A Day is Sufficient

a Durarara! fic, by Suzume- specially written as a Christmas present for my sister, Aki

"Ah ha! Here!" Shizuo fiddled with the key and flung open the door to their room. It didn't go very far. The doorway was small.

"Oooh, how luxurious, Shizu-chan," Izaya nearly snorted. Okay, the room had a certain cozy charm- cute little beds, cute little table, quaint view overlooking the rail station- but Izaya wasn't about to say any of that to Shizuo. "Is this the best you could afford on your limited income?"

"Are you gonna go into the room or am I gonna have to smash you in there with the luggage?" Shizuo growled. He could practically feel his blood pressure rising already. Why had this sounded like a good idea in the first place? What the heck was he doing here anyway?

"Fine, fine. I'm not here to break any bones." Izaya threw up his hands and waltzed into their room. He might complain, but that didn't stop him from acting like he owned the place. Izaya- king of wherever he went. It was cocky and obnoxious, just like everything else about him. But Shizuo had been the one to invite him ("You, uh, how would you like to come to Himeji with me?"). He had known what he was getting into ("Well, okay. But only because no one knows us down there. I couldn't go on living if any news of this made its way back to Tokyo."). He wouldn't make a fuss ("Uh, cool. "We'll travel separately. I know, I know- I'm breaking your steel-plated heart. I'll meet up with you at Himeji Station.")

Shizuo lugged their bags in. Izaya frowned as he tossed them onto the bed. "Be careful with that, Shizu-chan. You don't know if I have anything fragile in there."

"Sorry." Shizuo shoved his hands into his pockets and stalked over to the window, peeking out between the curtains at the tangle of activity circling in front of the station below.

Izaya poked around the room, peeking into the minibar (nuts, beer, Pocari Sweat), the bathroom (there was a sloped back to that tub), and the nightstand (Teachings of the Buddha and The New Testament). When he was satisfied that he had taken in all the room had to offer, he schooled his expression, hoping to achieve his everyday look of arrogant nonchalance despite the appealing irregularity of the situation, and approached Shizuo. How long could he look out the window? You couldn't even see the castle from there. "So, did you bring me all the way out here just so I could sit in a hotel room or are we going to do something?"

"Yeah, of course we're gonna do something. I'm gonna take you to Himeji Castle and I'm gonna try not to get thrown out or arrested for destroying a national treasure just because I'm with you."

"A castle, Shizu-chan?" I didn't know that was your kind of thing. That's kind of boring." Of course, it didn't have to be boring. Izaya was good at making his own fun. He just wanted to see how Shizuo planned on handling the situation before he stepped in with any plans of his own. Honestly, the whole idea of the trip had revealed a creative side of Shizuo he hadn't known existed. Apparently, Shizuo was a little more than one-sided.

"Shut up- what else did you think we'd go do in Himeji? It's a nice castle."

"Are we going then?" If Shizuo liked castles, he was ready to see the castle.

"Yes! Let's go!" Shizuo slammed the key into his pocket. It was one of the many signs of the less-bustling, low tech nature of the place. The room key wasn't a card you would swipe, but an actual metal key.

"So, lead the way, Shizu-chan." Izaya tugged his jacket a little closer against the brisk air. He walked backwards several steps ahead of Shizuo, purposely blocking his ability to get in front and take charge. He was always interested in seeing how people would react to the situations he forced them into, and of the many subjects in his Japan-sized laboratory, none interested him more than Shizuo.

At first, Shizuo played along with the game, weaving first one way and then the other to try and sidestep Izaya. Izaya was fairly skilled at this maneuver. He skillfully passed over manhole covers, curbs, and crosswalks as smoothly as if he were moving forward. The line of Shizuo's jaw gradually took on a grimmer and sharper set. His cheeks flushed with the rush of annoyance. There weren't any vending machines in sight, but Izaya had no doubt that if Shizuo really wanted to, he would find something else to throw at him (could he uproot that statue or that city map? Izaya wasn't sure he wanted to find out).

Shizuo wanted to have a pleasant time here with Izaya. he really did. That was why he had invited him after all. That and the fact that he couldn't enjoy a relaxing vacation knowing that Izaya might be stirring up trouble in Ikebukuro while he was away. It was just that, as much as he liked, or even loved (grr, okay he'd admit to himself that there was a teeny, tiny chance of it), Izaya, Shizuo also hated his sly smirk, underhanded dealings, and endless penchant for purposely ticking him off. Shizuo didn't consider himself a very complex man, but every person is made up of contradictions.

Finally, he was fed up to the point of having to act. "I'm leading," he asserted himself, shoving Izaya aside in the most restrained manner he could manage. The force of the impact was such that Izaya fell over backwards into the crosswalk and narrowly missed bumping his head on a light pole (which, knowing Shizuo's strength, could probably have given him a concussion).

"Shizu-chan, you're so rough," Izaya tittered, hauling himself back up onto his feet.

"You like it rough," his nemesis shot back. Bit by bit, as he launched himself along Otemae-dori toward the castle, each lanky stride sapped away some of his pent-up irritation. He'd come here knowing that just because Izaya had accepted his invitation didn't mean he was going to be pleasant or easy to be around. That was just Izaya's way. Even if all he wanted was to be held quietly in Shizuo's secure embrace, he was going to act against the impulse.

"You didn't even offer me a hand up. Some gentleman you are," Izaya fussed. He wiped tiny bits of road dirt away on the sides of his pants.

"A gentleman doesn't need to treat guys like you the same way he would treat ladies." The nice glow bumping Izaya gave him would dissipate if he extended his hand. He pulled out a cigarette and lit up. He couldn't smoke any place he pleased on the castle grounds, so he might as well get his fix now.

"The White Knight of Ikebukuro is actually a pretty mean guy."

Shizuo didn't say anything. Let Izaya think what he wanted. The more worked up he was emotionally, the better the eventual (yes, it was inevitable) sex would be. "What are you looking up at?" Izaya interrupted his drifting thoughts. "Can you see the castle yet?"

"Uh, not exactly." Shizuo took a long drag on his cigarette, then pointed up, above and beyond the trees, with its lit end. "I mean, some of the main keep is showing, but it's got a scaffolding over it, so you've gotta know where to look."

Izaya followed his line of sight up through the green branches to the sky, the field of blue pierced by a dull, dark scaffolding. Himeji Castle was there all right, but much of its white beauty was obscured by the efforts being made to protect and restore its historic glamour. Izaya's jaw dropped just slightly in disgust. Shizuo took another puff from his cigarette. Izaya turned his crimson gaze toward Shizuo. "Why did you decide to take me to see this castle while it's under reconstruction?"

"It's still pretty inside. Well, the part you can go into," Shizuo shrugged and started walking again.

It took Izaya a moment to throw off the shackles of his disbelief and run after him. "Did you know about this beforehand? Don't tell me you decided we should come anyway!"

"What? Just because the castle's going through a period of renovation no one should come out to Himeji at all?" He was incredibly laidback about the whole thing. It made Izaya think he must've known. Shizuo didn't seem to take most surprises in stride.

"Well- how long is the work going to last for?"

"I don't know- like a year or something for this part. I didn't try to memorize the schedule. It's a long term thing." Shizuo finished his smoking an dropped the butt into the appropriate receptacle. "I wanted to go somewhere kind of quiet. The off-season or something."

"Geez! A castle being worked on though?"

