Izaya has lived through two bad break-ups in his life. It’s either irony or fate that he’s only had two relationships at all, and that the first caused the second.
Shiki breaking up with him had felt like white-hot rage, like simmering humiliation, like revenge churning in his stomach and bursting out of his mouth bile-like. Izaya hadn’t let himself feel heartbroken so much as hate-filled and hate-fueled for weeks, for months afterward, until he had Shiki’s name and prison sentence under his eyes in the morning papers. He’d run his index over the printed characters as he smoked from a half-full pack of cigarettes he had stolen from the man, until his fingertip was black with ink. Until his throat ached from the sweet-smelling tobacco Shiki favored.
Only then had he felt satisfaction. Only then had he started looking back at every shared memory and souring all of them for himself. Slowly, meticulously, like needlework. There was no heartbreak to be felt when he was done.
Shizuo breaking up with him feels like tachycardia; it feels like sorrow is trapped between his ribs and making his heart tire itself out; it feels like every day going by unseen, like Namie texting him There’s nothing to report, he’s living his damn life and he looks fine, every day at four-thirty. She keeps telling him she won’t help him stalk his ex anymore and she keeps doing it anyway because, he surmises, it’s better than seeing him like this. This break-up feels like a sob waiting to be let out. It feels like guilt.
Izaya spends two months like this—holed into work, avoiding all but clients and professional emails, Mikage’s pathetic efforts at friendship going unindulged—until he slams a fist down against his glass desktop with all the strength he possesses.
“Fuck,” Namie says breathlessly, startled by the noise. “What the hell, Izaya?”
His fingers shake when he uncurls his hand, every knuckle aching smartly. “I’m going out,” he replies.
“To do what? Punch a brick wall this time? You’ve got a client coming in ten minutes.”
“Reschedule, then,” Izaya says, sliding a hollow smile in her direction.
She grits her teeth and turns her head away from him.
Some of the tension in him has been smothered by the pain, but Izaya isn’t stupid enough to think it won’t come back. He’s not stupid enough to think this was any kind of a smart move either. He knows how he is more honestly than he wishes to, and he knows a slippery slope when he sees one—just because he isn’t a teenager anymore doesn’t mean harming himself isn’t a temptation.
Still. There are better ways to harm oneself than simple brutal violence.
Spring is well underway now, closer to summer in heat and sunlight. It’s a bright Saturday afternoon and people are out everywhere to enjoy it. Izaya doesn’t hear any of their laughs and yells as he walks near public parks and open cafés. His feet take him in the direction of Akane’s school because it’s where he goes on days like this, when he’s sure she doesn’t have class and Shizuo doesn’t have a reason to come. He sits down at the bad coffee place that was their first meeting and their first date, and he orders tea and broods.
The place is mostly empty, as he expected. Its strongest selling element is its location—rush hours are what makes its success, not the quality of their food and drinks. The tea is tasteless, tepid. Izaya likes tea when the water is right off the boiler, when he can feel his tongue burn on it. All this cup does is make him ache more.
This is stupid, he thinks, like he does every time. And yet he does it every time.
He hasn’t been here five minutes when he stands up from his seat. He doesn’t linger much longer than ten on worse days. Even the sight of the school hurts, yet another reminder that on top of Shizuo himself it’s everything Shizuo loves that he misses as well. He misses Shizuo, and he misses Shizuo’s handsome handwriting, and he misses Akane. He misses being loved like he knew from the start he never deserved to be, and just because he knew it could only end badly doesn’t make the aftermath any easier to live through.
Izaya’s eyes fall down from the school’s bell-tower and meet Shizuo’s across the street.
His fingers tighten over the plastic cup, making lukewarm tea spill over his hand and shoes.
For a second he doesn’t know if he hopes that Shizuo hasn’t noticed him; there’s a good thirty meters between the two of them and people walking on the sidewalks that separate them, it’s not entire inconceivable. Izaya’s physical appearance is nothing out of the ordinary in a sea of other ordinary-looking men and women. But Shizuo looks to his right, then his left, and when he crosses the street his eyes are back to Izaya instantly.
Izaya watches him approach silently and doesn’t have the strength to steel himself for anything through the longing that grips him by the throat. Shizuo falters a few feet away from him on the wide sidewalks, his gaze searching and sad.
