This story has been dormant forever. And you'll see exactly why. It's super long. Would you believe me if I said that originally, this was supposed to be just a (very) short one-shot? Then it grew and grew and grew, and let's just say that this has actually been cut pretty short from the original form. Now that it's finally finished, I hope everyone would enjoy it!
The title was inspired by Marianas Trench's song "Haven't had Enough."
Warning: AU. ShizuoxMikado. Probably OOCness. Onesided AobaxMikado. Loooooooong.
I don't own.
It all began at the production party after the publication of Ryugamine Mikado's latest book in the series. The whole production crew was there: Masaomi the Agent, Anri the Editor, Aoba the Artist, few other people that aren't quite essential to the plot, and Mikado the Author. They had been joking around, eating grilled beef and drinking sake, when Mikado had oh-so-casually dropped the bomb.
"Shizuo's going to die in the next book."
Everyone paused and gaped at him.
"You can't kill the main protagonist!" Masaomi screamed, pointing an accusing finger at him.
Mikado shrugged casually and sipped his sake. "I'm not. I told you many times before, Masaomi. The main protagonist is Celty-san. I'm killing Shizuo, who isn't Celty-san."
"Well you can't do that either!" was the reply he received from his best friend. "You have no right to kill Shizuo off! He's like… the only fake blonde in the entire series!"
Mikado raised a brow at that. I have no right? I'm the damned author! If I don't have the right, then who does?! Anri motioned him to come closer.
"Not to mention," Masaomi continued in the background, "Shizuo is Izaya's rival! With Shizuo gone, Izaya will reign supreme over Ikebukuro!"
"Saki-san is… fond of Izaya," she whispered to Mikado, who just couldn't help but to think that it was silly that his best friend was trying to compete against a fictional character in his book series (of all things!) for Saki's attention.
"Besides, Shizuo has the biggest fan base ever!" (Actually, Izaya's fan base was just as big; no one was certain as to who had a bigger one) "You'll be making millions of girls cry with that kind of negative thing! Imagine! They might drop your series afterwards!"
"Which is why this will be the last book," Mikado added.
The whole production crew continued to gape at him. The only sound was the beef burning on the grill. Mikado took pity on the poor piece of beef and rescued it to his plate. Nibbling on the burnt meat, he glanced up to survey the group. Most looked dazed. Masaomi was pointing an empty sake bottle at him, demanding answers. Anri looked thoughtful. And Aoba? Well… he was giving Mikado that strange look that Mikado was too used to seeing nowadays.
"So you have everything planned out then?" Anri asked, ignoring their mad friend who was screaming his lungs out.
"I have most of it written actually," Mikado admitted. It was true. Since the beginning of the series, the end had been something that he had been constantly working and reworking. And with the recent novel's development, he thought that finally, the last novel would fit well in there.
Mikado glanced at Anri. Once upon a time, he would have blushed at even the thought that Anri was looking at him. But that was a long time ago when he didn't have to work with her. Now that they were actual adults with jobs, he sometimes wondered if he had actually been in love or if he had just wanted to fall in love and Anri had been the closest girl who would never like him back. Of course, this was before he realized that he could never love her more than as a sister, especially since he wasn't exactly straight.
"I can't wait to draw it for you, Mikado-senpai," Aoba gushed, leaning forward on the table so that he was closer to Mikado, who was sitting on the opposite side. He only managed to avoid the grill by a narrow margin. A pity, Mikado mused. If Aoba hurt himself again, then at least people (by that Mikado meant Masaomi) would stop this silly discussion about Shizuo's death and focus on getting the kid some first aid... for the third time today.
Just as Mikado had gone to the same high school with Kida Masaomi and Sonohara Anri, Aoba had been their underclassman at Raira. Mikado had never quite felt that Aoba was normal, but never really had any proof until they started to work together. Sure, they would smile and greet at each other during school, but everyone did that right? It wasn't until Aoba submitted cover art as well as character sketches that Mikado began to notice something… out of place. For one thing, there was Aoba's freakish nature of getting himself hurt every chance he could whenever he was near Mikado. For another, colleagues usually didn't stand so closely nor did they try to touch each other every chance they get… right?
It would be slightly unnerving if it weren't for the fact that Mikado had already gotten used to those behaviors.
Ever since his series started gaining attention, he, as the author, had also garnered attention from well-wishing fans, critics, and to those who wanted to get rich. It had been an interesting experience, to say the least. Well, at least he now knew better than to drink or eat anything someone got him without having it thoroughly examined (Usually by handing it over to Aoba).
"Mikado, I'm not finished!" Masaomi continued, waving the sake bottle in the air for emphasis. "I'm serious! You can't kill Shizuo! If you do, I refuse to let you publish it!"
"Masaomi, you can't do that!" the author protested.
"Too bad!" His childish best friend replied as he stuck out his tongue. "I just did."
No, as in you have no power to stop me from killing Shizuo. Mikado just sighed and let Masaomi think that this was settled.
The main character of the series was Celty, who was a Dullahan. The story was originally created to revolve around her and her adventures (or perhaps "mis-adventures" would be a better term) in Ikebukuro as she searched for her missing head. Somewhere along the way, the fans somehow became convinced that Orihara Izaya and Heiwajima Shizuo were the main characters. Since their introduction, not only had fans clamored for more of the two, but they had also insisted that the two were secretly in love with one another as well.
The fact that the series was supposed to be about Celty seemed to have escaped most of the fans.
Well, it's not that I have problems about two men dating. I'm not that hypocritical, Mikado thought to himself as he walked home from the restaurant. It's just… I don't want Izaya and Shizuo to date. After all… He glanced up at the star-filled sky.
I based Shizuo on my ideal man.
The cell phone blasted its ringtone, waking Mikado from his slumber. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was an insanely early time. 3:04 AM. Must be Masaomi.
As predicted, it was his best friend on the other side of the phone. "Dude, where are you? The flight for Ikebukuro leaves in half an hour."
"… The flight?"
"Remember? You're doing a book signing today? And there's a novelist panel after that? Don't tell me you haven't been paying attention to your schedule?"
…Why didn't you say anything before now?!
"Don't tell me you forgot! Your fans are going to be sooooooo disappointed when they hear that you can't make an appearance because you wanted to sleep in! And how can you be so cruel to your fellow writers who will be soooo upset at your arrogance to not show up to talk with them! Oh Mikado, how can you do this to them?"
Mikado mentally sighed. "I'll be there soon."
With that, he quickly changed into a simple button down shirt and jeans, threw some important looking things into a backpack, and ran out the door towards the airport.
The best thing about book signing was meeting the fans. Mikado loved that he can thank them properly by meeting them and getting to know them. It was also interesting, because many fans were dedicated enough to cosplay as characters from his series. And since Aoba's character sketches were on the dot (they had to be or Mikado wouldn't let it be published), most people got the basics down for Mikado to guess who each one was dressed as.
For example, that girl over there wearing all blacks and a cardboard box on her head was probably imitating Celty. For another, that short kid over there wearing a furry black jacket was probably Izaya. The girl wearing a doctor's white coat and glasses was probably crossplaying as Shinra. And that man in bartender suit had to be hands-down Shizuo.
As much as Mikado loved his fans, they were also the worst part about book signing.
"I'm, like, your biggest fan! Will you marry me?" An over-enthused girl asked, staring at Mikado with shinning eyes.