"You shouldn't let it get to you. I thought you were the adaptable type. Anyway," Shizuo allowed himself a rakish grin, "If I'm paying less attention to the castle, doesn't that imply I'm paying more attention to you?"

For a split second he thought he saw Izaya start to weaken, but faster than the average person could catch his faltering, he recovered. "Are you going to be smacking me around like a ragdoll in a typhoon? Is that the kind of attention I want, Shizu-chan?"

"Hey, take it however you like!" It didn't matter what he said. Izaya would interpret it however he liked. Of one thing, Shizuo was sure: actions spoke louder than words. He kept quiet the rest of the straight, level pathway to the castle park. It was still a day or two early for the nearby pottery fair to start up, but the tents were already pitched just across the street.

"Who do you identify with who lived in this castle, Shizu-chan? Sen-hime, right?"

"No. Her second marriage was pretty happy, but I'm stuck out here with you," Shizuo grumbled. "Course, you never know. ...It's not like historians are going to tell us if the marriage was happy because she and Tadatoki had great hate sex or something."

"Ha ha ha ha ha, there's an idea."

Even if the castle itself wasn't in optimum viewing condition, the grounds were still lovely and the crisp air was conducive to long, brisk walks. Shizuo pulled out his camera and snapped a shot of the graceful bridge stretching across the water.

"Pictures with people in them are more interesting," Izaya offered his own two yen on the matter and proceeded to stroll along the bridge, running his fingertips along the railing. Shizuo took another picture. He wondered if Izaya would steal or stomp on his camera before they left. After all, weren't any photographs he took of Izaya enjoying himself on the castle grounds possible blackmail material? Then again, as none of the pictures showed that the two of them were taking this trip together, they might not serve as fuel for any rumor more potent than, "Izaya likes castles."

There was a crane wading in the water of the moat. Izaya took a picture of it with his cellphone. Shizuo imagined he never went anywhere where he couldn't retain some tether, however tenuous, to the internet. ...If he asked someone to take a picture of the two of them, would Izaya allow it, or would he refuse? ...Did Shizuo really want to risk facing the trouble the picture might stir up even if Izaya would allow it? Izaya wasn't the only one who reputation would be effected. Those, "it's a boys love kind of thing," stories- yeah, it would not be fun to add any fuel to them. He could see it now: "Here's a picture of Shizuo and Izaya on a secret lovers' trip to Himeiji 3." "Checked the hotel records: Shizuo and Izaya shared a room (kya!) Now we're dying to know about the bed situation: two singles or a double? 3 3 3" Gah, what a thought.

"They shoot a lot of movies at this castle, don't they? Your brother came her from the filming of "The Young Masamune." Is that how you heard how nice it was here?"

Izaya had admitted it was "nice." Should he say something? Should he keep his mouth shut? "Well, I'd heard so before, but it didn't hurt to hear it from Yuuhei." Even at Shizuo's height, the old stone walls of the castle loomed high above. Shizuo turned his gaze upward and Izaya automatically followed his line of sight. Overhead, trees shaded the path, and beyond that, fluffy clouds stretched like taffy and drifted like sea foam across a perfect periwinkle sky. The breeze rustling around them was light, but the clouds moved fast, like a sequence of stills taken with time lapse photography. "It turned out to be a great day for this. We're lucky."

"You're going to be treating me on this trip, right? Because I saw ice cream across the street and I know that the best way to end any trip to a castle is with any ice cream cone." He paused, studying the moss growing alongside the bottom of the wall. It showed the dampness of the area. "Preferably mango. You can eat whatever kind you like, Shizu-chan."

"I was thinking of something more along the lines of a real meal, but if you can't stand the thought of having to sit and have a pleasant conversation with me in front of people, I can just buy you an ice cream cone and be done with it."

Hee hee, Shizu-chan was treating him. "No, no, lunch first, ice cream later," Izaya changed his tune, looping back down around a "keep left" sign to walk close to Shizuo. "I didn't realize you'd be so generous."

"Well, I am paying for the hotel, so I thought you'd figure..."

"I'm not so quick to take you for a ride as all that," Izaya sniffed, smiling even as he affected an attitude of offended superiority. Man, Shizu-chan was such an idiot. He took things too hard too, squeezing his hand around his camera so tightly Izaya thought he might break it. However, just as the tension seemed to build toward a possible breaking point, Shizuo allowed the camera to slip through his fingers, holding onto the black strap.

"C'mon, let's go this way," the blond said at last, swallowing the anger that automatically coursed through his veins. He marched up the long pathway through the park to the entrance to the castle proper and purchased two tickets. Izaya ambled after him at his own pace. "Take your ticket," Shizuo mumbled, thrusting the heavy strip of paper out for Izaya to grab. He turned back and walked through the gateway, picking up a pamphlet about the castle on the way.

Izaya considered choosing one of the pamphlets in English or Russian just to annoy Shizuo with his ability to read it, but decided against it in the end because he preferred to keep his hands free as they walked. Having his hands open was better both for offensive and defensive maneuvers (when traveling with Shizuo, one never knew...).

Shizuo led the way gradually upward along the path to the main tower. Even if they couldn't go in, he still wanted to see it as close up as possible and take in the view of the town. On an especially good day, you were supposed to be able to see the Seto Inland Sea from there.

The path wound back and forth, moving ever upward. There were sturdy steps and ancient stones that wobbled slightly under their feet. Izaya reached out and trailed his hand along the white plastered walls. The sun climbed above them, but a steady stream of trees shaded their path. Izaya surreptitiously used his cellphone to snap a couple of pictures of Shizuo from behind as he peered up over his sunglasses as the striking keep and peered into Okiku's Well. He didn't seem to have any crazy obsession with the place- he was no castle otaku- but he read each sign and placard. He walked to the edge of the wall and squinted out at Himeji. He could pick out the J. R. Station, but there was no hint of the Inland Sea.

"Wow, Shizu-chan. So all this is closed off," Izaya remarked. As he spoke cranes were moving far about them as work proceeded on the castle renovation.

"We can still go into the West Bailey," Shizuo insisted. He stood looking at the castle for a long time. A nearby middle-aged security guard gave him a look like he was concerned that this lanky, bleach-haired youth was going to make trouble of some kind and he wasn't particularly enthused at being the person who would have to stop it. Izaya loved the way Shizuo seemed to inspire such a constant lack of trust in strangers. One only had to lay eyes upon him to realize he was a punk.

"Are you going to stare at it until the sun goes down?" Izaya verbally poked him (physically poking him might lead to a sudden and unpleasant punch to the face).

"H-hey," his companion ventured cautiously instead of providing a direct answer to his question, "Will you take my picture?" Slowly, he held out his dangling camera for Izaya.

How funny it would be to just out and out refuse him. How amusing it would be to take the camera and then snap a picture of the ground or a tree instead. But Shizuo's imbecile sincerity won him over. "Okay, fine." He wouldn't mention the other candid pictures he had already taken on his own. They would be just another of his little secrets.

"Are you ready?" he encouraged, suppressing a snicker as Shizuo struck a low-key, but still awkward, pose. "Smile, Shizu-chan."

"I am smiling," Shizuo tried to answer without fracturing his cheery expression. Izaya was charmed. He snapped the picture. What a doofus. Anyway, he was able to show the photo on the screen to Shizuo for confirmation that it was acceptable ("See, I even took it seriously.") and that seemed to go over pretty well with his companion.

