The Way I’m Picturing
Shiki wasn’t in the middle of doing anything when the text arrived, because it was past midnight already. That should’ve been his first clue. In the second that followed—in the first glimpse of wet skin shining in soft white light, he didn’t understand; his meetings of the sort, when he chose to have them, never happened by the means of sexting or nudes. He couldn’t even think of any partner, however recent, who would send him anything like this, and certainly none who looked the way the picture did.
And then he saw the beauty mark into the crook of the right elbow—no, left. Left elbow, appearing reversed because the picture was taken by the front camera of a phone.
There was no face to be seen. But Shiki looked at the black mole inside the left elbow where the skin was thinnest and palest, and he remembered the last time he had seen Orihara Izaya sleeveless on a hot summer day—he remembered how even at the time he had seen this beauty mark right at the line showing where his arm folded, and how he had thought about putting his hand there over sun-warmed skin and touching it with his thumb to see if he could feel it as well as he could see it.
Shiki felt his face warm as if struck by sunlight. It was almost buzzing. The picture was sideways, stopping short of Orihara’s chin and the lowest just above his pelvis—just enough that Shiki could guess where the trail of fine hairs under the man’s belly button led, just enough that he could see that one damning beauty mark and guess who it belonged to. Nothing explicit. Only frank in its dishonesty.
He exhaled. The air came out of him all at once, and it was only as tension fled from his chest that he realized he hadn’t been breathing at all before that.
He locked the screen of his phone and dropped it next to him on the couch.
There was an unopened bottle of sake in the wooden cabinet on the other side of the living-room—expensive stuff that he had received from Mikiya on his birthday. The thought of opening it didn’t even cross his mind. It ran instead to the box of tequila he had confiscated earlier that day from one of Toramaru’s boys who had been selling it right outside the gallery, like an idiot; and Shiki thought for the first time in many years of getting himself profoundly and irreparably drunk, so drunk that all memory of the day would leave him for good.
The fact that his entire soul screamed at the thought of Orihara’s shower-damp body wouldn’t let him.
So Shiki grabbed his jacket and pushed himself to his feet; he picked up his phone, and the thing lit up again to the picture, to Orihara’s skinny arms and scarred skin that Shiki would’ve preferred to discover with his hands and his mouth. He left his apartment.
He didn’t cross paths with anyone on the way. The sky outside was heavily black, so much so that not even the shine of the city managed more than a strip of grey light above the skyline. His car was parked in the open lot behind his apartment building, the hood of it sparkling silently in the night.
He rode slowly.
His heart rate didn’t speed up. It didn’t matter that at every red light he stopped his fingers flew to his phone on the passenger seat, touching the side lightly to light up the screen again. Shiki looked at Orihara’s thin neck and at what little sharpness he could see of his jaw; he looked at the line of his shoulder and his protruding collarbones, at every drop of water on his skin from the shower he must’ve taken right before deciding he hadn’t had met his quota of tormenting for the day.
Shiki’s knuckles held the wheel tightly. His heart stayed quiet. But the heat didn’t leave his face, nor the buzz his lungs, as if he had just taken a drag off of one of Akabayashi’s strongest cigarettes.
There was a public parking lot behind Orihara’s apartment building. Shiki didn’t question the miraculous free spot he found at this hour and simply stopped and got out of the car, phone held loosely in his hand, the screen lighting up every time he moved it, because it was a new model and he hadn’t yet found a way to prevent it from unlocking at the brush of a feather.
The guardian in the lobby didn’t question his presence. Shiki had been here multiple times before and for multiple reasons—all strictly work-related. He didn’t take the stairs this time: he waited for the elevator and wished Orihara would feel half the tension he did in the minutes it took him to reach the penthouse floor. Once he was there he crossed the distance separating him from Orihara’s door in too few strides and knocked, firmly, on the expensive wooden door.
Orihara opened it almost immediately.
He was dry now, the red flush from the hot water long gone from his skin. But he wasn’t dressed in black or even dressed in full—only in sweatpants and a T-shirt, and Shiki’s eyes found the mole instantly inside his arm, at the crease of his skin. Black on white. One millimeter off the darker line marking the fold of his elbow.
“Shiki-san,” Orihara said evenly. “It’s a little late.”
His hair was shorter than the last time Shiki had seen him. It was curling, blacker than usual. Shiki thought that if he were to touch it right there and then it would be damp between his fingers.
Instead he threw his phone at Orihara, who caught it deftly.
Shiki was ready for most things—to be irritated at Orihara, to get angry if he had to; he was ready to leave as he had come, with nothing more to show for his desire than hot blood running through his veins; and, in the miracle that Orihara meant this, he was perched on the edge of his own want and ready to burn himself touching him.
Orihara’s face became ashen when he saw the picture. All of Shiki’s heat turned to ice in his veins.
He closed his hand around Orihara’s, still holding his phone, and said, lowly: “Did someone else send me this?”
