Cherry

Mistaken | Alongside series | Make True

Cherry

Izaya takes great care not to look as if he’s calculating every minute of every day around the hope of crossing paths with Heiwajima Shizuo. He’s seen him four more times since the day Mikage introduced them, and he’s never spent as much time in this horrible coffee place in the five years Mikage’s been trying to insert herself into his life as he has in the past two months.

All his efforts fall flat when Shizuo himself is here, of course. Izaya can’t pinpoint what it is about the man that makes him feel like a teenager; for as long as he can remember he’s always been drawn to the dark and dangerous—he’s always been drawn to Shiki.

He hasn’t thought about Shiki so much in a long time either. It happens without the usual spikes of burning fury and shame and regret; it’s like contemplating a photo he has little memory of. It doesn’t matter, really. Shiki is serving the sentence Izaya bestowed on him alongside half of his organization, and when he inevitably walks out and finds Izaya again, his touch won’t be gentle. Izaya doesn’t wish that things had gone differently anymore.

It’s not Shiki’s touch Izaya is thinking about.

Izaya doesn’t feel the burn of the coffee as he drinks; the taste is bad but the caffeine is good, and it’s all he needs right now. His eyesight has been getting worse all day long. He can barely see the numbers he’s looking at on his laptop, and though he knows his glasses are within reach the reaching itself doesn’t feel worth doing.

It’s almost five in the evening. Long past the time Shizuo would’ve shown up, if he planned to.

Izaya closes his eyes and does his best to appreciate how stifling the sun is through the windows of the shop. The air conditioning isn’t any better than what they serve, food and drink-wise. The only selling point of this place is its proximity with the elementary school Shizuo takes Awakusu Akane to every day. His face feels like it’s boiling more than burning, the growing headache a solid weight just under his skin, from temple to temple, all over his forehead. He knows part of it is because he’s been surviving off coffee and spite for most of the day.

And then, miraculously: “Orihara.”

Izaya shudders. For a moment he doesn’t move at all, like he hasn’t heard Shizuo, like he can’t feel his chest fill with warmth and his face grow hotter than the sun alone warrants. When he blinks his eyes open Shizuo is standing between his table and the window; if it were a few hours later the sun would’ve been setting right behind him like it was trying to crown him with gold.

“Heiwajima,” Izaya says, a little reverently.

Shizuo looks to his sides before taking a seat in front of Izaya, like he’s trying to make sure he’s not bothering anyone. As if Izaya would even let him approach more than twice if he were undesirable company.

He brings his third coffee to his lips to ground himself. “You’re here late,” he says.

“What?” Shizuo blinks at him endearingly. “Oh, right. Yeah. Turns out Akane’s sleeping over at a friend’s place tonight. She just told me about it.”

“Feeling abandoned?”

Shizuo laughs at this, warm and self-conscious. “I wish I didn’t, but yeah, I do.”

It’s easy enough to get coffee now. The rush stops at four like clockwork on every school day and the counter is deserted; it barely takes a minute for Shizuo to walk there and ask for his own drink —hot chocolate, Izaya knows—before coming back to sit in front of him. Izaya feels the sort of content he only ever approaches on the rare day work gets interesting anymore.

They drink in silence for a moment. They’re not quite close enough yet that conversation comes easy, even if Izaya is stripped of his ability to feel shame whenever this man is around. It’s all for Shizuo’s sake, really.

Finally, Shizuo looks at him with a lopsided smile and says, “Sharaku isn’t here?”

“No,” Izaya replies. “I’m all alone.” He knows his eyelids droop at the words. Shizuo doesn’t seem to be affected.

“You been working here all day?”

“Pretty much.”

Shizuo rests his chin onto the back of his free hand pensively. “Can’t imagine this is the best spot around town for work,” he murmurs.

“It’s good enough for me,” Izaya says into the rim of his paper cup. He doesn’t drink from it. Instead he adds, “and there’s always the chance of running into someone I want to see.”

Shizuo blinks at him softly.

Then he straightens his back and says, “Wanna get a drink?”

Izaya puts the cup down and tries not to let the trembling in his hand show. “Yes.”


It’s too early for drinks. It’s not time yet for salarymen to get out of work and the sun is still too high, too conspicuous. Izaya takes Shizuo to one of Awakusu’s former bars, one that has been taken over by Yodogiri Jinnai and his terrifying secretary. Izaya doesn’t have to present an ID before being admitted in and offered a corner table away from the bulk of the room. The place is literally underground but not figuratively so; there’s music and good spirits, and only a few other tables are occupied, and no sunlight; but the other patrons are college girls talking around a margarita and a lonely man at the counter drinking a deep red wine.

“I’ll get us something,” Izaya says, leaning too close for Shizuo not to feel his breath on the side of his face. He can’t tell if Shizuo blushes in the bluish light of the place, but the strength of his gaze is good enough.

