Inspired by tastewithouttalent’s story Any Other Name. Concept: Canon Izaya and AON!Izaya swich places for a day.

Rated: T

Length: 5,700


Izaya feels wrong even before opening his eyes. It has everything to do with the shattering feeling of arms wrapped around his middle, slack with sleep maybe, but it’s still the side of an elbow digging into his ribs and the furnace of a body stuck to his back. Through half-open eyelids he makes out the familiar angles of his bedroom freckled with unfamiliar things. There’s a picture on his bedside with silhouetted people he can’t recognize in the darkness. The body behind him is breathing damp on his nape, and what the heat of prolonged physical contact doesn’t cover his building panic is making up for until he can’t regulate his breathing anymore and his back slicks with cold sweat.

His heart thrums in his throat and he can’t breathe or swallow anymore, is getting dizzy from it, muscles aching from locking up so fast. He doesn’t get the privilege of grogginess; he’s wide awake and scared half to death, vision already blinking to white at the corners and temples aching under the pressure to pass out. He doesn’t let himself lose consciousness. He crushes the low whine in his chest before it can escape his lips and pushes himself up on shaking forearms. The hand over his chest falls down to rest at his hip, easy and practiced; Izaya exhales all the air in his body in one go and rips himself out of the bed, almost falling down before his feet catch balance against the cold floor.

For a moment he thinks of running out of the room without looking. If he can come back in a few hours to an empty house he’ll be able to compartmentalize it, to take the day off and focus on remembering when and why he got drunk enough to take someone to bed. But the thought has barely taken shape before his eyes are drawn to yellow hair spread across black sheets, and it’s Shizuo sleeping in his bed, naked or at least looking like it—there’s a blanket, Izaya’s blanket, still thrown across most of his body even after Izaya has dragged it aside in his hurry, and Izaya can’t look anymore.

He grabs the phone on his nightstand. His entire body is shaking from fear or adrenaline so much that he’s sure he’ll drop it. He steps into the pants folded over the chair next to the bed, doesn’t bother changing the shirt he’s wearing despite how it sticks to his back. There’s not enough room in him at the moment to find disgust for his own physical state.

Even his living room looks wrong, feels like he stepped into someone else’s life by mistake. There’s a creased pack of American Spirits thrown across the coffee table, a filthy ashtray permeating the scent of cold tobacco through the room. Izaya breathes through his mouth in short gasps until he reaches the front door. He can’t make a sound. He can’t wake Shizuo up, can’t risk whatever is happening being the last thing he experiences before Shizuo murders him.

It’s barely sunrise when he walks out of the building. The guardian at the front looks at him in surprise—it’s not the same one Izaya remembers from the night before, not the same not the same not the same—Izaya runs. He doesn’t look anywhere but in front of him anymore, doesn’t give even a cursory glance toward the florist outside his shop paying for the morning’s delivery or the staticky neon at the entrance of the convenience store. He doesn’t have anything on him except his phone, so he can’t take the subway. He runs until he reaches a park far enough from his apartment and sits down on the most secluded stone bench he finds. There’s a homeless woman sleeping a few feet away from him. He doesn’t look at her either.

There’s ice running through his veins instead of blood. His shivers are full-blown spasms and his phone slips twice between his fingers before he manages a secure enough grip on the damp plastic case.

It’s not a phone he recognizes. Not even one of those he uses very rarely, when he needs to stay anonymous for work. It looks well-used, and when he presses on a button the screen lights up to a picture of some countryside. It’s pretty but amateurish, probably taken with the crappy camera at the back, and Izaya has no memory of it.

The phone doesn’t unlock to any of his usual passwords. 5:07AM glares at him, white on greenery. Izaya almost jumps when it starts buzzing, breath catching in his throat when the contact name offers a simple Shizuo. Not Shizu-chan, not any of the made-up names he keeps the man’s number listed as on his public work phones. The phone buzzes for a minute, then stops, then buzzes again. His thumb aches from tension and his entire hand feels numb. He watches the bright voicemail notification fade to black and doesn’t feel like he’s alive anymore.

