Simmer Down

Rated: E – NSFW

Length: 10,300

Warnings: violence, repressed feelings.

Simmer Down

Kine was the one who brought Orihara Izaya into the fold, originally. Although now with perspective into Orihara’s character Shiki doubted—and figured Kine doubted—that their first meeting was as accidental as it had appeared, if at all.

Shiki knew Orihara’s name long before meeting him in person. Kine had said, “I told him to impress you,” after announcing his departure and after deciding to drop the weight of a twenty-year-old informant into Shiki’s already busy hands.

“He’s twenty,” Shiki had replied at the time, his voice a growl of irritation more than anything else. “There’s nothing he can offer me that I haven’t seen before.”

“Wait until you see the size of his ego.” Kine drank to his own words, as if to seal them to destiny.

Information dealers had been Kine’s side of the business for as long as Shiki had been a part of it. Mikiya took intelligence seriously, loved dealing underhanded and ignoring long-lived traditions of honor and discipline. It wasn’t unheard of or exceptional and it barely made anyone flinch anymore for all of Akabayashi’s grating chivalry or Kazamoto’s annoyance. Shiki himself hadn’t minded at all.

Two days after Kine’s retirement party Shiki received a phone call, and the voice of a young man told him he had five minutes to leave his car before it exploded.

Shiki started minding.

Now it was five years later, and Orihara stood at threshold of his home, drenched in sweat and blood and grime and with insomnia bruised into his eyes, and before Shiki could do anything but take in the slouch of his body against the wall he said, “I’m here to call in my debt.”

Shiki laid Orihara down on his couch after the man collapsed from pain or exhaustion. He was still conscious, hissing pain into every breath when he had to step in time with Shiki or when his own hand pressed too hard against the tear in the side of his clothes where Shiki could glimpse blood-stained bandages. Still, he didn’t protest when Shiki had him stand by the side of the couch while he spread towels over the cushions, only shot him a dark look under the fall of his unwashed hair, lips curling frighteningly at the corners.

“Shinra is unavailable at the moment,” Orihara said when Shiki took his phone out of his pocket. “On vacation.”

“You’ve already been treated for this wound,” Shiki replied slowly. It was obvious; thought Orihara looked unkempt, the bandages on his side were recent.

Orihara let out a brief laugh. “Yes. I came here straight from the hospital.”

There was no way he could’ve been discharged with the way he looked, Shiki thought. “Did you tear the stitches?” he asked instead, glancing back at the red stains.

“Probably,” Orihara grimaced.

Shiki straightened up from his crouch at Orihara’s side slowly. He was curious as to what exactly the man wanted out of him, and why he had chosen now to call in a debt Shiki had thought null for years.

Either way, the priority was to make sure he didn’t bleed out.

“You have two options,” he said. “I can try to stitch it back myself, or I can call an acquaintance with more knowledgeable hands to do it.”

“Not that I wouldn’t like to see you get your hands dirty, Shiki-san,” Orihara replied, “but I’ll take a doctor. This stab wound almost killed me, after all.”

Shiki knew he was being watched for any kind of reaction. He didn’t give it.

“Very well.”

It only took about twenty minutes for Mikiya’s physician to arrive. Despite the late hour he looked as unperturbed as every other time Shiki had met him, balding and wrinkled and a little grey in the face, as if he was constantly watching nightmares unfold before his eyes. He kneeled down next to the couch and unceremoniously pushed up Orihara’s filthy sweater to peer at the bandages underneath. Orihara had to turn to his side almost fully, as the wound was more in his back than his side proper—the kind of wound given by someone walking right beside one. It looked fresh despite the hospital’s care, torn and inflamed, with red seeping out where the stitches had cut clean off or even ripped through skin. Thankfully most of it was still shut.

Yamada worked in silence. Orihara had his face pressed against the back of the couch, and he didn’t make any sound that Shiki could hear; but he could see the way his skin shivered under the man’s hands, stretched thin over muscle and bone. He could count each of Orihara’s ribs, if he wanted to.

“Thank you,” Shiki said once Yamada was done. He didn’t look away from the ugly wound in Orihara’s side, not even when Orihara lied on his back fully again. “I’ll pay you in the morning, if you don’t mind.”

Yamada shrugged. “It’s nothing. Get him some painkillers. I’m pretty sure he should still be under morphine.”

“I’ll keep this in mind,” Shiki murmured.

Yamada ushered himself out without asking for guidance. Shiki heard his front door close in the distance, and once the lock slammed shut in the man’s wake Orihara turned to look at him again.

Shiki hadn’t really taken the time to see how he looked, and now that he did, he looked bad. His face looked clammy, his hair dirty, his skin ashen except where pain and fever kept his cheeks flushed an angry red. As if reading his thoughts Orihara chose this moment to say, “I’d like a shower. And some clean clothes.”

“Will you need help?” Shiki enquired as politely as he could.

Orihara’s eyes glinted. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.”

Shiki nodded. He helped Orihara off the couch and into the hallway opposite the alcove where his front door was. He only left the bathroom when Orihara started tugging off his socks.

There was still no way for him to know exactly what Orihara intended to do here—or how he had found out where Shiki lived in the first place, though that didn’t surprise him very much. Orihara had a tendency to look for more than what he was paid for.

Shiki turned on the kettle as the sound of running water started filtering in through the wall. He hadn’t quite realized how late it was—he had been working when Orihara arrived, and there were papers and cigarette ash all over his coffee table, the smell undetectable to him but no doubt disagreeable to Orihara. It was way closer to morning than any respectable bed time now. He could feel pain at his temples from lack of sleep, and a tense line from his jaw to his neck all the way down to his shoulders.

Cleaning the ashtray and table was quick business. He sorted his files and carefully put them in the last drawer of his desk, the one whose lock only he had the key for. In the end he was done before the water had boiled. Orihara finished showering while the tea was steeping and emerged clad in the pajamas Shiki had laid out for him in front of the bathroom, black pants and a grey T-shirt, the collar of which dipped low over where his collarbones jutted out under his skin.

He looked paler than he had been before, if possible. But he turned down Shiki’s half-hearted offer to help him walk.

