could be a weapon, Shizu-chan, if you just learned how to wield them correctly.”

Shizuo sighs. “Maybe I don’t want to be a weapon.”

“You just want to be a real boy,” Izaya drawls. “This’ll help with that too. You’ll do a much better job of passing for human if you can act like you’re actually interested in some of the people around you.” The customer waiting in line ahead of them steps up to one of the open ordering kiosks and Izaya leans in to press his shoulder into Shizuo’s arm. “Let’s start here. Offer to buy my drink for me.”

Shizuo frowns at him. “What? You’re the one who wanted to come out here in the first place, Izaya. You should be the one treating me.”

“And the gift of my company isn’t enough payment to make it worthwhile? I’m hurt, Shizu-chan.” Shizuo sighs and moves to step forward towards a newly open order kiosk and Izaya lifts a hand to press against the span of the other’s chest and halt his forward motion. “No, you’re right.” He steps forward and around Shizuo, turning to face the other as he lifts his chin to smile from a little too close for perfect comfort. “As your doting senpai, I’ll get the drinks. You should go hold a table for us.”

Shizuo’s gaze slides over Izaya’s features again. Izaya wonders if he knows how transparent his attention is. “Do you even know what I want?”

Izaya raises an eyebrow. “Give me some credit, I do pay some attention to you. How else am I supposed to make myself entirely irresistible?” He flutters his lashes as punctuation, which gets him a snort and urges Shizuo back and away from Izaya’s hand at his chest. Izaya steps backwards as Shizuo turns aside, holding his smile for another moment in case Shizuo looks back before turning on his heel and striding forward to place the order at the kiosk.

The café is overfull as it is, with the line to order winding through whatever open space remains between the close-packed tables, so Izaya tucks himself into a corner to wait for their drinks instead of maneuvering his way through the crowd only to get up again. There’s somewhat less of a crush by the delivery counter, with only a handful of people all occupied in their wristband holographs or staring into the middle distance while they focus on the data overlay on their vision, and Izaya is able to claim a stretch of the wall running alongside the counter and tip himself into comfort before he turns his attention back out onto the rest of the room to consider the crowd.

There are dozens of people filling the space. Aside from the handful around Izaya at present there is the winding queue of those waiting to place their order and the clusters of couples or groups of friends sharing a table or lined up against the counter set at the far side of the room. There are any number of subjects to catch and hold Izaya’s attention, more than enough options for him to occupy himself in interpreting or inventing a backstory for a total stranger; but his gaze slides past glittering jackets and warm smiles, skipping over hair dyed to multicolor iridescence and shoulders left deliberately bare to tempt attention to land instead on bleached yellow and a plain white shirt. Shizuo is only just settling himself at the far side of one of the smallest tables in the room; a choice forced on him by the lack of other options, Izaya is sure, but still suggesting an anticipated intimacy that makes him smile. Shizuo leans in over the table in front of him, bracing both elbows atop the surface with a crease at his forehead enough to chase away the handful of young women who are eying him consideringly over the top edge of their coffee cups.

Izaya doesn’t look away. There’s something satisfying in the tilt of Shizuo’s shoulders, something that seems to urge his attention to the other even with dozens of more colorful and engaging options on which to fix his focus. It is true that Shizuo is unusually handsome, the set of his jaw and the line of his brow the kind of thing that would serve as a model for the facial reconstruction the wealthiest citizens indulge in, and further true that the clean black-and-white of the uniform he always insists on wearing gives him a kind of crisp elegance that draws at least some measure of appreciation from the idle attention of the city’s crowds. But it’s not Shizuo’s clothes that are holding Izaya’s attention any more than it is the objective beauty of his partner’s features that is keeping his gaze lingering against the other’s face; his focus is held instead by the crease between Shizuo’s dark brows and the set of his mouth that looks soft with unhappiness, now, instead of taut with anger. Shizuo is leaning in against the support of his elbows, hunching forward as if he’s trying to protect himself from attention or just like he’s too exhausted to hold himself up. As Izaya watches he lifts a hand from the table to push his fingers roughly through the pale of his hair and ruffle the strands back from his face.

The gesture is unthinking, an expression of pent-up tension more than a plea for attention, but Izaya’s focus follows Shizuo’s fingers, his gaze trailing against the flex of the other’s hand to wind itself as far into bleached-pale waves as Shizuo’s touch travels. The lighting in the café is gentler than the distracting neon that plays itself to advertisements on the street outside; it’s set to a warm yellow, as if in imitation of the sunlight that rarely makes its way past the height of the buildings to the streets below. The illumination is soft at Shizuo’s hair, playing against the tousled waves of it to pick out shading and depth from the flat yellow, and as Izaya goes on staring the shadows seem to darken, spreading out to grant enigmatic depth to his partner’s familiar features. Izaya can see shades of blue in the shadow at the back of Shizuo’s collar, can imagine flickers of green from the yellow of his hair; his mind softens Shizuo’s mouth, parts his lips to a surrender better suited for the bedroom than a coffee shop. Heat flickers down Izaya’s spine, crackling to life in answer to the wander of his too-free thoughts, and for a moment Izaya feels himself glowing, as if he’s caught full in the spotlight of his own idle consideration. He presses his lips together, staring at Shizuo as his imagination unfurls and spreads itself out over the expanse of possibility, and it’s just as Shizuo’s shoulders tense and his head begins to rise that there’s the beep of a delivered order, and Izaya looks away just in time to see a pair of cups slide out onto the counter above the illuminated display of his name.

Shizuo doesn’t lift his gaze from the table before him as Izaya approaches. He’s frowning at the smooth surface in front of him, looking as absorbed in his own thoughts as if there’s no one around him at all; he doesn’t look up until Izaya leans against the edge of the table and clears his throat with pointed volume.

“Hey there,” he says, and has a grin waiting when Shizuo lifts his gaze from the table. “What’s someone like you doing alone in a place like this?”

Shizuo gives him a flat look. “Don’t start that again.”

“You’re supposed to say ‘waiting for someone like you,’” Izaya informs him. “Luckily for you I am generous enough to forgive your missteps.” He brings one of the cups he’s holding to his mouth to sip against the edge of it as he offers the other towards Shizuo. “And to buy you a drink despite your ingratitude.”

Shizuo reaches to take the drink. “Thanks,” he says, sounding far more skeptical than he has any right to before he turns his frown onto the liquid steaming from the cup. “What did you get me?”

“Why don’t you try it and see?” Izaya suggests. He keeps his attention turned on his own drink, blowing with unnecessary care against the haze of steam rising from it to give the illusion that he’s not paying attention to Shizuo lifting his cup to his lips for a hesitant sip.

Shizuo’s mouth presses to the mug, his throat works; and then he’s pulling the cup away faster than he brought it to his mouth, staring shock at the insulated plastic before he lifts his gaze to Izaya leaning at the edge of the table. “Hot chocolate?”

“Mm,” Izaya hums into the shape of his cup. He tests a sip of his own tea -- it’s still blisteringly hot in spite of his efforts to cool it -- and makes a face before he draws the cup away and turns his head with deliberate disinterest to look at Shizuo sitting at the table. “You can’t tell me you wanted a coffee instead.”

Shizuo shakes his head hard without any shift in the set of his mouth. “No,” he says. “I love hot chocolate.” His mouth drags down on a frown, of confusion this time instead of unhappiness. “How did you know?”

“You told me coffee was too bitter, the last time we were here,” Izaya says at once. “And I don’t think I’ve had even one morning go by since we partnered that you haven’t drunk at least two bottles of milk before noon.” He reaches to set his cup down on the table behind him and reaches out to press his fingers against Shizuo’s jaw as if turning the other’s head up for a kiss. “I’m a detective, Shizu-chan, it’s my job to pay attention. You should give it a try sometime, you never know what you might learn.”

Shizuo’s gaze draws over Izaya’s face again, running that path across the other’s features with that same heavy-lidded attention he’s been giving them since Izaya got in this morning. When his focus lands at Izaya’s mouth his lips soften, his frown eases, and for a moment Izaya almost expects him to tilt into the touch against his face, or maybe rock forward to make a motion towards Izaya directly. Then Shizuo’s jaw sets, his mouth tightens, and Izaya lets his hand fall at the same moment Shizuo rocks back to slide free of the touch.

“Alright,” Shizuo says, and clears his throat of the roughness that is holding to his voice before bringing his cup to his mouth to swallow another mouthful of his hot chocolate. “Show me.”

It’s more of a demand than the plea Izaya would most like to hear, truth be told, but it’s still surrender, if a grudging one. He flashes his teeth into a smile and straightens from the edge of the table so he can turn and swing himself around it to claim the stool closest to Shizuo’s own. Shizuo shifts as Izaya sits down, straightening as if to give the other space, but Izaya just leans in over the gap between them to press his shoulder to Shizuo’s sleeve as he draws his cup towards him and angles his head to gesture.

“See that couple sitting together by the window?” he asks. “Let’s start with them. What do you think their story is?”

Shizuo has a few ideas to offer, which Izaya takes some pleasure in disproving with casual speed; but the real satisfaction is found in the shape of the smile Shizuo forgets to chase off his lips, and the glow of radiance in Izaya’s chest even before his tea has cooled enough for him to drink any of it.

Chapter Text

Izaya pushes back from the edge of his computer desk and moves to roll his shoulders out, lifting both arms over his head to stretch with deliberately languid grace. The pull feels good under his skin and along the length of his bicep and forearm, but he still lingers in it longer than he really needs to, making a show of the action before tilting his head to glance back through his lashes at Shizuo at his desk on the other side of the office.

But Shizuo isn’t looking at him. Shizuo has hardly looked at him for the whole of the day, in fact, however ostentatious Izaya has been about his exclamations over the data he’s been reviewing. The evening before had been an unequivocal victory, Izaya thinks, written in the dark of Shizuo’s lashes shadowing but not hiding the attention the other was turning on Izaya himself, and even if the end result was less professionally effective than Izaya had intended, it was far more personally satisfying than he had any true reason to expect. Izaya spent the whole morning smiling over the memory, turning over quips and polishing flirtation while he waited for Shizuo to come through the doors of the office, but when the other had finally arrived it was with a frown at his mouth and a crease at his forehead that barely allowed space for him to roll his eyes in answer to Izaya’s chirping “What a beautiful morning face you have, Shizu-chan.” He had retreated to his own desk, barely pausing to shrug off his jacket before tossing himself into the support of his chair, and he’s remained there all day, back to Izaya, eyes on his computer screen and all but entirely unresponsive to any of Izaya’s needling, even as his shoulders hunch in farther and farther over his desk with the giveaway of building temper that he seems determined to hold back with a force of truly inhuman will.

Izaya kicks against the wall behind his desk with the toe of his shoe, pushing to urge himself into a turn without looking back at the information spilled over the screen of his monitor. There’s no sound to the swing of his chair moving, but Shizuo must sense the weight of the other’s gaze on him all the same because his shoulders work to lift towards his ears as if to make a wall of his back. His head ducks forward, his elbow juts out, and his whole body takes on the seeming of absolute resistance, enough to shake any but the most determined from so much as starting conversation.

It’s lucky for Izaya, then, that he generally takes such cues as recommendations rather than strict rules.

“What’s wrong, Shizu-chan?” he says, speaking loudly enough that his voice almost echoes off the mirrored walls around them. Shizuo flinches, rocking forward against his elbows at the desk, but the motion of his fingers against his touchpad stalls too and that’s proof enough of attention for Izaya to talk into. “Did I do something to offend you?”

That gets Shizuo’s head to turn, quickly enough to speak to his shock and to give Izaya a glimpse of the dark of his eyes before he catches himself and looks away again. “No,” he says, facing the glowing monitor of his computer again as he speaks. “You didn’t.” There’s a pause, so tense with intention that Izaya imagines he can feel Shizuo trying to return to his work and finding his focus sliding from his grip, before the other turns his head to offer his profile to Izaya if not the full force of his gaze. “Why would you think that?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Izaya says airily, and lifts his foot from the floor to catch his boot at the lip of his desk and push to urge himself backwards. Shizuo rocks to the other side of his chair as Izaya’s rolls towards him but he doesn’t actually push himself away, and as Izaya brings himself into Shizuo’s line of sight he finds a dark gaze waiting for the teasing smile he’s arranged on his lips. “You came in here looking like your entertainment circuits malfunctioned this morning and you’ve been sulking over your desk for the whole day since. I think this is the most you’ve said to me all day, which is impressive since we’ve been here for almost ten hours by now.” Izaya tips his head back against the support of his chair and draws his mouth down into the best imitation of a pout he can lay hand to. “And when you got yourself lunch you didn’t ask me if I wanted anything.”

Shizuo blinks. “You always say you’re fine.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to ask.” Izaya sits up from his chair and leans in to reach out and clasp his hold tight around the armrest of Shizuo’s so he can lock their chairs together by the strength of his hold. When he looks up at Shizuo in front of him he has his eyes open as wide as they will go, has his mouth soft on a reasonable imitation of tearful panic. “Are you breaking up with me, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo’s mouth twitches. It’s the closest thing to a smile Izaya has seen from him all day, and even then it’s only a moment before he turns his head to look away again. “Don’t be stupid.”

“That’s not an answer,” Izaya points out helpfully. “Do you really want to give up on this? No one’s ever wanted to dump me before, you know.”

Shizuo grimaces. “I don’t think that means much when you’ve never dated anyone.”

Izaya tips back from the forward lean he’s been making into Shizuo’s personal space. “What?” he says. “I’ve dated people. Obviously.” He pushes himself into a laugh but it goes a little more shrill and strained than he could wish for. “What makes you think I haven’t?”

Shizuo shrugs. “Nothing,” he says, and turns his head down to retreat to that same impenetrable distance he’s been wrapping himself in all day. “It was a guess.”

“You really need to work on reading people,” Izaya tells him. “Maybe get your intuition settings turned up if you’re that far off.” He’s still smiling, offering the words with the lilt of toothless teasing, but Shizuo doesn’t look up in answer any more than he replied to any of Izaya’s earlier attempts to draw his partner’s attention, and Izaya can feel his expression going tense with strain almost as soon as it forms. He lets his smile fade and slide free of his lips with nothing to tether it in place, but he doesn’t look away from Shizuo’s bowed head as he reaches for a different tack.

“Seriously,” he attempts at last, trying for amusement that he can feel fail as quickly as he reaches to lay hand to it. “Your emotion circuits are all mis-wired today. Do you want me to schedule a tune-up for you or something?”

Shizuo jerks his head through the motion of a shake. “I’m fine,” he says, and reaches to tap hard at his touchpad with his thumb and forefinger. His monitor screen flickers as files close themselves before the whole goes dark and blank with the loss of power; Shizuo doesn’t wait for the shutdown to complete before he’s pushing back from the desk, getting to his feet as quickly as he has the space to do so. For a moment Izaya is left staring up at him, too startled by Shizuo’s abrupt movement to react quickly, but Shizuo just reaches for his coat to drag it on over his shirt without looking to meet the surprise in Izaya’s gaze.

“I’m going home,” he says as he shrugs himself into the weight of the coat with decisive force. “I’ll see you here in the morning, Izaya.”

“Wait,” Izaya says, but Shizuo is turning to make for the door of the office without looking at him, and adrenaline is urging Izaya to action without waiting for the reply he knows he won’t get. “Wait, Shizuo.” He lunges to his feet and forward, moving quickly enough to leave his chair spinning in a slow circle in his wake as he all but falls in his haste to reach the door before Shizuo does. Shizuo is moving quickly, with his usual ground-covering strides, but he’s not actively seeking speed as Izaya is, and in the end he’s drawing to a halt in front of the office door where Izaya has managed to arrange himself with his arms spread wide to bar the way.

“You’re going to just walk out on me?” Izaya asks, letting his arms fall as Shizuo’s forward motion stalls to the flat look the other is giving him instead. “What happened to our connection? What happened to our bond? Aren’t we partners, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo flinches. “I’m just having a bad day,” he says to the empty space over Izaya’s shoulder. His jaw is set on that same strange tension he carried in the coffee shop yesterday, as if he’s fighting back some enormous reaction that Izaya can’t guess at. “Can’t you just let it go, Izaya?”

“Not in my nature,” Izaya says at once. “I got into this job for a reason and it wasn’t for my talent in letting things get away from me.” Shizuo’s gaze flickers to Izaya’s face, his attention catching on the other’s eyes for just a moment, and Izaya tilts his head to the side and offers his warmest smile. “Isn’t there anything I can do to make my cute kouhai’s horrible, awful, very bad day even a little bit better?”

Shizuo sighs. “You could let me go home.”

“I’m not stopping you,” Izaya tells him. Shizuo gives him a sharp look, which Izaya meets with bland innocence. This doesn’t prove particularly convincing, judging from the way Shizuo rolls his eyes in answer, but he moves all the same, stepping to the side and reaching for the door handle past Izaya’s hip. Izaya lets him reach without protest, doesn’t lift a hand to stop him, but as Shizuo’s fingers tighten to a hold he takes a breath to speak. “Are you really going to leave without saying goodbye properly, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo’s gaze jumps back to Izaya’s face, his forehead creases on instant suspicion. “What?”

“Come on, Shizu-chan,” Izaya says, rocking back to press his shoulders to the door as he lifts his chin to tip his face up to the light. “You didn’t think I was going to let you leave for the night without a goodnight kiss, did you? You really don’t have any experience with dating at all.”

Shizuo stares at him. “We’re not dating,” he says, but his gaze is sliding away from Izaya’s eyes again, and this time it’s lingering on the other’s face instead of fixing to intentional safety over Izaya’s shoulder. Izaya can feel Shizuo’s attention as hot against his mouth as if the other had reached out to press his fingers against Izaya’s lips.

“It’s just a kiss,” Izaya tells him, tilting his head so the light illuminates his mouth. When he parts his lips Shizuo’s lashes flutter as if in direct answer to Izaya’s action. “It’s not like it’s a big deal.” He pauses for a deliberate beat before lowering his chin back towards shadow. “Oh, I forgot. It is for you, isn’t it?” He flashes his teeth in a smirk for the weight of Shizuo’s stare. “You’re still waiting on your first one.”

Shizuo’s eyes darken all at once, as instantly as if Izaya’s words have flipped some switch to knock away all the incomprehensible hurt in the soft brown and harden it to the weight of steel. His jaw flexes so hard Izaya thinks he can hear the sound of the other’s teeth creaking, and when he takes a step in and lifts his hand Izaya has the brief, blinding thought that he’s about to find out once and for all whether his partner is a machine or not based on whether the intention of his blow slams against Izaya’s face or stalls unfinished. But when the contact comes Shizuo’s hand is open instead of closed, his fingers reaching instead of swinging, and when his grip tightens it’s to hold Izaya still instead of pushing him away. Izaya draws a breath, unsure what he intends to do with it even once he’s claimed the possibility of speech, and while he’s still hesitating Shizuo ducks in and presses his mouth hard to Izaya’s own.

Izaya goes still. His eyes are still open, his gaze fixed out past the tangle of Shizuo’s hair; it takes him a long moment to remember that he should close them, and then another to work himself through the actual process of doing so. Shizuo’s mouth is hot against his, and in the first moment as unforgiving as the metal that Izaya teases him about being; but his lips ease almost at once, giving way like they’re learning softness from the instinctive surrender of Izaya’s, and Izaya can feel the shift of Shizuo adjusting to him, can feel his own mouth going soft with the flush of heat as quickly as Shizuo’s lips fit against his own. Shizuo tightens his fingers against the back of Izaya’s head, and opens his mouth wider to urge his tongue into the space between Izaya’s lips, and Izaya’s lashes fall under their own weight to strip away the unnecessary distraction of vision. Shizuo is licking far into his mouth, kissing with aggressive certainty that leaves Izaya no choice and no will to do anything but part his lips and offer up whatever of himself Shizuo’s desire demands, and when Izaya’s hand lifts it’s to seek for traction instead of to reject the contact, to reach and clutch at whatever he can find to hold himself to his feet.

Shizuo’s the one who draws them away from each other some time later. Izaya is caught between Shizuo’s body before him and the barrier of the door behind him, but even if he weren’t he can’t imagine trying to duck away. His outstretched hand found its way into the front of Shizuo’s vest and curled to a fist there; when Shizuo pulls back he draws Izaya’s arm with him while Izaya is still trying to figure out how to loosen his grip on the other’s clothes. Izaya realizes he’s staring at the front of Shizuo’s shirt instead of looking up to meet his eyes; it takes more effort than it should to recollect himself enough to lift his gaze up to meet the heavy-lidded focus Shizuo has fixed on him, and a truly superhuman feat of strength for Izaya to press his lips closed from the suggestion they have made for themselves so he can swallow and fight himself into speech.

“Well,” he says, his voice shaking on the sound. “I guess some people are just naturally talented. I can’t argue with raw skill.”

Shizuo huffs a breath. Izaya would take it as a laugh if it weren’t for the total attention in the gaze fixed on him. “That wasn’t my first,” he says. His fingers slide from Izaya’s hair, his hand falls to press to the other’s hip; it’s only when Shizuo’s hold tightens that Izaya realizes he’s caught between the other’s hands, and by then Shizuo is already lifting him off the floor by a span of inches. Izaya clutches at Shizuo’s vest but his hold is unnecessary; Shizuo lifts him out of the path effortlessly and his feet are back on the floor almost as soon as they leave it. Izaya blinks, disoriented by this unexpected change in his position, and while he’s trying to regain his own stability Shizuo lets him go and reaches to close a grip around his wrist.

“Goodnight, Izaya,” he says, and pulls the other’s hold away from his vest as easily as he lifted Izaya away from his position in front of the door. He’s turning as quickly as he lets Izaya’s wrist go, reaching for the door to slide it open before Izaya can think to move or even speak to protest, and by the time Izaya has found another breath for himself Shizuo is moving into the overbright illumination of the hallway. Izaya stares after him, more dazed by the prints of Shizuo’s touch on his skin than by any of the words either of them offered, until finally it’s only the weight of the office door sliding shut between them that breaks the line of his gaze.

Chapter Text

“Hurry up, Shizu-chan,” Izaya calls, pitching the words over his shoulder more by volume than by turning to look back. “I thought you said you were hungry.”

“I am,” Shizuo says, with the growl on his voice that pulls at the corners of Izaya’s mouth with something a little less certain and a lot warmer than the simple satisfaction of teasing that used to come with that tone. “I didn’t mean we should go find a restaurant. I was just going to grab something from the cafeteria.”

Izaya rolls his eyes with drama enough for Shizuo to sense his disdain even if the other can’t see the expression past Izaya’s shoulders. “And miss a perfectly good opportunity for a date? You really do need more training, if that one got past you.”

“This isn’t a date,” Shizuo says, with the same instant response he’s offered every time Izaya has suggested the word in the last half-hour. “I’m just getting something to eat.”

“With me,” Izaya tells him. “Out of the office. Late in the evening.” He turns his head to look back over his shoulder -- properly, this time -- so he can cast the shadows of his heavy-lidded gaze to Shizuo trailing in his wake. Shizuo is watching him, the way Izaya knew he would be, the way Izaya has felt Shizuo’s attention lingering on his shoulders since Izaya led the way out of the front doors of the detective agency. He’s frowning too, the handsome lines of his features caught in the creases that frustration has carved into his expression, but Izaya’s used to that too, when barely-restrained irritation has been a staple of the other’s reaction from the moment they became partners. It’s his eyes Izaya is more interested in, under the dark brows drawn together as if to make protection for the shadows of his actual gaze, where there’s always something softer than anger, something closer to hurt than the frustration he carries in every other line of his body, and it’s Shizuo’s eyes that Izaya smiles for when he shifts his weight to look back without consideration for the path he’s cutting through the crowd before him. “Which part of this doesn’t meet your criteria for a date, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo huffs a sigh. “I’m working,” he says shortly.

“I’m not,” Izaya offers back. “I’m not even wearing my uniform.” He turns entirely around so he can spread his arms wide with his hands in his pockets to pull out the weight of his dark coat into the illusion of wings. “I got all dressed up for you and you don’t even appreciate my efforts.”

Shizuo’s mouth twitches, the start of a smile pulled back not so quickly that Izaya doesn’t see it. “You’ve been wearing that all day.”

“I’ve been looking forward to our date.” Izaya lets his hands and his coat fall back to his sides and stops walking so he can let Shizuo’s forward motion catch up to him. “I’m so excited I’ve hardly been able to think about anything else.”

Shizuo snorts. “You solved three cases this morning alone.”

Izaya draws a hand free of his pocket so he can wave this accusation aside. “They were simple ones. No better than children’s riddles, really.” Shizuo steps to the side to move around Izaya and Izaya turns as fluidly as if the other had paused for him, reaching out to catch his fingers at the sleeve of Shizuo’s shirt before sliding his arm around to loop through the angle of the other’s. Izaya can feel Shizuo’s forearm tense under his hold, as if Izaya’s touch is an electrical current crackling involuntary power into the other’s body, but Izaya ignores it outright to pull himself in closer and tip his head to lean against the support of Shizuo’s shoulder next to him. “I was just doing a favor for Nakura.”

“Aren’t you hurting him by doing things he ought to do himself?” Shizuo asks. “If he’s not able to solve cases as simple as you say they are, he shouldn’t be working with the department at all.”

Izaya shrugs. “Maybe not,” he says, with airy indifference on the words. “That’s for Shiki-san to decide. I’m just here to be the most help I can be to my fellow employees in need.”

“Sure,” Shizuo says. Izaya can feel skepticism radiating off every line of the other’s body against his own. “Including teaching trainees how to properly flirt, is that it?”

“Oh no,” Izaya says easily. “You proved everything you needed to to me last night.” He drawls the words into weight well beyond what the brief heat of a single kiss really merits; under his hold Shizuo’s arm flexes in answer, and Izaya doesn’t need to look up to see the color that is rising to stain Shizuo’s cheeks to red. He does anyway, glancing at Shizuo from under the fall of his hair to give his gaze the most seduction he can find if Shizuo looks down to meet it. “This is all to satisfy my own personal desires, now.”

“Great,” Shizuo says. He is blushing, his cheeks visibly pink even in the hazy dusk of night falling on the city, but he’s mustering sarcasm all the same, and looking away down the street with such stubborn intent that Izaya is sure Shizuo must feel the heat of Izaya’s gaze on him. “That’s much less selfish of you.”

Izaya shrugs. “I never claimed selflessness,” he says. “I wanted to train you so you could be the best possible partner for me. Now I want to see what you might be able to teach me. That only seems fair, doesn’t it?” Izaya leans harder into Shizuo’s shoulder and turns his head up to shift his gaze from seductive to worshipful. “It’s your turn to take good care of me, senpai.”

Shizuo’s face flames scarlet, his shoulders tighten at once. “Shut up.”

Izaya raises his eyebrows. “You like that,” he says, because it’s not a question and he doesn’t need an answer to be certain. “Is that really all it takes? You just want a cute kouhai looking up to you with stars in their eyes?” He hums in the back of his throat, the sound a little too melting-warm to quite be the laugh it began as. “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place, Shizuo-senpai?”