However, when Izaya raised his head, he saw the guard approaching them. What was the problem? There were no instructions against taking pictures out here. "Do you young men want me to take a picture of the two of you together?" he asked. Just minutes ago he had looked suspicious, but now he had taken on the jolly appearance of someone's friendly old uncle. Izaya wondered what was the source of this sudden turnaround.

"Y-yeah!" Shizuo said enthusiastically, but even as the word left his lips he turned to look at Izaya and judge his reaction to the inquiry. It wasn't like he couldn't force Izaya to take the picture with him, but if he had to take such drastic measures, that would undoubtedly have an ill effect on the rest of the trip. He held his breath, waiting to see what Izaya would say. While his answer wouldn't exactly make or break their trip, it could leave an important impact on their relationship. "Please agree to it," he wished with all his heart.

"C'mon, Shizu-chan," Izaya threw himself into the moment, joyfully behaving as if there was no way he would have ever even considered turning down the guard's offer. He grabbed Shizuo's arm and put on his most winsome smile. It was honestly a bit difficult for Shizuo to look at him.

"Here you are. How's that look?" the guard handed the camera back to Izaya, who studied the picture and deemed it suitable.

"Thank you so much," he said," sweet as a shojo manga heroine.

"Oh, you're welcome, young man. It's always nice to assist a visiting couple. I mean, for a minute I thought you were a pair of hoodlums, but I really misjudged you. It's sweet to see two young men openly enjoying the historic sites together. Reminds me of my nephew...wish he'd meet a nice boy one of these days..." the guard sighed, strolling back to his post.

Shizuo and Izaya exchanged bemused glances and simultaneously burst into laughter. "That was just about the last thing I was expecting," Shizuo admitted.

"What part?" Izaya returned the camera to its owner.

"Err, all of it. At first I was talking about the guard, but now that you ask about it, I've got to include your response to him too." Shizuo shook his head, clearing the precious afterimage of Izaya holding onto his arm from his mind. "Like I said- it...wasn't what I was expecting."

"Shouldn't you know well enough not to expect anything in particular from me, Shizu-chan?" Izaya took the lead this time, starting back up the narrow steps away from the main keep to loop back toward the open area where they could follow the other fork in the path to further reaches of the castle grounds. He didn't want to linger too long within the visual range of the open-minded guard. He might expect to see them kiss or hold hands or something and, even if Izaya was up for any of those activities, he had no desire to put on a show. "It's entertaining to see how you'll interact when put into strange situations. People who can surprise me are definitely the most interesting."

The path widened gradually. As they reached where two could once again walk abreast, Shizuo matched and then surpassed Izaya's pace. "It was interesting how you didn't get mad at that guard for his presumption either," Izaya continued. "I'm beginning to think you don't exhibit the tiniest shred of self-control in your dealings with me because you don't feel like it. The fighting is fun for you or something. ...So much for loving peace."

"I guess I can't answer that and spoil the mystery," Shizuo delivered his enigmatic reply in an oddly quiet tone. They passed through a garden, somber with the nearly flowerless greenery of mid-autumn. Tiny acorns and over-sized ants rolled and ran underfoot. The grounds were quiet. For whatever reason, perhaps the early hour, there were nearly more guards than visitors walking around. The remaining section of the West Bailey curved gently around them. The walking tour was set up so one ventured to the furthest end of the building before going inside and proceeding back through the long hall.

"This is the part we can go inside."

"Oh, I see. The quarters of Princess Sen's maids." Outside the entrance to the hall were bins of brown slippers and plastic bags to carry your shoes in while passing through the building. The slippers were stacked in two bins. Apparently there were two sizes: a little too small for Izaya and a little too small for Shizuo.

"You could try the larger ones," Shizuo suggested, holding up another pair to evaluate their size.

"I won't be able to climb the steep stairs with those floppy things on. I don't want to fall. I'm not like you, Shizu-chan. My feet aren't big enough to fill out clown shoes." Izaya dropped his shoes into a bag and set off for the stairs.

"Wait for me," Shizuo hustled after him.

"Don't climb so close to me. You're going to step on the back of my slipper and make me fall," Izaya complained. "With you at my back I never know when I'm going to get an unwanted surprise..."

"I'm not going to do anything to you in the castle! What'd I say? I don't want to make a scene!"

"Actually, for you, this is a pretty good run," Izaya observed, stepping out into the wooden hallway. "The guards may have been giving you-"

"Us," Shizuo interjected.

Izaya continued smoothly, ignoring Shizuo's correction, "Plenty of suspicious looks, but you haven't broken anything priceless, you've only raised your voice slightly, and no one has stopped you for questioning. It's almost a miracle. Almost. I guess you are sort of different when you're outside Ikebukuro."

"Heh," Shizuo huffed, pinching his arm to fulfill his need to react. He winced and gritted his teeth against the strength of his fingers.

Izaya padded along the long hall, peering out the glass-less, paper-less window ("Oh, there's a nice view") and letting the fresh breeze ruffle his hair, and then turned aside into an open, empty room. "So, does being here excite you, Shizu-chan? Because, well, it's pretty and all, but I'm not getting much out of it. ...Was it worth it to bring me here?"

Shizuo shifted the bag holding his shoes, hanging it over his left wrist to free up his hands. He snapped a picture of Izaya gazing curiously around the room. "Yeah, it was worth it." If he focused his mind he could imagine Izaya in the past, in a luxurious layered kimono, living in a place like this. Then again, these were the rooms of maid servants. When he daydreamed of an idealized Warring States Period, he saw himself as a valiant samurai. He saw Izaya as a princess. His face was starting to feel hot as he mapped out the scenario in his mind. The fantasy was too effective.

"Come on, let's see what else is up here," Izaya rattled off in a sing-song tune, tapping his way around Shizuo and off along the path. "There's got to be something more colorful to see than this."

It was like visiting with a little kid who only had the patience for the most engaging exhibits. Izaya was the kind of person whose eyes were fixed on the future. The only past that mattered to him was the past that could be molded and drawn upon to finance and fuel his innumerable schemes.

Further down the hallway were maps, timelines, and other information posted in both Japanese and English. "I think they could use an editor," Izaya remarked, scanning the English text. Sure, the correct meaning came through, but the whole thing was a little skewed.

In the last room of the hall was a carefully made set-up reconstructing a scene from a painting of Princess Sen and her daughter playing a card game. The mannequins were incredibly life-like for this sort of thing (so that was the long-haired woman Shizuo had thought he'd seen through one of the windows while walking along the outside of the building). Shizuo snapped a picture from a distance and then drew closer to examine them. Princess Sen, with her glamorous long hair, didn't look anything like Izaya, but that didn't make it any harder for him to continue the fantasy he had started as soon as he entered the place.

"Is that your type of girl, Shizu-chan?" It was funny. Izaya was the source and center of his daydreams, but it was still annoying when he interrupted them.

"Augh, not really, but it's not like she's not-" his protests slurred into a confusing mess of groaning and grumbling. Why was he about to start arguing with Izaya over whether or not a woman who'd died in 1666 was his type? "Type" didn't count for anything really. He'd never claim that Izaya was his type (he never even wanted to meet someone else like Izaya, let alone have any kind of romantic or sexual relationship with them), but Izaya was still (unfortunately?) the person he had fallen head over heels for.