Shiki watched him take a sip of scalding tea as soon as it was in his cup, saw the crease between his eyebrows smooth over almost immediately. He could barely keep his hand around his own cup for more than a few seconds before the burn became intolerable, but Orihara seemed not to have the same issue.

In the end the man spoke first, more softly than Shiki had ever heard him sound. “I need a place to stay for a couple of days.”

“Is that all?” Shiki asked.

“Of course. I wouldn’t want to overstep my boundaries.”

He looked a sort of delighted, mouth turned on amusement and pain alike and eyes dipped in shadow, wet hair sticking to his forehead as it would in the dark of a bedroom.

Shiki didn’t think Orihara would ever grasp the meaning of too much for as long as he lived.

“Who stabbed you?” he asked.

Orihara smiled a little wider. “No idea.”

Right, Shiki thought. “Did they try to finish you off at the hospital? Is this why you’re here?”

“So many questions, Shiki-san.” Orihara waved a hand lazily through the air, and when it came to rest on the counter separating them it did so with a soft noise and a tremor. “With all due respect, you’re indebted to me. How and when I choose to make you pay it off is up to me.”

Something uncoiled inside him, liquid-hot and infuriating. Shiki straightened up to tower over Orihara’s slouched body; the other watched him from his side of the counter without leaning back an inch, until his head was raised as high as it could to follow Shiki’s eyes and his throat was bare and taunt.

“We both know that debt is a sham,” Shiki said lowly. Orihara’s eyes were wide, his irises painted cleared by the yellow light of the electric lamp next to him.

“You would be dead if I hadn’t said anything,” he said, still, sounding like he was owed the world.

Shiki grabbed the hand laid atop the counter by the wrist and pressed down until Orihara’s palm was flat on the surface. He knew Orihara could feel the outline of his knife in the holster of his forearm.

“Without you there would have been no danger at all,” he said.

Orihara made a show of tugging against the grip of Shiki’s fingers. Frustration still sang at Shiki’s temples along with his headache, as if Orihara’s very presence was enough to augment it tenfold. He couldn’t think of a time meeting him hadn’t made him feel on edge in the past year. The fact that he knew why didn’t make it easier to deal with.

Now was worse, though, with Orihara sitting in the low light of his home and wearing his clothes and with his wrist caught in the tight coil of Shiki’s fingers, his pulse drumming against their pads warmly.

Shiki asked, “Was it you who made Awakusu Akane run away from home?” and Orihara didn’t move at all, only watched him silently with his eyes painted red by the glow of the lamp.

Shiki released him.

Orihara immediately rubbed needlessly at wrist—Shiki knew he hadn’t held tight enough to leave any kind of mark on his skin. “Who?” he replied evenly.

Shiki stepped back from the counter to dump the content of his cup into the sink. He hadn’t touched any of it.

“As far as I’m concerned this debt has been paid in full,” he said. “If you want me to keep you safe you’re going to have to give me more than just lies, Orihara. Especially considering that you’ve been nosing around my personal life.”

“Don’t take it the wrong way, Shiki-san, I nose around everyone’s personal lives.” He sounded so very bored as he said it, but there were shivers still on his skin from cold or something else, and everywhere his face wasn’t flushed with fever he looked white as a sheet. Maybe even concerned.

He took another sip of tea and said, “Yodogiri Jinnai is the one who stabbed me.”

Shiki breathed in slowly. “I see.”

For a moment they stared at each other, Orihara with a smile and Shiki with a scowl he knew accentuated the crow’s feet around his eyes and the white of the scar above his temple. And Orihara looked exhausted with more than just the habitual imprint of sleeplessness on his face; Shiki didn’t think the other had noticed the way his arm shook supporting its own weight on the side of the counter, but he had. He looked thinner than the last time they had met, a sickly kind of skinny that made Shiki wonder if he should be having this conversation at all instead of cooking something. But it was almost five in the morning and the sky outside was already clearing into a brighter blue. Meals could wait until they had both slept.

“I’ll give you forty-eight hours,” Shiki said at last. He looked at his couch, and thought for a second about the angry rise of Orihara’s skin where he was wounded before adding, “You can take the bedroom.”

“I appreciate it,” Orihara replied tightly. He didn’t move yet, though, only rocked slowly back and forth on his feet with a trembling arm still clinging to the countertop. His eyes stared into Shiki’s, the red at their rim dipping into blue-black where lack of sleep looked as if it had punched him. Shiki tightened his hand against the edge of the sink and didn’t make a move to help him.

He slept fitfully during the few hours separating him from his first appointment at the gallery. The couch was rough on his back and left him sore in the shoulders when he stood up to grab breakfast, hesitating only a second before deciding not to wake Orihara up. He was still asleep when Shiki opened the door to his room, or pretending to be, curled on his side with his face buried in the pillows and hair streaking his forehead. No move or sound to betray him at all.

He didn’t enjoy the idea of leaving Orihara alone in his home one bit. That was his main train of thought on his way to work, while his driver cursed softly at late morning traffic and his phone buzzed with incoming texts from Aozaki asking him where he was. In all five years they’d worked together Shiki had never trusted Orihara as far as he could throw him, never taken his pleasantries to mean anything but the shallowest of appreciations, never believed a word he uttered outside of strict information-giving. Even in the rare occasions where honesty shone in him—pupils dilating and breaths coming shorter all finding their echo in the ache at the base of Shiki’s spine—he had never indulged.

Orihara was a mess. The sort of mess he didn’t need and shouldn’t want.

He spent the morning thinking idly about Yodogiri Jinnai, whose whereabouts were a mystery since the day Akabayashi had pried his name out of the Russian girl—the one hired to kidnap Mikiya’s daughter as if that would ever be enough to bargain his way out of punishment for the deaths of their men. A man who would order the capture of an idol he had raised to fame himself, who would use a child for blackmail, and who would stab Awakusu’s informant and leave him to bleed out in the street.

There wasn’t much he could do about Yodogiri at the moment, no matter how much he wanted the man out of his way. With Akane safe and Heiwajima Shizuo out of the picture most of the danger was gone; and though Shiki had no doubt Orihara would revel in chasing Yodogiri like a hound and tear him to shreds for his audacity, he didn’t feel like fueling this particular pursuit. Better leave the man alone until he made a mistake on his own.

He wasn’t sure he could make Orihara understand this, though.