Orihara sucked in a breath. He met Shiki’s eyes, and for a second Shiki was ready to let something horrified crawl up his throat and open there to howl—but Orihara reddened a deep crimson, a mortified crimson, before taking his hand back and turning his back to the entrance.
Shiki looked at him heave in silence. He felt cold all over now.
“Sorry,” Orihara said in a strangled voice.
“What for?” Shiki replied carefully. He was still watching his back shake.
Orihara straightened it painfully. When he turned his head to look sideways at Shiki, his cheeks were still a hot pink, and his face didn’t betray any sort of humor—”That was an accident.“
Shiki wasn’t very used to being speechless.
Orihara took a deep breath; he turned fully to face him once more, his flush extending down his neck and under the neckline of his top. “I didn’t mean to send it.”
For a second they simply looked at each other in silence.
Then Shiki took a deep breath; and the only reason he didn’t start blushing himself was because the relief he felt was too intense, and the disappointment too. “I see.”
Orihara’s hand was steady when he handed the phone back to Shiki. His fingers didn’t touch Shiki’s hand at all, though they stayed for a moment too long. Shiki was too busy staring at nothing, somewhere around the other’s chest, to care.
And then—”Were you hoping it wasn’t an accident, Shiki-san?“ Orihara said.
Shiki’s fingers clenched around his phone and around Orihara’s own. “Don’t push me.”
Orihara wasn’t rid of his blush. If anything now the malice glinting in his eyes felt deeper and meaner because of it. “Did you think I’d sent you a nude?” he asked, softly.
Shiki dropped the other man’s fingers. He retrieved his phone fully, the screen lighting up again to Orihara’s torso dripping wet in soft white light, to the mole on his arm that he had glimpsed under the sun and wanted to kiss.
He put the phone into the inside pocket of his jacket and replied in a bitter voice, “Were you considering sending me one?”
Silence hung upon them for a long second; Orihara’s mouth softened out of his smirk and into something honest, and Shiki felt all of his will leave him at once.
He stepped forward with one hand in front of him, so Orihara could see him coming and move away if he wanted to. He didn’t. Shiki slid his fingers around the other’s head and felt his heart shiver in his chest when his knuckles dampened, when Orihara’s soft hair clung to his skin, when he noticed how warm Orihara’s cheek was against the heel of his palm.
He didn’t know how many times he’d wanted to do this when they were seated close together at the back of his car.
Shiki leaned forward. He deliberately missed Orihara’s raised chin and his open lips to press a kiss to his cheek instead, and his other hand took hold of Orihara’s elbow, his thumb sliding over the crook of it and above the thin rugged lining of scars there. Blood rushed to his head when he found that, indeed, the beauty mark could be felt under the pad of his finger as well.
“That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Orihara said in a tight voice.
Shiki chuckled. He drew back very slightly and ran his nose along the side of Orihara’s face—he went to press another kiss right under his ear just to feel the way Orihara’s body tensed and shivered. “It’ll teach you not to play me like a toy.”
“So not fucking me is my punishment?”
“Is that what you want?” Shiki leaned back until he could look at Orihara again. The man’s eyes were completely black now, pupils blown wide open. “Did you want me to fuck you?”
Orihara’s eyelids drooped. “It certainly crossed my mind.”
A pause. “Once or twice.”
“Mmh.” Shiki moved his hand from Orihara’s hair to the side of his neck, and pressed his thumb into the hollow of it where the skin was pulsing along with his heartbeat. “It crosses my mind every time I see you,” he admitted.
Orihara breathed in loudly.
“There’s something about you,” Shiki started; but he closed his mouth halfway, because he didn’t want to explain himself. He didn’t want to put into words what he felt at the thought not just of fucking Orihara but also of holding him. He didn’t want to find himself short of an exit route when Orihara took notice of how deeply this curent ran, of how much Shiki wanted to have him.
Orihara’s black, black eyes moved down to Shiki’s mouth, and his own followed, close and inviting—Shiki put a hand between their lips before they could touch and ignored how even this contact was enough to shake him. “No,” he said.
“But you want me,” Orihara replied. Shiki felt his lips and his breath and the damp of his saliva on his palm.
“Maybe. But not like this.”
Orihara leaned his head back. “So what it is, then?” he sounded truly irritated now, not simply confused. “Did I break an unspoken rule by accidentally hitting send on that message?”—his face paled in anger—”Did you think I was someone proper?”
“There’s not a lick of propriety in you,” Shiki growled.
Orihara smiled nastily. “It’s good that you realize this at least, then. Because I’m not the kind to be wooed over dinner or with flowers and chocolate.”
Shiki thought Orihara would very much be the kind to be wooed this way. But Orihara right now wasn’t the same as he was in the back of his car, with his thigh touching Shiki’s and his neck taut in the shadow as he looked into Shiki’s eyes.
Now he looked like he was on the wrong end of a gun.
