Made a Fool Out of Us

Rated: T

Length: 7,000

Warnings: mostly implied transmisogyny.

Made A Fool Out Of Us

“I think we should stop seeing each other,” Shizuo grumbles. He’s halfway into a cigarette and speaking through his teeth, something he knows grinds through Izaya’s head like nails on a blackboard. It doesn’t stop the words from being heard by her. “For now.”

“Is that all?” Izaya replies.

She’s leaning against the wall, one foot pressed flat against it and pushing herself away and back rhythmically. Shizuo’s leaning against the wall too, but his is a heavy, tired lean, and he’s bathed in sunlight right out on the street. Izaya is inside the alley, on a different wall. In the building’s shadow.

It’s a little fitting.

Shizuo drags himself upright. He drops the cigarette and chokes the ember out with the sole of his shoe. When he turns toward Izaya again the stub left behind is almost reduced to dust.

“I’ll see you around,” he says without looking at her.

Izaya pushes herself off the wall and steps into the light, close enough to him that their chests are almost touching. She pats his breast pocket in a show of affection and fishes the lighter out while he’s busy looking anywhere but her mouth. “See you around, Shizu-chan,” she murmurs.

The lighter is still skin-warm, hidden inside her sleeve.

The parade of confused questions starts with Celty only a few hours later. Izaya was expecting to be left to stew for the rest of the day at least, but Celty’s not nearly as kind as she pretends to be, and Izaya has her doubts that behind the Dullahan’s well-meaning texts is a wall of suspicion.

He has his reasons, she sends off while her last client of the day is talking. And whatever I feel on the topic is none of your business.

I just don’t understand why he would break up with you unless something happened, Celty replies only a few seconds later.

Izaya snorts softly. What she means is that she doesn’t understand why Shizuo would leave Izaya unless Izaya did something to him.

Well, she isn’t getting an answer.

Izaya starts feeling Namie’s eyes burn through the skin of her nape a few minutes later, so the rumors must already have spread online. The young entrepreneur Izaya is seeing is sweating heavily on his side of the leather couch—when the sun is this high up her living-room is like an oven unless she turns on the AC. She doesn’t. People are more eager to please her with the promise of escaping the heat.

She shifts her legs and feels a drop of sweat run down her calf from the crease of her knee. Behind her, Namie sighs in displeasure. She’s given up on decency and is only wearing one of Izaya’s T-shirts, and judging by the awkward way she moves—how close she keeps her arms to her sides—Izaya guesses that her deodorant isn’t working too well anymore.

It’s not any worse that Izaya’s own state at the moment. It’s always soothing to think of Namie crawling around feeling nothing but discomfort and irritation, though.

The man accepts the tea Namie brings but doesn’t touch it. It would help with the thirst and the sweating, Izaya thinks while sipping hers, but it’s not like the man has proved to be especially smart since he got here. His father’s moderately wealthy business is falling apart under his less-than-stellar jurisdiction. He’s got just enough money left to buy information on his rivals from Izaya. The suit he’s wearing is old and his shoes don’t shine so much anymore.

Izaya has already given away all she has on him to his rivals for half the price she’s making this man pay, but she is in a bad mood.

“So?” Namie says before the door has even closed behind Fujimoto. Izaya pushes the lock in, straining her wrists slightly. The sound it makes is ominous.

“So what?” she replies, making a line for the kitchen instead of the living-room.

The vent on the ceiling starts turning while she’s fishing iced tea out of the refrigerator. She hears Namie’s heels hit the floor on her way to the hallway and crouches to open the cupboard under the sink so she doesn’t have to see her.

Heiwajima,” Namie spits out. “Is it true?”

“Shizu-chan and I aren’t together anymore,” Izaya says.

Namie sputters a little indignantly. She probably snapped to whoever fed her the information that it couldn’t be true, with flowering expletives to boot. It makes Izaya smile fleetingly.

“You broke up with him?” Namie walks forward and stops short of actually pulling Izaya up by the arm—probably out of disgust for human contact in general and human contact with Izaya especially.

Izaya stands up slowly. Her knees crack at the movement. “He broke up with me.”

“That’s impossible,” Namie scoffs.

