Ikebukuro always comes for its own.
Izaya knows this intimately—has used it to his advantage before—but when it comes for him , he’s caught unawares.
He’s grown used to his new world. Life without the past is calm and nearly boring. There are playthings to busy himself with, of course, like any city, and his work is as it always is. Sometimes Izaya entertains himself with memory—the days of sparked humanity spilling over into violent emotion, the shock and glee and terror of it all, the way Ikebukuro had bred such vibrant life.
It’s just as nauseating as it is nostalgic. His legs ache if he dwells too much. The smell of nicotine makes his heartbeat rabbity in his chest. But there’s a part of him that aches more than his body for the version of him that Ikebukuro took in its night-soaked maw: him, holding a match above it all, a legendary catalyst, a passive aggressor.
Lying supine on his modern, monotone couch in his modern, monotone apartment, wheelchair not a meter away, jacket pooled around his arms, thinking of tarot cards stacked in a pyramid: this is when Izaya’s phone begins to ring.
Two weeks earlier, in Shinra and Celty’s apartment, Shizuo Heiwajima sits on the couch, a cup of tea carefully cradled in his hands. He’s glaring at it like the fragility personally offends him. All of his mugs have long since been replaced with titanium or another sturdier material: ceramic hardly stands up to his accidental fits of strength.
“—commemorate our year of finally expressing our love, after my precious Celty-san and I confessed, and... Shizuo, are you listening?” Shinra makes a disapproving face.
Truthfully, he wasn’t. He’s learnt to check out when Shinra begins to talk about Celty. It’s one of the best ways to preserve his dwindling sanity. “No.”
Shinra’s expression takes on the qualities of a kicked puppy. “But I was talking about Celty-san .”
Exactly , Shizuo thinks, taking a cautious sip of tea. Celty seems not to be listening either. “Sorry,” he says, “what did you want?”
“It’s our anniversary as partners in love!” Shinra gushes. “Such a special day, to celebrate our bliss, and since we’re not having a party, you can just give us our gifts whenever you want.”
“Fine.” Shizuo makes an amused snort. It’s better to laugh than give into his impulse to cringe at Shinra’s adoration. “But you make more money than me. I don’t know what you expect me to buy you. I guess I can take you to Russia Sushi.”
“ No ! What about Celty-san?”
Shizuo sends her an apologetic glance. She looks equally pained by the entire exchange.
“—but that’s not important. I don’t want you to buy me anything, anyways! You’re one of my oldest friends, Shizuo, I was thinking about something more personal!”
At Shinra’s spreading grin, Shizuo sets down the tea preemptively. Best not to tempt fate. “What do you want? I can try and get shot less.”
“I,” Shinra begins, “want you to call Izaya—”
Oh, no , Shizuo thinks. Celty clicks open her phone and begins hurriedly typing.
“—and apologize .”
There’s a beat of silence. The leather of Celty’s gloves makes a tacky sound as her fingers freeze. Shizuo’s mind snaps like a cold rubber band.
“ What? Are you out of your fucking mind? Apologize to that flea? This had better be a joke,” Shizuo growls out. He’s standing up, hand fisted in Shinra’s collar. There’s a very thin thread of respect to Celty stopping him from doing much worse.
To her credit, Celty seems to be equally shocked. She types at an alarming speed, and flashes a typo-riddled ‘What are you thinking ?’ to Shinra before resuming the furious tapping.
Breathing coming hard from his chest, Shizuo tightens his grip. Shinra does not look appropriately scared. “Absolutely not,” Shizuo says.
“But I’m your friend ! Don’t you want to prove Izaya wrong, anyways? I hate seeing my two best friends fighting.”
How Shinra can consider either of them his best friend says some very sad things about his social life. “He tried to kill me.” Shizuo tries to keep from screaming and tossing Shinra to the ground. “He tried to make me kill him. That piece of shit needs to apologize to me , not the other way around.”
“It’s my anniversary!” Shinra retorts, pouting. “Oh, well. It was worth a try.”
Shizuo harshly drops him and reaches into his pocket for a cigarette. “Maybe my present will be not beating the shit out of you for this.”
Ever confusing, Shinra laughs. “It’s okay. I can always ask Kasuka to tell you to do it!”
Celty shoves her PDA in front of Shinra’s face in an effort to pull him back to sanity. He ignores it. “I don’t want to, but I have his number…”
“You wouldn’t,” Shizuo hisses from between clenched teeth. Yes, he would , he thinks. There’s a sinking feeling in his chest: defeat.
“I won’t! All you have to do is call him. Just once! Please? For me and Celty-san?”
Turning away, Celty waves a hand to signify her lack of a part in the whole exchange.
“One phone call. And you’ll leave Kasuka alone,” Shizuo manages to grind out.
Shinra nods. Shizuo tries very hard not to punch him.
It’s a cold autumn morning, and Izaya’s on his way to his new favorite coffee shop for a latte before returning home to work. The air is a chilly bite against his skin, breaking through his gloves as he wheels himself down the sidewalk, settling over his face in the post-rush hour lull. Not many people are out, just him and a few stray university students racing to classes, a lone mother pushing a stroller.
A meter away from him, a student steps on a twig that’s broken from a tree above. Izaya’s hands come to grating stops on his wheels. The sound of splitting wood echoes, echoes, echoes.
The cold of the morning becomes a violent thing. Izaya starts to hyperventilate. His head is empty save for the sound of bones shattering. His radius splinters under an unforgiving fist as a salaryman rushes past him where he’s static on the sidewalk. His ulna becomes weak shards as he absorbs the impact; violent eyes shaded under blue sunglasses bore into him as he hears the bones of his arms grinded into dust.
