Warnings: transphobia, violence.
Shizuo doesn’t exactly recall a moment of pure revelation regarding Izaya. Every truth he could possibly learn about the other boy is generally drowned by the memory of their first meeting and the flush of instant rage that shakes him to the core every time he sees him. For the longest time after that fate-like day on the soccer field he didn’t realize Izaya was a presence at all outside of his own fuming thoughts—could barely extend awareness of a life proper to Izaya to Shinra, and then later Kadota. So he didn’t notice the talking. Not at first.
He expected Izaya to be known around school, for the simple reason that the contrary seems unfathomable to him. There’s no way he can be alone in feeling disgust run up his spine when their eyes meet, when he can feel the other hovering somewhere close like an overgrown insect. And true enough, he notices unease on some of his classmates’ faces when the name is brought up, and sometimes fear.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Shinra tells him when he asks. “Orihara-kun is really simple to understand once you get used to him.”
“I don’t want to get used to him,” Shizuo replies. “And I’m not fucking scared, I’m just wondering why everyone is.”
Shinra smiles briefly at that. “Some of them probably remember that time he stabbed me in middle-school,” he offers.
For a fleeting second Shizuo can’t make out any meaning behind the other’s words. And then, “What the fuck,” he says. His hand is about to crush the back of his chair into little pieces, splinters are already burrowing into the skin of his knuckles, almost painlessly. “He’s the one stabbed you?”
“I’ll kill him,” Shizuo says. It’s no different than what he has been muttering for the past two months, since the cut into his chest that won’t fade from his mind no matter how smooth his skin has become with time, but this time he can feel actual danger behind his teeth. A real will to bite.
“It’s a long story,” Shinra says feebly. “Please don’t jump to conclusions.”
“What conclusions?” comes Izaya’s voice.
When Shizuo turns Izaya is standing at the entrance of their classroom with Kadota at his back. He’s still wearing his middle school’s uniform—the one Shinra wore for three years—as if he can’t be bothered to make use of Raijin’s lenient dress code to do anything with his goddamned self. It’s like he’s been summoned by their uttering of his name. Like a demon.
Shizuo grits his teeth.
“I was telling Shizuo-kun about that time you handed yourself over for stabbing me,” Shinra chirps in front of Shizuo. Izaya makes a face at his words and takes a few steps inside.
There’s almost no one in the class. Everyone has gone out for lunch, spilled over the school grounds to breathe in the warmth of late summer and nap under reddening trees.
“I doubt Shizu-chan is intelligent enough to make sense of that particular event, Shinra,” Izaya says.
He sits down at the desk next to Shizuo’s, and sends him a smile. Wood creaks under Shizuo’s fingers.
“Well, he was asking why some kids here are scared of you.”
“They’re scared of me because they’re stupid.”
“Maybe they’re scared of you because the sight of your ugly face is enough to give anyone night terrors,” Shizuo cuts in.
Izaya’s face immediately widens on glee. “Do I give you night terrors, Shizu-chan?”
Kadota sighs behind them. He’s leaning over the desk Izaya has borrowed and looking outside as if he can forget he’s here at all.
“By the way,” Shinra says. “How’s Nakura?”
Izaya frowns again. “Why are we talking about this?”
“Dunno. I just wondered, since it came up, and since you said you were going to make him pay back then.”
“Nakura-kun is fine,” Izaya replies mildly. He takes a nail file out of his pocket, one that looks so much like a knife that Shizuo starts at the sight of it and the sudden thought that it’s going to end up embedded in his shoulders in the next minute.
Izaya smiles at him sharply.
“He was really awful to you that day,” Shinra continues.
“I’m not the one he stabbed,” Izaya retorts.
“Still.” Shinra is reclining in his chair, looking up above the rim of his glasses as if he can grasp whatever shared memory they’re both mentioning with more clarity.
“Wait,” Shizuo says. “So this Nakura stabbed you? Did you get stabbed twice?”
“Of course not,” and Izaya rolls his eyes at him as he speaks, the file in his hands making a grating sound against the nail of his thumb that feels like it’s sizzling inside Shizuo’s ears. “Nakura-kun stabbed Shinra with a knife and I took the fall for it.”
For a moment there’s only silence.
“Are you actually a nice person?” Kadota asks, baffled, and Izaya laughs brightly.
“He’s not,” Shinra answers before Shizuo can put in his own protest. “But Nakura acted very ungraciously, and Orihara-kun got really really mad.”
“I’d be mad too if my friend got stabbed in front of me,” Kadota mutters.
Shinra taps his fingers against the surface of his desk. “The stabbing alone would’ve been bad, but with the way Nakura—”
“Shinra,” Izaya says.