"Oh, you're lost for words! That's cute!"

"And you never are," Shizuo thought, "But I know how to shut down all that babbling. I know exactly what to do." Doing it was harder than thinking about it. What came after might be worse. He grabbed Izaya and closed his eyes, forcing the trappings of his Warring States fantasy onto the moment and mostly failing (Izaya was kimono-clad, but still clearly male).

Izaya flailed out at first in shock. He was ready to reach for his knife to defend himself from whatever crazy kind of attack Shizuo was throwing at him and already had the hilt in his hand by the time the reality of what was happening sunk into him. His switchblade fell from his hand and the bag holding his boots followed it. They made two soft thumps striking the floor.

Shizuo's kiss was so strong and passionate. Izaya's hands crept around to clutch Shizuo's back. He felt Shizuo tense and shiver at the touch. To be held so gently by Shizuo...he hadn't known Shizuo could even manage to be this soft. It felt good. Izaya closed his eyes and kissed him back, wondering vaguely if this meant that the whole thing was actually some crazy dream.

If it was a dream, it was a nice one. Shizuo had slipped one hand under his shirt and... Izaya opened his eyes. This was real. And it was weird. Way too weird. He didn't say a word, but he pushed Shizuo away hard and scooped up his fallen items. The trip was one thing, but that was too close, too meaningful, too much. Shizuo looked surprised. That such a dumb guy would be confused by this, even after all the anger and roughness in their relationship up to this point, was predictable. Izaya straightened his coat and hurried away, acting more involved in a chart depicting the Tokugawa family tree than he could ever be. There was a little left of the hall to explore.

They came down the steep wooden stairs at the end of the corridor in a mood nearly opposite to the one they had entered in. Shizuo felt too awkward to say anything more until Izaya actually said something to him. Here he had been worried about Izaya doing something crazy or cruel and upsetting the boat and yet he had ended up the one who had acted out of line... Or had he? Izaya had kissed him back pretty wholeheartedly. For a moment they had been a hair's breadth away from making out in front of the Princess Sen mannequin...and then the situation had soured...they had grown too self-conscious, Izaya had regained the wits he had had scattered by Shizuo's sudden kiss, or something else like that... Shizuo couldn't claim to understand it. He only hoped that the damage wasn't irreversible.

He sat down on a wobbly wooden bench and exchanged the too-small slippers for his regular shoes. There was a bin set up to place the slippers in and another receptacle for the plastic bags (the ones that weren't too muddy probably got reused). Izaya followed suit, neatly putting the items where they were intended to go.

"Hey, so we've seen the castle, now where to, Shizu-chan?" As if by magic, Izaya had pulled his typical demeanor back on along with his usual footwear.

Maybe Shizuo'd been getting ahead of himself again when he worried that the kiss had wrecked things. He was one of those people who was never able to just chill out. This meant that much of his life was significantly more difficult than it needed to be, but that still wasn't enough to convince him to put the effort into changing his temperament. "If you're not too tired of walking around, we could check out the zoo."

"Ha ha, you really do have immature tastes, Shizu-chan,"' Izaya chuckled. "Go ahead though. This is your trip. Take me to the zoo."

They worked their way back downward out of the castle grounds proper onto the sculpted lawns of the castle park. Several classes of kindergarteners clustered around the zoo gates, eager to enjoy their trip. Izaya remembered when his sisters had been that small. They had been trouble even then. He and Shizuo were the oldest people going into the Himeji Zoo who weren't accompanied by small children. It was relatively lively for the middle of a work day. Some of the animals were being fed, which brought them out into the open. Izaya was even able to convince Shizuo to rejoin his own kind long enough to snap a couple of shots of him kneeling down mobbed by a friendly pack of small pigs. It had been ages since Izaya had last visited a zoo. He didn't think he would be making a hobby of it once he got back home, but it was an amiable enough way to spend time with Shizuo.

It was just after one o'clock, while they were watching the sea lions swim rough, rapid circles around their pool that Shizuo reached silently for Izaya's hand. The sea lions were large and their barking was incredibly loud. Acting out of reflex, Izaya almost took it. His fingers brushed Shizuo's and as the meaning of his action struck him he reached instead for his cell phone to check the time. "Geez, no wonder I'm hungry. Where's that lunch you promise me, Shizu-chan?"

Shizuo sheepishly stuck his wandering hands into his pockets. "I guess now we've seen everything." He had been enjoying the leisurely pace they had favored on their walk around the zoo. His life was usually so busy. Izaya's, he imagined, was infinitely busier. "Let's go back to the main street then. I saw a lot of places to eat just across from the park. You can pick wherever you'd like."

"Hmm...I wonder what I'm in the mood for..."

Izaya, who always did things deliberately, was inevitably choosy. He led Shizuo down the strip of restaurants and shops parallel to the castle park and back again, ignoring hopeful looks and welcoming cries before settling on a simple place staffed by two old ladies. Apparently even the most visited castle in Japan experienced a slow day every once in a while. Just like the tranquility that enshrouded the castle, there was no one else eating in the restaurant. The tables were small and packed neatly into the modest dining space. Shizuo's knees bumped against the bottom of the table. It made for some amusing visual comedy. Even the cup of green tea the woman at the counter brought him looked unusually dainty in his hand.

When they placed their order (just two simple bowls of chicken donburi), the woman working the front of the establishment joined her colleague in the back in whipping up their lunch. Ambient sound was provided by a radio sitting beside the cash register. Izaya liked the homey feel of the place. It was like visiting your grandparents' house. The things there be a little out-dated, but you would be treated with care.

"You're, uh, glad you came, right?" Shizuo ventured cautiously.

Izaya was equally delicate in his reply. "It hasn't actually bored me to tears." Shizuo forced himself not to stare too long or too carefully at Izaya's lips as he took another sip of tea. Did he realize how sensually he was doing that? "Now that we've checked out the castle though, is that it? Maybe I should just start heading home and stay overnight in Osaka instead."

"No, don't do that," Shizuo managed to keep his voice calm enough that neither of the woman turned to see what was going on (at least he hoped it was because of his self-restraint and not because they were hard of hearing). "I know it may be sort of dull for your tastes, but I want to spend the rest of the day with you. We can just walk around and check out Himeji. It looked like there might be some interesting stores in the mall by the station. You could bring back a souvenir for Namie or something."

"Ha ha, I don't think so." It was interesting to see Shizuo so committed to staying with him as opposed to his usual habit of keeping Izaya away from him. After a slow, filling lunch, Shizuo put a visible effort into escorting Izaya around the streets of Himeji, amusing him with both his innate prickliness and his attempts at good humor. Shizuo was kind of crazy, but Izaya wouldn't lie to himself- he liked that sort of things.

Stretches of neighborhood and shopping streets unfurled before them. When they lingered at a busy intersection, some curious little girls asked them questions about who they were and where they'd come from. Shizuo took it all in stride until they heard his age and proceeded to ask if he was married. It was funny to watch him snap that, "No, I am not!"

When they put the same question to Izaya, he lied and said "yes" just for the fun of it. When they asked what his wife was like, he described Namie. Shizuo didn't call him out for it until they'd left the kids behind. He was just glad that Izaya hadn't done something crazy like call him his wife.