Izaya tries to think his way out of it. He’s safe. Shizuo is a city away. The monster is a twig. There’s nothing but him on a sidewalk alone. His breathing begins to even out as the sound fades, but he turns and goes home, stomach now too uneasy to drink anything.
This thing between him and Shizuo was never going to work out. Izaya didn’t expect it to; it had never been more than another exercise in emotion and response, though he’d lost control long ago. It’s a funhouse-mirror image of his fascination with humanity, a sick reflection of the puppetry he conducts—he thinks of it as his first and most dangerous experiment.
A study in monstrosity, himself as subject #1.
If anything, really, he’s surprised he’s not dead. Slightly pissed, too. Izaya went out with a whimper, not a bang. That’s not his style.
It’s not like it wasn’t a spectacular end, but it’s what came after, him slinking to another city like a kicked dog, only reliving the wild of Ikebukuro in his sleep. that gets him.
Izaya’s never had prominent dreams. Sleep is another tedium, so if he does have them, they’re forgotten by the buzz of city morning, but now— now they’re clear. Not perfectly, and they’re hardly dreams. Memories, maybe. His brain stirs together pain and pleasure and festering humanity, laying them bare in the hours of the night, a reel of sensory nostalgia.
They metamorphosize from one to the other with no lucidity. Ikebukuro neon casts patches over bleach-blonde hair; Ikebukuro neon casts reflections onto the blade of a knife. Sweat and skin alight with the glow of an alleyway streetlamp, indistinguishable from the glow of blood, red with rage. A cellphone’s silica powdering the bottom of his shoe. The bitter smell of nicotine crushed on asphalt. Anger, breaking him.
Overwhelming control and gentleness, overwhelming violence. Izaya doesn’t delude himself into innocence. He knows that he did this to himself.
The present: Izaya lies on the couch. Shizuo sits in the living room of Shinra and Celty’s apartment again, Celty's phone in hand. Izaya’s rings.
He nearly ignores it. He has three phones, and at this time of day, it’s either spam or a needy client, neither of which he cares to grace with his presence at the moment. It continues to ring, until Izaya frowns, realizing it’s the ringtone to his personal phone.
Only four people have the number: Kururi, Mairu, Mikado Ryuugamine (he calls every two weeks or so- Mikado’s a great kid. He reminds him of himself), and Celty, only for emergencies when Shinra needs to contact him. Izaya doesn’t trust Shinra himself with the number.
It’s Celty’s name that flashes on screen when he bends his arm to check it. He answers.
No one speaks at first, which is not a surprise. The arrangement was that Celty would hand the phone to Shinra or whoever else, so Izaya breaks the silence. “Hello?”
There’s only an exhale, startlingly familiar. It’s the only warning he has. “Flea.”
Every nerve in Izaya’s body freezes, rendering his blood hot and on edge. He wants to bite back a retort, to say something, but he doesn’t know what, and even if he thought of something, the rest of him hasn’t caught up to his brain. His body remembers the snap of bones and crushing feeling in his chest. He can’t say anything.
“Look.” Shizuo’s voice comes just as grating as he remembers. “Look, Shinra’s making me do this, if you hang up he’ll just make me call you again.”
Izaya knows what a determined Shinra will do, so he moves his thumb away from the ‘end call’ button where it had edged towards. He still feels like he can’t breathe.
There’s a noise through the phone like a lighter clicking, then the catch of a cigarette. A steady drag and then a crackly exhale. He can smell the nicotine like Shizuo’s laying next to him. “I’m going to get this fucking over with. I,” Shizuo says, “am sorry .”
Despite the terror paralyzing him. Izaya barks out a startled laugh, feeling fevered and disconnected from reality. “Aww, Shizu-chan,” he manages. It’s a reflex more than a conscious choice to speak. Like whipping a knife out, dodging a street sign—a learned behaviour. Stimulus and response.
“Don’t call me that,” Shizuo growls. It’s a reflex, too. Izaya can almost forget about the coursing fear within him, the ache of healed bones, the wheelchair nearby, and pretend they’re back on a street in Ikebukuro, a gathering crowd nearly cheering them on.
He slips into the past as best he can. “I’m sorry, would you repeat what you said before? I’m afraid I didn’t catch it.”
Laughing with annoyance, Shizuo takes another drag from his cigarette. It sends Izaya back to darkened apartments and alleys. He sounds almost… almost like he did in the rare moments when neither of them were trying to kill each other. “Shut the fuck up. You heard me. I’m done now.”
Izaya catches himself beginning to relax. It’s strange, the way he aches for the city, even now. He thinks he can hear cars and yelling and faint music through the cell’s speaker. It’s more of a comfort than it should be.
Shizuo exhales again. Deep and heavy with smoke. There’s silence.
“Wow, Shizu-chan.” Izaya breaks it. It feels wrong between them. “I didn’t think you had it in you!”
“I told you,” Shizuo says, voice a snarling tangle, “Shinra made me do it. You need to say sorry to me, flea, not the other way.”
It’s not a new thought, admittedly. He doesn’t really feel remorse, but just to see the shock, the challenge, he’s considered it before—but Izaya wants to hold onto this. He shifts again on the couch, one arm tucked behind his head, the other on his phone. “Hm. Call me again, maybe I will! Maybe I won’t. You’ll have to see.” He grins the way Shizuo hates, even though he knows he can’t see it through the phone.
A sharp crinkle of paper, like something crushed in an inhuman grip. “What? Izaya-kun, don’t—”
Izaya can feel the glee settle in his chest. “Bye now, Shizu-chan! Call again!” There’s a noise of protest, a yell beginning, but he hangs up before it reaches him. He exhales, unaware he was still so on edge. He feels like he’s just run a marathon; sated and spiked with adrenaline.
His legs ache a little less as he stands and looks out over the temporary city he’s in, imagining he can see Ikebukuro in the distance, reaching for him.