Originally posted at the Drrr kinkmeme on Livejournal (parts 225-243).

Warnings : Some non-graphic references to rape that may be potentially triggery. Some quite-graphic (I guess? XD My gauge for that kind of thing is pretty warped, so...) sex, both Shizaya and Izuo.

A/N : Final part! Thank you all so much for reading and commenting - I hope this is a satisfactory ending for you all. ;D

What You Don't Surrender - Chapter 26

When you thought about it, there was something terrifyingly vulnerable about sleeping with somebody. Just sleeping. Allowing another person that close while you were utterly defenceless and trusting that they'd keep you safe, well… it was a really dangerous thing to do, ne? Especially when said other person had an extensive list of reasons to murder you while you slept. It didn't fit in with an ethos of self-preservation at whatever cost at all.

Of course, last time he'd woken up in Shizuo's arms, the monster had been drooling on his stomach while snuffling in his sleep, and the only risk to Izaya's wellbeing would have been the protozoan mistaking his substitute pillow for pudding.

Ah, but that's not how you're dangerous, is it, Shizu-chan?

He wouldn't have been surprised to wake up alone; as skittish as Shizuo had been last night, Izaya still wasn't entirely sure why he hadn't fallen asleep that way too. That Shizu-chan was still in his apartment, let alone his bed…

Sitting up, he winced at the ache that trudged its way from his shoulder to the healing wound on his side. Fine, so he hadn't been completely honest when he'd said the tumble back at that warehouse had been harmless, but when the alternative had been sending Shizuo fleeing back to his shell – and worse, back to his own apartment – what was one more little white lie to add to the rest?

At some point while he slept, Shizuo had loosened his hold. Izaya tried his best to be affronted, but it was hard to feel irritated when he couldn't remember the last time Shizu-chan had looked that comfortable while he slept. One arm was still tucked under Izaya, while the other was draped loosely across the blond's chest. The cuts and scrapes on his hands already looked as though they'd been there a week, fading and old rather than new and angry. There were still shadows smudging beneath his lashes, but that perpetual scowl had eased.

Propping himself up on one elbow, Izaya brushed aside a messy lock of bleached hair and poked one ringed index finger between Shizuo's brows. Not even so much as a crease.

What are you doing, Shizu-chan…?


It wasn't so much a groan as an irritable whimper, like a kid who'd been told he needed to get up right this instant or he'd be late for school. As he watched, Shizuo tried to swat at the tickling hand, grumbling under his breath as he ineffectually tried to roll over and go back to sleep.

Izaya had no objection to that idea – it didn't look as though either of them had been sleeping particularly well lately, though obviously, by dint of experience he carried it off better than Shizu-chan – but somewhere in the middle of trying to figure out what his arm was stuck on, brown eyes snapped open with a start, staring at him.

"Good morning, Shizu-chan."

Shizuo blinked, to all appearances wide awake but clearly needing a moment or two for his sluggish thoughts to remind him what he was doing in Izaya's bed.

And what he's not, ne?

"Ah, yeah…" Shizuo scrubbed his free hand over his face. "'Morning."

Taking pity on that awfully awkward expression, Izaya sat up, stretched, and tried not to wince as the action tugged on his side. Kicking off the sheets, he shifted to perch on the edge of the bed, glancing back over his shoulder.

"Did Shizu-chan sleep well?"

Why are you here?

That frown was back, carving little valleys between the blond's brows. Izaya didn't ask whether the puzzlement was at the fact he'd slept at all or just the fact that he'd done it so peacefully in this bed. "Yeah, I guess I must have."

"Good. Because I told you last night, Shizu-chan looked terrible, ne?"

Shizuo smiled a little. "And I told you you looked pretty crappy yourself, flea."

"If someone with standards as low as yours thought so, then it must be true." He stood. "I'm going to shower first. You should go back to sleep."

Why are you here?

"Nah, I'm awake now anyway. Don't wanna spend the day being lazy."

"Suit yourself. Ah, but if you want food then you'll have to order in. Or we could go out. It's probably past the breakfast rush by now, so it'll be quiet."

Shizuo grimaced. "I'm not hungry. I'm… still too fricking wrung out to eat."

"Well, tell me if you change your mind, ne? My treat."

"Yeah…" the blond snorted softly. "What about you? Shinra'd be pissed if he knew you were starving yourself after he went to the trouble of fixing you up."

"I'm not starving myself, I just… haven't been home much. Busy, busy, ne? And Shiki-san's been working me to the bone ever since I…"

Shizuo arched a brow. "Borrowed an illegal weapon and forgot to take it back?"

"Something like that." He smiled wryly. "And groceries tend to slip your mind when you're hunkered down in hotels."


"Sometimes it pays to work without distractions. Ah, I know it must seem extravagant to someone who couldn't afford an hour in a love hotel on his salary, but it was in everyone's best interest that I lay low. Well," he shrugged, "mostly mine. I didn't think that brat would go to the lengths he did."

"…you knew about those photos?"

Izaya nodded. "He sent me copies."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I thought I could deal with him before I had to. I just… thought I knew what he was after. I thought I understood what he wanted."

And just like he'd made that mistake with Shizuo, he'd done it with Kei, too. He still berated himself for miscalculating so badly, for convincing himself that he got it when he didn't know a thing. He didn't make those kinds of errors. He didn't let silly things like fear get in the way of his bigger plans.

Why should he? Those who pulled the strings controlled even that, ne?

"And anyway… I didn't think you'd want to know that I'd seen them. Shizu-chan was bound to get some stupid ideas in his head about that, ne?"

Like shame, or disgust, or pity, or that somehow a few pixels on a screen would be enough to sway Izaya Orihara when his mind was made up.

Shizuo looked up at him abruptly, all those stupid ideas painted clearly on his face.


"They were just photographs, Shizu-chan." He paused in the doorway. "Just because they captured a moment, it doesn't mean it changes anything."

He knew from the way Shizuo looked at him what the blond wanted to ask; Izaya had no intention of even gracing it with a response. Instead, he just stared it down until Shizuo relented, looking away with a soft exhale.

"Yeah. I guess so."

Izaya nodded. "Besides, Shizu-chan should know by now that none of the stupid things he thinks are true, ne? And even if they are," he shrugged, "then they don't matter."

Shizuo sent him a sidelong look. "I'm not the only one thinking stupid things though, am I?"

He blinked, backing out of the door before that knowing look in the blond's eyes had him admitting that little lapse into unbridled and immature jealousy last night. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

The chuckle and "Idiot flea…" trailed down the hall after him as he escaped to the bathroom.

Unbridled and immature it may have been, but it was hardly irrational. He'd never liked other people playing with his things.

In the steamy confines of the shower, he leaned his hands against the tiles and closed his eyes.

Why are you here? Why, why, why…?

It wasn't as though he hadn't wondered last night, when Shizuo made that phone call and changed his plans. He'd been caught somewhere between triumph, relief and the brutal conviction that Shizuo was only capitulating to his misplaced guilt again and wanted to make sure Izaya didn't keel over on the way home.

Fragments of images and sounds tugged at his memory. The hesitant push of his door. The tension that had hummed through the mattress when Shizuo sat down. The silence. The blond's profile when Izaya dared look back, when he dared make an offer he'd thought was stupid enough at the time; he'd been certain Shizu-chan would bolt.

But he hadn't. Warmth seeped around Izaya's chest in a ghost echo of those arms wrapping around him, holding on tight. Almost as tight as Shizuo's fingers had clung onto his on that grimy warehouse floor.

Sighing softly, he turned his face up into the spray.

"Do you even know what you're doing, Shizu-chan?"

Ah, but maybe he was still asking that of the wrong person, ne…?

Shizuo was already dressed by the time he got out of the shower, and looked suspiciously as if he was getting ready to leave. He looked up sheepishly as Izaya quirked a brow.

"I suppose you'll want to borrow the train fare home, too?"

A faint flush stained the blond's cheeks and he dragged a hand through his hair. "Uh… I guess so. I'll pay you back. I just have to go and pick up my keys first."

Plucking his wallet from the jacket he'd left carelessly draped over the arm of the couch, Izaya counted out just enough yen for a ticket; if Shizu-chan wanted to sneak off and stuff himself full of fast food on the way, he could pay for that himself. Which was, yes, contradictory and stubborn, but the offer of breakfast had come with the unspoken stipulation that it happened with him.

This was his answer though, wasn't it? Why was Shizuo here? What was he doing? Apparently, getting away as soon as humanly possible.

He handed over the money. "What'll you do now?"

It hadn't seemed like a particularly trying question, but he realized the depth of what he'd actually asked when Shizuo looked at him blankly.

"Uh… I don't know. Go home, I guess. Go to work."

For all Shizuo had wished for it to be over, for all Izaya had vowed to see his plans through… neither of them were left with much now that it was done. There was no reason for Shizu-chan to feel obliged to associate with him anymore, ne? If the protozoan had so much as a tiny, pea-sized brain, then the smartest thing he could do would be to get as far away as he could.

And there would have been a time, back when the masks were more important than anything else, when Izaya would have been fine with that.

"That's right, ne? Shizu-chan has settled back into his routine lately. That's good."