“And yet,”—Izaya slams the cupboard’s door shut with her bare foot—”he did.”

Namie’s face is every shade of indignation when Izaya turns toward her. It makes her laughter get stuck in her throat and the muscles in her back spasm a little uncontrollably; the back of her dress is sticky against her skin and with the AC on she can tell that her nape is wet with the heat, her hair damp despite the high bun she’s tied it as in the morning. Namie looks halfway between incredulity and rage, and though Izaya knows there’s not a hint of anger in it that is on Izaya’s behalf or in her defense, she still thinks Namie is somehow angrier that Shizuo broke up with her than she would’ve been the other way around.

Izaya pats her shoulder briefly when she exits the room. Mirth is still shining inside her like a beacon, which is better than the alternative.

As she expected, her inbox is full when she sits down at her desk. Only Celty has texted her so far but she doesn’t doubt that her sisters will chime in soon enough, as well as a few other people she has a feeling were waiting for this opportunity. For better or worse.

As if to prove her right, Kida Masaomi calls her. Izaya watches her phone buzz frantically with her lips stretched into a tight smile. Once Masaomi is done talking to her voicemail, she deletes his message.

“You can’t avoid the entire world,” Namie says warningly from her desk.

“You can stop talking now,” Izaya replies, “or I can just not pay you for today’s work.”

Namie stops talking.

It’s not long before Izaya has to cut off her phone entirely. Half of the notifications she’s glimpsed are death threats and the other are gossip bait, and though the latter sound even more annoying than the first she doesn’t intend to have anything to do with either.

She’s grateful enough as it is that no one has knocked on her door who wasn’t scheduled to. If possible she would’ve preferred Shizuo did what he did late in the night than right before his morning shift, or that he had waited the whole day before texting Celty that he was done with Izaya—and that Celty had waited before talking about it online and igniting the spark that would turn to wildfire.

“I’m going out,” Izaya announces.

“You’ll get killed,” Namie replies.

Izaya chuckles. “Don’t worry. I can defend myself.”

“I’m not worried—” But Izaya is on her way upstairs now, taking the steps two by two until she reaches the bathroom. “I’m not worried!” Namie yells in the distance. “I wish you would die—”

Izaya shuts the door behind herself.

Outside is warm but not suffocating. The second half of April has been clement to them all, days upon days of sun and dry, warm wind, the kind of weather that has entire families in parks sitting on the grass for no other reason than to feel the light on their skin. Children laughing and dogs barking and the mill of the city’s life slowed down to a more languid pace. Izaya’s stroll ends up taking her to Ikebukuro rather than her immediate neighborhood like she had vaguely planned to. She’s not too surprised about it, though. No better way to find out how everyone is taking the news, exactly.

She’s dressed as inconspicuously as she can stand to be, dark jeans and a dark shirt and only the faintest hint of platinum on her fingers and around her neck. Her engagement ring is in her pocket. Simon still waves at her before she’s in his direct line of sight, and she sighs with some relief before gesturing back.

She doesn’t jump when someone slaps her shoulder firmly, but it’s a close thing. “Hey,” Kadota says, stepping up to her level and staring at the side of her face.

“Hey,” Izaya replies without turning to look at him.

“Great weather, huh?”

She doesn’t answer. Someone growls at them from behind, telling them to move, so Izaya steps aside and lets the woman walk between herself and Kadota with the vague hope that she’ll be able to lose him for the second she needs to escape. Kadota follows her step for step, though, because he hasn’t lost all the reflexes he grew around her and Shizuo in high school. In the end, they both end up stuck to the devanture of a crappy jewelry shop with no one around for Izaya to use as a distraction.

“You okay?” Kadota asks with his darkest, deepest voice. She knows he means concern, but he’s always been a bit of a awkward boy, so all it sounds like is gravelly boredom.

“I’m just fine, Dotachin.”

“Don’t call me that.” And, God, he’s turning to face her outright now, and extending his hands to grab her shoulders gently in reassurance. “Listen, I know we’re not exactly the closest friends, but—”

“Kadota,” Izaya says coldly.

He releases her.

She makes herself smile, and she knows the result isn’t sweet so much as concerning. “Shizu-chan is a big boy. I’m a big girl. I’ll be okay.”

