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I cannot speak for others, but my inmost soul is torn
With a battle of desires making all my life forlorn.
There are moments when I would untread the paths that I have trod.
I’m a haunter of the devil, but I hunger after God.

Hunger, Gamaliel Bradford.

 

Perhaps the most intimate of moments is that of convincing yourself in the quiet and the dark that you must not cry.

Izaya stares up at the ceiling (that he can’t even see; for all he knows, everything has turned upside down) and takes in a deep breath. It does nothing to soothe him, so he takes another. The air is cold and without solace, but then again, he can’t remember the last time something comforted him. He can’t remember the last time he needed comforting, except that is a lie; he can’t remember the last time he didn’t need comforting. 

One more breath. On the exhale, he breaks and observes with a detached amusement as tears fill his eyes and wait on the edges. If he isn’t careful to pull them in right away, he will fail and cry. And cry he must not. He must not cry. 

The next exhale pushes him further, and the tears quiver on his lashes. He pulls his mouth into a grimace that could be more useful in some negotiations than his regular smirk, if only the predators and prey across him were to overlook the trembling of his lips, pale and red all at the same time as he imagines they would appear. His incisors press against each other’s edges; the contact sends ringing, irritating waves of pain up his head. Through his teeth, he draws in a last hope of a breath, and swallows a whimper when he realises that he might not win this after all. On that exhale, he sobs once, twice, and half a time, eyes screwing shut in childish denial as he hisses to control himself. 

He must not cry. ‘Fuck,’ he whispers, loudly, on yet another exhale. ‘Fuck.’ 

His throat feels cold and dry, but he can’t breathe through his nose. He lies like this, head uneasy on his pillow, hands coming up to rest over his mouth. His swallows are tinged with salt, and that’s arguably less quotidian than the metallic dreariness of the blood he usually has to ingest. But that blood. 

We don’t test the ones we love.

Oh, that blood. And all at once, Izaya feels his command slip the way things sometimes fly out of others’ (not his, never his) hands for no reason other than that their hold was too strong. The tears, hot now, stumble over their siblings on their way across his temples and into his hair. He can feel some in his ears, even, and this entire situation is more surreal to him than actually saddening. 

We don’t test the ones we love.

Love, and the sobbing sounds of his defeat are as small and hopeless in the suffocation as him.

 

——

 

‘WHO DID IT?!’

Steel. Steel crumples under his hand. Plastic deforms when it hits whatever the fuck he threw it at. He hears only the question he roars at whoever’s stupid enough to stay in range. Shizuo, the fucking parade.

‘WHO DID IT?!’ Another bit of broken steel, another crack on the sidewalk. ‘WHICH ONE OF YOU BASTARDS, WHICH ONE OF YOU TOUCHED HIM—’ Touched him, touched Izaya. With their dirty fucking hands. And souls. And intent, oh, he's going to destroy all of them, all of them. Limb by limb. He'll rip them apart limb by limb, separate each of their tendons and bones. Empty them out onto the streets so that everyone knows that Izaya shouldn't be touched. Not in that way, not with that purpose. Not by anyone but him.

‘WHO?! TELL ME!’

He curls his hands into fists, and the itch in them doesn't fade. The pain in his palms doesn't fade when he digs his nails into them. There's a weird tension in his wrists. As if the blood running under his skin's not his own. As if it’s charged. Electric. As if it’s whatever Izaya lost from that fucking hole in his flank. Izaya’s hurt. Izaya’s hurt. Izaya’s hurt, and at someone else’s doing. Izaya’s hurt at someone else’s hands, Izaya’s hurt, Izaya bled, Izaya felt a knife enter his body, Izaya fell to the ground, the dirty fucking ground, right around here somewhere, right around here. They touched him. They took him. They took him.

You cannot claim a person, Kasuka had said to him. Years ago. You might want to keep them forever, you might end up keeping them forever, but you cannot own them.

He's not a person. He's a nightmare.

He is mortal, brother. He will die one day.

The sun beats down on the scratches he's left here and there on the walls. It shines through those cracks, wakes up whoever's inside. Good. Everyone needs to be awake. Everyone needs to see. Everyone needs to know. Izaya shouldn't be touched.

 

——

 

There is a monster in the streets of Ikebukuro. There are many, but there is one that Izaya would award a capital initial if he actually wanted to acknowledge that he acknowledges him as much as that.

It isn’t as if Izaya isn’t aware of his own identity, or at the very least, his reputation. He was fifteen the first time he heard the word devil, spit from the very mouth he’s currently attributing abomination to. He took those syllables in and made them a home in the base of his throat, balanced there, ready to climb up whenever he needed a defence. What to do? I am a devil, I am a bastard. I am the anti messiah, the greatest you will ever see. By the time he walked out of Raijin for the last time, at seventeen, he had collected a bunch of creative compliments. Heartbreaker. Demon. Monster, his favourite for the irony of it.

When he drinks to his twentieth, he wonders how many scrolls he could’ve filled up had he noted down each hurled word, each snarled threat. His alone would have taken up an entire shelf, had they not been pasted already on the walls of his mental locus. Izaya, you rat. Izaya, you worm. Izaya, you snake. Five years and he still can’t explain the high of hearing that fury, the way it sneaks from his ears into his mind, spreading from there to the rest of his body like heated quicksilver. (And it takes so much to warm him up these days; it’s always taken so much to warm him up.)

Over the years, his strength has only grown (and along with it, what Izaya would call his own fascination if he wished to acknowledge it). Broken doors turning into broken gates, broken shop signs turning into broken road signs, the puissance of those hands laying waste to the city like it’s made of nothing but sand. And through it all, the select few kicks in the teeth that are reserved for Izaya only, as if the rest of the city is deaf to those roared words...how can he be blamed for taking pleasure in those? Masochism comes with its virtues, limited and twisted though they may seem, and he never claimed to love himself anyway.

Beyond the curtains of his fifth apartment, a proverbial storm is brewing. Izaya pays it no heed; he doesn’t have anything special planned yet and so the soundtrack is unnecessary. The buildings of Ikebukuro that have escaped that beast’s wrath (a surprisingly large amount) stand humbly against the clouds. Somewhere, irrelevant thunder. Somewhere, some large object being reverted to steel. In his hands, a glass of wine waits to be peered into.

He hasn’t been attacked in weeks. It’s boring.

There are many monsters in the streets of Ikebukuro, unhinged and dangerous in their juvenility. But there is one far worse than all of them, and he strikes an awe in Izaya’s heart in a way that not even the bloodiest daybreak could.

 

——

 

Once, just like in his dreams, Izaya had led Shizuo to the top of one of the higher buildings in town and stepped away from him, a funny look on his face. Shizuo, rarely the example of calm himself, had found it strange to see Izaya like that. Around them there were trees, and buildings, and a few clouds in the sky, some stars. There were only some times when Shizuo didn’t feel a sort of buzz in the air around Izaya, and it had been one of those. Just the air for what it was, the stars for what they were, and Izaya looking tired and real.

‘What?’ he’d said after Izaya didn’t speak for too long.

‘Don’t talk,’ Izaya said. ‘Just stand there.’

So Shizuo stood there, silent and still, and waited for whatever it was that Izaya wanted to do. And Izaya did nothing. Nothing, he stood there, silent and still, staring at Shizuo while the sun set around them, colours insane and fast.

The wind had been gentle on his hair, and Shizuo remembers wanting to reach out to touch that hair, tuck it behind Izaya’s ears, then hold him in the light of the changing sky. And Izaya might have wanted to do the same but whatever he saw struck him so much that he didn’t move.

‘Can I kiss you?’

There had been times before (and there were times after) when Shizuo had simply grabbed Izaya’s arms with whatever grace his hands could manage, and hauled him close, bringing their lips together in some effort of affection. Izaya had always kissed bitter in a physical way, as if the taste of him could creep into Shizuo’s mouth through their lips alone. The first time, it had been scary— and he hadn’t learned, back then, to be scared of anything other than his power. Maybe that aftertaste sinking into his throat was what taught him to be afraid of other things— of love, death, existing when Izaya didn’t exist. A sudden trust that this would be the only human being he would ever know how to want anymore.

There had been times before (and after) when Shizuo hadn’t asked for permission because the grant had been in his chest pocket from the first day. But on that evening the peace on Izaya’s face had made him say the question just as quietly.

Izaya had blinked with an innocent surprise that wormed its way into Shizuo’s memory forever. That’s where it calls to him from right now, as he stares at his shoes, chest heaving. The same building, the same city, but the sun harsher than it’s been in a long fucking while, so long that Shizuo had forgotten how it burns the skin.

The trees look so green from here, and the people so grey and he hates them all. Hasn’t felt an anger like this, that lasts longer than it takes for bones to break, since the last time Izaya truly did something to hurt him— so long ago now that it might as well have been another life. And now he’s here, and Izaya bled out on one of these roads that he can see from up here, and he thinks if he jumped off this ledge he might be able to prove some sort of point to the world. How dare you, how dare you. How dare you touch what is mine to touch, mine to hold, mine to kill.

Shinra would laugh at his indignance, the thinking that he is the only one allowed to hurt Izaya, attack him, be the one allowed to decide whether harm comes to him or not. But that’s how— that’s how Izaya’s stayed alive for so long, hasn’t he— in the confidence of Shizuo’s need for him to live so that he can kill him again and again and again.

You couldn’t kill me if you tried, my—

He never fucking finished that sentence, no, he never fucking finished that sentence. Shizuo makes some sort of stupid noise deep in his throat and curls a hand around the rail, tries and tries not to rip it off. 

 

——

 

Heiwajima Shizuo is the kind of person to feel empty and lonely at the end of a film. He probably never learned to detach himself from the narration. By the time Izaya started laughing at the plights of various protagonists, Shizuo must have still sat engaged, chewing on popcorn one kernel at a time. This Izaya understands the first time he sets eyes on Shizuo, staring from the window as the boy walks in through the school gates. Behind him, wearing glasses and an always-inappropriate smile, sits an opposite of escapism. One of the reasons Izaya enjoys Shinra’s company is the boy’s tendency to face things head-on, no matter how strange.

Of all people, he’d think to assume the same for Shizuo, but the line of Shizuo’s shoulders and the way he lifts his bag tells Izaya that he looks for ways to forget without realising what he’s doing.

Shizuo is handsome, though. Bleached hair, a jaw that Izaya could use for a whetstone, a set to his mouth that is attractive for every bit that it is subdued. Perhaps what reels him in most, right from that first moment, is the evident tension on Shizuo’s lips— the crease of the corners that makes him realise that it is deliberate, and that if he can make Shizuo angry, chemistry class will be much more interesting.

‘What’s his name?’

Shinra rolls his eyes, something he probably never does in front of Shizuo. ‘Do you really not know?’

Shizuo has a throaty rumble of a voice, one that got Izaya’s nerves singing the first time he heard it, and has done so every time since. The unpredictability of his inflections is the second-most frustrating thing that Izaya has ever encountered; he isn’t used to having to clench his teeth to control his surprise so often. He knows that in time he will get used to it, and the fact that that idea is at once dismal and delightful is the first-most frustrating thing that Izaya has ever encountered.