God,” Shizuo groans, lifting his free hand from his pocket to press hard against his face. It doesn’t do enough to cover the flush on his cheeks, and he doesn’t make any move to wrest his other arm free of Izaya’s hold. “Cut it out, Izaya.”

“What will you do if I don’t?” Izaya asks. He tightens his hold on Shizuo’s sleeve and leans in close, offering up the balance of his body for the support of Shizuo’s arm like steel under his hold. “How are you going to persuade me to stop talking, senpai? Do you have a better idea for what I could do with my mouth?”

“Fuck,” Shizuo says, harsh and fast, and reaches out to grab at the collar of Izaya’s coat. It’s a casual grip, hardly enough to tug the other off his feet, but when he pulls the force is enough to drag Izaya’s grip free of Shizuo’s arm and yank him off what precarious balance he has over his own feet. Shizuo’s hold goes from a drag to a catch in the span of a heartbeat, as Izaya’s boots skid and slide against the sidewalk, and when instinct brings Izaya’s hand up to reach for support Shizuo’s arm catches under his reaching fingers at the same time a hand lands to brace against his waist. Izaya tightens his grip on Shizuo’s arm, and lets himself lean into his fall instead of away from it, and when Shizuo stumbles they both move, cutting diagonally across the walkway alongside the street and towards the neon-signed shopfronts. Izaya doesn’t try to catch himself, doesn’t make any attempt to regain the balance he has cast into Shizuo’s hold, and when they do stop it comes with a slamming force against his shoulders that knocks all the air from his lungs at once. Shizuo takes another half-step forward before he manages to stop himself, one hand still braced at Izaya’s waist and the other curled into a desperate fist at the collar of the other’s jacket.

Izaya takes a moment to catch his breath back from the impact with the shopfront behind him before he lifts his head to look up. Shizuo is staring at his face, all the tension of frustration and embarrassment cleared away to leave just breathless concern, and Izaya lets his mouth curve soft on a smile as he looks up at the other.

“Is that an offer?” he asks. His shoulders are aching as the first numbing force eases; he ignores the hurt, lets himself lean back against the wall behind him with as much languid grace as he can find. “I thought you were the type to buy me dinner first, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.”

Shizuo grimaces and shakes his head as if in refusal, but his gaze comes back to Izaya’s face, drops to linger against the curve of the other’s mouth. “Do you ever stop teasing?”

“I’m not teasing,” Izaya says, and tips his head back against the wall behind him to turn his parted lips up into an overt offer. “I’m suggesting. I thought you learned that lesson yesterday.”

Shizuo huffs a breath. “We’re in public.”

“No one cares.”

“We were going to get dinner.”

“I’m not hungry.” Izaya eases his hold on Shizuo’s arm so he can slide his touch up, pressing his palm close against the weight of the other’s shirt so Shizuo can feel the heat of his fingers through the fabric as he reaches to curl his hand against the back of the other’s neck. “Come on, senpai, take responsibility.”

“For what,” Shizuo says, but he’s still not pulling away. His fingers at Izaya’s waist flex tighter for a moment; his hand pushes up a little higher. Izaya relaxes into the force, lets his body go pliant to the support of Shizuo’s palm against him, and Shizuo’s throat tightens to make a groan from his exhale. His head tips forward, his lashes dip, and Izaya is parting his lips into overt invitation when there’s a voice from the disregarding crowd, a shout pitched deliberately loud enough to be heard over the generic hum of the crowd around them.

Hey!” It’s a shrill sound, with the carrying edge that pulls attention regardless of the intended target. In the crowd flowing across the street heads are turning in instinctive answer before looking away, fast with relief that they aren’t the intended subject. People are moving faster, gazes fixed on the data playing over their vision as if their lack of visual attention has blocked their ears as well, as if the increasing speed of their footfalls isn’t enough to give away their rising anxiety. In the shifting eddies of the crowd the single fixed point draws the eye at once, draws Izaya’s gaze to it faster than Shizuo can turn around to see. It’s a man, well shy of middle age but with more years of lines in his face than either Shizuo or Izaya bear. He’s good looking, in a generic, forgettable way not aided by the scruff of a beard starting along his jawline or the overly dark sunglasses hiding half his face, but there’s tension in the set of his grin, strain enough to promise danger even without the manic tone on his shout. “I’ve been looking for you, tough guy.”

“Huh?” Shizuo turns away from Izaya, his hands sliding away from the other’s waist and collar with more distraction than embarrassment. He’s frowning at the stranger, his forehead creased as he glares at him. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Trying to track you down,” the stranger says, still talking around that fixed smile at his mouth. His head turns and he ducks his chin over Shizuo’s shoulder. “And your partner, there, too. Or is he your boyfriend? I thought he was in charge, last time, but I’m not going to jump to conclusions about either of you this time.”

“What are you talking about?” Izaya asks. He straightens from the wall and steps forward to join Shizuo at the edge of the street. The crowd is parting around them entirely, now, curving an arc around the newcomer to leave them the brief illusion of privacy. Some people are risking the dangers of the street to cross to the other side outright, in spite of the lack of a road crossing and the poor visibility in the fading light. “I’ve never met you before.”

The man’s head turns sharply, he rocks back on his heels. His smile flickers for a moment before it surges back, cracking to a pained laugh past his teeth. “Yeah, sure you haven’t. I’m just that irrelevant, huh?” He takes a step forward towards them, still with his teeth bared on a brittle grin. “I admit, I messed things up last time. Not my finest showing, I’ll grant you that.” He ducks his head to acknowledge Shizuo standing at Izaya’s side. “It’s not like I could have expected you to be able to punch through a brick wall.”

Izaya leans in to press his shoulder against Shizuo’s arm. “Anything you feel like sharing, Shizu-chan?” he asks. Shizuo glances at him sideways; Izaya looks up through his lashes and raises an eyebrow. “Shiki-san doesn’t condone solo missions, you know.”

Shizuo’s jaw tightens. His gaze pulls away sharply to fix on the man before them again, although Izaya is sure he’s not seeing anything when he shakes his head. “It wasn’t solo.”

Izaya blinks. “You took someone else with you?” His tone is sharper than he meant it to be, more accusatory than he intended; he has to close his mouth to keep from blurting anything else, has to swallow to hold back the pressure in his throat, like it’s hard to breathe, like the air is going thin and straining in his lungs. Something flickers in his mind, brilliance like a spotlight glinting off some distant mirror to blind his vision; he shakes his head to clear it and pulls a smile of his own onto his lips as he lifts his head to give the stranger his most welcoming expression.

“Look,” Izaya says, and steps forward to move in front of Shizuo, lifting both hands palm-out as he does. “It sounds like you’re out for revenge, and that’s fine. But could you maybe wait until some time when I’m not around? He’s my partner, and I’m supposed to be looking after him. I don’t really want to get pulled into whatever’s going on between you two.”

“Get pulled into,” the man repeats, before he coughs a sudden, barking laugh. “Sure, sure. I’m not in any hurry to get into a fist fight with him either.” He lifts his hand to wave aside this possibility as he drops back by a step to move across the pathway behind him that is now entirely cleared. “I just wanted to get one question answered, actually.”

Izaya lets his hands ease back to his sides. “If it’s answers you want you came to the right person,” he says, and pushes his hands back into his pockets. “What is it?”

“Your partner there.” The man ducks his head to gesture to Shizuo still standing just behind Izaya’s shoulder. “He can crush through pavement with his bare hands.” He takes another step backwards, looking unsteady as he moves. “It’s impossible to beat him in a fair fight, I think.” The man’s chin comes up, his head tips to the side. “What about an unfair one?”

Izaya sees the movement at the man’s side first. It’s closer to him, from where he’s standing; Shizuo won’t be able to see it past the barrier of Izaya’s form in front of him, wouldn’t even if he were looking for the action. Shizuo’s leaning in, growling in the back of his throat as he moves as if to step past Izaya and lunge forward towards the threat of the grin the man before them is bearing, and Izaya doesn’t think as he moves, as his feet shift him sideways by a step to cut right in front of Shizuo’s path and the stranger. Shizuo’s chest knocks against his bruised shoulders, tightening Izaya’s chest on the sudden pressure of hurt; he’s still exhaling hard when there’s a flash of light brilliant as a electrical surge, and a crack of sound as deafening as the illumination is blinding, and he’s forced against the resistance behind him, thrown back against Shizuo’s chest as if the stranger has reached out and shoved him.

Izaya blinks. His vision is white, overexposed and flickering: he sees light, streaking color without meaning, bleeding radiance without form. Everything is silent, velvet-soft on an absence of sound; his whole body is tingling, prickling sensation over every inch of him like there’s electricity skipping through each individual hair on his skin. His lashes move, his eyes strain: haze, blurred movement, action too fast to parse and impossible to name. Shizuo, with brief, crystal clarity, leaning in close and with his eyes wide with horror, his lips working on something Izaya can’t hear. Izaya tries to speak, to tease, to ask for help, but his throat won’t move, his chest won’t flex. Shizuo again, another flash-frame image, forehead creased, eyes wet, mouth soft; then black shutters come down on Izaya’s vision, and Izaya’s mind, and everything is gone.

Chapter Text

Shizuo doesn’t come in to work the next morning.

Izaya is there as usual, earlier than anyone except for Shiki and arranged in front of his monitors with three separate windows open before even Yagiri’s heels have announced her arrival. There is nothing pressing for his attention, no particular case that is under extreme pressure except for the ongoing missing person search for Niekawa Haruna, and Izaya has gone over every lead for that a half-dozen times at least. He opens them up again all the same, settling back into his chair as he rereads his half-memorized notes on the subject with all the comfort that comes with lingering over a well-worn book, and in the process he loses his attention to the passage of time, forgets to note minutes drawing themselves into the weight of one hour and then another. It’s only as Izaya reaches the end of his documentation for yet another repetition that he thinks to notice how silent his office is, how utterly uninterrupted he has been since his arrival, and turns to actually consider the space around him.

Shizuo isn’t there, of course. Izaya had a brief moment to wonder if his partner-in-training had slipped in with unusual grace, had moved to navigate to the familiarity of his own chair without stirring Izaya from his reverie. The idea is foolish, of course, with the tight-shut door nearly close enough to Izaya’s desk for him to reach out and touch his fingers against the smooth surface of it, and there is consequently no Shizuo, neither hunched over his desk nor pacing the far end of the room. His usual empty milk bottles have been cleared from the recycling bin alongside his desk, borne away by the cleaning androids during the nightly rounds, and with not even the weight of a jacket slung over the back of his empty chair there is no way to tell that anyone has ever used the open desk at the far side of the office.

Izaya’s skin prickles with discomfort, his lips drawing down onto a frown of uncomfortable tension as his flippant thought takes root to wind itself into his awareness. The air of the room seems to go stale, dry and spent as if never breathed by any lungs but Izaya’s, and for a disorienting moment Izaya feels himself entirely alone in the world, as if he’s never had a partner at all, as if maybe Shizuo’s entire existence is nothing more than the tendrils of a clinging dream following him through the front doors and into a job as peaceful and isolated as it has ever been. It’s an absurd thought, unapologetically paranoid even to Izaya’s distracted attention, but his heart beats faster all the same, picking up speed in his chest as if trying to force his anxieties into reality. He turns away, pulling his attention from the empty desk behind him and to the full monitor before him, but his gaze slides past the text on the screen to the reflection of the room, like he’s seeking out movement from the silent space around him. The motion of his hand reflects back from the mirrored interior of the office, distorted into the seeming of someone else’s presence where there is none but Izaya’s, and Izaya’s breath keeps catching at imagined sounds, at the illusion of a heavy footfall in the hallway outside or a far-off voice he thinks he recognizes for a moment. He sits at his desk for another handful of minutes, scrolling through files without paying any attention to what he’s reading, before he reaches out to lock his monitor to a blank gray background and pushes back to open the door of the office and stride through it.

There is company enough in the rest of the department. Several of the offices lining the hallway have their doors set open, with the sound of the occupants’ discussions spilling out into the illumination of the hallway running from one end of the department to the other, and even those that are closed offer a murmur too muffled to remove the promise of confidentiality but enough to prove the existence of those within. It’s something of a relief just to be in the open space, with the whir of the air filters running to create the illusion of a breeze in the main corridor at least, but Izaya doesn’t turn to retreat to his office even after some of the pressure at his chest has loosened. His thoughts are still dizzy, slipping free of his grasp whenever he tries to lay claim to them, and he’s not interested in making small talk with Nakura or trying to needle Yagiri into a display of her razor-blade temper. He has a question he wants answered, and if he doesn’t know the details of something, there’s only one person in the department who might be able to offer an explanation.

Izaya presses his thumb to the scanner outside Shiki’s door without bothering with knocking. The door will be locked if he’s unwelcome, and he can always ask after the fact if it doesn’t give way to the request of his print; but there’s no need for such, he discovers, as the door unseals itself and slides open for no more than the press of his finger to the ID scanner. Izaya steps away from the black box as soon as it beeps confirmation of his print, standing to align himself in the frame of the doorway as the barrier pulls back like a curtain over a frame to reveal his easy smile and deliberately slack posture.

Shiki barely glances up at the sound of his door coming open. He is rocked back in his desk chair, one hand outstretched to press against the touchpad of his computer; his index finger slides as Izaya watches, drawing out a smooth curve to rearrange whatever files he is reviewing on the screen angled away from Izaya’s gaze. “Orihara.”

“It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” Izaya suggests as he steps forward into Shiki’s office. The door pulls shut behind him as soon as he’s clear of the frame, settling back into place and latching itself with a faint hiss of pressurized air as it does so. “Or at least I assume it is. You haven’t been outside since before dawn, have you?”

Shiki pulls his thumb sharply across the touchpad under his fingers before lifting his hand away to clasp at the edge of the desk before him. “What can I do for you, Orihara?”

“I’ve been looking at that Niekawa case,” Izaya says, coming forward to lay claim to the chair set at the other side of Shiki’s desk. Shiki has the furniture set into rigid opposition to his own, directly across from the clasp of his hands on the surface in front of him; Izaya pulls it out to sit at an angle to the desk before he drops to slouch himself into comfort against the support and cross his legs so he can swing one foot idly through the air. “We’ve been getting trickles of information every couple of days from one of our sources or another, but there’s been nothing for almost five, now. I thought maybe you might have something I haven’t had a chance to review yet.”

Shiki raises an eyebrow. “Are you suggesting I am withholding information from you for a case I personally selected you to work on?”

Izaya waves a hand. “I would never impugn your honor like that,” he says with airy dismissal. “I was just hoping something new had come in this morning that you might be able to send my way. We’ve been stalled for a little while, it looks like.”

“Nothing that I have noted,” Shiki says with disinterest audible in his voice. “I’ll review my notes and see if there is anything I have overlooked, however.”

“Great,” Izaya says, and flashes his teeth into the most brilliant smile he can muster over the table at Shiki. “I really appreciate it. You know you’re just the best boss a detective could have, Shiki-san!” Shiki raises an eyebrow in answer but Izaya is pushing to his feet without waiting to be dismissed from the other’s presence. He swings around the edge of the chair, striding forward towards the still-shut door with his intention to depart clear in every line of his body; it’s only as he’s lifting a hand to gesture to the motion sensor to open the door again that he pauses, hesitating as if a thought has just occurred to him.

“Speaking of the Niekawa case,” Izaya says, turning to look back to Shiki at the other side of the desk. “I don’t suppose you know where my partner has run off to? I haven’t seen him today and he’s such a loose cannon, it’s impossible to know what he might have taken it into his head to try.”

“Detective Heiwajima?” Shiki says. “He called in sick this morning. He’ll be off for the whole of the day.”

“Sick?” Izaya repeats. “How novel, I didn’t know they had programmed illness into the newest model of androids.” The corner of Shiki’s mouth tugs up, flickering towards something that might be the very faintest outline of a laugh, and Izaya tilts his head and grins. “I don’t suppose I can take the day as a holiday myself? I could go take my suffering partner some soup. Where does my favorite kouhai go to recharge his batteries?”

Shiki shakes his head. “I’m not going to share confidential employee records, Orihara.”

Izaya lifts his shoulder into a shrug. “It was worth a try,” he says. “Oh well.” He turns back to the door and lifts his hand to gesture the weight of it to slide open. “I’ll enjoy the quiet of having my office to myself for the day, then.”

“I wouldn’t get too used to it,” Shiki says. “I’m sure Heiwajima will be back tomorrow.” Izaya glances back, just in case the other feels like giving away any additional pieces of information, but Shiki is looking back to his monitor already and lifting his hand to reach for the touchpad again. Izaya thinks about lingering, about pressing for more details; but then the door starts to slide shut, and he turns away once more to slip out into the hallway in advance of being sealed into Shiki’s office again.

The office is just as quiet when Izaya returns as it was when he left. His dark jacket is still slung over the back of his chair where he hung it this morning, his monitor still displaying the slate-gray background of his lock screen, and Shizuo’s computer is still powered off, his monitors a matte black and his chair pushed in against the edge of the desk. Izaya looks at the chair for a moment, feeling that same sense of vertigo as if he can see Shizuo in front of him, as if he’s being pinned back to the door behind him by the illusion-memory of the other looming close before him. But when he takes a step forward the daydream disintegrates like it was never there, giving way to nothing more than open air around him, and when Izaya drops to his chair and unlocks his computer everything is just as he left it, with no more indication that he has been gone than he can find proof that Shizuo was ever here at all. He stares at the screen for a moment, tracking reflections against the shine of the display; and then he shakes his head, and rocks in to sit at the edge of his seat, and leans forward so it’s only the familiar information before him that fills his vision and attention both.

Chapter Text

Shizuo comes back to work the next day.

It’s not that Izaya is relieved. He fell into his work the day before; it was long past nightfall by the time he roused himself to consider the thought of food or sleep, and by the time he was powering his computer off he was into the small hours of the morning when it is more comforting to not consider a clock than to look at it. He arrived to the office at his usual time the next day, far earlier than the majority of his coworkers in spite of his late evening, and he’s expecting to fall into an unthinking fugue again, to let the day pass without any real thought for himself as an individual existence. It’s not a bad way to spend his time; Izaya is looking forward to it, on some level, for the vague pleasure that comes of falling entirely into the work before him. But he’s only just feeling the rhythm of intense focus lapping against the fringes of his mind, only just slouching into comfort in his chair, when the office door slides open without any announcement and Izaya’s attention jerks up to find Shizuo standing in the doorway.

He doesn’t look rested by his day off. His eyes are darker than Izaya can remember seeing them before, his jaw set on tension before Izaya has even taken breath to tease it into existence. There are shadows under his eyes, too, and if his clothes are as crisp as they ever are Shizuo wears them as if they weigh five times what they ought, as if it’s only his unusual strength that gives him the ability to stand upright at all.

“Shizu-chan,” Izaya blurts, too unprepared for the other’s presence to muster anything more flirtatious or less direct. “You look terrible.”

Shizuo’s gaze slides to meet Izaya’s startled stare. Their eyes only meet for a moment before Shizuo turns his head to look away and forcibly cut off the possibility. “Morning to you too,” he says, and steps forward to move around behind Izaya’s chair without sparing another glance for his partner.

Izaya pushes against the edge of his desk, moving himself into an arc so he can keep his gaze on Shizuo. “What happened to you?” he asks. “I thought Shiki was joking about you being sick but you really don’t look great. Should I be worried? Are there communicable diseases between androids and humans?”

Shizuo shrugs his jacket free of his shoulders and swings it around to drape over the back of his chair. He doesn’t turn around to meet Izaya’s gaze. “You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“That’s a relief,” Izaya says, as lightly as if Shizuo’s tone were encouraging instead of profoundly uninviting. “I’d hate to catch anything that could overcome even your strength.”

Shizuo drags at the back of his chair to force it back from his desk. “I think you’d be fine.”

“Mm,” Izaya hums. “That sounds almost like a challenge, Shizu-chan.” He braces his elbow at the arm of his chair and leans in against it, tilting himself to the side to make an elegant line of his body from shoulder all the way down his crossed legs to his foot swinging idly through the air. “I’m willing to take you up on that, if you want to try to contaminate me. I can think of some fun ways to get me well and truly exposed to whatever you might have to offer.”

Shizuo drops into his chair without turning around and reaches to power up the display of the monitors left dark and still for the whole of the previous day. Izaya can hear the faint buzz of them turning on in the otherwise silent room. He lets his smile waver, lets the warmth of it give way into studied tension as he goes on watching Shizuo’s unresponsive shoulders. After a moment he lets his breath break into a huff of amusement that sounds as strained to his ears as it feels in his chest. “Come on, Shizu-chan, what’s wrong? You know you can trust your senpai with anything.”

“Nothing’s wrong.” Shizuo presses his fingertips to the touchpad in front of him and swipes up a display to glow on one of the paired monitors before him. “I’m fine.”

Izaya raises his eyebrows. “You need better lying algorithms, if that’s the best you can manage,” he informs Shizuo. “You’re so tense I can taste the adrenaline from here and you haven’t looked at me since you came in. What’s going on? Did Nakura tell you some kind of story about me? You can’t believe anything Nakura says, you know, he’s desperate for a partner of his own and can’t stand to see anyone working together in professional bliss. I promise you, Shizu-chan, whatever lies you may have heard there’s no partner I want more than I want you.” Izaya lifts both hands to his chest to lace his fingers together and clasp into the drama of put-upon affection. “We were meant to be, I’m sure of it.”

“Don’t be stupid.” Shizuo tabs open another window, this one directly in front of the one he opened first and surely interrupting any reading he might be in the middle of. “We’re coworkers. That’s all.”

“Coworkers?” Izaya lets his clasped hands ease to fall slack on put-upon shock. “Is that really all I am to you, Shizu-chan? You’re going to break my heart talking like that.”

Shizuo swipes hard across the whole of his touchpad to close all the windows at once before he pushes to his feet in a surge of motion. “I can’t break what doesn’t exist.”

Izaya reels back in his chair. “Ouch. Where did that come from, Shizu-chan? Did you get dumped last night or something?” He manages to muster a smile, although it bears sharper edges than it usually does and he doesn’t attempt to soften them. “Surely your senpai can offer some comfort for that. I am at your disposal, however you want me.”

“No.” There’s no answering teasing on Shizuo’s voice; his refusal falls with the weight of a brick wall slamming up against Izaya to knock the amusement from his chest and steal it from his lips. Shizuo turns towards the door of the office and strides forward as if he means to retreat the space as quickly as he entered it.

“Wait.” Izaya reaches out to touch at Shizuo’s sleeve but Shizuo pushes past him like he doesn’t even feel the weight. “Shizu-chan.” Izaya pushes up from his chair with more haste than grace and steps forward to follow in the other’s wake as Shizuo reaches out to pull the door open. “Shizuo.” Shizuo stops, the door standing open in front of him but his feet still, at least for now, and Izaya draws up behind him to fix a frown at the back of the other’s shoulders with none of the teasing that was on his tone before. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Shizuo hesitates. Izaya would think himself ignored again except that the open door is still standing in front of the other, and Shizuo’s lack of motion through the same is more telling than otherwise. For a minute they stand there, Shizuo staring out into the hallway and Izaya glaring at Shizuo; and then the door slides itself shut again, and Shizuo lets his breath go in a rush loud enough to cover the sound of the seal locking back into place. “Just drop it.”

Izaya doesn’t ease the force of his stare. “Drop what?”

“Teasing me,” Shizuo says at once. “Flirting with me. Just...stop it.”

Izaya rocks back on his heels, feeling more like Shizuo has just shoved him backwards than delivered a few words to the shut door in front of him. “What?” he says, and huffs the closest thing to a laugh he can muster. “Am I not good enough for you? Do I not meet your standards?”

Shizuo’s head turns fractionally to look back over his shoulder. Izaya can see the dip of his lashes but not the look in his eyes, can see the flex of his hands at his sides but not the shape of his mouth as his fingers reach for the shape of fists. “You--” Shizuo starts, and then stops, as abruptly as if his words have been stalled by some hardwired restriction. He grimaces into a frown and shakes his head hard before looking away again without meeting Izaya’s gaze.

“I don’t like it,” he says. “That’s all. I’m going to go get something to eat.” He reaches to wave his hand at the door sensor and open it once more, and this time Izaya doesn’t try to stop him by motion or word either one. He just stays where he is, lost in the middle of the office as his partner strides away and into the hallway to leave him alone once more.

Izaya doesn’t know why he should feel Shizuo’s rejection so much like the cut of a knife, but he does know it’s long minutes before he can collect himself to turn away from the shut door and fix his attention back on his computer screen instead of on Shizuo’s absence.

Chapter Text

Izaya gives Shizuo the day.

He has no idea what has his partner so ruffled out of his usual mildly irritated composure. Shizuo is never exactly welcoming to Izaya’s teasing, especially in the first few minutes of the day, but given an hour to warm up to it or a change of setting to shake up the strict lines of their usual routine Izaya is confident in his ability to urge the other into at least a smile, if not a tolerance so clear in Shizuo’s gaze that it is as good as encouragement for Izaya’s determined approach.

This is different. Shizuo starts off angry, so clearly tight-wound on temper that Izaya would be sure it were the fault of some outside source except for the way that Shizuo’s jaw flexes tighter with every word past Izaya’s lips and the way that the dark of his stare warns Izaya from pushing his taunting to anything approaching normal levels. After Shizuo’s abrupt departure in the morning Izaya shuts his mouth entirely, relinquishing the battle in favor of offering silence as absolute as if he weren’t in the room at all. He expects Shizuo to give way before lunchtime, to unwind from his tension and offer the olive branch of even a minimal comment to break the quiet, but the standoff persists past noon and all the way through the afternoon, until finally the only thing Izaya says to Shizuo at all is a “Good night” as the other leaves, offered without looking away from his computer and receiving no reply at all. It’s only after Shizuo is gone that Izaya turns to consider the shut door, frowning focus at the wall it makes with the mirrored glass around it, and when he finally gathers himself enough to follow Shizuo’s departure it’s with his partner more dominant in his thoughts than the case they are meant to be working on.

Things will be different with the morning. The time away from work invariably serves as some kind of a relief, no matter what one does with it; and Shizuo spent the whole of the previous day sustaining a tension that he surely doesn’t have the strength to cling to again. Izaya is confident in his analysis, certain in his own conclusion: that Shizuo will be back in the morning, and that his mood will be at least sufficiently improved to allow for a casual conversation, just to break through the rime of ice that spread itself between them the day before. He’s all the more certain of it when he comes down the hallway at his usual arrival time to find the office glowing gold through the translucent walls, proof of another occupant waiting for him on the other side of the door. Izaya’s footsteps slow, his stride falling into a more graceful length than the businesslike pace he found through the front half of the office, and when he reaches to press his thumb to the lockpad and key the door to slide open he has a smile ready at his lips, the expression as easy to find as the languid grace that has suffused his limbs in anticipation of his audience.

“Good morning, Shizu-chan,” Izaya announces as the door slides open and he steps through it to join his partner in the space within. “It’s a beautiful day, don’t you think?”

Shizuo doesn’t even turn to glance at Izaya, doesn’t lift his fingers from the sweep and drag they are making over the touchpad in front of him. “It’s raining.”