Staring at the money he kept turning over in his hands, Shizuo shrugged. "Maybe. Still feels like I'm putting on some damn act though. Like being that me feels off, somehow."

"It's all you, ne…? This is just a you with… a few more experiences to process. Shizu-chan shouldn't try so hard."

Shizuo snorted. "I must be screwed if you're giving me advice."

"Well, I told you all along, right? The sooner everything's back to normal, the better we'll both feel." And it was all Shizuo's fault, because if he hadn't noticed that scowl deepening between the blond's brows again, if he hadn't felt flickers of hope and despair in equal measure at the thought that Shizuo didn't want that old normal back, he might never have added, "But if Shizu-chan can't deal with it, then he can always come back here, ne?"

Shizuo stared at him, the frown giving way to a slack surprise. "Flea…"

"You're not going to go to the trouble of explaining all this to anyone else, are you?" The grimace tightening the blond's mouth was answer enough. "Whether we like it or not, I'm the only one left who knows everything. And seeing as I may have, possibly, complicated things a little, then… it's only fair." He plastered on a smile. "It's fine, ne? Don't worry that I'll get the wrong idea, Shizu-chan."

The smile felt frozen in place when Shizuo glanced at him, a wary resignation in his gaze. It didn't quite match the things he'd seen in the monster's haunted eyes that night on that rooftop, but that's where Izaya went in his head.

That's where he always went, as though he couldn't quite grasp the futility of replaying that scene over and over without being able to change how it ended.

"You know, I was there," Shizuo said, after a silence that dragged on long enough for Izaya to wonder whether he was going to say anything at all. "I haven't forgotten. So d'you maybe want to stop acting like nothing happened?"

It was just his body cooling down after the heat of the shower, he decided, that made him shiver. "Not particularly."

Shizuo watched him for a moment, before shaking his head. "Dumbass."

"Hmm, I prefer to think of it as 'it wasn't much fun the first time, so why would I do it again', ne?"

Whatever he'd expected in response, it wasn't the way Shizuo ducked his head and muttered, "Yeah… sorry."

"Why? It's hardly Shizu-chan's fault. It was the worst possible thing to say at the worst possible time."

"Yeah, it was." That whiskey gaze met his. "Was it true?"

And there it was, the perfect opportunity to end it once and for all, to say the words that would send Shizuo back to his dull little life and Izaya back to his, neither of them much the worse for wear for the events of the past few months.

"No." He shook his head, smiling wryly. As if that was even an option anymore. "It is true."

If life was a shojo manga, this would be the point where Shizu-chan flung himself into Izaya's arms, ne? There'd be tears and declarations, and flowers appearing arbitrarily in the background.

Izaya smiled, watching Shizuo just nod dumbly to himself as that small scrap of information altered ever-so-slightly whatever had been going on in that protozoan skull. That would never stop being fascinating to the point where he forgot to breathe, he thought, watching someone's perspective skew at just a tiny new fragment of knowledge. He was a little relieved that it could still be fascinating, even when it mattered more than usual.

"You don't seem to be as appalled by it as you were last time, Shizu-chan," he observed, just for something safe and familiar to do.

And at least you haven't equated my loving you with the men that raped you this time, ne?

It was cruel and unfair even as a thought, but he still thought that accusation had hit him harder than any bullet ever could. That he deserved it didn't mitigate the hurt it left behind.

"D'you think I'd have come back here if I was? I… just lemme get my head straight, okay? I know I haven't done a decent job of it so far, but I don't want to jerk you around when… shit, flea, I can barely even get my head around going to work. Or dumb crap like picking up groceries." Shizuo's laugh was quiet, self-deprecating, but only a tiny bit bitter. "I'm gonna wind up being the creepy guy who stands in the convenience store looking at the same two packets of noodles for an hour, I swear…"

"Ah, but it's important to take nutrition seriously, ne?"

"Yeah…" The blond's smile faded. As though he was only seeing it for the first time, he scanned Izaya's apartment, lips pressed in such a thin, tense line that he wondered what Shizuo had been looking for in the first place. He hadn't found it, he knew that much. "I just feel like I've been in limbo, does that sound stupid?"

Izaya shrugged. "You have been. Frankly, I wouldn't want you making any important decisions in that state. It'd be too much for your fragile little protozoan brain to handle, ne? The poor thing's overwhelmed at the best of times."

"Bastard." There was no heat in the insult; it was almost affectionate. "It's mostly that way because of you."

Ah, he supposed that was true. For what he swore would be the last time he'd waste a thought on them, faces spun through his mind: Hayashi; Satou; Nishimura; Takahashi. No one would be worse off without them, and he didn't regret his choices for one second, but…

It had been a high price to pay, ne, watching Shizuo break a little more with each of their downfalls. There was no way to stop once he'd set his plans in motion, not without looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life, but sometimes he wondered where they'd be if he hadn't pushed Nishimura to that fateful decision. If Shizu-chan didn't know the full extent of Izaya's involvement.

It might have been impossible to keep it from him forever, but…

I thought you'd be bound to me tightly enough by then, ne? I thought you might be pleased.

He should have known, though, that the protozoan could still take him by surprise even now. The bills crumpled in a clenched fist as Shizuo went on, oblivious to Izaya's thoughts. "Ever since you got hurt, I… I don't know that I've been thinking at all. Just kept telling myself that it was my fault. That you'd done all that shit for me, done all the shit I should have done, and I didn't say 'thanks', I got you shot up instead."

The silence of the apartment rang in his ears. Dust motes danced in one of the too-bright shaft of morning sunshine that cut through the blinds. And Izaya really did think he was awake, and not still enjoying some fantasy where that was Shizuo's concept of limbo.

Laughing softly, he shook his head ruefully. "You really are an idiot, ne, Shizu-chan?"

Shizuo scowled. "Like you didn't know that all along."

"True, but your disguise is so convincing, now and then I need a reminder."

"Tch." Even the glare looked hopeless. "Look, I have to go. I can't ditch anymore work, not when Tom and Vorona have been covering that much for me already." Shizuo hesitated. "…can I come back later? I'll bring your money."

Strolling closer to the window, Izaya leaned a hip against the desk, arms folding across his chest. "As long as you bring enough to get home this time, ne?"

"Yeah," the blond laughed shortly, "I don't wanna be your kept woman or anything." Brown eyes went wide. "Not that I'd… or that you'd…" Looking as flustered as he was angry, Shizuo shoved his fingers through his hair as he stalked towards the door. "Ah fuck it, you knew what I meant."

If there was a hell, Izaya thought, there was probably a special part of it set aside for him for enjoying Shizuo's discomfort this much.

"You don't want to be my kept woman, Shizu-chan." He smiled at the door as it slammed shut behind the blond's retreating back. "I'd make you work much too hard for it."

'Later' turned out to be so close to midnight that it might as well have been 'tomorrow', and if he hadn't thought he owed it to the flea not to be an idiot, Shizuo might have stayed home. Hell knew, Izaya's schedule was messed up enough without his help.

But when they'd finally finished work for the day, and he had to decide where to go, well… 'home' didn't feel like the poky little apartment where he lived anymore.

Stopping by long enough to pick up his wallet, he'd turned they keys over idly in his hands. Vorona had given them back with such dutiful solemnity, he'd have thought there was anything in the place worth stealing. She'd looked puzzled when he said as much.

"Senpai entrusted the job to me. Therefore the job will be carried out to the best of one's abilities. Senpai's belongings are also important and must be shown great care."

She'd never struck him as the type to be any more attached to possessions as he was, but he'd smiled anyway and patted her hair. "Thanks."

"Was Senpai's job also carried out satisfactorily? Were suitable reparations able to be made?"

"Ah, I don't know about that… but I got to say 'thanks', so that can't be bad, right?"

"Affirmative. Other party surely values a gesture of gratitude and conciliation." A look crossed her face that said in no uncertain terms that she had no idea why the noxious insect of all people might deserve that, but something in Shizuo's eyes must have given him away, because after a moment of scrutiny she'd nodded decisively. "Senpai sure to succeed, no problem."

He wasn't sure about the 'no problem' part; Izaya was a living, breathing, walking problem, most of the time. Even if his schemes had nothing to do with Shizuo, the louse was still trouble. Always had been, always would be.

Despite that, an easygoing comfort settled over him the moment he set foot in Izaya's apartment. No, even before that; the flea opening the door and inviting him in with a drop of one shoulder and the tilt of his head felt better than going back to empty silence. When, exactly, had his soul stopped seeing this place as enemy territory, but rather as a place more familiar, more safe than the room he'd been paying rent on for the past few years?

Tch, it was all Izaya's fault, anyway, for letting him treat this decidedly unhomely place like home. For the undemanding silences, and the ashtray plates, and the covered mirrors and the extra milk in the fridge.

It was all Izaya's fault that he didn't want to go anywhere else anymore.

"I know you've been skipping work," Izaya said, heading back towards the couch and the glow of an open laptop as though Shizuo's interruption was no big deal, "but this kind of overtime is a bit excessive. You should file a complaint with whatever union deals with unskilled bodyguards with no ambition or better job prospects."

"Nothing like that. Our last job was just a jerk who kept giving us the runaround, that's all." Following, he counted out the train fare in worn and creased notes before gesturing for the flea to hold out his hand. "Oi. Here."