Just how do you reply to things like that anyways? Mikado laughed nervously, tugging at his collar. He glanced nervously around for someone to rescue him from the girl, who was leaning awfully close over the counter.
"Please refrain from scaring the author!" As always, Masaomi's merry voice came at the nick of time. With those words, Masaomi appeared before the girl with his signature smile on his face. "But if you are insistent on love, then what about me?"
The girl let out a high pitch giggle before allowing herself to be led out by Masaomi.
"Mikado-senpai sure is popular," Aoba said as he sat down next to Mikado.
I don't want this kind of fame. He sighed mentally. Maybe if it was a hot guy… He snapped himself out of his thought. Who am I kidding? Even if that guy is hot, I probably won't be able to talk to him. Damn me and my shyness!
Aoba clasped his hand on top of Mikado's. "Why haven't you accepted any proposals, Mikado-senpai? Are you, by any chance… waiting for-"
You're getting too close! Mikado scooted as far away from his kouhai as the chair would allow him.
"Kyyyaaaaaaa! Real life yaoi!"
Dear gods. She's here again! Mikado tried hard not to let any expression show on his face as he was greeted with an overexcited fujoshi that he had come to know quite well. Karisawa Erika, he thought to himself. He forced himself to smile at her and tried very hard to ignore his kidnapped hand.
"Ah! I feel so honored! Mikado-sensei remembered my name finally!" Erika exclaimed, waving two copies of his latest novel in her hands.
Well, you made such a big deal last five times… It's a little hard not to know you now, especially after the "Shizaya forever" cookies. "I'm glad…?"
"So it said that I can ask you to sign three things," she said as she laid out the two books in front of him. "And I was wondering…"
Mikado braced himself. This can't bode well for me…
"Would you sign this doujinshi about Shizaya?" She was looking at him with those sparkling eyes, filled with hope.
Mikado inwardly cringed. To sign that meant that he was supporting that pairing, which he obviously wasn't. But to disappoint a fan…? Why does she do this to me, every single time? She knows I'm going to refuse. He took the books (but not the doujinshi) and began signing them automatically.
"To Karisawa-san, my biggest yaoi fan. From Ryugamine Mikado."
"Why do you not support Shizaya, Mikado-san?" Aoba asked, tugging on Mikado's non-dominant hand curiously.
Well for starters, the main focus of the book isn't romance and I want people to remember that the novel is about Celty-san and her journey to find her head. If there is any kind of romance, then it should be remembered that as the main character, Celty-san has priorities and Celty-san and Shinra-san are the only established pair… Oh and Seiji and Mika, but they don't really do much except gross people out. Then there's the fact that Izaya scares the crap out of me. I probably shouldn't have based him on a nightmare I once had. And lastly but most importantly, Shizuo is mine. After all, he's based on my ideal man… Hah. Who was he kidding? As if he could say that out loud!
Mikado put the finishing touches on his signatures on both books and looked up. He noticed that everyone within hearing distance of him was staring at him like he was crazy. And was that a faint blush on everyone's faces?
"Is something wrong?" Mikado asked.
"Mikado-senpai… you said it out loud."
The blue-eyed author looked at him blankly. Then his system was suddenly flooded with understanding. He said it out loud… the real reason why he didn't like Shizaya. With a furious blush covering his entire body, Mikado abruptly stood up and ran out.
Erika stared at his retreating figure with something akin to sadness and awe. "He can be rather cool at times, huh?" she said softly.
"He's going to be heartbroken," replied her male counterpart, Walker. He walked up from behind her in the line and took his copy of the book back from Erika. "I feel bad for him."
Erika grinned. "We should help him!"
Mikado rushed back to the hotel, ignoring all phone calls and yells for him to stop. Dammit! That was so stupid! Why did I say it out loud? Why didn't I notice I was saying it out loud?
He waved hello to the hotel attendants and ran up the stairs to his room on the sixteenth floor. By the time he got to the third floor, however, he was out of breath. Okay, maybe this was a bad idea. Rubbing his temples, he walked out onto the floor and rode a crowded elevator to his floor. With a heavy sigh and deep regret settling in his heart, he opened his hotel room with the card key.
When he got off the airplane and into the airport of Ikebukuro, he had been late. Thus, Masaomi had just directed him to get to the book signing while he went and booked them a room. It was later at the book signing that Masaomi had given him a card key and the room number.
So when the author walked into the room and the lights were on, he figured his ever-forgetful friend left it on. The room was big with two queen-sized beds with a drawer in between them. One of the beds was claimed by Masaomi, or so Mikado assumed because it had bunch of crap thrown all over it. The other bed was nice and unclaimed and Mikado figured that one was his. There was a TV against the opposite side of the beds. There was a big window on the opposite side from where he was standing. All in all, it was a cruddy three star hotel.
Typical Masaomi. He must have just booked it today. I told him to book ahead in this kind of things. Seriously, why did I hire him as my agent? Right. He's insanely good with PR.
Mikado rubbed his temples and began unbuttoning his shirt. Throughout all of this, he completely missed the fact that the bathroom's light was on.
This is undoubtedly all Masaomi's fault, he thought to himself. If only he gave me some sort of warning about what's going on, I would have known to expect Karisawa-san as well as had well deserved sleep.
Figuring some sleep should give him the courage to face that he had publically came out of the closet as well as declared his love for a fictional character, Mikado took off his shirt and turned towards the hotel bed. Ah, peace and-
And the bathroom door slammed open and a sunglasses wearing blonde bartender walked into the room.
"Whua… who are you and why are you here?!" Mikado shouted at the other person. Then he stopped. Because damn it, he would recognize those clothes anywhere.
Black pants, black vest, white button up shirt, red bow around his neck… It was exactly how he described for Aoba to draw... But it can't be him! Mikado gulped and allowed his eyes to move up toward the person's face, dreading what he might see. Thin lips pressed together, slightly crocked nose from all the fights, blue-tinted sunglasses, blonde hair messily tossed about, that build and height…
Shit! He looks exactly like how I pictured Heiwajima Shizuo to look like!
A breathless laugh left his mouth. "Amazing!" he said. Despite being really creeped out by the fact that the person was just… standing there by the bathroom door, the author had to hand it to the person for being able to cosplay as Shizuo so well. "You look exactly like him!"
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" the man in bartender clothing asked. "And where the hell am I?"
...? Ah! He must be roleplaying! Smiling softly, Mikado said, "We're in my hotel room in Ikebukuro." The rumors that I like Shizuo couldn't have spread already. So most likely, this guy was placed here by Masaomi in order to try and stop me from killing Shizuo in the last book. Cute, Masaomi. But that isn't going to change my mind.
"Ah, so we're still in Ikebukuro," the man said nodding in understanding. Then he paused. "So how did I get here?"
Mikado blinked. Then he inwardly chuckled. Ah, this guy has Shizuo's character down perfectly. "Actually, I would like to know that myself. What's the last thing you remember?"
"… Using the bathroom at my apartment complex."
The author hid his look of surprise. I don't remember publicizing where Shizuo lives in any of the books or interviews… It must have been a good guess is all. "I see," he said. "So it was some sort of inter-dimension travel that must have brought you here."
"Ah. Is that what it is?" Shizuo said, calmly accepting this. He then reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Wild Seven, the brand Mikado always frequently imagined Shizuo to have, was held loosely in the blonde man's hand.