Aozaki entered his office a few hours in, and after one look at his face said, “You need to find yourself a woman.”

“You’re starting to sound old,” Shiki replied amiably

“Don’t talk to me about old.” He sounded gruff now, more amused than offended. “I’m not the one with an empty home.”

My home isn’t empty right now, Shiki thought. “We’ve had this conversation before, I believe.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Aozaki dropped onto the couch opposite the one where Shiki was sat. He dragged a cigarette out of the pocket of his coat and grumbled Thank you when Shiki flicked open his gold-plated lighter, offering the fire to him across the low table separating them. In the close light of the blue flame Aozaki’s face looked more wrinkled than it really was, cut into black lines as stark on his skin as scars.

Aozaki exhaled his first lungful of smoke noisily. His shoulders relaxed against the back of the couch, and he draped an arm around the empty seat at his side. “So, anything new you need to tell me?”

“No,” Shiki replied. A breath of tobacco and he felt the need for a cigarette ache at his throat. He rummaged through the pockets of his suit jacket, then his pants, but after twenty seconds he came the realization that he had probably forgotten his pack at home. “Shit.”

“This isn’t like you,” Aozaki said, looking at him with a frown.

A hand came into Shiki’s field of vision from behind his head, and only years of accommodation to Akabayashi’s lack of presence prevented him from missing a breath. He took the offered cigarette without hesitating and waited for the man to stop playing and walk around the couch. Akabayashi did so with a smile.

“Is this a meeting, and no one told me?” Shiki muttered.

“No,” Akabayashi said. He sat down on the arm of the couch Aozaki was occupying and ignored the dark looks he was being given from the man himself. “But Kazamoto’s out of the city, and I don’t like being by my lonesome.”

“Is he still after Hijiribe Ruri’s stalker?”

Aozaki growled lowly at that. “He better catch the fucker.”

“I’ve no doubt that he will,” Akabayashi murmured.

Shiki took a long drag of smoke. He disliked the strong blends Akabayashi favored but disliked being rude even more, so he forced the taste down his lungs, ignored the itch at his throat, and looked over the spread of papers on the stained table in front of him.

“You haven’t been having a very interesting day,” Akabayashi commented, following his gaze.

“On the contrary, I think I’ve had more amusement today than I ever wanted.”

There,” Aozaki said. “Old.”

Aozaki always looked like he was itching for a fight; with Akabayashi in the same room he was positively brimming with excitement.

Shiki left them to it.

He didn’t cross paths with anyone on his way out of the gallery. The sun was strong when he left the alley and wandered into wider streets, hot and dry on his skin with only some wind to cool off its edge. It wasn’t long until he got rid of his jacket, and even then he felt each step he took like a path of heat up his body. Sweat gathered at his nape before he was more than a couple of blocks away from his office.

He knew the sorts of headaches that awaited him every time he thought too long about the past few days. Akane’s disappearance had shaken them all to their core—Mikiya most of all, because he had foolishly thought his family to be safe from harm because he willed it so. And considering the state of mind they had found her in at Kishintani’s apartment Shiki didn’t think it was too much of a stretch to imagine that the man currently occupying his home was somehow involved.

He had worked himself into a light anger by the time he crossed the threshold of his home, and when he heard the voice of a woman inside it flared up in him like a furnace.

He didn’t know what he had expected, exactly. Every drawer upturned, the cushions of his couch gutted, maybe broken silverware. But everything looked the same, untouched except for the presence of Orihara’s secretary and Orihara himself—sat on the couch with a laptop on his knees, still wearing Shiki’s clothes.

Orihara’s eyes flew to him as soon as he set foot into the living-room. Yagiri Namie shot him a glance and faltered in the heat of her speech, her pale face still flushed with anger.

“Am I bothering you?” Shiki asked them dryly.

She winced. “I was—”

“She was only bringing me some spare clothes,” Orihara interrupted. “I don’t want to intrude on you for everything, Shiki-san.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” he replied softly.

Yagiri looked a little nauseated now, as she always did when in his presence. After a second of hesitation she snatched her handbag up from its spread over the coffee table, and she said to Orihara, “I’m not getting you out of this mess.”

“I don’t need you to,” Orihara replied, barely moving his lips. He was still looking at Shiki darkly.

“Good. Sorry for the intrusion,” she added in Shiki’s direction, and Shiki bowed his head. Another moment and she was gone, the front door closing loudly behind her.

“Send me the bill if she’s damaged the joints,” Orihara commented.

Shiki glanced at the door and then back at Orihara himself. His laptop’s screen was black, and he didn’t look like he had any interest in turning it on; he still looked tired even if less jittery than he had been during the night, some of the restless tension in his face gone in favor of deep-set exhaustion.

“You—” should be sleeping, Shiki almost said. He cleared his throat. “Have you eaten?”

“I haven’t touched anything you haven’t given me permission to.”

He didn’t sound sincere. He never did. Still Shiki felt warmth in his chest, like embers inkling back to fire as they stared at each other. He put his phone down on the table between them for the excuse to lean in the movement and break away from Orihara’s eyes—even if it brought them closer, even if this way his forehead was almost level with Orihara’s mouth. “I’ll make food,” he said roughly.

“Thank you,” Orihara replied, soft as a breeze. Shiki felt his cold breath on him like the stroke of fingertips.

It was too early for dinner and too late for lunch. Shiki found himself not minding this as much as he had thought he would. He cooked without thinking, with only the soft tapping of Orihara’s fingers on his keyboard when his own noises stopped, and the sight of Orihara’s black hair instead of his eyes when he looked over the counter and toward the couch sat against the opposite wall. The man was focused on work, or more likely on tracking down his stabber when his wound was still raw and bleeding.

He barely lifted his head from his screen when Shiki put a plate in front of him, only murmured his thanks absently without touching his chopsticks. Shiki sat down on an old armchair and lit a cigarette—he had left his pack on the side of the couch Orihara had left free as an offering.

Orihara didn’t wince at the smell, or make any kind of a face.

Shiki exhaled to his side rather than in the direction of the other man. “You’re not going to find him,” he said.

“Who?” Orihara replied, looking over the rim of his laptop. His eyes were more bloodshot than they had been when he first arrived, and Shiki clenched his fingers softly around the filter of his cigarette.

