Alongside series

Index: With Ease – RushIn-OutMistakenCherryMake TrueBliss

Rating: G to T

Length: 15,400

Warnings: betrayal, implied child abuse, drinking.

With Ease

Akane doesn’t mind Izaya so much.

He looks and acts like a bad man—his eyes are bright but there’s always the hint of shadow underneath them as if insomnia has bruised his face for life. And Akane may be nine years old, but it’s only been four years since she’s started living with Shizuo, and she still knows the look of men who don’t sleep because they can’t, because they don’t deserve to. The circles under Izaya’s eyes look like the ones on her father’s when she visits him in jail and on his subordinates’ from when she was very little. She doesn’t think about them as often anymore; but with Izaya around the memories skirt her mind with renewed fervor, as if to say, we’re here forever.

She’s sitting next to him right now, a carton cup of ice cream in her lap and the sun bright hot on her face. Grass licks at her bare legs where they extend past the spread of the blanket under them. It’s been a while since she went out with Shizuo like this, out of the city and to the small, blue-green lake they used to go to all the time when she was younger. Shizuo has been busy with work and busy with Izaya—she doesn’t feel angry about this, she tells herself firmly—and though he always makes time for her she’s not sure they’ve been on an actual outing together in the past six months. It’s fine. It’s okay. Akane has her school friends and Touka at the dojo and her father’s bimonthly postcards even when Shizuo isn’t texting her from work or cooking for her at home.

She still resents Izaya’s presence on this particular trip, just a little. And she thinks Izaya is aware of it, because he’s made himself very silent and very nice since they left the car.

It makes her feel a little guilty, and a lot vindicated.

Izaya is lying flat on his back with an arm thrown across his eyes. He nudges her softly with his other elbow and says, “How long do you think until your dad comes back?”

Akane shrugs, even though she knows he can’t see her. “I dunno. He said it was for work. Could be a while.”

Izaya grunts lowly. He drags his hand down to his face, presses against his eyelids before blinking hazily at the bright sky. He has nice eyes, despite the memories. Akane has always found them pretty.

When he turns his head around to look at her his gaze is still unfocused, soft with the half-sleep he fell into thanks to the weight of the sun and the cool of the wind.

“Trade you,” he says then, and Akane feels her lips stretch into an excited smile before she can help it. “Anything you can tell me about his coworkers.”

“Do you have anything on Touka-chan’s uncle, like I asked?” she demands, and he rolls his eyes at her.

Yes, your majesty,” he drawls, sitting up with a groan as his back cracks softly. She giggles, and for a second there’s only the corner of Izaya’s lips twitching into amusement and little wet sounds from the lakebank to hold her attention. All her earlier frustration is forgotten.

“Alright,” Izaya says. He crosses his legs and presses his hands palm-first on his knees in a parody of seriousness. “Kuzuhara Kinnosuke, fifty-one years old. He’s a police officer.” He shoots her a glance; Akane schools her expression into one of complete boredom. She’d try for danger but she’s not sure she’s quite at that level yet. Izaya continues, “He’s sort of infamous for his reckless motorcycle chases and has a few accounts of brutality during arrests. Just slaps on the wrist, really, he never actually got punished for any of them.”

Izaya looks at her again. Akane meets his eyes unflinchingly. Shizuo is still nowhere in sight, probably back at the car to talk over the phone as loudly as he can, and she has all day.

“You drive a hard bargain,” Izaya sighs at last. “Okay, here’s the juicy bits. He actually has quite the feud against your family—though I don’t think this will ever translate to a feud against you personally unless you decide to take up the family mantle one day. You might be a yakuza kid, but you’re still a kid. The man has some morals.” He makes a face at that.

“Do you think he won’t want me being friends with Touka-chan anymore, then?” Akane can’t help but ask. Her heart is beating fast now—she remembers Kuzuhara Kinnosuke’s scarred and scary face when he came to pick up Touka from the dojo the week before, the way he had looked over her with suspicion in his eyes and closed his big hand on Touka’s shoulder as if to steer her away from Akane.

Izaya glances at her face, then back to the shiny, rippling surface of the lake to his left. “Hard to say. I haven’t exactly talked to him.”

Akane doesn’t say anything in answer, doesn’t offer her own half of the bargain for a long while. She feels cold even with the dry warmth of sun rays on her shoulders where the shadow of her hat doesn’t reach. The once blue lake now looks greenish and unappealing. All thought of baring her feet to trample in the mud with Shizuo once he comes back has vanished, and her stomach is twisting on itself with upset, until she can feel the burn of tears in her eyes and has to blink away in hope of stopping it in its tracks.

She vaguely sees Izaya’s legs unfold beside her. With her head bowed down to stare at her ice cream—it has gone liquid now, and some of it is dripping through the damp carton and against her fingers—she can’t see his face, but she thinks she can imagine the kind of face he’s making.

“Hey,” he says after a while.

Akane sniffs, but doesn’t answer. She grabs the sticky plastic spoon and scoops up some of the melting cream to swallow against the nod in her throat in the hope that it will numb the ache of disappointment.

This is the worst picnic she’s ever had.

“Shizuo doesn’t like this guy named Rokujo,” she rasps at one point. Her face is completely dry. She counts it as a victory. “He says he’s obnoxious.”

Izaya makes a little annoyed sound, and when she looks up his mouth is curled on self-awareness. It makes an irrepressible smile tremble on her lips, even though she knows he’s not doing it on purpose—he’s getting better at being himself around her but he’s not quite there enough yet that he can try to make her feel better on his own.

Shizuo comes back a few minutes later. Akane has put her lukewarm cream back into the box with the ice pockets in the faint hope that it will solidify again. It doesn’t, but with the sight of her dad stepping around high grass spots to join them she doesn’t even want to snack anymore; he looks irritated but his forehead smoothes over when she meets his eyes, and his cheeks crease into a smile as natural as if a simple glance in her direction is enough to pull it out of him effortlessly. She answers in kind, and closes her eyes when he puts a hand on her hat to push it back onto her head.

“Don’t lose this,” he says gruffly.

“Wasn’t gonna,” she whines.

“Yeah, you always say this.” He sits back down to her other side where the blanket is still ruffled from the weight of his body before he even left. A sigh escapes his lips. He puts his hands behind him to support his back and turns his head to the sun, eyelashes fluttering shut under his fatigue. Akane turns his head around to look at Izaya.

He’s staring over her head to where Shizuo is sat, face softer than it ever is when he looks at her. She feels more than hears Shizuo turn to look at him too, a “Hi” on his voice rumbling out of him affectionately, and Izaya’s eyes widen ever-so-slightly as he whispers his own greeting, skin flushing from more than just sunlight and a dimple next to his lips that is more tell-tale than any worded devotion he could express.

Really, Akane thinks, she doesn’t mind Izaya so much.


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