Did I tell someone what brand he smokes? I don't remember mentioning it because it never came up. The feeling of fear clawed itself in the pit of Mikado's stomach. No, no. This is all a coincidence. There's no way-
"So who are you?"
"Hm? I'm Ryugamine Mikado."
The blue-eyed author paused. Wait. Why did he ask me for my name? Isn't he taking the roleplaying a little too seriously?
"Alright," Shizuo said as he slowly breathed out. "I better start going then. Don't want to be late for my job, you see."
Roleplaying, Mikado told himself firmly. That was all there was to this. "The exit is that way," he said pleasantly, pointing at the door.
Shizuo tilted his head, nodding. "Thanks. By the way, you might want to put something on. It's kind of chilly." Then he walked away, leaving a blushing Mikado in the hotel room by himself.
Well, that was embarrassing, Mikado thought. He shrugged. "Oh well," he decided, "Masaomi can suck it." Then he crawled happily under the covers and slept.
He awoke to something that sounded vaguely like a loud explosion. Then someone started to shake him desperately, shouting hysterically as they did so.
"Huh?" Mikado asked.
"You have to get up right this friggin' minute!" Masaomi shouted. "Heiwajima Shizuo is going on a rampage!"
"He's always going on a rampage," Mikado pointed out. "I don't think there was a single time in the novel that-"
"No, Mikado. Heiwajima Shizuo is outside right now, swinging a lamppost at the police officers."
This must be part of Masaomi's ploy, Mikado thought with a heavy sigh. He forced himself up and grabbed a shirt. "Okay, okay. I'm coming."
Oh, this had to be some kind of a dream.
"See?" Masaomi shouted hysterically, pointing wildly at the scene before them. "See! I told you! It's Heiwajima Shizuo!"
And indeed it was. It was the Shizuo cosplayer from Mikado's room earlier, there was no doubt there. The cigarette had long been crushed and he held the lamppost that must have been uprooted from the spot right next to Mikado. He was waving it in the air, threatening the cops and preventing them from getting too close. In the background, excited fans and normal civilians alike were snapping pictures and squealing about the coolest live-reenactment.
"Heiwajima-san!" Mikado shouted, earning everyone's attention.
"Ah! You're… Ryu… Ryu… Ryugasaki?" Shizuo asked, face darkening as he struggled to try and remember the name.
Mikado smiled gently at that. This guy was so dedicated to cosplaying… Then he stopped. Because if he thought about this carefully, then it made no sense. Because no matter how dedicated you were to cosplaying, there was no way to mimic Shizuo's immense strength that this person just displayed. And looking over at Masaomi, it looked like his best friend wasn't the one behind this at all. So what did this mean anyways?
"It's Ryugamine," Mikado corrected gently. "Why don't we grab a milkshake and talk about this, Heiwajima-san?"
"Ah? You think I'm some kind of a kid or something?" Shizuo demanded. He squeezed the lamppost tightly, causing it to be crushed and bent.
You might as well be a kid. "I think you're frightened. And I think you want answers."
Shizuo's eyes narrowed before he dropped the lamppost. "You have the answers, then?"
No. Not at all. But like hell I can let you know that! Mikado continued to smile. "Would you come with me?"
"Fine." And with a surprising calm, he put his hands in his pockets and walked up to Mikado. "Lead the way."
The cops and the rest of the audience members seemed shell-shocked to really react. Mikado took that to be his saving grace. He motioned for Masaomi to take care of the rest and he led Shizuo to a café nearby.
The two actually sat in an amiable silence as Shizuo drank his milkshake and Mikado sipped his tea. There were hushed whispers of all around them, most of them having heard of the news of the destruction outside. Mikado heard the shutters of few cameras all around them, but he ignored it with his usual calm. But on the inside, he was sweating bullets. He had implied that he had the answers when he didn't. How the hell was he going to explain this without making Shizuo snap?
"Alright," Shizuo said finally, putting his milkshake down. "Talk."
"Of course," Mikado said, "Where would you like me to start?"
"Start with where the hell Tom-san is."
In a book. Where you should be. Mikado weighted the pros and cons of saying that out loud. Then with a small sigh, he reached into his pocket. If there was something that he knew very well about his characters, it was trivial information about Shizuo. And Shizuo hated being lied to (due to the crazy amount of times he had fallen for Izaya's lies). Therefore, Mikado should not say or do anything that reminded Shizuo of the informant.
"Before I start talking, you must promise me that you will not flip out, no matter what I say or show you."
Shizuo tensed. "I can't quite promise that," he said. "But I will try my best to control myself."
"Thank you." Mikado took a deep breath. He then pulled out his phone from his pocket. With ease, he navigated to the web and pulled up the cover for his book. Then he handed it over to Shizuo.
The bartender frowned but looked at the screen attentively. "Is that…?"
"Yes. Heiwajima-san, you are a character in a book series. The Ikebukuro that you grew up in is just a fictional version of this city you see before you. Everyone that you know, Tom-san, Celty-san, and even Iz… the flea-" (Whew, that one was close. Mentioning Izaya was a big taboo when it came to Shizuo) "-They are all just characters in this book series."
"What… the hell?" Shizuo whispered. "But how can that be? Are you telling me that my entire life is a lie?"
"Not a lie, per say. More like… A bored author's imagination?"
"What kind of a twisted bastard comes up with life like mine?!"
Mikado felt his eyebrow twitch. But before he could answer, Shizuo glanced back down at the phone's screen. He narrowed his eyes as he read the information about the book.
"Hey… Isn't your name Ryugamine Mikado…?"
"That is correct."
Three things happen all at once in the next second. One, Shizuo crushed Mikado's phone in his hand. Two, he reached over the table and grabbed Mikado by the collar. Three, he knocked over both of their drinks as he did so. Both the milkshake and the tea fell to the ground, both of their container shattering at the impact.
Shizuo's angry eyes bore holes into Mikado as he exclaimed, "What the hell gave you the right to do that to us?! Who the hell are you to destroy our lives and make us suffer? Why did you put us through that hell? What gives you that right, huh?!" His hands shook with force and restraint. As promised, he was trying his best to not snap.
"Do you hate me?" Mikado asked, his voice surprisingly calm. His mind, however, was a storm of panic. On one hand, he didn't want to die. But on the other hand, he was curious. He had thought about it before. In fact, many interviewers always asked him the question of "If you could meet your characters in real life, who would you like to meet and what would you say to them?" Most of the time, he had chosen Celty. But he had thought about what he would say if Shizuo was in front of him. To be honest, what he was saying right now had absolutely nothing to do with what he had thought he would say.
"I would hate me, too, if I was in your shoes. After all, I'm the one who gave you that monster strength that has made you an outcast. But you're not quite being fair to me, Shizuo. I needed to pay the rent and the bills. And in order to do that, I needed the most interesting cast of characters and I needed them to grow. I needed them to evolve with every obstacle I put in front of them, and I needed them to come to accept who they are. So tell me, if not this, then how the hell was I supposed to pay the rent?"
"You could have gotten a real job!" Shizuo snapped. "You could have done something different! You didn't have to make us suffer-"
"Yes I did! If I didn't, then you wouldn't exist. Don't you understand that? The reason why you feel anger, the reason why you are yelling at me right now, it's because I created you! And if I hadn't, you wouldn't – none of the people you've come to associate with – would be real!"