“Yodogiri. We’ve had the entire organization looking for him for days. You won’t find him alone.”

Orihara laughed curtly. “I’m not alone, Shiki-san,” he said, but Shiki shook his head and retorted, “You sure look the part,” and his face sobered greatly, as if slow-simmering anger had flushed the color out of him.

“I’m not creating my intel out of thin air,” he said tightly. “I do have people I rely on.”

“So why are you here, then?”

Orihara’s fingers slipped lightly on the keys under them. “Convenience.”

Shiki could believe that, if not in the way Orihara wanted him to. He grabbed his too-hot cup of coffee with the fingers of his free hand and let the liquid burn his tongue, bitterer he thought than what he really wanted to drink. Orihara watched him with half-lidded eyes. Like a great bird of prey, wounded and landed and still dangerous.

“Kine once said you were like an animal,” Shiki said into the brim of his cup. It seared his lips, grounding, unsatisfying.

“Did he,” Orihara replied a little shakily.

“He called you vicious. Said that’s why I should be your contact inside Awakusu instead of someone else.”

“How peculiar.”

Shiki let out a thin smile. “He seemed to think I was ruthless enough not to get caught into your sick little games.”

“I don’t play with my food,” Orihara said, like a hum or a song. “If I’m playing then I don’t plan to eat at all.”

“Really”—and Shiki looked at him before he could catch himself, and his words came with little puffs of grey smoke that settled heavily into the space separating them, no wind to carry them off or to swallow what he said into silence—”am I too much for you to chew on, then?”

Orihara’s eyes looked black now instead of brown, irises drowned into the pupils and breath caught in his throat for the barest of seconds. Shiki let vapor from his cup and smoke from his cigarette burn their way into his head before turning his eyes away.

“You should eat.” He nodding briefly to the plate in front of Orihara. “I have painkillers, but I’m not giving them to you on an empty stomach.”

“I’m not a child, Shiki-san.” His voice was cold.

“No,” Shiki muttered, thinking back to thin skin and the cut into Orihara’s side, above his hips, nearly into his ribs. “You’re not.”

He handed the painkiller bottle over once Orihara was done— Orihara’s fingers lingered on his palm when he took it, cold and dry and soft against his skin.

With all the front he put up Orihara still lost some of the shakiness he was wearing after swallowing the pills. He sighed deeply a few minutes later when they starting taking effect, relaxing more against the back of the couch, his laptop still warm on his thighs and making a rushing sound—ventilation, from too much use.

Shiki didn’t have any pressing matters he needed to tend to for work. He smoked his way into the late afternoon and early evening until his eyelids burned from fatigue and he felt his limbs droop from lack of strength. Orihara was still sitting at the same spot, still blinking tiredly at his white screen, and Shiki thought distantly that he would ruin his eyes if he kept working like this—pictured him for a second with wrinkles at his brow and glasses on his nose and the same downturned mouth. Still sitting right where he was.

He clenched a hand into his lap slowly and used the other to crush his cigarette into the half-full ashtray.

“I’m tired,” he announced.

“Do you want your bedroom back?” Orihara glanced up and asked.

He hesitated before answering. “No. The couch is fine.”

Orihara nodded and closed his laptop before putting it on the table. He clutched his side as he rose to his feet, but his footing looked surer than it had been before.

“Have a good night,” he breathed in Shiki’s direction. Then he grabbed the bag Yagiri had brought him and disappeared out of the room.

Shiki waited a long time after the sound of Orihara’s footsteps had stopped. Orihara didn’t appear again, didn’t pass by the bathroom for a shower or snoop anywhere into the apartment that Shiki could tell. Shiki sat down again on the couch, avoiding the spot where warmth from the other’s body hadn’t had time to fade yet.

He eyed the laptop contemplatively before laying a hand on it and lifting up the screen. Unsurprisingly, it wouldn’t open without a password, and Shiki knew better than to try and guess what it could be. With any luck Orihara had programmed the thing to self-destruct after too many failed attempts.

Standing up again felt like an unnecessary effort, prompted by the necessity of a host’s courtesy more than anything else. If left alone he would’ve fallen asleep as he was—he had done so many times in the past. His couch wasn’t bad, as he said, especially for this purpose. Still he made his way to the bathroom and undressed and showered. With hot water running over him it was harder to ignore that fatigue alone kept him away from the thought of Orihara’s torso bared to his eyes, his mauled side painted an angry red amidst pale skin and thin bones. Harder to ignore the look on his face earlier and the feeling of his fever-bright skin under Shiki’s palm this morning.

Shiki turned off the water spray harshly, and when he stepped out of the stall he felt more awake than he wished to be.

Adrenaline made him dress for the night, carried him to lie back on top of the couch, kept him looking at the blinking light of Orihara’s laptop on the coffee table for a long time. Adrenaline still made him shut his mind down on abstract, sleep-stained thinking and more physical ideas—on the low thrum of heat in his veins and the ache of Orihara’s presence only a room away. Only a wall apart.

He closed his eyes and coughed, as if he could expel the want out of his lungs that way.

The only sleep he managed to catch was flimsy, like wisps of dreams inside a still-aware mind. He would blink awake sometimes and check the hour on his phone only to find out a handful of minutes had gone by; every noise the building made around him felt too close, felt like Orihara was walking around him or he was really dreaming and those were the sounds of his own mind playing tricks on him. It was probably why he didn’t react immediately to their clarity a few hours in, to phantom steps turned to very real clicks of metal on wood. Once he did his heart came up to his throat in a rush, like nausea.

He threw his blanket aside and grabbed the phone he had kept close to the arm of the couch. The flashlight lit up to Orihara kneeling next to his desk—his hands busy lock-picking the last drawer.

Orihara stilled once the light was on him. He turned his head to look at Shiki through the fall of his hair, eyes red as blood against the harsh glow of the phone.

“Sleep well, Shiki-san?” he asked softly. The lock-picks fell quietly to the floor.

Shiki crossed the distance between them in one stride and caught him by the collar. He tugged him upright despite the rasp of pain Orihara let out at the movement and shoved him against the wall, under the old œil-de-bœuf clock he had taken so many years ago from the house of the first man he had felled.