“Trivialities,” Izaya tells him. “I myself am fond of all kinds of weather, no matter the season. It’s a nice change of pace from the heat, anyway.” He pauses just past the doorway, letting his attention linger on Shizuo while the door slides itself shut behind him. Shizuo is sitting at his desk as usual, his jacket draped over the back to leave the white sleeves and dark vest of his uniform clear. Izaya can see the strain in the other’s shoulders right through the thin layer of the shirt around his arms, can pick out the shiver of tension in the fingers sliding across the touchpad in front of Shizuo with more force than could possibly be needed. Izaya lets his own shoulders sag on resignation and heaves a huge sigh as he rolls his eyes. “Are you still throwing a tantrum, Shizu-chan?”

The tracery of Shizuo’s fingers across the touchpad before him stalls, brought up short by the sound of Izaya’s words. It’s only for a moment; then the motion resumes, if with still more force than it had before. “It’s not a tantrum.”

“Is it not?” Izaya shrugs his dark jacket off and tosses it across his chair without looking. “Have you decided to make glowering your new approach to the world, then? Take it from me, it doesn’t suit you.”

“I don’t care if you think it suits me or not.” Shizuo taps so hard against the touchpad that Izaya can hear the creak of plastic protesting the force. “I’m not here to seek out your good opinion, Izaya.”

“Big talk from someone not even out of training,” Izaya fires back. “You ought to be caring about my opinion just for the benefit of your career, to say nothing of your personal investment.”

Shizuo scoffs in the back of his throat. The sound is so rough and low it seems nearly a growl. “My personal investment?”

“Yes,” Izaya says. “You had no problem going out with me a few days ago.”

Shizuo grimaces. “That was for training.”

“Sure, I’m sure that’s why you kept looking at me like you were thinking about tearing my clothes off right there in the coffee shop.”

Shizuo hisses and shoves against his touchpad so hard it skids over his desk and slides under the edge of one of his monitors. “Shut up.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Izaya demands. “Is your repressed desire that crippling? All you have to do is say the word and I’ll get on my knees to take care of that for you right now.”

Shizuo coughs a sound in the back of his throat. It might be intended as a laugh but there’s so little humor on it that the noise comes closer to a growl than anything else. “Yeah, I bet you would.”

“Try me.” Izaya steps forward to where Shizuo is leaning in over his desk. The other’s shoulders come in farther over the brace of his elbows, his head tips down, but Izaya doesn’t retreat in his approach any more than he hesitates in reaching out to brace his hand at the back of Shizuo’s chair. “Why don’t you let off some of that aggression on me, Shizu-chan?” He leans in closer, tipping against the brace of his hand to cast his shadow over Shizuo’s head and across the smooth surface of his desk. His lips brush yellow hair, his voice tips down towards the husky weight of a whisper. “It’s my job as your senpai to support you in any way I can.”

Shizuo growls. “I don’t need your help.”

“Anything you want,” Izaya murmurs. “Do you want to go out on an undercover assignment? Work off some steam punching a few bad guys?” He casts his gaze down past the hunch of Shizuo’s shoulders and towards the shadowed weight of the other’s slacks before reaching to thread his fingers into the space between Shizuo’s tipped-in shoulders and the angle of his arm at the desk. “Or do you want another way to let off all that pressure?”

Shizuo’s arm comes up so quickly Izaya doesn’t have time to see it move before the other’s forearm is catching and shoving Izaya’s wrist away from his reach for the other’s pants. Izaya reels backwards, straightening from his lean to take his balance over his own feet instead of leaning in against the back of Shizuo’s chair; just in time, too, as Shizuo shoves back to lurch to his feet almost before his chair is well clear of his legs.

Stop” and Shizuo is turning to look at Izaya at last, pivoting to fix the other with the full force of the glare he’s been refusing to offer. His eyes are dark, almost black in the first moment of Izaya seeing them; the gentle brown Izaya recalls is all but entirely eclipsed, swept aside by the force of the temper straining at Shizuo’s shoulders and curling into fists at his sides. “Fuck, Izaya, don’t you ever let up?”

“Not until I get what I want.” Izaya takes a half-step back, a tactical motion instead of a surrender; the action tilts his hips into a curve and angles his shoulders into a graceful dip. “And look, here it is.”

Shizuo huffs. “You just wanted me to pay attention to you?” His tone makes the possibility laughable, infuses it with scorn enough to undermine any agreement Izaya might offer.

“Yes,” Izaya says without hesitating. “After you ignored me all day yesterday it only seemed fair. What’s the point of having a partner at all if you’re going to pretend I don’t exist?”

Shizuo growls. “I was working.”

“We’re supposed to work together,” Izaya tells him. “Two days ago we were out on a coffee date and now you’re acting like I have some deadly virus and you’re afraid to breathe the same air as me.” He bares his teeth in a flicker of a smile. “Don’t worry, Shizu-chan, I’m pretty sure you’re safe from anything that would hurt me.”

Shizuo flinches as if Izaya’s open palm has cracked across his face. “Don’t say that.”

“Why not?” Izaya says, and takes a step closer. Shizuo falls back immediately, retreating against the mirrored plane of the wall on the far side of his desk, but Izaya just follows him in. “It’s true, isn’t it?” He lifts his hand to reach for the other’s face and skim his fingertips across Shizuo’s jaw; Shizuo jerks back with a hiss but Izaya just curls his fingers in against Shizuo’s collar to hold them steady as he dips his chin to look up through his lashes at the other. “You don’t have anything to be scared of.”

Shizuo gusts a breath. Izaya’s leaning in close enough for him to feel the heat of it spill across his skin with fever-radiance. “Don’t do this, Izaya.”

“Do what?” Izaya asks. His weight is coming forward onto the balls of his feet, his lashes are dipping over his eyes. Shizuo is still where Izaya has pinned him to the wall of their office, his body tense but unresisting, unprotesting as Izaya’s fingers slide down his collar. “I’m not doing anything, Shizu-chan.” He lifts his other hand to feather his touch against Shizuo’s hair, to shape the patterns of the waves with as much precision as if he’s forming them into reality under his touch. “Just like you haven’t been livid with me for a day and a half.”

Shizuo grimaces. At his side his fingers catch to grip against the wall support running between the floor and the ceiling, as if he’s trying to keep his hand from moving on its own accord. “I’m not,” he says. “I’m not angry with you.”

“Funny way you have of showing it,” Izaya tells him. “Come on, Shizu-chan.” He presses his fingers in against the weight of Shizuo’s hair to curl his palm against the back of the other’s neck. “Why don’t we kiss and make up?” He turns his head to smile suggestion up at the dark of Shizuo’s eyes. “I promise I’ll make your first time one worth remembering.”

Izaya hears the crack before he realizes what it is. It’s a sharp sound, piercing enough to tighten his shoulders on instinctive adrenaline; his hands move before he can think, pushing up to cover the top of Shizuo’s head and the back of his neck with more thought to defense than to seduction. There’s a rattle of sound, crackling like the chained explosions of firecrackers going off, and for a moment Izaya’s vision fractures into glittering fragments, leaving him dizzy and sunblind even after he closes his eyes and ducks his head into Shizuo’s shoulder. It goes on for a moment, a sound like raindrops speckling the floor around them; then quiet falls, and Shizuo draws a breath loud against Izaya’s ear, and Izaya opens his eyes and lifts his head.

The mirrored wall behind Shizuo’s shoulders is shattered, crumbled into fragments of broken glass and glinting silver strewn across the frame, around their feet, across their shoulders. As Izaya lifts his head a handful more fragments slide from his hair to fall to the ground underfoot; when Shizuo turns to look his shoes crunch against more of them. His fingers are still braced against the support beam that was holding the panel in place; the metal is warped to the shape of his grip, bent into clear detail as if it were clay giving way to Shizuo’s grip instead of steel. Izaya stares at the imprint for a long moment, his attention fixed to the proof of Shizuo’s hold until the same fingers that left a mark so casually wrap around his wrist with deliberate care and pull his hand away from the other’s hair.

“You’re bleeding,” Shizuo says. There’s none of the heat that was on his tone before, either temper or desire; his voice is cool as the shattered glass lying around them, as if the impact of the mirror breaking has chilled him back to robotic coolness.

Izaya looks at his hand. Shizuo’s not wrong: there’s a pattern of puncture wounds scattered across the back of his fingers, scratches and a few deeper injuries welling color across his skin from the shards of glass that hit his hand instead of Shizuo’s head. Izaya shakes his head and lets his hand fall to his side as he looks up at Shizuo. “It’s fine.”

Shizuo doesn’t blink to look away. “It doesn’t hurt.”

It’s not a question. Izaya smiles by way of not-answering. “Nope,” he says, and pushes his hand into his pocket to remove the scratches from Shizuo’s attention to them. “I’m fine, Shizu-chan.” He tips his head to the side to angle consideration up at the other. “What, are you worried about me now?”

It’s a rhetorical question, or at least Izaya intends it that way. He’s looking for a laugh, or a growl, something with traction enough for him to push back against with another round of teasing to pull Shizuo back towards himself. But Shizuo just looks at him, his eyes lighter now than they were but his gaze just as heavy, until Izaya starts to feel his spine prickling like Shizuo’s attention is electrified enough to grant power to words he had intended as nothing more than meaninglessness. They stand there for a minute, Izaya’s speech stolen by the silent force of Shizuo’s gaze, and it’s only when Shizuo finally turns his head to break the connection that Izaya can feel himself free to take a breath under his own power again.

“I’m going to go report this to Shiki,” Shizuo says, lifting his hand to brush fragments of glass off his shoulders and to the floor in a sparkling fall. “You should wrap those cuts.”

Izaya pulls a smirk onto his lips. “Worried about infections?” he suggests. “Oh Shizu-chan, you do care.” But Shizuo doesn’t react, to look back or to even so much as huff exasperation, and when he walks away down the hallway there’s no answer for Izaya’s teasing but the crunch of the glass under Shizuo’s shoes. Izaya watches him go, holding to his smile as long as Shizuo is in sight; it’s only after the other has vanished that Izaya lets his expression go and lets his attention fall. The fragments of mirrored glass litter the floor around him, spilling over the interior of the office and out into the hallway equally. A few pieces still cling to the frame; they tumble loose when Izaya kicks at them, falling to the ground along with what is still caught at his shoulders and tangled into his hair.

Izaya stares at the shattered glass underfoot, his vision tracking the glitter of light off the disparate fragments. There’s no color in the space around him; the department is decorated in austere greys and pure monochrome, with only the shine of the mirrored walls to hold the eye, and with Shizuo’s yellow hair absent from sight all that is left for Izaya to see is his own pale skin and dark clothes refracted into fragments of their own, repeated in tiny infinities across the floor. Maybe it’s just a trick of the light, his eyes finding something that’s not really there; but no matter how long Izaya stares, he can’t shed the glitter of neon lights shimmering in his periphery.

Chapter Text

Shiki sends them out on an assignment the next day. Izaya has his suspicions about the actual use of this particular outing; their ostensible priority is the ongoing kidnapping case, and going out to speak to the victim of a claimed assault is hardly likely to help them in tracking down Niekawa Haruna the faster. But the tension in the office is so palpable Izaya feels as if his tea ought to be frozen solid as soon as he steps through the door, and the temporary plastic sheet set up while the mirrored wall Shizuo broke is replaced is a reminder too constant for Izaya to forget for even five minutes. It stands in his periphery or is cast back from the reflection of his monitor, calling up the tension in Shizuo’s shoulders and the part of his lips into something that might not have been invitation but certainly wasn’t rejection, and when Izaya looks at the print of fingers against the damaged support his mind transposes the shape of them against his own body, wonders how that steel-shattering grip might feel at the give of his skin. He imagines sometimes that he knows already, that he can call to mind the tension of strength fought back to care steadying at his hip as the radiant heat of bare shoulders flexes over him and a low voice rasps on desire-heavy breathing, until he gets lost in fantasies so vivid they feel like true memories, as if he is overwriting reality by the intensity of his imagination. He loses minutes that way, once spending over a half hour staring blankly at the matte black of the temporary wall; and maybe it’s for the best that he gets out of the office, just for the disruption to a routine that is becoming unsettlingly reminiscent of an existence Izaya has never had.

It’s an easy assignment. All they really need to do is go speak to the victim seeking identification of the person who broke into her apartment and threatened her with a loaded gun. She proves to be a young woman, of age to still be attending high school and dressed in her school uniform even though Shizuo and Izaya don’t arrive until hours after she must have returned home, and even Izaya’s skepticism can’t find any suggestion as to the attacker’s motives in breaking into one of the tiny cubicles that serve as in-city housing for older high school students and younger university attendees within the city limits. There is certainly nothing valuable within the two-room space Shizuo crosses with a few of his long strides, and if the girl herself is shaken out of meeting their eyes and soft-spoken to the point of absurdity that just removes Izaya’s initial consideration that the assault might have been out of revenge. They run through the regular list of questions all the same, Izaya speaking and Shizuo pacing the space like an animal startled to find itself trapped within human walls, and if the girl mumbles herself into uncertainty for Izaya at least she doesn’t seem any more comfortable with Shizuo. Izaya records her responses for Shiki to consider, as they were ordered to do, and when he makes their goodbyes he’s certain there’s some measure of relief in the girl’s dark eyes as she thanks them for their time.

Izaya waits to speak until he and Shizuo are out of the apartment complex and moving down the side street towards the main boulevard, where the ceaseless flow of humanity will bear them back to headquarters to drop off their recording before the demands of the evening draw them apart again. He would do better to stay silent, as the strain in Shizuo’s shoulders suggests; but they have a few minutes’ walk just to get to the train station, and Izaya doesn’t intend to lose the opportunity to crack some of the ice Shizuo seems determined to frost between them.

“So,” he says, speaking as brightly as if they are back in the first week of their partnership, when Shizuo’s tension was a function of uncertainty instead of whatever unspeakably grave insult he has decided Izaya gave him. “What do you make of it?”

Shizuo’s head turns towards Izaya, but only fractionally, and when he speaks his voice is flat enough to crush the question from his words. “What do I make of what.”

“The situation.” Izaya jerks his head in the direction of the apartment complex they have just left without lifting his gaze from the sideways attention he’s giving to the partner pacing alongside him. “The innocent young girl we just got done interrogating for an hour and a half. What’s her story?”

“There’s no story.” Shizuo’s temper is tightly held; Izaya can hear it in the walled-in distance of the other’s voice. “She lives on her own. Someone came looking for some kind of valuables. She was lucky to escape with her life.” He shrugs. “It happens.”

“Awfully cold of you, Shizu-chan,” Izaya drawls. “I would think you have some kind of feelings about the safety of the city for young girls. Or does the idea of our Anri-chan living in fear do nothing to ruffle your composure?”

Shizuo glances at Izaya sideways for a moment before looking away from the other’s gaze once more with a grimace and a further hunch to his shoulders. “There’s nothing I can do about it,” he says with more of that steely focus. “Getting upset won’t do any good.”

“It might make you feel better,” Izaya suggests. “Letting off some steam can be beneficial, I’m told.” He pauses just long enough to let the silence linger heavy on meaning. “Unless you really don’t feel the need for that at all.”

Shizuo’s jaw flexes. “I’m not an android.”

“So you say,” Izaya purrs, satisfaction at even this response lacing his tone with unfeigned heat. “So you’ve always said. But from what I’ve seen you’ve been nothing but erratic in your behavior, Shizu-chan, and evidence should always hold sway over mere protestations of innocence.”

“I am innocent.” Shizuo glances at Izaya, just briefly, before his attention slides away again. “Even if I were an android, that wouldn’t make me guilty of anything.”

“Except deception,” Izaya drawls. “Be honest, Shizu-chan, can’t you feel those sparks crackling through your mental circuits with every thought you have?”

“I thought I was supposed to not be able to tell,” Shizuo snaps in answer. “How is that deception if you don’t even know you’re doing it?”

“It’s hardly honesty,” Izaya declares. “And besides I’m giving you such an obvious hint. You can hardly claim ignorance when I point out the possibility to you with such caring regularity.”

Shizuo snorts. “Yeah,” he says, still glaring away down the street before them instead of meeting Izaya’s gaze. “You never give me a chance to forget how much you hate androids.”

Izaya lets a laugh spill from his lungs. “I don’t hate them,” he says. “Hate implies a measure of caring. They’re just unimportant, no more worth studying than my computer or the security lock on the front door of headquarters.”

Shizuo grimaces and shakes his head. “I hate it when you talk like that.”

“You don’t,” Izaya cuts back at once. “You can’t possibly, Shizu-chan. Hate requires humanity just the same as love does. You might tell yourself it’s hate, by whatever parameters have been programmed into your pretty metal head, but it’s nothing but an imitation of the real thing, the same as anything else you feel.” He draws in closer, tilting the angle of his footsteps to cut nearer to Shizuo pacing along the street alongside him. “What do your circuits tell you you feel about me, Shizu-chan?”

Izaya can see the muscle in Shizuo’s jaw flex. “Don’t, Izaya.”

“Do you think you hate me?” Izaya jogs forward, turning to place himself directly in Shizuo’s path so the other has to come to a halt or run him down. “Are you sure that’s what your programming is telling you?”

“Leave it.” Shizuo’s looking at Izaya now but there’s no way for Izaya to get a read on his expression; there’s too much darkness in his eyes, too much tension in his expression for it to suggest anything other than barely-held restraint. “Tease me about something else.”

“Too close to home?” Izaya takes a step forward towards Shizuo. “Are even you sure what you’re feeling? Maybe it’s just too intense for your programming to handle smoothly, maybe you’re erroring out before you get to the output.” He lifts his hand towards Shizuo’s face, reaching out his fingers to find the warmth of the other’s skin under his touch. “Maybe it’s just fake desire you’re feeling.”

Izaya’s fingers never make contact with Shizuo’s face. The motion of his hand is stopped in mid-air, locked in place by fingers tight as a steel cuff clamping around his arm. Izaya blinks and starts to look up to see Shizuo’s grip on his wrist, but then Shizuo makes a sound that forces his attention back to the other’s face, that demands the full attention of every danger-trained instinct in him. Shizuo is glaring at him, his eyes dark and his mouth fixed on a frown of what Izaya recognizes abruptly as the fury that was smoldering just beneath the tension of that façade; the façade that is now as entirely shattered as the mirrored wall back at their office.

It’s not fake,” Shizuo growls, low and hot and hard as steel; and then there’s force at the back of Izaya’s head, fingers closing hard against the slide of his hair, and Shizuo’s mouth is crushing against his with bruising force. Izaya is held still, locked in place by just the one hand Shizuo has bracing at his head and the force of the other’s mouth on his; for a moment he just stares wide-eyed over Shizuo’s shoulder, caught too off-guard to even think of responding with anything but slack surrender. Shizuo’s mouth is hard against his, still holding more to the shape of the other’s furious frown than to any of the softness that one might expect from a kiss; but Izaya can feel himself heating as if that same resistance is striking sparks off him, as if the flow of his blood in his veins is crashing itself to waves against that support. Shizuo’s fingers flex at Izaya’s hair, his tongue presses to demand entrance, and Izaya’s mouth opens on instinct instead of intent to let Shizuo urge in past the part of his lips.

Shizuo makes a sound far in the back of his throat, hot and low enough that Izaya can feel it run over his tongue and down to fill the whole of his chest, and Izaya’s lashes fall, his knees tremble, his whole body going as slack as if Shizuo’s reaction were a command. His mouth softens, his lips curve into surrender as his breathing gives way to a moan, and Shizuo drops his hold on Izaya’s wrist to reach for his waist instead and urge his palm in hard against the small of the other’s back. Izaya reaches out too, his fingers finding and curling to a fist at Shizuo’s hair, and when Shizuo’s mouth on his eases Izaya turns his head to press this brief surrender to his advantage and taste past the other’s lips as well. His free hand finds its way to a fist against Shizuo’s vest, his fingers curling to the tightest hold he can manage, but it’s still nothing compared to the force of Shizuo’s one-handed grip bracing at the back of his head to pin them close against each other. Shizuo holds him in the kiss, keeping Izaya on his feet and against him while he urges heat into the whole of Izaya’s mouth, while Izaya steals tastes past Shizuo’s lips in turn, until when he finally draws back from the other Izaya’s breathing is so hot it takes him a moment to realize Shizuo has eased at all.

“Take it back.” Shizuo’s voice is rougher than Izaya has ever heard it, all the raw edges of tension in his throat laid clear to hear in the strain over his words. Izaya can hear the heat of his mouth in the sound of Shizuo’s words, can feel the rasp of it arch his spine and knot in his belly even without the hand pressing at his spine to pin him close against the wall of Shizuo’s body before him. “It’s not fake.” Fingers tighten against Izaya’s head; Izaya can feel the pressure aching the awareness of danger at the back of his neck, tensing at his shoulders with the latent threat offered by the power of that grip. “Take it back, Izaya.”

Izaya blinks to focus his eyes and lifts his gaze to meet Shizuo’s. Shizuo is still leaning in close against him, so near their foreheads are almost touching; the heat of his breathing is steam on Izaya’s tongue, so hot in his throat he feels his chest glowing as if with illumination from the inside out. There is no surrender in the hold Shizuo has on him, any more than there is in the fists Izaya has on Shizuo’s hair and vest. There’s just the demand of Shizuo’s tone, insistent and unflinching, and the voice of reason alongside it, suggesting capitulation to this point, urging for the soft weight of lips coming together with tenderness, this time, instead of vicious force. Izaya looks up at Shizuo, at his eyes shadowed black on strain and anger and desire hot enough to melt through both; and then he cants his head to the side, and dips his lashes over his eyes, and curves kiss-bruised lips into a smile. “Make me, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo’s eyes tighten, his mouth hardens; but Izaya is grinning up at him, and when Shizuo’s hand at his head drags Izaya is already tightening his fingers into the other’s hair to pull as quickly as he is pulled. He shuts his eyes without waiting to see the flicker of sparks they must be generating between each other, but even in the dark he can taste electricity hot on his tongue.

Chapter Text

Shizuo does get them off the street eventually. It is Shizuo’s doing, entirely; Izaya would be willing to take whatever Shizuo wants to give him right where they stand, with the weight of shadows as the only blanket they need draped around themselves. But when Izaya arches in against Shizuo he gets a growl in response, and when he threads a knee between the locked-out tension of the other’s legs Shizuo’s hand at the back of his head becomes a fist to drag him away by his hair. Izaya stumbles backwards, too dizzy on heat to think of a protest and moving too quickly to catch himself, but Shizuo’s hand closes on his wrist to drag him back to upright before he can fall. He keeps pulling, too; by the time Izaya has caught his balance back they’re halfway to the main street, with Shizuo pulling Izaya in his wake by that hold on his wrist. He’s moving with such speed Izaya feels as if he might be holding them back, as if Shizuo might be outright running if not for Izaya’s slightly shorter stride. Izaya wonders what would happen if he stopped, if he simply refused to continue moving: would Shizuo drag him along anyway, would he pause only to fling Izaya over his shoulder before continuing at the pace he clearly wants to sustain? It’s an exciting possibility even to consider, but Izaya doesn’t test his hypotheses by slowing his stride, and then Shizuo is reaching their destination and throwing the door open before all but dragging Izaya inside with him.

There is very little negotiation with the front desk. Izaya suspects love hotels are hardly known for having particularly calm clients, under the circumstances, but Shizuo’s tension must still be palpable to the young man on the other side of the counter, because he is ringing up a room almost before Shizuo has stepped up to demand one. Shizuo offers his thumbprint by means of payment and keying the door lock to his identity before he and Izaya continue on to the elevators at the far side of the front counter to ascend to what privacy a few hours and a locked door can offer.

It’s a short elevator ride. Izaya still manages to get Shizuo’s vest off the other’s shoulders and both the cuffs and the collar of the white uniform shirt unfastened to hang loose over tan skin. Shizuo is even more direct; while Izaya is fumbling with his buttons he cuts straight to the point in unzipping the shine-slick pants that have never felt as tight on Izaya’s body as they do now. Shizuo has his fingers inside the waistband before Izaya entirely realizes what he’s doing, and in the first moment of Shizuo’s palm sliding against the heat of his cock Izaya has to clutch at the other’s shoulders to stay on his feet as all his vision flickers to burnout white for a breathless moment. He thinks for a moment he’s going to come just like that, shuddering into orgasm over Shizuo’s fingers before their elevator has even reached the floor for their hotel room; but then the lift chimes a note of warning, and Shizuo drags his hand away before the doors slide soundlessly open. Izaya doesn’t need Shizuo’s hold to guide him this time; he’s stumbling down the hallway as quickly as Shizuo is, his fingers still reaching for traction at the loose edge of the other’s collar, and when Shizuo pauses to reach for the touchpad for their door Izaya presses himself in against the other’s chest as he reaches to wind an arm around Shizuo’s neck and come up to seek a kiss from the set of the other’s mouth.

Shizuo gives it to him, and another, and then the door comes open and Izaya doesn’t know if he’s the one who drags Shizuo through or if he’s pushed into the space. His hand is still clutching at Shizuo’s collar, his fingers curled to a fist that’s dragging the white fabric off-center and down past the other’s collarbone, but Shizuo is reaching for him too, catching his grip at the back of Izaya’s undone pants instead of the front this time so he can pull the other right off his feet. Izaya whimpers appreciation in the back of his throat and arches in to grind himself closer against Shizuo, but when Shizuo moves it’s with intent behind his stride to cross the narrow room hardly wide enough to hold the oversized bed within it. Izaya’s still kissing at the other’s neck when Shizuo’s hands tighten at his hips to push him off and he falls without looking, landing hard enough against the sheets that the impact knocks all the breath from his lungs to leave him staring voiceless up at the ceiling.

“Take your pants off,” Shizuo says, and turns away before Izaya can collect himself enough to look up at the other. All Izaya’s left to see is the span of Shizuo’s shoulders under that white shirt, the tension in him still clearly visible even as Shizuo moves to the drawer set into the wall in the corner of the room. He pushes against the resistance with more force than is needed to get the drawer to open from the wall and give him access to the items inside, and it’s as Shizuo reaches in to fumble through the bottles within that Izaya moves to sit up at the bed where Shizuo threw him.

“You don’t need to rush,” Izaya says, tinging his tone with chiding as if pointing out an obvious fact. He still is pushing at the waistband of his pants to strip them off his legs so he can kick them and his boots clear of the bed where Shizuo deposited him. “You got us a couple hours, didn’t you? We could start with foreplay if you wanted.” He grabs for the bottom hem of his shirt and pulls it up, inverting it as he strips it over his head without care for the way it ruffles his hair into a tangle. “I could go down on you first, take the edge off. You’re not going to have any stamina at all your first time, otherwise.”

Shizuo slams the drawer back into the wall so hard Izaya can hear the machinery creaking protest. “No,” he says, and turns back to the bed with his hand closed tight around a bottle. “I want to fuck you.” His shirt is loose around his neck, freed of its button and dragged sideways by Izaya’s hold, but the majority of his uniform remains in place, his belt still buckled and his slacks still offering a measure of decency even if the heat of his arousal is visibly straining at the front of the dark fabric. “And it’s not my first time.”