Shizuo's hands shook violently and Mikado waited for the punch that would undoubtedly come. But instead, Shizuo slowly relinquished his hold on Mikado's collar and released the author. He took a deep breath. "I still don't like it," he declared before sitting back down.
"You don't have to like it," Mikado said with a shrug. "It's just a fact." Despite the fact that he sounded nonchalant, he was freaking out on the inside. Did that just happen? Did Heiwajima Shizuo just spare him from his temper? It was bad enough that he had created Shizuo from his ideal man, but now that Shizuo had treated him specially like that… Mikado fought against the urge to blush. "Do you want me to buy you another milkshake?"
"Ah. Yeah. That'd be cool. Thanks."
"Hey, can I read the book?"
Mikado glanced up from paying for the milkshake at Shizuo. "Excuse me?"
"I mean… It's not like it's important or anything," Shizuo mumbled, blushing and ducking his head. "I'm just kind of curious."
"But it's your story," Mikado said with a frown. "You lived through it. You know what happened."
"I want to read it. I want to see me as others have seen me."
"Can I have that milkshake to go?" Mikado asked the woman at the counter. "And what's the nearest bookstore near here?"
Shizuo stared at the display of the books with awe and Mikado found himself embarrassed.
"It's usually not this fancy. My series isn't al that popular," he said quickly. "The newest book just came out so…"
He trailed off when he realized that Shizuo wasn't listening. Instead, his eyes were glued to the display of the books. Amongst the books were small plushies of Shizuo, Celty, Izaya, and Shinra. There was other kind of merchandise: notebooks, pens, art books…
Without saying anything, Shizuo quietly picked up the first book and opened the cover. He looked at Aoba's art with an unreadable expression on his face. His fingers gently rested against the page before he flipped it open to the prologue. With a stony expression, he read.
Mikado rocked back and forth on his feet a little before deciding that he didn't really need to watch Shizuo read the books. If Shizuo had a violent reaction, Mikado would know. Besides, if Shizuo lost his temper, it would be better to be further away…
"A twisted love story, huh?" Shizuo asked, looking amused. "Well, I don't know about these two, but I know Shinra's pretty twisted."
"Eh? Did I really write that?"
Shizuo motioned him over and pointed to the last two sentences of the prologue. "See," he said. "There's even accompanying art."
"Huh," Mikado mumbled, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "My writing really sucked back then."
"I think it's interesting," Shizuo said as he flipped the page. "It's a very distinct style."
Mikado looked away, fighting back the urge to blush. Damn it. He never should have based Shizuo off of his ideal man. He gave Shizuo some room and picked up Aoba's art book. Looking at this collection, it was obvious to see the growth of the characters and Aoba's art style as well. He remembered most of the artworks fondly. Aoba had rushed over, flipping through the sketchbook and asking Mikado multiple questions. It was one of the rare times when Aoba was actually pretty serious about his job.
"Senpai! I heard that you were in trouble!"
… Speak of the devil…
Mikado glanced up and spotted Aoba, who was holding a baseball bat. Aoba glanced around and spotted Shizuo. He tightened his grip on the bat and gulped. "Don't worry, Senpai. I'll protect you."
"It's fine, Aoba. Don't bother him. He just wants to read."
Aoba shot Mikado a betrayed look. "But Mikado-senpai, he's…" But before he could finish, Shizuo let out an exclamation and ran over to them with the book. Aoba visibly flinched and tried to hide the baseball bat behind himself.
"What the hell?" Shizuo demanded as he shoved the book into Mikado's hands. "What's with this depiction of me?"
Mikado fought off an amused smile and took the book. He read the passage that Shizuo must have been angry about and then looked back up. "What's wrong with it?"
"This is how you introduce me!" Shizuo said, giving Mikado what seemed to be a childish look. "You have me beat up a whole bunch of people and then talk about how I hate violence. It makes me sound insane. And now everybody is going to think that! Have you never heard that first impression is the most important?"
The author blinked. He looked back down at the words and then up at Shizuo. Then he let out a small chuckle.
"What?!" Shizuo demanded, his face slowly turning red.
"No, no. It's just… I didn't think that you'd be this cute." Mikado laughed at Shizuo's outrage and pressed the book back into Shizuo's hands. "Keep reading."
The bartender grumbled but took the book back anyways. He settled himself by the foot of the shelf and resumed reading, fuming slightly.
Mikado chuckled again and glanced back at Aoba. "See? Harmless."
Aoba nodded slowly, but the disbelief in his eyes did not recede.
"Hey Shizuo, we should grab some dinner," Mikado called as he walked back to the bartender who was still reading.
"But I just got to a great part!" Shizuo protested, never looking up from the book. "I just need to figure out what happened with Seiji and Celty's head. Then we can go."
"You know Mikado-senpai wrote the book," Aoba grumbled by Mikado's side. "You can just ask him what happened."
"No I can't," Shizuo insisted. "A writer writes to tell a story on paper. It's meant to be read not told in a story form. It loses all of its magic otherwise."
"I have other copies at home. Well, you'll have to wait until tomorrow when we go back," Mikado offered. "That is… If you're okay with staying with me…"
Aoba shot Mikado another betrayed look. And before Shizuo could say anything, Aoba quickly cut in with, "No! I also have the copies as well! He can stay with me!"
Mikado blinked before smiling brightly. Shizuo blinked, looking a little confused as to who this guy was. Aoba blinked and wondered what the hell was wrong with himself today.
"Great! Then let's grab dinner and Shizuo can stay with Aoba!"
By the time Mikado got back to the hotel, Masaomi and Anri were both waiting for him. Masaomi was pacing nervously back and forth while Anri was calmly flipping through one of Mikado's older works (a collection of short stories, actually. From back when Mikado was just starting out and hadn't been courageous enough to attempt a novella).
"Hey guys," Mikado greeted with a tired smile.
"Mikado!" the both exclaimed with relief. Then Masaomi adopted a more annoyed expression and pointed a finger at his best friend. "You left me to deal with the cops and the angry fans!"
"I'm glad you're okay," Anri said firmly, glaring at Masaomi to disagree. "How did things go with…?"
"Shizuo? Yeah, about that…"
After explaining everything (through Masaomi's disbelieving shouts and Anri's calming presence), Mikado's two best friends nodded slowly. They had rearranged themselves on Mikado's bed, sitting cross-legged and sharing gossip almost as if they were little kids again at a sleepover party.
"So you really had nothing to do with this, Masaomi?" Mikado asked, giving his friend a dubious look.
"I'm flattered that you think so highly of me, but there is a limit to what a human can do, you know. And I'm pretty sure summoning a character from a book is not within the realm of a human's power."
"But there's another just as important question," Anri interrupted. "How would we return him? And…" She looked straight at Mikado. "Would he really want to return when he realizes what you have in store for him?"
"Ah! That's right! You're going to kill him!" Masaomi exclaimed. He began to do a small jig, shaking his body to a music-less excitement. "There's no way that he'd want to return! That means you'll never be able to finish this series because he's not in there!"
"Jee, thank you for rubbing it in my face," Mikado mumbled. He sighed, rubbing his temples. "For now, Aoba volunteered to be with Shizuo. But knowing their personalities, I don't think they'll be able to stand each other for long."