He feels giddy as he walks to the counter. Like he’s about to topple over from how light he feels, or get a skip to his steps like he did ten years ago.

Izaya didn’t just go to this bar to escape the sun and the heat. It has a large collection of beers, some of which are sweet enough to drown out the bitterness. Shizuo doesn’t like coffee, and Izaya doesn’t think starting the evening with heavy alcohols will win him any points. The German cherry-red beer the bartender offers him might.

“I worked as a bartender once,” Shizuo says when he sits back down. The barkeep himself isn’t far behind, holding their drinks on a plate. “Thank you,” he adds to the man once he’s served, and if he gives his glass an apprehensive look, he doesn’t seem completely disgusted.

Izaya himself is only partial to beer when the heat demands it, and he prefers his sour. “It won’t bite you,” he tells Shizuo gently.

“I know that.”

He makes a curious face as soon as he takes a sip; Izaya can’t help but smile when he does. It’s like Shizuo is pulling the light out of him from where he buried it years and years ago.

He’s never been this attracted to someone in his life, and it’s a man who adopted a girl no one else wanted, a man who comes to pick her up every day to spend time with her at work, a man with a life and with his happiness.

A man capable of looking at Izaya and relaxing in his presence.

Izaya swallows a little painfully. “So. A bartender?”

“Yeah. I was terrible at it, though. Kept breaking bottles and glasses while cleaning them.”

“You must be strong,” Izaya comments. “Glass is harder to break than it looks, unless the place you worked at was using some really fine silverware.”

“It wasn’t. I’ve always been rather strong.”

He doesn’t look like it. He’s thin and tall and his fingers are skinny, only callused from the use of pens and sometimes cut from handling paper all day. “Mmh,” Izaya says. He’s thinking about what those hands would feel like on him.

Shizuo looks like he should be nursing a hot drink around a fireplace somewhere, with a book in hand and his daughter napping next to him. Maybe a dog as well. He doesn’t look like someone Izaya should be taking to an illegally-run bar in town, however clean the bar looks. He’s legit. He has a family. He probably wouldn’t appreciate Izaya so much if he knew Izaya was responsible for his kid ending up without parents, let alone if he knew the reasons Izaya had done it.

Izaya’s been repeating those things to himself since the first time he met him. So far he hasn’t been able to stop himself from wanting.

“I never really got to try out temp jobs,” he says lightly. The light overhead is rotating slowly, making Shizuo’s face appear and disappear in different shades of blue. It doesn’t make him less attractive. “I’ve been doing what I do since I graduated high school.”

“Straight from high school senior to career advisor?” Shizuo asks, curious.

Izaya smiles. “Sort of.”

Shizuo chuckles. “I went through so many jobs after high school. Didn’t have what it took for college, so I just tried everything I could get hired at, but I wasn’t good at anything.”

Izaya doesn’t say anything while Shizuo takes another sip of his beer. The movement isn’t forced in any way; Shizuo actually closes his eyes to appreciate it, and it makes Izaya’s eyesight feel even hazier than it had with a headache earlier. He want to put on his glasses now, just so he doesn’t miss anything there is to see on Shizuo’s face.

“In the end I was twenty-five and no closer to stability than I was at eighteen when I left home,” Shizuo said in a low voice. “But I like writing. Not writing like—” he splutters, and the blue on his skin gets darker as he blushes deeply. Izaya can feel his own blood running warm through his body from the alcohol, and he leans forward. “I don’t write stories or anything,” Shizuo continues. “I like calligraphy.”

“Really?” and Izaya doesn’t have to fake the fascination in his voice. He doesn’t think he’s ever been so genuinely interested in someone.

“I’ve always liked writing letters. I got my first quill and textbook when I was fifteen, from my parents,” Shizuo explains. “So I put that on my resume and tried to work for a post office, and it turns out that I wasn’t so bad at that.”

He looks faintly embarrassed after that. He drinks a third of his glass in one go and smacks the bottom of it against the wooden tabletop when he puts it down. It’s loud enough that the girls two tables over can hear it in the still-empty room, but not loud enough that the old man at the counter moves his head around to look.

Izaya links his fingers together and rests his chin on their back. “You should be proud of yourself,” he says.

“Not really. My parents always helped me support myself until I could do it myself.”

“But you didn’t ask for more than this, did you?” He knows his smile isn’t especially comforting, but he tries. “And now you even have your own child.”

At this, Shizuo’s face relaxes completely, and his eyes turn warm and loving.

You can’t be jealous of a kid, Izaya tells himself. It doesn’t help much. “For what it’s worth,” he says, “I think you’ve got something not a lot of people, college graduates or not, can claim to.”