At home, if that’s what it can be called, Kururi and Mairu are still too young to be anything but openly devious. He has a nagging apprehension that this quality isn’t going to change with age, but for now, the irritation is a large factor in his decision to drag them along to Shinra’s apartment every time they have to study together. If the little demons can get to him, surely it’ll be a piece of cake to get Shizuo livid with their antics.

He learns through three-day weekends and pale summer mornings that there is simply no telling what can make Heiwajima Shizuo lose his mind. Sixteen isn’t such a large number, but Izaya has always prided himself on having understood every single person he’s encountered in his life so far. He refuses to give up just because Kururi’s incessant poking makes Shizuo smile instead of yell, and he definitely refuses to give up just because he hasn’t managed to get Shizuo to say something like I won’t come if Izaya’s coming along. Hatred is the only trophy he will accept; nothing less, nothing weaker.

‘Sorry my sisters are so annoying,’ he tries one day, and Shizuo shakes his head.

‘I have a baby brother too,’ he says, as if Izaya doesn’t know Kasuka’s favourite flavour of ice cream. ‘I know how it gets.’

That night, without intent for a change, Izaya ends up insulting one of Shizuo’s favourite movie characters. The fallout that follows breaks his nose, two windows, Celty’s helmet, and makes Mairu start calling Shizuo big brother. There are a rare few things that Izaya would admit to not comprehending at all, but he is loathe to add Shizuo to that list just yet. And later that night, when he’s the only one who can’t sleep for the whistling of the wind through the still-cracked windows, he props himself up on his elbow and looks down at Shizuo for so long, so long. His lashes, his brows, the barely-visible dark roots of his hair. The way he sleeps so silently, as if making up for his clangour during the day— and perhaps what Izaya is happy and sad about most of all is that if it weren’t for him, Shizuo would be like this even when awake.

When he joins Celty in the living room, it’s two in the morning and he’s annoyed beyond belief.

[Wind too loud?]

‘Shizuo snores,’ he says. ‘What an animal.’ 

 

——

 

There is a vampire in the streets of Shinjuku. Lonesome, absolute; the kind of savage that leaves teeth marks on everything he kisses. Shizuo falls in love in him, the first time Izaya forgets to bite.

It happens like this: one terrible sunset, Shizuo manages to catch the bastard in the street behind some complex, and cages him in, his palms on grey bricks and Izaya's face inches from his own. There's a shop fifty meters off and its light’s not doing Shizuo any favours; Izaya's confusion is so clear. He looks as porcelain as death itself must be, eyes fixed on Shizuo's even though Izaya must be scared for once. For once.

'Why do you always have to show up and ruin my day, huh?' The heat of Izaya's breath tickles over Shizuo's collarbones, the dream-distance between them the smallest it might ever have been— or maybe it just feels that way, he wouldn't know; he never does. 'Why can't you stay out of my sight?'

Izaya has no tells but one, and so Shizuo never has to observe his face to see if he's about to cook up some lie. It's safer to assume that Izaya will lie, but it's his truths that get to Shizuo. The worst is when Izaya says the truth and thinks it'll pass for a lie; that confidence drives Shizuo mad. 'It's too much fun to see you burn, Shizu-chan.'

Lying through his teeth again even with Shizuo's hands so close to his skull, it's exactly this sort of thing that gets him in trouble every time— but then Shizuo processes the lie, and he sees the quiver on Izaya's lips, and he feels small suddenly. Small, just as confused now. 

In that moment, Izaya changes in front of him. His paleness wanes, replaced with colours that never interested Shizuo before, his cheeks chrome in washes of the light from the shop, the skin under his eyes a sweet pink, and Shizuo wonders how many other things there are that he thinks he’d missed all along.

And then Izaya's hand is on Shizuo's face— fingertips barely reaching his cheekbones, thumb on the corner of his mouth, of course Shizuo wants to bite it off— and when he opens his mouth he feels a current, simply, a current. He stops for it, and there they stand, Izaya's thumb between his teeth, and Shizuo has so many questions in his head that he can't even pick one out and listen to it. Izaya looks like he just died, but Shizuo’s never felt more alive. A contact without violence, a clarity in Izaya's eyes that pulls Shizuo in like his malice never did, and he swears he feels a fire recede from his chest to his heels. As it curls there in wait, Shizuo fights to keep his anger.

'I'm going to kill you one day,' he reminds himself. Izaya laughs but it sounds pained.

'You couldn't kill me if you tried, my—'

And maybe it's because it's the first time Shizuo sees Izaya shift his gaze, or maybe it's because Izaya's hand is shaking. Or maybe it's because Shizuo is a mad man, broken in at least twenty different places at a given time, and more scared of being able to kill anyone he meets than not being able to. For one of those reasons, or some other reasons, or for no reason at all, Shizuo feels all of his fucking heart convulse and fall at Izaya's feet. 

As if he can feel that weight on his shoes suddenly, Izaya smirks, his eyes darkening again, and Shizuo's relieved. 'Just let me go, Shizu-chan,' he drawls, his hand dropping, the other one going to his pocket.

'Never.'

When Izaya brandishes his knife, it whips through the smoke of the fire, and scratches the dream-distance, and Shizuo can see clearly again. The colours fade for the moment, his enemy a dirtied white, laughing clear and high like bells telling the time as he runs always one step beyond Shizuo's reach.

 

——

 

He doesn’t pause until he’s halfway to the hospital, to think about how unwelcome he would be there. Maybe they’d think he’s there to kill Izaya and maybe they’d be right. Maybe he’s marching there right now with murder on his mind; wouldn’t he love to see Izaya quieted once and for all, but wouldn’t he first want to rip the breath out of the lungs of the bastard who thought he could try first?

Halfway to the hospital, he realises this. Stops and looks up at the miserable sky again. He shouldn’t go there. Even if Izaya’s unconscious, even if he’s sleeping, Shizuo doesn’t doubt that his presence could ruin things like it always has.

But then he thinks of how Izaya used to laugh about these things. Saying that his mortality was so blatant that no one (else) would think of killing him, saying he paraded his transience to escape death. And anyway, my defences are diamond, and how are you to break through those, Shizu-chan? And he remembers the dream-distance, crystal and cruel, and he remembers Izaya’s smile back then, so why this now?

As long as Izaya draws breath somewhere, Shizuo will rip up sidewalks and shatter windows and bones in his fury. But if that unlivable heart of Izaya’s gives out, he doesn’t know what he’ll do.

 

——

 

When he is twenty one, on another bed under another ceiling, Izaya learns fear. An emotion more human than he could ever have dreamt of feeling; so new, so different from the way his mortality haunts him. This is different; more urgent, more demanding, something that keeps him up at night the first time he feels it take root in his chest, below his throat where the devil lies still in its nest of barbs. It isn’t unnoticeable and it doesn’t hit him all at once; it is rather like something that slips slowly into his wine, and his blood, through the air around him. Something that accompanies the quicksilver traces he’s been collecting in his veins.

There is something about him. Of course there is, he’s known it for years now; something about him, something horrid and magnetic. He is loathsome; he is a beast. There is no one Izaya holds in lower regard, and that in itself is spectacular— that he could coax such a clear hatred from Izaya’s insidious thoughts, that he could make Izaya unable to love him, that he could make Izaya simmer with such enmity that he is forced to exclude him from humanity altogether. Monster, monster, monster. That is why I hate him, that is why he pains me; he is not natural, not of this world, and he should return to where he came from.

But hellfire knows how to shape its glass well; he can’t say with confidence that he’s seen a face more fair or a footfall more foreboding. Heiwajima Shizuo is the breathing amalgam of everything that angers and upsets and lures Izaya, and there is nothing he can do about every fight that he starts and every sneer with which he provokes the rogue. He has to. He’s no stronger than the innocents that Shizuo stirs up just by walking among them; he wasn’t when he got the police to chase Shizuo down in their last year at Raijin, if only to make some impact. To be more than background noise, to draw focus towards himself.

Izaya is selfish with attention and rotten when it comes to wanting something, as he’s discovered— because before Shizuo, what did he want but to leave a name behind, even if he couldn’t trace its strokes from the gardens above or below the world? And now that he knows what it’s like to have that moving amount of fury directed solely at him, even for a few minutes, what doesn’t he want? What doesn’t he want from Shizuo? All his attention, all his anger, all of him, roaming the city only to hunt Izaya down, only to hurt him, attack him, touch—

It is then that his eyes fly open and the other ceiling comes into view. That one word sparks a terror inside him that makes his hands go colder than they already are. A brief flare of panic, dying and then slowly increasing again as he swallows and brings a hand up to his head. A hatred he can shelter; dislike, he can bear. But that. The idea of that hatred escalating to a different violence— he turns over and draws the blanket higher.

He manages to upset Mairu the next morning, which leads Kururi to a homicide attempt. As he fends off her stoic, focused jabs, he remembers a laughing Shizuo holding these two apart easily, and lets himself be hit in confusion. Mairu immediately throws herself on Kururi while Izaya stands in his kitchen (which they aren’t even supposed to be in) with his cheeks burning.

When he notices the twins staring at him, he glares. ‘Interesting as your borderline-incestuous display of affection is, I have bigger fish to fry.’

‘You mean like your growing infatuation with Shizuo?’

‘Out of here.’

After as much as three years since he last angered Shizuo greatly, the brute still chases him down every time they cross paths. It’s so often that Izaya never sleeps dissatisfied. Or at least, never used to— until the morning, and then the night, after this new development of his. For the first time, he has to avoid Shizuo when he spots that light hair, turn on his heel and pick a different path. He won’t keep it up, of course not; this is temporary. He just needs to figure it out, understand what’s going on, and then everything will be back to normal, sticks and stones.

If Shizuo wasn’t such a formidable opponent (perhaps Izaya’s only one) he wouldn’t have been interesting at all, and so it happens one evening that Izaya finds himself cornered just as the sky starts to turn from mauve to nightly blue. The alleyway is clichéd, Shizuo’s angry snarl more so— but Izaya’s breathlessness is new.

In the dim light of a shop down the backstreet, the planes of Shizuo’s face are more gentle than the occasion would allow. A soft gold on his cheeks here, rose shadows, eyes sharp and glowing. His looming frame, ready to attack at any moment, is delightfully threatening.

‘Why do you always have to show up and ruin my day, huh?’ Shizuo’s voice grates over him like every time, the damned mercury soaring. ‘Why can’t you stay out of my sight?’

Why can’t you stay out of my mind? ‘It’s too much fun to see you burn, Shizu-chan.’

Maybe the shop light flickers, or the last of the daylight fades, but there is a change in Shizuo’s eyes that hits Izaya like a fist to the gut. And before he knows it, he’s reaching up with his hand and framing Shizuo’s jaw, thumb going to the corner of his bottom lip. As he expected, Shizuo automatically moves to bite him, but something— probably the same thunderbolt that just traveled through Izaya’s body— stops him and instead Izaya’s thumb rests gingerly between his canines. Izaya’s too preoccupied with the overwhelming cognisance of touching his skin for the first time to even worry about being bitten after all. And anyway, Shizuo is blunt edges and brute force, the opposite of the vampire Izaya is; his teeth won’t break skin. 