Both Anri and Masaomi looked at him questioningly. "What do you mean?" Anri asked carefully.
"Ah, it's just… Aoba's personality… Whenever I'm not around, he's a lot like Izaya, don't you think?"
His two friends glanced at each other for a second and then back at Mikado. He wasn't too sure who started laughing first. But before they knew it, they were all giggling and laughing. Mikado couldn't help but to be thankful for the two of them.
Mikado glanced over at Masaomi, who had a serious look on his face. Uh-oh. This wasn't good. What was Masaomi going to ask now?
"How come you never told us that you preferred men?"
The author froze. Oh, that was right. He came out of the closet, didn't he? The laughter in the room died down and Mikado felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. "I… I wasn't trying to hide it or anything. It's just…"
"You know we would support you no matter what," Anri said softly. "You're our friend. We wouldn't reject you."
Mikado buried his face in his hands. "I don't know. I just… I couldn't… I just feel like a disappointment."
"Don't." Masaomi gave him a supportive smile. "You're my best friend, Mikado. I told you, didn't I, back in high school? If you accidentally kill someone, I'll help you hide the remains."
"This isn't high school."
"And there isn't a dead body. Personally, I think this is easier to deal with."
Mikado laughed. "You're ridiculous!"
"Well, seeing that I'm going to have to deal with the press, I think I'm allowed."
"I'll help," Anri supplied. "Don't worry, Mikado. We have your back."
Aoba looked completely drained when they all met up at the airport. Shizuo, meanwhile, kept twitching and glancing around, looking a little like he had too much caffeine. The minute he spotted Mikado, he jumped up from the seat and rushed over, looking a little like he might lose his temper any minute now. As always, Masaomi's first instinct was to stand in front of his friend, trying to protect him from physical harm.
But instead of losing his temper, Shizuo stopped in front of them and nearly shouted, "What happens next? I can't take this anymore!"
Mikado covered his mouth, stifling the chuckle that threatened to escape from his lips. Masaomi just gaped at Shizuo, and Anri gave them all a small smile. Aoba, meanwhile, ran over right behind Shizuo, looking ready to attack him at any moment.
"Which part are you at?" Anri asked calmly.
"Ah, the one where the girl with Celty's head appeared in front of Seiji! I just need to know what the hell Shinra was thinking!"
"Oh, you're still on the first book," Anri said, looking surprised. "I would've thought that you would've skipped ahead to the latest one. After all, you've already lived through it, no?"
"Well, yeah. But I only know my side of the story. I didn't know that this was going through Celty's head or Shinra's. I didn't even know that Seiji existed."
"You threw him at a truck," Masaomi reminded him. "After he stabbed you with a pen."
Shizuo shrugged. "Don't remember it."
"He probably hit his head too often," Aoba mumbled. Then he turned to Mikado with a sweet smile. "Have you had breakfast yet, Senpai? Let me buy something for you!"
"I'm fine, Aoba," Mikado said, backing away from the pushy artist.
"I'm not done yet. I want to read all of them. You said you have all the books, right?" Shizuo asked, aiming the last question at Mikado as if to rescue him.
"Of course, he does!" Masaomi answered. "In fact, he has nothing to do for a while, you two should just spend the rest of the week together!"
Aoba shot Masaomi an alarmed look. "No, no, he's coming with me. He's not staying over at Senpai's place!"
"Don't be silly, Aoba," Anri said quickly. "You have work to do."
"Huh? But I don't-"
Masaomi grabbed Aoba's left arm and Anri grabbed the right one. Then the two swiftly dragged him away, talking about work all the while. It left Shizuo and Mikado alone until their flight was called.
Thanks guys, Mikado couldn't stop the smile on his face. "I'm glad that you're enjoying the book."
"It's a good story," Shizuo mumbled, looking to the side with a blush. "How long is it?"
"There's currently twelve volumes," Mikado said. "I think the next one will be the last."
Shizuo nodded. "That means you haven't planned the end yet."
"… Something like that…" No need to let Shizuo know that he already had most of it written.
"I can't wait to see how it all leads up."
Mikado laughed nervously. No matter what, I can't let him find out…
Thanks to Masaomi and Anri, the ride back was uneventful. They kept Aoba away, letting Mikado and Shizuo to just hang out like they were normal people. Shizuo kept asking for information but then would change his mind, declaring that he would rather read it. But then he would lose his will and ask for information before groaning and dropping his head into his hands.
"Adorable?" Shizuo asked, looking a little horrified. "If anyone's adorable, it's you!"
Shizuo's face turned red and he quickly looked away. "Don't deny it. You're way cuter than me. Hell, you're cuter than that… um… That annoying guy. What's his name?"
"Is that his name?" Shizuo asked with a shrug. "He's annoying. He… faintly reminds me of someone."
Mikado wisely didn't mention who it might be. Instead, he quickly changed the topic. "Do you remember my name?"
Mikado blinked. Eh? That was unlike him. He thought for sure that Shizuo would have a hard time remembering it. After all, Shizuo didn't bother with people or things that had no bearing in his world. So for Shizuo to remember his name… It made him blush, actually. He was important enough to the bartender to be remembered.
"Don't look so surprised. I just thought it would be disrespectful if I didn't know my creator's name."
"Ah, please don't call me your creator. That just… sounds weird."
Shizuo turned to look at Mikado with slight annoyance. "But that's exactly what you are."
"But I don't want to be called that."
"It's your title. Just like you call me the Bartender of Ikebukuro or the Strongest Man in Ikebukuro, you're our creator. That's just who you are."
"But I don't have to embrace it just because it describes me."
"Why don't you like it?"
"It makes me sound more important than I am. I'm just a writer. I just put words on a page. That's all."
"But that's what created me and the others."
Mikado sighed. "That's true but-"
"There isn't a but. You created us. So…"
"Take responsibility. Tell me what happens next! No wait; don't say anything. I want to read it. But… Ugh! I want to know so bad!"
Mikado blinked. He couldn't stop the laughter that spilled from his lips. Shizuo pouted, but he didn't stop Mikado from laughing.
Shizuo walked behind Mikado, looking around the small town with something akin to awe.
"What? Never been out of the city before?" Mikado couldn't help but to ask. Now that he stopped to think about it. Did Shizuo ever go to the countryside? He had Celty and Shinra plan a trip, but what about Shizuo…?
"It's not just that, but…" Shizuo blushed a little. "It's just… This is where I was born, right? Where you came up with the idea for the story?"
"Whua-? I… I mean, I guess… But… Really? Born? That's what you're going with?"
"Sh-shut up! You said you didn't like the word 'created,' so I tried something else! What? You have a problem with this, too?"
"No, no! It's just… Nah, it's nothing." Mikado shook his head a little. It probably would get dangerous if he teased Shizuo a little too much. So instead, he motioned for Shizuo to follow him.
They arrived at a small creak area ten minutes away from Mikado's place. There were few picnic tables and a garbage can, but otherwise, there was no sign of human involvement. Birds chirped, squirrels dashed about, and fishes swam in the creak. The greenery of this place was abundant and wild, almost as if no one really came here.
"I come here whenever I need to think," Mikado explained as the two made their way down to the creak. "And about nine years ago, I came here mulling on a short story about a woman who kept losing her memories and the doctor who loved her."
