(Breath of the Machine)
I don't own Durarara.
"You broke three windows."
"Sorry. I know. Sorry."
"The restaurant can't condone that kind of behavior."
"I know. It won't happen again."
"...We're going to have to let you go."
I blinked. The manager leafed through the three pages of paperwork he had in front of him. He didn't want to meet my eyes. I don't know what I'd expected, though. It wasn't the first time something like this had happened; I should have been used to it by now.
I nodded. The manager visibly relaxed and began babbling about how they would need my hat and nametag back, but my mind was already well into next week, when rent was due. In the end I just kept nodding, and when I'd had enough I stood and left the manager in the middle of his sentence, a cigarette already halfway to my mouth. I don't think I ever did give back the hat and nametag.
When it had first happened, I'd offered to pay for the damages, and the manager had assured me I would be. He'd told me how much it would cost and I'd almost punched him out of shock. Who pays that much for WINDOWS?!
That had landed me at the kitchen table of my dingy studio apartment, tearing my hair out for hours over the prospect of the bill I'd be receiving. Even if I had been able to keep my job, the money would have amounted to four months' salary. I was screwed. Maybe I could borrow it from Kasu-
Shit. Kasuka. My little brother had the money, but he also had faith that I wasn't a lost cause. He could NOT find out I'd lost this job, too. I'd already been told I had the "wrong demeanor" for customer service, and I was more "intimidating" than persuasive in sales. Then of course there were the damage-related firings I'd gotten as a fast-food cashier… bartender… crossing guard…. I let my forehead clunk on the table. Can't do anything right.
Someone knocked on the door. I wasn't expecting anybody, and I was definitely in no mood for company. Or salesmen. There was another knock, louder this time. As if I somehow hadn't heard the first one thunder around my tiny apartment. Maybe they'll go away.
I went back to the paper I'd been scratching my budget out on. If I didn't smoke this month, I could- no. But maybe if I didn't eat this month? It wouldn't make much of a dent, but it would be something.
The pounding at the door had finally stopped. Apparently whoever it was had decided to fuck off.
Then there was a bang on the window so loud I jumped a foot in the air.
"Hey~! Open up!"
I recognized that obnoxious voice. I didn't need to look up to know what I'd see: black hair, a smug face, and a jacket that it was WAY too hot out for. Great. The last person I needed around today was this shitty excuse for a human being.
He pressed his face against the pane.
"Shizu-chan, don't pretend you can't hear me! I can see you!"
I walked to the window. He smirked and gave a little wave. I flipped him the bird and dropped the blinds.
"Oh, what, you're too good to hang out with me now that your brother's a movie star?"
I sat back down, determined to ignore him. But when no sound came from the window for five minutes, the silence started blaring in my head. Did he actually leave…?
The voice was right behind me. "Leaving your guests standing outside is just rude."
I shot up so fast I knocked the chair across the kitchen. "HOW THE HELL?!"
"Your lock is shit, like everything else you- "
He never finished the thought, because the next second my hand was around his throat. I dragged him to the wall and slammed his head against it. Come into MY house? Insult MY things? I raised my fist. The crazy fucker started laughing. All of my rage went into that single blow, shifting at the last instant to smash a gaping hole in the drywall, half an inch from his face.
He wrenched his head to the side to look at the hole. He seemed amused.
"…Something eating at you, champ?"
My attitude toward Izaya was complicated.
We'd gone through school together (at least, all high school and whatever college I'd muddled through before I lost the athletic scholarship), and I could safely say he was the worst person in the world. On average. But he didn't give a shit. That's what really pissed me off about him- he just danced around fucking up other people's days, knew it, and blatantly did nothing to change it.
He was also the biggest creep I knew. He got a kick out of telling everyone I'd cozied up to him at Shinra's over-boozy birthday party a couple months ago. Not that anyone believed him. He only said it to try and piss me off. I've been drunk before, but even in a blackout state I'd have remembered doing something that awful, stopped, and promptly thrown myself off the roof.
What I DO remember from that night is waking up the next morning in my bed with a brain-splitting hangover, buried in about a hundred socks that I'd never seen before.
That's vodka for you.
Unfortunately, Izaya was also a friend of a friend. Which meant two things.