Shizuo isn’t breathing at all, eyes trained on Izaya's with open curiosity, and Izaya— Izaya has never been looked at this way, not by Heiwajima Shizuo. Not like this, standing somewhere after sundown with his hand on Shizuo’s jaw and a nail catching on his terrible bitten lips, a poison in their regard that has nothing to do with anger and everything to do with their one point of contact — his heartbeat speeds up until it’s thudding in his ears, like the wicked beating of a drum, like a bell at a church.

In that cage of thunderbolts as they stare at each other, Izaya watches Shizuo’s gaze change irreversibly. 

‘I’m going to kill you one day,’ Shizuo says, but he sounds so stupidly uncertain. Izaya laughs through his trepidation.

‘You couldn’t kill me if you tried, my—’ and his laugh stops short again, breath stops short again. My what? Nemesis? Friend? Beast? Sun? The determiner hangs in the air between them, with Shizuo too far gone to register it, probably (thankfully) and Izaya turning his face away to stare at the ground, wide-eyed and silent for once.

And anyway, you don’t even try.

Just like that, the anger is back. The distaste, the return of his smirk familiar and relieving on his lips. To think that Shizuo doesn’t even consider him enough yet to truly attack, to think that he hasn’t hurt him enough yet, brings an indignation that he firmly redirects to enmity.

He looks back into Shizuo’s rich eyes. Drops his hand and curls the other around the knife in his pocket. ‘Just let me go, Shizu-chan.’

‘Never.’

The knife comes out and the cage crackles and breaks; as Izaya runs with genuine joy this time, he thinks that he’s done something unforgivable.

 

——

 

They promise not to let Izaya know (when he wakes up, he’s going to wake up, he’s going to open his eyes and stop looking like this) that he was here. He’s not allowed inside; they probably only let him in this far, stumbling and lost, because of how his face looks (murderous, he’s sure, that’s why they look so surprised, he’s sure) and because they know they can’t stop him anyway.

That he loves Izaya isn’t a question. That he hates Izaya isn’t a question. That the inbetween could ignite because Izaya was brought to harm was something he hadn’t planned (not that his plans ever work). That it would bring him outside Izaya’s room in absolute cluelessness— even when he leans his head against the glass pane on the door, he can see Izaya through his eyelashes, slats in his vision like prison bars.

But looking at Izaya on his bed, it feels like he’s looking from so far away, further than any real cage could be that dares to keep them apart. It feels like that dream all over again, lives and lives between them, never moving back or forth by an inch, even if he can see where he is and where he wants to be. It feels like it would take forever to step into this room, reach Izaya, try to wake him up. See if he won’t open his eyes faster for Shizuo and his wrath.

Izaya is asleep, unconscious and blissful, and really, Shizuo could snap his neck in this moment. Break his ribs, strangle him. Or rather, Shizuo couldn’t, not right now when he’s prone like this, not otherwise when he’s buzzing with life and laughter. A hatred like this needs to be kept alive, and for it to be alive he needs Izaya alive. He can’t kill him just yet, not yet. 

Use them. Not yet.

Ever the eternal king on his high mountain, Izaya, even unconscious, looks defiantly lonely. And he is— no one is here, though that could be the coincidence of Shizuo finding out about this before anyone else. Tomorrow, it’ll be on the news and Izaya will escape from the hospital, and Shizuo’ll laugh at whoever might be stupid enough to try to kill him while he rests. He’d keep watch if he didn’t trust Izaya more than he trusts himself, to keep safe. And he’d convinced himself a while ago that the only way to counter the sting of not being openly allowed to protect Izaya even when they were lovers is to understand the little ways in which Izaya had tried to protect him. Before he broke everything.

There are many people around Shizuo with sincere and insincere loves, who think love is being satisfied with how someone fits their little morals and rules. They tell themselves they love their lovers for all their imperfections, having picked those out themselves. Those bastards don't know the true affliction of love, the way there are people whose lovers would die over and over for them, who wouldn't do anything but laugh if they saw the corpse. Izaya is a bad man, and I love him. I love him, and he is a bad man. Wretched, poisonous, cunning in so many ways that Shizuo can't even imagine the number. Dancing now between evil and higher evil, dancing now between other lesser devils, there has never been a moment when Izaya pretended to be anything he's not—  a dozen names but none of them good, none of them kind.

And yet, and yet. Shizuo was never an angel. Shizuo was never a saint. Maybe his hatred for Izaya is for the daily realisation of how Izaya brings out the very fucking worst in him—  and maybe his love for Izaya is for the nightly realisation of how Izaya brings out the very fucking worst in him. And maybe it's all (like it feels right now) too much because no matter what he's doing, whether he's chasing Izaya down alleyways and across terraces and through stale fountain water, or whether he's standing motionless outside a hospital room trying to breathe— no matter what he's doing, it's the most he's felt, the most he thinks he'll ever feel— until Izaya finds a new way to break him and put him together again, a little larger.

Izaya, even unconscious, looks defiantly lonely. No one will come see him, even though there could be many who’ll come to kill him. It's not like Izaya hasn't known that all his life, even when he was with Shizuo. Izaya never stopped his tricks even if they were just after a kiss, or just before one, and Shizuo never expected him to— and Izaya never expected him to care about their fates any more than he used to before they fucked everything up on a bridge at two in the morning.

If that could explain why Shizuo has to stand on the wrong side of this door right now, he'd accept their story for what it had been— but in spite of everything that happened, he still thinks he's standing on the wrong side of the door when he knows Izaya would think that too, but for all the wrong reasons— shit, he's never once stopped believing that Izaya wants him dead. And he'd never once thought otherwise for himself too, but here he is, fucking useless and emotional, thinking he's going to cry in front of three terrified nurses just because Izaya finally got what he'd been chasing all his life.

He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't even be here, and he has to leave, even if Izaya is almost as helpless as he himself is. He has to leave, and he's going to leave, and he's leaving— straightening up, walking away, down the corridor and down the stairs, and into the ruthless dawn.

His entire heart is an open wound, pulsing and burning and waiting, and over the rooftops of Ikebukuro, the sun rises.

 

——

 

There is a bridge over the railroads. More than one exist, but Izaya enjoys this one in particular because the lamp never quite works properly. There are also arbitrary pleasures in watching the trains go by, with their little golden windows lighting up the grass and stones on either side. The sound, the rattle, the idea of all those people inside, cramped or lounging, going from one place to another and then another place to yet another. For that matter, bridges themselves carry a lot of lost souls, Izaya’s favourite denomination.

The bridge over the railroads has one sitting on the deck currently, against the cement-iron guardrail with an air of not knowing what he’s doing there at this hour in the first place. If not for the uniform, Izaya would’ve recognised him by his hair. If not the hair, he would’ve recognised him for...himself, anyway. The idea of Heiwajima Shizuo sitting on a bridge at two in the morning on a Sunday night is absurd enough on its own, but add to that his posture and Izaya finds a frown furrowing his eyebrows. Shizuo has a knee drawn up to his chest, resting an elbow on it, head leaning against the rail. He’s staring up at the clouds.

Shizuo notices him too, almost immediately. It’s the almost that unnerves him, just like the split-second interval between Shizuo’s realisation and reaction that shouldn’t exist, has never existed before. It’s what prompts Izaya to do what he has never done before.

Looking clearly at Shizuo, he pulls out both his knives and throws them ahead; they make an ugly sound as they slide to Shizuo’s feet. Izaya puts his hands up in the air and doesn’t look away.

Shizuo stares at the knives and then back at Izaya. ‘That eager to die tonight?’

At your hands? Always. ‘Not in the mood for your stellar company, Shizu-chan.’

‘When are you ever?’ The question is genuine, dry, and Izaya snorts. And...and so does Shizuo. One corner of his mouth curling upwards, and he’s still looking at Izaya, and this is so new and unfamiliar that Izaya’s on edge; Shizuo could just be trapping him, wanting to throw him off the bridge and break his bones. It’s perfectly possible and more probable than whatever else could follow this strange exchange. Shizuo’s glasses are tucked into his shirt, so he could be getting ready to land a blow at any point.

To say Izaya was starved of Shizuo’s stellar company after their last encounter would be at once an understatement and overstatement. He’s always, always had other business to attend to and isn’t used to Shizuo taking up active headspace, not at all. And yet here they are, three weeks after Izaya first touched Shizuo, both so different and confused that Izaya might need actual minutes to process all this and analyse it, instead of his instinct favouring him like it always does. That’s a first. There are so many firsts when it comes to Shizuo, and the bitter ardour in his chest says he wants to turn them all into lasts before they even occur.

‘Are you drunk?’ he tries instead. ‘Is that why you’re slow to attack?’

‘You know I don’t get drunk.’ Of course he doesn’t; the monster. No amount of alcohol could daze him, and it isn’t as if Izaya hasn’t tried other things. The day he succeeds in getting Shizuo intoxicated, he’ll buy himself a Henry spearpoint.

‘There’s always a first time.’

‘Not today.’

Izaya laughs again and breathes for a moment. Then he steps forward, observes Shizuo’s lack of movement. Steps forward again, closer, and then he’s right next to Shizuo and then he’s sitting down. Shizuo has yet to react; his gaze has followed but his body has not. It’s so amazing that Izaya hardly believes it’s real. The remains of Shizuo’s smirk on his face say that he can hardly believe this is real, too.

‘What have you—’

‘What have I—’

Izaya shakes his head to clear its ringing and raises his eyebrows at Shizuo, who looks just as stumped.

‘Done,’ he finishes, in an unfamiliar voice. ‘Is this your new way of fucking with me?’

If only it was. ‘You never know, Shizu-chan.’

‘What do you want?’

Shizuo’s other hand is on the ground, fingers curled lightly and threads away from Izaya’s thigh. Izaya stares at the predictable callouses over the expanse, and wonders honestly if he could line those. The knives are so close to their hands, lying there waiting to be used, and yet he knows that if he breaches this trust today, he’ll never regain it. The irrefutable fact that he wants to maintain it, however, is what causes heat to crawl up his face and behind his eyes, pushing them to burn.

Following his line of vision, Shizuo inches his hand towards the knives. Visibly hesitates, one finger already extended, and pulls it back. ‘How do you use one of those things anyway?’

‘Of course, I shouldn’t have assumed you have the sophistication required to use a knife.’

‘Listen here, you little—’

‘I’ll show it to you someday,’ Izaya says, squinting at the knives in some detached manner. He’s always treated them as extensions of his arms; seeing them lying there separately is strange, but it’s by far the least unnerving part of this situation. ‘I’ll use them on you and you’ll see.’ Of course he will. He wants Shizuo gone, wounded, harmless. He isn’t achieving any of that by sitting calmly beside him right now, but life allows for occurrences that are beyond bizarre once in a while.

And isn’t that what he craves? These are the things that he didn’t know he lives for: the heat radiating off Shizuo’s limbs so close to his own, the way the slight wind passes through their hair, the brittleness of everything. And under it all lies the years-old aversion, driving him out of his mind.