"Celty and Shinra?" Shizuo guessed.
Mikado nodded. "Well, in their original forms, I guess. It was a really morbid story. No matter what the doctor did, the woman kept forgetting her memories. Driven insane by the repetition and frustration, the doctor does one thing that will make sure that the woman won't forget: he steals her head."
Shizuo looked alarmed at that. "You're not going to-?"
"Well… I have most of the ending written, but…"
"As you probably could tell with the short story, I'm not very good at writing endings. Every time I try, someone always seem to end up dead or something just as tragic happens. It can be good for short stories, because the ending creeps up on you delightfully. But in a long story…"
"Scared that you're going to anger the fanbase?"
"Yeah. Some of these fans have been with me since the first book was published. I can't disappoint them with such a crude ending."
Shizuo quieted. He looked around the creek instead of meeting Mikado's gaze. After few minutes, he looked at the author and asked the question that had been bugging him. "What do you think would happen?"
"Huh? Well, I don't have much planned aside from what's written, but-"
"No, I mean… It's kind of selfish, but what do you think will happen to me? To Celty and Shinra? To everyone in your story? What will happen to all of us when the story ends? Do you think I'll just… disappear?"
"I don't know."
Shizuo nodded slowly. "Yeah, I figured."
And the two stayed quiet, both lost in thought.
Shizuo looked around Mikado's humble apartment room with amusement. He looked over Mikado's carefully stacked books (for research!) and messily spread out papers and writing utensils on the table, making note of the type of reading material the author had. He grimaced at the stacks of dirty dishes and thick layer of dust everywhere but the table, where Mikado spent majority of his time writing and therefore bothered to clean (sometimes).
"You write with paper and pen?" Shizuo asked, looking a little shocked. "Wouldn't writing on a laptop or computer be easier?"
"It would be, but I get distracted too easily." Mikado shrugged, feeling slightly embarrassed. "It's easier to just write it out and then edit it as I type it out on the computer."
"Hm? What are these sketches over here?"
"Character designs," Mikado said as he pulled a few out. "Aoba sketches these for me whenever there's a new character introduced."
"It's Kasuka," Mikado agreed. "Isn't he cute?"
Shizuo smiled gently, touching the paper. "You wrote his likes and dislikes."
"I do it for everyone."
"Can I see mine?"
Mikado flipped through a few more until he found Shizuo's. And all of a sudden, he couldn't help but to feel a little reluctant. If he showed this to Shizuo, what would the bartender think? He hesitated a little but then decided to trust Shizuo with it. He handed it over, trying to quash the rising anxiety in his stomach.
Shizuo looked at it carefully. His eyes skimmed through all the information, taking it every detail as he could. Then he looked at Mikado with a lopsided grin. "You have a lot of detail about me."
The author felt his face flush. "Y-you know…" he stuttered, making wild hand gestures. "It's just… Stuff. Details. To bring a character to life."
Oh. Mikado stopped. Wait a minute. He snatched the paper back from Shizuo's hand and began to compare it to the other characters'. Just as Shizuo had pointed out, he had put in extra thought in the bartender's. No other characters (Not even Celty, the main character) received this kind of treatment.
I wonder if that's why he came to life and no one else… Then Mikado paused, his eyes landing on the one character that he couldn't talk about in front of Shizuo. That character's sheet was just as informed (if not more) as Shizuo's, due to the complex nature of that character and how involved he was with the rest of the plot. Mikado slowly looked up to Shizuo, who just looked confused then back down at the paper. What if it means that Izaya is also here…? I better not tell it to Shizuo.
With that, he quickly hid the character sheets. "Well, you said you were still on the first volume, right? I have it over there. Go ahead and enjoy!"
Mikado flipped the pen in his hand, looking at the blank piece of paper with a frown. He knew that he should technically be working on the final novel, but he couldn't get the thread of thought out of his head. What if Izaya really was here? Then wasn't that bad? Out of everyone in the world, Izaya was the second worst person to have in the real world (second only because there were some really scary people in his novel that would love to kill him if they knew they were just characters).
He glanced over to Shizuo, who was curled up in the corner with the book. How could Shizuo just sit there, enjoying a book? Mikado just didn't get it at all. It wasn't like the books were particularly good. Not to mention that Shizuo already lived through the events written there. So where was the magic? Why was Shizuo so invested in reading them? He just didn't get it.
"No way!" Shizuo exclaimed. He pulled himself into a smaller ball, glaring intensely at the book as he did so. "C'mon! You've got to be kidding me!"
Mikado clicked the pen and began to write.
"Mikado, Mikado!" Shizuo exclaimed as he shoved the book in front of the author. "You can't let that fleabag win! You can't!"
"But he has the head!" Shizuo began to pace back and forth by the table, muttering darkly under his breath about that damned fleabag and Celty's head.
"He does, doesn't he?" Mikado mumbled, tilting his head to the side. Huh… that just gave him an idea…
"What's that supposed to mean? You're the author! Fix it!"
"Keep reading, Shizuo!"
The bartender growled in frustration, but he went off to find the next book anyways.
His house phone rang an uncomfortably long time before Mikado finally put down his pen and picked it up.
"What up, Masaomi?" he asked.
"Mikado, I have no idea how they got the audio clip, but someone just posted something that could potentially be damaging."
"… What did you find?"
"I emailed it to you."
Sighing softly, Mikado booted up his computer. Shizuo was still sitting in his little corner, glaring at the book and muttering darkly under his breath. It was rather amusing how engaged he got whenever he read. Mikado looked back to his computer. He logged in to his email and flipped through the long list of junk emails until he found the latest one from Masaomi.
It linked him to a leaked video. Someone had recorded him at the book signing, thoughtlessly stating the reasons why he didn't like Shizaya, and put the audio together with pictures of him and Shizuo at the café and at the bookstore.
"Where did they get this?" Mikado whispered.
"I don't know," Masaomi groaned over the line. "Well, the pictures make sense. But that audio? I wasn't even there to hear it!"
"So that's it then? Everyone knows?"
"Well… Some people think that this is practical prank and that the audio and the photos are manips. Others want to boycott your book series. And…"
Mikado closed his eyes. And what?
"And some people support you."
"They want you to know that they'll support you no matter what. So stop hesitating and tell Shizuo how you feel, alright? We're doing our best on our end to keep Aoba away."
"Thank you, Masaomi."
"But there's just one thing, Mikado."
"What is it?"
"How do you feel about publicly coming out?"
Mikado was pleasantly surprised by the direction the final novel was taking. He had most of everything written out, so it was really just a matter of going back and making sure that he hadn't contradicted himself anywhere. Not to mention, the grandest scene of them all was waiting for him.
"Mikado, take a little break," Shizuo said, lightly smacking Mikado's head with the book. "Your hand's going to suffer from a cramp, if you write that much."
"Ah, this much is nothing," Mikado replied with an easy smile. But he did as requested and put the pen down. Massaging his hand, he motioned to Shizuo. "So how are you liking the second one?"
At that, Shizuo's eyes sparkled with excitement as he launched into recap. Despite the fact that Mikado knew what the novel was about (he wrote it after all), he found it refreshing to hear it being retold from Shizuo's mouth. He hadn't realized just how much details he had forgotten as each of the new novels were published. The bartender of Ikebukuro was like an overexcited child as he gestured wildly to recount his own theories and thoughts.