“Hey,” he says. He tries to smile, but all it does is make it impossible for Izaya to meet his eyes.
“Shizuo,” he replies as evenly as he can.
It’s awkward. Shizuo takes another few steps forward—Izaya would step back, but he has the table’s edge pressed against the back of his thighs, so what he does instead is turn around a little to put down the tea he’s not going to finish and give himself an excuse to bite his lip unseen.
He’s tasting blood by the time he straightens up, so he doesn’t even try to smile. “It’s been a while,” he says. “Did you want something?” He nods toward the entrance of the coffee shop. “The cheesecake looks slightly less like it’s likely to poison you today.”
Shizuo doesn’t look away from him, doesn’t take the bait, but his lips shiver in the beginning of a smile, and Izaya’s heart soars all the way up to his throat in a long, aching beat.
“It has been a while,” he replies warmly. “How’ve you been, Izaya?”
Izaya’s chest feels like a solid bruise. He almost answers, Don’t say my name like this, almost answers, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night to dreams of you kissing me like I wake up from nightmares.
“Fine,” he says. “Terrorizing my secretary, making men twice my age beg for mercy. You know how it goes.”
Shizuo’s mouth twitches again. “Yeah, I can believe that.”
Izaya wants to wrap his hands around his neck and press their lips together so hard he’ll stop breathing altogether.
He looks at the school again and asks, “How’s Akane?” And he means it as a jab or a reminder, as something to make Shizuo remember the reason he’s left Izaya feeling like he’s carrying his own weight in regrets for two months, but his voice quivers over Akane’s name in a way much too telling, and Shizuo’s eyes soften.
“Ah.” Shizuo brings a hand up, rubs it over his nape. “She’s, uh, a little mad at me right now, actually.”
“Mad at you?”
Izaya can’t think of anything that would make Akane mad at Shizuo short of Shizuo murdering someone she loves in cold blood, which makes the present situation so unbelievable he wonders for a second if he’s dreaming again.
“That’s…” he doesn’t know how to end his thought.
Shizuo smiles at him briefly, like he knows exactly what Izaya means. Then he clears his throat and says, “Listen, I… do you have some time right now?”
Izaya’s fingers rub together, knuckles still painful from earlier. “Why?”
“I’d like to talk to you for a moment.”
“Are you free?”
“Yeah. I had the morning shift only.”
He has an idea of what this is, and he doesn’t… he doesn’t do long heartfelt conversations with exes. He doesn’t seek closure because he’s incapable of finding it. He doesn’t know that he can apologize—and Shizuo will want an apology—and even if by some miracle he can restrain the true and rotten self he’s been trying to hide around him, even if Shizuo manages to get some modicum of peace out of whatever Izaya says, Izaya won’t. He’ll walk out of this feeling worse than he went in. He’ll be scratching at wounds that haven’t yet scabbed. It’s why he hasn’t contacted Shizuo once since Shizuo asked him to go.
Shizuo looks at him with no expectation, sunlight glowing in his hair and eyes. He still looks like he did the first time Izaya saw him enter that same place, when he thought of him as a stranger to talk to and drag into his bed. But Izaya has had Shizuo in his bed. He’s had Shizuo in Shizuo’s bed, and in many places more. He knows exactly what Shizuo looks like with nothing but heat between them—he knows what Shizuo’s hands feel like on his skin and he knows what Shizuo sounds like gasping into his neck—and the only thing he can think of is that he’d sacrifice even those memories for the chance to hear him say I love you again.
“I have time,” he says, and it comes out more hoarsely than he intended.
They don’t touch at all as they walk. It’s not unfamiliar—neither of them so much as held hands in public even when they were together. Shizuo may not be ashamed of displaying innocent affection, but Izaya tenses when he feels eyes on them. This is not one of the concessions that came as a problem between them.
Now, though, the distance between them aches all the more with the knowledge that they are walking in the same direction and for the same purpose. Izaya would gladly accept the weight of Shizuo’s hand and that of onlookers.
“Have you eaten lunch yet?” Shizuo asks quietly.
Izaya glances at him, but Shizuo is looking ahead, troubled. “I’m not hungry,” he replies.
“You’ve lost weight.”
Of course he would notice.