Shiki pressed the full of his palm against Orihara’s neck. “Do you know how many times I’ve thought of dropping to my knees and using my mouth on you while we were working?” he asked.
Orihara’s mouth closed, and his teeth hit together loudly.
“I think about it every time you sit next to me in my car.” The words came to him easily, because those were every day feelings, common fleeting thoughts, something he nurtured and appreciated before discarding them with care. “Or you’re at my office, touching the side of your neck, like I’m doing right now—” he tightened his grip softly, until he felt Orihara’s heartbeat into the hollow of his palm—”and I’ll think about sending my men out so I can christen my couch with you.
“I think about fucking you wearing nothing but that damn coat of yours,” Shiki continued. “I think about jerking you off against a wall and feeling you pant into my neck. When I’m feeling especially tired, I think of tying a rope around you that’ll leave red marks all over you, that you’ll be able to feel for hours after I’m done, and not even the softest clothes will be able to help you forget.”
Orihara was breathing hard. Shiki pulled him in effortlessly, pressed his lips under Orihara’s eye, and said, right onto his skin: “I think about having you in some way every day.” He avoided Orihara’s lips once more when they came up, lifting his head to kiss his brow instead, smiling when Orihara growled into his neck. “I don’t want this sort of commitment over a misfired text.”
“Only you would call having sex with me commitment,” Orihara said shakily, and Shiki felt his chest tighten on sharp pity. He knew better than to voice it now, though. Another beat, and Orihara added lowly: “I did consider sending it.”
Shiki hummed. He had his cheek against Orihara’s forehead and his hand around his neck—his other one still caught around Orihara’s elbow and touching the tiny mole inside of it. “And if you had sent it like I thought you did, I’d be ridding you of these clothes right now.”
Orihara tensed; then he relaxed, and laughed fleetingly. “I guess that’ll teach me to stop opening my mouth once and for all.”
Shiki pulled back at his words. Orihara didn’t look any more upset than from Shiki refusing him what he wanted; but Shiki knew better than to think Orihara was incapable to letting truth run free in the middle of all his lies. He had a pretty good idea of what taking this man to bed would entail for him, because Orihara acted the way he knew only one demographic he came in contact with acted. It wouldn’t be the first time Shiki had sex with someone damaged in that way, whether they knew it or not. It would be the first time he did so with someone he desired not just superficially.
He didn’t want to start untangling Orihara’s warped vision of himself over an accident.
“Now what?” Orihara asked.
Shiki released him entirely—Orihara wavered on his feet before finding his equilibrium, as if Shiki had been supporting him physically. Shiki took his phone out of his pocket again, and the screen lit up to the same picture it had been holding for so long.
“Should I delete this?” he asked, holding it up.
He hoped Orihara knew what he meant by that, and he must, because he shook his head with hope in his eyes; so all Shiki did was close out of the picture at last and let it sit in his inbox.
“Now I go home,” he said. “And you go to sleep like I should’ve let you do.”
“I don’t sleep much,” Orihara replied.
“Then all the more reason to let you have what time you can.”
Orihara looked behind Shiki, to the still-open door giving to the hallway outside the apartment. Shiki felt foolish for not having noticed it sooner, and his cheeks colored at that more than they had at the announcement of Orihara’s blunder.
The other smirked. “Don’t worry. No one saw us.”
“Go to sleep, Orihara,” Shiki growled, putting his hands into his pockets and turning away.
He was almost all the way to the elevator before Orihara’s voice rang out again, clear and loaded: “At least kiss me properly.”
Shiki looked over his shoulder. Orihara had come out after him, barefoot on the fake-stone floor. He kept walking on it despite how cold it must be, until he was level with Shiki once more. “Don’t you think I deserve that?” he added, lids low on his eyes, suggestive in a way that only made Shiki remember too many thoughts of having him look like this, flushed with orgasm.
“Do you? Deserve it?” he asked. He found himself smiling as he did.
Orihara bristled. “I think I deserve something—”
Shiki crushed their lips together while Orihara was still talking, and the other made a sound, angry and satisfied at once, like a child only getting half of what he was promised. He pulled back at the feeling of Orihara’s tongue on his lips and only lingered long enough to watch Orihara’s eyes flutter open again. They looked like rust or blood under the soft light of the hallway.
“I guess I deserved that,” Orihara muttered.
Shiki straightened his back. He pushed the button to call up the elevator. “Next time you send me a picture like this,” he said, “don’t let it be an accident.”
Orihara observed him with an unreadable face, and his hand came to his elbow, his fingers to the mole there, as if to remember Shiki’s hold from earlier. They looked at each other wordlessly until the doors behind Shiki’s back opened and a bell chimed above his head.
The buzz he had felt on his way here had gone. In its place all he felt was want stronger than he had experienced, and satisfaction not unlike he would imagine having Orihara in full would be.
As the elevator’s door closed he wondered if Orihara’s skin was the same all over; soft, then rough, then softer again; and if it would warm up under his hands the way his face had under his lips.