Izaya turned up his nose at the populist fashions of Uniqlo, teased Shizuo into going into the rows of boxes decorated with a blinding mass of boobs and neon pink in the hentai games section of a used game store, laughed at the more bizarre among the nude sculptures lining the main street (a man playing the saxophone, completely naked but for a hat had to take the cake) and irritated Shizuo by winning a small stuffed cat out of a UFO catcher on his first try after Shizuo had struggled hopelessly with it for the better part of five minutes. "Here, you can keep it," Izaya offered. He was interested in winning and showing up Shizuo, not the prize itself. "Consider it your souvenir. Maybe it will remind you of me."

Shizuo, his incredible urge to the throw the UFO catcher halfway across Himeji receding, stared into the yellow eyes of the black toy cat. The longer he looked at it, the more its sly, smiling expression really did begin to remind him of Izaya. Fortunately, he wouldn't have to suffer the indignity of openly carrying it around the entire day until retiring to the hotel room. The cat was tiny enough to squeeze into the pouch he used for carrying his money and keys.

The afternoon was melting away peacefully enough. Izaya, who spent less of his average day patrolling the street than Shizuo did, grew tired first, and found a spot to settle down across the way from the station and watch people. Shizuo was glad for the opportunity to have a smoke. Their hotel was on the other side of the tracks just through the station. Although there had been plenty of digressions down side alleys and over to shop windows (there was plenty of charm to find in the unique nooks and crannies of a smaller city), bit by bit they had been making their way back toward the Nikko Himeji. Shizuo was both a little excited and a little scared by what might happen when they got there.

After drinking a bottle of juice Shizuo purchased for him out of a vending machine, Izaya decided he was ready to go again. Their last stop (although it might be a lengthy one) before returning to the hotel room would be Plie, the fancy-looking shopping mall attached to Himeji Station. It seemed like a rather girly thing to do, and Izaya honestly didn't expect to buy anything, but he'd been having a good time this far, so he assumed his amusement would continue there as he browsed with Shizuo. It was just too easy to tease him.

"You ready?"

"Let's get going."

"Come on, Izaya, give me your hand!" Shizuo was getting sick of all this pussyfooting around. His rising anger gave him tunnel vision and he reached out to yank Izaya over to the display without regard for the other shoppers and neatly stacked merchandise in between them.

"Ow ow ow ow, geez, Shizu-chan, it took all my skill to keep my arms or legs from flailing out and knocking over a girl or two or half the store," Izaya rubbed his aching arm. "That better not leave a mark!"

"I wouldn't have had to do that if you'd've just given me your freakin' hand." What was with this guy? If something wasn't Izaya's idea, he had to make it difficult. If something was Izaya's idea, he was probably going to make it difficult too.

Shizuo snatched Izaya's hand (although he tried to be more gentle than he'd been with the full-body jerk) and turned it over, sliding the copper-colored ring he had picked out over Izaya's ring finger. It passed smoothly over Izaya's knuckles, but it was still best to ask the man himself. "Does it fit?"

"Yes, it fits. But what's with this girly ring, Shizu-chan? I don't think I have the same size hands as Celty, if that's what you're testing for." As Shizuo released it, Izaya lifted his hand, turning the back to face him. Indeed, as was to be expected of the dainty good and accessories for sale at Afternoon Tea, the perfectly coiled little ring featured a tiny flower woven out of the same material as the band. It was the kind of trinket girls about his sisters' age would go for. In its every aspect, the item was absolutely unlike Shizuo. What internal compass had guided him to pick it?

"Urgh," Shizuo made an uncomfortable grumbling noise. "No. I'm making you try it because, for some weird reason, I'd like to buy it for you."

"Ha ha ha," Izaya burst out laughing. Even though he could see that sort of answer coming, it didn't make the idea any less hysterical. Did Shizuo seriously think that if he purchased a cute ring like this that, even concealing its origins, Izaya would ever wear it in public? "Oh, and you put it on my left hand to be like a wedding ring, I suppose?"

"Ah-ack, no, no, I didn't even think of- switch it to your right hand then, please!" Shizuo choked out a garbled run-on sentence of frazzled responses to this brain-straining bit of accidental (subconscious?) implication Izaya had pointed out to him.

"Heh heh heh, I like it where it is. I'm leaving it," Izaya declared firmly and pranced up to the counter. "We'll take this one," he informed the girl at the cash register, removing the ring and placing it in her hand. "He's paying," he jerked his head in Shizuo's direction. "And after you ring it up, I'm wearing it out."

Shizuo slouched over to the front of the shop and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He smiled wryly even as sighed. Izaya meandered away, sniffing samples of tea leaves and examining cups.

"Your boyfriend is really cute," the clerk giggled, removing the tag from the ring and giving Shizuo back his change.

"Uh..." was all Shizuo could manage. There were so many things wrong with that comment he didn't even know where to start.

As amusing as it would've been to see how Shizuo would take out this mistaken assumption on the young woman, Izaya intervened, remaining in agreement with Shizuo that it would be bad for both their interests if the day ended with Shizuo being interviewed by police. "C'mon, we've looked at enough shops around here," Izaya looped his arm through Shizuo's, picking up the ring and replacing it on his finger. He was certainly wearing plenty of jewelry now. It was good that none of it was jeweled or particularly gaudy looking or it would've created a bad Renaissance pope/Henry VIII sort of look. While Izaya would admit that their power over people was something to admire, their fashion sense was more than a tad too decadent to consider replicating.

"I'm hungry. Let's eat dinner," he decided. He could feel the tension that had previously quivered through Shizuo's muscles drain down to an acceptable level. He was able to pull himself back from the brink of his anger (an easier task when the person annoying him wasn't Izaya), but it wasn't a simple task.

"Where...do you want to eat?"

"Oh, you've regained the power of speech. Excellent. I always prefer not to dine with an ape."

"Did you see anywhere around the station that looked good to you while we were walking around before, or do you want to look around more, or should we try somewhere else?" Shizuo detailed his inquiry, although it pained him to do so quietly with Izaya clinging to his arm.

"Hmmm..." Izaya considered the matter seriously, allowing his memory to loop back through the route they had taken through the station, the shops, and the surrounding area. There had been that Italian place, candy, a coffee shop, a cafe... "I guess I can stop taxing your meager funds with my extravagant tastes." (Aside from springing for the hotel room, from the price of lunch to the cellphone strap to the ring, none of Shizuo's purchases had been especially expensive- not only by Izaya's well-funded standards, but by the ordinary twenty-something's considerations as well.) "Let's go to the cafe. I know they'll have to make our food up fresh."

"Smoking or non-smoking section?" asked the girl at the counter as they entered the Café Saint Maria.


"Non-smoking," the two men answered at once, but Izaya's will was stronger, and his choice prevailed, leaving them carefully seated, menus in hand, toward the front of the cafe.

"There's a better view from this section," Izaya said. While the smokers were tucked into the back of the shop, from the non-smoking section, Izaya could both turn back and peer over his shoulder at the smoking clientele and gaze forward out the window at the people passing by. "You can stand not smoking for a little while longer, Shizu-chan."

"Even here in Himeji, where you don't know a soul, you have to keep on people-watching, huh?" Shizuo remarked, running his finger down the long list of sugary specialty drinks on the menu.

"Is it a bad thing that I have a hobby? You should get one."

"Ha ha, very funny. So, do you know what you want to eat?"

"I think I'll have a cup of coffee and the pizza sandwich. That should leave me with room to finally get that ice cream cone I've been thinking about all day afterward."