Orihara didn’t move at all. He panted softly at the ache in his side but he stood straight and looked Shiki in the eye, as if admitting defeat was so far-fetched a concept it never even crossed his mind.

“Was it you who made Awakusu Akane run away from home?” Shiki growled. The words echoed inside him as they would on the walls of a cave.

“Who?” Orihara replied airily.

Shiki pushed harder against him; but then Orihara made a sound, a small, wounded noise a little too close to heat, and Shiki’s hand relaxed in answer. He still had his phone clenched between his fingers. The ones he held against Orihara’s shoulder came up to grab his chin instead, thumb pressed against the crook of his neck.

Orihara laughed lightly. “I’ve never met in person with Akane-chan,” he said. When he talked his breath ghosted Shiki’s fingers.

“So you did play with her.”

“Only a little. I’m not that cruel.”

There was ice inside Shiki’s chest now, and it burned more than desire had. “You told her to murder a man,” he said. “You told her truths she wasn’t ready to know and groomed her against her own family—and you set her loose on the most dangerous man in the city.”

“Not dangerous to children—”

“You gave her a weapon,” Shiki roared.

Under his thumb he felt Orihara’s pulse spike, fast like a bird’s beneath his skin—and his skin was soft, too soft to belong to someone like him, too warm.

“What’s your agenda?” Shiki asked after a beat. “Tell me.”

“I can’t tell you what I don’t know,” Orihara answered.

Shiki inhaled harshly. He opened his mouth again to speak, to tell Orihara that he was tired of his games, tired of being taken for a fool when he had never let himself trust anything that danced off the other’s tongue—but Orihara parted his lips instead, and Shiki only had time to feel hot breath on his fingers before Orihara took his index into his mouth and sucked.

Pressure exploded against his ribcage, hot like an inferno, a year’s worth of unspent energy soaring to life inside him and breathing smoke into his lungs. Each wet stroke of Orihara’s tongue against his knuckles felt like a heartbeat, felt like fire being sown into the fabric of his being.

“What are you doing,” he breathed. His throat was too tight for actual sound.

You need to find yourself a woman, Aozaki’s words rang in his head, at the same time his nail brushed against Orihara’s palate and Orihara closed his lips softly around the joint of his finger—and the imprint of his teeth branded itself into Shiki’s skin.

Orihara’s eyes glinted in the dark. He opened his mouth again, and Shiki took back his finger, pressed it against the other’s cheekbone instead where he could feel blood warming to a burn. “I’m chewing you,” Orihara said.

Shiki’s phone crashed to the floor when his hand came up to frame the other side of Orihara’s face, fingers digging into soft hair and scratching at his scalp so he could angle his head better and meet him wet and open-mouthed. Shiki kept his eyes open to the sight of Orihara’s closed ones and the red staining his face even as he licked into the part of his lips, so hot on his, damp from breath and touch alike. Want rippled inside his belly with every brush of a tongue against his. There were a thousand breaths caught in the catch of their mouths, months of skirting finally crashing into freedom like their teeth did when Shiki moved too fast, when Orihara pulled back to breathe and came in again, his elbows caught onto Shiki’s shoulders and his hands fisted into Shiki’s hair in spite of the wound in his side.

Shiki fit a thigh between Orihara’s and wasn’t surprised to find the outline of his cock hard against the seam of his clothes. Of Shiki’s clothes. He was wearing the sweatpants and T-shirt Shiki had lent him the day previous, and the knowledge licked fire up Shiki’s spine; he bit Orihara’s bottom lip and pressed a hand into the collar of the shirt, against the skinny collarbone jutting out of his body like a blade.

“Izaya,” he said, and Izaya let out a whine and arched into him despite the pain, rubbing against his leg as if shame could never occur to him.

It was intoxicating. It tasted like poison on his tongue and it burned down his throat like the worst of alcohols.

Shiki ripped his hand from Izaya’s hair to push down the waistband of his pants and stroke up the length of cock in one go. Izaya stopped breathing as if he had been punched. Shiki pushed him flat against the wall and said, “Don’t move.”

He didn’t think he would have to repeat himself, not with the look Izaya wore so drunkenly; so Shiki took his leg back and pressed the entirety of his body against Izaya’s, hip-to-hip and chest-to-chest and his mouth open at Izaya’s temple to breathe in the scent of his skin, and when he tightened his grip around Izaya’s cock he felt Izaya’s body shake all at once.

He jerked him off like this, pinned between the wall and the length of Shiki’s own body. It was half out of concern for his injury and half for the illusion that he could better take in every spasm of pleasure that way, every flex of Izaya’s muscles or involuntary give of his legs under his weight. The skin of Izaya’s face grew damp beneath Shiki’s lips along with each drag of his fingers. Shiki could feel his own cock heavy and hard against his thigh but he didn’t waste a second on it—couldn’t tear his attention away from Izaya as he was now, red in the face and gasping pain and pleasure into Shiki’s neck, his skin hot like a flame everywhere Shiki touched him.

Izaya arched his back achingly when he came, spilling sticky-warm into Shiki’s fingers at the same time as a breath dragged itself from his throat sounding too close to a sob. Shiki pressed the heel of his palm against the rapid-fire pulse at his neck and kissed his hair with too much strength, then his brow, then his lips.

The clock above them clicked softly, every second crawling into rhythm again. Shiki sagged onto the feeble support of Izaya’s body and of the wall behind him. He could feel warmth coiling tight between his legs where his cock ached.

But Izaya looked dazed now, his hands grasping at the collar of Shiki’s undershirt and sliding against sweat-damp skin. Shiki thought if he stepped back now the man would collapse like so many bones. “Can you stand?” he asked, and Izaya only groaned lowly in answer, mouth too slack for words.

Shiki slid an arm behind the other’s back and clutched beneath his armpit, fitting himself against Izaya’s uninjured side. When he started to walk to the bedroom Izaya complied wordlessly, falling into step with only a hint of sluggishness. He felt way heavier than he looked.

“Shower?” he said softly.

“No,” Izaya let out. “Not now.”

“I’ll get you a change of clothes, then.”

He put Izaya down onto his bed and let him divest himself of his sweatpants while he rummaged through his drawers for a spare pair. By the time he found one Izaya was naked from the waist down, turned to his side on the mattress and breathing loudly in the silence.