Izaya’s fingers loosen on the shirt in his hand to let it drop to the sheets next to him but he doesn’t turn to look at it. “It’s not?” He doesn’t mean to blurt the words into the betrayed hurt they ring with but that’s how they form themselves at his lips, and he’s too startled to think of ducking his head to hide his expression from Shizuo’s shadowed gaze. Shizuo doesn’t blink, doesn’t turn aside or smile into the giveaway of teasing; finally it’s Izaya who cracks, huffing a breath that curves at his lips without coming anywhere near his eyes. “Are you kidding me? It’s hardly been three days, who the fuck did you put your dick in in the meantime?”

Shizuo’s mouth tightens. “Why do you care?” he asks. “It’s not like it makes a difference to you, does it?”

“No,” Izaya says. “I’m just curious. I’m nosy, Shizu-chan, it’s my nature to ask questions.”

“I don’t have to answer.” Shizuo’s voice is tense, as audibly strained on anger as if his hands are curling to fists at his sides, but his shoulders are slack, and there’s something strange in his eyes as he looks at Izaya naked on the bed before him. Heat Izaya would understand, whether from temper or desire or a combination of the two; but his eyes look softer than that, as if the strain at his mouth is to hold back a sob instead of the lust Izaya is expecting to find beneath the cracks in the other’s façade. “Do you want me to sleep with you, Izaya?”

At least that is an answer Izaya is happy to give. “Yes,” he says. “Do you want more specific instructions than that?”

Shizuo snorts a humorless laugh. “I think I can figure it out.” He looks away from Izaya and down to the bottle in his hand as he thumbs against the lid to open it. “Get on your hands and knees.”

Izaya obeys immediately. There’s tension in his chest, a pressure like a chill fisting around his heart as he counts back the days since their visit to the storage unit, as he reconsiders the reason for Shizuo’s absence from work the next day; but the past doesn’t change the present, and whatever strain there may be on his breathing is only flushing his cock hotter, as if the bitter edge of jealousy is nothing more than a whet to the flood of desire in him. He shoves his shirt to the far side of the bed, careless of where it ends up, and it’s as he’s bracing his palms flat against the mattress beneath him that the bed shifts to speak to Shizuo’s weight joining him on the sheets. There’s a click of plastic as the lid of the bottle shuts again, a rustle as Shizuo drops it to the bed, and then a hand is catching around Izaya’s hip to urge his weight back farther over his knees and Izaya is leaning into it, surrendering to Shizuo’s grip even as his balance tips unsteady with his backwards motion. Wet presses against him, the cool-slick pressure of Shizuo’s fingers urging against his entrance, and Izaya is just opening his mouth to offer mocking instruction when Shizuo twists his hand to sink a finger into him, and his words give way to a gust of startled air instead.

“Relax,” Shizuo says. His voice seems rougher without the visual reference of his expression; Izaya can’t tell if it’s anger or heat or the sound of tears grating his voice to such depths. His finger pulls back by an inch before pressing in again, insisting on surrender Izaya offers up without resistance. “I’m not going to hurt you.” His touch works deep, stroking in against Izaya before pulling back for another deliberate thrust; Izaya tightens around the pressure, his body flexing on instinct too immediate for him to know if he’s protesting the intrusion or begging for more. For a moment Izaya can’t call words into his mind at all; then Shizuo draws back, and slides another finger to test alongside the first, and in the hesitation Izaya drags breath into his lungs and reaches for words.

“You weren’t kidding,” he says. “This really isn’t your first time, is it?” He tips his head to the side to cast his gaze up through the fall of his hair and to Shizuo kneeling behind him; he can barely make out the outline of the other’s face, but he struggles himself towards the flash of a grin all the same. “You really--ah--” as Shizuo’s paired fingers urge past his entrance, stretching him wide enough that Izaya’s fingers curl involuntarily on the sheets and his lashes flutter over his vision. “Really did fuck someone in the last week.”

Shizuo’s fingers at Izaya’s skin tighten, his grip digging in hard against the angle of hipbone under thin skin, but the press of his touch into the other’s body stays steady, stays as gentle as it can be while urging Izaya wider with each stroke. He doesn’t speak, just goes on moving with a steady-slow rhythm, and Izaya coughs a laugh and lets his head drop to hang down towards the rumpled sheets beneath him.

“I never expected you to take such sudden action,” he says. “Did I get that far under your skin, Shizu-chan? If you were that desperate to get laid you should have just asked, I would have been happy to spread my legs for my cute kouhai.”

Shizuo’s fingers push in hard, driving with force enough to sink the whole length of them into Izaya at once. The pressure knots an ache low in Izaya’s belly and gusts his air out of him; in the silence of his breathlessness Shizuo’s growling voice sounds loud. “I did.”

“And look what it got you,” Izaya says. “Your senpai on his knees and ready for you.” Shizuo pulls his fingers back to shove in again, once more with that rough force, and Izaya’s whole body clenches tight against the friction within him before he can spend his breathing and let himself relax. “What happened to your first, that you didn’t just go to them again? Aren’t they going to mind you fucking someone else two days after you gave them your virginity?”

Shizuo makes a raw sound in his throat; it’s only in the echo that Izaya can make it into the laugh it must be. “I don’t think they’re going to care very much.”

“That’s not very generous of you, Shizu-chan,” Izaya tells him in his most patronizing tone. “Most people would.”

Shizuo’s hand at Izaya’s hip curls tight. Fingernails press hard to Izaya’s skin. “Would you?”

Izaya stares at the sheets beneath him. The fabric is silky, slick as if to offer the illusion of wealth instead of the reality of it; it’s pooled to wrinkles under the outstretched spread of his hands, stretched taut by the weight of his knees. If he turns his head down he’ll be able to see the strain of his cock reaching towards his stomach, Shizuo’s knee bracing into the space between his own, strong fingers clenching hard against his hip. He keeps his gaze forward, keeps staring at the sheets as he draws a breath through his nose and speaks with casual ease.

“Of course not,” he says. “I’m just interested in relieving some of the tension between us.”

Shizuo snorts. “You think this will help?”

“Only one way to find out,” Izaya purrs, and angles his head to the side again to offer the suggestion of a smirk for Shizuo’s attention. “Put your dick in me and let’s see if an orgasm or two doesn’t make us both feel better.”

Shizuo growls, dragging the sound deep in his chest until it sounds like it’s being pulled free from him more by force than choice. Izaya doesn’t know if it’s anger that tightens the grip at his hip into the ache of bruises, doesn’t know if it’s impatience that slides Shizuo’s fingers from him so roughly he’s left gasping with the sudden throb of emptiness left in their wake; he doesn’t think it matters in any case. There’s the sleek sound of a belt sliding free of a buckle, a sharper click of a zipper opening over the rustle of clothing, and Izaya doesn’t have to crane his gaze over his shoulder to know when Shizuo closes the wet of his hold around himself. He can hear it in the sigh of Shizuo’s breathing, some measure of relief found just in the pressure of his own palm, but more he can feel it down the whole of his spine, trembling anticipation under his skin as if he’s sensing the friction to come, as if he’s caught in a moment of déjà vu so keen he can predict the future. Shizuo’s thumb will brace at the curve of his hip, will press to urge his spine into curving surrender and flex his thighs with expectation; the bed will shift under him, the sheets sliding as Shizuo’s knee braces at Izaya’s own and urges his legs wide enough for the other to fit behind him. Shizuo will tighten his hold at the base of his cock, and duck his head to frown attention at what he’s doing; and then there’s heat pressing to Izaya’s entrance, the hard strain of desire urging to him, and Izaya’s mouth comes open on a voiceless moan as Shizuo thrusts forward to sink into him in one long stroke.

Shizuo makes a noise in his throat, hot and heavy and almost relieved, a surrender of tension so intense it’s nearly a sob. “Izaya,” he says, speaking in a tone to match the instinctive drag of sound in his throat, and his hand drops from its hold at his cock to fit to Izaya’s bare hip instead and steady the other between his palms. He pulls back halfway, dragging a shudder of friction through Izaya as he moves before thrusting back forward again. Izaya tightens his hold at the sheets, opens his eyes wide to try to fix himself to the moment, to try to hold himself to the present; but his grasp on the world around him is giving way, his sense of his own existence is melting through his fingers even as he closes them against those silk-slick sheets.

Shizuo is inside him, finding a rhythm of long, slow strokes to bring them together, and Izaya’s awareness is disintegrating, collapsing around the push-pull friction of Shizuo fucking him. His fingers are tight on the sheets, clinging to support against the bed he’s kneeling on; his hands are fisted in yellow hair, clutching to Shizuo over him as he wraps his legs around the other’s hips to urge him closer. Shizuo is pressing against him, his bare skin slick with sweat and hot against Izaya’s; but Izaya can feel the buttons of Shizuo’s shirt dragging against his back, can feel the open zipper of Shizuo’s slacks rasping against his skin with each forward stroke Shizuo makes into him. His eyes are open, his eyes are closed, the fireworks of neon he’s seeing are against the inside of his lids, he’s coming and Shizuo is groaning his name like a prayer; but the room is silent, so quiet he can hear the sound of Shizuo’s breathing and the slick sound of Shizuo’s cock pumping into him echoing off the walls, and his own cock is bobbing heat-heavy between his spread-open thighs, aching with as-yet-unspent desire. He’s toppled down against the sheets, his arms shaking too badly to hold him upright and his hips locked still by Shizuo’s grip on them, but Shizuo is leaning in against him, his breathing hot against Izaya’s hair and his chest working on panting heat as he moves. Izaya’s mouth is open, his eyes are wide but he’s not seeing, he’s not speaking; his fingers are seeking for traction, his breathing is stuttering, and inside him a knot is straining, pulling tighter and tighter with every movement of Shizuo working in him. There’s pressure at his shoulder, a weight urging close against him as Shizuo’s forehead presses to his bare skin, and Izaya’s chest flushes with heat as if Shizuo is pressed atop him, as if his shoulders are back against the sheets and he can feel the rhythm of the other’s heartbeat thundering in time with his own.

“God,” Shizuo grates, “Izaya” and Izaya’s back arches, his head tips back with the surging heat that washes through him as Shizuo’s orgasm forces free the held-back tension of his own. Shizuo’s hands are fixed at his hips to lock Izaya in place but Izaya still feels the sensation spill over him in waves, urging up from the pulse of his cock to overload the rest of him as well. Shizuo is gasping at his shoulder, sounding more like he’s on the verge of tears than shuddering with pleasure, but Izaya can’t see him, even when he blinks his vision crackles blue and green and red. His lips move, he thinks, struggling through a “Shizuo” that goes strange and tinny to his hearing, but when Shizuo tenses behind him Izaya can only feel it through the shift of the bed under him, rather than the press of hands at hips he can’t feel.

“Izaya,” someone is saying, the world is veering, his ears are ringing. “Izaya!” Wet falls against his mouth, the sparking taste of salt-tears slides over his lips; and then the colors flicker, his breath catches, and the world shorts itself out around him.

Chapter Text

Izaya beats his partner into the office the next morning.

He’s used to it by now. Not everyone in the department is as enthusiastic about their work as Izaya, and much though he would appreciate a partner with similar drive to his own he’s not about to complain about something that lets his own efforts shine with such clarity. Better to have a partner than not, for the opportunity it offers him to go out on missions outside the glassy walls of the office that long since became more familiar to him than his home; and while his partner lingers late in his arrival, Izaya can make the better use of the quiet of the space around him to review the data for the case they are meant to be working on.

It’s not a terribly interesting problem, unfortunately. Izaya’s used to this too; when he was working alone he would sometimes have true puzzles, cases that took him hours or even days to find an answer to. But his partner is less adept than himself, and whatever advantage working with Izaya grants the other results in Izaya’s own skill remaining unfortunately underutilized. Shiki has been promising a transfer as soon as there is someone suited to work with Izaya and absent a partner of their own, but until then Izaya is stuck making the best of the situation he has. His review of the files on his screen only occupies a portion of his thoughts; the rest is wandering down the hallway running outside his office, picking out the separate footfalls of his coworkers arriving and playing at the far more interesting game of trying to identify who they are by the sound of their stride. The soft scuffing around midmorning must be Kishitani, emerging from his technological retreat in pursuit of coffee or food; surely he’s not looking for human interaction, when he has always insisted the androids he tinkers with are more than enough company for him. Izaya can pick out the steady tread of Shiki moving through the halls just by the unchanging rhythm of the other’s steps, as regular as the beat of a drum or the thud of a pulse to keep the entire department running; and there’s another tread, heavier than Shiki’s but less steady, as if knocked out of pace by temper or exhaustion. Izaya cocks his head to the side at the sound of that one approaching down the hall, reaching for some measure of familiarity from the rhythm of it; but the pace turns aside, vanishing from hearing even as Izaya strains for it, and it’s then that the door to his office slides open, and his latecomer partner finally arrives.

“Hey,” Nakura says, scuffing himself through the doorway with a huge yawn to interrupt the habitual greeting he offers. “Morning.”

“And he arrives at last,” Izaya declares, speaking as loudly as if he’s a herald announcing the arrival of a king. He pushes away from his desk to pivot and smile overbright at Nakura coming through the doorway. “Before noon, too. You must be feeling motivated today, to be here so early. Or did Shiki-san chew you out for tardiness again?”

Nakura grimaces. “It’s not that late.” He glances at the data band around his wrist and quickly drops his arm again, as if he might be able to deny the fact of the matter by pretending he didn’t see it. “Not everyone is as much of a go-getter as you, Orihara.”

“Not everyone is as good a detective as I am either,” Izaya tells him with perfect calm. “Not that a few extra hours will make up for your natural deficiencies, I’m afraid, but it would at least be a show of good faith.”

Nakura shakes his head. “If I had known being your partner was going to be like this I would never have agreed to it in the first place.”

“Too late to regret it now,” Izaya says blithely. “You should be grateful, anyway, for the things I’ve done for you. Shiki would have fired you a long time ago if I weren’t solving your cases for you.”

“Yeah,” Nakura says. “Thanks for the reminder, that’s encouraging.” He steps out of the doorway at last to come forward towards the desk set between Izaya’s and the door. “God, I need a drink.”

“Coffee’s in the cafeteria,” Izaya reminds him. “Get me something while you’re there too.” There are footsteps approaching down the hallway again, that same heavy tread Izaya couldn’t identify before; his gaze slides up from Nakura towards the open door as they approach, his attention idly seeking an answer to the open question he found for himself before. The door hisses, unsealing in preparation to shut itself again, and it’s then that Izaya’s unidentified coworker steps into view.

He is a coworker, a fellow detective within the agency; but it’s only the black-and-white pattern of his uniform that gives him away as such. Izaya’s sure he’s never seen him before, sure he would recall the other’s bleached-blond hair if nothing else about him. He’s ordinary-looking enough other than his hair, even with his handsome features creased into a frown that lines the space between dark brows and tugs weight at the corners of his mouth, but there’s something graceful in his movement that holds Izaya’s attention, that pulls his gaze to track the swing of the other’s shoulders as he walks with that weighty stride. The other doesn’t look up, just goes on scowling down at the information flickering into a hologram over his wrist, and then the door hisses shut and Izaya blinks, startled back into himself by the sudden removal of the focus of his gaze.

Orihara.” Izaya turns in answer, responding to his name before he has properly identified the speaker: Nakura, of course, standing alongside his desk with a frown on his face as he stares at Izaya. “What did you want me to get you?”

Izaya shakes his head. “Something hot,” he says, but his mind isn’t on Nakura’s question or whatever his partner might bring back from the cafeteria for him. “Who was that just now? I don’t remember being introduced to him before.”

Nakura’s frown softens, the tension of frustration in his face disintegrating in the space between one blink and the next. For a moment he’s staring at Izaya, eyes wide on something inexplicably close to horror; then he ducks his head sharply, turning away to look at the mess he always leaves across his own desk as if suddenly seeing the distraction it offers. “Who? I didn’t see him go by.”

Izaya raises an eyebrow at Nakura’s poor attempt at subterfuge, but it’s easier to answer his question than to call him out on his seemingly pointless lie. “One of the other detectives, new enough to still be wearing the assigned uniform. A head taller than me but built on slender lines.” Nakura doesn’t look up from pushing items around on his desk. Izaya lifts his arms to cross over his chest. “Bleached-blond hair?”

Nakura picks up a half-empty cup and moves it to the other side of the desk. “Oh,” he says, attempting a tone of surprise as if he’s only just put together the pieces Izaya gave him. “It must have been the new trainee.” He shakes his head without looking up from whatever it is he’s trying to do with his cup. “He’s new, doesn’t have a partner yet.”

“Uh huh,” Izaya says without looking away from Nakura’s anxious act of calm. “What’s his name?”

Nakura clears his throat. “I don’t really know him,” he says, and sets his cup down again. “He’s not all that memorable, just another trainee, you know? Not worth worrying over, that’s for sure.” He lifts his head to turn a smile on Izaya that would be more persuasively kind if it were less shaky on uncertainty. “You want that coffee still?”

Izaya waits to answer, staring at Nakura long enough that the other’s smile starts to slide off his face to drop him back to the sickly anxiety that’s been oozing off him since Izaya’s question. It’s only as Nakura is taking a breath to go on speaking that Izaya bares his teeth into a smile and lets his arms drop to his sides.

“Sure thing,” he says. “I’ll have whatever you’re having.”

Nakura tips his weight back on his heels as he looks at Izaya sideways. “That’s it?”

“You know me, I’m never a big one for breakfast,” Izaya tells him, talking around the curve of his smile. “I’ll stay here to go over the data for our next case.” He lets his lips curve wider, ducks his chin into a taunt. “If you take long enough I can have it wrapped up by the time you’re back, partner.”

Nakura snorts. “No need to rush,” he says. “Take your time.” But he’s leaving his cup on his desk and turning towards the door, his stride already dragging into a slower pace even than what brought him into the office in the first place. Izaya turns away to his computer, rocking in to brace his elbow against the desk as he reaches to touch his fingers to the guidance pad; by the time Nakura is pausing to glance back from the doorway he has three tabs open in front of him and is frowning at the leftmost with seemingly unbroken concentration. Nakura breathes a sigh, soft but still audible with relief, before he steps out into the hallway and leaves the door to slide shut behind him.

Izaya waits until he’s lost the sound of Nakura’s footsteps for their distance down the hallway before he pushes back from his desk. His monitors go dark with a swipe of his thumb as he stands, and he leaves both behind him without a second thought as he strides forward towards the office door. A wave of his hand releases the seal and lets him duck out into the hallway, and by the time it’s closing behind him again Izaya is halfway down the corridor, moving with an easy stride to navigate the maze of hallways in the interior of the department.

Nakura gave him no direct information at all, but his obvious evasiveness has spiked Izaya’s casual curiosity into something far keener, now, the kind of intent focus that always brings him to the answer to some mystery or another. Maybe Nakura is just jealous, just afraid of his partner’s interest in a new trainee as a potential replacement for the present teams; but Izaya’s never relied on Nakura’s judgment before, and he’s not about to start now. Whatever answers there are to find, he’s confident he can lay claim to them on his own.

Chapter Text

Izaya doesn’t ask anyone for directions. It would be easy enough to get information, he’s sure; Nakura’s unusual reticence notwithstanding, there can hardly be a surplus of tall blond trainees wandering the halls of the agency. But he feels himself on a self-determined mission, a search for information for his own satisfaction rather than the department’s, and he’ll hardly achieve what he wants from asking a coworker for directions and a brief introduction to a complete stranger. So he lingers, strolling through the halls and glancing into those offices with open doors before dismissing the occupants as unimportant, and he mentally checks off spaces as he goes, updating his map of the office as he narrows down his options. There are only a handful of offices he can’t be sure of, a few rows of doors left to pace down in pursuit of the unknown trainee, and then Izaya turns a corner and almost walks right into the man in question.

The trainee startles back, jerking away from contact with Izaya as if the other is electrified. His movement is so abrupt Izaya pulls back too, reflex knocking his balance onto his heels and throwing his hand out to catch himself against the wall next to him, and he’s only just recovering when the other lifts his gaze and sees Izaya’s face. His eyes go wide, his mouth goes soft, and when he blurts “You,” there’s the sound of recognition on the word, as if Izaya is some specter raised from the dead to haunt his existence.

Izaya raises an eyebrow. “Yes?”

The trainee blinks, as if just returning to his senses, and shakes his head hard. His mouth hardens onto a scowl, his cheeks color into the hot red of temper. “You shouldn’t come around corners so fast.”

“I could say the same to you,” Izaya tells him. “And with better reason. Do you regularly take it upon yourself to critique your senpai, or am I a special case?”

The other’s jaw tightens. His gaze holds Izaya’s for a moment, his eyes a soft brown startlingly at odds with the rest of his expression, before he ducks his head to look away. “I didn’t know you were my senpai.”

Izaya angles his head to the side and smiles at the yellow fall of the other’s hair. “Don’t worry about it,” he says, and steps closer to the other. “I can’t hold against you what you don’t know yet.” He reaches to touch the trainee’s shoulder, to press his fingers into the weight of reassurance, but the other flinches back again as if afraid of Izaya’s touch, and Izaya pulls back in turn. He stands still for a moment, looking up at the hunch of the other’s shoulders and the turned-away angle of his head; then he raises his eyebrows and drops his outstretched hand to offer a handshake instead.

“My apologies,” he says, in the most polite tone he can find. “I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I’m Detective Orihara Izaya.”

The trainee’s head turns fractionally. Dark eyes meet Izaya’s for a moment before dropping to his outstretched hand. He doesn’t move to accept the other’s offer.

Izaya huffs a breath. “Come on, it’s not like I’m waving a knife at you or anything. It’s just an introduction.” He leans in closer and tilts his head to seek out a glimpse of the other’s face under the weight of his hair. “Can’t I get a name for my cute kouhai?”

The trainee grimaces and looks away from Izaya’s scrutiny, but after a moment he reaches to clasp his hand around the other’s. His grip is startlingly strong, his fingers tight enough around Izaya’s hand that Izaya can feel the pressure ache all the way up his arm. “Heiwajima.”

“Nice to meet you,” Izaya says without looking away. “Do you have a first name to go with that?”

The other’s mouth twists on a frown. “Shizuo.”

“Mm,” Izaya hums, and tightens his grip around the other’s hand in answer to the pressure exerted on his own. “Nice to meet you, Shizu-chan.” Shizuo’s gaze jumps back to his, his frown softening into surprise, but Izaya just smiles up at him before tilting his head to gesture towards the plastic cup in Shizuo’s free hand. “Getting the day started off right with some hot chocolate, huh? Breakfast of champions, that.”

Shizuo stares at him. There’s none of the irritation that was so clear in his expression before; if anything his wide eyes and slack mouth give him a look of shock instead, surprise layered atop something in the crease at his forehead that looks almost like pain. “How…” He pauses and swallows. His hand is still closed around Izaya’s, as if he’s forgotten how to let go. “How did you know it was hot chocolate?”

Izaya laughs. “Oh come on, Shizu-chan,” he purrs. “It’s not hard to guess when you--” His words fracture on his tongue, stifled to silence by sudden vertigo, as if he was leaning into a step to find nothing but open air under his foot. He blinks hard, his mouth still open on the words erased from his hold, his thoughts skidding like they’re oil-slick in his grasp.

“Detective Orihara?” That’s Shizuo speaking, his voice loud in Izaya’s ears. Izaya looks up to find those dark eyes fixed on his face, that forehead creased onto concern clearly dominant, now, over the irritation that was there before. “Are you alright?”

“I--” Izaya starts. His arm is still tingling, prickling sensation all the way up to his shoulder, jumping electric down his spine and up to ache heat at the back of his skull. “I know you.” Those handsome features tense on worry, those dark eyes wet with tears: the feel of those lips, the taste of that mouth, the feel of those hands. For a moment Izaya is pressed to the sheets of a bed, knees spread wide around Shizuo’s narrow hips; for a heartbeat he’s leaning over the width of a coffee table, grinning answer to the sound of Shizuo’s laugh. His fingers tighten on Shizuo’s hand, flexing with a strength he can’t feel as numbness crawls up his fingers to engulf his hand, his wrist, to reach out for his forearm and up past his elbow. “Shizu-chan, why--”

“Orihara,” Shizuo says, but Izaya can’t focus on his face, can’t see the details of his expression. His arm is numb from wrist to elbow, the blank weight spreading up to skip along his shoulder and towards his spine; he can’t feel his legs, can’t tell if he’s standing or sitting or falling. He reaches out, trying to grab for some support to keep himself on his feet, but as he moves his other arm flashes to numbness too, the whole of it swallowed up at once as his vision crackles to black. Izaya sucks a breath into his chest, feels that blank silence sweep up from his hips to claim his breathing as well, and he hears the clatter of a full cup hitting the floor, hears a shout of “Izaya!” in a voice he knows as well as his own, a tone he recognizes without being able to give a name to it. The world veers, balance dropping away from his control along with the dead weight of his body, and Izaya feels himself caught, feels his collapse stalled by a reaching arm, before his head drops back and his mind goes blank as well.

Chapter Text

Izaya is a good detective.

He knows that absolutely. It was a fact of which he was certain from the very beginning, in the long years so distant from his present that he can barely recall the path that led him to the front doors of the agency that has been the whole of his existence since then. Whatever interview or entrance examination he took was such a simple process that it has left his memory entirely, one of the pieces of irrelevant information he regularly drops to make space for the ever-changing web of knowledge by which he maps the ebb and flow of the city in which he works. He loves solving problems, loves taking on the riddle of a mystery and unravelling it to lay flat into perfect clarity; and of even more pleasure than the quiet of a dark room and the glow of a computer monitor to guide him is the stir of the city around him, with the people and machines that blend seamlessly one into the other in the busy streets and crowded buildings that form the single entity called the city.

Izaya doesn’t have a partner. Most of the other detectives in the agency are assigned to work with someone else; field agents never are allowed to explore on their own without backup in the form of a partner, permanent or temporary, assigned to work with them. But Izaya is the exception to that, the same way he’s the exception to so many of the agency’s rules, and he’s grateful to the fact even as he takes it as his right. There is no one amidst the dull-eyed office workers at the agency that can keep up with his leaps of mental logic even confined to the glassed-in walls of the offices and the stifled space of the interior hallways that seem to crush down on the heads of the employees who work within them; Izaya can’t even stand to imagine how slowly he would have to move through the city streets, how plodding his pace would have to be to accommodate the slower tread and dragging thoughts of one of the coworkers whose names he has learned only that he may more thoroughly categorize their limited utility. Better to be free, to pull the weight of a dark jacket on to disguise the giveaway of his agency uniform and lose himself in the city itself, to become another consumer of the smog-laden breaths the city draws to blanket its slick-dark streets from the illumination of the distant sunlight.