"Oh, I was thinking I'd get that too. ...And, uh, maybe one of those fancy rolls in the display."

"Heh heh, Shizu-chan, you've got a big appetite. Getting angry all the time really burns energy, I imagine." Izaya gave the laminated picture menu one last glance, then set it on the table and leaned back in his chair.

The waitress came and took their orders on a little notepad and quickly returned to the small kitchen area where the two others girls on staff set to work. Although the high front counter blocked his view of most of the activity, Izaya watched them for awhile, pleased that his dinner would not be of the pre-cooked microwave variety, but was being prepared hot and fresh to order.

Shizuo kept quiet, enjoying the calm. Izaya, knowing Izaya, was aware that he was being watched, but if he wouldn't speak up and complain about it, Shizuo would just keep looking. The bipolar nature of their relationship (and of his own feelings for Izaya even) left him with plenty of food for thought.

Izaya's red brown eyes left the kitchen, straying back to the constant ebb and flow of shoppers, commuters, and other pedestrians through Himeji Station. His gaze wasn't flippant. Shizuo could tell that from time to time his mind was hooked by some quirk of a passerby- a schoolgirl's unusual walk, a salaryman's pink cell phone...Izaya was learning the people, the community, just by being here.

"You do pretty well in Tokyo...with all your connections, all your...plots," Shizuo spoke up, even though it felt like a delicate topic to bring up as Izaya's arch-nemesis, "In a town like Himeji, unless there are some amazingly powerful forces hiding out here that I don't know anything about, if you started at it now, you'd have the whole area in the palm of your hand before the sun came up tomorrow."

"Eh," Izaya shrugged. He didn't really care for the idea. Himeji was too quiet for his tastes. It was fine for a visit with Shizu-chan, but he wouldn't want to live here. And as far as control went, what fun was domination without resistance? Humanity was more unpredictable, and, thus, more interesting, when put into situations riddled with conflict (they were most interesting when they themselves continued to create that conflict, spinning out their darkest hatreds and desires into ever more convoluted webs like the most depressing of Greek tragedies {except usually less cathartic}). "I'm a Tokyoite for life. Any place would have to be pretty fabulous to even have a chance at competing for my attention."

"Yeah...I guess so."

"Here you are," the waitress interrupted, carefully setting out first napkins and utensils, then the coffee, and finally the roll and sandwiches.

"Thanks," Shizuo murmured after her as she whisked away. "Mmm," he took a deep breath, savoring the warm aroma of the meal. "I think you picked a great place, Izaya. Itadakimasu."

Dinner was followed by ice cream on both counts. The folded waffle cones artfully balanced a significant portion of ice cream. Izaya, as per his earlier remarks, chose mango. Shizuo went for green tea flavor.

"You, uh, don't want to try mine, do you?" Shizuo asked, "...'Cuz when I go out with my brother, he always wants me to pick a different flavor from him so he can try mine too."

"...Try your ice cream? Seriously?" What a kiddie thing to do. ...Or at least a girlie sort of thing.

Shizuo blinked. What kind of weird look was Izaya giving him? His peculiar glance was trying to convey some sort of message to him, but he couldn't for the life of him grasp what it might be. "...You...you don't have to if you don't feel like it. It's just an offer."

"N-no," Izaya smiled, recovering his usual suave appearance, "That's perfectly kind and gentlemanly of you, Shizu-chan. You've almost made up for your rowdy behavior earlier today. I'm impressed. I would like to try your ice cream."

"Here," Shizuo held the cone out over the small table.

There wasn't much distance for Izaya to cover. He leaned out and locked lips with the smooshy green substance, rapidly softening in the gentle warmth of the cafe. He pulled away and licked his lips. Shizuo started at him, a little dumbfounded. "So...how'd you like it?"

"Pretty good, but I still prefer mango on trips like this." Izaya resumed his careful eating of his own pale orange dessert.

Shizuo waited to see if he would make the appropriate offer in return and then gradually turned his attention back to his own cone as if became clear that he would not.

For some reason, Shizuo had shown a sudden downturn in energy. Izaya studied his neutral expression and wondered why. It had clearly come immediately after the ice cream exchange. From befuddled to disappointed in one seamless movement. Obviously, Izaya had done something wrong, and he didn't exactly enjoy getting anything wrong he hadn't meant to botch in the first place. What did they...girls, kids, the people who did this sort of thing...what did they usually do in this situation? He just could not handle a faux pas. Izaya was a master of all social situations. Somewhere in the vast compendium of knowledge he carried about in his brain was the answer to this miniature dilemma (failing that, there was the internet).

When the answer came to him, mere seconds later, he was not sure he liked it. ...Why should he play by the established conventions of society, after all? Was he not a trendsetter? An individual? A man who set the styles rather than followed them?

Over his ice cream, which was beginning to drip out of the hole at the bottom of his cone, Shizuo was sort of frowning. Fine. For this big dummy, Izaya could make an exception. Here in Himeji, where no one knew him (at least not by sight- with the internet, one could never really say), he could, for one short moment, be less than the undiluted embodiment of cool.

"Shizu-chan, d-do you want to try mine?"

Well, it was obvious that he'd found the solution to that problem, because Shizuo instantly brightened, licking the melted ice cream off the side of his hand and smiling. "Yeah, I'd love to."

Izaya reluctantly held out the remaining half of his ice cream. Okay, so it was one thing to lick at Shizuo's ice cream. ...But to watch Shizu-chan take what would undoubtedly be a big, messy bite out of his... Izaya was still hesitating. He didn't like the idea of that. "How about," he interrupted before Shizuo could make his move, "How about you use your spoon?" It wasn't as if he had to get up and specially ask for one, after all. They had both been handed their cones with small plastic spoons already stuck in the top of the soft serve.

"Err, okay," Shizuo agreed without complaint, picking up the spoon from where he had discarded it atop his napkin. He scooped a modest amount off of Izaya's cone and popped the spoon in his mouth. "Ah," he sighed, pulling it free, "That's really good. I can see why you like that kind."

Izaya nodded. At least now they'd gotten that over with.


"Yeah, yeah, you're welcome, Shizu-chan."

"So, after this, is there anywhere else you'd like to go or anything else you'd like to see or should we call it a day and head back to the hotel room? ...Knowing you, anyway, you probably have messages you need to answer and stuff like that..."

"We have done a lot of walking and looking around today. And this is something of a late dinner. I think I'm with you on this one, Shizu-chan. I'm ready to throw in the towel. My feet are killing me. I'm used to spending much more of my day sitting behind a desk than this. Not all of us are used to prowling the streets day and night like you are."

"Uh-huh, I know. Not everybody's a superhuman freak," Shizuo flipped over the receipt and counted out the money to pay at the counter. "I hear you."

"You're such a pain. ...But at least you're amusing."

"Why, I'm absolutely honored to hear that from you, Izaya," Shizuo grumbled, managing a little sarcasm on his guest's behalf. He paid the girl at the counter and held the door for Izaya as they sauntered out of the cafe, out of the station, and across the street to their hotel.

The spacious lobby was illuminated by an ornate chandelier, each light fixture shaped like a golden butterfly. Izaya looked up, appreciating the classy details of the scene. The rooms at the Nikko Himeji might be modest, but the overall decor did not disappoint. They road the elevator up to their room and Shizuo unlocked the door, ushering Izaya in before him.