Shiki set the folded clothes next to him. This time he didn’t hesitate before extending his hand and treading his fingers through Izaya’s damp hair, and when Izaya shuddered he felt satisfaction blossom into his chest. “Get some actual sleep,” he murmured.

Izaya nodded against his hand.

Shiki spent the next morning with fire in his veins, too restless to sit in his office. He toured the gallery and made a point of visiting his associates in person for work, Awakusu or not—the gallery’s administrators didn’t bat an eye at this, but Aozaki eyed him warily when he came by the living-room the man used as a base of operations.

“What’s gotten into you?” he asked.


Aozaki scoffed. “You look like you’re dead on your feet, Shiki.”

“Wouldn’t that be an opportunity,” Shiki replied mildly.

Aozaki’s face darkened with suspicion. He was used to this sort of banter between himself and Akabayashi, but Shiki himself never partook in the power plays at hand in Awakusu’s upper echelon, and especially not the ones involving the Blue Devil. Thankfully Aozaki was never a man for psychology, though he was bright in other ways and far more ruthless than Shiki thought himself to be. Sometimes he wished Kine would’ve given the burden of Izaya’s existence to Aozaki instead.

And yet it was Shiki’s home Izaya had taken as a shelter and Shiki’s bed he was sleeping in when he had left this morning; and now Shiki knew what he looked like with orgasm rippling through him and desire cutting his verbose shut. He could see it flash behind his eyelids every time he blinked.

He had never been this turned on by incoherence before.

He knew the light in his veins came from expectation more than frustration. He had relieved himself after leaving Izaya to rest, with the warmth of Izaya’s skin still crushed into his palm and the weight of Izaya’s body like a ghost against his front. It had been so easy to let himself fall into the memory. It had felt like a long-lived fantasy, like a well-loved book being opened again, and Shiki didn’t question it, didn’t halt the flow of his thoughts and turn them to shapeless strangers, to anonymous eyes and skins and hair. He came into his hand under the hot spray of his shower and still felt as though Izaya was the one to have touched him.

Now here he was: saddled with something he didn’t need but absolutely wanted, and nothing left in him to make him resist it.

Shiki left work hours early for the second day in a row. He dismissed his driver again and took to the streets with a vibrance inside him he knew the cause for. In the heat of early summer it was easy to superpose the feeling of Izaya’s elbows digging down onto his shoulders to the weight of the sun and his own clothes. He quickened his steps, street after street rolling behind him and the people in them mashed together in complete indifference.

He stilled with doubt at the bottom of his building, tracked his eyes up the façade to his window on the fifth floor. There was no light, but it was day still and there would be no need for it. Shiki shook his head and entered the lobby. As he walked up the stairs he felt his blood settle through the effort and ground itself to reality.

There was no one else living on his floor, only empty apartments belonging to Awakusu Dougen. His door unlocked with a soft click.

For a second he held his breath, perturbed by the icy stillness of his living-room; but then he saw Izaya’s laptop on the counter of his open kitchen, and the way the blanket he had used to sleep had been pushed aside and folded on the couch to make room for someone to sit. Izaya himself emerged from the hallway on the other side of the room, his hair wet from showering.

They stared at each other in stilted silence.

“Already home, Shiki-san?” Izaya asked politely. There was a guardedness to him, but not as if he had been caught red-handed. Not this time.

“Did you sleep the entire day?” Shiki replied.

Izaya made a face. “Most of it. I woke up about an hour ago.”

“That’s good.”

Izaya looked better now walking towards him, a little less like he had just come out of a fight. There was color to his face and a languid kind of sway to his steps, and when he came up to Shiki’s level and raised a hand to Shiki’s face in askance Shiki leaned his head down willingly, let Izaya press their lips together way more softly than they had the night before.

It was sweet, if unexpected. Without fury to push him into action Shiki could feel the softness of Izaya’s lips and the first damp touches of his tongue. Izaya’s fingers crawled up his nape and dug lightly into his skin. It made shivers run down his back slowly.

When they parted to breathe there was a thrum in Shiki’s body, a low current of heat in his belly and his legs. “What do you want, Izaya?” he said, and he saw the way Izaya’s eyelids dropped over his eyes in answer.

“What do you think?” Izaya replied.

“No.” Shiki took a step back, and grabbed the wrist at his shoulder firmly. “This isn’t how it works.”

“Oh, come on,” Izaya scoffed. He came close again, ghosting his mouth against Shiki’s. “Are you going to be pedant now?”

Shiki tightened the grip of his fingers, and hesitation flickered over Izaya’s face. “I don’t do things by halves,” he said in a low voice.

“I’ve noticed.”

“Be serious.” Shiki inhaled slowly. “I’ve an idea the kind of person you are in bed, Orihara. And I’m not fucking you unless you tell me exactly what you want.”

Izaya paled all at once, red bleeding out of his skin as if Shiki had cut it open. For a second he looked as though he was going to balk, and Shiki steeled himself for it—ran through the prospect of cold separation and future professionalism in his head for an entire eternity until he was sure his face wouldn’t betray him when Orihara said no.

But Izaya didn’t move. He didn’t tug his hand out of Shiki’s hold and didn’t try to put distance between them. And little by little the fear and offense on his face melted into challenge.

“I’m not very into obscenities,” he said.

“That’s not what I’m asking of you,” Shiki replied.

Izaya adverted his eyes, looking down at the collar of Shiki’s shirt instead. He was frowning thoughtfully, some residue of apprehension still dark in his eyes.

Shiki wondered if anyone had bothered to do this for him before.

In the end Izaya lifted his head again on his own and planted another searing kiss on him, tongue and teeth more than lips, until they were pressed close again and Shiki could feel himself flush to hardness in his slacks.

“I want you to fuck me,” Izaya said, so close Shiki could feel the words touch his mouth. “I want you to make me wait for it.”

“Don’t feel like you deserve it?” Shiki growled, slipping his hands down Izaya’s sides without really touching him for fear of aggravating his wound. He touched the edge of his jeans on his uninjured side, dragged up his shirt to put his fingers to hot skin.

“I deserve everything, Shiki-san,” Izaya smiled softly. “But if you don’t make me feel like I’m about to cry for it I’m going to be sorely disappointed.”