“But you’ve always—”

“What do you want me to do?” she cuts in. “Force him to take me back?”

He’s silent for a moment before answering. When he does, it’s a little miserable. “No. Of course not.”

She doesn’t see his group anywhere nearby. It could be that he asked them to stand back, but Izaya doesn’t think Karisawa or her friend have it in them not to pick at every scab that involves Izaya or Shizuo in any fashion. It’s almost obsessive, sometimes, and not anywhere near the flattering way.

Izaya’s long given up on thinking any kind of excess attention given to her can be flattering. It makes life easier to navigate when she expects people’s obsession before it happens.

Shizuo has always been the exception to that rule.

Kadota is still looking at the side of her face like he’s hoping enough of his surface caring is going to fix the situation. Izaya knows herself enough to admit that she would’ve grasped at the show of it with abandon had she been truly hurting; she’s not hurting, though.

She’s in the process of turning away from her former classmate when she notices the knife that the man behind Kadota is holding, and her own falls into her hand with a flick of her wrist. “Dotachin,” she barks, but it’s useless, because he’s not attuned to her like Shizuo is, no one is, so all he does is look at her in surprise and not dodge.

She swears under her breath and slams her own body into his until he topples sideways. They both start falling, and her assailant’s knife grazes her elbow in the process, cutting through cloth but thankfully not skin. She has enough of a clear mind to trip him on his way, and though she crashes across Kadota uncomfortably at least she has the comfort of hearing him crash, much more painfully, into the glass window of the jewelry shop.

Kadota takes a second longer to understand what happened. “Hey,” he shouts at the man currently holding his head with both hands where he bashed it against the window. It’s bleeding between his fingers, and his knife is on the ground.

He seems to come to his senses before Kadota can untangle himself from Izaya and rise up to his feet. He takes in the knife still held firm in Izaya’s hand and the fist Kadota is making of is—the hat Kadota is wearing which paints him as the appearance of the Dollars, dangerous too, if not as dangerous as if he had come while Izaya was under Shizuo’s protection. He lets out a strangled cry of frustration and flees into the crowd.

“Damn it,” Kadota hisses. He’s patting the back of his head with careful fingers. They’re free of blood when he brings them up to his face, which makes him sigh.

Izaya slides the knife back into its holster at her forearm. “Thanks for breaking my fall,” she says with a smile.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t mention it.”

They look at each other in silence. Kadota still looks like he’s got some worry to share, but he must see for himself how little Izaya wants to hear it.

“I was gonna tell you to be careful, but…” he admits.

“I’m used to it,” Izaya replies. “I don’t need protection.”

His face says he doesn’t believe her, but that’s okay. It’s a little touching, in a way, to be on the receiving end of Kadota’s chivalry. She’s never witnessed it from this end before.

Kadota tugs his beanie over his forehead and says, “Take care.”

“You too, Dotachin.”

She watches him go until she can’t anymore, until he’s been swallowed by the veins of the city. Simon has relocated from this square to another, but she can still hear his booming voice if she focuses, and she doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of this concern. No matter how nice the free sushi would be.

Izaya makes her way forward to the heart of the district, hoping she won’t be noticed and hoping she will be, and if she smiles at the sight of a fist imprint into the hood of a car only one street away from where she and Kadota got attacked, it’s nothing but the usual.

The following day, someone does knock at Izaya’s door who wasn’t scheduled to. She knows who it is before opening it because she can see the swarm of reporters and the flashes of cameras from her windows, and because Hanejima Yuuhei’s agent was kind enough to warn her five minutes before the man himself got here.

“This is a bit much,” she declares after two seconds of looking into Kasuka’s empty eyes. He’s got his cat over his shoulder like it’s just another expensive accessory.

The cat meows at her.

“It would mean a lot to me if you would hear me out.” There is not a trace of emotion in the man’s voice when he speaks.

Izaya looks at the ceiling, because it’s better than rolling her eyes outright. “Come in.”

Namie doesn’t care enough about fame to be fazed. She’s strolling around Izaya’s apartment wearing the same jeans and tank top she was the day before, despite Izaya’s not-very-subtle offers to let her inside her closet once more. Izaya is wearing a green sundress for the work appointment she has scheduled.