Izaya is doing reconnaissance, today. Sometimes he’s out to collect a particular piece of information, or to meet one of the informants the agency director seems to keep by the dozens in his acquaintance. Izaya is happy to meet with anyone Shiki asks him to, to collect information directly or gently work it free from one of the more recalcitrant informants with whom the agency works; but his favorite days are those like today, when he is set free onto the streets with the open-ended goal of obtaining ‘additional information’ for one of the newer cases that lack sufficient structure for more clarity of purpose. Sometimes Izaya brings back relevant information enough to guide Shiki to reach out to one or another of his contacts; occasionally Izaya has the pleasure of solving an entire case on the spot, returning with the fading of daylight with a conclusion instead of just a compilation of data. In either case he is left free to occupy himself as he sees fit, to guide the direction of his steps through the city streets in what way seems best to him, and Izaya thinks there can be nothing more satisfying than the absolute freedom to take himself wherever his whims guide him.

He’s made his way to the darker streets of the city, meandering his route there from the agency as he loses time to a coffee shop and in doubling back on his own path a few times, just for the amusement of circling around a particularly busy block twice over. He is meant to be investigating rumors of a new drug on the streets, mostly used by wealthy university students who fancy themselves more dangerous than they are but seeping into the general awareness in a way that has the authorities of the city concerned enough to pay for more information. Izaya personally couldn’t care less -- there will always be people looking to make poor decisions, and there’s no rationality that can sway an addict from procuring their drug of choice -- but the assignment gives him an excuse to make his way to the more interesting districts, where the crisp white of his uniform shirt is enough to draw suspicious glares and his pretty face encourages more consideration than is wise. Izaya skirts the fringes of the area, pacing out wandering paths with his dark jacket to cover his uniform and his expression relaxed into the most convincing display of dissolute youth he can achieve, and he offers a slanting smile and easy conversation to anyone who speaks to him, presenting the very picture of a young man anxious to be persuaded into indulgence, legal or otherwise.

It’s slow going. Izaya knows he draws attention just by his presence, as one of the innate advantages his good looks grant him to ease his path through the world, but he’s still looking for a group who are intentionally working from the shadows and have an associated interest in remaining undiscovered by exactly the kind of agency for which Izaya is working. He might pass for a university student to those of similar age or with less of an eye to detail, but the same aspects of his looks and bearing that draw attention pull suspicion with them as well, and there is only so much Izaya can do to counteract that. The most he can do to combat that all-too accurate interpretation is to linger at the fringe of those narrow alleys and unsigned buildings, looking idle instead of curious and letting anyone who might be watching him do so without being observed themselves. Izaya lets his attention wander, flickering from one unlit storefront to the next, drawn to the skip of a stranger moving along a curb before he glances to the angle of a woman’s wrist as she lifts her plastic coffee cup to her mouth, and then there’s a flicker of yellow like the rarely-seen sunlight out of the corner of his eye, and his head is turning to track it with giveaway speed before he can help himself.

The yellow is that of a man’s hair, bleached pale and tangled by the ruffle of wind or the drag of fingers to waves over his head. His back is to Izaya, his head ducked down over the databand wrapped around his wrist, and he’s walking away from the sketchier streets where Izaya’s been lingering, striding away as if anxious to regain the safety of the main boulevards once again. There’s nothing terribly remarkable about him -- he’s tall but not unusually so, and blond is hardly the most outrageous hair color Izaya has seen even in the last half-hour. But Izaya’s attention clings to his back, mapping over the length of his legs and the knit of his sweater -- and that’s strange, why should that look so wrong, why should he expect a dark vest and a crisp shirt on the shoulders of a complete stranger? -- as the other strides away with a stride so firm and self-assured Izaya imagines he can feel the thud of the footfalls running through the pavement between them to jolt up his spine and crackle through his thoughts.

“Hey there.”

Izaya has to blink to break his attention away from the unconscious grace of the stranger’s movement, has to turn his head to pull his focus aside before he can offer the least thought to the voice that has just addressed him. It’s a woman speaking, her gaze smokey and her smile warm; her curling hair is pulled up high at the back of her head, the blonde locks falling loose around her face the same pale color as those of the stranger striding away from where Izaya’s feet have stalled him on the sidewalk. The woman tips her head to the side and softens her red-painted lips to the show of a pout as she reaches out to touch against the sleeve of Izaya’s coat. “You look like you’ve gotten yourself lost, dear. Do you need some directions?” She cants her head back over her shoulder without turning to look in the direction indicated. “I run a bar just down the way. You could come in and we could get you sorted out.”

Izaya ought to accept. Whether the woman is offering the straightforward approach of a seduction or is looking to test him as a possible customer for more lucrative pursuits than alcohol or sex, it’s the beginnings of exactly the kind of conversation he was hoping to find. But his thoughts are spinning, his attention fractured from his original clarity, and even with the woman’s smile before him and the touch of her hand against his arm Izaya has to fight the urge to turn his head to look after the stranger striding away from him. His heart is racing, his shoulders tense with anxiety he can’t make sense of; he feels as if there is some timer counting down in the back of his thoughts, as if he is bearing a bomb within the structure of his chest that can only be defused by the steady hands of the complete stranger he just glimpsed moving away.

“Thank you very much,” he manages, and offers a smile as apologetic as he can make it. “I was supposed to be meeting a friend and he was running late. But I’ve just seen him” as he lifts his hand free of the woman’s hold to gesture after the stranger, “so I’m good to go. Thank you for asking.” The woman glances in the direction of Izaya’s gesture, the soft of her mouth tensing on a frown as if she might protest this claim of familiarity with someone clearly moving away, but Izaya doesn’t wait for her response. He’s turning as quickly as he speaks, twisting on his heel and stepping forward to cast himself out into the dark-paved street without pausing to check for traffic or to find the nearest white-marked crosswalk. The stranger is still moving away, stepping forward to disappear around the corner of a building even as Izaya follows, and Izaya breaks into a jog, urged to greater speed by the irrational rush of his heart pounding in his chest.

He’s running by the time he’s reclaimed the sidewalk, and he doesn’t slow his pace even as he slips around the handful of people moving along the path down which the blond stranger has just vanished. The streets are busy, too crowded to follow a single person for long at any distance, and Izaya feels himself desperate to reach the other, to touch the line of those shoulders and see the shape of the other’s face. He can’t think why, can’t explain the abrupt obsession that has gripped him; but his feet move as if of their own accord, his heart flutters in his chest on terrified anxiety, and when Izaya draws a gasping inhale into his lungs he imagines he can almost taste a forgotten name against his tongue.

Chapter Text

He can’t remember the shape of his own name.

It hadn’t seemed important, in the moment everything went white and hot and blinding-bright. He is who he is, he’s hardly going to forget the identity that has been his own for the whole of his life -- his existence -- his memory -- but then it’s gone, shattered and scattered along with everything else he thought he knew, everything he thought he was. His eyes are open but his vision is sparking, sparkling, fraying, blanking to absence and then flaring hot and he doesn’t know where he’s going, doesn’t know what or who or how he exists and can’t find his way back, not when he’s trapped in a cage made of the electricity of his own body moving around him.

Everything is slippery, hazy and broken and crumbling as soon as his mental stumbling brushes it. Sometimes his vision is black, his input from the present moment so entirely absent that he doesn’t know if he’s still moving, doesn’t know if he’s still conscious, if he’s still breathing, if he even needs to breathe at all; but there will be words, then, too soft for him to hear but murmuring a sound like sobs, the shape of a name that slips through his mind as quickly as he reaches to claim it. It could be his own voice, for all he knows -- he can’t recall the sound of that any more than his own name, or the features of his face, or the shape of his hands -- but he knows that the sound of pain on it aches in his chest, a dull, deep-down agony as if his ribcage is being cracked open around the sound of the desperate pounding of his heart filling his ears like surf against a beach he’s never known. Sometimes his eyes are full of lights, sparkling brilliant and overbright to steal his view of whatever reality may be around him, and he can taste brilliant acid on his tongue while he breathes the humidity of heat-sweat from the air and fills his lungs with proof of other people, whose names he cannot know and whose faces he cannot see.

There is another, that much he’s sure of; even if their face is lost to the blood-hot of tears on his cheeks, even if their name slurs to ragged sobs on his tongue. His own name is far less important than that one, he feels sure; as if he might be able to find himself again, might be able to smooth and ease the path that has become such an endless abyss if he could just lay hand to the tether of a word by which to call up memory shattered to glassy fragments in his mind. He can taste iron on his tongue, can feel salt on his skin; someone is touching him, holding him still to the soft of what must be a bed, but the hands give way as quickly as he arches into them and it’s his own hands that are flexing, his fingers clenching as blood drips and trickles off his fingertips into an endless fall. He’s gasping, he thinks, he can feel the rasping weight of air in his chest and can hear his breaths ringing in his ears, but he can’t tell the cause of his exertion, if it’s agony or ecstasy so stealing his breathing free from its rhythm, if he is coming or dying or screaming, protesting some injustice too horrific for him to even see clearly through the haze that has stolen his sight. It is enough that he moves, that he has moved, that he will move: muscles flexing to pull at the impossible weight of steel, skin shifting to accommodate the strain of forward action even as it tears open in the memory of past-tense damage, healed to scarless invisibility but for the ruts ripped to violent depth in his own mind, the chasms in which he is now lost and fumbling.

There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no way for him to overcome this. He is lost, helpless, formless and past-less and stripped to nothing but the framework that supports whatever identity may be left when memory is gone, when history is dragged free of time to leave drifting fragments of recollection to bleed and blend with one another. But staying still is giving up, is giving in to the dark ocean trying to swamp him, trying to pull his flickering mind free of the desperate hold he is keeping on the flotsam of burned-out recollection; so he keeps moving, in his mind or body or both, and he keeps reaching, straining to claim the syllables of a name that seem to erase themselves from his mind as quickly as they take shape at his lips.

Chapter Text

Shizuo doesn’t recall how he makes it back to headquarters. It’s only a handful of blocks away, too close to merit taking one of the trains that run along the tracks over the street, but he still could have summoned an automatic taxi, he realizes much later, when the adrenaline has faded to cold resignation and he has the time to think about all the things he did wrong.

He probably shouldn’t have moved Izaya at all. He would have been better off calling for medical support, either from the office or even from the overworked emergency line that serves this district of the city. But he wasn’t thinking clearly, in those first few minutes of panic that came with Izaya’s eyes going blank and his body collapsing bonelessly to the pavement beneath him, and his first thoughts had been of reflexive retreat instead of finding someone else to help him with his partner’s sudden, shocking collapse.

It was an attack. That much Shizuo is able to piece together even as he’s striding through the crowd around him, forcing the wave of humanity to part to the speed of his movement by simply refusing to allow for the possibility that someone might stand in his way. Izaya is utterly unconscious in his hold, his whole body slack as if his awareness has simply evaporated outright. He can hardly offer any insight into what happened to him when he can’t so much as raise his head or lift an arm around Shizuo’s shoulders. But he’s bleeding, Shizuo can feel the wet seeping through the dark of his vest and through the layer of his shirt to stick hot against his skin, and that’s enough to drive Shizuo forward as fast as his feet can carry him without dropping the burden of the figure collapsed into his arms.

Headquarters is perfectly ordinary as Shizuo approaches the electronic doors at the front. It seems strange that everything should be so quiet, should be so calm when Shizuo’s partner is bleeding to death in his arms, but Shizuo doesn’t have time to contemplate this stark contrast between his own experience and that of the world around him. He strides up to the front doors, moving so quickly he doesn’t realize at first that they’re not opening; it’s only an abrupt effort to slow himself that keeps him from shouldering right through the barrier and catching himself and Izaya together in a shower of glass to do even more damage than whatever unknown attack Izaya has already suffered. The thought of that is enough to chill Shizuo’s panic to somewhat more restraint, to at least ease the burning edge of intensity from his actions so he can step back and approach things with more rationality. There’s a fingerprint sensor at the side of the door, one that Shizuo has used every morning without thinking; it’s only panic that stripped that habit from him, and the fact that both his hands are occupied in supporting Izaya against him. He hesitates, wondering if he should set Izaya down to unlock the doors, if maybe he should just break through the glass outright -- maybe if he angles his shoulders he can serve as a wall to protect Izaya from the worst of it -- when there’s the hiss of the doors unsealing, and the mirrored glass slides open to show a man in a white lab coat about Shizuo’s age smiling from the inside of the agency.

“You can’t get in without verifying your identity,” he says, lifting his hand to gesture towards the black scanners built into the side of the doors. “They should have told you that on your first day. Unless you’re very new?”

“My hands are a little full,” Shizuo grates, since this stranger seems to not have noticed this obvious fact.

The man laughs brightly. “I see that,” he says. “You really are supposed to scan to verify your identity before you come inside. By protocol I ought to shut the doors and have you let yourself in.” Shizuo sets his jaw, ready to argue the point with this unnecessarily chatty stranger, but the other’s attention is dropping to the figure in Shizuo’s arms and his attention has drifted with it. “What happened to your partner?”

Shizuo looks down, abruptly brought back to the present by the direction of the other’s question. “My partner,” he repeats, and then, with force as he looks back up, “I need help. He needs help, he’s been hurt and he’s bleeding really badly. Can you take me to the infirmary?”

The man looks up to blink at him. “You’re worried?” he asks. “You don’t have anything to worry about, he’s going to be fine.”

Shizuo growls in the back of his throat. “How do you know that?” he demands. “Even if you are a doctor--” as he flickers a glance over the other’s white lab coat, “--Don’t you at least need to do an examination?”

The other man’s forehead creases as if on confusion before he breaks into a laugh entirely out of keeping with the tension of the present moment. “Not really,” he says, and turns away before Shizuo can decide to lunge over the distance and see how much effect a headbutt is likely to have since his hands are occupied in cradling Izaya against him. “Come with me, I’ll let Shiki-san know you made it back in.” Shizuo still isn’t satisfied with the calm in the other’s tone -- he makes it sound more like an errand than a matter of life-and-death -- but he’s leading the way into the agency all the same, and Shizuo is far more concerned about finding assistance for Izaya as fast as possible than in picking a fight with one of the dozens of coworkers he doesn’t recognize.

There aren’t many people in the hallways. Shizuo hasn’t paid much attention to his surroundings before now; the department around him has been no more than another part of his morning commute before now, with his attention focused on the end point of his office and the partner waiting for him there. Even so, he’s sure that the sight of a detective barely out of training bearing the still form of his partner in his arms ought to earn a little more surprise than the disinterested glances and occasional nods he and the doctor are getting. Shizuo can feel his expression tightening on anger, his forehead creasing and mouth tensing into a scowl enough to chase away even the appearance of friendliness, and for once he finds he doesn’t care what his coworkers may think of him. Izaya needs help, immediately, and if everyone else who works here is too cynical to so much as ask after his well-being Shizuo doesn’t want anything to do with them anyway.

“Ah,” his guide says, in that same cheerful tone that allows no space for the adrenaline hot in Shizuo’s veins and tightening his hold around Izaya in his arms. “Here we are.” He steps forward to a shut doorway and lifts his chin to beam into the topmost of the dark boxes that serve as locks for the door. “It’s Kishitani Shinra. Heiwajima and Orihara are back. It looks like they ran into a little trouble while they were out. Should I take over the recovery process?”

There’s hardly a breath of pause before the answer comes through audio only, projected from a speaker built into the same box the other spoke into. “Please do. Heiwajima can return to his office until his partner’s return.

“What?” Shizuo says, unaware until the words are in his throat how much of a growl they sound. “No, absolutely not, I’m not going anywhere.” Kishitani is stepping forward and reaching for Izaya’s dangling arm to draw the other free of Shizuo’s hold; Shizuo steps back to retreat from the intervention as he turns the full force of his frown onto the other instead. “I’m going with him, I’m not going to hand Izaya over to some stranger in a lab coat.”

Kishitani heaves a sigh. “I’m not a stranger,” he says calmly. “I work with you here at the agency. That makes us coworkers at least, don’t you think? And Shiki knows who I am.” He lifts his hands out and gestures towards Izaya. “He’s not going to get any better while you’re holding him. Give him to me and I’ll get everything running smoothly again.”

Shizuo feels far from reassured. Even with the sound of Shiki’s voice providing such clear instructions for him to follow, the idea of handing Izaya over to someone who seems so calmly unconcerned about his present physical state makes Shizuo’s stomach lurch as if he’s in free-fall. But his shirt is wet against his skin with the spill of blood from the injury that threw Izaya into such absolute unconsciousness, and Shizuo has no means to help his partner on his own, even if he knew where to begin.

“You’ll take care of him?” Shizuo asks without loosening his hold on the limp weight in his arms.

Kishitani nods, looking sincere enough if a little impatient. “I’ll have him back to you as good as new,” he says. “You’ll never even know he was out.” He steps in closer, apparently unwilling to go on waiting for Shizuo’s capitulation before hitching Izaya’s limp arm over his shoulder and getting his own hand under Izaya’s weight.

“I’ll carry him,” Shizuo says, still unwilling to let his hold on Izaya go. “Just show me where to go, I’ll follow you to the infirmary.”

“You can’t come into the laboratory,” Kishitani says. “You’re not cleared for access and you’re covered in contaminants. It’d take a half hour just to get you in the doors and that’s not going to do your partner any favors.” He lifts his head to meet Shizuo’s frown, and for all his lack of concern Shizuo can find no trace of deception in the clear gaze the other turns on him. “You want to have him back to full function soon, don’t you?”

Shizuo grimaces. “Yeah.”

There’s a sigh from the speaker set alongside the door, a reminder of the audience they have on the other side of the mirrored glass. “Give Orihara to Dr. Kishitani, Heiwajima,” Shiki orders. “I’ll personally vouch for his ability. If anyone can get your partner back on his feet, Kishitani can.

Shizuo hesitates for another moment, still unwilling to offer up the weight of Izaya in his arms where at least he knows where the other is, even if he can do nothing to help him. But Izaya is in dire need of medical attention, and Kishitani is the only option available.

“Okay,” Shizuo says, a surrender that aches into bitter unwillingness in his throat even as he speaks it. Kishitani doesn’t seem to notice Shizuo’s tone, or maybe just doesn’t care; he’s stepping in closer, crouching down by a few inches so he can brace his arm under Izaya’s hips and take the other’s weight up over his shoulder. Shizuo hisses at the roughness of the motion, feeling regret surge into him as if to take the place of the weight of Izaya in his arms, but Kishitani is already pulling away, and Izaya’s limp body is hardly going to offer any resistance to being handed off from one to another. Kishitani drapes Izaya over his shoulder, and wraps one arm up over the other’s waist as if he’s balancing a heavy bag, and then he turns his head up to give Shizuo a brilliant smile again.

“I’ll get him all sorted out for you,” he says, with more of that utterly inappropriate cheer. “He’ll be back on his feet by the end of the week!” Shizuo highly doubts that -- he’ll be happy if Izaya is even conscious again by then -- but Kishitani doesn’t wait for a response before he’s turning to move away down the hallway, more slowly than Shizuo could wish but with purpose enough to satisfy him, at least. Shizuo watches him go, barred from following by Kishitani’s command and too heavy with heartache to obey Shiki’s; it’s some time after Kishitani has vanished from sight that Shizuo finally collects himself enough to turn and wander back through the hallways of the agency.

He seeks out the bathroom, first, with some vague thought of rinsing his shirt or at least washing his hands of the blood they surely have collected; but it’s not blood he finds when he finally brings his hands up to the light. His vest is too dark to show color as anything more than a greater shadow, but even when he unbuttons his vest he finds his white shirt stained pink rather than the crimson he expects to see there and carrying a faint metallic smell, more like oil than the coppery tang Shizuo was expecting. Shizuo stands in the bathroom for a long time, head turned down to stare at the rumpled edge of his shirt directly instead of considering the impossibility in the reflection of the mirror; and finally he picks up his vest where he tossed it on the counter, and drapes it over his arm as he turns to make his way through the hallways without bothering with straightening his clothes.

If anyone spares him more than a glance he’s too lost in his own thoughts to notice, and when he steps through the doorway of the office it’s with a sense of relief that this familiarity, at least, hasn’t changed. Everything is just as it was this morning, from Izaya’s pushed-back chair to Shizuo’s monitors flickering with their lock screen to the dark jacket flung over the corner of Izaya’s computer table. Shizuo stares at that last for a long time, wondering if some impossible heat might still be clinging to the fabric, if he might find some comfort in pressing the collar to his nose and breathing Izaya’s existence into his lungs; and then he leaves it where it lies, and goes to sit down in front of his own computer. He looks at the lock screen for a minute, watching the rotating images pass by and seeing none of them at all; and then he rocks back in his chair, and tips against the headrest, and shuts his eyes to the burden of reality for at least a little longer.

Chapter Text

Shizuo is waiting when help arrives from headquarters.

He knows better, this time, than to try to carry Izaya there himself. There can be no mistaking the situation, not with the damage done by the explosive shot their attacker fired point-blank into Izaya’s chest, and even if Shizuo couldn’t see the tangle of wires and delicate electronics that were shattered in place of ribcage and internal organs, he wouldn’t be under any illusions about Izaya’s present state. It’s only the frayed edges of those same wires that give him any reassurance at all while he waits out the minutes for help to arrive with Izaya’s limp body pulled in close against his chest, and even that is cold comfort with Izaya’s usually bright eyes gone blank and staring with the total absence of the power that usually allows him to function. Shizuo presses Izaya in against him so he doesn’t have to look at the glassy, unfocused gaze of those shut-down eyes, and so he doesn’t keep watching sparks flicker and die against the torn-open edges of the other’s shirt, and he stares at the far side of the alley and waits for help to come.

He’s expecting Kishitani. The other proved as good as his word, last time, in returning Izaya to his usual functionality if not quite all his memories; Shizuo assumes he’ll be the technician sent out on-site here as well, to take at least preliminary steps before Izaya is brought back to the department for more thorough reconstruction. But when the beeping at Shizuo’s wrist announces an approaching presence it comes with the click of heels instead of the thud of boots, and when a shadow falls over the end of the alley Shizuo looks up to see a dark skirt under a white coat instead of the tie Kishitani was sporting when they met last.

Yagiri Namie is standing in the entrance to the alley, both arms folded across her chest and her gaze turned down on Shizuo sitting in the shadows that have served as some measure of cover from the distracted crowd on the main street. There are two others behind her, both wearing coats of their own though theirs are buttoned up, but Yagiri is the only one meeting Shizuo’s gaze, and that with enough disdain in her eyes for Shizuo to meet her condemnation with resistance of his own before he even knows what it is he’s pushing back against. For a moment they are all still, Yagiri and her backup at the entrance to the alley and Shizuo holding Izaya against the side of it; then Yagiri heaves a sigh, and lifts her chin to toss her hair back from her face.

“There’s no reason for you to look so distraught,” she tells Shizuo. “It’s just a machine.”

Shizuo stares up at her without bothering to give voice to the protest he feels. It’s bitter in his chest, a knot at the back of his throat, but he’s sure that his gaze will carry his disagreement as well as any words would.

Yagiri rolls her eyes and tips her head back towards one of the two behind her. They both step forward almost in sync, moving so gracefully Shizuo wonders if they are more of the androids Yagiri disavows as easily as Izaya does. He wonders if they have the same range of expression Izaya has shown, if they laugh and smile and flirt as easily as the partner now lying heavy and still in his arms. If they do they show none of it in their approach; they just step in on either side of Shizuo, aligning with each other before they lean in to reach for Izaya’s slack weight. It’s hard for Shizuo to convince himself to ease his hold in answer to those gloved hands reaching to grip at the back of Izaya’s coat collar and catching underneath the limp weight of his boots, but the other two just pull to lift Izaya free, and Shizuo can’t maintain his hold without dragging Izaya bodily away and perhaps doing still worse damage than what that first attack caused. The two assistants lift Izaya between them, holding him mostly horizontal but without visible concern for the angle of his head or of the pale pink fluid spilling from the torn opening in his chest; as they move Izaya’s arm falls heavily, his slack fingers resting atop Shizuo’s wrist for a moment before the other two turn to bear him away towards the entrance to the alley again. Shizuo reaches out without thinking, lifting his hand to touch and clasp against Izaya’s unresponsive hand, but his grip slides and Izaya’s wet fingers slip free of his as the other is borne away.

Yagiri is still standing at the entrance to the alley, her arms still crossed, her gaze still fixed on Shizuo. She looks like she hasn’t moved since Shizuo looked up to see her, as if she has as little interest in the shattered android being carried out of the alley by her assistants as in the rush of strangers forming the crowd of humanity behind her.

“Pull yourself together,” she tells him when she sees Shizuo raise his gaze to meet hers again. “It’s a tool, the same as a computer or a gun. Do you cry for every scanpad that breaks?”

Shizuo’s jaw tightens hard enough he can feel his teeth aching with the pressure, but he doesn’t want to throw himself into a fight with the technician who will be responsible for piecing Izaya back together. “Can you fix him?”

Yagiri shrugs. “Probably,” she says, without sounding terribly interested in the prospect. “I’ll need to replace much of the internal wiring. Those kinds of explosions are a real bitch on android electronics, they fry out twice as much as they actually destroy. I keep telling Shiki we shouldn’t be sending out expensive prototypes like this into the field, but he’s more interested in testing their capabilities than in the cost of repairing them after the fact.”

Shizuo stares at her. “You sound like you care more about the cost than about him.”

Yagiri’s gaze clears and refocuses on him. She looks not at all troubled by the dark of what Shizuo is sure has become a glare as he looks up at her; if anything the dip of her lashes gives her attention the weight of dismissal that cuts all the keener when she lifts her chin and sniffs. “You sound like you care about it at all. It’s a machine, not a person. It’s not as if it really cares about you.”

Shizuo’s fingers tighten to a fist against his palm. “He stepped in front of that gun to protect me.”

“Yes,” Yagiri says without any surrender at all. “That’s what they’re programmed to do. Expensive they may be, but better for all that circuitry to serve as a shield than to run the risk of losing one of our human detectives.” She pauses for a moment before lifting her shoulders into a shrug. “That’s what Shiki thinks, anyway. Are you going to be coming back to headquarters?”

Shizuo shakes his head. “No,” he says. “It’s my day off.”

Yagiri doesn’t push the point. “Fine,” she says, and turns away to step out of the alley again and rejoin her patiently waiting assistants. “We’ll see you back on Monday.” And she’s moving away, pulling into the lead while the two bearing Izaya’s still form between them step in to trail in her wake with perfect, unquestioning obedience. Shizuo watches them go until they’ve lost themselves in the crowd and moved entirely out of sight from where he’s sitting; it’s only after they’re well away that he turns his head down to look at his hand as he uncurls his fingers. His nails have dug in against his skin to tear crescents of red into his palm; they seep blood as he watches, the red rising to smear over his skin. Shizuo presses his palm to the front of his vest to scrub it mostly-clean against the damp that Izaya’s damage soaked into the front of his clothes. The red soaks into the black, leaving no more visible a stain than the much paler color of the android fluid, and Shizuo braces his hand to the pavement under him and pushes to get to his feet so he can trudge out of the alley and back onto the main street.

It would be faster to take an air-rail, or a bus, or even to call himself a taxi to get across the distance of the city to his own apartment. Shizuo walks anyway, pacing through the streets without so much as the hum of music to distract him from the stir of people around him and the dull, clotting-cold unhappiness of his thoughts.