Shizuo doesn’t think he’s ever heard the other sound this cold. Shinra’s grin falters a little, but Shizuo isn’t looking at him anymore—he’s staring at Izaya’s eyes fixed on his hands, the file immobile now even though the nail of his pinky is still too long, too sharp.
His eyes look how Shizuo thinks his own must whenever enough strength blossoms in him to crush metal between his fingers.
This one conversation, more than anything, stays with him for weeks. He doesn’t understand it and he’s not looking to any more than he tries to make sense of Izaya in general beyond all-encompassing anger and a need for brutality. He doesn’t remember much after that but he figures that the day ended in a fight as so many others did. Maybe a summoning to the principal’s office for property damage again.
He does end up paying more attention to how his classmates react to Izaya. There’s fear, yes, and no small amount of disgust; the first he can understand if rumors have indeed reached Raijin of Izaya stabbing a classmate in the past, but the second doesn’t make sense, not to this extent, not even when he can feel it in his own heart like nausea. Shizuo is not normal and his reaction to Izaya is not normal either. He knows that. He doesn’t know why the thought of a dozen other people looking at Izaya like he’s a monster bothers him so much.
Maybe it’s because Shizuo has actual reason to hate Izaya, in the form of blood on a blade and white teeth glinting in the setting sun.
It’s not until October comes around that he gets it. He’s shoveling dead leaves off the tennis court behind the school for detention, along with a couple other kids with dyed hair and pierced ears he faintly remembers seeing smoking at the gates. They look the part of delinquents and he thinks, with tightness in his chest, that so does he. One of them he recognizes from the spill of students out of Izaya’s homeroom.
He doesn’t immediately realize what they’re talking about. The sound of dead leaves creaking under his shovel is soothing enough that he does his job in relative peace, and the sky is beautiful, painted in shades of orange and blue like a flame. It’s not a bad evening to spend outside, or at least it isn’t until he hears the voice of one of the boys drag on Orihara with disdain behind his back.
“Gross, right?” he ends, and the other boy laughs a little. “She gets to change alone in bathroom, too.”
“Isn’t that favoritism?”
“Yeah. I heard the class rep say some parents are complaining, but the teachers won’t do shit about it. Orihara’s family is loaded.”
Shizuo frowns at the ground. There’s a puddle of leaves around his feet but he doesn’t make a move to get rid of them.
“Shouldn’t she change with the boys since she’s so annoying about acting like one?” the second boy, the one Shizuo doesn’t know from any class, asks.
Izaya’s classmate laughs. “At least I’d get some proper view that way. Man, I could see her boobs bouncing around during P.E. What a freak.”
There’s a sound after that, like he’s kicking into the pile he’s made on his corner of the court, but Shizuo doesn’t hear it. There’s white bleeding into his sight; the pretty sky from earlier looks sickly now, as do the tracks around the sports fields and the green fence surrounding the courts. He turns around slowly.
He doesn’t know what he expects, exactly—for the two boys to look guilty, or viciously pleased with themselves perhaps—but their faces show only the first flickers of fear when they notice him looking, familiar and unnerving.
“Heiwajima,” one of them says carefully. He’s the one in Izaya’s class.
“What were you talking about just now?” Shizuo asks lowly.
They exchange a wary look. The one Shizuo doesn’t know looks around before pulling a cigarette out of his pockets and offering it hesitantly; Shizuo takes it, and he has to make a half-conscious effort not to crush it between his fingers. He’s never smoked before, but he finds that with adrenaline in his veins fire and smoke don’t cut it enough to make him cough.
“Orihara,” Izaya’s classmate says, shoulders relaxing a little.
“You were talking about—” and then Shizuo does cough, the smoke too much at once while speaking. “About…”
“You didn’t know?” the boy says with wide eyes. “Orihara’s a chick.”
Shizuo’s ears are ringing.
“She must’ve taken her real name out of the records, or asked her rich parents to do it, because there’s no way Izaya is her real name, but yeah.”
“He’s not—” Shizuo tries, but the boy shakes his head.
“I can’t believe you didn’t know,” he laughs then. “That’s why everyone’s terrified of you, y’know. Always running around hitting a girl.”
Shizuo flinches bodily, hand scraping on the shaft of his shovel and cracking the surface of the wood. He’s thinking about Izaya, about Shinra—and Shinra wouldn’t lie to him about this, Shinra doesn’t lie, not like this. Not like Izaya.
“Izaya isn’t a girl,” he says slowly.
“Just come to one of our P.E. classes,” the boy says wth pity on his voice. “Get a good look at her—”
The shovel breaks between Shizuo’s fingers. He doesn’t know when he made the leap between him and the embodiment of annoyance standing nonchalantly in front of him, but what feels like half of a second later he can feel the boy’s nose break under his fist and his weight topple into the motion of Shizuo’s punch as if he’s made of the leaves he’s been handling all evening. He crashes into the net-like hedge behind him, and Shizuo can see some of the knots tear straight off as he falls through it.