“You look lovely,” Kasuka says, monotone.

“Thank you,” Izaya replies in kind.

Namie brings their tea with a snarl on her lips. It’s iced this time, and the AC is on. Kasuka’s cat jumps down from its master’s lap and takes to sniffing around the coffee table like the thing is about to hurt him.

“What can I do for you?” Izaya asks. She folds her legs under herself on the couch and drinks her tea out of a straw. It’s not like Kasuka is going to care how she presents herself.

“I am sorry for what my brother did,” Kasuka answers.

In all twenty-five years of her existence, Izaya has yet to discover anything that unnerves her more than the way Shizuo’s little brother speaks. Kururi may be monotonous but she has the advantage of speaking soft and heartfelt; Kasuka’s voice sounds like all ability to feel has been physically ripped out of him. He could be telling her about the weather in this tone, or he could be holding a knife to her throat and threatening to cut her limbs off one by one.

She doesn’t think he’s the kind to do it. But then again, he’s dating a monster who has done it before.

Izaya puts her glass down on the table between them. “Your brother hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Then you must have,” Kasuka says simply.

It gets a chuckle out of her. “Yes,” she repeats easily. “Surely, I must have.”

“Either way,” Kasuka continues, even. “I came here to ask you to take him back.”


“Please.” His tone doesn’t change when he slides down from the couch and falls into a kneeing position on her carpet.

Namie gasps softly, and Izaya feels a rush of something electric up her spine and into her head, until her face feels warm and the room around her is blurry. “Stop,” she says before he can achieve a full dogeza. “Stop right this second, you freak—”

“I’m ready to beg,” Kasuka offers, as if it’s as simple as that. “I don’t mind.”

Izaya bites the inside of her lips until she can taste heat and iron. “Get up,” she growls.

Kasuka obeys.

She breathes in shakily while he sits on her couch once more. When she reaches for her drink her hand is trembling, and she knows her face is still warm. “I’m not taking Shizuo back,” she says when she’s about sure that her voice won’t crack.

“Please consider it,” Kasuka insists, bowing his head.

“Why do you care?” Izaya asks. She takes a sip of cold tea before the speaks again—her throat feels sore. “You never thought me dating him was a good idea. Even after your mom and dad came around and started inviting me for dinner.”

Kasuka is looking at her, and she thinks what he means to convey is disbelief. “You’re engaged to him.”

“Was engaged to him,” she corrects him.

He doesn’t quite make a face. “I don’t believe that my brother would just suddenly break up with the love of his life.”

It’s always something to be referred to as such. Now is not as powerful as when Shizuo says it, but Kasuka makes a pretty strong second. Izaya feels her heart climb up her throat and her eyes water too easily, like they have every time.

“You’ve been his only long-lasting girlfriend,” Kasuka says dispassionately.

“I’ve been his only girlfriend,” Izaya retorts in a low voice. “Don’t you think he deserves the right to experience more than just me before settling down?”

Kasuka stares at her. “Is that what he told you?” he asks.

Shizuo didn’t tell her anything. It’s only fitting that she let the suspicion of his being a complete jerk bloom inside his brother’s head. “That’s none of your business,” she answers.

Kasuka’s cat rubs its face against her bare leg. She ignores it until it start licking her, by which point she decides that she really doesn’t want to risk it planting its tiny claws into the fine leather of her furniture, and she pushes it away with her foot gently. It meows but walks off.

“He’s not going to bite you,” Kasuka comments offhandedly.

“Rather my leg than my couch,” she retorts.

Kasuka finishes his tea slowly and silently. From the corner of her eyes Izaya can see Namie staying clear of the windows, which means that the crowd he brought with him is still standing firm at the foot of the building, cameras probably raised to the air in hope of catching a glance of Hanejima Yuuhei’s mysterious host. Izaya can’t think that Namie would enjoy seeing a blurred picture of herself printed onto every local tabloid with the headline, Yuuhei’s Mistress?

“I think it’s time you left,” Izana says with finality. She turns her head to look at Kasuka again; the cat is rubbing against his leg now, claws digging into the soft of her carpet, purring. “Your monster girlfriend is probably wondering why you jumped at the occasion to come see me upon learning I was single.”