‘Can you?’

‘Can I what?’

‘Can you use them on me?’ Shizuo’s voice is odder now, rougher. ‘All you do is scratch me here and there.’

Izaya remains silent; he’s never hesitated to accept his shortcomings when it comes to Shizuo, least of all in front of Shizuo himself. He knows his blades don’t do any damage, that they might as well be chopsticks. He knows that they could do damage, real damage, permanent damage, if he truly tried. The difference between Shizuo’s lack of sincerity towards killing Izaya and Izaya’s for the same is in the motive: Shizuo doesn’t try to kill him because he doesn’t care, and Izaya doesn’t try to kill Shizuo because he wishes he didn’t either. It’s embarrassing.

Undeniably, whether he missed Shizuo himself or not, Izaya definitely missed practicing his impalement arts with an assistant who wouldn’t be harmed even if he failed. With that in mind, he reaches out for one of the knives and flicks it open, studies the blade under the faltering light. It takes Shizuo what would have been an unnatural three-second delay to move, had Izaya not hesitated in those three seconds, balancing their times anyway. It’s so wrong, the rhythm so wrong; the knife, when he throws it, pins the corner of Shizuo’s sleeve to the ground briefly before falling over.

In a moment, Shizuo’s hands are around the rail behind Izaya’s head, not even close to his neck. That they would one day need such formalities would have been laughable to an Izaya who wasn’t as lost as he is right now. Shizuo is staring down at him, not growling, not angry. Just careful, calculating in ways Izaya wishes he didn’t know Shizuo was capable of.

‘It’s like a part of me always knew, you know?’ Shizuo says, and no, Izaya doesn’t know. No part of him always knew. ‘You know, a person who could. Who wasn’t. Scared.’

‘Kasuka—’

‘—isn’t because I’d never let loose on him.’ Twin cutting smiles. ‘I mean, someone who knows I could go after them and still be the same...even if they can’t take it.’

Even if they can’t take it. It smarts more than it’s supposed to, and Izaya’s beloved is right within reach. In seconds, he has his knife to Shizuo’s throat again, pressed to the golden skin there, covetous. This time Shizuo closes his eyes, and in that instant Izaya loses what grounding he had left. It isn’t trust anymore; there is something more devout in the shadows of his lashes and the thrum of his pulse against the edge of the blade.

‘I can’t take it, Shizuo?’ His voice shakes. His voice shakes, and he hates Shizuo, how he hates Shizuo, how he hates that he should’ve seen this coming, how he hates that it feels like this is the only thing that’s been waiting all his life, how he hates the thought of anyone other than him being able to receive Shizuo’s anger and live with it, how he hates that he hates that thought.

And then Shizuo leans forward— the useless weapon barely cuts him— and his lips ghost over the shell of Izaya's ear, breaths hot and tortured and everything he should've learned to read long ago, so long ago, this debt he owes Shizuo and the wrong that he has done this man. He can feel the brief points of contact setting off a burn under his skin that he fears will increase beyond his control. It isn’t as if anything about this is in his control, but he likes to delude himself once in a while. If he breathes deep enough, if he closes his eyes, maybe Shizuo will disappear. Maybe all this will disappear and he’ll live a wicked, good life.

‘Can you?’ Shizuo's arms are trembling with the fatigue of restraint, and Izaya might never be graced with such humanity again. ‘Can you...take it. Izaya. Tell me you can take it.’

For all of Shizuo’s honest violence, Izaya is pulled towards him for what he can see beyond that— Shizuo is so simply and painfully but a man. It's what makes him the fiend he is, and so Izaya leans forward, perilously close, looks into Shizuo’s eyes. ‘Can you?’

Shizuo looks down, then up, then down again, vision darting as fast as Izaya’s breath begs to come. From this fast-approaching perihelion Izaya could rule the world. With all his sting seeping into Shizuo through their lips, Izaya could rule the world, the air turning tastes between their mouths as they move closer into each other’s space and inhale.

He takes it: the first blow, closing the gap ever so slowly; closing his lips around Shizuo’s lower one.

It’s like nothing he’s felt before. Soft, quivering, warm; his skin transmits the physical but in his head there is something else entirely, an onset of fire even as the grey sky promises rain. And then Shizuo is moving too, and Izaya almost forgets all his adjectives.

Shizuo responds with a violence like in everything else he does, except this is slower, gentler, far more fatal. There is nothing harsh or hurtful about his movements, nothing scary about the way he leans into Izaya and tightens his grasp on the rail behind him, even if now he blocks out everything but himself, white cloth, black cloth, glasses dangling close enough to brush over Izaya’s collarbones and oh, oh. The line of blood on his neck. Inside Izaya’s body, down his spine, there is a hunger that blazes and comes back to the meeting of their lips and grows there as if it has only just realised how far it can go.

Alarmed, he pulls back, draws away, but then witnesses something that he knows he will never forget. The same hunger mirrored on Shizuo’s face, a crease between his brows, lips parted, eyes trained still on Izaya’s mouth as if he has barely noticed that Izaya is at a distance now. Shizuo shakes his head just enough for Izaya to understand his desperation, and then they’re kissing again.

Before he knows it, his hands are curled into Shizuo’s shirt and his tongue curled into Shizuo’s mouth, and he doesn’t know that he can stop this time. His eyes are closed now, his body telling him there’s no point in trying to play safe anymore, but it’s almost as if he can still see Shizuo. The damned creature is too bright, too demanding of his attention like always, even distracting him from the kiss with his scent, his skin, his hands on the metal, twisting it slightly, twisting it more—

Why he didn’t see this coming is beyond him, but sure enough, the rail gives way under those monstrous fingers. The sound is loud and startling, the sudden lack of support behind his back more so. For one long moment, Izaya’s upper half is almost suspended backwards over the tracks, held in place only by his grip on Shizuo’s shirt. Falling in the path of a freight train right after kissing Heiwajima Shizuo would serve him right, but he’s never been as indisposed to death and as ready for it as he is in this moment, and so he holds on tighter as Shizuo makes a noise of alarm and pulls him up until they’re well on the middle of the bridge.

‘Shit,’ Shizuo summarises. ‘Sorry.’

Shit. Sorry. They’ve been at each other’s throats for years. Shit. Sorry.

Shizuo’s arms are around him now. Shizuo’s arms. They’re around him, and Izaya’s lips pressed right against the trace of his knife on his neck as if he could siphon the soul out of Shizuo with one ragged inhale. He’s positively dizzy. Flattening his palms over Shizuo’s chest and moving them to clutch at his shoulders, he feels like even if he pressed himself into this heat right now, it wouldn’t be enough. His eyes are closed, his jaw working to swallow a sudden whimper, and he thinks the train might have been better.

‘Shit,’ the bastard says again, lowly.  

‘You’re a piece of work,’ Izaya replies. 

 

——

 

‘You were never happy with him,’ Kasuka says.

There's a dream Shizuo has over and over. All of Ikebukuro, empty and quiet, and just Izaya and him, staring at each other without a word. Just like that one evening when Izaya shut his fucking mouth for once and looked at Shizuo.

At a point, they had almost earned places in each other's daily lives and not just obsessions. Izaya had come to store sweets in his kitchen, at a point. And then there were times when Shizuo would lose his mind at someone while speaking to Izaya— more often than not some reporter who still couldn't take the fact that they didn't always try to kill each other anymore— and Izaya would pluck the cigarette out of Shizuo's mouth. The first time he did it, Shizuo was so surprised that he forgot to beat the crap out of the reporter. Izaya had that gleeful catlike smile on his face, and that really never ended up becoming endearing. It had always pissed Shizuo off and always would. Like everything else about Izaya.

In the dream, they don't kill each other. They don't touch each other. The distance between them remains the same every night, every dream. Back when he could walk alongside without wanting to hurt him, he'd feel that dream-distance between them like a painful wall. When he had Izaya in his arms, it appeared in the form of a film between their bodies, increasing his want for Izaya to a point that he couldn't bear, and it only weakened once in a while when he voiced it out into Izaya's skin.

One day, Izaya had broken that distance. Heaven couldn't keep me away from you, he had said, the first and only time he had ever gotten drunk. So much more physical that night, nails sharp in Shizuo's arms, taking his hands and pressing wet, open-mouthed kisses into his palms that burned more than they tickled, Izaya had embraced him, cursing at him so honestly that Shizuo couldn't keep a smile off his face. Why you? Why? Things were calm. Things were peaceful. And then you.

I could say the same, he had laughed into Izaya's hair. You devil. Fuck.

'You were never happy with him,' Kasuka says. 'All he did was make you angry.'

Shizuo doesn't reply. The tinted windows of Izaya's apartment, which provided shelter before, now stand in the way of his sight. The view from the wrong side of the windows had never been amazing; a few buildings, a few trees. He'd always been more interested in Izaya's reflection behind him or before him, smiling into the glass.

'I should've killed him then.'

In the dream, Shizuo always feels sad. When he wakes up from the dream, he's always sad. He thinks maybe if he had killed Izaya the dream would stop and he'd stop feeling sad, but maybe he wouldn't. He thinks maybe Izaya would show up in the dream anyway, show up in reflections behind or before Shizuo anyway, show up everywhere. God, but if he killed Izaya he'd have a real ghost behind him.

I don’t need to go to heaven for the moment. 'I should've killed him then.' For the moment.

'Yes, keep living those regrets, if you dare to call them that.'

 

——

 

It’s on one of of their post-chase cigarette runs that Izaya first feels it. Leaning against the counter while Shizuo pays, he’s mentally addressing and dismissing his injuries. There is blood leaking out of the corner of his mouth, and his knuckles are bruised, which makes no sense because most of the punches in this dynamic are thrown by Shizuo. He supposes he has become a little more tactile after— after, but he hadn’t expected it to get so far without his notice. There’s simply no telling what could come out of a fight with Shizuo, though, especially not anymore after their ferity has evolved into this strange new dance. Every corner of the city is fair game now; a real battlefield. It’s almost as if Shizuo only needed that one nod of consent from Izaya; he takes every other opportunity to latch their lips together now, as if it will be his last. Izaya can’t blame him; with his renewed vigour he might end up killing both of them in reality.

It was only upon twice-belated reflection that Izaya had realised the absurdity of them still doing this after. At the time it had seemed such a normal part of their routine (it still does, but with a note of amusement perhaps) starting right from the night at the bridge itself. Kiss, pull away, and Izaya never forgets to laugh. It is so simple to anger Shizuo and yet so difficult at times that Izaya relishes every moment that he manages to do it. When he feels like he can pretend he’s gotten his fill, he makes sure to look up at Shizuo and just grin. For him it’s the safest way he can express himself without being believed, and for Shizuo it’s some form of contempt that fires him up and gets him to lose that almost-reverent look that he gets on his face every time they touch. The trough between kissing Shizuo and running from his wrath is so sharp and brief that it’s a wonder Izaya can withstand it.

But then again, that’s what started all of this. Can you take it? Can you?

‘What’re you so smug about?’ Shizuo mutters now, and Izaya shakes his head. ‘Would’ve had your ass today, I swear.’