“Dude,” the other boy says, face white and legs trembling. His cigarette is burning on the ground like Shizuo’s is. He looks like he’s about to piss himself.
“You get the fuck out of here,” Shizuo growls. “And you take your friend with you, and the next time I hear you say shit about Izaya—”
He stops speaking, because he looks to his side and sees a dark shape there, and a shiver hits him all at once the way it only does when Izaya is watching.
“Fuck off,” he breathes. He doesn’t know who he’s saying it to.
The two boys take it for themselves. The one still standing helps his friend up, getting blood on his shoulder from where it’s running out of the other’s broken nose. They scamper off and Shizuo doesn’t look to make sure they’re out of the way—Izaya is watching him with ice in his eyes and his blade drawn out, and he looks like any sudden movement could trigger him into violence.
“Fancy seeing you here, Shizu-chan,” he says.
His voice is soft, but it carries over the distance between them, through the hole in the hedge that the boy’s body has made in the aftershock of Shizuo’s aggression.
Shizuo is panting now. He knows he looks like a rabid animal.
“What did these two do to upset you so?” Izaya asks. He walks closer, slowly, still looking into Shizuo’s eyes as if he can cut them out of their sockets with the strength of his gaze alone. He ducks his head to slither in through the hole and stand a few feet away. The knife glints in his hand.
“Fuck off, Izaya,” Shizuo says weakly.
Izaya laughs. “But I’m so curious. I’m almost sure I heard my name being spoken back then.”
He heard a lot more than this, judging by the way fury is seeping out of him. Shizuo feels cold at the sight of him. “Just leave, Izaya-kun.”
Izaya stares at him silence for a long time. They’ve never been still around each other, never so close to breaking out into fight without actually doing it. It feels like the line separating banter from violence has widened to encompass them, and Shizuo can’t figure out where it ends now—if he makes a wrong step he will break out of the calm and into the storm. This time, he’s not sure he wants to.
Izaya’s knife lowers slightly. “There’s one thing I want to make clear,” he says.
“What is it?”
Izaya’s thumb presses against the heel of the blade, and Shizuo smells blood.
“If I notice the hint of a change in how you treat me,” Izaya murmurs. “If I find so much as a shadow of chivalry in you—I will cut you down.”
“Why the fuck would I treat you any differently?” Shizuo retorts. His heart is beating in his throat but the words spill out of him with clear-cut honesty. “You’re still the same shitty pest. I won’t rest until I get the chance to knock your head open.”
Izaya snorts. He nods lightly to the gutted fence behind him and says, “That little show just now. That’s what I’m talking about.”
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Why did you attack these two, Shizu-chan?” Izaya presses, and Shizuo feels his heart constrict as the boy’s words from earlier ring in his head, Everyone’s terrified of you, running around hitting a girl.
“What is true? What he said,” Shizuo asks.
“No,” Izaya replies immediately. But he bites his lips as if he wants to say more.
Shizuo finds that he wants to hear more.
“Just spill,” he says. “Whatever it is. For once in your life just make it easy for me to understand you, and then we can go back to trying to kill each other.”
Izaya looks pale even in the red light of sunset, and scrawnier than Shizuo has ever seen him. Maybe it’s the weak hold he has over his knife, or maybe it’s the uncertainty and hurt in his eyes that make him look smaller. Either way something unprecedented happens: he folds the blade of his knife back into its handle and takes a step closer, and instead of insults and lies what comes out of his mouth is a secret.
Shizuo isn’t sure how to react when Izaya finishes talking. There’s a tightness in his throat that feels like outrage and a bit of empathy; his mind is drawing maps of kinship with someone he’s supposed to have the least in common with. It’s hard to feel otherwise when the person he hates the most looks as lonely as he feels, though.
“Okay,” he says in the end. He thinks he should add more, but he can’t say thank you to Orihara Izaya no matter how extreme the circumstances. “All right.”
“All right,” Izaya repeats.
It sounds a little like they’re agreeing to a contract.
“Now fuck off,” Shizuo mutters. “I want to go home and sleep.”
“Shouldn’t have expected any less from a beast.”
Izaya does go away, though, with one last look in Shizuo’s direction that makes him feel the way x-ray machines do. He steps into the hole again and walks away slowly, his back turned to Shizuo vulnerably.
Shizuo’s fist is still tingling from the contact it made with the boy’s face earlier. There’s no blood on his knuckles and no trace of bruising either—his body has strengthened faster in the past few months than during the rest of his life, and he knows the reason for that is currently walking off unharmed, head bowed and shoulders hunched.
Still. When he thinks back to Izaya’s classmate’s spiteful words and the way his mangled face looked above the sprawl of his body, he finds that his arm is thrumming with bone-deep satisfaction.