Izaya hasn’t had an appetite for much more than tea and the occasional takeout. He’s skipped breakfast more often than not and left much of the food Namie prepares to go to waste in his fridge. She’s been very unhappy about it.
Shizuo takes him to a restaurant without saying more on the topic. It’s not a place they’ve visited together, which Izaya would consider an insult if he weren’t so sure that Shizuo is trying to spare his feelings. The sign outside is colorful in the worst way and the people inside noisy. Izaya is trying to parse the concept of a sushi restaurant owned by Russians, eyeing the white man behind the counter and ignoring the loud crowd when someone says, “Shizu-chan!”
“Fuck,” he hears Shizuo mutter.
The owner of the voice is a woman seated with three other people. She waves in direction of the entrance, jumping to her feet and urging them over. Shizuo gives Izaya an apologetic glance, which Izaya waves off with more grace than he feels, before heading toward her. He’s not going to resent Shizuo for being more social than he is.
“Karisawa,” he greets curtly, Izaya a few feet behind him.
“I haven’t seen you in forever,” the woman says, giddy. “Come on, sit with us!”
The man sitting next to her grabs her by the sleeve and pulls her back down, saying, “Can’t you see he’s got company? Act your age.”
He looks vaguely familiar.
Karisawa pouts. “But everything’s so fun with Shizu-chan.”
“Don’t call me that,” Shizuo says, tired. “I’m busy—I’ll hang out with you guys later, all right?” He gives a friendly nod to the man with the beanie and raises his hand to answer the other two men’s greetings before turning to walk toward Izaya again.
It’s then that the man in the hat meets Izaya’s eyes for a second, looks away, and then looks back with recognition and surprise etched onto his face.
“Izaya?” he asks, bewildered.
Shizuo pauses, glancing between the two of them.
The man stops looking confused to look glad instead, and his voice is surer when he says, “You’re Orihara Izaya, right? Man, it’s been a while.”
“Have we met?” Izaya answers coldly. He’s not exactly in the mood for pleasantries.
“Yeah, we have,” the man grins. “I’m Kadota Kyouhei. We went to highschool together.”
And suddenly it clicks; the man’s face falls into place alongside memories Izaya hasn’t browsed in years, younger but no less friendly than it is now. One of two people Izaya talked to on a regular basis in school, and the only one of the two he’s likely to forget.
Izaya feels his lips curl into a smile. “Dotachin,” he says slowly. “I expected you to be in prison by now.”
Kadota laughs and replies, “I expected you to be dead.”
“Seems like we both missed out.”
“Ooh,” one of the two other men says, the one with light blond hair. “Is this the guy you told us about, Kadota-san? The one who started a gambling ring in your school?”
“The one and only,” Kadota replies dryly.
“Figures,” Shizuo says under his breath. Izaya is the only one who hears him.
It’s enough to remind him of why he’s here at all. He puts his hands in his pockets and toys with his house key with the tip of his fingers. “Not that I wouldn’t love to revisit fond memories, but I’m rather short on time, Dotachin,” he says. “If you don’t mind catching up later.”
“Sure,” Kadota says, with the air of someone who knows exactly how unlikely Izaya is to do just that. “I’ll ask Sharaku for your number.”
It’s a threat as much as a promise, but the kind of threat Izaya can brush off with a smile that feels almost genuine.
He and Shizuo walk away, and Izaya hears the Karisawa woman say, “Why are all your friends hot, Dotachin?” and Kadota reply, “Don’t ever call me that,” with the voice of someone who regrets a lot of things.
Shizuo leans in closer. “I’ll get us a private booth,” he murmurs, breath running along the shell of Izaya’s ear.
It leaves Izaya still all the way to his heart.
He does get them a booth, somehow. It’s at the very end of the dining room, where no one can see them except by standing right next to their table. Izaya sits down and doesn’t touch the menu.
“Sorry about that lot,” Shizuo says after an awkward silence. “They’re not exactly discreet.”
“Kadota has always had a knack for surrounding himself with eccentrics,” Izaya replies evenly. “I had no idea you knew him.”
“I had no idea you knew him either. We worked together a couple years before I got my current job and got along well.”
“Small world,” Izaya mutters.
Shizuo nudges the menu in his direction. “Get yourself something to eat,” he says.
“I’m not hungry.”
“Have you eaten anything today?”