Shiki felt his own lips curl in answer. “I can do that.”

Shiki let himself be led to the bedroom after that, Izaya’s grip on his fingers almost cutting. They kissed again inside, finding each other like magnets, and when Shiki slid his mouth off Izaya’s it was to tug Izaya’s clothes above his head with care and look down to his torso so he could work the zipper of his jeans open as well. Izaya tried to grab Shiki’s clothes the same; Shiki pushed his hands away curtly and kissed the hollow of his neck, tongue coming out to taste the sweat gathering there like an offering.

“You’ve been so accommodating,” Izaya gasped. “Lending me your room, not knowing the sorts of things I’d do with it—” and Shiki dragged his teeth on the skin of his neck at the thought, at the way the picture Izaya was hinting to came to life in his mind, Izaya alone on his bed in the darkest hours with only the friction of his hands and the intimacy of Shiki’s home to drive him to completion.

Izaya laughed above his head, even as he stepped out of the legs of his jeans obediently. When Shiki pushed him onto the bed he was rid of all but his underwear, and his mouth curled quickly on pain.

Shiki put a hand on his thigh. “Is there a position you’d be more comfortable in?” he inquired, each word like heat off his tongue.

For some reason this made Izaya’s face redden more than anything else had. He nodded and hoisted himself onto his knees before turning around and catching himself on his forearms near the pillows. Shiki’s breath caught in his throat.

Like this is was easy to see the loss of weight on Izaya in the dips of his spine and the stark imprint of his ribs under his skin. Still his back was tense on expectation, his skin flush and warm and already softening to sweat despite the shower he had taken still visible in the wet fall of his hair. Shiki put a hand in the middle of Izaya’s spine to halt the involuntary sway of his hips and ghosted his fingers down above the clean cut in his side.

Izaya stilled.

As gently as he could, Shiki touched the tips of his fingers to the row of black stitches. He felt more than heard the breath Izaya let out, saw the shivers running over his skin and rising the soft hairs of his back on their way.

“This is going to scar,” he said.

Izaya bowed his head forward. Then he leaned into Shiki’s touch so the full of his wound came into contact with his palm, and when he looked over his shoulder to meet Shiki’s eyes there was no apprehension on his face.

Shiki kneeled behind him and bent down to press his mouth to the dip of his spine. “There’s a bottle in the bedside drawer,” he murmured against Izaya’s skin. “And condoms. As I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

Izaya moved almost immediately, leaning forward to pull the drawer open and throw the bottle of lube to Shiki’s side of the bed. “You give me too much credit,” he replied.

But then Shiki was slicking his fingers and pressing them to the highest of his thigh, and Izaya stopped talking, busying his hands with opening the pack of condoms so he wouldn’t push against the feel of it. Shiki smiled tightly, ran his wet fingers up the swell of Izaya’s ass as softly as he could before dipping inward to his entrance and getting the satisfaction of a sigh for his ears and a twitch for his hands.

“Don’t move,” he said, like an echo of the night previous. And then he dragged his knees backwards on the mattress and clutched Izaya’s hips with both hands before pressing his face into the other’s ass.

Predictably, Izaya jerked away in surprise, or almost did; his motion caught against Shiki’s hold and all the air left his lungs in a single rush, not quite a moan and not quite a gasp. Shiki nipped at his skin and licked into the trails of lube his fingers had put before, and Izaya made a noise so low he wouldn’t have heard it if he couldn’t feel it vibrate through his body.

Shiki could taste mint on his tongue from the lube, and chemicals from whatever soap brand Izaya had used in the shower. When he licked into the cleft of his ass he felt the tang of sweat as well, deeper and hotter, as one of his hand came down from Izaya’s hip to circle his thigh instead and quiet the shaking there.

“God,” Izaya tried to muffle against Shiki’s pillow. “Oh, God.”

He couldn’t tell how long he spent like this, on his knees behind Izaya, biting and sucking at his rim until he could feel his own body shake in the wave of Izaya’s. It felt like minutes and it felt like hours, and Shiki didn’t think he would’ve minded hours of this, of the taste of him on his tongue and the touch of his skin under his hands and the sound of his gasps dragging into moans. Izaya sagged against the sheets eventually, a Please on his lips sweeter than any wine, and Shiki took pride, slicked his fingers again and slid one into him as slowly as he could.

He kissed his uninjured hip as he worked him open. There was never any hurry in him for the simple pleasure of this process; Shiki enjoyed enjoyment more than haste, intimacy more than raw heat. When he gave Izaya a second finger he felt the almost-sob Izaya let out shoot through him like sunlight.

The box of condoms lay unopened by Izaya’s chest. Shiki retrieved it after taking back his hand and made a short job of tearing the rest of the plastic open where Izaya had abandoned the task. He ripped open one of the foil wrappings with one hand and relieved himself of his belt and slacks with the other before unrolling the condom on himself. All the while Izaya stayed silent, watching him over his shoulder, his front laid over the sheets and his hair sticking to his red forehead invitingly.

Shiki dragged himself back up, until his thighs were flush with the other’s. He curled a hand around Izaya’s neck lightly. “You will tell me if I’m hurting you,” he said.

“Yes,” Izaya whispered.

Shiki didn’t comment on the wet shine of his eyes.

He braced himself against Izaya’s hip carefully, aligning himself as fast as he could so he wouldn’t put too much stress on the wound in his side. He dropped his arm back onto the mattress by Izaya’s waist as soon as he started thrusting in, and though a groan escaped him it couldn’t mask the whine Izaya let out or the way he fisted his hand so hard into Shiki’s sheets that he heard them start to tear.

Heat unfurled inside him, spread through his belly to his lungs to his throat so fast that he feared if he breathed smoke would come out. Shiki closed his eyes to it briefly before opening them again and taking in the length of Izaya’s back shaking beneath him. He stayed still for a long while as they both adjusted, pressing warningly against Izaya’s throat when he felt him try to push back. It was maybe a minute before he starting rocking into his body, and it was spent in gold-filled silence, as if the world itself was holding its breath.

Shiki went slow. Achingly so, even, for his own pleasure and for Izaya’s sake, for the edge of despair in the other’s breath that he could catch every time he dragged himself out of his body—as if Izaya was afraid he would leave him like this, open and panting and vulnerable.