There’s no way he could be drunk enough to take Shizuo into his home, he thinks faintly. The homeless woman is stirring inside her sleeping bag now, is barking something at him, but his ears are ringing too hard for him to hear past his own blood beating against skin like it’s trying to flow out of his body. His breathing is slowing down now, shakes falling back to shivers along his arms. He remembers going to sleep the night before; he remembers Namie leaving with a parting bite around six in the evening, remembers staying slouched in his armchair and looking over forum threads and several of his inboxes. He didn’t go out. He showered and went to sleep, and he woke up with Shizuo all over him.

Izaya presses a hand to his lips. He can taste nausea on his tongue, bitterer for the way his eyesight still bleeds to white at the edges. He feels ready to faint but he makes himself stand up even as his legs buckle under his own weight, because if Shizuo is calling him then it means he’s looking for him.

He’s too far from Ikebukuro by foot, but he walks the distance anyway. Awareness sticks to him with every step he takes; his efforts to stare at the ground are meaningless, useless when he jumps every time he feels vibrations against his thigh from incoming calls and messages. He wants to turn off this phone—not his phone—but if he does he won’t be able to turn it on again, not without knowing the password. He can feel the weight of curious passersby looking at him when he falters but he doesn’t have the energy for embarrassment. Only fear.

“Izaya,” Dennis calls when he passes by Russia Sushi. Izaya looks up. There is not a hint of hostility in the man’s eyes. Izaya opens his mouth, but before anything can come out Dennis says, “Shizuo not with you today?” and Izaya freezes, cold like daggers stabbing between his ribs with every breath he takes.

“I’ve managed to escape the monster today,” he rasps. It’s a feeble attempt at a taunt and it dissolves before he can try to put any strength behind it because Dennis is outright staring now, like he doesn’t understand, like Izaya is the cause for surprise here. Simon’s silhouette is visible behind the glass doors to the restaurant and Izaya can’t stay here anymore.

He takes the phone out of his pocket when it buzzes again, quick, not a call. It’s a text from Shinra but he can’t unlock the screen to read it, is only allowed the preview of where are you? shizuo’s been calli… and nothing more.

He feels like he’s choking again. There are five text notifications and he can’t read any of them—he doesn’t know if he wants to read any of them.

At this hour most shops are still closed. Izaya needs a place to collect himself where he won’t risk being seen by people he’s supposed to know, but he can’t call in any favors. He drags his feet to an alleyway and sits down on a clean-looking box.

He doesn’t know how long he stays there. He can’t shake the feeling of Shizuo touching him like this, in his sleep, guard down, as if there was not a risk of Izaya slitting his throat open to bleed out on silk sheets. Shizuo had to have come here on his own, and it should make Izaya angry that he did, that he had the galls to just slip in for—for whatever this is, a prank, or a failed attempt on his life, even though Shizuo doesn’t care much about Izaya these days and never comes to seek him of his own volition anymore, and-

It’s like a distorted, twisted version of Izaya’s teenage wishful thinking. But it’s more of a nightmare than a daydream; and Izaya’s entire body feels bruised, as if he’s been punched instead of held.

For a while he doesn’t see anything. The bright entrance of the alley is swallowed whole as he heaves, greyed the same unappealing shade as the walls surrounding him. The street isn’t busy enough for noise to distract him. No one glances inside and sees him sitting on a box with his head between his knees while he chokes on every inhale.

His eyes are dry. It’s not much of a consolation.

The phone buzzes again for a long time. When he takes it out of his pocket with trembling fingers the screen is still lit on Shizuo’s name. Izaya types “0128” when asked for a password. The boring picture slides away and he doesn’t know what’s worse between this and the background picture he finds now—Shizuo, younger, looking at the camera and smiling. Izaya has never seen him look like this.