Izaya stared at the crumpled bills in his palm, and laughed. "I didn't mean for you to actually pay me back, you know. But I should have known you would. Shizu-chan can't help but be sickeningly honest, ne?"

"Someone's gotta pick up the slack."

He heard the flea chuckle as Shizuo made a beeline for the window, fishing his cigarettes out of his pockets. "Are you bearing that burden for me, Shizu-chan?"

"Well, I figure some habits are harder to break than others." He grinned at Izaya through a haze of smoke. "You work on yours, I'll work on mine."

Izaya made a face. "You don't look as though you're working very hard."

"Neither do you."

It was still cold enough at night that just cranking the window open an inch or two drew a chill breeze into the room. He figured Izaya still preferred that to the smoke. Leaning against the window frame, he watched the wispy grey whip away from the tip of his cigarette.

"I was thinking, though, today…"


"Last time at Shinra's when…" When for all he knew the flea was about to kick the bucket and he'd walked out anyway. He found himself looking back into the room, just to make sure Izaya was there. "Anyway, he was bugging about running that second test, just to be on the safe side. I figure it might not be a bad idea."

From the way Izaya's eyes narrowed, his train of thought had just rattled down the same track as Shizuo's, faster than the Shinkansen.

When his attackers had been nameless and faceless, there'd been a blissful ignorance to it all. Knowing who they were, knowing the kind of crap they were into… he'd known there'd be fallout from Izaya's schemes, some of it stuff neither of them might notice for days, weeks, months, but he hadn't expected something like this to be part of it.

"Because of Kei-kun."

"Because the bastard who did that to him… to us, must be pretty fricking indiscriminate."

"Mmm…" Izaya nodded noncommittally. "It's true he didn't seem to have much consideration for his playmates. And much as Kei would like to think otherwise, I doubt he was the only one."

"He's the one you were telling me about, wasn't he? That 'job' of yours."

"Ah." The flea smiled a little. "And as I recall, Shizu-chan went all White Knight over it. Did it change your mind, knowing that the brat you felt sorry for would have destroyed you in an instant if he could?"

Shizuo glared over the top of his cigarette, before turning to stare out of the window. "Why the hell would I do that?"

"But isn't that how you got in trouble to begin with? Believing that everyone has their tale of woe to tell, and that, somehow, it's all your responsibility to fix it? Ah, Shizu-chan's so conceited to think that the world's safety depends on him…"

Not the world. Not anymore.

"The hell would you know about it, anyway? You've never given a shit about anyone but yourself."

"So mean, Shizu-chan! What about my all-encompassing, self-sufficient love for all humans, ne?" Izaya didn't sound pissed. Neither did he sound as though he was denying it when he said, "It's better than arbitrarily throwing your care at the first person with a kind word, don't you think? It's better to admit upfront that you have no need or interest in them loving you back, especially when you know they won't anyway. Craving it as much as you do, when it's stamped all over the trail of destruction you wreak, well… it leaves you weak, ne? Sometimes the world really is as bad as you think, as cruel as you think, as selfish as you think. We've both seen enough to know it's naïve to think otherwise."

"So what…? They're gonna fuck you over eventually anyway, so you might as well just write 'em off from the beginning?"

He could hear the smile. "Well, it does cut out that tedious part in the middle, ne?"

"Shit, Izaya…" He scowled at the glass. "The hell happened to you?"

Because people didn't just start thinking that way all by themselves, even an idiot like Shizuo knew that much. No one arrived on this planet knowing that people could be assholes if given half a chance; that was something you picked up along the way.

"Is Shizu-chan concerned about me?"

And damn it, he couldn't fight the heat that rose to his cheeks at that self-satisfied question. Muffling the embarrassment with a vicious drag on the cigarette, he mumbled, "Someone has to be. You always talk like you're saving your own skin, and then you do dumbass things. Don't even know which one's really you."

"Can't it be both? And anyway, nothing happened, though I'm touched that Shizu-chan would worry, ne?"

"Idiot louse."

From the corner of his eye, he watched Izaya laugh softly, before glancing off with a strange, faraway look in his eyes. "You know, I just liked watching humans, that's all. If it was anything at all, then… maybe sometimes you can look too hard, ne? The first time you realize everything's just so ugly and pointless and empty underneath, you can't unlearn it. And when you see things for what they really are, it's hard not to feel disappointed. It's hard not to want to play with it some more."

"Like me, you mean."

Izaya's distracted gaze snapped back to him. "Hmm?"

"That's what you did with me, right? Saw me for what I was and figured you'd play around with that."

"Ah, that's probably true, ne? But not for the reasons you're thinking. Shizu-chan's about the only thing that's never disappointed me."

"Is that why you…?" Love me. His mind still couldn't quite process the two separate components of 'Izaya' on the one hand, and the sort of things he'd always thought 'love' might feel like on the other. Damn it, he could hardly bring himself to look the flea in the face, because he knew this holding pattern they'd fallen into was waiting on him, and whatever he said, whatever he did was going to be wrong.

"Well, it's hardly for your charm, ne?"

"Tch… what kinda fricking criteria is that?"

Except he could almost see it. Someone who looked at you differently than everyone else. Someone who saw past all the crap you put in their way. Someone who wasn't scared off, or deterred, even when they knew the worst you were capable of.

Wasn't that what he'd wanted too? Wasn't that what he'd told himself would be impossible?

He'd always figured Izaya'd chosen his path, while Shizuo's had been foisted on him without a say so. He still didn't think he was wrong, but maybe the flea hadn't made his choices for the reasons Shizuo'd always assumed.

It was hard, once you'd set off in one direction, to slam on the brakes and do something else. People went with the flow a lot. It wasn't as though he'd been much more than a passive passenger in his life too, sometimes. Choosing to give in to his power… what fricking kind of choice was that, anyway? Anything else had just seemed too impossible for someone like him.

"There's gotta be good too, though, hasn't there?" A carousel of the people he knew drifted through his head. No, not 'people he knew'; his friends. And maybe none of them were saints, and some of them were skirting crazy, but they were nowhere close to being bad people. "If you think everyone's just out to fuck you over, then what about the people who're trying their damndest to be decent?"

"You'd be surprised how little it takes, ne? Shizu-chan doesn't see it, because even though you're like that you're decent enough to make me want to puke. That's why the world's such a dangerous place for people like you. That's why you're so much fun for people like me to play with."

"People like you?" he echoed. "Thought you didn't want me counting you in with the likes of them?"

Izaya fell silent, the kind that usually meant he was scrabbling and calculating behind that façade to come across as though the remark hadn't hurt, and Shizuo remembered why it was usually better if he shut the hell up.

"Well, Shizu-chan's the one who said that, ne? If that's how you're thinking already, then—"

"It was a shitty thing to say."

"But you meant it at the time, ne? And you were probably right."

"No." He shook his head, surprised at how much anger he'd managed to pack into one tiny syllable. "No, I wasn't. 'Cause I always kept pretending I didn't care why, y'know? Kept telling myself it didn't matter, I didn't need to hear any of 'em tell me why they did it. Why it was me. I mean, I knew why already, right? 'Cause of all the shit you keep telling me. 'Cause I'm an idiot."


"But it did fricking matter. It mattered. And thinking maybe there's no reason at all was even worse. That it really was just as goddamn petty as me pissing on their pride. But you…" He glanced back, meeting a mahogany gaze that looked just a little bit startled. "I know why you did what you did. I might still think you're fucking crazy for it, but… I know."

Izaya smiled wryly. "Do you?"

Yeah, he thought he did. The fixing, and the status quo and needing so desperately to cling to the one constant, the one defining normal. He'd wanted that so badly, and the flea'd found a way to give it to him. The guy who'd always been the selfish, self-obsessed cowardly idiot who'd probably sell his own mother up the river if it meant he could observe something entertaining had taken a bullet for him. Taken all the responsibility Shizuo shirked and still asked for nothing in return.

"Heh…" Izaya chuckled. "That's almost a confession, coming from you."

"Tch, think whatever you want, dumbass flea…"

"I usually do, but thank you for the permission." After a moment, Izaya tilted his head, a little bit pensive and a little bit playful all at once. "You know, people don't change, Shizu-chan."

"Maybe," Shizuo shrugged, "but they can evolve, right? Isn't that the crap you usually spout? No one's saying 'change', just… take what you can from the stuff you know and make something different. Something better."

Izaya laughed, head thumping back against the couch cushions until all Shizuo could see was a pale expanse of neck and a smile. "Ah, the day protozoan logic actually makes sense… it must mean I'm done for, ne?"

"Tch." He couldn't quite keep the sulky little grumble out of his voice, turning to blow an aggressive stream of smoke at the glass. "You're the one who never makes sense."

"Hmm, you know lately I'm starting to wonder whether that's true."

Yeah, the flea wasn't the only one. But then again, he always swore that the day he and Izaya could be in the same room and not fight would be the day Hell froze over. Tch, he wasn't even sure whether this was even considered arguing, since he wasn't mad and Izaya wasn't being that much of a bastard, and nothing was being broken… nothing felt broken. For reasons he could barely define, it felt as though everything was quietly being rearranged and put back together.