‘You always say that,’ he says, following Shizuo out of the shop, onto the quiet street. It’s a little past midnight again and the partygoers have gathered into their bars and pubs, leaving the exterior calm. The way Shizuo likes it; the way Izaya didn’t, once. There were many things about the muted buzz that perturbed him and he’s sure they still exist. But now when Shizuo is around, he has a newborn inability to focus on anything else that rids him of the good and the bad of the rest of his surroundings.

‘And one of these days I’ll pull through with it, too.’

‘You couldn’t kill me if you tried.’

Shizuo growls absently and Izaya smiles to himself. He doesn’t think he will ever get used to being in Shizuo’s presence without an immediate threat to his well-being, and he knows he doesn’t want to. Ceasing his attempts at antagonising Shizuo is out of the question and he knows Shizuo knows it too. More than a pastime, more than a ruse, it is something that Izaya requires to keep on living. He has never considered himself above the needs of normal humans; he is only different in some strange fibres threaded into his surface. Shizuo’s hide, on the other hand, is almost leathery with its scars and Izaya wishes the description wasn’t only allegorical. If the horrid thing didn’t have skin like silk, giving way under Izaya’s fingertips as if he could dip right into Shizuo’s hot blood, then maybe he wouldn’t have as much trouble resisting as he does. He hates that he has to use the word trouble now, hates that it’s only ever with Shizuo that these annoying things happen, hates Shizuo— but oh, hates that he doesn’t.

‘He didn’t hug back,’ Shizuo had said once, sullenly, after some unmemorable rendezvous where he had memorably attempted an embrace (if caging Izaya in against a wall and glaring down at him in confusion, and then hauling him in with a hand to the back of his head, counted as an attempt. Izaya had stayed in place until Shizuo had slowly let go, both of them stone-faced and nearly unconscious).

Izaya, unnoticed by Shizuo on his way back from Shinra’s bathroom, had had the luck to have his snort covered by the doctor’s less discreet howl.

Didn’t hug back,’ Shinra repeated. ‘He has gotten you hit by trucks, and your complaint is that he didn’t hug back.’

Celty typed something up, to which Shizuo indignantly replied with, ‘I know I’m expecting it of the wrong person! It’s just...he really...he just didn’t!’

And so, it’s on one of their post-chase cigarette runs, perhaps the most important one of all, that Izaya feels it for the first time. When Shizuo looks both ways before crossing the road as if collision with a vehicle would damage him in the least, Izaya absorbs that careless care into his conscious and detects the start, or the bloom gone unnoticed, of some sort of strange buzz within himself. Something that goes beyond the desire to back Shizuo up into a wall for a change and touch his hands, and his lips. Something that goes much beyond that, much higher and deeper perhaps, in ways that Izaya cannot begin to understand at this moment when he is only just seeing them.

'Shizu-chan,' he says, and his voice sounds nervous, and it's been so long since that last happened.

'Hmm?'

He doesn't say anything. He isn't sure of what he actually wanted to say. He isn't sure that he actually wanted to say something.

'Oi. What is it?'

Shizuo's looking at him now, from across the road, because Izaya forgot to walk. It's so funny to him, the sight of Shizuo standing there at a distance with a stretch of asphalt between them, as if it could be the easiest thing in the world to navigate the gap between them if Izaya chose to make it so. This...way Shizuo has of taking matters into his own hands and yet leaving the principal decisions up to Izaya and his freedom, is giddying in its semblance of trust. As if Izaya is someone who could be trusted, should be trusted, as if this city, as if Shizuo himself hasn't seen enough evidence of the contrary. As if Izaya doesn't still, constantly, provide him with reasons to not do these kind things that he does, glaring like this and waiting.

'Shizuo,' he tries again. 'Take me.'

Shizuo's mouth, open slightly so far in a preparatory snarl, closes, and his gaze changes. Of course Izaya wouldn't have to explain, of course he won't.

There is silence between them for a while after this, and Izaya can hear his own breathing, just as steady as it had been before he said these treacherous words. He can hear Shizuo's breathing, just as steady as it had been before he heard those treacherous words. The buzz of closed-off bars, the sounds of far-off traffic, a crackle of thunder somewhere above their heads.

Shizuo strides across the road without looking this time, his hand already coming out to grab Izaya's shirt before he even reaches. The force with which he yanks Izaya close is harsh, but his eyes are calm. 'Look at me properly.'

Izaya hardly dares, but he looks anyway. Tilting his chin up defiantly like a child would, in this of all matters, and looking at Shizuo as purposefully as he can. 'I'm looking.'

He knows what Shizuo wants to ask. You mean it? You mean this?

'Take me,' he says again, slower this time, firmer.

Shizuo's hand moves from his collar to his neck, fingers spreading there, thumb pressing just at the now-hammer of his pulse under his ear. 'Are you testing me?'

'And if I am?'

There's a laugh, then, sharp but genuine, almost. 'Then I'm probably failing.'

Izaya can do nothing but smile a little, even as the echoes of that laugh send shivers down his spine. 'And if you are?'

'I need tequila for this,' Shizuo says, after a moment, and it's so easy to pretend that that didn't touch him somewhere. 'I don't want to remember your taste.'

'Isn't it a bit too late for that, Shizu-chan?' His smile is wider now, and when Shizuo laughs this time, it's louder too.

 

——

 

At Izaya's apartment, in his bedroom, there is a quietness that he hopes will be broken soon by the rain. It's as if the so-called heavens are waiting for a cue to break down upon them, and he thinks he knows what that cue will be. He might have been skeptical of movies since a young age, but some things do happen with timing; indeed, there are many occasions when he relies on this timing.

It is dark inside, with only the now-here, now-not rays of the moon casting slivers of inadequate relief on his floor and Shizuo's hands, and in this light Izaya thinks he could fall to his knees and weep for the beauty of it all. Shizuo is tall and fierce even in the middle of the night, in the middle of this cold room, and there is something about seeing him at different times of the day that brings a lump to Izaya's throat. That he can see Shizuo in the morning sometimes, just on this side of sleepy, squinting against the sun; that he can see Shizuo in the evening sometimes, coloured in all the shades of firelight that Izaya could never put names to, the embers of his cigarette leading a way to his mouth that only Izaya has taken; that he can see Shizuo right now, in these scattered particles that travel from the moon through the sky through his windows into the space between them— it makes his knees weak, and in this moment he can no longer believe that there was a time when he was repulsed by Heiwajima Shizuo.

And if anything, Shizuo seems to be losing the same battle himself. Izaya has never seen a look such as this on his face; the blatant admiration, that note of desperation that Izaya has always wanted to see on just one person's face apart from his own, to be on the receiving end of— all this, and more, just in the way his blinks are coming slower and his breaths shakier. There are ballads waiting to be written about this, if only Izaya would ever let this secret leave this room.

He knows they could end up standing like this all night long, forgetting to move even when the sun rises. He knows he wouldn't mind, God, he wouldn't mind, he— 

And that's the first time he's used that word as an exclamation. 

His laugh comes out sounding almost like a sob, and he thinks he had better move forward and put his lips to Shizuo's before this disease grows, but his feet are rooted to the floor and so are Shizuo's.

Thunder, loud and pointed, startles them out of their current trances and settles them into new ones. Izaya takes a step forward for each one that Shizuo takes, until they are a foot apart, staring at each other like schoolchildren who cannot live up to the promise of a fight made during lunchtime.

'I'm not as brave as you think,' Shizuo whispers.

'I never thought you were brave,' Izaya replies, and reaches up, lays his fingertips on Shizuo's chest.

 

——

 

He slides his arms around Shizuo, then, slowly, and exhales when he feels that heated skin in contact with so much of himself, for the first time. Even through the miserable fabric of their clothes, it is electrifying. His first instinct is to feel Shizuo all over but he tries to control himself, and presses his face to Shizuo's shoulder. He exhales.

Shizuo seems to collapse in his grip, leaning heavily into Izaya, his chest caving in a display of weakness that Izaya never thought he would one day be able to see. It's almost as if it was just the contact Shizuo needed to break, because after so long Izaya fears for his life again in that old, familiar way: Shizuo's hands are strong and threads away from harming him where they grip his wrists; his breaths are harsh and rhythmless; an anger radiating from him that could burn this building down.

'Oh my God,' he's saying, as he finally brings his own arms up around Izaya, one hand on his back, the other going to his hair, grabbing whatever strands he can. 'Oh, my God.'

'Don't say that,' Izaya snaps, even now, and Shizuo laughs but keeps saying it anyway.

 

——

 

The ritual of undressing is more graceful than Izaya ever thought it would be, but then again, so is everything else about this. The idea that Shizuo could hear take me and think of gentleness and not destruction is beyond stupidly moving. There is rain outside now, but it has started off just as slow as Shizuo himself; every drop sliding down the glass waiting for them to undo one more button before reaching the sill. Izaya cracks a joke about thinking Shizuo would have ripped his shirt off, and Shizuo responds by biting his ear.

It takes longer than it should because they have to pause every now and then to take each other in. Shizuo keeps stilling his hands over Izaya's (some inane effort to aid him in undoing that bowtie) and pressing his face into Izaya's hair, whispering stop, stop, stop. And Izaya doesn't.

Despite everything, the universe has its laugh at Izaya when he trips over his loosened jeans on the way to the bed, but it has its laugh at Shizuo too, who catches him and lets out a gasp at the first touch of his hand to Izaya's hips. The contact drives them both beyond amusement into something that completely disregards the silliness of the action; Shizuo finally takes Izaya in and presses their lips together. 

It feels like their first kiss all over again, except that was so different, nowhere near as virginal as this fumble of their teeth and tongues is, none of these cleansing fires at Shizuo's fingertips and the flutter of his lashes that Izaya can just barely see. The painful innocence of the act makes Izaya close his eyes against it, his hands on Shizuo's bare chest trembling more than he will ever admit to someone in daylight. 

He always thought he would be able to equate all of this to fire one day, that the silence and roar in which they simultaneously burn when fighting each other would culminate into flames and sparks, but this is so different, so much worse, that he laughs at his imagination. Never had he given Shizuo enough credit to think that the press of his lips against his throat would make him feel as if the world was collapsing around him, the typhoons of his breaths knocking down everything that he held dear, every point of their bodies touching sending cracks along their skin as if every time they meet after this will be the first and the last.

He wonders how many of his humans have felt this.

Here, in this room, it is easier than ever to be myopic and think that his life is only around Shizuo. The familiarity of the thought is alarming but tonight, Izaya could accept anything. That he was probably born for this, as was Shizuo. That they don't owe anything to the world except chaos. That there is nothing in this moment, in this room, in this city, but the two of them, fighting against and for becoming one, winning battles and losing wars. That the bed on which Shizuo is pushing him down can be a place of worship for one night, purified by Shizuo's touch alone so that the sheets will sting Izaya's skin each time he lays on them after this.

'Why do you look like that?'

Izaya blinks. Frowns up at Shizuo, who's hovering over him, his trousers just barely hanging off his hips in an impermissible way. 'Like what?'