Chapter Text

There is nothing to look at in Shiki’s office.

Shizuo can understand the logic of this. From a man who runs an agency that deals in the discovery and selling of information, a painstaking attention to personal detail is all but expected. Shizuo can imagine what Izaya would have to say about it, with that mirror-bright laugh and a toss of his dark hair, can see the smirk of the other’s lips with perfect clarity in his mind; and it’s exactly that that makes him feel the absence of any other focal point for his thoughts the more keenly. Shizuo has nothing to do but sit still and wait for Shiki’s return, and in the silence of the austere room around him there is nothing for him to think of but exactly the subject he would most like to avoid.

He doesn’t know how many times he’s chased himself around his own mind when the door to the office comes open. Long enough to feel the weight of responsibility layering itself over his shoulders to hunch him forward, until he has to brace his hands at his knees and lock his elbows just to hold himself upright. Long enough for him to relive the sound of his name shattered and cracked into electronic tonalities a dozen times, for his fingers to tighten to a bruising hold at his knees, for his eyes to burn with emotion he doesn’t know how to express, until even the hiss of the door announcing his boss’s return isn’t enough to bring him anything like hope. He just stays where he is, hunched in over his hands and not turning to look as Shiki waits for the door to close behind him before stepping forward and around to the other side of the desk.

Shiki doesn’t rush. He’s always been deliberate and composed that Shizuo has seen; not as clinically icy as Yagiri, and nothing like the chipper unconcern Kishitani offers, but calm, presenting a face to the world that Shizuo is sure is precisely calculated to be the one the other deems best to be seen. He’s as careful now, drawing his chair back and settling into it as if they have all the time in the world, until when he finally says, “Detective Heiwajima” any trace of emotion is utterly stripped from his voice.

Shizuo raises his head to meet the other’s gaze. Shiki’s eyes are dark, as unreadable as the flat line of his mouth. He could bear judgment behind his gaze, could be feeling sympathy, could be simply bored. Shizuo has no way of guessing, no insight into what may lie behind his boss’s consideration. He wonders if Izaya would. He wonders what Izaya might see, if he could.

“I’ve checked on the status of your partner,” Shiki says without preamble. “Kishitani is working on him currently. Yagiri may have some insight to offer as well, but her skills lie more in physical construction, so I will wait to draw on her opinion until she arrives in the morning. Kishitani will do what can be done.”

“What--” Shizuo’s throat closes up on his words; for a moment he has to struggle voicelessly before he can ease the pressure enough to drag speech free of the tension in his chest. “What can be done?”

Shiki’s shoulders come up in a shrug. “Kishitani tells me he can bring him back to operating standards again,” he says, unfazed by the audible emotion in Shizuo’s voice. “There has been severe corruption to his memory files, however. A complete reset would be the best solution, but Kishitani has been working on Orihara’s core code for some time, now. We would lose years of accumulated work in the process.” Shiki folds his hands at the edge of the desk. “You understand why I am hesitant to take such a step.”

Shizuo’s stomach roils. “You’re talking about killing him.”

Shiki doesn’t so much as bat an eye. “I see you do understand,” he says. “I’m grateful to know that we’re on the same page.” He leans back into his chair, relaxing as if Shizuo’s words really are the relief he claims them to be. It’s a show, of course, but so polished-smooth Shizuo’s attention slides off it as if off slick stone. “The question then is what options yet remain for us, and for him.”

Shizuo’s fingers tighten against his legs. “You can’t reset him,” he says, and it’s a statement and not a plea. “He’s conscious, he knows who he is. That’d be the same as murder.”

“Do you think Orihara agrees with you?” Shiki asks, but he follows it up with a shrug. “I have no desire to undo his and our work over the last years, Heiwajima. In this case I assure you my professional motivations are at least as strong as your personal ones.”

Shizuo’s jaw flexes but he doesn’t argue the point. Shiki goes on watching him for a moment, as if waiting for an inevitable reply, before he draws a breath and goes on.

“The biggest problem is the memory corruption. Kishitani sought to avoid the issue by looping back to a steady-state from one of the data backups, but it seems Orihara’s learning ability is skipping beyond its designed parameters and pulling memory he should have no access to. The mismatch is causing loops he can’t break himself out of, and once his processor overloads he shuts himself down before burning out the whole of his identity. I think you’ll agree that Orihara simply turning off was the best possible outcome, under the circumstances.” Shiki waits until he has Shizuo’s strained nod, this time, before he goes on.

“The issue is the initially corrupted files. Kishitani tells me they were likely damaged in the first attack the Niekawa girl landed; she managed to short-circuit his shutdown process, which interrupted the data storage and garbled much of his recent history. I assume your first time sleeping together was within the range of the damage, perhaps a day or two prior to Niekawa’s attack.” Shiki doesn’t pause for Shizuo’s agreement, this time, though Shizuo is sure the color that floods his face is answer enough for anyone with any observational skills at all, much less the head of a detective agency. “It seems likely you were similarly intimate prior to the second attack, from Nasujima Takashi, I believe it was. No? Perhaps Orihara had simply been accessing similar paths of thought before receiving the damage. It compounded the problem, in any case, which resulted in his emergency shutdown tonight. He must have fallen into a loop within the corrupted memories and started to overwrite his present with the same bad data. We’re lucky he did shut himself down or there might be nothing to salvage at all.”

Shizuo’s face is still hot, burning with embarrassment at Shiki’s casual description of his private life, but it’s not as if he can deny any of the details, and the turn of the other’s phrasing is still stark enough to chill premonition down his spine. He clenches his fingers tight against the support of his knees and ducks his chin to fix Shiki with as much focus as he can find in himself. “But you can, right? Kishitani can put him back together. He’s going to be fine, isn’t he?”

Shiki considers Shizuo for a long moment. There’s no judgment in his gaze any more than there is the soft of sympathy; Shizuo is as grateful for the absence of the latter as for the presence of the former. Judgment he could face, could meet with stoic self-assurance and push past as an insignificant obstacle; he thinks sympathy would free the heat of tears behind his eyes and clench his throat onto sobs for the loss he can sense without needing to hear the details. But he wants the details, craves them even intuiting how deeply they’ll cut, and so he holds Shiki’s steady gaze and silently dares the other to give him the information he needs.

Finally Shiki draws a breath and lifts his chin to look away from Shizuo’s face, out over the other’s shoulder as if there is anything at all to look at on the wall alongside his sealed office door. “We have no particular policies in place preventing partners from entering into a relationship with each other,” he says with perfect calm. “Some of our best teams have been sleeping together for years. And Orihara is built to be as nearly human as possible, well above the level of a mere sex droid.” Shiki’s gaze slides back to meet Shizuo’s levelly. “You don’t need to worry on that front. His desires are his own to act upon or not, as he chooses.

“However.” Shiki turns in his chair to face Shizuo fully, to square off the line of his shoulders with the man sitting before him. “His recent choices have exacerbated a known issue into a far greater problem. His interest in you persists, regardless of the rollbacks Kishitani does. Left to his own devices he is increasingly likely to seek out a relationship with you with no knowledge of the demonstrated danger that offers to his own existence.”

“I won’t accept,” Shizuo says at once. “I’ll refuse him when he asks. I can--” But Shiki is shaking his head, refusing Shizuo’s offer before it’s even formed.

“The problem is expanding,” he says again. “He suffered further data corruption when Nasujima attacked when you apparently hadn’t so much as slept together, so far as he knew. This time he burned out another swath of data trying to reconcile lost memories with his present experience. What if he decides to fantasize about his partner and stumbles into the blocked memories in the process?

Shiki leans forward in his chair, reaching out to clasp his hands at the desk before him again. “I’m reassigning you,” he says, so simply that Shizuo doesn’t have a chance to answer even if he knew what he could possibly say in the face of the other’s unassailable logic. “You’ll be handling the Niekawa case on your own for a few weeks until I can get you another partner. I’ve asked Kishitani to roll Orihara back by a span of weeks, before you were assigned to him in the first place. We’re hoping that will put a big enough gap between his present and the corrupted data that he won’t stumble upon a connection leading him into a shutdown again.”

Shizuo’s throat is tight, his chest is aching. There are a thousand things he wants to say, protests and complaints and pleas he’d like to offer; but Shiki’s logic is unassailable, too perfectly composed of reason and concern for Shizuo to fight against. There is no resistance he can muster, not with the agony of fear for Izaya tight in his fingers and heavy at his shoulders; all he can do is take a breath and grate out, “Will that keep him safe?”

Shiki lifts his shoulder in a fragment of a shrug. “I hope so.” It’s not the answer Shizuo wanted to hear, but he knows better than to push for any other. Shiki doesn’t seem like the type to soften a harsh truth with an easy lie, and Shizuo doesn’t want bland half-truth in any case. “Come in tomorrow as usual. We’ll move Izaya to another office and you can remain in your current location until we find someone suitable to partner with you.”

Shizuo ducks his head. “Thanks,” he says, without much gratitude on the sound.

Shiki casts his gaze to the blinking data connection around his wrist. “It’s late,” he says. “You should get home and get what sleep you can before work in the morning.”

Shizuo nods again. There’s nothing more he can say, nothing else he can offer; all the strength in the world can’t break him out of this net of accident and bad luck that has tightened itself around him. He loosens his hands from around his legs and reaches to brace himself at the arms of his chair so he can push himself upright and turn towards the door.

“Heiwajima.” Shizuo stops just shy of tripping the sensor to open the office door. He doesn’t turn around but his stillness must be enough to prove his attention, because Shiki goes on speaking as if he answered aloud. “You understand that you will need to keep your distance from Orihara if this is to work. He won’t recall any of your history together; it will be on you to behave accordingly on your end.”

Shizuo’s jaw sets, his teeth clench. “I understand.” He ducks his head forward and swallows hard. It’s not enough to entirely ease the roughness from his voice. “He’s just another detective. I barely know his name.”

“Exactly.” Shiki shifts in his chair. “Get some rest. Goodnight, Heiwajima.”

Shizuo lets himself out without waiting for more. The department is silent at this hour of the night; the occupancy sensors illuminate his path to the door in front of him and shut the lights off behind him as he moves down the halls. He doesn’t pause by his office, doesn’t stop to linger over the sheet of dark plastic still set into one wall or to see if some trace of Izaya still exists in the space before Shiki has yet given the orders for his reassignment. He just leaves, making for the front of the department and the late-night murmur of the city street so he can see himself home.

It takes him almost an hour to cross the distance on foot. He doesn’t notice the time passing; it’s almost a surprise when he finds himself in front of his building, as if the intervening miles have been erased from his memory as surely as any knowledge of this place has been wiped from Izaya’s. Shizuo lets himself in with a swipe of his thumb against the gate scanner, and takes the elevator up to the floor of his apartment in the same silence that has wrapped him since he left headquarters. His door opens to his fingerprint, sliding open to let him into the familiar space of his home, and Shizuo steps in without bothering with turning on a light. He leaves his shoes by the front door, toed off in the entryway before he comes in to shed the rest of his clothes. His vest is gone, along with his tie; his shirt is still unbuttoned at the collar, dragged off-center by the desperate hold of Izaya’s hands. Shizuo strips it all free, shirt and slacks and socks alike to fall to a heap at the floor, and he goes to fall across his bed, where tight-pressed sheets carry nothing more telling that the usual artificial scent of detergent. Shizuo lies face-down across them anyway, pressing his face into the pillows and breathing deep; but there’s nothing there, no trace of Izaya’s hair or the heat of Izaya’s body pressed into the fabric. Finally Shizuo reaches over the edge of the bed to retrieve his cast-off shirt; it carries more of his own sweat on it than any part of Izaya’s, but he finds a suggestion of heat up at the collar, where Izaya’s fingers dragged at his skin, and at the hem, where the loose edge of it caught at Izaya’s body as the other groaned pleasure in answer to Shizuo’s movement over him. Shizuo breathes Izaya into his lungs, and lets his body ease into the support of the bed, and when sleep comes for him he dreams himself into the relief of memories for as long as his unconsciousness lasts.

Chapter Text

Shizuo doesn’t bother making use of the chair in Shiki’s office, this time. He’s too tight-wound to sit still for more than a few seconds together, for one thing, too shaky with adrenaline to even contemplate the possibility of lowering himself into a static position for more than a pair of heartbeats; and sitting would imply the possibility of patience, of a conversation far lengthier than the one he means to have. He’s only here for one reason, at this point, and waiting for Shiki only because there is no one else who can hear what he has to say. And so he paces back and forth in front of the double-wide span of the other’s desk and keeps his thoughts on the words in his head instead of the blank of Izaya’s eyes flickering out-of-focus or the sound of Izaya’s voice cracking and breaking as electrical surges won out over his control of his own body. He’ll have time enough to be haunted by that in the comfort of his own home, where every shadow seems determined to offer up recollection to tear apart his psyche as surely as memories have shattered Izaya’s own awareness.

He’s not listening for the sound of approaching footsteps. For all his intention to focus on the words he means to say, Shizuo is fighting with ghosts at every step, weighed down by the burden of grief and loss and guilt dogging his every breath, and he lacks the attention to spare to listen for the signs of anyone approaching the office where Shiki left him to wait. Izaya would chide him for it, he knows; but Izaya’s not here to see, and so there is no one to know the way Shizuo startles at the sound of the door coming open but Shiki and Shizuo himself.

Shiki ducks his head in acknowledgment as soon as he sees Shizuo on his feet. He looks unsurprised to find the other pacing instead of sitting; Shizuo doesn’t know if that’s simply because Shiki is too practiced to let a little thing like surprise show on his face, or if it’s that his own behavior is as transparent as Izaya used to tease him for. It doesn’t make a differenc

“I’m resigning from my position.” Shizuo takes a breath and lets it go, feeling like some part of his nervous energy has spent itself to leave him feeling the weight of his mistakes the more keenly. “Effective immediately.”

Shiki considers Shizuo for a moment. He doesn’t blink, doesn’t nod; there is no indication in his features that he has heard or understood any part of the other’s speech. Finally he inclines his head towards the chair on the near side of the desk and lifts a hand to gesture towards it. “Why don’t you have a seat, Heiwajima.”

“I don’t need to,” Shizuo says. “I only waited to tell you I’m resigning. I’m going to go get my things and go home from here, you’re not my employer any longer.”

Shiki steps out of the doorway to come towards the edge of the desk so he can move around it. “I am not speaking as your employer. If you wish to resign of course you may do so at any time and for any reason.” He reaches for his chair to push it back from the far side of the desk so he can settle himself into it. “I am simply suggesting that you may be interested in hearing the information I have to offer you.” His hands fold at the edge of the desk, his gaze comes up to meet Shizuo’s. “Information regarding your previous partner’s situation.”

Shizuo’s throat tightens. It’s hard to breathe for a moment; all he can manage to do is shake his head in a desperate attempt to push back against Shiki’s statement. “He’s not my partner anymore. He’s not even my coworker, now.”

“Which has no bearing at all on your feelings towards him.” Shiki’s voice is unflinching, a wall too sturdy for even Shizuo to push through, and his gaze is as merciless, tearing through any protest Shizuo might think to offer. Shizuo has none in any case, not when the very thought of Izaya is enough to tear his heart from his chest and leave him feeling as burnt-out as whatever corrupted data Izaya is bearing in his head. Shiki holds Shizuo’s eyes for a long moment before he dips his head towards the chair on the other side of the desk. “Sit down, Heiwajima.”

Shizuo sits. Shiki doesn’t even have the grace to look pleased; he just leans back into his own chair, taking the next step in a path he sees as inevitable. They sit in silence for a moment, Shizuo scowling across the span of the table and Shiki watching him as if documenting some particularly interesting reaction in his head. Finally Shiki turns his head to consider the wall of the office and clears his throat to speak. “He loves you, you know.”

Shizuo’s jaw tightens. He doesn’t have any answer to give to that, even if he knew what to say, but it seems Shiki isn’t waiting for a reply because he goes on speaking almost as soon as the declaration is made. “It’s impossible to say for sure if it’s equivalent to an embodied human’s experience, but Kishitani assures me the patterns of emotion and desire are indistinguishable by any method of measurement. He’s delighted, honestly, he’s been looking for evidence that androids can be built to feel as humans do and this is his first major success.”

“Success,” Shizuo grates. “Izaya shuts himself down every time he so much as sees me, how does that possibly count as success?”

Shiki shrugs. “His run-in with Niekawa was particularly unfortunately timed,” he admits. “But his behavior clearly demonstrates the fact of his obsession with you. He’s actively sought a relationship with you at every available opportunity, even when his conscious data should have prevented him from having any memory of you.”

“You’re right,” Shizuo forces out past tight-gritted teeth. “That is a success. Why didn’t I see it myself?”

Shiki doesn’t so much as bat an eye at the venom on Shizuo’s tone. “It is an unfortunate conclusion for Orihara,” he says. “It doesn’t need to be so for you, if you don’t wish it to be.” He considers Shizuo across the table from him, his head canted slightly to the side as if gauging Shizuo from a different angle. “You are welcome to remain with the department, if you wish.”

Shizuo blinks. “What?” He shakes his head, his frown resuming its set against his lips as he scowls at Shiki across the desk. “You just said Izaya is deliberately trying to form a relationship with me. There’s no way we can go on working together.”

“That is true,” Shiki says. “That doesn’t mean your time with us needs to come to an end. We could make...arrangements to allow you to remain with the department. You have proven to have some natural abilities we would be happy to retain, if you are interested.”

Shizuo stares at Shiki. “What are you talking about?”

“It is true that we can’t keep both you and Orihara,” Shiki says. “One option is of course for you to resign and us to maintain Orihara insofar as we may. The other…” as he shrugs and tips his head into euphemism, “...would be to keep you on alone.”

Shizuo’s stomach twists, his throat tightens on a surge of nausea. Shiki’s words are clear enough, their implication unmistakable; but the pressure in his chest demands the hurt of hearing them, insists on facing the unavoidable reality of the offer Shiki is making. “What would you do with Izaya?”

Shiki tips his head to the side, a tiny sketch of a shrug without enough force to give it true action. He doesn’t blink away from the demand of Shizuo’s gaze. “He’s working around a great deal of corrupted data as it is, which will need to be an ongoing concern even if we were to keep him on. If we retained you as our newest detective we could decommission him entirely.”

Shizuo doesn’t think about getting to his feet, doesn’t make the conscious decision to shove himself up from the desk. He must, since he ends up standing at the edge of Shiki’s desk and with his chair clattering to fall to the floor behind him, but he doesn’t look back to see it any more than he holds himself back from the lean he’s making towards the other. “You’d be killing him.”

Shiki doesn’t flinch from the grate of fury on Shizuo’s voice or the tension of violence in his shoulders. Shizuo would be impressed by the other man’s calm if he weren’t so tense with anger that he can hardly see straight. “Sometimes people die. Sometimes death becomes a mercy, if they’re past saving. Would you deny him the consideration you would show another human?”

“He can be saved,” Shizuo tells him. “And he is a human. He’s as much a person as I am.”

Shiki gazes up at Shizuo. “Would he agree with you in that statement, if he knew what he was?”

I don’t care ,” Shizuo snaps. “You’re not killing him. Not for me. Not at all.”

Shiki doesn’t protest, doesn’t flinch. He just goes on watching Shizuo, looking up at the other as if he’s considering a piece of data on a computer monitor instead of a man so tight-wound on temper that Shizuo can feel his knuckles aching with the force of the fists he’s making at his sides. Finally Shiki leans back in his chair, reclining into slightly greater comfort as if satisfied with his own analysis before he’s even spoken it. “You’re in love with him too.”

It’s the only thing that could unravel the rising tide of anger in Shizuo’s shoulders and along his arms. He rocks back, retreating from his lean over the front of Shiki’s desk if not so much as to take a step backwards. Shiki remains where he is but he goes on speaking, the sound of his voice an onslaught however level his tone is.

“I wasn’t certain. Kishitani said that you were after you first came in after your run-in with Niekawa but I thought it would require more time, especially after you learned he was an android. Or did you suspect that from the beginning?”

“That is none of your business,” Shizuo spits. “And neither are my feelings.”

Shiki shrugs. “You’re not wrong,” he allows. “Well. I suppose there will be no talking you out of your resignation, then.” Shizuo shakes his head sharply and Shiki tips his head into surrender. “Very well. You can have the rest of the day to clear your things. I’ll be sure to remove your access credentials from the security scanners before we turn Orihara back on.” He folds his hands in his lap and looks up at Shizuo. “It’s been a pleasure to have you working for us, Heiwajima. Thank you for your efforts.”

Shizuo hesitates before retreating. Those dark eyes meeting his own are entirely unreadable; he isn’t sure if he’s meant to take Shiki at his word or if there’s some other fight the other is expecting him to make, some further protest he could offer to improve the outcome for himself or for Izaya or for them both. But if there is Shizuo isn’t quick enough to see it, isn’t skilled enough to thread his way through endless possibilities to find the right one, and in the end he just huffs a breath and turns away, lifting his hand to gesture open the door so he can walk through it for the last time.

Chapter Text

Shizuo isn’t paying attention to his surroundings.

It’s the best form of self-defense he has been able to find for himself. The city streets are full of people, crowded with the population crammed into tiny apartments and sky-scraping hotel buildings; it should be easy to lose a single person amidst the thousands that pass through every intersection on a daily basis, should be easy to spend full days wandering the city without ever so much as glimpsing an acquaintance. But Shizuo’s thoughts linger back at the agency, even if his feet never take him anywhere near it, and every flutter of a dark coat or sound of a crystalline laugh drags his attention up and around in reflexive search of the person who haunts his dreams no matter how thoroughly Shizuo chases him from from his waking thoughts. Shizuo can’t see Izaya, has to keep his distance from him for Izaya’s sake as much as his own; but the flutter of his heart that comes with every almost-recognition is more excitement than dread, and he fears learning what he might do confronted with temptation before him. He isn’t sure he’s strong enough to turn aside, even knowing that Izaya doesn’t know him, knowing that it is only distance that will give Izaya a chance at continued function in the world; and he’s too afraid to test the possibility, when the repercussions are so dire.

So he hides. He hasn’t yet found a new job to pay for the rent on his apartment; luckily he has some small store of savings, enough to get him through the next few months before he needs to locate a source of income, and it’s safer to stay indoors, to shut the door and draw the curtain over the single window and isolate himself from the outside world while he waits for the ache in his heart to scar and heal into something he can tolerate. He would stay inside all the time, if he could, waiting for time to do what willpower cannot in hurrying him towards the same forgetfulness imposed on Izaya as with the flip of a switch, but he has to eat, and as his savings begin to dwindle he can’t justify the expense of getting even a single large meal delivered for a day. He has to go shopping, at least occasionally, and that requires him to leave the safety of his apartment and stride out into the crowds filling the streets.

At least it’s busy. Shizuo feels invisible in the wave of humanity around him, as if in stripping off the crisp uniform the agency provided him he has become utterly unremarkable to everyone else. No one looks at him, no one speaks to him; he can carry his defensive isolation with him as he makes his way down the street and turns to navigate the long route to the superstore that provides the groceries that will restock Shizuo’s near-empty pantry. It would be much faster to take the main street, to join the rush of humanity flowing from one point to another as a single entity composed of hundreds of personal goals; but Shizuo’s map of the city has grown convoluted with the loss of his partner, has lost full blocks to the creeping effect of memories that seem to hold him the more clearly now that he knows he’s the only one who may lay claim to them. He can hear Izaya’s laugh hanging in the air like a ghost, can see the flicker of a brilliant smile from the shadows of cross-streets down which he had been led; even the smell of a coffee shop is enough to slow his stride and haze his vision with the grip of nostalgia for those bright eyes and silky hair. Bad enough that every inch of his apartment is marked with his recollection of Izaya’s parted lips and pale skin and gasping breath; he can’t follow the ghosts that linger in the shape of the city like the corrupted memories fractured within Izaya. So he goes the long way, making a five minute walk into a half-hour one by what feels like necessity more than choice, and he keeps his head down to fix his gaze on the video playing at his data band just to keep himself from glimpsing someone with an elegant step or a brilliant smile.

The distraction is more effective than he expected it to be. Shizuo has lived in his current apartment for years; the streets branching out around it are entirely his own, so familiar to him he thinks he might be able to make his way from one point to another blindfolded. Even his newfound need to dodge layers of memories is only a minor inconvenience; he only paces a few blocks along the shadier parts of town, and he’s hardly concerned about his ability to protect himself. He keeps his head down as he passes through, watching the hologram flickering over his wrist and deliberately ignoring the movement in his periphery and the murmur of conversations from the other side of the street, until he can take a turn to the right and head back towards the main street, cleared now of any emotionally weighty memories. He joins the flow of the crowd without slowing, adding himself to the rush of motion as he reaches to shut off his video mid-sentence so he can look up for the storefront he’s aiming for, and it’s then that there’s a shout, “Wait!” in a voice so piercingly familiar that Shizuo feels it like a blade running through his chest.

He doesn’t turn around. He thought, before, that he might recognize a few words in the midst of an overheard conversation, that the trill of a laugh from an open café door could be from those lips that fill his dreams and heat his blood; but he was never sure, his motion was always in the unformed hope of recognition he didn’t hold. Now he knows, knows with a certainty that makes all his previous considerations laughable: as if he wouldn’t know that voice immediately, as if he wouldn’t feel the resonance of it coursing through him as if tied inextricably to the pumping of his heart and the rhythm of his breathing. He would keep moving if he could, would lean forward and carry himself down the street and away from the impossible temptation of that one word over his shoulder; but his feet have stalled, his movement is forced to stillness, and all Shizuo can do by way of resistance is keep facing away without turning to meet the gaze he can feel like a hand pressing to the back of his neck.

“Wait.” There’s less panic on the sound, this time, more breathless relief than anxious need. The change just makes the fist of agony around Shizuo’s heart clench the tighter, as if the rhythm of his breathing is being stifled by the direct application of his own unreasonable strength. “Wait for me, I just...I know you.” Shizuo shakes his head -- denial of the claim, rejection of the situation, he doesn’t know which is foremost in his mind -- but the footsteps draw closer all the same, scuffing against the pavement with a slowing tread as the other approaches. “Don’t I?”

Shizuo presses his lips together and swallows with as much force as he can bring to the work of his throat over the action. “No,” he says, softly enough that the word is only for his own ears, a means to brace himself for what he has to do, and then he lifts his head to glance back over his shoulder, casting his gaze through the weight of his hair as if that is at all likely to soften the blow the sight will bring.

Izaya is just behind him, standing like an island while the river of the crowd breaks around them. He looks just as he did the last time Shizuo saw him, his face unlined by the creases of pain Shizuo knows are written into his own. His eyes are bright, his mouth soft; the only difference is in the absence of his smile, the removal of the laughter that always used to cling so close to his lips and sparkle teasing behind his eyes even before he bothered to fit words to it. He looks confused, now, as if he’s lost himself in the streets of the city so hardwired into his memory it goes unaffected by anything the agency does to him or any of his self-inflicted damage. Shizuo is hardly looking at him -- most of the details of his face are hidden by the fall of his hair -- but Izaya still cants his head to the side, still knits the delicate arch of his brows together on uncertainty rapidly forming to suspicion.