Izaya frowns and bats away the plastic. It almost slides right off the table and into the feet of the fast-walking waiter who comes out of the kitchen in that moment, but it gets the point across, no matter how childish it is.
“Okay,” Shizuo relents. “Sorry.”
He sounds so sincere is the problem. It makes the guilt that has clung to every breath Izaya takes shiver inside his throat, makes his face flush with it.
“Look, Shizuo,” he says—has to swallow after saying, because Shizuo’s very name feels like a knifecut on his tongue. “Just tell me what you want to talk about. Let’s not pretend either of us wants to be here.”
Shizuo just looks at him in silence for a long moment. Izaya stares unseeingly at the kitchen’s door next to the booth, doesn’t move when Shizuo waves over the waiter and orders whatever it is he wants before sending him off again.
“I wanted to talk to you,” he said, “about what happened the last time we saw each other.”
“You mean when you broke up with me.”
“Yes. When I broke up with you.”
Izaya’s lips curl into a smile more feral than friendly, but Shizuo doesn’t flinch away when their eyes meet. “What’s there to talk about? You made the right choice. The only choice you could’ve made under the circumstances. I respect that.”
“I know,” Shizuo replies. “I can’t say I’ve ever had this clean a break with anyone before. Thank you.”
The pain in Izaya’s chest is so sharp it feels physical in every way. Like Shizuo just stabbed a knife right between his ribs.
“What do you want,” he says between his teeth, eyes close.
“I want to know why you never told me the truth.”
It’s nothing Izaya hadn’t expected.
“We’ve had this conversation—”
“Yeah, and you never answered me properly,” Shizuo cuts him off. “You made fun of me, and you acted like you didn’t give a damn, and you left when I told you to. I want to know.”
“There’s nothing to know,” Izaya replies icily. “I hid it from you because I knew you’d break up with me if you found out. What more do you want?”
Shizuo is silent for a moment. The waiter comes back with his food—he pushes half of it in front of Izaya, and Izaya feels too hollow to throw it off the table like he wants to, so he settles for letting it sit untouched in front of himself.
Shizuo eats a piece from his plate, looking down. “Did you know about Akane when we got together?” he asks once he’s done chewing.
“I see.” He looks up again, and Izaya can’t read anything in his eyes. His fingers clench together in his lap. “So you were lying from the start.”
Izaya smiles. “I was. How does that make you feel?”
“Not very good.”
Izaya huffs and looks away.
“The thing is,” Shizuo says a moment later, after toying with more of his food, “I can understand lying to me for a while if you only wanted a fling. If you just wanted to sleep with me or something. But that’s not what you wanted, was it?”
“Maybe it was,” Izaya lies.
Shizuo smiles sadly. “Then let’s put it that way, if it’s easier for you.” Izaya tenses, but Shizuo continues before he can put in a word, “I wanted a relationship. I wanted a real, solid thing, and I consider what we had to be that even now. And you knew it.”
Denying it would be fruitless, so Izaya doesn’t.
Shizuo sucks a stray drop of soy sauce from his thumb before speaking again. “It lasted a year. That’s no fling, Izaya, no matter how much you want to pretend to the contrary. You’re smart. You knew the truth would come up eventually.” His hand drops down onto the table, fingers splayed wide and gentle. “So why delay it? Why not talk to me about it?”
“Why not tell you that I hurt the person you care the most about?” Izaya parrots dryly. “Yeah, that would’ve been smart of me, Shizuo.”
“It would’ve been smart of you to give me a chance to hear you out.”
Izaya grinds his teeth. “This is useless,” he hisses.
“Maybe. But you won’t leave, ‘cause you know you owe me this much.”
It’s true. It’s the only reason Izaya hasn’t listened to the urge to flee yet.
Shizuo takes the time to finish his food this time, to take long sips from the tea he’s ordered and which has been steaming softly beside him the entire time. Izaya looks at his hand instead of looking at him. He watches the curve of his knuckles against the heat of the cup and tries to think of nothing.
When he’s done, he straightens up in his seat, and his legs extend forward under the table, brushing Izaya’s.
“I’ve been thinking,” he starts. “I think there’s a lot more to this than you or that Shiki guy want to let me know.” Izaya has to restrain an angry shiver at Shiki’s name as always, but he says nothing, just looks at Shizuo with what he hopes is bored neutrality. “And some of it is probably legitimately none of my business. But I also know you didn’t just want to keep it secret just so you could have sex with me.”