First, it meant that any time I tried to get together with the handful of people who didn't get shifty eyes and bolt whenever I came around, it came at the price of an excruciating extra guest.
It also meant that, out of concern for my well-being as much as Izaya's, I'd been asked to do my best not to commit murder. Which was easier said than done when it came to this flea, as evidenced by the new decor of my kitchen wall.
But that wasn't fair. Even if he deserved to get socked in the face, it wasn't his fault I'd gotten fired.
I sat at the table with a glass of milk while he leaned against the stove and listened to me mutter something about a horrible customer putting me out of a job, about how it was just bad timing, about how he should learn to stay out of people's homes and be less disgusting in general.
"I've got a job you," he chirped when I'd finished.
I was careful not to respond at all, because I wasn't completely sure he wasn't making some kind of nasty joke. He noticed my pause and snorted.
"No, I'm serious, it's actually the reason I came by. I just got this car- a Maserati GranTurismo. But it only comes with a manual transmission, and I don't know how to drive stick. Neither does Shinra."
I didn't know exactly what the car looked like, but I knew what "Maserati" meant. It meant he'd just gone and bought a car that cost more than my whole life. Asshole.
"Then I remembered: Shizu-chan's crappy pickup is a stick-shift because it's ancient!"
My grip fractured the milk glass.
"So- you can teach me, and if you're not a total disaster, I'll pay you. Sounds great, yeah~?"
This guy. He got his money from God knows where, but I knew he had a lot of it. Obviously. And if I wanted to survive this month's rent without seeing a disappointed non-expression my brother's face, my options were pretty limited. But I hated it. Hated it. This prick gave off this sleazy impression that even when he was helping you, he was screwing you over.
I sighed. "Convertible?"
"No, coupe! Do I look like a half-bald sixty year-old to you, Shizu-chan? Definitely a coupe."
He'd had the car delivered to his house, because of course he had. The bright white of the body momentarily blinded me in the afternoon sun. From what I could tell, though, it was a good-looking vehicle. Very sleek.
"There are some back roads if we go east from here, not too much traffic." Izaya jingled his keys and hopped cheerily over to the driver's side, popping open the door. "Shall we?"
I reluctantly dropped the cigarette I'd started on our way over and crushed it with my foot as slowly as possible. This was going to be like hours of having teeth pulled. Maybe I should revisit the not-eating plan. Starving might be preferable to this.
Izaya put his elbow on the roof of the car and rested his chin in his hand. "You act like you're not looking forward to spending the afternoon with me."
"That's because I'm not."
"Don't lie, Shizu-chan. I know you think I have nice eyes."
"I really don't."
He snickered and swung himself down into the seat. Gritting my teeth, I slid into the passenger side. The upholstery was so new that I felt like I should touch as little of it as possible, but considering how tall I was in that cramped space, that wasn't going to happen.
The little tick was bouncing in his seat like it was Christmas Eve.
"You know which pedals are which?" I asked.
He pointed in succession. "Clutch, brake, gas." He looked back up at me expectantly. "Ready?"
"Take off the parking brake."
"Right! So now we're ready?"
"No." I reached over and put the shifter into neutral. I nodded. He turned the key in the ignition and the engine growled to life immediately. It sounded smooth, nothing like my clunky truck. Izaya hadn't exactly been lying when he'd called my pickup ancient, but he was a bastard for saying it anyway. And now I was helping him learn to drive.
Let the hell-trip begin. "Push down on the clutch, then put it into first."
He obeyed, squinting a moment to see which position was first gear.
"Okay, now push the gas pedal, and at the same time let off the clutch."
He lifted off the clutch like it had burned him, and the car immediately stalled.
"…Not that fast."
Izaya frowned. "You didn't tell me that."
I shifted back to neutral and had him start up and shift to first again. "Alright, now gas, and slowly let off the clutch."
He didn't seem to move. I could hear the engine revving louder.
"I said let off the clutch!"
He did, and the car shot forward, both of our heads snapping back from the force. He hit the brakes immediately.
"...Not that slow."
I put the shifter in neutral again. Izaya's expression was turning sour.
This was going well.
I buckled my seatbelt.