"You should kick back and enjoy some variety programs or whatever it is you like to watch, Shizu-chan," Izaya advised him, sitting cross-legged on the bed. He checked a few messages on his phone before pulling out his laptop and proceeding to deal with the business that had piled up over the course of his day. Sure, he had told his most important and busiest clients that he would be out of the office for the day, but that didn't mean there wasn't anything waiting for him, and it was no excuse to laze around all day either.

"Huh?" Shizuo turned around. Izaya had gotten settled into his work so fast. In that amount of time, Shizuo had just taken off his shoes.

"I said, I've got some work to catch up on."

"Oh." He plopped down onto the bed, slumping back slowly as if he were a balloon leaking air from a tiny hole.

Izaya and his laptop bobbed like a sailboat gently up and and then back down at the pressure of the initial impact. Interesting. Did Shizu-chan have some other sort of plan in mind? Well, if it were really that important to him, he wouldn't let the opportunity slip away. He certainly was never the type to keep his feelings inside for long. Izaya watched surreptitiously as Shizuo reached out to pick up the remote and flip the TV on without rising even partially from his prone position. He didn't raise his head, leaving Izaya to wonder how much he could actually see of the screen, assuming he could actually see any of it at all.

For about ten minutes he hopped about between the meager eight or nine channels, showing the greatest preference for some ridiculous celebrity game show, but never really settling on any particular program before turning the TV back off. He didn't seem about follow up on his disappointment with Izaya anytime soon. Now Izaya was a little let down himself. However, who was Shizuo to get to him? He focused on his work (and then spent some time on pleasure - of course, for Izaya work was pleasure, so the dividing line between the two was infinitely unclear) for the better part of an hour, before closing up shop for the evening. He stood up and stretched.

Shizuo was looking at him. Well, geez, took him long enough, Izaya huffed, making sure to make his stretches especially slow and sensual to entice and/or torture Shizuo. "Time for me to relax before getting in bed. If I get washed up now I won't have to compete with you for all the hot water in the morning."

"Taking a shower? Sure, go ahead."

"Not a shower, a bath," Izaya corrected him. "It's a much more relaxing thing to do at night. It's not like I'm in any hurry to get anywhere."

Shizuo, slow as ever, seemed to take an unnecessarily long period of time to process this. "Yeah, okay," he said at last, "Enjoy yourself."

Izaya turned away. There was no reason he wouldn't. During that strange pause he had expected Shizuo to say something else- maybe to follow up on his curious behavior when they had first returned to the hotel room- but he'd kept it short. Maybe the kiss earlier that day... Maybe it was an isolated thing after all. Fine. Izaya wasn't so soft as to let Shizu-chan of all people bruise his feelings. He'd take a bath and then maybe chat a little more online and then go to sleep. Simple as that. Tomorrow they'd both head back to Tokyo (separately, like they'd come). Tomorrow they'd be enemies again. Clearly and absolutely, moving out of these shades of gray into their usual lives of black and white. That...that would be for the best. ...Wouldn't it?

Izaya went into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. At his mildly puzzled expression. At his hair, tousled from all the action of his long day. At the copper-colored ring Shizuo had bought for him. It was better for it to end like this. Quietly. No explosions. No fireworks. Of course it was. Of course. He always knew exactly what he wanted. And what he wanted, he made sure he got. He leaned over and turned on the faucet.

Shizuo threw his arms up off the cover into the air and gradually let them slip down until his hands covered his face. Why was it so easy to tell Izaya he hated him and so hard to tell him anything else? And why did Izaya have to take a special delight in making things so difficult for him? It- it certainly couldn't be that Shizuo himself enjoyed taking part in these trials! ...Right? ...Right?

The longer he thought about it, the harder if became for him to answer that question. But the answer didn't matter. He had never been the best at spending his time thinking over his actions beforehand. He just acted and then dealt with the consequences as they came. What made this situation any different than all the others?

Shizuo rose, jumping to his feet in one powerful motion. He wasn't about to take this lying down! He suddenly knew exactly what he was going to do.

"Oh, ah, Shizu-chan!" Izaya squeaked as Shizuo opened the door a crack and slipped into the steam of the bathroom, clad in nothing but a towel and his sunglasses. The heat of the small room quickly steamed up his lenses.

"Heh heh," Shizuo laughed and removed the bluish glasses, depositing them neatly on the edge of the sink beside Izaya's rings, wallet, and cellphone. Izaya's clothes were arrayed less precisely. His jacket was hung over the towel rack of course, in preparation to be worn again the next day (he couldn't afford to let it get too messed up- it was his favorite item of clothing after all), but his pants, t-shirt, and the rest were tangled up on the rug, left just as he'd kicked them off. "What's that? Are you getting shy all of the sudden, Izaya?"

"Shizu-chan!" Izaya yapped. How irritating- he was actually starting to blush! What was so troubling about this situation? It wasn't like he hadn't seen Shizuo shirtless before... It wasn't like Shizuo hadn't seem him naked before... Well, although Shizuo had gotten some pretty good looks in the past, he'd never seen Izaya quite like this...Completely bare and vulnerable... "What are you doing?" he tried to bluster past this moment of weakness.

Shizuo unwrapped the towel from around his waist and came closer, not that there was much ground to be covered in this tiny hotel bathroom. "Hey, take it easy. I left the ice machine in the hall!" He laughed at his own joke, mainly out of the awkwardness of it all.

"Y-you're not going to get in the tub with me, are you?" Izaya stammered, realizing what Shizuo intended to do, while still trying to deny it with his words. Why did he have to protest like that? Wasn't intimacy with Shizu-chan something he really wanted? Maybe it made him feel like he wasn't in control- that he could only handle Shizuo's affections in carefully pre-constructed situations where he was pulling all the strings. Maybe he was too scared to enter into any true and sincere relationship with his beloved nemesis.

At this exact moment, Izaya was too wrapped up in what was unfolding before him to put much brainpower into picking apart the workings of his own conscious (and subconscious) mind. Even at another, calmer, juncture he might be reluctant to do so. It wasn't fun to confront his own demons. It was so much easier and more fulfilling to analyze the minds and weaknesses of the others players in his massive game than to delve into the unappealing area of self-help.

It felt like some of the cogs had come loose in his mind and perhaps a spring had suddenly snapped and flung free from the machinery as Shizuo lifted first one foot and then the other, dipping them almost daintily into the bathwater. "This tub's too small for both of us," Izaya insisted, backing away toward the other end of the tub.

He stifled the nervous squeak that rose in the back of his throat as he bumped into the further end of the tub and realized that only the bottom of his spine was placed solidly against anything. He didn't need to turn around to remember what he had only given taken note of cursorily as he'd entered the bathroom earlier. This tub had a slanted back. That made it the good kind of tub for relaxing in- taking a long soak and resting one's feet after a hard day of sight-seeing on foot while pawing through An An Magazine or reading long e-mails from Namie-san. ...But this sort of slanted back was also... Yes, it was the better shape of tub for having sex in. Was Shizu-chan thinking what he was thinking?

Oh, there was no way, absolutely no way. Shizuo was too stupid, too oblivious, too pain-loving for such a thing to have ever crossed his mind. ...Right? Izaya stared at Shizuo as he bent his long legs awkwardly to squish down into a sitting position in the tub without bumping into his companion. It was just so unreal. Was it too wonderful to be true or just too awkward?