The gallery is full of those. Kadota, Shinra, Celty—his sisters, even Heiwajima Kasuka. Most of them are downloaded, a few were taken from the phone itself. And Shizuo, everywhere, from his teenage years to adulthood, missing the bartender outfit and bruised hands. He looks happier than Izaya has ever seen him. Each of them is in a mundane setting, restaurants or movie theaters or inside Izaya’s apartment. Candid, blurry, short habitual snaps of a life Izaya doesn’t know about. He’s not hyperventilating anymore but there are things crawling up his back all the way to his neck until he can feel little hairs rise at his nape. Shizuo is smiling in all of them.

He doesn’t remember any of them. He has no idea where they come from, and it must be someone else’s phone that he took. But his contacts are here, practically the same as he remembers. Missing a few. Added some more. This is Izaya’s phone.

His head shoots up when someone taps lightly on his shoulder. His left hand is halfway to his pocket before he realizes that it’s only Celty and that he doesn’t have a knife on him anyway.

Celty has her PDA out, Are you okay? written in a big enough font for him to read even with his sight still blurred.

“Just fine,” he says.

She nods once, drags the phone back to herself to type some more. When she hands it over again it reads Everyone is looking for you. What happened?

Who’s everyone, Izaya wants to ask. Instead he swallows back and attempts, “I have no need for you today, courier,” but he can’t hold up the pretense for more than a second. His voice shatters on the words like glass and he has to blink away from the lightless depth behind her visor.

Celty stares at him—as much as one can stare without eyes to see. She looks restless. Her gloved fingers fly over the screen of her PDA, and it takes her a while to decide on a message. Izaya doesn’t have it in him to care. He’s more exhausted than he has ever been in his life.

When she finally turns the screen to him, she doesn’t hand it over this time. She’s holding it close to her chest so he has to squint to make out the shape of hiraganas against the bright yellowish background.

Who are you, it says, without even the curtesy of a question mark.

“What do you mean?” Izaya replies feebly. He feels hollow all of a sudden. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten me. I’m hurt, truly I am.”

Celty shakes her helmet. You look like Izaya, but you don’t feel like Izaya, she types.

Izaya’s chest is tight, crushing. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he grits out. He wobbles on his feet when he stands to walk past her and into the light of the main street, but now there’s an obstacle in his way. He stops.

He’s never been touched by Celty’s shadow before. Threatened, yes, but nothing like the knot she just made around his foot. It’s not tangible. There’s nothing he can sense, no cold or hot—but it is physically blocking him, as surely as a chain would. She grabs his shoulder to turn him toward her.

Are you a shapeshifter? she asks then. You feel human, you just feel not-Izaya. There’s something weird. And then she frets and misspells her way through What have you done to him faster than Izaya can catch with his chest still thrumming painfully.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he repeats, and it comes out as a breath. “I haven’t done anything, as hard as this might be for you to believe.”

She watches him without a word for a moment. Izaya tugs uselessly against the shadow rope.

Are you possessed by something? she tries again, and Izaya snaps, “No,” louder this time. It’s a confirmation that something is not right as much as the pictures were but it does nothing to abate the tight grip fear has on Izaya’s entire body. He’s ready to break his ankle trying to escape her hold but he doesn’t get the time to try, because there’s Shizuo’s voice at the mouth of the alley, bright and loud.

“Celty, where did you-” Shizuo falls silent all at once. His forehead smoothes into relief and he voices, “Izaya,” softly, reverently, and Izaya feels every cell in his body turn to stone.

Where have you been?” He’s walking forward now, only a few steps away, and Celty is typing so frantically against her screen Izaya can see the device shake from where he stands half-turned away. “I tried to call you all morning, do you have any idea how…” He stops. Celty is shoving the PDA in his face and he blinks, reading over words Izaya can easily guess at.

Izaya should feel relieved at the sight of anger, familiar and overwhelming, etching into Shizuo’s features. It’s better than the smiles and it’s better than waking up held loose and easy in a parody of a lover’s embrace.