“You’re just that good. You should be flattered.”
Shizuo ignores him. “I think you care a lot about all of this, Izaya.”
There’s nothing but ruthless honesty in his eyes.
“Enough,” Izaya says.
Shizuo shakes his head. “No,” he replies. “Not until you tell me the truth.”
“What do you want from me, Shizuo?” Izaya’s hand flies over the table before he can help it, grasps Shizuo’s wrist tightly and tugs it forward. He can feel Shizuo’s heartbeat under his index, and it’s peaceful, nothing like the storm gathering inside his own chest. His voice turns as derisive and hurtful as he knows how to make it. “Do you want me to beg you? Do you want me to apologize? Because I know how you are, and I know you would like me even less if you knew just how low I’d be willing to stoop. You wouldn’t enjoy me begging you like this.”
“I want to hear you out, Izaya,” Shizuo replies with the first hint of anger he’s shown all day. “I want you to tell me the truth with your own words. I don’t want to leave everything we had behind just because of a stranger who’s angry at you.”
Izaya tries to release his grip, but all Shizuo does is trap his hand over the table with a press of his palm, and it doesn’t hurt at all in spite of Izaya’s bruises.
“Tell me,” Shizuo says softly. “Just tell me. I won’t mock you. I just want to understand.”
His hold is absolute.
Izaya licks his lips. “Just tell you,” he repeats.
Shizuo squeezes his wrist, and even this much is a better physical contact than Izaya’s had in months. It makes warmth spread up his arm and settle in his throat with a purr.
“Shiki and I were in a relationship,” Izaya says. “When he broke up with me, I was angry. Angry enough to want to make him pay in a way he’d never forget. So I sank him and his organization.”
Shizuo doesn’t ask for details, thankfully.
“I’m not a good person,” Izaya tells him lowly, flicking a glance toward him and then looking down at their joined hands. “You probably had an idea from the start, but you can’t even begin to imagine the number of people I’ve played like this, Shizuo. I’ve destroyed countless lives over the smallest offenses—I didn’t care at all about collateral damage when it came to taking actual revenge.
“I recognized Akane when Mikage told me her name, but I said nothing, because what would be the point? I wasn’t even expecting to see you again.” He chuckles. “Then I kept silent because I didn’t want you to break up with me, it is the truth.”
“But it’s not all the truth,” Shizuo replies.
Izaya’s hand curls into a fist, and Shizuo’s hold on his wrist doesn’t waver, not for a second. “I didn’t want to tell you because you’re a good man. You’re a better person than anyone I’ve ever met before. And I didn’t want you to—” Izaya sucks in a breath rather than let himself choke, blinks quickly to erase the stinging in his eyes. “I didn’t want you to look at me and know, really know, the sort of person I am. I didn’t want to disappoint you. I wanted to pretend I deserved you for as long as I could.”
“So that’s it,” Izaya interrupts, because he can’t handle Shizuo’s pity, not now, not ever. “It’s just that stupid.”
“What about Akane?”
Izaya rips his hand out of Shizuo’s grip, finds his eyes and holds their stare, neck aching on his own tension. “Yes, Akane too,” he says between clenched teeth. “It’s just that fucking stupid, okay? I fooled myself into falling in love with you and getting attached to your daughter and I didn’t want you to stop looking at me the way you did. I didn’t want you to be disappointed with me, and I didn’t want Akane to hate me, and I didn’t want either of you out of my life! Is that what you wanted to hear? Because that’s the truth. The whole truth. There’s no noble grand reason, Shizuo, I’m just selfish.”
His voice has become more of a whisper with every word. It’s better than yelling and causing a scene. Izaya cradles his aching fingers into the palm of his other hand and stares at the untouched food in front of him, willing his heartbeat to quiet.
His breath stalls when Shizuo reaches forward to take his hand again; he lets him have it because Shizuo’s pull is impossible to resist regardless of physical strength, and he has to close his eyes when Shizuo’s thumb strokes over the red and blue on his knuckles.
“Enough,” Izaya says again in a wisp of a voice. “Please. Just let me go now.”