"Anyway…," he went on after a moment, "the kid's got an excuse for being a messed up little asshole. He probably doesn't know any other way of fixing things when he's scared out of his fucking mind…"

"Is that so?"

When he looked back, Izaya was watching him with a weird little smirk curving his lips. Shizuo frowned. "What?"

"Nothing." Izaya waved it off. "Takahashi might not have had any consideration for Kei, or for you, but he definitely had plenty for himself. He wouldn't have put himself in that sort of danger."

"Yeah, maybe."

But what about the others? 'Cause sometimes it didn't even matter how careful you were, or how sure you were that you'd made your world so that nothing could touch you… sometimes it did anyway.

'Course, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Just because it hadn't ever turned out particularly well for him, didn't mean that would always be the case.

He waited a few moments for the lightning bolt to strike, his punishment for just that grudging little nod to optimism. All he heard was the sound of his own breathing, and the way the couch creaked softly as Izaya stretched.

"Ah, then you probably should, ne? At least Shinra'll be happy to think you're taking care of yourself."

"You mean he'll quit nagging you for a while if he's dealing with me, huh?"

Izaya shrugged. "I won't say no to any side-benefits."

"Tch, I bet you wouldn't."

"But that's the funny thing, Shizu-chan. Humans revere coincidence like it was a deity in and of itself, but they're right that most things don't happen in isolation. Most actions have consequences, ne?"

Shizuo chuckled. Seriously, he couldn't tell whether it was a good or a bad thing to be that closely on the flea's wavelength. "The fallout."

"Something like that. Or just little ripples and reverberations you can never really account for."

"Are you saying you're not all-seeing, flea?"

"Of course not. I'm normal, ne? Nor~mal. Predicting the future would be creepy and not normal at all. Well… the supernatural kind of prediction, anyway. Most people are easy to predict in the non-creepy way. And I hate unpredictable things."

"Ah, so you keep saying."

"Mmm, like Shizu-chan kept saying 'I'll kill you', ne? I don't know whether I should be glad you're hopeless or feel sorry for you instead."

"You've never felt sorry for me; why would you start now?"

In the glass, he watched the flea smile, wagging one index finger back and forth to emphasise every syllable. "En~ter~tain~ment, ne?"

He turned from the window, just because the idiot louse deserved the full force of his muttered, "Dumbass," but that didn't seem so important anymore. For no reason in particular, his brain chose that moment instead to remind him that he'd fallen asleep once on the couch Izaya sat on, and woken up draped in a blanket that hadn't been there when he passed out.

It'd been obvious even then that the flea was up to something. Would it have made any difference if he'd known why?

He'd thought it was better to keep a safe distance while he waited for his mind to settle, but his body was still too ingrained with the muscle memories carved in this room to accept those conditions. Here in this space, it craved the contact that had trained it so well.

Flicking away the cigarette, he shut the window.

Was he giving the flea ideas he couldn't see through? He didn't know. Maybe. Izaya hadn't needed much on his part to get to this point after all, and if Shizuo had to check himself when he had no idea what he'd done to draw that kind of attention in the first place, well…

Even so, he was pushing his luck as he dropped down onto the couch next to Izaya, letting his head lean against the flea's shoulder as he closed his eyes.

"Wake me in time for the first train, okay?"

"Oh? Aren't you being presumptuous, Shizu-chan? I could have made other plans, you know."

"Have you?"

A purr of laughter shook his substitute pillow. "I was doing some homework on your new best friend. Just in case he decides he hasn't had enough of us yet, ne? It'd be easier if his real name actually was 'Kei', but I suppose it just goes to show how badly I underestimated him…"

Maybe it was habit, or maybe it was just easier with no distractions in the way, but he could feel the way the flea tensed at that.

"If he was smart enough to change his name, then you're probably not the only one who did, huh? Makes you wonder where the hell he came from if he even thought about something like that. I wouldn't. I'd be dumb enough to go by Shizuo even if I got run outta town."

Izaya shrugged. "I don't care where he came from. All I need is something I can use if he tries anything again."

"He won't. He's not scared of us in the same way."

In an ideal world, the kid wouldn't be scared of them at all, but he knew it was for the best; if a little healthy fear kept the brat out of trouble for a while, then it couldn't be too bad.

And he thought that smirk made sense, then. Of course neither of them could really hold a grudge with Kei; they'd been doing the exact same things themselves. Trying to make it better the only ways they knew how. Crappy, awful, stupid ways, but still…

Izaya was quiet for a moment, and when he finally spoke it was a low enough murmur that Shizuo could ignore it if he wanted to. He thought he probably did. "What about you, Shizu-chan?"

He felt the flea reach out to close the laptop, and a comfortable darkness settled over his eyes, leaving him with just familiar warmth and the scent of Izaya's skin.

Yeah… I'm not scared of us in the same way either.

He'd dropped by Shinra's on the way to work the next day, just to get it over with. The four eyes did his best to keep it casual, but Shinra's enthusiasm for stabbing him with needles betrayed how glad his friend was that he'd finally decided it might be an idea to look after himself a little more.

Izaya would have claimed he was valuing himself more, but Shizuo didn't really feel that, and besides, the flea had a warped value system anyway. It was like taking investment advice from a loan shark; they might have been talking about the same thing, but coming at it from very different angles.

But then, when hadn't they?

Celty had been out, so he'd promised to come back in a few days when Shinra got the results back. It was better than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, and all the memories that came with it. 'Cause he swore, if Izaya looked at him that way a second time, then…

No. If the flea wanted him to think things over with a clear head, then keeping his distance for a day or two could only help. Izaya hadn't reacted much one way or another when Shizuo called to tell him that – he had to, else the dumbass would make shit up in his head again… ah, who was he kidding; the idiot louse would make shit up in his head regardless, but at least Izaya's inevitable misunderstanding wouldn't be on him.

He wouldn't go back until he knew for sure.

Tch, are you still even talking about the damn test…?

When he arrived, Shinra opened the door to peer owlishly at him. "Oh? You're on your own?"

"Shouldn't I be?"

He'd seen that smile enough to know it was up to no good. "Not at all. Celty just told me she's on her way back, so I was wondering whether you two had met on the way up."

Shizuo eyed him suspiciously as he stepped into the entryway, but Shinra deflected it with an oblivious smile, padding into the living room on slippered feet.

"Whatever." He toed off his shoes before following. "So?"

Picking up a sheet of paper – filled with gibberish that reminded him of falling asleep in science class, as far as Shizuo was concerned – and handed it to him. "As expected, everything's fine."

Shizuo had no idea what he was reading, but he nodded anyway. "Okay. Good."

It didn't feel much like last time. The fear was just an uneasy ebb, almost complacent. If anyone had been aware there could be a problem, then he doubted they'd have missed the chance to rub his face in it, after all. Izaya was probably right; Takahashi had been too concerned for his own skin to take risks like that.

No, this time… there was just an odd, not-quite-hollow feeling as he looked up from the paper at Shinra's cheery face. He felt empty, but not in a bad way. Empty, instead, in a way that made him think maybe he was allowed to let other things in, now. Empty in a way that said 'start again'.

Empty in a way that said 'it's over.'

"I never thought it was a hundred percent necessary, really," Shinra said. "When I think about how accelerated your body is in other respects, the first one would have flagged up any issues. It's just…"

"Seeing it through." Shizuo shrugged, murmuring absently almost to himself. "This way it can really be done."

"Shizuo…" Shinra sighed. "Look, I know it's none of my business and I'm flirting with a beating just by bringing it up, but are you and Izaya…" There were a million ways the four-eyes could have ended that sentence, and at least nine hundred thousand of those really would have been asking for a punch to the face. "…in trouble?"

Letting out a quiet, huffed laugh, Shizuo shook his head. "Not anymore."

As for the other stuff they might've been in – over their heads being one of them – well…

"How's he doing, anyway?"

"Fine. He's lucky; that wound could have been a problem, but he's healing up nicely. Well, when he deigns to show up for his check-ups." Shinra rubbed the back of his neck with a wry smile. "Though I'd really appreciate it if the two of you could, you know, maybe not get hurt again for a while."

"Yeah, not planning on it."

"Ah, I didn't mean…" Shinra suddenly looked apologetic. "I'm not saying it was either of your faults, just that, well…" Tapping a finger against his lips, the doctor peered up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Having you two need me was never very much fun, because I usually wound up having to replace doors or furniture, but lately…" Grey eyes glanced his way. "I'd rather replace doors than friends, okay?"

"Tch, dumbass." Shizuo scoffed softly. "It's all fun and games till someone gets shot, huh?"

"I'd say the less getting shot that goes on, the better." Shinra nodded. "Oh, we should do something to celebrate! We could have a hotpot party! Celty might even agree to let Izaya come if she can cook for him. Of course, we'd have to find a way to mark the poisoned bowls in case we ate it by mistake too, but—" A knock at the door snapped the idiot out of his prattling reverie, and Shizuo's hackles rose at the too-angelic look on Shinra's face. "Oh! Did Celty forget her keys I wonder?"

Shinra was a crappy actor at the best of times; when he was so obviously delighting in whatever the hell he was up to, he sucked even more.

And really, Shizuo wasn't all that surprised to hear the put-upon "This had better not be a complete waste of my time, Shinra," drifting from the four eyes' front door.