What have you done to Izaya,” Shizuo growls, crossing the distance between them and grabbing roughly at Izaya’s arm; but he doesn’t go any further, doesn’t land the punch Izaya expects. Izaya flinches away at the touch and Shizuo releases him immediately, empty fingers flexing in mid-air and a look on his face as confused and hurt as Izaya feels.

I am Izaya, he thinks to himself. He can’t speak yet. There’s terror now, from being trapped in place and from the weight of Shizuo’s anger—if that is Shizuo—that he cannot escape even if he tried.

“I haven’t done anything.” Shizuo is looking at him but it’s not just rage and it’s not just suspicion; his mouth is a frown of concern that he’s trying to bite away, and Izaya breathes out against the longing he can feel building up his throat and repeats, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. You and Celty both.”

Shizuo takes a breath. “She says you’re not Izaya.”

I am,” Izaya hisses. “I’m starting to wonder who you are. Too lazy to punch me today, Shizu-chan?” he taunts. He’s grasping at straws and he knows it. Anything would be better than how he feels right now, though, even broken bones.

But Shizuo only looks at him in confusion and asks, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m getting tired of this game,” Izaya says. “Just get it over with already. You had your fun. Beat me up and be on your way.”

Shizuo looks well and truly horrified now, angrier, more volatile. “If you’re going to impersonate someone at least do your goddamn homework,” he grunts, stepping closer again until Izaya has to stop himself from leaning backward.

“I have to admit I’m surprised,” Izaya says right in his face. “I was really feeling off-balance for a moment. Great décor and acting, but you can drop it now. Just punch me and get out.”

“I would never raise a hand on Izaya,” Shizuo answers, cheeks flushed with blood, and Izaya throws his head back and laughs.

It feels like tremors more than hilarity. He shakes with it, breath stubbed and painful, until his head feels like lead and his facial muscles hurt.

When he comes down from it there is no smile on his face. “Stop fucking with me, Shizu-chan,” he says.

It’s so much easier to let fury take over than it is trying to make sense of how febrile he feels. Rage is better than the shame of having let himself be fooled for a second of this charade. Izaya hates physical violence by principle, but now, with hours of panic in his lungs and a foot chained to the ground and anger knotting his every limb he feels his hands turn to fists and ready themselves to strike, the thought of breaking his own knuckles against Shizuo’s skin a relief so stark it makes his entire body go weightless.

Celty’s PDA is in his face before he can attempt it. What is your relationship to Shizuo? she’s asking, and Izaya has to take a handful of seconds to process the question.

“Celty?” Shizuo asks with a frown.

She waves him off, helmet still turned to Izaya out of politeness rather than need. Izaya smiles shakily. “Whatever game you’re playing, I’ll make you pay. Both of you.”

Answer the question, she replies.

“Not that you need a reminder,” he answers with narrowed eyes, “but he and I have hated each other for, oh, ten years or so now.”

“What,” Shizuo breathes softly, but Celty waves her hand again and keeps typing hurriedly.

I believe that you’re Izaya, she says. I think you’re not our Izaya, though.

Shizuo leans by Izaya’s side to read the words at the same time as he does. From this close Izaya can feel the air shift as he moves, like a tickle on his skin.

“I’d tell you to have your head checked if you weren’t already sorely lacking in that department,” he drawls. But Shizuo is staring at him now, brows furrowed, and he says to Celty, “So like, another Izaya? A different one?”

Celty nods.

“That’s crazy,” Shizuo scoffs. “There’s no way that could happen.”

For a moment there is only silence as she types her next words. Is it any crazier than my existence, or Saika’s?

Shizuo hesitates. “No,” he settles for. “You’re right, it’s not.”

“This is all very finely played,” Izaya interrupts sweetly. “It doesn’t mean I believe any of it.”