“Ruri trusts me,” Kasuka replies. “If I were having an affair I wouldn’t lie to her about it.”

“Or she’d kill you?” Izaya mocks.

All Kasuka does is bow his head in acquiescence. Izaya walks him to the door and runs her fingers between the roots of her hair and the elastic band holding it together. She tugs at it harshly despite the pain, until all of it falls free down her back. Her scalp tingles from being released of tension. Her hair is going to get annoying again in a few minutes when she’s hunched over her desk and trying to work, but for now, it feels better that way.

Kasuka opens the door to the hallway. He bows down to pluck his cat from the ground before the thing can run off toward the stairs or the elevator, and it gives another pitiful cry, struggling weakly for a few seconds before letting its master hold it close.

It’s a familiar sight and a familiar feeling, she thinks, bitter.

“Have a good day,” Kasuka tells her.

She smiles. “Get lost,” she replies.

Izaya went to her graduation ceremony with two uniforms on. Her skirt was tucked into her black pants and her blouse hidden under the red sweater and black jacket she had worn for three years. She sat amidst all the other kids getting their diplomas and flowers and having their pictures taken by eager parents or friends. Her parents weren’t there, and she didn’t have friends.

“Finish your studies before anything,” her mother had said, brisk and cold like crisp spring wind.

It was in the same wind that Izaya stopped walking after the sitting-down-and-smiling was over. She hid behind the trees surrounding the tennis courts and dropped her pants and took off her shirt and jacket. She left the shirt and pants behind but she kept the jacket around her shoulders, above the red blouse she had bought for the occasion.

And then she ran to the entrance and waited, perched over one of the bench farthest away from the main gates, for Shizuo to walk by.

As she had hoped, he was one of the last to exist the gym. She hesitated when she saw Shinra and Kadota by his sides—and even more at the sight of the boy shadowing Kadota’s steps, not completely alien to her but not someone she had actually talked to before.

By then it was too late. Shizuo turned his head as if led by scent alone, like an animal; he saw her sitting there, and she saw his face tense up in rage and disgust.

Izaya,” she heard him say, despite the distance, despite the cold, crisp spring breeze.

He hadn’t called her by any other name in months, as if he had never known any other name to call her by. And as always, it made something trill inside her like a bird’s song—or like the need to kick an anthill. Irresistible, dizzying, wonderful.

She jumped to her feet and wiped down the length of the skirt with damp hands. Shizuo was walking toward her in strides that Shinra, Kadota, and the Togusa boy were struggling to keep up with. A lot of it had to do with how much time they were losing staring at her outfit.

“Congratulations on graduating,” she said when he was close enough for danger.

“Get away from my face,” he snarled in answer.

“You’re the one who came all the way here to—” she stopped talking to dodge the fist he threw her way. It was half-hearted at best, which made her chest feel warm. “I don’t have anything nefarious planned,” she tried again.

“You always have something planned,” he retorted.

“Well. Yes. But not something detrimental to you, this time.”

Everything was a matter of perspective, of course.

She knew Shizuo wouldn’t hit her. He hadn’t hit her in months. Not since she had told him what she had never told anyone except Shinra and her own parents.

Izaya grabbed the lapel of her jacket and popped the second button free with deft fingers; she spent a second longer tugging on the black threads hanging from the holes in it, and then she blew on it to eliminate dust she knew wasn’t there—her eyes level with Shizuo’s now-blushing face.

“Are you serious?” Kadota let out by Shizuo’s side. Togusa elbowed him, not very subtly.

Izaya walked up to Shizuo’s level. He watched her approach the way he would a feral animal, staring fixedly at the hand she kept in front of herself, as if he was waiting for her to pull a knife out of thin air and stab him.

“You know,” Shinra said conversationally once she was standing right in front of Shizuo, “usually the boy is the one who—”

“Shut up, Shinra,” Izaya said, at the same time as Shizuo said, “Shut it.”

Shinra closed his mouth.

“No one’s forcing you all to be here,” Izaya continued. She raised both her hands to Shizuo’s jacket and opened it slowly, and his face became redder, a bright, burned color. She wasn’t sure hers was much better.

