"I miss you a little, I guess you could say, a little too much, a little too often, and a little more each day."

Opening his eyes was painful. Sleep was unfulfilling, dreams of memories plagued every shadow of his mind and when eyes shut, sleep was as painful as reality. The corners of his eyes were caked with dried tears, his head swam and an ache spread through his body as he sat up. Mocha eyes rested on the soft carpet. The aroma of nicotine was stronger than ever, hugging every corner of the room and triggering memories he should but wouldn't forget. He could almost hear the other's voice scolding him for his addiction. With his absence, the addiction was an obsession—it was impossible to go without the smoke stinging his lungs in an attempt to keep the other's voice with him, no matter the consequences, no matter what the other would have wanted.

The blond's throat stung with every hitched breath, his movements seared the exhausted muscles and trying to do anything felt like too much. It was like that every morning or more recently evening when he woke up. Days melted into nights and it made no difference to the lost man, who woke up and slept when he felt he was supposed to. He hadn't stepped foot out of the house since he walked in a week after the funeral. It badly needed repairs, it was run down and shabby and falling apart at the seams like Shizuo himself. The brunette had always said that they'd find a better place, and though he could now afford it ten times over—the blond couldn't leave the cage of memories. Sometimes, he could swear he still saw the lithe figure swooping down the halls as it used to, he told himself so often that it was the other that it soon became a truth to his warped mind.

The other's absence seemed to have snuffed out any light existing in the home before. The white walls were gray. The lofty ceilings cramped. The comfortable den unwelcoming. The whole house was consuming Shizuo and he let it—he embraced the pain with open arms as long as he could still imagine the shining face of the other adolescent as he deteriorated.

The blond staggered over to the shower, not bothering to adjust the temperature and letting the icy cold tendrils of water slice down his body and match the ache that burned under the surface. He imagined slender fingers tracing his body—the delicate arms wrapping around his waist as they used to, turning around only to remember that he was fooling himself as teasing caresses once more became drops of water cascading down his body.

He knew it was destroying him. Holding onto the remnants of the cunning man he loved—letting his imagination become a twisted reality, Shizuo knew it and didn't care. He needed to have something where his heart used to be—it was broken and shredded but he found that better than replacing it with artificial material. He didn't realize that in his desperate attempt to fill up the hole he was only making it bigger, every lighter that connected to a cigarette was like a torch to the frayed edges.

There had been friends who tried to bring him back, get him back on his feet, but Shizuo ignored them. He became so immersed in his own world of remembrance for the first two weeks that people were afraid to approach—then they were encouraging him to forget the brunette, to let go of every golden recollection of the idiot informant. They didn't know that Shizuo tried—he tried and denied and lied to himself—but forgetting him was like trying to remember somebody Shizuo had never known.

Shizuo buried himself in the sheets once more—they were filthy and ragged and torn in multiple places, but Shizuo convinced himself that his lover's scent was still wrapped up with them. He hadn't slept on the other side of the bed since he and the other had bought the house years ago, when the brunette complained about liking the other side better and forced Shizuo to trade places, warning him to never take his side again. Now Shizuo left it alone, waiting for someone that would never return, to claim something that long since lost importance.

Another deep breath of the bedding and Shizuo's eyes were stinging again. He pushed himself off the bed, stumbling beyond the ruined doorframe and brushing past the fur trimmed coat that he kept to torture his memories with. Shizuo remembered. He remembered the lies—the lies that both of them had believed wholeheartedly, lies of tomorrow's and forever's and future's. Lies that were so easy to believe that neither had thought to second-guess them.

As Shizuo forced the clothes onto his body—the familiar rustling was painful to his neglected senses—he fought the image in his mind of the worst lie of all, pushed back the memory of the eerily still body, the cold skin, and the expressionless face.

"Izaya, you need to be more careful," A stern warning, nothing special, Shizuo took the wounded hand and cleaned away the trickle of blood.

The brunette looked up briefly from the knife he was peeling the orange with after accidentally cutting himself, "Don't worry, I won't die so easily," A tease, nothing out of ordinary, "Because whether you like it or not, I'm here to stay."

'Liar,' the thought echoed in Shizuo's mind as he forced his body out of the house, sheer will-power commanding him to resume life.

It would be the first time in two months and seventeen days that Shizuo would see –Tom, Celty, Shinra, Simon—anybody. He didn't know how they'd react to his sudden change, but if they could keep his mind off of the smirking brunette for even a minute he'd risk their rejections. Because he knew—he knew that he needed to quit. Quit the addiction and cure the disease.

Driving off the premises, Shizuo lit up the last cigarette in his pack.

He wouldn't be buying more.