“You ran away because you were surprised, right?” Shizuo asks him directly. Izaya has to fight not to meet his eyes, not to let himself study the unprecedented sight of Shizuo looking at him with any kind of neutral expression. “This morning. You woke up with me in bed and it scared you, because we’re not together in your world.”

It could be the word itself or it could be the way Shizuo says it with such ease, together, like this is something real and long-known instead of a remnant of a child’s dream Izaya has spent years burying. “Enough,” Izaya snaps. “You got your laughs. You got whatever you wanted out of this farce.”

Celty brandishes her PDA again but Izaya slaps it out of her hand without reading. His ribs feel like they’re turning around to dig into his lungs and heart until he bleeds out just like this, standing, with no one the wiser. And then Shizuo’s fingers wrap themselves around his wrist in the lightest touch Izaya has ever known from him.

“Don’t touch me,” he warns.

“Don’t hit Celty,” Shizuo shoots back angrily. His grip doesn’t tighten.

Izaya grits his teeth and inhales until he feels full enough to burst. “I will murder you,” he says lowly. He’s lost all ability to keep hold over his voice and his emotions and now loathing is running out of him until he can’t recognize the sounds he’s making anymore. All he knows is hate, every word frost on his tongue. “For this, I will end you. I will end you.”

Shizuo’s eyes widen in disbelief; his hold slackens minutely, enough for Izaya to rip his hand away. His skin burns after the contact. He knows he won’t find the hint of a bruise to show for it.

His foot is still shackled; Celty hasn’t shown any desire to free him and he doesn’t think she will until he looks like he’s fallen for their nonsense. He won’t.

“We should go to your place,” Shizuo tells Celty. His eyes are still on Izaya. “See if Shinra can do anything.”

Shinra can’t do anything because none of this is real, Izaya thinks, but Celty is already holding up her phone, Maybe Shingen told him something about dimension travel written too bright for his eyes. He’s tired. He wants to pass out and wake up clueless. Amnesia is a coward’s way out and Izaya has never craved it more.

“So does this mean the real Izaya is stuck in another dimension?” Shinra asks brightly once Celty is done writing her piece.

I’m the real Izaya, Izaya thinks wearily. He’s sitting on the couch in Shinra’s living room, free to move at last but with no chance of escaping without getting caught. Shizuo is standing behind him and Izaya thinks he can feel his own skin peeling off from the heat of his stare. He doesn’t turn around.

Shinra is humming now, looking over Izaya like he wants to cut him open, see how he ticks. “You look a lot angrier,” he comments. “Are we still friends in your world? I hope I have better sense than this.”

The words sting even deeper than Shinra means them to. “There is no ‘my world’,” Izaya replies. “I’m not falling for any of this. You can give up now.”

“Your skills at denial are the same, at least.”

Shinra is moving away now, walking to the kitchen counter where he left a cup of coffee to cool down. He takes a sip before speaking again. “My dad did tell me about a similar case he encountered.”

This makes Shizuo shift behind the couch. “Really?” he says, hopeful.

“Yeah. A woman woke up completely disoriented, started crying when she met her sister that day. She kept insisting her sister was dead and she must be in heaven with her. Dad got the chance to talk to her; she told him about her life, and it was completely different from the one everyone else said she had.” Shinra stirs his coffee, pensive. “She woke up again the next day back to herself, but she kept asking her sister why she was gone from her house for an entire day and replaced with strangers.”

A stunned silence follows his words.

“So does that mean Izaya will just come back after a day?” Shizuo asks slowly.

“Well.” Shinra smiles. “Of course there’s no certainty. But let’s be hopeful. You’ve been glued at the hip since middle school. Even if he gets stuck there he’ll find a way back to you.”

Celty’s shoulder drops. Behind Izaya, Shizuo lets out a loud sigh.

“Ridiculous,” Izaya whispers. And then, louder: “You’re ridiculous. All of you. I can’t believe you’re still playing this game.”

“Did you have anything planned today?” Shinra asks Shizuo, ignoring him.