'You look like you hate me.'

He laughs at that, genuinely. 'Is this the time to be realising that I’m not fond of you, Shizu-chan?'

Shizuo doesn't laugh along. He lowers himself until his elbows are on either side of Izaya's flanks, so close that Izaya could stab his throat. 'Izaya.'

Izaya's laugh dies; his lips are curling almost in disgust. 'I feel so much for you that I can hardly stand it.'

Shizuo kisses him again.

 

——

 

‘You absolute coward,’ he laughs when Shizuo drops his forehead to his shoulder. ‘Oh, dear, it's your first time. What have I gotten myself into?’

‘Shut up,’ Shizuo says, groaning when Izaya raises his thigh. ‘I didn’t want to kill someone.’

‘But you’re fine with killing me?’ The moment the question leaves his mouth Izaya realises how ridiculous it is, but Shizuo’s laugh would have confirmed it, had it not been belied by the featherlike touches of his fingers where they trail over Izaya’s flanks. For his part, Izaya refuses to react to those fingers, to the way they are just slender enough to fit in the grooves between his ribs and trap his lungs more than his own body already does, the way his hands span so easily over Izaya’s chest just like that. Just like Shizuo to kill him in this of all ways.

'Told you I'd kill you one day,' is the reply he finally gets, even as Shizuo kisses his neck, as Izaya lets out a high moan that he wouldn't want to give another human being the satisfaction of hearing from his mouth.

He cannot come up with a reply; Shizuo's teeth are too demanding where they dig into him, his lips so soft and insistent that Izaya doesn't think he's ever been easier to convince of something. That Shizuo would carry his strength into bed had always been obvious (and intimidating), but to see it subverted thus for him, only him, is so aweing that Izaya is afraid all the same. He relishes it, swallows it down and chokes it back up to prolong the aftertaste; thinks deliberately, as Shizuo moves his mouth to his shoulder, of this very Shizuo's hands coming to strike him, drawing blood, pushing him against walls and floors and trees. That violence is familiar and comforting in the face of this attention, and it grounds him, keeps him latched to the bed with more than just his trembling fingers and toes.

When the last of their clothes come off, Izaya is quietened with the shock that comes with having the wind knocked out of him, but without the pain— unless the tension in their bodies, aligned finally and breathlessly still, is to be counted. With the way their chests are pressing against each other, skin burning like nothing ever should, it might as well be worse than when Shizuo throws pieces of the city at him.

The rain starts to come down in earnest when Shizuo kisses him with a purpose that he hadn't realised was absent from their previous interactions. Perhaps this is the first time that they have focus; a need to do something more constructive and final than running around throwing curses. There is a lump in Izaya's throat, of fear and other emotions he can't distinguish in the cloudy dark. He wraps his arms around Shizuo's neck and resists the urge to strangle, instead draws Shizuo in close after they break the kiss.

'Who's the coward now?' Shizuo says, without bite, as Izaya holds onto him and mouths against his shoulder. Izaya ignores him because this is the furthest he will ever be from cowardice, that he can hold Shizuo for the sake of holding him, to touch him, to lie here like this and let himself be won over.

When they pull away, Izaya refuses to look into his eyes. Shizuo prods once, twice, thrice, and every time Izaya turns away without looking until finally Shizuo growls. 'Not like this, Izaya.'

At that, he looks up and wishes he hadn't. Shizuo's face has an expression of softness that neither of them have ever deserved or executed. It's something like that look again, the one on the bridge, as if Shizuo carries inside him some sort of agony that ignites at the sight of Izaya. He supposes he should be happy that he can at least cause Shizuo that pain, but then again, he supposes that he's known that all along. This, however, in this fractured light, is ten times worse than any grimace in any alley. And as he stares and as Shizuo stares, their intakes of the thick air become erratic for no reason other than their staring; Izaya feels a jumble of thoughts fall along with the rain. It must be me who thrives in those breaths, mustn't it? It must be me, mustn't it? Me, me, me, Shizuo, in all your blood and broken bones. This time, he is stronger with his hands; their foreheads knock together before their lips do, and Shizuo's sigh of relief is swallowed before it escapes from between their mouths.

And how many of those do you have? How many broken bones do you house, my

My

'You couldn't kill me if you tried,' Izaya murmurs, ages later, after he has gritted his teeth and remained silent through Shizuo's ministrations, when Shizuo is sinking into him with a slowness as if he is going to die after this. And he couldn't, he couldn't kill Izaya, for all that he is human. Human, human, human, this is all the prurient evidence Izaya needed, his delicacy in the middle of this animalistic act. Human in his red lips, human in his brown eyes, human when he kisses Izaya’s forehead for so long. Too long. 

Then Shizuo starts to move and Izaya slowly learns the true sense of seeing stars. It's all so much, all at the same time, overwhelming; the pressure, Shizuo's hands on him, Shizuo's mouth on him, and how he can feel every inch of them connected like this, all at once too big and too small for this bed and this city and this world. It creaks; the bed, the city, the world. It can hardly take the weight of their devotion to each other. It can hardly take the weight of their togetherness. 

It doesn’t hurt. It’s Shizuo, and it doesn’t hurt. He isn’t surprised anymore.

Of course, there are wounds. Shizuo leaves bites, many and often, and Izaya is as impulsive with his nails as he is with his knives. The bruises from earlier pulse deliciously at every stretch and press, and when they kiss Izaya’s lips sting until he’s sure that the cut has reopened and there will be blood in the morning. One of the pillows suffers an unfortunate demise at Shizuo’s hands the first time he makes Izaya cry out, and the white down littering the bed and the floor makes it all funnier somehow.

Throughout, there is that vein of loathing, in the upturns and downturns of their lips, in the uncertain flexing of their entwined fingers, in the weight of Shizuo's feet at the foot of his bed. Izaya wouldn't have felt as alive as he does in this moment if he didn't remember how they hate each other, still, always. He wouldn't feel as desperate, hurting urgently with an ages-old longing, if he couldn't remember that tomorrow he will wake up and find a new way to make Shizuo destroy a house. The church organs playing in his head against the downpour wouldn't be as haunting if he didn't know how ephemeral this passion is— and as if on cue, Shizuo breathes in some of that loathing and lets himself go one degree further.

Izaya feels them losing themselves in slow motion; this is taking everything out of them so that they are only good for it and nothing else, and he could stay like this forever; unable to do anything but kiss Shizuo and feel their bodies collapsing together, unable to do anything but despise Shizuo, and how.

Shizuo shushes him when he starts to sound close to tears, when the simple truth of hands on hands and ankles crossed against each other's is enough to bring Izaya to turn his face into the pillow to bite it. He doesn't think he can live any other way again, now that he knows this everbuilding heat, now that he knows that he doesn't know what burns between them, what smoke rises from the carnage and is made heavy with the terrible rain that lashes now at his windows.

In Shizuo there is a divinity that is terrifying. In this sin, there is a divinity that is terrifying. That he might only be able to reach God through this sacrilege—

It is more than anything Izaya could ever have imagined for himself, or for anyone else. His living through it is amazing in itself; his doing it in one piece more so. Release is a churning in his gut, a wave rising to heat and sting his chest like bile, and when Shizuo feels it, he makes an unearthly beautiful sound and gathers Izaya up into his arms, as if he can't believe that he is the reason for it. 

Shizuo breaks the head of the bed when he comes, not a sound escaping him. He’s quiet as they calm down, quiet as they reluctantly pull apart, quiet when he turns onto his side, one hand slipping into Izaya’s, the other under his head. When they look at each other, tired and transparent, there is an inebriety in Shizuo’s eyes that Izaya can finally reward himself for. But it isn’t in the thought of a spearpoint that he exults when Shizuo leans forward and kisses his forehead. 

Then: 'God,' says Shizuo, and Izaya stares in wonder. A shudder shakes Shizuo, and Izaya stares in wonder. Between their hands an asterism unfolds quietly, and outside against the starless sky, the red moon shivers and distorts and fixes itself.

 

——

 

'There are some texts,' Izaya says, 'that say that there is no concept of a human soul, or of eternal life. Mortals can't enter heaven.'

'Doesn't that make you angry?'

Izaya looks him in the eyes like he had barely done just before, and looks away. 'Maybe.'

The number of things Shizuo suddenly understands shock him for a second. The rain seems to get louder, and the dampness of Izaya's hair on the pillow gets darker. Of course he would be the type to want to bathe right after. Shizuo doesn't know why he thought otherwise. Wet himself and a little cold on the surface, he can't towel off the devastating heat that is in him after their act. 

Even if somewhere he had always known, had always believed Izaya to be the only human who wouldn't cower before his anger or break under it; the only one who revels in it and yet dances away the way he only could if he knew the truth of it all— that Shizuo will chase him across the ends of the city for one chance to grab him and have him acknowledge this hatred— so sure and knowing of Shizuo's passion, so capable of taking it without burning that he wanted to make Shizuo dance at his fingertips before proving that capacity the way he just did. Even if somewhere he had always known, his body is still stunned from the reality of it. He can't stop shaking, and he comes stupidly close to tears every time he looks at Izaya.

He can see Izaya through his eyelashes, filaments in his vision like gossamer curtains, and even if he thought only Izaya would be able to be with him, he never once believed that it would actually happen. Here, tonight, Izaya has a beauty that is as deceptive as it is fragile. He lies on the bed, trembling for every stroke of Shizuo's thumb down his sternum, like a facsimile of God: terrible, empyrean, burning cold to the touch.

'I don't need to go to heaven for the moment,' he hears, when he comes back to what remains of himself. Frowning, he looks up at Izaya, who's staring at the ceiling. 'For the moment,' Izaya repeats.

'You said once that you'd show me how your knives work.' Shizuo leans up on an elbow, watches the path of a drop of water from Izaya's forehead to his temple, into his hair.

'I said I'd use them on you and you'd see.'

'So use them.'

'I'll wait,' Izaya says, turns on his side and smirks up at Shizuo. 'I'm not honourable enough to give up a chance to kill you in your sleep.'

'You little rat,' Shizuo says, and Izaya's laugh is muffled into the arm Shizuo throws around him to drag him in. He doesn't know if he's allowed to do this, laugh with Izaya and hold him close, but he does know that Izaya wouldn't be able to have him die tonight. And well, he could stretch that temporary lack of murderous intent and kiss him a little. He's only human, after all, he's only human and Izaya's skin is smooth, his lips are soft. His heart is the worst temple Shizuo has ever worshipped in, and the only one he can't break.

Poetry is annoying; he'd rather walk out into the rain and yell up at the sky that he accepts just how fucked he is. Izaya probably won't sleep tonight, but Shizuo takes his threat for the invitation they both don't want it to be and closes his eyes. He talks himself out of taking Izaya's hands and kissing his wrists, and talks himself out of seven other things he wants to do, including breaking his jaw if that smile gets too wicked. But then, he can't kill Izaya, not right now when he's beautiful like this, not otherwise when he's ugly and cruel either.