“I do know you,” he says, and takes a step forward as if he’s being drawn closer by magnetism. His hand lifts from his side, moving with such deliberate slowness that Shizuo is certain there is no conscious thought in the reach of the fingers stretching out towards him, reaching to cross the barrier of open air between the pair of them. Izaya’s head tips to the side, his mouth tightens towards a frown of attention. “Tell me your name.”

Shizuo stays silent. There’s only a few feet left between them, only a handful of inches between Izaya’s upraised hand and his shoulder; he can see Izaya shift his weight forward, can see the anticipation of another forward step in the whole graceful line of the other’s body before it stalls, sticking into a misfire that writes itself into the jerk of Izaya’s shoulders and the sudden weight at his leg. Izaya’s forehead creases, his gaze flickers for a moment; and then: “Shi--” he starts before his voice cracks at his lips, before his eyes shut on a grimace of pain. “Shi--Shizu--”

Shizuo watches Izaya struggle for a moment, watches as the fragment of his name sparks behind Izaya’s eyes and tightens pain at the slack line of the other’s mouth. And then he turns aside, ducking his head away so he can spare Izaya from the surge of memory his name would bring with it if allowed to form. His feet move him forward, his motion as heavy and mechanical as that desperate lift of Izaya’s hand, and Shizuo steps away down the street, his head lifted and gaze fixed in the hazy distance even as his throat clenches tight around his breathing and his vision blurs with the heat of the tears overflowing to spill salt across his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Shizuo walks the streets for hours. He has no intention, no direction to the pace of his feet; his initial goal is utterly discarded as thoroughly as the fragile peace he found for himself had been shattered by the simple sound of Izaya’s voice. Enough that he moves forward, that every step takes him farther from the sight of Izaya’s face and the crackle of deadly electricity that Shizuo’s very presence must bring with it to Izaya, now; enough that he continues moving, that he spends his energy to propel himself forward instead of turning his strength in on his own body where it must surely shatter his bones and rip the fiber of muscle and skin asunder just that his body may match the self-inflicted damage to his heart.

He cannot bear the thought of Izaya. Bad enough to remember him before, to have only the memory of those bright eyes gone blank and sightless; Shizuo is sure that not all the strength he has ever held in himself could have compelled him to remain on that street while Izaya short-circuited himself out of consciousness in front of him again. But leaving has left Shizuo pursued by possibilities of as much weight, by the thought that perhaps leaving wasn’t enough to stop the shutdown once begun. Is Izaya still standing on that sidewalk surrounded by uncaring strangers, is he crackling into an overload that slackens his expression and softens his joints to slump him boneless to the ground? Shizuo should have stayed, should have remained at least long enough to catch Izaya from his collapse, to stall his fall before his slamming impact with the pavement in front of dozens of strangers; but perhaps Shizuo would just have made it worse, when even a glimpse of him in the midst of a crowd was too much for Izaya’s much-mended identity to bear. Shizuo breaks Izaya with every meeting, with every memory, and the fragments of their history are razor-edged to tear Shizuo’s heart to ribbons even as they fray and overload every circuit that holds Izaya to the consciousness that has granted him a life as real as Shizuo’s own.

Shizuo doesn’t know how long he walks through the city, doesn’t know how many strangers he passes. Enough that the full weight of night has laid itself to velvet shadows over the street, enough that even the main boulevards are thinned to no more than a scattering of people for Shizuo to wend his way through. After enough time even the knot in Shizuo’s throat has faded if not eased, unravelling from its vice grip around his breathing to sink his inhales into the depths of his chest, and when he finally turns his feet to bear him along the street towards his home his eyes are dry too, all his tears burnt off to nothing more than faint salt tracks across the lines of his cheeks. He feels exhausted, drained of energy as much as he is of cheer, and if the thought of his bed is no comfort it feels as if there might be some measure of relief there, just in easing from the burden of existing in the web of a city filled with thousand of uncaring strangers.

He loops wide on his way home, drawing well clear of the block where he left Izaya standing, left Izaya reaching out for him with trembling fingers and flickering eyes. He doesn’t want to see if the other is still there, doesn’t want to confront the possibility that he might yet remain where Shizuo’s retreat abandoned him; and there’s some superstitious thought there, too, to staying clear of the places where Izaya has seen him before, as if Izaya might simply cease existing in all others. The idea is absurd, Shizuo’s own experience proves that as a certainty -- if anything perhaps he ought to seek out those familiar streets, on the assumption that Izaya’s subconscious will guide him clear of those places most dangerous to his uncertain memory. But Shizuo can’t stand the thought of glimpsing Izaya still on that street, still shuddering with electrical surges some hours after Shizuo’s abandonment, so he draws wide by a handful of blocks, finally approaching the sleek facade of his apartment building by the opposite direction in which he left it.

There is a relief to coming inside, to stepping through the unmarked doors at the front lobby and activating the occupancy sensor that will call a lift to take Shizuo to his own floor. He has never cared much about his apartment complex -- in recent months it has been rather harder than otherwise to bear, with the memories of Izaya’s smile and laughter written into the walls of his home -- but he appreciates the silence of it now, appreciates the familiar whir of the creaking lift and the clicking beep that announces the arrival long seconds before the doors finally drag themselves open. Shizuo steps within and presses the button for his own floor, and he stays where he is in front of the lift doors as they shut and the whole begins to move upward. He can see his reflection in the metal before him, his face strange and distorted by the brushed pattern of the surface; he stares at the blur of his face as he waits out the ride, considering the yellow of his hair and the smudge of his mouth as he goes, wondering if even that would be enough to trigger another one of the cascading memory failures that so incapacitate Izaya’s operating system. The thought drags the corners of his mouth down and presses the burden of unhappiness hard against his shoulders, and then the lift creaks into place at Shizuo’s floor and Shizuo ducks his head to look down from his reflection as the doors slide open to deposit him into the hallway for his apartment.

It’s only a few long strides from the lift to the door of his own apartment. Shizuo doesn’t lift his head, doesn’t look up from the attention he’s turning to the weight of his tread against the floor; he’s halfway across the span of the distance when there’s the drag of an inhale, a breath rattling loud into the quiet of the hallway around him. Shizuo’s head jerks up, adrenaline spiking hard in answer to his unexpected audience; and then his gaze finds the figure standing alongside his apartment door, and his breathing dies in his throat, his heart skipping on recognition so bitter that for a moment he is sure it’s a hallucination standing in front of his apartment door.

Izaya is standing in the middle of the hallway. He’s facing Shizuo’s door, his whole body turned towards the solid wall made by the lock on that same; he has one hand upraised, his fingers touching just against the surface in front of him like he’s testing the texture of the hard plastic. His coat is still around his arms, still hanging heavy off his shoulders; his other arm is straight at his side, his fingers slack as if his strength is insufficient to so much as curl them towards his palm. For a moment Shizuo thinks he’s frozen, as if it’s no more than a still image of Izaya layered to holographic realism over his own vision; but then Izaya’s fingers slide, trailing across the door as they drift downward, and Shizuo can hear the drag of the other’s inhale as he struggles for breath. His head shifts, his chin dipping down so his hair swings in front of his face; and then he turns, lifting his gaze from where it’s fixed on the door to look to Shizuo.

There’s no flicker of surprise, no indication of shock in his expression at seeing Shizuo standing still halfway down the hall; but then, Shizuo isn’t sure Izaya is able to offer anything even close to surprise under the present circumstances. His mouth is soft, his eyes wide and unfocused even as he looks in Shizuo’s direction; his cheeks are wet with tears, damp overflowing his lashes to trickle a renewed path over his skin even as he gasps another inhale to speak past the audible strain in his throat.

“Help,” he manages, his voice cracking to weird, inhuman resonances, skipping up his range and crackling to electronic heights as his eyes blur, as his fingers shake and jolt. “Please. I don’t--I know--” His eyes go wide, his chest constricts on a gasp. “Help me.” His shoulders quake, his knees buckle, and he drops to the ground, or what would be the ground if Shizuo’s legs hadn’t made the decision his mind couldn’t manage and borne him over the distance between them. Instead it’s Shizuo’s knee that hits the floor, and Shizuo’s arms that catch Izaya before he lands, and when they fall Shizuo has Izaya cradled in his arms and pressed against his chest. For a moment they’re still like that, Shizuo’s heart racing against Izaya in his arms and fear too keen for him to look for the blank stare in Izaya’s eyes; but then Izaya moves against him, his hand coming up to drag an attempt at a hold at Shizuo’s sweater before it falls loose, and Shizuo hiccups a breath as much relief as a sob as he lifts his hand to the back of Izaya’s head to hold the other close against him.

“I know,” he says, and shuts his eyes to press his face to Izaya’s hair and fill his lungs with the first breath of warmth he has felt in what feels like a lifetime. “I remember you, Izaya.”

Chapter Text

Someone is speaking.

He doesn’t know who. For the first moment he can’t even make sense of the low rumble as words at all; for all his mind can grasp it might as well be a roar of machinery or the sound of some distant transport dragging itself along the weight of heavy tracks. It could even be his own voice, spilling free into some protest too innate to require the input of his conscious mind to create a structure of coherency; he can’t tell, can’t find the boundaries of the body that he calls his own, the framework for the existence that he can only vaguely ascertain. All he knows is that he’s hearing something, that there is a resonance of sound somewhere in the space around him; and that as time passes, words come into shape, fitting themselves into separate parts even if he struggles to affix any true meaning to them.

“I didn’t think I was going to see you again.” The words are strange, they refer to I and you in a way that his mind stumbles over, a hazard for the fragile, fractured thing that has become his identity; but there is no hesitation for an answer, no expectation of reply from whatever source is offering the speech. “I wasn’t supposed to see you again. But you came looking for me, like you couldn’t stay away even though you shouldn’t have had the least idea who I was.” There’s a ragged huff of air; a laugh, recognition supplies, but broken somehow, shattered in a way that he can’t be sure is the fault of the speaker or of his own hearing. “Like you still remembered me, somehow.”

He knows that voice. There is something familiar to it, some smooth undercurrent as comforting as the draw of sleep, as soothing as the grip of warm hands; and there are hands against him, gripping tight enough that there is a shimmer of something like pain in the back of his awareness. He tries to push against them, to wrest himself into something of greater comfort; but there is no obedience, only the abrupt awareness of tension coursing through him, straining every joint of his skeleton with brutal strength. His spine is arching, his shoulders flexing, his legs knotting; and yet he’s still, held to a single fixed point by some impossible force pinning the involuntary motion of his body to stasis.

“I shouldn’t have left you.” The voice is still continuing, still offering words that he knows, now, as something other than his own; his awareness of his body grants him that much, at least, even if he gains no control at all over the overwhelming strain clenching his body on impossible motion. His throat is too tight for speech, his tongue as unresponsive as the rest of his body to his wishes; there is wet at his lips, spilling to touch his tongue with the kiss of salt, but he can’t reach for it even if he could get his jaw to unclench from the aching pain to which it is locked. He can’t answer, can’t reply, can’t possibly have been responding; but the voice continues, flowing onward with the force of a river to splash the cool relief of another existence into his mind. “I wanted to protect you, to leave you alone so you could live your own life as much as you could. I didn’t think you would find me again.”

Pressure tightens against him. It’s an arm around his chest, he can feel the weight of it like a steel band pinning him still against some unflinching support; but he’s held down by more than that single grip. There’s a hand against his head, a palm pressing darkness over his wide-open eyes as if to limit the boundaries of his world, and a weight is over his legs, too, angled to hold both thighs together and to pin his feet to shuddering stillness. His whole body is cramping, every muscle seizing for power to shatter him apart, to unfasten his joints and tear his skin and rip muscle from bone with too-much strength; but he’s held fast, restrained to no more than quivering motion by the arms holding him back and the press of a leg heavy over his own to limit their movement. His hands flex, fingers shaking as they loosen before clutching to dig his nails in against blood-slick palms, and the hand at his head pulls back to urge him to greater stillness and force his neck to ease from the strain it is claiming.

“Breathe,” the voice says, rasping into a demand, and the arm banded around his chest flexes to force his ribcage to contract and empty the air from his lungs. The exhale hisses past his clenched teeth, whimpering in his throat as it breaks free; the pressure holds for a moment, long enough for him to feel the ache of necessity in his disjoint awareness before it eases to let him drag another breath into his lungs. “Like that.” Friction draws over his forehead, a weight pushing across his skin; a thumb urging into his hair, he realizes, tracing through the fall of it as if the tremors gripping his body are something to be soothed by tenderness. “Stay awake, Izaya, don’t shut down on me. Stay here, stay with me, please.” There is movement behind him, a shift in the wall that is holding him still, what must be another body pressing close to his own, and then a breath from the speaker, dragging deep in the chest against Izaya’s shoulderblades before the speech resumes again. “I remember the first day I met you.”

He doesn’t know how long it goes on. Consciousness fades, drifting away from his hold before jerking back into place, cracking apart with such force he is sure there must be a gap between one moment and the next; but his vision is dark, and his body is still, and the steady flow of that voice continues on, knitting one moment to the next to give him a unified path to walk upon. Details catch at his mind, tugging loose threads of memories to coax them free from the shadows, until he feels like he can taste the next words at his lips, as if the déjà vu of the moment is keen enough to grant him premonition.

Moments lapse, fragments of the other’s speech falling away to the abyss that seems to swallow pieces of his time before he surfaces with another gasp as that arm forces a breath into his stalled-out chest; but the voice keeps going, looping over and over through story after story, repeating details to cling to his thoughts even against the overwhelming force of darkness. The shape of a coffee cup, the bright of neon lights; a crisp shirt crumpling under a desperate hold, shattered glass falling like rain over bowed heads. The press of a warm mouth, the hold of strong hands; and he finds himself crying, then, his shoulders quivering with the effect of emotion instead of involuntary strain. Tears spill over the press of the other’s hand to his eyes, trickle across his cheeks and catch hiccuping breaths into his chest, but the grip on him doesn’t ease and the rhythm of the voice repeating that one endless story doesn’t slow. He lies still without resisting, aching with the relief of ease in strain-damaged muscles and overtaxed joints, willing just to lie in the darkness and listen; and it’s as the voice, raspy now with the strain of too much speech, draws to the end of the story that he realizes he has heard the whole of it start to finish, the entire narrative smooth and unbroken and complete in his memory.

He draws a breath without prompting, pulling it deep into his chest past the tears in his throat, and behind him the voice stops at last, leaving in its wake a quiet so complete he can hear his pulse in his ears, can sense the rough drag of breathing from the form pressing to his back and pinning him in place. They are both still for a long moment, unmoving in the peace that has fit itself into the exhaustion of his finally-relaxed body; and then the hand over his eyes shifts, fingers easing and palm lifting to free his gaze from the dark humidity of his unconscious tears.

He can’t make sense of his surroundings for a moment. His eyes are taking in the light, color and shape and form spilling into his mind and asking for meaning; but for a span of time it’s as unintelligible as the sound of the other’s voice was, as impossible for him to comprehend as it was to ease the tight-clenching strain in his body. He blinks once, again, slow with the motion as he tracks fragments of color, patterns of shadow into meaning: the tangle of white sheets beneath him, the dark of a wall a few feet from his face, near enough for him to touch if he were to lift his exhausted arm. He can lift it, he finds when he makes the attempt, although his fingers are shaking and his motion is jerky and unsteady; he touches against the surface in front of him, marvelling at the polished-smooth of the wall, at the sense of stability it gives him, as if he’s reforming his orientation to the world from that point of contact. There’s a heavy coat around his arm, the sleeve sliding down towards his elbow from his upraised hand; he knows the shape of that, too, remembers the soft drag of the fur-lined cuff over his skin although he can’t recall putting it on or ever really looking at it before. He blinks carefully, testing the stability of his vision, the certainty of his world; and then he turns his head, ruffling his hair against the support under him so he can look back at the form behind him.

He sees the yellow hair first. There’s an arm pressing around him, the weight of it lingering across his chest even though the convulsive movement of his body has eased to leave him free to act of his own will, if slowly and with more pain than he could wish; but in the darkness of the space around them his vision draws to the tangled waves of bleached-blond hair, and down to the handsome features beneath them, instead of to the body that formed restraint sufficient to hold him to the present against the combined efforts of his body and mind together. Dark eyes are fixed on his face, their color muted to black by the shadows filling the room around the two of them; but Izaya knows the shape of those eyes, even with the tension of pain and heartache laid to lines around them, and he knows how soft the brown of them can be in the bright of a coffee shop or the glow of midday. His gaze drifts down, wandering through the comfort of familiarity instead of struggling for recognition: the straight line of a nose, the arch of cheekbones drawn to clarity by hollow-cheeked concern, the soft curve of a mouth set on a frown now but easy on a smile, gentle with a kiss, tender in every print it has ever made against his skin. He looks at that face, erased from his history, constant in his present, a ghost strong enough to still the helpless tremors of his body to calm; and he swallows, and he says “Hey, Shizu-chan,” in the lightest tone he can find from the ache in his throat.

Shizuo’s expression softens at once. His eyes widen, the crease at his forehead melting away as immediately as his mouth loosens the strain of the frown fixed there; and then he blinks, and his lashes overflow, and his head comes down to press to the line of Izaya’s shoulder. Izaya hears the first sob catch in the back of Shizuo’s throat, the note of relief too keen to be borne in silence; and then he shuts his eyes, and retreats to the comfort of darkness while Shizuo cries into his shoulder as if he’s the one who has been reclaimed.

Chapter Text

It is a long while before either of them move again.

Izaya is content to lie still. Movement seems an impossibility even to consider, for the first several minutes, and with Shizuo’s arms tight around him there is nothing he can think of needing badly enough to reach for. Shizuo seems as willing to surrender to stillness, or perhaps is simply as entirely content by Izaya in his arms as Izaya is by being held; he sustains his hold on Izaya without any indication of easing, even after the first storm of tears has passed to leave only slow-drying damp at the shoulder of Izaya’s shirt and ragged edges on Shizuo’s breathing. They linger together, wrapped in silence and each other while Izaya fits the pieces of himself back together and returns to his inevitable conclusion, formed of logic cold enough to chill the warmth from his fingers and steal the heat from his lips. He frames the pieces in his head, fitting them together with care in the joining, with as much precision as he ever put together the scattered evidence leading to a conclusion, until finally he draws a breath against the weight of Shizuo’s arm to speak in the calmest tone he can find for the words.

“I owe you an apology.”

Shizuo tenses immediately, his body flexing to tighten on Izaya as if he expects the other to pull free of his hold and dart away, as if there is any means for Izaya to escape from the conclusion so obvious it’s painful to think he didn’t see it before. The obvious alternative -- that he couldn’t see it, that he was denied insight by a deliberate barrier to his mental logic -- is hardly a comforting thought either. It’s not as if it makes a difference in any case, Izaya tells himself, not when the subject at hand is a matter of preferences no more his own than the structure of his existence. There is some question of the value of his apology as well, given the fallibility of his own agency; but it’s a place to start, and as good as any other for beginning the statement Shizuo clearly needs to hear.

“I was wrong.” Izaya keeps his gaze fixed on the ceiling overhead without turning his head to look at Shizuo pressing against him; it’s easier to look at the blank white of the wall instead of observing what expression may be accompanying the tension in the arm looped around him. “You were never a machine at all. You’re completely human, in every way.” He draws a breath into his chest; it’s hard to breathe, as if the grip of Shizuo’s hold is crushing the air from him with far greater force than Izaya can actually feel. “I’m the one who’s nothing more than a tool.”

Shizuo hisses a breath past his teeth. “Don’t say that.”

“Why not?” Izaya asks to the ceiling. “It’s just true. You can’t make me human by denial, Shizu-chan. Although I suppose the illogic of that is very human in itself. I wouldn’t know, personally.”

“Don’t,” Shizuo says, and shifts to push up onto his elbow alongside Izaya. Izaya still doesn’t turn his head to look at the other but he can feel the force of Shizuo’s gaze on him, can feel the heat of the other’s attention trying to pin him to focus as his vision blurs on the smooth of the ceiling overhead. “You’re not suddenly a heartless machine, Izaya, you’re as illogical as I have ever been.”

“Impossible,” Izaya says to the haze of his vision. “Everything I do is just electrical signals, there’s nothing about me that can’t be completely determined.”

“Everything everyone is could be completely determined with enough information,” Shizuo snaps. “You’re not a single computer program, Izaya. You have a mind and an identity and wants and desires of your own, without anyone telling you what to think.”

Izaya shakes his head. “Someone did,” he says. “Nothing about me is unique, Shizu-chan, there’s nothing in me that is really self-aware at all.”

“Bullshit,” Shizuo growls, and his hand is against Izaya’s face, his palm pushing to urge the other’s head to turn and Izaya’s gaze to meet Shizuo’s own. Izaya blinks at the motion, too startled to hold to the deliberate unfocus he was turning on the ceiling, and then the force of Shizuo’s gaze is pinning him in place and forcing his attention to meet that of the man glaring down at him. “You’re self-aware right now. You know who you are, you know what you want. I don’t think Shiki programmed you to fall in love with me until you self-destructed from it.”

Izaya tries to draw breath into a huff of laughter but it sticks in his throat and trembles into a sob in spite of himself. “I don’t love you, Shizu-chan.”

“You do.” Shizuo shifts over him, turning in to pin Izaya to the bed with one knee between his legs and an elbow up over his shoulder. With Shizuo leaning over him there’s nowhere else for Izaya to look but into his face and the full-force focus of those dark eyes on him. “You remembered me when you should have forgotten everything I was to you, you picked me out of a crowd in the middle of the city and found your way back to my apartment when you were too far gone to remember your name. What the hell else do you call that but love?”

Izaya shakes his head, offering desperate denial while he struggles for words enough to muster any kind of true resistance. “It’s not love,” he says. “I’m a machine. I’m a tool. Tools aren’t capable of love.”

“You are,” Shizuo says. “You’ve protected me. You’ve saved my life.”

“I had to,” Izaya says. “It’s my programming. Androids have to prioritize human safety over their own. That’s nothing but a fragment of code.”

“You didn’t protect that gang from me,” Shizuo insists. “I think I was a greater danger to them than some falling glass was to me.” He touches his hand to Izaya’s hair to smooth the strands away from the other’s face. “You care about me, Izaya, the same way I care about you.”

“It’s not the same,” Izaya insists. “You’re human. You’re capable of feeling real emotion, real desire, real love, even if it is for a machine that can only go through the motions of reciprocation.”

“You’re not just going through the motions,” Shizuo says. “You remembered me, Izaya. You remembered this.” His hand slides over Izaya’s hair, stroking the locks back behind the curve of an ear before pressing his palm to the curve of the other’s cheek. “You want me, as yourself, without any prompting.” He huffs a breath and the corner of his mouth curves up towards a smile as soft as the gaze he’s turning on Izaya. “You’ve proven that every time someone tries to take it away from you.”

Izaya looks up at Shizuo leaning over him. The hand against his face is warm, flushed with heat he can feel glowing at his skin even as he feels like all the warmth in his blood and body has drained away along with the revelation of his true form. He presses his lips together, tightly enough to hold back the whimper in his throat as he swallows, but when he does speak the tension clings to his tongue to strain his words on pressure. “I can’t remember that, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo’s mouth softens, his eyes go dark. For a moment he stays still, looking down at Izaya braced still under him; then he lifts his hand from the other’s cheek to urge the weight of his hair back from his forehead with a touch so gentle Izaya can feel the strength in Shizuo’s outstretched fingers trembling like it’s trying to give way, or as if he’s fighting back some impossible urge with the full force of his body.

“I’ll remind you,” he says. “If you want me to. If you need me to.”

“I do,” Izaya says at once. “Show me, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo draws a breath that goes ragged in his throat. “Last time--” He stops his words, closing his mouth on the flow of them as he ducks his head down for the span of a breath while he collects himself. “I lost you, the last time I did.”

“I don’t care,” Izaya says, and lifts his hand from his side with concerted effort to press his uncertain touch to Shizuo’s sweater, weighting his palm close to the other’s chest before he curls his fingers into a fist against the soft of the fabric. Shizuo lifts his head, returning his gaze to Izaya’s face once more; there’s a darkness in his eyes, a pain remembered with far more clarity than Izaya’s relearned memories can offer, but Izaya meets his eyes without flinching, without surrendering any part of the demand in the line of his arm and the tension of his fingers. “I’d rather die than never be sure I’m really alive.”

Shizuo grimaces but when he laughs the sound is sincere, if raw and aching in his throat. “That’s proof too,” he says. “I don’t think anyone would have programmed any machine to be as selfish as you are.” His smile drags free of his mouth, pulling the corners of his lips down to a frown once more as he looks at Izaya before him. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

Izaya lifts his chin. “You’re the one who thinks I’m as good as a person,” he says, his voice level and his pulse surprisingly steady. “You shouldn’t have anything to worry about, Shizu-chan.” He tries on a smile, just to shape the curve of it against his mouth; Shizuo’s gaze drops to it but his own frown doesn’t ease, the darkness in his eyes doesn’t fade. “You overrode my programming before just by walking past me in the street. Surely true love will be enough to keep me together now that I know I’m broken.”

Shizuo’s brows draw together. “I don’t think that makes sense, Izaya.”

“I thought I was supposed to be your senpai,” Izaya tells him. “Fine. Let’s start over at the beginning.” He uncurls his grip on Shizuo’s sweater and lifts his hand up instead, reaching for the shadows tangled around Shizuo’s head so he can fit his fingers into waves of yellow hair. Shizuo’s lashes flutter, his mouth softens, his head tips in against Izaya’s palm, and Izaya feels his chest ache as if under a weight, as if he can still feel the press of Shizuo’s hold banding steel strength across his breathing, until he has to strain to find air with which to speak.

“Shizuo,” he says, as gentle on the syllables as if he’s tasting them on his tongue for the first time. “I want you to kiss me.”

Shizuo’s gaze comes up, his attention coming back into clarity as he looks up to meet Izaya’s eyes. They’re still for a moment, Izaya’s hand in Shizuo’s hair and Shizuo’s gaze on Izaya’s face; and then Shizuo gusts a breath, and Izaya feels his skin prickle with the heat of success from the surrender of that one exhale alone.

“I love you,” Shizuo says. His hands press to either side of Izaya’s head, his fingers bracketing the other’s face to lock him to steadiness against the give of the bed beneath him. “Stay with me, Izaya.” And he leans in to touch his lips to gentle weight against Izaya’s. Izaya draws a careful breath, easing himself into an inhale while his mouth stays soft beneath Shizuo’s; and then he lets his eyes shut, and tightens his grip in Shizuo’s hair, and parts his lips in invitation for more. Shizuo hesitates, as if uncertain of the suggestion, but when Izaya turns his head and touches his tongue to Shizuo’s mouth he gives way for the asking. Izaya reaches out, tasting the fever-heat of the other’s mouth with his own, and if there is memory of this in his head, the pleasure is enough to persuade his attention to stay firmly in the present.