“We were supposed to meet with some Asuki guys and then get some ice cream with the twins, but I can cancel,” Shizuo says.

Izaya doesn’t think he can listen to this anymore. Celty aborts a movement when he stands up but Izaya only sneers at her and slides open the window to the balcony. He can’t lock it from the outside but he closes it all the way and leans against the wall, out of sight unless Shizuo or the others stick their faces to the clear glass.

Shinra’s place doesn’t look any different. There’s no treacherous ashtray or foreign scent to make him dizzy, nothing but clean unadorned space and furniture that still manages to look more lived in than izaya’s own. The balcony looks over the highway and today is especially bright, full spring with clear blue sky that makes the air feel colder than it really is. Sunlight is pouring over him. It’s not any different from yesterday’s weather.

Izaya takes the phone out of his pocket. It still lights up to the boring picture of mountains and dirt roads—Hokkaido, he thinks, but he’s never been there before and he doesn’t plan to ever go—and it still unlocks with Shizuo’s birthday date and to Shizuo’s smiling face, younger, softer.

There are a dozen missed calls, almost all of them from Shizuo, and about as many texts. He reads through the texts first.

did u go buy something

izaya? where are u

tried to call u, i know ur phones not turned off answer me pls


where are you? shizuo’s been calling us for half an hour. This one is from Shinra. There’s Celty next, Are you all right? and then Kadota, can you keep the lovers spats after 10am i have a night job you know.

Izaya doesn’t know how they got Kadota to join in on the joke. As far as he knows Kadota resents manipulation; but then again so does Shizuo, and Izaya woke up in Shizuo’s arms.

There are a few others, one from Mairu especially (are u cheating on shizu-nii!). None of them reads like resentment. If Izaya lets himself think about it he knows he’ll find they read like caring.

He calls the voicemail. This time he’s steeled himself for the sound of Shizuo’s voice, but even so he can’t stop the trembling in his fingers when he hears him.

“Hey,” Shizuo says, staticky over the line but unmistakably rough, as though he’s just woken up. “Been textin’ you but you’re not seeing it. Did you have something to do? When are you coming home? Call me.” The cold mechanical operator voice takes over after that, asking if Izaya wants to delete the message. He waits, breath catching, and the word home stuck to his brain like a tumor.

“It’s me again, I’m getting worried here,” Shizuo says, more awake now, soft under the sizzling noise inevitably created by distance and subpar sound entries. “Please call me back.”

There’s an hour-long interval between this voicemail and the next. ‘Today, 7:03AM’, the high robotic voice says, and then Shizuo again, out of breath as if he’s been running, words breaking on what Izaya knows is worry even if he refuses to believe it. “Izaya, please answer. No one’s heard anything and I don’t know where you went and. The last time you disappeared you- Please call me back, or Shinra, or anyone. I’m running all over town right now. I hope you’re okay. I love you.”

‘There are no new messages,’ the operator says. Izaya hangs up and tries to breathe.

His throat burns now. Swallowing his saliva feels like eating shards of glass or trying to drink down sand. He can’t move from his spot on the wall because motion would trigger whatever he’s holding in, would spill out the quivering creature inside him through vomit or tears, he’s not sure. He pushes against the wall, doesn’t let his legs fail him—if he sits down he will never stand up again. He can’t breathe because he’ll pant and he can’t open his eyes because he’ll cry and through it all Shizuo’s voice is in his ear, stuck on repeat and drowning out the sound of cars rushing below the bannister. I love you.

He hasn’t managed to settle by the time Shizuo himself slides open the window and steps outside. His hair catches the sunlight more softly than Izaya can recall—he looks different in casual clothes, worn out, like his edges have been eroded where Izaya’s have only gotten sharper. But then again, he’s not Izaya’s Shizuo. Izaya doesn’t belong here. Izaya isn’t the one Shizuo said those words to and he never will be.

“What have you done to me,” Izaya says.

Shizuo in this world doesn’t look at Izaya like he can only care enough to hate. His irritation is paired with concern, his frown touches his lips more than it does his forehead.