But if Izaya had ever let him continue his intended path in peace, maybe they wouldn't be here in the first place. The vicious bastard bites his arm, lightly but provokingly, and Shizuo growls and stirs. Izaya's eyes are sharp in the moonlight, his body lithe and dangerous in Shizuo's arms; the skin of his neck, when Shizuo tastes it again, is as bitter as the sweetness of the moan he lets out. Visceral and strong, the want that thrums through the next meeting of their lips scares him. Izaya kisses like he's practiced with hurricanes; harsh and selfish, inhales so strong that Shizuo is ripped of breath. His lips bleed but he doesn't care, his wrists are ringed with bruises but he doesn't care, and Shizuo's never met someone who disregards himself as much as this. It feels like what all that alcohol would probably do to him if it ever worked on his monstrous body; his head spins with the freedom he has even if it's not real; he smiles through the control he exerts when he frames Izaya's waist with his hands because it's a choice and not a fear. God, the things Izaya would let him do, the things he would let Izaya do; the way he bites now at Izaya's collarbones is nothing.

'Use them,' he gasps into Izaya's neck. Kisses it, over and over and over, worries the skin between his teeth to the point of pain, his hand on Izaya's jaw, thumb tickled by the overwhelmed flutter of Izaya's lashes. 'The knives.'

'Not yet,' Izaya says, but Shizuo wants so many things. He's angry all over again, and in love, and he says God damn it and Izaya says indeed and Shizuo crashes into him like a hurricane he doesn't want Izaya to have met yet. He doesn't know himself anymore, can only define himself in broken phrases and comparisons to Izaya, and if only he could leave this anger behind and love weakly, maybe he'd live better. But it's Izaya, and it's Shizuo, and they can't learn how not to hate each other. So he shakes, and he hates Izaya's lips, and hates Izaya's forehead, and hates all of Izaya, and hates and hates some more.

 

——

 

Izaya's always been the most twisted human being Shizuo's ever met, but he has to admit, meddling with Akane is something he'd not expected even of an absolute rat. A man who could betray his lover to experiment could well be capable of hurting a child but maybe Shizuo's stupid like that, willing to believe that he can get through to Izaya even now, when he couldn't back then.

When they meet, it's been a while since the last time. Even during those weeks when they'd sometimes fight every day, it never stopped giving Shizuo a dull sort of punch to his gut under the instant fury, to see Izaya whole and untouched and so good at pretending.

He'd shaken off Shiki's men easy enough, knowing just how angry it'd make Izaya, and he wants that— wants the barely-hidden hate under Izaya's dark eyes. Wants one of them to keep feeling it because he's tired now, tired for now of carrying it. Izaya is ten times stronger than Shizuo; he could swallow pain like this for breakfast. Shizuo can't. He could barely stomach Izaya's bitter red wines, for fuck's sake, he's not built for this. Not in the way Izaya is, at least.

'You,' he says.

'Not now, Shizu-chan,' Izaya says, almost distracted. He's looking right at Shizuo, though, straight in the eyes as always. 'I'm a little busy.'

The few spectators they have seem nervous, but a look from Shizuo sends them scampering off. The park is nearly empty, but Izaya follows Shizuo to the dark corner he leads them to anyway. That confidence drives Shizuo mad; is so nostalgic that he wishes he could just kiss Izaya again, forgive him, be forgiven.

'Looking for a little hate sex, Shizu-chan?' Of course Izaya can read him beyond jokes too; and Shizuo almost wants to say yes to see what happens. 'I'm impressed you got past today's troubles, though. But then again, you've always been sharp for your kind.'

Sometimes Shizuo wants to say I've cooked in your kitchen, wants to say your hands have been in my hair, stroking, tugging, soothing. But that wouldn't change a single damn thing, and the frustration that brings never dies down. That humiliation makes him want to kill.

So he glares at Izaya instead. 'Hey, haven't you turned...aren't your fuckups more sinister now?'

Izaya's smile grows colder. 'You flatter yourself, Shizu-chan.' And Shizuo has never known Izaya to tell the truth when he says Shizu-chan. And it makes him fucking sad, because it means he hasn't known Izaya to tell the truth all that much in the first place. It makes his knees weak. It makes him, even all these years later, want to lean against a wall and close his eyes and hide his face in his hands.

'What's your eschaton?' he asks. 'I told you, Izaya, you need to stay away from here.'

'You've been saying that for years,' Izaya replies. 'My eschaton is so far off that I can't even see it yet. The story has barely begun.'

'Then leave and take it with you.'

And Izaya changes again, his smile fading slowly, and Shizuo remembers who taught him how to be afraid. The fire of those eyes is as scary when they hate each other as it used to be when they burned for each other.

'I can't leave you alone,' Izaya says, whispers, almost, and that sound around those syllables raises the hair on Shizuo's nape. His hand reaches for Izaya's wrist just as Izaya's reaches for his pocket, and Shizuo recoils, swallows a curse.

Izaya knits with charged wire, strands crackling around the blades he calls needles. Somewhere in the tangle lies Shizuo, trapped by his own thorns.

 

——

 

There is a time, long after he's ruined it all, when Namie asks him why he does the things he does. It isn't as if she doesn't slip in snide remarks every single day, but it's one of those mornings when he doesn't feel quite as strong as usual. The question hurts more than either of them intended it to, but he doesn't let it show because a display of emotion in front of Namie is worthless.

'I like to annoy Shizu-chan,' he says. 'Annoying him delights me.'

Namie snorts, continues typing away at whatever she types away at all day. Izaya has never pretended to employ her services for anything other than company, and she doesn't attempt to hide her dark businesses and the thousands of photos of that brother of hers that litter the desktop of her computer. It's a deal the two of them have, to occupy the same cold apartment with their different cold demons and only bring them up on special occasions, such as this one. He knows her absent-sounding why do you keep doing this comes from the glances she throws now and then to his bruised cheekbone, which isn't even Shizuo's gift this time but Simon's. Being thrown against a sign spelling LOVE has to be a planned coincidence, but what Izaya remembers mostly is how he laughed to swallow down the stupid tears that came up when Simon told him the truth in such few words, the way he always does.

You have a Shizuo complex, don't you?

If only "complex" could cover it.

Sometimes, in a flash of clarity, Izaya realises that he really is incapable of seeing beyond Shizuo. That other people blend into grey masses that he can amuse himself with until the time comes when he can be with Shizuo again. Much like a worker goes to office and thinks of his young lover at home, Izaya lopes around the city and daydreams through his dealings (even now, long after he's ruined it all) and waits and waits until he can catch sight of Shizuo, until he can try to bring out that old anger again, the one that was made for him and no one else, crimson and hot and his.

It's lonely. He's lonely, he's always been lonely, and the only time that he has really felt the presence of another living being beside him has been on those nights when Shizuo would play with his fingers and laugh at their size.

'You miss him,' Namie says, and this time she is looking at him. 'My word, it's disgusting. It's all over your face. You can't live without him.'

'Au contraire,' he replies, but he sets himself down on the stairs, suddenly too tired to retrieve the books he was meaning to. 'I am absolutely without him, and I am absolutely living. Look at me, I'm more alive than I've ever been!'

'You know, there is not one person in this world who actually thinks you're speaking the truth when you're lying,' she says, turning her chair fully to face him. 'They buy what you say because they need it, but don't think that there is anyone who actually believes you.'

'I earn my living because people choose to believe my lies.' Izaya leans back, rests his elbows on an upper step, smiles at Namie. 'You said it yourself, no one believes me when I'm lying. It's just sad that no one believes me when I'm telling the truth, either.'

'I hardly think it's taken you all these years to understand crying wolf,' she sighs. 'Tell me, do you love?'

Shizuo? 'What do you mean?'

'Do you love? Not everyone, not the world or God or whatever. Do you love?'

'I live because I love, Namie-san.' Everyone, the world or God or whatever.

'Him.'

'Pardon?'

'You live because you love him. You love because you love him. It's how you know love.' She has, briefly, a look in her eyes that reminds him that she thinks of Seiji every time she says the word love, but her understanding of the concept, no matter how twisted, is sincere— and its accuracy is terrifying.

'I have a love for everything,' he says. 'I have a lot of love. More than enough. More than appropriate.'

'All that love and no one to waste it on,' Namie sneers. 'What kind of aphoristic shame is that?'

'Who, after all, has the time to take the hand of a maddened lover, Namie-san?'

And he catches her off-guard, watches her sardonic smile slip off, eyes changing to something Izaya refuses to interpret as kindness. Kindness is synonymous with pity, and he doesn't need that from her, of all people. Not when many times she is the one to initiate their midnightly mistakes, as she is doing now— pushing her chair back, stepping forward to him, bending over him with a hand on the banister. 

Today, after what they've said, he can't even bring himself to lust. And that's even worse, because it seems like she knows; all she does is stand close to him, look at him, trying to form some sort of platitude in her cold, clinical head. And he doesn't need it. He never has.

 

——

 

Later, he will say that it was long coming, or that it was always meant to happen, or that he had been building up to it, but in the moment that he does it, he has a conviction that it is the sole event that threw them apart.

It isn't as if Shizuo hasn't always known that Izaya would do something like this, it has always been mind-numbingly flagrant; the basis of their interactions, the root of their problems, all of it lying in Izaya's addiction to tricks and treason. The anger is not what Izaya had been looking for this time— rather, he had searched for something else— surprise. Surprise was what he had aimed for, and instead, here as he smirks at Shizuo's raging form thrown against the fence, screaming curses at him, he sees and feels nothing but a horrid, empty disappointment.

He knew this one would especially damage Shizuo, had seen his clothes change from shirts and pants to the same uniform every day, had seen him smile as always when speaking of and to Kasuka. Izaya has never been stupid; his observations were what led him to pull this particular job, to hit where it hurts and see what happens now that it isn't just Izaya doing this as an enemy.

Simon always told him that it would be exactly that perverted curiosity that would lead him to his demise one day, but he had never taken the man seriously until in his moment. He hates when Simon is right, and goodness, Simon is always right. But he could never have explained to Simon, even when he laughed about how dangerous sex with Shizuo gets, or even when he passively raged about an offhand remark of Shizuo's that reminded him how strange all of this was, through all that recounting, he could never have explained to Simon why exactly he wanted to do what he just did— that he wanted Shizuo not to be angry, but to be surprised, to have stopped expecting Izaya to do these things, to be saddened as a lover and not angered as a nemesis.

Putting it in those words, so simply and concisely as he sits in the back of this cold police car, makes him look as obvious and easy as one of his human playthings. He wants to laugh at himself more than Shizuo or the situation, and he has always excelled at that but never loathed the occasion as much as he does today. Outside, he hears a bike pass unbearably loud, whirring even over Shizuo's throaty promises to kill Izaya.

It takes five men to force Shizuo into the neighbouring car, and his Edenic hissing and spitting doesn't satisfy Izaya at all.

 

——

 

The first time they come across each other after Shizuo is out of prison, Izaya can barely look him in the eyes. He still wills himself to do it, because all his effort will have been useless otherwise. 