His foot nudges Shizuo’s under the table, and he can’t completely pretend that it was accidental.

The bar fills up through the hours. It’s located next to one of the office buildings Yodogiri owns, and when the clock hits seven men in suits start pouring in in small groups. They’re livelier than the college girls were. The wine man at the counter is gone, leaving only an enormous tip behind that the barkeep has pocketed with an appreciative glint in his eyes.

They speak until the sound around drowns them too much to. Even so Shizuo orders another beer, and so does Izaya; the alcohol is running hot inside him now, and he’s glad he picked beer rather than something else. He hasn’t eaten all day. His body feels like it’s vibrating in rhythm with every crash of glass on wood around them. With every movement Shizuo makes that has their knees or legs touching under the tiny round table.

Izaya feels hot and cold at the same time, and he knows it’s not from intoxication.

He doesn’t know exactly when Shizuo throws him a loaded glance. It must be around eight thirty now. Izaya declines Shizuo’s attempt to pay his share of the evening and drops a few more bills than necessary on the table. He usually doesn’t need to pay because of his relationship with Yodogiri, but Shizuo doesn’t need to know that. Izaya doesn’t want him to. He’s not looking very much further ahead than fresh air and a dark sky to hide them from view.

It feels good to take in the night air. Next to him Shizuo rummages through his pocket and takes out a crumpled pack of Winstons, the red of it vibrant under yellow street lamps. He lights one with a carefree flick of his wrist and a pack of matches, and Izaya watches, mesmerized, as he breathes in the smoke.

Shizuo turns his head away to exhale. “Sorry. I should’ve asked you if—”

“This is perfectly okay,” Izaya replies.

He’s never smoked himself. He knows all about kissing someone who does, though.

Shizuo’s eyes never leave his when he steps closer; Izaya feels his back press against the wall and his entire body shiver; his blood is simmering, his heart feels electric, every breath that leaves him does so with a shake, like he doesn’t know how to use his lungs anymore. Shizuo is close enough now that Izaya can better take in the difference in their height and the delightful crow’s feet around his eyes. Like his face has been marked by laughter and it can never leave him.

Shizuo exhales again, right to the side of Izaya’s face. “Are you…” he tries.

Izaya slides a hand into the space between Shizuo’s fingers and his mouth, between the end of the cigarette that’s warm from Shizuo’s lips and the lips themselves; it travels onward to touch his hair and pull.

Izaya closes his eyes right as their lips touch. He feels Shizuo move immediately, feels his shoulder flex as he throws away the cigarette he’s barely touched so he can touch the sides of Izaya’s face instead. Izaya breathes out against him because it’s better than moaning outright and sounding like he’s eighteen—but all Shizuo does is open his mouth like he’s been waiting for this for hours.

He tastes sweet and acidic like the beer he drank earlier. Izaya isn’t fond of cherries but he thinks, if he were to eat them directly from Shizuo’s mouth, that he could sustain himself on them alone.

He licks his lips when Shizuo steps back. He’s not very far, just enough that their noses aren’t knocking each other out of the way and they can look at each other without getting cross-eyed. Shizuo’s lips are red, and his cheeks as well.

“I wasn’t sure you were interested—”

“You have to be kidding me,” Izaya cuts in.

The hand he still has holding the back of Shizuo’s head trails downward until it touches skin; his fingers are shaking.

“Okay,” Shizuo says with another smile. “So I’m self-conscious.”

“What for—

Shizuo kisses him before he finishes, and all Izaya can do is close his eyes again and let himself be pushed gently against the alley wall and suck on Shizuo’s bottom lip like he can draw the affection out of it more fully like this. His body is getting hotter and hotter by the second, embarrassingly so.

He’s the one who cuts it off this time.

“If I could,” he says, moving his head back, “I would’ve climbed you two months ago right in the middle of that shitty café.”

Shizuo’s eyes have never looked so black. “Sorry,” he says, heated. “It’s just that I’ve never had anyone be this into me before. You’re pretty hot yourself.”

Izaya laughs. He bangs the back of his head against the wall a little, when he leans back completely; Shizuo pulls forward with the movement rather than stepping back, and it feels so good to just have this man holding him loosely, hands traveling down from Izaya’s face all the way to his sides. His heart is dancing in his chest and his lips feel like they’ve been branded. He doesn’t remember feeling this many butterflies for any of his teenage crushes.

“Shizuo,” Izaya says.

“Yeah?” he feels the answer like a caress on his neck. Shizuo is nuzzling it, and it’s almost enough to bring tears to Izaya’s eyes. “Izaya.”

It’s a different sort of attraction altogether. It bubbles out of Izaya like laughter and makes all the ice around his heart thaw, and it’s like feeling again completely, in a way he never thought he would again.

He feels fixed.

Mistaken | Alongside series | Make True

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