They hadn't done neutral territory for so long, it was a little hard to remember how he was supposed to act. Unfortunately, Shinra wasn't as dumb as he looked; Shizuo could have punched Izaya in the face and the doctor would still have had his suspicions about them. Probably that whole business with refusing to leave the flea's bedside for two days straight and then asking him to lie about it hadn't helped that any…

Besides… there was a strange, jumpy static running through his blood at the sound of the flea's voice.

Strolling into the living room in a swish of furry parka and cockiness, Izaya at least spared him the effort of pretending. "Oh? Shizu-chan? What a coincidence."

Yeah, right.

"How did you know I was here?" As if he didn't know.

"Hmm?" Izaya pointed at the idiot hovering in the background, doing a lousy job at not eavesdropping. "Shinra told me."

The doctor backed up at Shizuo's glare, waving his hands ineffectually. "No, no, I just said probably you might be here today, and I needed to check how he's healing and the only way I could drag him here would be if he knew you were coming too, so…" With a bright 'aren't I clever?!' smile, Shinra turned for the hallway. "I'll go and get the exam room ready, come through whenever you're ready."

Izaya watched him leave, then sighed. "You need to talk to my dear Courier about getting her boyfriend a hobby, ne? I think he has far too much time on his hands. I hear planking on a major highways is popular these days, he might want to try that."

"Asshole." Shizuo snorted. "God help him, he really was worried about you. About both of us."

"Ah, so we've been promoted from the ranks of convenient decoys?" Izaya blinked. "Good to know. He's much more useful if he's invested, ne?"

"I think it'll probably be a good thing that we don't use him for anything for a while, huh? Or, y'know… ever?"

The flea smiled. "I'm not here for my health, you know. Except when I am." The smile stayed, but something in Izaya's eyes hardened, even as he shoved his hands in his pockets, coat swaying jauntily. "So… is it…?"

"Yeah, it's fine."

"Ah. Good, then." Izaya nodded, and for a fleeting moment it seemed as though the expression on his face was a second thought, there to replace whatever had been there to begin with. Nothing like last time. None of that irrational, misplaced concern. He figured Izaya had probably done enough digging into those bastards' histories between then and now to know whether there might have been any unusual medical expenses or doctors' visits going on. "Shizu-chan's still mine to kill, ne?"

"Yeah." Was it weird to smile at what was ostensibly a death threat? Probably. "That's still got your name on it, flea. Too bad for you I don't really feel like letting you do it right now, though."

"Is that so?" Izaya's coat swayed again, those sly eyes watching him casually. "We'll see, ne? If you abandon me here with Shinra, I'll make you beg for it."

On cue, the baleful lament of "Izaya, you're not my only patient today you know," droned from somewhere down the hallway like an especially whiny ghost. Izaya glared back at him as he headed towards the exam room.

"You owe me, Shizu-chan."

Yeah, he really did.

"Then I'll wait for you." At Izaya's surprised look, he glanced away, busying himself with his cigarettes. "I mean, I have to wait for Celty anyway, so…"

Izaya smiled. "Ah, Shizu-chan's so thoughtful towards his friends."

"Tch, screw you."

Peeking from around the corner before skipping off after Shinra, the flea laughed. "Hmm, apparently very thoughtful. No wonder you're so popular."

He was already out on Shinra's balcony, watching the clouds go by as he burned down a cigarette he wasn't smoking, when he realized that the gentle banter had passed him by without a flicker of shame or embarrassment. A few months ago, the very suggestion would have earned the flea a fist to the face. Now… there was a break somewhere in the chain between Izaya's teasing and the things Shizuo associated with the words. He still knew they were there, he doubted that would ever really go away, but it was no longer as visceral as it used to be.

The first thing he thought of wasn't cold concrete anymore, but warm, careful fingers, and his mind found it preferred to linger there instead of going any further into the dark.

He turned around as the balcony door swished open quietly, elbows resting on the edge of the rail. "Hey, Celty."

The Dullahan's shadows puffed in a silent greeting as she joined him. [Shinra said you'd be coming by today.]

"Yeah. And everything's fine, so I figured I'd come out here and kill myself with these instead." He chuckled, gesturing to the cigarette, knowing that most of it had turned to ash while he daydreamed.

[I'm happy to hear that.] Celty bumped his arm with her shoulder. [The first part, anyway.]


[Are you okay? Otherwise, I mean?]

Squinting at the tip of his cigarette, Shizuo shrugged. "Getting there."

[I'm glad.]

Movement inside the apartment caught his eye. Through the glass doors superimposed with their ghostly images, he watched the flea try to wave off Shinra's attentions, doing that dumbass thing he did where he managed to look frustrated and unimpressed all at once. Every quirk of thin brows, every exaggerated shrug of narrow shoulders… it was funny how he'd never paid much attention to any of that stuff before. He'd just seen that smirk and saw red. He'd just heard those taunting words and then nothing but the roar of his rage in his head as every one of those well-aimed barbs hit their target with perfect accuracy.

Whether he'd ever actually seen Izaya, he didn't know. He'd seen an Izaya. He'd seen one of the masks, one of the disguises, and only what the flea allowed. Even now, it was hard to be sure what Izaya chose to show him, how close he was really permitted.

It was pretty damn fricking hard to trust a guy like that.

But sometimes I think you're the one that finds it hardest of all, huh, flea…?

His gaze shifted when he felt Celty typing methodically.

[Is he the reason why?]


[I couldn't understand why you'd decided to stay with him. You hated him, and he'd only take advantage of your situation somehow.]

He snorted softly, watching the smoke drift. "At the time, I don't think I'd have given a shit if he had."

And that had been precisely why Izaya had been the safest place he could be.

[I think… I just hated that there was something he could do for you that we couldn't, you know?]

Shizuo shook his head. "It wasn't like that. I just felt less of a shit when I was asking it of him, that's all. I mean I like you guys," he laughed a little, reassured by the way Celty's shadows danced in mimicked response, "probably too much to be able to talk to you about something like that."

[But you didn't like him.]

"Nah. Couldn't stand him. And I figured that since he couldn't stand me either, nothing he found out would make that any worse."

[We would never have thought any less of you, you know that don't you?]

"Yeah." And he did, that was the strange part. "At the time, though… I didn't know much of anything."

Just that, for reasons that eluded him back then, he believed Izaya when the flea said he'd fix him. Celty was right – she'd always been right – in that it was one hell of risk he'd taken. He'd known that. He could have put a lot of it down to the way he hadn't given a shit what happened to him, that if Izaya wanted to drive in that final nail then the flea was more than welcome, but was that really enough to explain it?

Had something in him known all along why Izaya did what he did? Had there been a piece of him, that desperate, yearning thing he'd beaten down till it was nothing but bloodied and feeble and hopeless, answered to something in the flea from the beginning?

Hell if he knew; all that soap opera psychobabble always struck him as something middle school girls giggled over as they read manga that drowned in pink and flowers. If someone came up to him and started spouting crappy nonsense about soul mates and sublimated desire, he'd have beaten the living shit out of them. People were more complicated than that. Life was more complicated than that, and there were some things guys like him were never meant to have.

It might be kinda nice if it was true though, wouldn't it?

[The important thing is that you're all right.] Celty typed. [And if he's the reason you're smiling now, then that's all that matters to me. If it's you, then I know that whatever choices you make they're for the right reasons.]

It wasn't the first time this week that such blind optimism aimed at his judgement skills left him at a loss. He didn't agree with Celty's faith in him any more than he did with Vorona's, but he offered a noncommittal shrug anyway.

It wasn't as though they knew the damage his choices had caused.

And for all he knew, he was still doing it.

[Are you still staying with him?]

"Not really. We just, y'know… hang out."

[That's…] A flicker ran through Celty's shadows as she typed that could have been laughter and could have been a shudder of horror. […something I never thought I'd hear you say. Ever.]

"Tch, you and me both. But for a louse, he's got a nice apartment. It's comfortable." He smiled around his cigarette. "And besides, I can't leave the dumbass alone. Hell knows what he'd get up to."

Celty's shadows dipped in a wry nod. [Will he cause you trouble?]

"Probably. He is trouble. But so am I, I guess, so it's not so bad. And it's not like I don't know that. All long, he's been… he's been him." Watching the flea, deep in some nonchalant and probably creepy as fuck conversation with Shinra, he couldn't help but smile slightly. "He's been a sly bastard who pulled some screwed up stunts, and I don't think I'm ever gonna figure out how that flea-brain of his works. But the shit he's done for me… I don't think anyone else could be that fricking crazy."

And I don't know that anyone else'd make me feel that safe. I don't know that anyone else could make it okay if it wasn't.

His eyes widened at the next question on the PDA screen. Not because of the neat, starkly printed characters or the blinking cursor at the end as if waiting impatiently for an answer. Hell, he'd been asking himself the same thing for a while.

He was just surprised he'd been doing that piss poor a job of not letting it show, that was all.

[Are you in love with him?]

Through the glass, Izaya caught his eye with an exasperated 'if you don't help me get out of this, I'll flush all your bowties down the toilet' look. Shinra kept on talking, but the resigned set of the doctor's shoulders said that he knew his conversation partner was distracted.