She slid the button into the breast pocket of his white uniform shirt; before she could take her hand back, Shizuo breathed in like a drowning man, and the full of his chest made contact with her palm warmly.

Shiki takes to gossip like a fish takes to water. He doesn’t make time for it on the days he sees Izaya at the back of his car, because those days are when he just doesn’t have the time, or the energy. But on the rarer days he likes to feed her while he negotiates with her, she knows she’s in for more idle conversation than working one.

The idle conversation has never before strayed into personal territory. This time, it’s what he opens the meeting with.

“There are rumors,” he tells her before she’s done sitting down, “that you and Heiwajima Shizuo are over.”

“There always are,” she replies.

He slides a magazine across the table so she can see the picture on the front of it—herself, and Kasuka, standing at the opening of her door. Half of her face is hidden by Kasuka’s silhouette. The photograph tried to edit the picture to make it look not as if they’re kissing, but as if the possibility of there having been a kiss is hovering close and heavy.

“I’m famous,” Izaya smiles, opening the rag to the article in question. She scans it briefly for her name, but it’s thankfully nowhere to be found. She’ll have to find some blackmailing material on both the writer and the paparazzi for future reference, though.

“My more reliable sources saw you fall into that former gang boy’s arms in the middle of the street,” Shiki says against the rim of his glass of beer. “Reportedly.”

“Must not be very reliable sources if they missed the guy who tried to stab me when that happened.” Izaya folds the magazine and places it in her handbag, giving Shiki a curt nod as a thank you.

She can’t tell whether the place he’s taken her to is fancier than his usual addresses. On the one hand, the waiters are wearing shirts. On the other hand, Shiki looks like he hasn’t shaved in two days and has something suspiciously like a blood stain on the sleeve of his jacket. She doesn’t think he’s noticed it.

“He broke up with me,” she says, stirring the syrup and soda in her glass slowly. The glass was there before she arrived; Shiki knows what her order is.

When she looks at his face again, his expression is unreadable. “I’m sorry to hear it,” he says, with all the appearance of polite sympathy.

Her pasta arrives before she can decide if he’s lying or not. It’s cooked and seasoned how she likes it best.

They discuss work over lunch. Shiki pushes a few more newspaper clippings and folders across the table for her to skim while they eat. It’s a pleasant moment for the both of them, she thinks, and by the time dessert arrives and Shiki offers not to split the bill for once she doesn’t think she is imagining the hopeful glint in his eyes.

Still, she doesn’t say anything. Not when he pays for everything they ate out of his own pocket and not when he offers to give her a ride home. She takes a seat at the back of his car and doesn’t look at the driver—who is looking at her—and Shiki stays silent the entire drive, until they exist Toshima and reach the heart of Shinjuku.

He turns toward her bodily, then, despite the cramped space of the car, and he asks: “I don’t suppose I can hope for dinner as well?”

Izaya clenches the car’s door until her knuckles turn white. “No,” she replies.

He stares at her for a moment longer before bowing his head in acceptance. She releases the breath she was holding and opens the door—she is immediately hit by hot wind and the smell of flowers. From behind her, Shiki says: “Thank you.”

“What for?” she mutters without looking at him.

“For not toying with me.”

She clenches her teeth; tugs the collar of her jacket close around her throat as if she can prevent the cold there from taking over.

The walk up the stairs of her building is a longer one than usual. Her feet ache inside her flats the way they do on the rare occasion she wears heels. The last time she wore heels was for Christmas with Shizuo, when he proposed to her.

She opens the door to her apartment with panting breaths and shaking hands. It closes loudly behind, and she hears Namie tell her to watch it from the living room before she’s even done throwing her keys into the clay pot Kururi made for her when she was six. It rests next to the scented plant her father gave her two years ago.

“You’re dismissed,” Izaya calls when she enters the open living space. For once she wishes the windows weren’t quite so bright.

Namie has the gall to raise an eyebrow at her. “Did something—”

“I am,” Izaya cuts in with a growl, “this close to firing you and leaving you for Nebula to collect. You really don’t want to push me right now.”