"So," Shizuo said in a dumb, "Uh, now what do I do?" sort of way. He finally looked straight at Izaya, taking in the tantalizing details of his fully naked body. Izaya sure was skinny. But it wasn't bad. It was a good-looking kind of skinny. Okay, that was enough of that. Shizuo felt almost dizzy between the heat of the room and the rush of blood that embarrassment brought to his face. He was as red as a beet as he turned away to find something less engaging to settle his eyes on. He chose the sink. There was a refillable plastic jar of hand soap on the counter. That was unsexy.

In any other situation, Izaya would've been laughing hysterically at the idiot burlesque show Shizu-chan was putting on, but as things were, he was honestly a bit glad that Shizuo couldn't stand the heat and had turned that intensely piercing stare of his onto some other hapless object. Sure, Shizu-chan was clueless, so maybe he didn't know what he was actually seeing when he gave Izaya that particular look, but Izaya felt like Shizuo's golden eyes were cutting him to the core. That was one reason it was better to keep him fighting. When they were on the run and engaged in battle, Shizuo never had a chance to appraise him clearly. When they spent time together quietly, eating or talking or just enjoying one another's company, there was too high a chance that Shizuo's eyes would break through his facade.

Izaya didn't think he was ready (he might never be ready) to have anyone else really know what was going on in his heart.

"So," Izaya repeated Shizuo's last words. When Shizu-chan took charge it knocked him off balance, but when the blond man was shy and inept, Izaya could bring himself back up to his usual standards of snide mastery. There was a lot of give and take in this relationship (not that it was a relationship). Izaya's form was constantly fluctuating when they engaged in a private manner. When Shizuo was strong, Izaya became weak. When Shizuo was weak, Izaya became strong. When Shizuo expected one thing, Izaya was another. To some people it would have been infuriating, but apparently, for Shizuo, it was a fulfilling sort of mystery. Izaya was an enigma he never dreamed he could solve. Izaya himself knew that was all too far from the truth. If he did not divorce himself from Shizuo, he might find himself in the uncomfortable position of being understood someday. And at this point in his life (his eternal twenty-first year), he could not accept that. ...The thing was...breaking completely away from Shizu-chan was not something he was ready to do either.

Someday, maybe soon, he was going to be forced to find out what he valued more- Shizu-chan or himself.

"S-so what? Are you gonna say something?" Shizuo burst out, still pink in the face, but unable to handle the near-silence any longer.

"Hey," Izaya held up his hands, turning the palms out in his usual sort-of-shrug, "You're the one who came in here all unexpectedly in the first place. Why do I have some kind of obligation to say something to you?"

"Uh...Oh." Shizuo realized he was right. "I...I guess I'm just not used to you being so quiet. You're a loud sort of guy, Izaya, even when we're-"

"Don't go there."

The room descended into silence yet again, broken only by the quiet shifting of Shizuo's body in the water as he remained in his slightly squished position and a single drip from the faucet. Shizuo looked around sheepishly at the shower curtain, Izaya's clothes, and every other aspect of and item in the room before his gaze was forced to settle once again on his companion. He grinned like the moron Izaya always said he was. At the moment, he would have to agree with Izaya on that assessment of himself. He felt like a total dork. ...That, or a shy, but still love struck, schoolgirl.

"...So," Izaya spoke up even though he would've preferred for Shizuo to be the one to continue their halting conversation, "Did you just come in here to spoil my bath and give this trip an awkward conclusion or do you have some sort of real purpose in being here?"

"The second one. Even if it's starting to seem a lot more like the first."

Now, that actually was kind of funny, and not in just a dumb "will someone just say what he's really thinking and make this situation more comfortable" sort of way. Izaya laughed. Shizuo's mood brightened as he contemplated the nature of the laugh. It wasn't snarky or sarcastic, nor was it the occasionally girlish giggle that escaped Izaya's lips. It was a friendly laugh. The way Shizuo expected a guy to laugh if he appreciated a friend's joke.

Shizuo loosened up a little at this. "You see, what happened is, while you were in here running the shower and getting washed up and everything, I decided that I would put my courage to something less angry for once, so I paced around the room trying to gather up my resolve. I could hear that you switched the water over to fill up the tub- it sounds kind of different. So, I stripped down, and I was sitting on the bed, trying to decide if I was just going to stretch out naked across the bedspread and surprise you when you came out or if there was something more exciting I could do. You know, since I was trying to be brave and everything. And," Shizuo paused, adding another thought as it popped into his mind, "You do seem to prefer things that are unexpected."

"That's true," Izaya agree, nodding his head to encourage Shizuo to go on.

"Heh heh, that's what I thought. Well, it occurred to me that we'd never... Never gotten together in a situation like this."

"We've never been together in a bed either," Izaya chuckled, rolling his deep red eyes.

"I know, I know, but this is more exciting, right? You didn't expect this."

"I'm not sure I would've expected that either, if you want me to be honest, Shizu-chan."

"Yeah, yeah, but...it's, uh... Well, there's plenty more to the night before we check out of the hotel in the morning and go our separate ways. The bed's still another option."

"Wow, Shizu-chan! Somebody's horny!" The shaking of Izaya's body as he laughed sent tiny ripples through the surface of the bathwater. "Maybe I should visit castles with you more often! Apparently they're one of your turn-ons."

"Sh-shut up! That has nothing- well, barely anything- to do with this!" Shizuo insisted. "It's not Himeji Castle, it's you!"

Oh. Well, it had taken a lot of stuttering and stumbling, falling verbally on his face and slamming into walls with his emotions, but he had said it. There was no backing out of it now. Shizuo was going to have to own it.

"It's...me?" Izaya asked, a tad suspicious. His eyes were narrowing in a peculiar fashion, though not one that suggested he was coming up with some hideously manipulative plan the way it usually did. "What do you mean?"

"I...I wouldn't be interested in just any old person just because they came on this trip and visited the castle with me. It was fun, and I'm turned on, because I came and did it with you."


Shizuo took a deep breath. He'd said it. As much as he could manage to say. He relaxed his posture a bit. The toes of his left foot brushed against Izaya's right ankle as his legs stretched out slightly. Izaya was looking at him intently now. His cheeks were brightening like wild roses at the start of summer. He had taken every word Shizuo said very seriously and Shizuo appreciated that.

With Shizuo's piece said, the ball was in Izaya's court. Would he rebuff his advances or would he prove receptive? Shizuo couldn't stand the tension. Mere seconds were feeling like minutes or hours. The steam was beginning to clear a bit and the water, which had been quite hot when he entered, had cooled several degrees. "Izaya," Shizuo groaned inwardly, "Say something, Izaya."

"I like that, Shizu-chan," Izaya replied at last. "That you only feel like this for me."

"You believe me, don't you?"

"Of course I believe you. It isn't like I'm the one saying all that sappy stuff. You're too stupid to lie like that." Being able to tell Shizuo those kind of things allowed Izaya to transition back into a more familiar mood, even as he was still tickled pink inside by Shizuo's affections. "Well. Now I've heard you out. I guess it's time for you to act on all your big talk, Shizu-chan."

"What? Put up or shut up?" Shizuo-grinned.

"Something like that," Izaya murmured, any other words he had been planning on speaking melting away as Shizuo came forward and captured his tingling body with his arms and legs and lips.