It’s a weird parody of the words they exchanged two months ago. Shizuo squeezes his hand, and Izaya wants to cry with the knowledge that he’ll crave even this—pressure against aches—if it’s from Shizuo.
I’m never getting over him, he thinks, throat so tight with longing that he can’t swallow without aching.
“Akane’s angry at me,” Shizuo says roughly.
Izaya’s eyes open just enough to see light and not much else. “So you said.”
“We had a talk after you left. She was hurt, yeah, she’s angry at you too. But she said I should’ve let you talk to her before telling you to leave that night.”
“She’s ten,” Izaya replies painfully. His hand feels weak, no matter how tightly Shizuo holds it. “She wouldn’t have understood.”
“Maybe. But she likes it better when people assume she can understand, even if she can’t.”
“So what,” Izaya scoffs. His entire face burns with shame—it’s all he can do not to hold Shizuo’s hand back because he’s lost that right. “Even if I’d told her, it wouldn’t have changed anything. You would’ve still told me to go.”
Shizuo doesn’t answer immediately. He turns Izaya’s hand around so his palm faces upward and follows one of the lines in it with his thumb, and Izaya doesn’t know anything of palmistry, but this is a love line. This is something he’ll feel for days.
“She’s mostly upset that I’m so miserable,” Shizuo says finally. “And she misses you.”
Izaya’s hand shakes. “Stop.”
But— “Izaya,” Shizuo murmurs, “I think you think way too highly of me.”
“You don’t have to comfort me. This isn’t how it works.” This time, when he tries to take back his hand, Shizuo stops him.
“I was never looking for someone perfect,” he continues, implacable. “No one’s perfect. I had a hunch that you were involved in illegal things, and that didn’t bother me. And now I know for sure that you’re not as bad as you make yourself out to be.”
Izaya’s eyes rise to stare at him, incredulous, and Shizuo smiles. The tiny lines around his eyes deepen as he does.
“You feel like shit over it, Izaya,” he says. “You look miserable. Whatever you were before—you’re not like that anymore.”
“I destroyed your daughter’s life,” Izaya retorts.
“Would you do it again, knowing her?”
The answer rips itself out of him with no thought: “No.”
Shizuo’s smile turns softer and deeper, his fingers gentler against Izaya’s. “I’m not saying I forgive you. That’s not up to me.”
“What are you saying?” Izaya breathes.
He has to hunch over the tabletop when Shizuo brings their hands up. The feeling of Shizuo’s lips against his knuckles shoots up his arm and settles in his stomach like liquor, warm and dizzying.
“I’m saying that you regret it, and that’s good enough for me,” Shizuo says. His breath is warm on Izaya’s fingers. “And that, if you want, we can figure the rest out together.”
Izaya’s ears ring from the blood that rushes to his head. When he exhales, all the air in his lungs comes out at once.
“Shizuo,” is all he knows how to say.
“Yeah,” Shizuo replies, looking down from his eyes to watch his mouth instead. “Izaya.”
The table lets out a loud whine when Izaya pushes it forward in his haste, his free hand slamming dangerously close to the food still present by his side, but it wouldn’t matter even if someone came to enquire after the noise. Shizuo’s lips are warm under his, pliant and accommodating; Izaya shakes his hand out of Shizuo’s grip to grab the hair at the back of his head and tilt it sideways, so he can lick the sharp tang of the food he ate directly off his tongue. Shizuo hums into it, holding Izaya’s chin and then his shoulder, his hot breath running short against Izaya’s cheek.
Izaya’s lips are wet when he pulls away. He feels too hot under his clothes and too hot under his skin. Like all the warmth in his body has gathered in his lungs.
He doesn’t let go of Shizuo’s hair. It’s as much to feel the soft of it under his fingers as it is to hold himself upright instead of falling.
“I missed you,” Shizuo says, breathless.
“Me too.” Izaya can’t look away from him, not for a second. “I missed you so much,” he says, and he learns forward to kiss him again, thinks about staying like this for hours on end despite the beginning of an ache in the lone arm supporting his weight over the table.
He lets Shizuo drag him around the table and press him into the farthest corner of the booth, lets Shizuo kiss the breath out of him and tread fingers through his hair until all of his scalp tingles and all of his chest burns.
The first time Izaya tells Shizuo he loves him is muffled against the other’s mouth.