Celty could probably say the same thing about him.

Tilting his head back, he watched puffy white clouds scud across a crisp blue sky. It was still a little cold but once you got out of the breeze, there was a mild suggestion of spring about it all.


Neither of them asked, not even when they were standing on the bustling platform in Ikebukuro station, but it remained an unspoken arrangement that Shizu-chan would follow him home even though his own apartment was just around the corner.

There were a dozen ways he could get the blond evicted, if he set his mind to it. The landlord had already proven himself to be lax with the rules, so bribing him to kick his peskiest tenant out would be one. Persuading the Awakusu that the building stood on prime real estate was another. Calling in favours and arranging an 'accident' that would leave Shizuo homeless was probably taking things a little too far.

If anyone asked, he'd vehemently deny that he'd learnt his lesson, but…

It just doesn't count unless you do it by yourself, Shizu-chan.

Shizuo was still a little edgy on the train, even if his menacing aura meant that the rest of the early evening commuters backed off. While it may have limited Shizu-chan's transport options, Izaya couldn't quite subdue the selfish satisfaction. It suited him just fine that he was the only one the beast would approach of his own free will to initiate contact.

It means I don't need to worry when you're out of sight, ne?

He still would, though. He was already considering extending his debt to Shiki by a freebie or two if it earned him the ability to have a couple of the Awakusu's men on surveillance detail. Fine, so last time he 'borrowed' some of Shiki's men it may have involved kidnapping a woman and child, and fine, so Shizu-chan would probably beat up his bodyguards badly enough that Izaya would be in debt for eternity and some change, and fine Izaya's frustrated helplessness didn't automatically mean Shizuo couldn't look after himself perfectly well…

"Too bad for you I don't really feel like letting you do it right now, though."

Ah, it wouldn't hurt to have a little faith, would it?

"You mind?" Shizuo tapped out a cigarette, taking the stairs for the roof instead of stopping at the apartment door. "I don't know what happened to the last one. Guess I got talking to Celty and forgot about it."

Shizuo had been doing a lot of that lately; why he bothered wasting money he didn't have on cigarettes he didn't smoke, Izaya had no idea. The comfort of having that familiar stick between his fingers, he supposed. That or that Shizu-chan enjoyed the concept of lighting cigarettes just to watch them burn. Izaya thought he could probably relate to that, if nothing else.

But that was the problem with addiction, ne? They never truly went away, however hard you tried to suppress the craving. Sometimes, it spilled out in other ways instead.

It hadn't been much of an invitation, but he followed Shizuo out onto the blustery rooftop anyway. The clear afternoon was giving way to a night clear enough that he could just make out some of the brightest stars through the skyglow. An airplane's landing lights blinked as it moved silently against the darkness, and he found himself back on the same roof several months ago, for all he knew looking at the same plane – unlikely, but he enjoyed the sheen of serendipity it provided – and trying to convince a wounded, wearied Shizu-chan that it was in his best interest to stay.

He'd had things to offer then, he thought. Promises made out of smoke and mirrors, alluring whispers of normal, lies that had fooled even him, all of them things that Shizuo could have seen right through if he'd been of a mind to do so, but things nonetheless.

Now… not so much. He might as well have been back on that Raijin playing field instead, knowing that those angry eyes saw how little there was to him after all.

"So…" Leaning back against the railing, he sent Shizuo a sidelong look. "What did my dear Courier want that was so important?"

Shizuo laughed a little, blowing out a thin, gauzy ribbon of unhurried smoke. "The usual stuff. How was I doing, why was I still hanging out with you, when was I going home, was I in love with you…"

It took a second to reassure himself that the sudden lurch that made him think the floor had been kicked out from beneath him was just in his head. The railing hadn't fallen away, the building was still standing and so was he. He wasn't entirely sure how, but…

Gathering himself, he tried gamely for a chuckle. It almost worked. "Does she usually take such an active interest in your love life?"

"Tch, she can't take an interest in something I don't have."

Don't have: present tense.

"Ah, that's true." Stepping away from the railing, he turned to face the direction of Ikebukuro. "Even in high school, no one came anywhere near you."

"Musta been the company I kept. And the way you were collecting 'em, there was nothing left over for the rest of us anyway. Who'd want your sloppy seconds?"

Despite the images that haunted him, he couldn't help but laugh. "No one. If they're my seconds, then you know they're worthless. I don't let go of the things that truly capture my interest."

Shizuo laughed a little, the sound sinking into the background hum of the street and the breeze. "Sounds about right."

"So, what did you tell her?"

"I told her…" Shizuo dropped the cigarette, crushing it methodically under his shoe, and Izaya found himself fascinated by the action because it was safer than looking anywhere else. "…I told her that if I was, then she's not the one I'd be telling first."

"Well, that's… very gentlemanly of you, ne?"

He'd always assured himself that Shizuo didn't have the kind of guile needed to string anyone along – Shizu-chan probably wouldn't even notice that he was doing things that could be construed as stringing someone along, which was dangerous enough.

There was probably no reason to be quite so surreptitious about it, but he found himself careful anyway as he stole a glance at the blond.

Arms folded loosely on the railing, Shizuo's gaze was heavy lidded and contemplative as he stared out over the artificial sparkle of Shinjuku. In profile, it was hard to tell whether the scowl had smoothed away completely, but that mouth looked relaxed. So did the hunch of strong shoulders, now and then delineated in sharp relief when the breeze billowed Shizuo's shirt and teased the ends of his hair.

It was still that same boy he'd watched from across the Raijin playing field, just a little bigger, a little tougher, a little more damaged and worn.

He supposed he was, too; that same boy still wanted nothing more than to tear down this dazzling, overpowering existence and pretend it didn't exist.

It's funny, ne? You want to be safe, and I'm done with trying to be.

He'd been staring so intently, he didn't even notice that Shizuo had turned to face him, brown eyes guarded but not completely shut down. After all these months, he knew that look; whatever was going on in that Neanderthal brain, Shizu-chan wasn't at odds with anyone but himself.

"C'mon." Pushing away from the railing, Shizuo loped past him on the way to the door. "It's getting cold out here."


It probably was. Either way, Izaya was happy to tell himself that was the reason he felt like shivering.

It took a little more effort to convince himself when he still felt that way even as they stepped into his apartment. Toeing off his shoes and tossing aside his jacket, he checked the AC controls near the front door, just in case. Nineteen degrees Celsius, the display informed him merrily, and Izaya found himself a little closer to understanding why Shizu-chan enjoyed venting his anger on inanimate objects.

"I'll offer you a celebratory dinner, my treat, on the condition that you stop pressing your luck, ne? As if once wasn't enough." As if once hadn't done so much damage. "I'll even promise not to make fun of you if you want to go to a fast food place instead of getting actual food. Well, I'll promise to try."

No answer. When he looked back, Shizuo was still standing in the entryway, watching him with a cranked-up, concentrated version of the expression that had started out on the roof. He'd been mistaken though, he thought, to assume that he wasn't on the receiving end of the conflict in those brown eyes.

An odd little flicker of déjà vu whispered across the back of his mind; he'd felt this kind of quiet tension before. Back then, Shizuo had been driven by anger and suspicion, and Izaya couldn't say with any certainty that he wasn't feeling the same things now, but…

It wasn't all he felt. Something else licked at the edges this time.


Last time, he'd been slammed up against the wall hard and fast enough to knock the breath from his lungs. This time, it was a slower, gradual squeeze, but no less oppressive for it. It left him just as breathless as he watched Shizuo take slow steps towards him, awkward and purposeful all at once.

"I don't want that."

He wasn't even backing away, not really. He just wanted something solid between him and the blond's cautious, measured approach. Just bumping into the wall made him gasp, as though his apartment and everything in it had turned into a live wire. Shizuo just kept coming, until Izaya couldn't tell whether it was the way he held his breath, or the way he tried to focus on that too-intense gaze that made him lightheaded.

His voice sounded awfully far away when he asked, "What do you want?"

If it was the deal-breaker question it had been before, Shizuo showed no signs of it. The blond looked exhilaratingly certain as he braced one forearm against the wall just to the side of Izaya's shoulder, and the rush of adrenaline brought with it that glorious image in the distorted Ueno street mirror of a joyous, passionate beast.

Smiling up at that look, he didn't even care that his voice shook.

"Welcome back, Shizu-chan."

The fingers that touched his cheek shook so hard that he could feel the vibration all the way through to the wall. Or maybe that was him, and not Shizuo at all.


He caught the faint quirk of a smile and the rough warmth of smoke as the blond lowered his head, soft, dry lips clinging to his own briefly before backing off. That searing gaze watched him for a moment, gauging and assessing in ways Izaya would have been proud of. A frown flickered across Shizuo's gaze as Izaya reached up, fingers carding through his hair. The "Oi…" was nothing more than a sigh.

"I told you, ne…?" Izaya tilted his head. "I don't let go."

Dark lashes fluttering closed, Shizuo nodded, closing the distance again to murmur against his mouth, "If you do, I'll fricking kill you."

Izaya smiled. "Fortunately for you, then, I don't really feel like letting you do that right now."