The thought wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t for now. So Shiki made the pace his own until his entire body was flushed vibrant-hot. Until the blush on Izaya’s face had crawled down his torso to stain his sides the same appealing red. Until his sheets tore into Izaya’s hand and Izaya himself had to rub the tears out of his eyes, pressed face-first into the pillow, with only Shiki’s hand at his throat to feel the chaos of his pulse.

When Shiki sped up the pace of his hips Izaya sobbed, and the second morphed into something he would carry inside him like a brand for the rest of his life: Orihara Izaya spread on his sheets panting and tearful, the recognizable glaze of his eyes Shiki had only known a very few times before—a head rush so strong it carried him into another plane of being entirely from the feeling of Shiki pushing inside him alone, and a glow to his body as if it was lit from a light source invisible to the human eye.

And then Izaya spoke, “Shi—” and Shiki closed his eyes to the imprint of the moment and dropped his weight onto Izaya, his hand rising from Izaya’s neck to press on his mouth instead and silence the rest of a name he knew with cold certainty wasn’t his.

Izaya arched beneath him when his other hand grabbed the flushed-red length of his cock to stroke him to completion. He came with a cry, warm spit smearing between his lips and the pressure of Shiki’s fingers on his mouth. Shiki thrusted two, three times more before orgasm gripped him; for a handful of seconds the white-hot, mindless pleasure of it erased everything else. He breathed onto Izaya’s nape and rubbed against his back, not caring about hurting him now. Izaya wouldn’t feel it while he was like this.

He allowed himself a few breaths before pulling out. Izaya didn’t move, didn’t make a sound at the feeling, only shivered a little when cold air hit his back instead of Shiki’s own skin. Shiki shushed him absently while he tied the condom. He could feel icy awareness clawing at his insides, and a weight in his chest so much more terrible than exhaustion, but he couldn’t indulge it now.

He made his trip to the bathroom as quick as he could, throwing the condom away and wetting a towel with warm water before coming back to the bedroom; in this small timespan Izaya had time to curl on himself and stare absently at the wall. He didn’t react when Shiki sat down next to him.

“I’m going to clean you up,” Shiki said softly. Izaya glanced at him briefly, and the thing inside him caved a little further down. “Can you get on your back for me?”

It took a few seconds, but Izaya did. Shiki rubbed the towel over him carefully, cleaning semen from his crotch and lube from his ass in slow movements, one hand over Izaya’s forehead to assert that he wasn’t leaving.

“You didn’t have to,” Izaya said once he was done.

Shiki felt his throat tighten. He didn’t answer.

He didn’t want to ask Izaya to leave the bed so he could change the sheets. There wasn’t much on them anyway besides a few sweat-damp spots and the hole Izaya had torn while they fucked, so he ushered Izaya to the side they hadn’t defiled and lied down here instead after stripping down to his underwear. He spread an arm over Izaya above his injury and tugged the other against him, back-to-front. It was easier to concentrate with Izaya’s slowed pulse beating against his palm.

Little by little this heartbeat sped, and Izaya’s shoulders regained the ability to tense. He didn’t move away from the feeling of Shiki’s exhales on the back of his neck, though.

So Shiki sealed himself to the hollow disappointment he felt and said, “I told you to be honest with me.”

“Shiki-san,” Izaya replied, “you should’ve known better than to trust me.” His voice was rough. There was no way for Shiki to see what kind of face he was making as he spoke, but he thought he wouldn’t have wanted to either way.

Still, he dug his fingers tight into the skin of Izaya’s chest. “For this,” he admitted, “I thought I could.”

Izaya didn’t say anything for a long time. Shiki could feel one of his legs shake a little against his, so he didn’t let go. It would be several hours before he was sure Izaya would not come out of this more harmed than he had come in.

The sky turned to pink outside the window, then a darker shade of blue. Eventually Shiki started feeling cold and tugged the comforter over them, leaving a little more space between their bodies so Izaya could shift to lie on his back. His face was pale. The circles under his eyes looked as black as his hair in contrast.

“You should’ve thrown me out,” he said lowly.

“No,” Shiki replied.

Izaya chuckled, and turned his head to look at him. “You’re wasted on today’s yakuza,” he commented. “You should’ve been born twenty years earlier.”

“Twenty years is nothing when you’re my age.”

“Please, you’re not even forty yet.”

Shiki was thirty-nine. Right now he felt a century.

He brought his hand up again, this time to brush his fingers against the furrow of Izaya’s eyebrows. “Whoever has thrown you out before has done you very wrong, Orihara,” he said. “No matter what you think you’ve done to deserve it.”

Izaya’s face stayed unreadable. He nuzzled Shiki’s palm, breathed hotly against his skin; and through half-closed eyelids his eyes looked as cold as ice.

Shiki wasn’t surprised to wake up alone the next morning. For a minute he wasn’t sure it was morning at all—it was dark outside, too long still before dawn for yesterday to be discernable from tomorrow. He found his phone on the floor beside his bed. When he pressed the button the screen lit up to 3:08AM so brightly that he had to squint to read it at all.

A stroll in the penumbra of his home quickly assured him that Izaya was gone, along with all his belongings. The only traces of his passage that Shiki found were a half-full glass of water next to his sink and the folded clothes on his couch. The sweatpants and T-shirt Izaya had worn to sleep.

Standing in the dark with the soft clicking of the wall clock he could feel the memories crowding his mind. They had taken a dream-like quality, as if veiled to look softer than they really were. Already he could tell that he had forgotten the exact texture of Izaya’s skin and which color pleasure took on his face. The ridges of his spine, and the heat of his body, and the way the wound looked in his side.

It would be closed by the time they saw each other again. Izaya would lean against the backseat of Shiki’s car with a file in his hands and smile haughtily at him, and Shiki would say, The world won’t always do your bidding, informant.

Izaya would laugh. He would laugh as always, clad in distant amusement and bruised with insomnia, laugh and laugh until he turned to despair instead and dissolved into thin air, with only the sound of crushed metal to carry him off.

But Shiki didn’t know that.

He drained the last of the water. He thought, if he tried, that he could imagine the taste of Izaya’s mouth on the rim.

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