"Well, of course," Shizuo finished, "I'm probably going to be wrong. I'll know as soon as I start reading the next one."
"Why do you like it so much?"
"Hm? What's there not to like?"
"I mean… it's your story."
"But it's also the story of Ikebukuro. It's the story of the crazy things that happen there. My own story is just but a fraction of it. How can I not enjoy it?"
"How do you think it'll end?"
Shizuo tilted his head, thinking about this carefully. "The same way it started. With twisted love."
Mikado smiled at that. "So you like stories that end the same way it started?"
"I think it's cool when authors do stuff like that, you know?"
"But the whole twisted love thing is so… juvenile."
"Hey, you wrote it."
Mikado groaned and buried his face in his hands. "Don't remind me!"
He let out a loud yawn as he stretched up. Oh, he must have fallen asleep at the table again. But what about Shizuo? He didn't remember telling the bartender where to sleep or even pull out a futon for the guy. Mikado glanced over and spotted Shizuo in his corner, sleeping against the wall. In his hands, he held the book gingerly, and a finger marked the place he must've stopped at.
Feeling guilty that he was forcing his guest to sleep in such an uncomfortable position, Mikado stood up to grab his futon in the closet. His body ached, reminding him for the umpteenth time to not fall asleep at the table and actually sleep like a normal person. Ah, perhaps after this novel was over, he could finally sleep like a normal person? He pulled the blankets out and threw one at Shizuo.
Ah, no. That's not quite right. Mikado walked over to Shizuo and straightened the blanket. He eased the book out of Shizuo's hand and placed it to the side, making sure to fold the page for Shizuo to be able to find his page again. Then he tucked the bartender in and felt a little apologetic that all he was offering was the corner of the room. Later, I'll let him know that he's welcomed to use the futons as he wants.
He paused, staring at Shizuo's peaceful sleeping face. Now that things were calm enough for him to think this through, Mikado realized just how surreal all of this was. Sure, he often wrote about nearly impossible things happening in modern day setting, but that didn't mean that he believed that they happened in reality. And to think that his own character would be in front of him…
"What am I suppose to do?" Mikado wondered out loud. "I'm fine with you staying here for as long as you want but… If you make that kind of a cute face, I'd want to kiss you…" Mikado chuckled lightly at that. How foolish. What was he saying?
He pressed a gentle kiss on Shizuo's forehead and made his way back to the desk. Let's see what else he could write before he fell asleep again.
He ended up writing that scene.
It came almost out of nowhere. Things had been leading up to it for a while now, but he didn't think that he would write it like this. The death of Heiwajima Shizuo.
Mikado scratched his head, uncertain of how to feel. It was… It was definitely heavy and tragic. It just… It just felt like it was missing some kind of a key aspect to it. He sighed heavily and crumpled the paper. Something more heartfelt, he thought. He wanted something a little more… A little more that fit Shizuo's character better.
As he thought of this, he glanced over and spotted Shizuo, who was reading the next book with renewed passion. He let out loud exclamations and curses as he read, completely engrossed in the book to notice Mikado.
"Something like that," he found himself muttering. "I want my readers to feel like that when they read this scene…"
Mikado looked up, suddenly alarmed by the smell of delicious cooking. Shizuo looked over at him, looking a little sheepish at having been caught. He held a frying pan in one hand and a spatula in the other, and the frying pan had some kind of stir-fry in it.
"Thought you might be getting hungry," Shizuo admitted. He divided the food on the frying pan into two dishes. Then he handed one over to Mikado with a spoon. "You looked busy, so I didn't want to disturb you."
"Thanks," Mikado answered easily, accepting the food. "It smells really good." He bit into it and let out an exclamation at the scalding heat. "It's good. A little hot, but good."
Shizuo ducked his head, blushing a little. "Glad you like it…"
"So how far did you get?" Mikado asked as he blew on the food.
"Ah! I'm at the part with the crazy violent stalker! I didn't even realize that Rumi had gone through so much. Stupid Kasuka, he should've let me know."
"Eh? You're already there? You're almost done reading, then."
Shizuo looked a little crestfallen at that. "I don't want to finish reading it. Maybe I should slow down a little…"
"Read it at your own pace, Shizuo. Besides, the last book isn't finished yet, so it won't end even if you finish the series thus far."
"Ah, but I don't want to wait!"
Mikado laughed. "You're such a kid!"
"Damn it. No." Mikado groaned lowly before crumpling up the last two papers. Why was it so hard to write this damned scene? He buried his head in his arms, groaning all the while.
"Want to go for a walk?"
Mikado glanced up and spotted Shizuo, who put down the book with a worried look on his face. "Thanks," he said with a grateful smile.
The walk took them down the familiar road to the creak. It started out quietly, but then Shizuo finally sighed and asked, "Alright, what exactly is the problem? You've been moaning and crumpling pages for the past few days."
Mikado blinked. "You noticed?"
"Give me some credit!"
"Ah, sorry, sorry. You're just really cute to rile up." Mikado laughed gently before falling quiet with depression. "It's just… this one scene. I can't seem to write it the way it needs to go. Every time I try, it feels like there's something missing."
"Maybe you weren't meant to write that scene."
Mikado turned to face Shizuo. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, if it's not going so well, maybe you should just omit it. Ah. Not that I'm trying to tell you how to write or anything. I just-"
"That's just my problem," Mikado said with a heavy sigh. "I need that scene to wrap everything up. But every time I try, there's always some random thread of plot that gets undone. It's quite frustrating."
"Maybe you should take a little break from it. Write something else. Come back to it."
There were three messages waiting for Mikado when they returned from their short walk. One was from Aoba, asking if Mikado had some time to hang out. That one, Mikado ignored with relish. The other two, however, was from Masaomi, who wanted to discuss the situation with him again.
"Hey," Mikado greeted when the call went through. Shizuo settled against the wall, watching Mikado carefully.
"Oh, Mikado, thank god," Masaomi sighed. "I was about to send the police down there."
"Don't do anything weird. What's going on?"
"Ah… It's just…" Masaomi took a deep breath. "We received some threatening letters recently, and I wanted to make sure that you were okay."
Shizuo tensed at those words. His eyes darted around the room, searching for anything that could potentially be used as a weapon.
"Mikado, I'm serious. I think you should address your fans."
The author held his breath, thinking about it even more carefully than usual. Should he? Well, he knew he couldn't hide forever, but… If things were really escalating to the point of threats… He rubbed his temples. "Alright," he conceded. "Let's hold a press conference."
The knock on the door told Mikado exactly who it was at the door. After all, three people had keys to this place and only one of them knocked (Granted, it could be someone else, but very few people knew where he lived or bothered him here). He didn't hesitate to open it, revealing Anri in a suit.
"I'm not really required for this, but I insisted on coming along," she said with an apologetic bow.
"No, no. I want you there with me," Mikado corrected her with a grateful smile. "We're friends after all."
Shizuo walked towards the door, worry deeply etched into his face. "Do you want me to…?"
"Do you mind staying here?" Mikado asked. "This is something that I must take care of myself."
The bartender looked like he wanted to argue, but he relented with a heavy sigh.
"I'll bring back something nice," Mikado promised. Then he turned to Anri and nodded. "I'm ready."