The little laugh that puffed against his lips stole his breath even before Shizuo's mouth brushed across his again, hot and unsure, but unsure in ways Izaya could deal with. Fingers curling at the nape of Shizuo's neck, he leaned up, opened up, wordlessly telling this beautiful monster that he could do whatever he wanted to him.

Even if you do just want to kill me. Right now, I think I'd be fine even with that.

It was just a kiss. Shizuo was still a little clumsy at it, especially when he tried too hard. It shouldn't have mattered that much.

But it did.

The weeks between the last kiss and this one crashed down around him, making him greedy and desperate. A voice in the back of his head told him to slow down, told him to be careful, but when the first touch of Shizuo's tongue against his own sent a shock of pleasure down his spine, it was hopeless.

Both arms looping around Shizuo's neck, he pressed himself against that strong chest, not knowing or caring whose heart pounded hard and fast between them. One hand still cupping his cheek, Shizuo stroked the other down his back, fingers splaying at the base of his spine to pull him close. He didn't know which one of them groaned as the kiss deepened either, only that it was devouring enough to hurt and sweet enough to make his head spin.

Even when they parted to breathe, neither of them could leave the other alone, lips connecting in brief licks and nips, a little too shaky to be playful.

He didn't ask; he might have had his doubts before, but this Shizuo wouldn't do a damn thing unless he was sure.

Instead he held out a hand, chest fluttering at the way Shizuo took it without a moment's hesitation.

"Come on."

He didn't know where they were going. He didn't care.

This was still the only thing that felt right. Not just the past few weeks and months, but ever. This was him, no defences or pretences, every ugly scar and unforgivable flaw on display and Izaya still kept looking at him like that anyway. Still kept kissing him, stopping every few moments on the trip down the hall as though if he looked away for too long, Shizuo might disappear.

Fuck that. Not this time, flea.

The laugh that vibrated against his mouth as he pinned Izaya against the nearest doorframe, desperate all of a sudden to prove that, made him think the bastard knew what he was thinking all along.

It wasn't so bad; he sucked at trying to explain himself anyway.

He couldn't get enough of the way Izaya tasted, or the way his body revelled in rediscovering it. He swore he'd been paying attention those times before too, but the hunger in the flea's kisses still took him by surprise. Had he been holding back, all this time? Or was this just the way it felt when you were too lost to care?

And it wasn't just him, he realized, laid bare. That scrawny, sly, pale neck that flushed pink under the attention of his mouth was on the line too. If he'd never met the guy who lived behind all the bullshit and drama, he could never have imagined an Izaya to whom it mattered just as much that someone saw who he was and didn't walk away.

His fingers skimmed under the hem of the flea's sweater, more aware and careful than he'd been in his life as he swept his thumb across the uneven skin of that scar. Izaya jolted against him, fingers tangling in Shizuo's hair, but even the sudden sting and the tight grip didn't bother him much.

He wanted to be held too tight, kissed too hard. He wanted to be torn down and remade.

Releasing him for a moment, Izaya groped blindly at the door. Shizuo only bothered to look up as they stumbled into the bathroom, and only then because the flea tensed slightly in his arms.

"Oh, the mirrors—"

"It's okay."

Because if he was going to do this, then he was damn well going to be able to look at that guy afterwards. Maybe he wouldn't like him; maybe he'd never completely like him, but that was okay. Just facing him was plenty. Just seeing someone he thought he recognized in his eyes was enough.

Evolve, right? And besides… maybe it's not just me I want to learn to get to know again. I kinda want to meet the guy you are when all the bullshit cleans off, too.

The steam rapidly filled the room anyway when Izaya turned on the shower, blotting out their reflections and turning the world misty at the edges.

Izaya paused in the centre of the room, turning to face him. "The old rules still apply, ne? Shizu-chan says 'stop' and we stop."

"Yeah," he nodded, "understood."

He wasn't planning on stopping though, not this time, and the flea must have known that. It was there in the quietly exasperated shake of the head as he reached out to unbutton Shizuo's vest. It was there in the sigh that warmed his mouth as he brushed his fingers against Izaya's jaw, tilting his face up into another kiss.

If the louse wasn't careful, Shizuo'd be okay with just doing this all night. Just doing this forever. Just the wet heat of Izaya's mouth, the friction of his tongue, the soft press of his lips.

He couldn't tell which one of them started it the second time, just that movies made trying to take off someone's sweater while they were still trying to unbutton your shirt look far more graceful than it really was. After their wrists bumped for a third time, Izaya swatted his hands away, tugging off his sweater and throwing it aside before resuming his own job.

Running the backs of his fingers down from the flea's shoulders to his elbows, Shizuo tilted his head. "What if I'd wanted to do that myself?"

"You can do it next time." Undoing the last button, Izaya looked up at him. "And all the times after that."

"You talk pretty big…" He watched thin fingers curl into the edges of his shirt as Izaya leaned closer, lips at the base of his throat. "I don't even know if you're gonna be good the first time yet."

Except that he did. Because this was Izaya, and because the stubborn bastard wouldn't rest until he'd played every card he had. And what the hell did Shizuo know, anyway? He had nothing to compare it to. Even the stuff they'd done before seemed a world away from this.

He'd never been touched like this by someone who'd said 'I love you' before.

The heat and the steam already left a sheen of sweat on his skin. His shirt clung to him in a caress almost as careful as the flea's as Izaya languidly pushed the garment off his shoulders, following the path of the white material with his lips as it shushed down his arm. Kisses feathered across his chest, just the barest hint of teeth scraping at his collarbone, his nipples, and his hand had risen to cradle the back of Izaya's head without him even noticing.

He barely noticed Izaya working on their belts either, until he felt his pants sliding down his legs, the steam licking warmly at his skin. He felt the flea kicking his own jeans out of the way, but he found himself hesitating with his own, struck by an irrational flare of vulnerability that only tempered a little when Izaya pressed closer to kiss him again, smooth bare thighs warm against his own.

It's not like he isn't too though, is it?

And it wasn't as though it'd be the first time they'd seen each other like this. It wasn't even the first time when he knew full well what they'd be doing.

Izaya didn't let him linger on the thought long. Backing up under the spray, the water sluicing over his shoulders and chest in meandering rivulets, the flea watched him with a heavy lidded gaze that looked even more crimson than usual through the haze. Leaning back against the tiles, Izaya skimmed one hand down his body and extended the other out towards Shizuo in silent invitation.

Heart hammering so hard that he swore his ribcage shook, Shizuo felt himself hesitate. If he took that invitation, it wasn't just for tonight, for sex, for the flea's body against this own.

Watching him with a satisfied smile, Izaya's laugh danced and curled with the steam. "You're thinking again, ne? And here I thought I was offering you a tempting alternative."

"Yeah…" Taking that outstretched hand he let their fingers entwine, pinning it back loosely against the tiles as he joined the flea under the warm rain. "You are."

The smile melted under another kiss, one that tasted of clean water and the hot, salty sweetness of Izaya's mouth. It was hard to find purchase on slick skin, but he didn't mind; his free hand wanted to explore every inch of the lithe, graceful body that had been willing to throw itself down for him. He didn't think he'd taken the time to appreciate it before, not the way Izaya used to damn near worship his.

So it was the damn flea's turn, huh?

Letting go of Izaya's hand, he dragged his fingertips through the gathering wetness along one pale arm, before twisting his wrist and running his knuckles down the flea's side. He broke the kiss, shifting his attention to Izaya's jaw, his throat, his collarbone, just to hear the sounds he made. His own skin felt a hundred degrees hotter than the water. Everywhere Izaya touched in return felt branded, burned down and made new again. Manicured fingernails dug bluntly into his arms, and it might not have been quite as controlled as Izaya tried to be around him but that was okay too.

I'm not the only one who needs to forget, flea. If you want me, then fricking want me.

Izaya didn't even so much as shiver as he brushed his fingers across the healing scar. Just looked at him with defiance burning in his eyes and said, "I'm not sorry, Shizu-chan."

He'd said that back at the warehouse too. Shizuo had half expected himself to falter, with time and clarity to think about it. He'd never wanted the flea tainted by any of this. Izaya carried plenty of his own shit around without Shizuo adding to it, and one day more than just some twisted yakuza punks would crash down on them.

But more than anything, he never wanted Izaya to be sorry for anything to do with him. There wasn't much he could do for a guy who was still clinging so hard to what was left of his broken disguises, but he figured he could offer that. The flea could regret everything else – and shit, it might do him some good to at least think about the stuff he did from time to time – but not this.


Something glinted in the flea's eyes at that, victorious like the flashing jackpot lights of a pachinko machine and it made Shizuo think maybe he was getting the hang of the whole saying the right thing crap. That or Izaya was getting better at hearing the truth, it was all about the same.

One hand gripping wet black hair as they kissed again, he worked the other between their bodies, fingertips grazing stomach muscles that fluttered at the touch before his palm slid along the length of Izaya's cock.

He didn't know what the hell else they were gonna do, naked together in a shower, but the way the flea jerked in surprise, his gasp muffled by the kiss, Shizuo would've sworn the louse thought they were here to play chess. It was so fricking cute he could barely stand it.