Chapter Text

Izaya doesn’t recall his first time sleeping with Shizuo. However many times Shizuo’s repeated descriptions fill in the skeleton of lost facts, his memories are no more coherent than flickers of light, no more substantial than shivers of remembered sensation or a prickle of recognition at some shift of Shizuo’s lips, at the texture of a particular fingertip fitting to Izaya’s spine. But even so, there is a familiarity to Shizuo’s motions, an uncanny grace to the shift of his body and the weight of his touch that speaks far more clearly to his claims of their shared history than even the excess of detail in his speech does.

He knows how to touch Izaya. Izaya’s memory is full of gaps, darkness welling up around the structure of the life he always used to believe in, that is now shown to be no more than a skin layered over the gears and metal of his true existence, but even when he reaches for it there is no recollection of physical indulgence, nothing he can recall of his own desire even isolated from any partner. Perhaps it was deemed unimportant, not worth inventing for a machine intended for use as a detective rather than for the purposes of seduction; maybe it’s yet another detail that he lost to whatever damage his mismatched memories did in those previous flares, the ones Shizuo describes with set jaw and tight voice to prove the pain of his memory far better than his words might convey. Izaya is glad to have forgotten those, if only for the distance they give him from whatever hurt Shizuo must have felt in the process; but the absence of his missing memories and the brutal truth of his real existence has left his body feeling foreign, as cold as if he can sense the machinery whirring in his chest in place of a human heart, as if his blood has ceased its warmth and is running cool and chill to steal the glow from his body. His skin is no more than a cover, his limbs no more than attachments to increase his potential abilities; and then Shizuo touches him, and the surge of electricity that follows is enough to chase even the memory of cold from Izaya’s body.

Shizuo has been suffering for what must be months by even the most restrained estimate Izaya can make. He must be aching with heartbreak, with the hurt he was forced to internalize in a desperate, doomed attempt to preserve what remained of Izaya’s ignorance of his own inherent self. Izaya would hardly blame him for rushing into contact, for sating the pain of loss against the relief of settling their bodies back into alignment one with the other; but Shizuo is slow, instead, careful with every movement as if he’s rediscovering a favorite retreat, as if he’s lingering in an indulgence so long-desired that the return must be eased to a slower pace to prove bearable at all. His hands trace Izaya’s clothes, moving over the fit of his shirt with as much care as if the action of his hands is working Izaya’s body open for him instead of simply pushing free the topmost layer of his clothes; it takes him some unmeasured span of drawing his touch over Izaya’s shirt and along the length of his legs before he works his fingers to push the fabric free of Izaya’s chest, and twice over as long for him to tire enough of tracing paths of tingling fire over Izaya’s shoulders and spine and stomach that he turns his attention to the fastenings of the other’s pants. Izaya lets him touch, lets Shizuo’s touch wander, lets the friction of the other’s skin recall heat to his own, and in the reminiscence of Shizuo’s appreciation he discovers a function of his form he has no memory of at all.

The heat of arousal coursing through him is nearly painful. Izaya feels it low at his hips, straining desire into his cock and aching at his balls well before Shizuo’s palm presses to urge against the front of his pants; but it’s through all the rest of him too, chasing itself up the length of his spine and parting his lips and tensing against his thighs, flexing his calves and curling his toes and straining along his fingers to reach for some helpless attempt at bracing himself steady. Izaya’s breathing is loud in the quiet of the room, rasping with force enough to drown out even the ragged heat of Shizuo’s, and he would marvel at the violence of his own response were his thoughts not so overwritten by the flare of pleasure coursing itself through his veins until he thinks he can chart each individual line by the pulse of heat through it. Shizuo is unfastening his pants, is freeing the tension of the fabric and drawing it open to fit his hands to the bare skin beneath, to press one hand against Izaya’s hip while the other urges down from the flutter of strain at his stomach, and then his fingertips brush against the swollen head of Izaya’s cock and Izaya arches against the bed, his voice cracking in his throat over a note too hot for him to control. His vision hazes, his attention fractures, and then, as if from a distance:

Izaya,” strained like a shout but echoing soft as a whisper at Izaya’s ears. “Izaya. Izaya!” There’s a flare of heat against his face, a burn abrupt and shocking at his cheek, and Izaya opens his eyes wide and gasps surprise into his lungs as he finds himself back in Shizuo’s apartment, across Shizuo’s bed. The touch against his cock is gone, the hold at his hip drawn free; when he blinks he finds Shizuo leaning in over him instead of kneeling between his legs, his dark eyes wide and terrified as he looks down at Izaya.

Izaya meets his gaze as steadily as he can, giving back what reassurance clear attention can provide while he works his throat over a swallow and reaches into his dizzy mind for speech. “Shizu-chan.” He blinks and his vision clarifies further, reorienting itself as he reaches for focus. “What happened?”

“I lost you for a minute,” Shizuo says. His forehead is creased, his mouth is tight; when he moves his hand Izaya feels the weight of it against the back of his neck, supporting him with gentle care now instead of the jarring slap that brought him back to himself. “You went out-of-focus when I touched you.”

“Oh.” Izaya blinks again and shakes his head. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Shizuo’s frown doesn’t ease. “You’re not.”

“I am,” Izaya insists; and then, with more honesty: “I’m as fine as I’m ever going to be.” He reaches up to touch Shizuo’s wrist where the other is supporting his head and curls his fingers into a bracing grip on the other. “Keep going.”

Shizuo doesn’t move. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You’re not,” Izaya says. “You weren’t. I just got distracted.”

Shizuo’s forehead tightens to crease a line of pain between his brows. “You’ll get distracted again,” he says. “Like the last time, when you…” His gaze drops, his head ducks forward, but the pain in his expression is too clear to be hidden by shadows, and Izaya can still hear the drag of tension on his breathing as clearly as he can feel the strain of the fingers at his neck clenching as if to hold him still. “I can’t do that again.”

“Shizu-chan,” Izaya says. Shizuo doesn’t look up, even when Izaya frowns at his lack of response. “Shizu-chan.” He lifts his other hand to touch against the other’s hair, to trail through the yellow waves and urge them back from Shizuo’s face. “Shizuo.” Shizuo lifts his chin fractionally, his head raising so he can look up and meet Izaya’s eyes, and Izaya holds his gaze with all the focus he has in him to give.

“Please,” he says, and the word comes hard on his tongue, clumsy with the weight of inexperience he’s sure runs farther than even his fractured memories can account for. “I want to remember.”

Shizuo grimaces. “What if it’s too much?”

“Then we’ll stop,” Izaya says. “You can watch me. You can decide. If you think we should then we will.” Shizuo’s lashes dip, sketching out the possibility of surrender, and Izaya draws a breath and lets honesty drag itself from his throat. “I want to know what you feel like, Shizuo.”

Shizuo gusts an exhale. “Izaya,” he says, sounding pained with the strain in his voice and the pressure at his chest, but when he moves it’s to angle his elbow to the bed to hold himself up over Izaya as he is while he frees his other hand to reach down between them again. Izaya lets his grip on Shizuo’s wrist go so he can brace both hands at the other’s hair instead, framing Shizuo between his palms to hold his attention to Shizuo’s face as he keeps his eyes open and fixed on the other’s. Shizuo keeps looking at him, his mouth tight and eyes dark, but his fingers are pressing to Izaya’s stomach and sliding down past the dip of his navel, and Izaya can feel the tension of expectation curving at his spine and knotting into place between his shoulderblades. His body is taut, his thoughts are crystalline; and Shizuo’s fingers brush him again, and the pressure at his chest tightens to spill air from his lungs into a groan of unrestrained heat.

“I’m fine,” Izaya says, before Shizuo can draw breath to ask. “More” but Shizuo is moving already, pushing his hand farther into the tangle of the other’s undone pants as he stares at Izaya’s face to read whatever reassurance he needs directly from Izaya’s eyes. Izaya’s hips jerk as Shizuo’s palm drags over his cock and the length of his shaft slides across Shizuo’s skin, but Shizuo keeps moving, reaching down to curl his fingers around Izaya’s balls and press friction against the other before pulling back up, dragging the whole length of his fingers to a pull of sensation over the other. Izaya shudders through the whole of his body, responding as readily as if Shizuo’s touch bears the crackle of unbound electricity with it, but he keeps his eyes open and keeps his gaze deliberately focused on Shizuo over him.

Shizuo doesn’t look aside. He holds Izaya’s gaze with absolute intensity, watching whatever response his touch draws from the other with no more than a crease at his forehead to speak to his reaction. But he doesn’t pull away any more than he turns his head, and with the urging of Shizuo’s hand against him Izaya can find his way back to a glow of heat through every part of his body, can feel his skin quivering with sensation he can’t remember ever feeling before. He’s a machine, he knows he is, knows himself to be nothing more than wire and metal and crackling electricity; but it’s hard to hold to that, hard to remember that there is nothing more to his thoughts than black-and-white binary when his breath is catching in his throat and his hips are flexing upwards on a convincing illusion of instinct and the heat of imitated desire is rushing through him to overcome the rationality by which he seeks to tether himself to the present. Shizuo’s hand urges farther back, pushing past Izaya’s rumpled clothes and between the tremor of his thighs, and when the tip of his finger skims the other’s entrance Izaya’s entire body flexes as tight as if it holds all the memory his tattered mind has lost. Izaya arches up to meet Shizuo’s touch, moaning in the back of his throat as his jaw holds tight against the sound of it, and Shizuo’s lashes flutter in the first surrender to heat Izaya has seen from him since the risk of that first moment of distraction. His touch lingers for a moment, holding steady as anticipation clenches like a fist around Izaya beneath him; it’s only when Izaya has gone slack and breathless at the bed again that he draws his hand up and free, pulling his touch to another caress against Izaya’s shaft as he goes.

“I need to get lube,” he says, and finally turns his head aside as he lifts the weight of his touch from Izaya’s skin. He rocks his weight back over his knees so he can lean back and put action to his statement, and Izaya takes the opportunity to draw his trembling legs in towards his chest so he can work his pants down his hips and off his feet. It should hardly make a difference what he’s wearing, so long as Shizuo can reach his touch to where it needs to be, but something in Izaya craves freedom from the clinging black of the pants that have never felt so stifling as they do now. Shizuo glances at him as he slides a leg free but he says nothing, and Izaya finishes his intended action without interruption. Shizuo is still turned aside when Izaya pushes his pants over the edge of the bed; Izaya tips his knees wide and slides his feet apart to stretch his legs to rest at either side of Shizuo’s hips where they are arranged on the bed. It’s a reasonable action, to gain support for limbs still shaky with the overexertion that gripped Izaya in the midst of his identity shattering and reforming; but the shift of his legs angles his knees wide, and pulls at the inside of his thighs, and his breath catches on strain as his vision flickers, blurring itself out-of-focus for a heartstopping moment. Izaya is here, lying on Shizuo’s bed while the other turns back with his fingers slick and wet with lube; Izaya is on his knees on unfamiliar sheets, fingers clutching at the blankets beneath him while hands grip his hips and an unseen partner growls incoherence in the sound of Shizuo’s voice. Izaya’s cock jerks, answering the memory of pressure within him, responding to the persuasion of hips thrusting into him, and:

“Izaya” and Izaya blinks, and Shizuo is over him instead of behind him, eyes wide with concern instead of dark on desperate desire. He’s leaning in again, one hand braced alongside Izaya’s waist, but his other is touching at Izaya’s hip, the wet of his fingers cool as he holds the other steady instead of pushing into him. “Are you with me?”

Izaya presses his lips together to swallow, to clear his throat of the moan of distant pleasure and the taste of Shizuo’s name spilling to orgasmic heat on his tongue. He has fragments, disjoint and fractured and stolen from an experience too broken to claim as his own; but Shizuo is still here with him now, and Izaya has no intention of losing this memory to his own shattered mind. He reaches for Shizuo over him, fumbling at the collar of his sweater until he can claim a handhold, and slides one knee up higher to brace at Shizuo’s thigh between his own.

“I’m here,” he says. “Keep me that way.”

Shizuo shudders a breath. “Izaya,” he says, a little bit of a plea and all painful, drawn-tight need, and he lifts his hand from the other’s hip to reach between his legs again. Izaya slides his other leg the wider, offering the spread of his thighs for Shizuo’s touch, and Shizuo touches, and shifts, and takes, pressing up to urge into the grip of Izaya’s body while Izaya is still drawing breath against the tension that clenches around his chest. Izaya’s eyes go wide, his body tightens around Shizuo’s touch, and again there’s that surge of heat, that flush of arousal swelling his cock to the cusp of remembered pleasure. His vision is dark, is bright, is disintegrating; and then lips meet his, heat pressing hard to his mouth, and Izaya falls back into himself with a hiss of air drawn hard through his nose. Shizuo’s touch moves inside him, the reach of a slick finger drawing up shadows of another life, another Izaya, another self torn adrift from the present moment; and Shizuo’s tongue presses to his lips, urges against his mouth, demands Izaya’s attention to this room, this bed, this moment. Izaya curls his free hand into Shizuo’s hair, and clings tight to the tangle of gold beneath his grip, and he lets himself give way to Shizuo’s touch as he holds bruising-tight to the focus of the other’s mouth.

Izaya doesn’t know how long Shizuo works over him, doesn’t know how long it takes before Shizuo is moving smooth within him, until one finger has shifted to two, until the strain of those together has faded to a dull ache as if his body is recalling the far greater pressure of Shizuo’s own arousal urging against him, as if his senses are pleading for the desperate heights of the peaking sensation his body craves even as it remains clouded out of recollection to his mind. His attention is blurred, his focus on the passage of time dimmed by its relative lack of importance; all that matters is the pressure in him, the demands of slick fingers and urging desire bleeding one into the other, and the work of Shizuo’s mouth, or tongue, or teeth, dragging rough traction over Izaya’s lips to force him to presence in this moment, where they are together. Izaya drifts out of himself, is pulled back with a jolt, hovers somewhere in the liminal space between forgotten past and dizzy present, until finally Shizuo draws away from his mouth, and slides free of his body, and Izaya is left to gasp a breath and blink to force the present to snap back into focus around him.

“I think,” Shizuo starts, and then pauses, as if unwilling to put words to the statement implied by his actions. He looks at Izaya instead, his gaze heavy with shadows as if he’s afraid of what he might see in the other’s eyes, but Izaya meets Shizuo’s gaze without ducking aside or surrendering to the blur of confused half-memories clinging to his mind. He’s hard at his stomach, his cock aching with the same desire for friction that has left him feeling strange and hollow with the removal of Shizuo’s fingers inside him; and more even than basic physical desire is the greater need, an emptiness that runs through the very core of his existence to undermine everything he has ever been allowed to believe himself. Alone he is no more than the machine he always named the androids around him, no more than a tool to be set to a problem without regard for whether it breaks in the process; it’s only in the weight of Shizuo’s gaze and under the heat of his touch that he has any possibility of finding his way back to the person he might have been, in Shizuo’s eyes if no one else’s.

Izaya tightens his fingers into Shizuo’s hair, making fists at the locks so he can pull the promise of force without quite insisting upon it. “I’m ready,” he says, since Shizuo’s still close-lipped over the fact Izaya can feel as clearly as Shizuo knows it. “Come here and fuck me, Shizu-chan.” He’s harsh on the words, deliberately brutal with the clarity of them, but Shizuo’s lashes dip in involuntary response, and Izaya can hear the heat on the exhale the other gives by way of reply. Shizuo tips his chin down, hiding his expression while his shoulders tense on hesitation, and then he drags an inhale and lifts his hands to reach for the hem of his sweater.

Izaya lets his hold loosen on Shizuo’s hair as the other pulls the clothing up and free of his head, bringing his shirt and sweater together to strip himself to bare skin in one fluid movement. His hair tangles at the inside of the collar, rumpling to fall around his face as he wrests himself free of the shirt, and Izaya sees something ghostly in the shift of Shizuo’s bare shoulders as he drops the clothing to the floor, something of déjà vu in the pull of muscle across his bare chest and the flex of his hands as he reaches for the front of his jeans to unfasten them in turn. Izaya’s vision blurs, his thigh flexes with the memory of fingers against him, a hand urging his leg up, sliding him back over the wrinkled sheets beneath him; but Shizuo is still pushing his pants off his legs, and whatever heat is trembling through Izaya’s body is from the strain of his cock and the shimmer of anticipation in him more than the thrust of Shizuo’s heat-full length driving into him. Izaya tips his head down, casting his gaze over the bed so he can fix his attention on Shizuo, can find the fixed point of his present reality in Shizuo kicking his pants free and over the edge of the bed, but there’s an afterimage there, too, a thought of Shizuo frowning focus as he leans back in instead of bearing the soft of concern at his lips, the grip of a hand lifting Izaya’s hips off the bed instead of holding him steady as Shizuo slides his knees apart to come in and meet him. Izaya reaches for Shizuo’s hair again, seeking the friction of the strands beneath his touch to tether him to the present, and when he draws a breath he can taste a metallic flare at the back of his tongue.

“Hurry up,” he says, and his voice echoes in his ears, reverberating over on itself until he can feel it humming in the air as much as vibrating at the inside of his chest. “I feel like I’m about thirty seconds from coming and if you’re not inside me when that happens--” and he stalls himself, running out of words as if he’s reading from a script that melts away from his grip as he tries to turn the page.

Shizuo’s laugh is strained in his throat. “You’ll never sleep with me again?”

“No,” Izaya says, and reaches for a better hold on Shizuo leaning over him, stretching his arm down to press his palm to the flex of the other’s shoulders as he seeks a point of contact for himself. “I will. I…” He grimaces, struggling to make sense of the fragments of reality glittering wildly in his vision. “Did. Am.”

“Yes,” Shizuo says. “You did. You are.” His body curves, muscle rippling under Izaya’s bracing hand as a knee draws up under Izaya’s thigh and tense heat braces close over Izaya’s body. Shizuo’s hair brushes Izaya’s cheek; Shizuo’s lips touch Izaya’s ear. “Izaya?”

Izaya tightens his hold around Shizuo’s shoulders and draws a breath just to feel it fill the span of his chest, to feel the immediate reality of the press of air in his lungs, of his presence here, in this moment, on Shizuo’s bed and under Shizuo’s body and as much himself as he can be. “Shizu-chan,” he says. “Please.”

Shizuo shudders a breath Izaya can feel spill over the side of his neck as clearly as he can hear the ocean-water rush of the exhale at his ear. His shoulders move, his body shifts, but it’s only to center himself over Izaya as he lifts his head from his press to the other’s skin. His elbow braces at the bed over Izaya’s shoulders, his hands find and frame Izaya’s face, and Izaya lets Shizuo hold him still, lets himself be fixed static under the force of the other’s gaze. Shizuo looks at him for a long moment, gazing at Izaya as if he’s trying to memorize him, as if he’s willing the other to stability by the force of his own concerted attention; and then he drags a breath, and his thighs flex to penetrate Izaya beneath him.

Izaya quakes with the first strain. Shizuo is bigger than the space his fingers demanded, the breadth of his cock forcing pressure within the give of Izaya’s body, but it’s not the physical pressure that flickers over Izaya’s vision, not the almost-pain of Shizuo’s cock stretching him that tightens at his muscles. Shizuo is barely inside him, moving slow as he holds Izaya still for his movement and attention at once; but Izaya can feel him thrusting forward with far greater speed, as if anticipation is forming a recollection of a future not yet experienced. Izaya is tight around Shizuo’s cockhead, clenching with such force that he wonders if Shizuo will even be able to overcome it, but he knows he will, can recall the way Shizuo feels inside him, the whole length of his cock holding Izaya open while Izaya’s own cock jerks and spills pleasure over his stomach, over the sheets, over--

Izaya” and Izaya is seeing Shizuo, is staring wide-eyed into the fear bright and vivid in the other’s eyes on him. The hands at his face are tight, bracing him with a force that Izaya can feel aching pain against his temples, but Shizuo doesn’t ease his hold or his focus on him. “Izaya, are you with me?”

“I--” Izaya presses his lips together, swallows hard to find his voice again from the wreck heat has made of it. He’s shaking through his whole body, quivering as if with the afterimages of those helpless convulsions Shizuo braced him through before, but Shizuo is inside him, now, watching him and holding him and with him, and Izaya can’t lose himself when he’s so held. He huffs an exhale to the heat of the room. “I remember.”

Shizuo’s face goes blank, his eyes opening wide as his mouth softens on shock. “What?”

“I remember you,” Izaya says, his words tumbling over each other before he can think through them. “Like this. With me. I was on my knees and you were behind me, your hands were on my hips and I was...you knew what you were doing, you said you had experience.”

Shizuo swallows. Izaya can hear the sound loud against the silence in the room. “I did.”

“With me,” Izaya says. “Here. I’ve been here, before, like this. My hands were in your hair and your face was against my shoulder and when I came you--” His words die, speech stripped by the shudder of memory that courses through him, as if the recollection of orgasm might be enough to urge him to completion in this moment as well, but Shizuo takes up the path of his words with an inhale that drags rough on relief in his throat.

“I did,” he says, and he’s leaning in, his forehead pressing to Izaya’s as his lashes flutter. “Izaya.” His mouth finds Izaya’s, his lips pressing warmth against the other’s, and as Izaya opens his mouth to offer ready surrender Shizuo’s cock comes forward into him, stroking deep with the instinctive flex of the other’s hips. Izaya’s capitulation becomes a reflex, the tension of his mouth softening as a moan presses up his throat in time with the work of Shizuo’s cock into him, and Shizuo claims Izaya’s mouth as readily as he claims his body, moving with the impulsive want of desire too-long restrained by unhappiness and fear and loss. His body shifts over Izaya’s, shoulders and thighs and back all working together to act on the other while Shizuo’s mouth still presses close to Izaya’s lips, and Izaya feels himself opening in turn, giving way to the force to let Shizuo fill him with the full heat of his desire. He’s aching, stretched wide around Shizuo’s length and his own throbbing in time with the beat of his heart, and as Shizuo breaks away to gasp over his mouth all Izaya is thinking of is the sensation of his body, with no question as to the ultimate origin of the heat crackling up his spine to blur his thoughts to hazy want.

“I love you,” Shizuo tells him, speaking with the same startling, desperate speed with which he forced his hips forward to drive into Izaya. “I don’t care whether you’re a human or an android or something totally different.” He draws back to slide out, to ease the pressure in the other’s body even as Izaya’s lungs empty on a groan of near-pained loss. “I love you, Izaya.” His hips snap forward, his cock fills Izaya once again, and Izaya gasps and arches against the bed, his spine curving sharply to lift his body the nearer to Shizuo over him. He can’t see, his vision is white and his heart is racing and his hands are shaking, but Shizuo leans in to kiss against the slack part of his lips and Izaya’s eyes shut, his attention held to the texture of Shizuo’s mouth at his while his body trembles into the taut strain of rising pleasure under the urging of Shizuo’s motion.

The details fragment. Izaya has Shizuo’s mouth against his lips, has Shizuo’s head at his shoulder, has Shizuo’s breathing panting hot against the tangle of his hair. Izaya’s hands are in Shizuo’s hair, at his hip, clutching lines of red against the flex and pull of his back as he falls into a rhythm that overwhelms Izaya’s attention, vision, thought. Izaya isn’t metal, isn’t machinery, isn’t the collection of electricity and determinism he was ready to dismiss mere minutes before; all that is left of him is the strain shaking his fingers where they’re clutched to fists, and the humid heat rasping in his lungs, and the tension building in his balls and the twitch of his cock to climb to his angled-open thighs, to his fluttering stomach, to his laboring breathing. His lips are against Shizuo’s hair, his head dropped to the side to rely on the weight of the other leaning at his shoulder to support its weight, and if his eyes are open he’s not seeing any part of his surroundings, is absorbing nothing of the plain white ceiling or the shadows playing over the wall next to them. Shizuo is moving with speed as much as force, his skin slick with sweat and radiant with heat Izaya can feel thrusting within him as well as glowing against him, but Izaya is hot too, he’s burning around the knot of arousal growing in whatever makes up the form of his manmade body. He’s gasping at air, his thighs trembling and his shoulders knotting and his thoughts scattered, but Shizuo is with him, holding him down and bracing him steady, and when the rising wave of strain peaks Izaya pulls at a breath as all his vision goes dark with inattention for a moment.

“Oh,” he hears himself say, his voice far-distant, as if it’s someone else’s; and then: “Shizuo,” the name full-formed to familiarity on his tongue as he crests into orgasm. He can feel his body vibrate in time with the sound at his lips, as if the weight of Shizuo’s name is the shape of pleasure incarnate in him, and as his body jolts with shocks of pleasure Izaya sees neon glittering over his vision to illuminate the world to fantastical brilliance.

It would be easy to lose himself. There is a moment when his body ceases to exist, when his thoughts are scattered to that same hazy illumination his eyes are captured by; when his function, his form, his identity lose their importance and fall away through his strengthless fingers. But there is still the heat against him, hands steadying him in place against the throes of sensation coursing through him and a body still tense with desire even as he spends the full reserve of his own to stripe slick wet across the tremor of his stomach, and when the roar of pleasure begins to fade from his ears it is to make space for the sound of a voice, for words fitting to the rhythm of a far-off movement.

“Stay with me. Keep your eyes open, please, Izaya.” Izaya’s lashes flutter, his throat works; and he is Izaya, his name sliding back into his awareness as his body begins to return to focus. “Izaya, look at me.” Thumbs push over hot skin; over his skin, the line of his cheeks, and he struggles with his lashes to blink once and then twice in succession. His vision blurs, clears, blurs again, and finally finds the shift of a mouth, the set of lips fixed hard against each other on determination. He stares for a moment, caught in the familiarity of that mouth and the strength of will behind it, before he lifts his gaze up to meet the dark eyes trained on his face.

He reaches for a smile and, after a moment, manages to pull it onto the tremor of his mouth. “Hey, Shizu-chan.”

Shizuo’s forehead smooths, his lips part on a gust of air hot with relief. “Izaya,” he says, that one word resonant with a lifetime’s worth of affection, and he leans in to crush his mouth to Izaya’s own. He lingers there for a moment, pressing hard as if he means to print the shape of his lips to Izaya’s as irrevocably as he’s written himself into Izaya’s psyche; and then pulls away, and presses his forehead to Izaya’s shoulder, and resumes the thrust of his hips up and into the other. Izaya shudders with the movement, the sensation of Shizuo’s arousal working in against the pleasure-softened give of his own body, but when Shizuo starts to lift his head Izaya wraps his arms around the other’s shoulders, and his legs around Shizuo’s waist, and he pulls the other down and against him. Shizuo turns his head to the side in surrender, giving over the support of his arms to fit himself to Izaya instead, and when his mouth finds Izaya’s neck Izaya shuts his eyes and lets the drive of Shizuo’s need draw his own satisfaction long and languid through his body. He can feel the ache in his shoulders, the strain at his thighs, the pressure within him as Shizuo seeks his relief, and he pulls them to him, wrapping himself in the proof of his physicality as much as in the radiance of Shizuo’s want.

Izaya’s eyes are shut when Shizuo tightens over him, when the hiss of the other’s breathing speaks to the proof of his own release, but when Shizuo moans his name as his cock spills into Izaya beneath him, Izaya still sees the flicker of neon against the dark of his eyelids.

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.