It was past midnight by the time Mikado returned back home. The press conference had gone surprisingly well and he had met a few well-wishing fans who expressed their support for him. To be honest, all through the ride home, he had been on cloud nine. A weight had been lifted and now he could just focus his everything on the last scene of the novel.
Surprisingly, the lights were still on and Shizuo was waiting for him at the table. Mikado tilted his head, confused, until he spotted what was in Shizuo's hands.
The manuscript for the final novel.
"I finished reading," Shizuo said softly when Mikado closed the door behind him. "And I was curious. I didn't mean to but…" He placed the pages gently down on the table as if he was terrified of it. "Is this really how you feel about me?"
The bartender shook his head, cutting him off. "No, no more waiting. What the hell, Mikado? Is this what you were planning to do from the beginning? Were you laughing every time I made a comment about your stupid series? Were you just biding your time until I realized what you were planning to do? That you planned on killing me off and leaving the rest of Ikebukuro to Izaya, of all people?"
But the bartender refused to let him explain. "You have no right! I believed in you! I… I trusted you. But you… What the hell am I to you? Hah. What a stupid question, of course I'm just nothing but a character for you to torture so that you can pay your rent. You told me from the beginning, damn it. And I didn't get it. I didn't. I really thought that we could… I really thought that you were..."
"I'm..." But now that Shizuo had finally stopped and allowed him to speak, Mikado found that he didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry."
Shizuo growled and punched the table, breaking it in half. Papers and writing utensils fell everywhere, scattering like snow all around them. And instead of panicking that his manuscript was strewn all over the floor, Mikado couldn't look away from Shizuo. Because this wasn't just furious anger that he was used to writing about. This was anguish. This was disbelief. This was betrayal.
This was the one thing that Mikado never thought he would ever see. It was the one thing he never thought would ever happen. Partly because he never thought that they could become this close and the other because this was Shizuo.
"I'm disappointed in you."
And with that, Shizuo walked out.
It took a few minutes before Mikado recovered his motor functions. By then, the hot shame had flushed his face into what felt to be permanent red, and he found himself slowly gathering his things from the ground. I should be running after him. This thought reoccurred over and over in his head. I should be running after him.
But his feet remained planted and he mechanically picked up the papers, not really caring in which order he put them in. His hand reached forth and put yet another piece of paper into the growing messy pile and he stopped. It was a quick doodle that Aoba had done for him, once upon a time. It was of Shizuo who had his cigarette hanging out haphazardly out of his mouth as he held up a vending machine way over his head.
"What am I doing…?"
There was no hesitation this time. He dropped everything and ran outside.
Heiwajima Shizuo was nowhere to be seen.
Just as suddenly as he had appeared in Mikado's life, he left, leaving behind a horrible gash of self-loathing that festered on Mikado's heart.
The house phone kept ringing but he didn't pick up.
Mikado lay in the middle of the room, surrounded by the broken table and pieces of manuscript and other papers. He thought about what he was doing and knew that he was being childish. What was he doing? Why was he doing this?
Finally, finally, he forced himself to sit up. Without care for the paper scattered on the ground, he made his way to the shelf with his books. His fingers brushed the covers before he forced himself to pick it up.
He sat where Shizuo used to sit and read.
He didn't remember gathering the papers together. But before he knew it, he was scribbling a scene down on a blank piece of paper. Then another. And another.
After few hours, he gathered the papers together and began to sort it out to the best of his ability. When things started to make sense again, he cracked his knuckles and turned on his laptop.
It was time to write.
It took three weeks to finish everything to his satisfaction. And with a serene smile, he emailed the manuscript to Anri.
He continued to ignore the phone in favor of lying in the middle of the room. He still hadn't bothered to clean anything, so the remainder of the table and the scattered writing utensils still surrounded the ground. And it was in this scene that Kida Masaomi walked in on.
"Mikado! Are you all right? What happened here?" his friend demanded, worry and anger flashing in his eyes.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Mikado mumbled, waving his hand. "Why're you here?"
"Ah, I wanted to talk to you about the final novel. I didn't think you could do something like that, you know?"
Mikado nodded absentmindedly. "Yeah. Me neither."
"I'm here to tell you that it's good. We're getting ready on our end to publicize this, so make sure to keep in touch with Anri, okay?"
Masaomi hesitated. "Hey Mikado… Where's Shizuo?"
But his friend did not answer.
A year and a half after the publication of the last book, Mikado sat in an Ikebukuro bookstore, signing and smiling for fans. The final novel of the series had just been made available 24 hours before, and fans and coworkers alike were walking around alternating from congratulating him to bemoaning the end of the series.
"I didn't see it coming at all!" one of the fans told him enthused as he signed the inside cover. "I mean, I reread everything and I realized that you've been hinting it the entire time throughout the series. Man, you plan everything, don't you?"
He laughed gently and pressed the book back to the fan. No. He didn't plan anything. If it hadn't been for Shizuo, who had read through everything, he wouldn't have even noticed any of the details or "hints" that he had dropped in the previous novels.
"Karisawa-san. Did you bring another Shizaya doujinshi for me to sign?"
"Nah, I'm not that cruel," she said, holding up two copies of his novel and… a neatly printed photo of Shizuo and Mikado in that café so long ago. "Sign these?"
Mikado chuckled gently at that. "No problem." He began to sign them automatically, not really caring all that much about what he was doing.
"You know, I think you're really brave," Erika said earnestly. "I mean, starting the series with twisted love and ending it with that? Especially after your little scandal? It's really gutsy. I can't wait to read more from you, Ryugamine-sensei! You've gotten yourself a life-long follower."
"Thank you." Mikado finished signing and handed the things back to her.
The next person in line was a Shizuo cosplayer. But Mikado had long stopped searching around desperately for that man. The person wordlessly handed over the book and Mikado wordlessly signed it. Silence. It was unusual from a fan, especially seeing that this was the last novel, but Mikado didn't mind. He just let it be and handed the book back.
"I enjoyed this ending better than the original one."
He looked up and saw that man's back and realized with a start that this wasn't just any Shizuo cosplayer. It was him. Disbelief and hope filled his system and he found himself standing up and running after him.
"Mikado! What about the signing?" Masaomi shouted after him.
But Mikado had no time to waste on that. It was Shizuo. Shizuo was right there, walking away from him. Last time, he had been too shaken to properly run after him, but right now…
Right now, he didn't care that he had a million other apologizes that he needed to say. Right now, he didn't care that everyone was watching. Right now, all that mattered was that Shizuo was right there in front of him.
"Shizuo!" he shouted, reaching forward. His hand touched the firm back. "Why don't we grab a milkshake and talk about this, Heiwajima-san?"
Words, he knew that that person would understand. Of anything in the world, he just wanted another chance. A way to do-over the mistakes he had made. A way to begin again.
The person tensed for a second before relaxing. And Shizuo turned to face him with a knowing smile on his face. "Ah? You think I'm some kind of a kid or something?" There was no anger there, unlike so long time ago.
Mikado grinned. "I think you're frightened. And I think you want answers."
Shizuo's eyes narrowed at the accusation of his fear, but his lips never dropped the smile. "You have the answers, then?"
Mikado continued to smile, relief washing over him as they repeated the same words, as he repeated the same beginning. "Would you come with me?"
"Fine." Shizuo pulled his hands out of his pockets and held it up to Mikado. "Lead the way."
He wasn't going to mess it up this time.