He's never seen such a gaunt face on the man; eyes dull, hair limp, shoulders slumped. Quite honestly, he had never wanted to do this to Shizuo. Burn him out, yes. Make him erupt and explode and rage himself to death, yes, to see that spectacle. Never had he wanted to see this:

Shizuo doesn't yell, doesn't swear, doesn't raise a hand yet. He glares at Izaya with a generic, insulting brand of anger instead, and it brings Izaya's old, comfortable smile back to his face.

'Good to see you,' he says, and Shizuo throws the first punch. Izaya doesn't dodge so that he can feel the lack of force behind it, close his eyes for a moment against Shizuo's warm skin, touching him even with the intent that it is. 'You look well, Shizu-chan.'

'Get out of my sight,' Shizuo sighs. 'Just get out of this place, Izaya.' You hurt me.

'I belong as much to this city as you do,' he says, hand reaching to his pocket, curling around his beloved spearpoint. 'Don't tell me you're angry about that little tryst with the cops.'

'Leave.' How you hurt me.

'I don't suppose you've found—'

'Leave.' How you hurt me.

'I hope Kasuka—'

'I'll bite your neck in front of this lot,' Shizuo growls, then, in a voice so low that Izaya feels his arms break out into goosebumps. 'I promise I will, Izaya, if you don't stop with that fucking smirk.' How you hurt me. It's what he wants to hear, but not from his own wired brain, that was not part of the plan, never part of the plan. You hurt me. How you hurt me. How you hurt me. How you hurt me.

'Are you trying to scare me? You can't scare me, Shizu-chan.'

'Were you trying to test me?' Suddenly, so suddenly, Shizuo sounds so tired. He's never heard this before, and he's scared. 'We don't test the ones we love.'

Love.

Izaya looks at Shizuo. In retrospect, he will know that it wasn't until that moment that he felt his heart actually break. For now, he is too stunned to understand what is happening inside him and outside him, cars slowing down and people speeding up, buildings cracking, the city darkening so easily, the world in pieces; shards of the firmament, splinters of rust, and a ringing in his ears congruent with each of Shizuo's breaths that he can hear across the sudden cosmos between them.

There's been a mistake, he wants to say. Wait. 

But there hasn't, and Shizuo understands it at the same time as him— that dullness in his eyes changes, and he pales when he probably realises that Izaya— that Izaya never knew. It's laughable, because Shizuo’s look is that of someone who's shocked at being the first one to break sad news to a friend, and it's so obviously laughable, so obvious, so laughable— Izaya drops the spearpoint. I'm so sorry. I thought you knew. Shizuo's gaze is darting from the ground to Izaya's chest, to his eyes, back down again.

'You should leave this city,' he says, and he doesn't look at Izaya. He looks at the knife and says, 'Don't come back to Ikebukuro.'

And Izaya is back the next morning, sitting across Shizuo at the sushi bar, and Shizuo says you look like you stayed up all night crying over me, and Izaya says you look like I stayed up all night crying over you. It's the last time Shizuo lets him into Ikebukuro peacefully, and the last time Izaya feels like going peacefully.

 

——

 

Shizuo’s never been a very brave man. Strong, yes, stronger than almost everyone around him, if it comes to the blows of his fists and the way he can’t control his heavy footfalls. He’s never been a brave man because he hasn’t had an occasion to prove his bravery or test it. Before, when he wasn’t afraid of much, he never thought that it was bravery or courage. He just believed it was a way of being, knowing only how to go forward and break things to make his path. After, when he felt what it was like to have something other than his body broken, when Izaya dug his nails in and made hinges in his ribcage where there shouldn’t be any, and pried it open and got to his heart, he realised that in the face of the things that haunted him now, he had no chance.

Shizuo had never been afraid of anything because he thought he knew how to fight. He discovered that what he couldn’t bring damage to with his hands terrified him; the warmth of Simon’s sushi, Akane’s childish gait, Tom’s kind smiles; they bring more grief than happiness. The sound of Kasuka’s voice, clear and honest. The taste of milk at five in the evening. The memory of Izaya’s touches, pricking here and there on his body like needles in a way that make him grimace physically— there are parts of his life that hurt him so much more than they used to. Izaya’s absence, of those things, is a ball of nausea between his chest and his throat, a downturn of his lips, a pulse near his ears that leads to tears in his eyes. 

Swallowing those like Izaya must swallow his every morning, Shizuo stares at the floor rather than at the face of the woman in front of him. She seems beautiful; Izaya must love her. When he finally looks up, she has a smirk that confirms it. He doesn’t think he needs to say anything, and he’s right; she just steps aside and lets him come in.

He’s never gotten the chance to observe Izaya’s new (well, relatively) apartment properly, only showing up here in blind rage and want before. It’s just as sleek as his previous one was, but completely devoid of Shizuo this time, looking almost clinical instead.

The woman leads him up the stairs, to an opening in a bookshelf. ‘He slept an hour ago,’ she says, her voice soft enough not to wake Izaya but loud enough to show that she’d rather it did. ‘I’m leaving now.’ 

He’s never been a very brave man, but on the other side, Izaya is asleep and it’s been fifteen days since Shizuo last spoke to him and fourteen since he was stabbed, and the need to be with him is worse than any fear he could feel. Heaven couldn’t keep me away from you. Hell shouldn’t even try.

He nods, hands already clenching, and she frowns. ‘Listen, not that anyone actually believes you can, but just in case— try not to kill him.’ 

He nods again, and watches her leave, and turns back to the threshold. He can’t kill Izaya when he’s asleep, peaceful, can’t kill him when he’s awake either. He never could; he’ll never be able to. 

But just in case, he thinks as he steps inside, he’s checking out his opportunities. That’s all, he wants to see Izaya’s wound for himself, just to see if— just to see. He does hate Izaya after all, the roach, the vampire, the pale silver ghost of his most ruinous dream, and it’s that hatred that pulls him in further, takes him to the large bed where Izaya looks so young, tired, small. 

Izaya opens his eyes slowly, no urgency, as if he knows who it is already. In the sweet lighting of his bedroom, the red in them is washed out by the brown and he looks less detestable than Shizuo’s ever seen him look before.

 

——

 

The worst part of judgement day is that Izaya forgot that it would come for him just as much as it came for the others. This is nothing, he knows, as he sinks to the ground and curls his lip at the feeling of blood leaving his body. This is nothing yet, the big fights are far off, and Celty's head is still peacefully asleep in its glass cage. His possible death is no big deal in the grand scheme of things; even immediately, his sisters' little boyfriend can more than take over his position. No, it's not really judgement day, but if this is the last day of his life then it is his.

I am going to die, he thinks. I am going to die and I haven't kissed Shizuo in years.

It hurts. The knife has done its job well, twisting just on this side of might need surgery if he even survives and just on that side of oh, oh, this is painful. The ground is gritty where it touches his face, and he wishes the man— Yodogiri, he processes— he underestimated him— could have been more considerate about his choice of location. Perhaps a nice clean office, some building lobby, Shizuo's doorstep.

It probably isn't death that calls memories to mind, but rather the thought of impending death. He wouldn't be able to tell in this moment whether he is actually going to die, in spite of the litany running through his head, but all the same the idea brings back flashes of moments from the multiple lifetimes he's lived through in this one. The only real one that stands out, the principal one from which stem all the others, consists of night after night and day after day spent with Shizuo. Fighting or not, hating or not, whether it's the phantom touch of his once-physical presence or the nerve-jarring conspicuity of his absence, the recollection of his laugh, the echo of his mercury-moving voice— through his initial disappointment in himself and his evaluations, and after, all Izaya can think of is that life, that Heiwajima Shizuo. Human, human, human. Human, Shizuo, hate.

If nothing, the hatred might keep him alive. Even right now, as he struggles to keep his eyes open in these split seconds that feel like years, much like every moment has felt after Shizuo dropped a few notes on the table at their sushi bar years ago and left without a word...even right now, there is nothing he feels stronger than that dark anger for one last time. Even diluted as it is to annoyance by his fatigue, it is more potent than any other physical or emotional sensation he has ever felt and ever will. There is something about Heiwajima Shizuo, after all, and it carries over to Izaya's last conscious moments too, winning effortlessly over the debilitating fear he has always carried of dying. As if Shizuo is the antithesis not of beauty, but of death, and cold, and other dark things. He is not afraid. Dying a death smaller than the ones Shizuo used to coax into him with his sweet breaths late at night, he is no longer afraid. He might die without seeing Shizuo and he is not afraid.

But it's the most horrendous of cliches that right before his mind goes black, he has the clear, gut-wrenching vision of Shizuo's smile.

 

——

 

‘Oh dear,’ he says, ‘is Shizu-chan going to kick a man when he’s down?’ 

And then Shizuo’s sinking to the bed, not in drama but out of exhaustion. The purple silk of Izaya’s sheets is smooth under his palm, and up close, he sees matching shadows under Izaya’s eyes. Neither of them are going to live to be old and so he has to know why, he just has to know why, just once. When he finds out, if Izaya wants, he’ll leave, he will— but he just has to know why there is this lump in his throat again and why his eyes burn; surely this seditious intimacy deserves reasoning.

Izaya smiles. ‘You look like...’ 

‘I did,’ Shizuo says, and just like that, he’s bending, forehead pressed against Izaya’s while he tries to gather his breath and his tears. ‘Use them, come on, cut my palm. Just a line.’ Let that be my fortune. Let that be my life. ‘God fucking knows I need to beat the crap out of you every Sunday.’ 

And finally, Izaya’s hands come up to frame his face, fingertips brushing so lightly over his jaw, his temples, that he can’t believe the dream-distance is breaking again. ‘Why do you worry?’ Izaya murmurs. ‘It’s just a knife.’ A knife up my ribs changes nothing of my loathing. 

‘I’m going to kill you one day,’ Shizuo chokes out, and Izaya laughs, and Shizuo hates. He hates, but he is more this time, he is more, they are more; this is more— this is else. These here are Izaya’s wrists, his hands, these here his God-carved fingerprints. He would chase them to the ends of the earth.

 

——

 

One morning, they find themselves standing on opposite buildings again, chests heaving, eyes almost closed for the wind. Izaya has a free pass into Ikebukuro now, but only just. With Shizuo, it isn’t a matter of rebuilding trust or rekindling fire— it was always there, only implementing itself when Shizuo was moved to let it. As they stare at each other, Izaya sees every single flame of it sparking in Shizuo’s eyes, more beautiful and enticing than any universe that exists outside of them. He hardly remembers what he did this time for them to end up here, but he’s looking forward to losing this fight. Shizuo’s grin is a menace, and Izaya’s blade is at home in his hand.

 

——

 

He has never known gentleness like the press of Izaya’s lips on his lips, then, the way Izaya almost holds himself still; inhaling, exhaling, trembling, and the way he does it every time, like it’s the only thing in the world he’s not sure of. And that’s funny, because it’s the only thing in the world Shizuo is sure of. But then Izaya laughs again, gently, something he’s never heard before.

 

——

 

Izaya smiles, debonair. Izaya loves, wickedly. Shizuo barks out a laugh, and then he jumps.

 

——

 

‘Get under the covers,’ he says, lips barely brushing over Shizuo’s own. ‘You couldn’t kill me if you tried, my love.’