And maybe Namie is right to look this offended, she thinks blearily. Maybe she’s right to open her mouth next and say, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re PMS-ing.”

Izaya kicks a chair over in her direction. It lands on the floor with a loud crack despite the soft carpet covering polished wood, and it attempts a pathetic roll forward for lack of a surface to actually slide on. In the end it doesn’t even approach Namie enough to frighten her.

“Sorry,” Namie says evenly.

Izaya rubs a hand over her face, make-up be damned. “Me too.”

She spends a very long time in the shower after that. She feels like she can’t get warm no matter how high up she turns the water’s temperature or how red her skin becomes under the spray. She washes her hair twice in the hope that time will do what the steam can’t. It’s useless—when she steps out she’s shivering, and all that she’s gained is weakness all through her body.

She falls on top of her bed wearing nothing but a towel. She gets rid of it when she gathers enough energy to crawl under the sheets proper, and they’re unmade, still, because she hasn’t actually slept in her bed much lately. Her couch is comfortable enough for one.

Face half-buried into her pillow, she reaches out to touch her bedside table blindly. She manages to open the first drawer without having to rise up from her horizontal position, and then it’s easy enough to drag her fingers against the bottom of the drawer until her skin catches against cold metal.

She pulls the engagement ring out and brings it level to her face.

It’s a very simple thing. Shizuo always joked that he would make her pay for the button thing one day, and he has—by buying her a platinum band with their names engraved inside, probably equivalent to more than Shizuo can afford with his farce of a salary. Even though they can’t get married.

“Whenever we can,” he had said.

As if it was that easy.

Izaya puts the ring on her finger, and then runs her hand over the empty space by her side where Shizuo hasn’t slept in two weeks. The sheets are cold. She tugs her blanket tighter around herself and tries to find sleep through sheer strength of will.

May fourth falls on a Sunday. Izaya spends the morning watching TV with hot tea and crackers, dressed in one of Shizuo’s shirts that he hasn’t come by to fetch and a pair of shorts she fished out of the pile of clothes Mairu has someone deliver to her house every first Saturday of the month.

She doesn’t usually get birthday calls until noon, and the people who only care enough to text often don’t remember to do so until evening has come. She woke up to a happy twenty-sixth from Celty and proceeded to send back a somewhat sardonic confetti emoji. That was the extent of her celebration so far.

It’s not very hard to guess who the person ringing at her door at eleven in the morning is, even before she looks through the peephole and sees Shizuo’s face half-hidden behind the bouquet he’s holding up.

She opens the door.

The light bulbs in the hallway were changed recently. Whoever did it put in white ones instead of yellow ones, so now everyone who stands under them for too long starts looking like they just stood up from an operating table. Izaya knows her neighbors have started complaining to the building’s owner. Shizuo’s skin and hair are washed of all blood and color, but she doesn’t stop looking at him, and he doesn’t move away from her scrutiny.

Finally, he says, “You didn’t fall for it for a second, did you.”

She laughs.

It takes her by the throat like someone trying to strangle her and it shakes her body from belly to chest to the tip of her toes. She has to lean sideways against the frame of the door before she can loose her balance altogether, and then she keeps laughing, until her chest aches, until her eyes water.

Shizuo puts the flowers down at their feet; her hand finds its way to his hair almost immediately and doesn’t stop gripping it even when he’s standing again and towering over her. She pushes his head downward until their mouths meet and their teeth knock together.

He grabs her hips like his hands will burn if he doesn’t, sucks at her bottom lip like it’s the source of all life, licks into her mouth as if he’s spent the last two weeks in absolute cold and can only find warmth again through her. Izaya stands on her toes to deepen the kiss, considers shoving him against the wall of the hallway for more balance, regardless of the old lady next door who already hates her and would probably call the police on them if she saw them. But Shizuo is stepping forward into the apartment, pushing her along with him, until he can fumble the door shut between them.

Then she can shove him against it.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder but what Izaya feels is more heat than heart, more groin than chest. Shizuo’s hands come up from her hips to her ribs and drag the hem of her shirt up with them, so that he can slide his fingers underneath and pressed full-palmed against her skin, hot and vibrant, thumbs stroking the underside of her breasts.