“I just wanted to see if you were-”

“Shut up,” Izaya cuts. He presses a fist against his own forehead. It’s easier to deal with the knowledge of everything he doesn’t have when he can’t see it standing in front him, haloed by the sun.

Not-Shizuo takes a breath. “So you’re—we really aren’t. Together. Where you come from.”

Izaya aches. “Shouldn’t you know?” he forces out. “You must’ve realized now. I’m not a good person.”

“That’s not-”

“Actually,” Izaya lifts his head. “Your Izaya, he’s probably playing you. Having a real good time of it too. That’s just the sort of person I am. The sort of person we are.”

He can’t have this. He can’t have a world of I love yous, of friends willing to call and enquire after his whereabouts when he disappears for a few hours. Izaya is burning, black goo for a soul and a monster living in his entrails, and he will destroy this glimpse of a possibility he never asked for.

“I bet he approached you first, isn’t that right?” Izaya asks, and takes a step toward Shizuo. “I bet he followed you around like a lost puppy, acting like you had to take care of him because he couldn’t do it himself. Poor, lonely Izaya, with his parents always so far away.” Izaya can see Shizuo swallow, can see confusion lose to acknowledgement in his brown eyes. “Did he call you his friend?” he mocks. “Did he act jealous around everyone you know so that you’d pay attention to him first?” He’s close enough to this shadow of his own Shizuo to touch him now, to lift a hand and press icy fingers to his cheek.

But then, for the second time that day, Shizuo takes him by the wrist, too gently, too practiced.

“Yeah,” Shizuo says simply. “He did all that and more. And he changed.”

There’s a loving smile on his lips. Electricity scorches Izaya at the sight of it, bright hot and agonizing.

“I get that you’re upset,” Shizuo continues simply. “I’m worried too. I don’t want him stuck in a world he doesn’t know. I don’t know what’s happening to him there,” his voice breaks at this. He clears his throat. “I just hope whatever happened to make you two switch happens again soon. I miss him.” I love him, he doesn’t say. Izaya hates himself for wanting to hear it.

“I’ll tell you what, though,” and now his eyes are darker, open with pity as he looks at Izaya, but Izaya can’t look away any more than he can escape the light hold at his wrist, “Even if it’s true what you said—that you hate me and I hate you, back in your world. Even if that’s true, I don’t think it’s too late.”

“You don’t know anything about me,” Izaya says.

“You’re right,” Shizuo agrees. “But I don’t believe there’s any version of me, in any universe, that can’t fall in love with you.”

The tip of Shizuo’s index rests at the veins inside Izaya’s wrist. He presses against the flutter of his heartbeat as if to quiet the creature at its source, and the creature whines low and hungry for the hopeless lies he’s feeding it.

Izaya falls asleep on Shinra’s couch. He wakes up in his own bed.

The cellphone on his nightstand is one he recognizes. It unlocks with his usual password and has a pre-made blue texture for background. The picture folder is empty except for snaps of random people in the streets and a few photos saved for blackmailing purposes. He has no unread texts but his mailbox is full. When he turns around to lie on his back Izaya can feel a damp spot on his pillow, as if someone has been crying here recently.

I love you.

Izaya gets out of bed and walks down the stairs to the living room. It doesn’t smell any differently than usual, if a little stuffy. He opens a window and leans out to watch the city unfold before him. Buildings pan out, hiding the line of the horizon where the sun is already rising purple and orange over uneven rooftops. Windows are lighting up. Namie will be here in a few hours to work, and this is as much time as he gets to find out what happened during his absence.

He doesn’t question how hollow he feels. This is his world and he will escape it the way he chooses; Celty’s head is hidden behind his bookshelf, locked in a safe, half-lidded eyes staring into a heaven he still hopes to reach.

His computer turns on with a soft wheezing sound. His right hand is still hot to the touch, or so it feels.

I love you.

He wants to hear it again.

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