He turns his head away to break the kiss before they can take it further. “You must be tired,” he declares.

Izaya bites his cheek lightly. “I’m getting very tired of people deciding things for me,” she replies.

It makes him look at her again, but in concern rather than want. “What do you mean?”


“Izaya,” he says lowly. He takes hold of the wrists she’s left resting on his shoulders while they kissed. “Did you fall for it?”

“No,” she replies between her teeth. “Do you think I’m stupid enough to believe you’d suddenly leave me like this?”

He stares at her for a moment. She turns her head to the side, to the jasmine her dead gave her. She can’t smell it at all from here because all she can smell is Shizuo and sweat.

“You’re still wearing the ring,” he says. His fingers run from the back of her hand to her ring finger and spin the ring around it appreciatively.

“I had to take it off during your little game,” she murmurs. Her next words come out muffled against his neck, right on his skin so she can feel him shiver. “No one would’ve believed it otherwise.”

“I was supposed to prank you. Not have you prank other people.”

“You’ll need to work on that,” she drawls. He chuckles, and the sound vibrates through his skin and through hers.

He digs the fingers of his other hand into her hair and tugs gently, until she has to lean her head back and look up.

“You were lonely,” he says.

Izaya’s never really mastered the art of lying to him. “It’s nothing.”

“Shit.” He straightens up from his slouch against the door; Izaya’s weight falls back to the heels of her feet. She hadn’t realized she was still straining upward like this. “I shouldn’t have done it.”

“I liked it,” she says truthfully. “Very manipulative of you.”

He snorts. “This is all because you told me you wanted me to keep you on your toes.”

She had done that. It hadn’t sprung to her mind when Shizuo ran his show of a break-up, although she knew instantly that none of it was real, but she remembers it now, she remembers saying this while laying on top of him with sweat cooling off her back and his arms crossed around hers. She had meant it as a joke.

She frees her hand from his and takes hold of his nape, tugging his face down gently so she can kiss him again. This time it’s nothing but soft and satiated, the way they kiss after sex. “I liked it,” she repeats.

He doesn’t look so skeptical anymore.

She fetches his flowers from where he left them in the hallway. There is no sign of her annoying neighbor anywhere, not even that she left the privacy of her loft to check on Izaya like she sometimes does. Izaya picks up the roses and takes them to the kitchen, where Shizuo is upending the other thing he brought and which turns out to be a bagful of groceries.

“I’m cooking,” he declares.

“I have no intention of stealing your spotlight in this,” she answers with a smile.

He rolls his eyes at her.

Izaya places the flowers in the only empty vase she owns, another gift from her father; it’s a thick glass thing with a layer of dust on it that she needs to rinse off first. It looks good with fresh water and fresh flowers in it, though. Sunlight shines though it as it would a prism, and instead of a shadow, all it leaves is fractured light all over the coffee table, streaks of pink and blue and green that make her eyes water when she looks at them for too long.

Her phone buzzes in her pocket. She takes it out and answers the call without checking the ID first. “Happy birthday,” says Namie’s voice, “and fuck you.”

“That’s the plan,” Izaya replies, smirking.

Namie hangs up on her. It isn’t long before Shizuo is done cooking, and Izaya spends that time going through every email she gets, every eyewitness account of Shizuo going to her place with flowers in his hands on the day she was born. The death threats she received—the ones that haven’t been made into attempts—now come back as begs for mercy and understanding, as desperate pleas for confusion or mistakes or hacking.

It’s hilarious, how much power they all think she holds.

“What’re you laughing at?” Shizuo calls while he brings her soup and bread.

“Nothing,” she says. She makes room for him to sit down next to her and accepts the napkin he gives her that he must’ve fished out of the cupboards she never opens. He knows the kitchen better than she does. “People just really thought you’d left me.”

“They wouldn’t have if you didn’t play it like I did.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” She kicks his calf lightly with the ball of her foot, and he grunts, but doesn’t stop eating. “Animal.”

“What does that make you, I wonder.”

She doesn’t answer. She’s been with him long enough that she knows what he means with those snide remarks and what he doesn’t mean, and at the moment all the feels is warmth from the sun and from his body next to hers and from the bowl in her hands.

This warmth is meant to last.

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