Not that he'd say that, obviously. His own cock was taking a shy sort of interest in the proceedings, half hard against Izaya's thigh, sliding in a slow rhythm against wet skin, and if he so much as whispered the word 'cute', he couldn't guarantee it'd stay attached to him for long.

Stroking curiously, he sucked lightly at the side of Izaya's neck just to watch the skin redden under his attention, splayed a hand on the flea's chest just to feel his heartbeat quicken when Shizuo's thumb glanced across his nipple.

"Since when the hell did you get so hot, huh?"

Since always, or since I fell in love with you?

"Shizu-chan just doesn't pay enough attention, ne?" Izaya breathed, leaning into every touch like Shizuo's fingers had suddenly turned into magnets. "What else were you thinking about while you chased me like some wild beast?"

"Dunno. Smashing your face into the sidewalk?"

The laugh trembled through Izaya's chest. "Ah, you say such romantic things, Shizu-chan."


"Don't be. That's you, ne? That's us."

Maybe. They wouldn't be here otherwise, he knew that, but the guy he'd wanted to beat up was both a total stranger and the guy in his arms, and he figured there'd always be a part of him that'd want to make up for it somehow, even if Izaya would've damn well deserved it.

Izaya watched him for a moment, narrow-eyed and thoughtful, before reaching for a clear bottle from the corner shelf of the shower. Taking Shizuo's hand, he squeezed out a slick, oily looking puddle on the centre of his palm.

"Shizu-chan's a hands-on sort of learner, ne?" Setting the bottle back down, the flea's fingers overlapped his, closing his palm on the glossy liquid. "You'll understand better what's being done to you if you do it to someone else first."

It took a moment, and the way Izaya twisted around in his arms to face the tiles, to figure out what the flea meant.

"W-wait, that's not what I…"

"I know." Izaya smiled back at him, reaching back to grip Shizuo's wrist, encouraging his oiled hand towards his own cock. Touching himself was still unsettling, no matter what he could do to the flea, but this time his reaction caught him off guard. The flesh under his hesitant touch pulsed hot and hard. Izaya shifted his hips, and Shizuo's breath hitched at the way the tip of his cock nudged the flea's ass. "But you wouldn't have lasted anyway, and if you're relaxed we can take our time, ne?"

Flushing crimson despite the heat and steam, he gave Izaya's cock another shy, clumsy stroke. "Who wasn't gonna last?"

The flea smiled from beneath wet-spiked lashes, hips arching into the touch. "But I recover fast, ne? I am only twenty-one after all."


"Mm…" As though he needed encouragement – which wasn't far off the truth, just not for the reasons the flea probably imagined – Izaya drew one knee up, a foot braced against the edge of the tub. A little flustered, Shizuo glanced down, but that only brought into view his glistening cock and Izaya's ass spread wider for him. "One finger first. I'd tell you you don't have to go gently, but you will anyway."

"I don't…" Shizuo shook his head, embarrassed to hell and back that he couldn't look away. "I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't."

Swallowing hard, he watched himself reach out, fingertip dragging along the crease of Izaya's ass before settling against that tight knot of muscle. His voice sounded hoarse as he muttered stupidly, "Here?"

"Ah…" The flea nodded, head dropping forward against the tiles. "There."

It was just his fingertip pushing at that resisting heat, but it was his cock that responded, twitching and hardening as though it was carefully working its way into that feverish tightness instead. As though the flea's body was rippling and gripping at the shaft and not just at an awkward, probing touch.

"Shit, Izaya…"

A chuckle shook the flea's shoulders, even as he pushed back. "More." A hand slid against his thigh, tickling and teasing before slim fingers began working his cock. "You have to get me ready for this, ne?"


Between the double assault of sensation, the pleasure froze him in place for a second, not knowing whether it traced back to Izaya's fingers, or his ass, or even the sound of his voice. They'd all tangled up somewhere in the back of his mind until he couldn't tell them apart.

He grit his teeth, waiting for signs of tension or discomfort as he added a second finger on the next thrust, groaning softly at how easily it slipped inside. How eagerly that body accepted him.

Izaya tolerated his tentative explorations for a while, before his hips began matching Shizuo's thrusts with a definite rhythm. "That's enough." Wisps of black hair stuck to white tile as Izaya shook his head. "That's plenty, ne?"

As tightly as Izaya held his fingers, Shizuo seriously doubted that. "Flea—"

"It needs to be you now." Izaya looked back at him, giving him one last stroke before releasing him. "Hurry, Shizu-chan…"

He hadn't been able to watch like this last time; Izaya had taken control and for that he'd been grateful. Now that it was all on him…

The images began crowding at the corners of his mind, impatient extras darkening his vision while they waited in the wings for their moment on stage.

Was this what they'd seen, when I…?

No… no, it wasn't. The picture cleared and lightened the more he focused on the body arching back against his. The way Izaya's fingers settled on his thigh. The way a half-smile curved those clever lips. The way the flea glanced back at him and murmured, "Please…"

His hands still shook as he withdrew his fingers, pumping his cock a couple of times to remind it to pay attention. He still held his breath, terrified and desperate all at once as he pressed the head of his cock against the hole made a little flushed by his fingers, and, after a couple of sliding misses, pressed inside.

Oh, fuck…

It wasn't like he'd forgotten last time or anything, he just couldn't remember it enveloping him like this. He couldn't remember the way his thigh muscles clenched so hard it almost hurt, or the way that electricity bit into the base of his spine. The water kept raining down, sharp warm pinpricks that washed away the sweat even as it beaded on his skin, and plastered his hair across his eyes as he lowered his head, muffling his groan in the crook of Izaya's neck.

"Watch, ne…?" Izaya's head thumped back against his shoulder. "I want you to watch how it feels, Shizu-chan."

So that's what he did. Even when every primal instinct told him to watch the way his cock sank into Izaya's body, Shizuo watched those sly, beautiful eyes instead. Watched the way Izaya's lips parted on a silent cry, the way a darker flush chased across sharp cheekbones, the way those fingers clawed at the tiles.

Against his palm, Izaya's cock hadn't flagged an inch. It still strained at his fingers, short stabbing thrusts that jerked him back and forth on Shizuo's shaft and pushed into his hand. He didn't even need to move, the flea was doing enough to wring pleasure out of both of them. He did anyway, unable to keep his hips from shifting restlessly, the instinctive need to drive himself into that heat, sate an itch he couldn't help but scratch.

"Good, ne?" Panting past the smile, Izaya reached back, fingers brushing Shizuo's jaw. "I told you before, right…? It feels better when it's really you."

"Yeah…" His free arm wrapped around Izaya's waist, holding on as much as holding him close, lost in the feeling of the flea's body clenching and relaxing around him. "I get it…"

He really did. Got all of it.

'Cause hell if he was going to let someone he didn't love – someone he didn't fricking adore to the point that it drove him crazy – do this to him in return.

The louse was right though; he wasn't going to last long. Between the friction, the adrenaline and the sheer fricking inexperience, the stamina that could have him chasing the flea to kick his ass for hours was conspicuously missing when it came to screwing it instead.

At least Izaya wasn't faring much better. A sticky strand of precome hung between the tip of his cock and the tiled wall, kissing the cool surface with every thrust. A flush that had nothing to do with the water graced his throat, his chest, and he clamped down ruthlessly hard when Shizuo nipped at the back of his neck. Did it again when the resulting thrust angled a little differently inside him.


Fine, so he might have been a stupid protozoan. It didn't mean he was that dense.

The fingers on his thigh curled into a fist when he did it again, and again, and again, until Izaya was shaking just as badly as he was, knees buckling, free hand grabbing uselessly at the wall as his hips bucked and something hotter and thicker than water sprayed onto the tiles.

Dragged along by the constricting heat of Izaya's body, an erratic squeezing and releasing that wouldn't even let him move anymore even if he'd wanted to, Shizuo just held on tight, arms wrapped around the flea's chest, thrusting helplessly until the orgasm crashed through him.

He was still shaking as he withdrew, a groan sticking in his throat as he watched a creamy trickle of white sliding down pale skin as his cock slipped free from the flea's body. Maybe it was safe to, but it didn't mean he could just…

Leaning lazily against the wall, Izaya reached back, fingers scooping up a droplet of come from the back of his thigh before watching almost mesmerized as the water washed it away.


"It's fine, ne?" The flea nuzzled a kiss beneath his jaw, tongue flicking out playfully. "I want you to come for me…" another kiss, "…come in me."

Shizuo shivered at another aftershock that raced down his spine at the words. "Idiot louse…"

He was still breathing hard while Izaya cleaned them both off and switched off the shower, still dazed when a thick fluffy towel smacked him in the chest.

"No zoning out on me now, ne?" A wicked smile flashed as Izaya picked up his own towel, scrubbing at his hair. "Lesson's not over, Shizu-chan. And if you—mmmph!"

It had just been too tempting, too familiar. This same room, that same amused lilt to the flea's voice… the only difference was that this time, it was Shizuo dragging Izaya closer by the edges of the towel, watching the flea's eyes go wide before they fluttered shut at the kiss.

A scowl met his grin when he finally let go.

"Not fair, Shizu-chan."

"Neither were you."

Izaya made a face, leaving the towel draped around his neck as he opened the bathroom door and stepped out into the hallway. "I wasn't in my right mind. It was probably the fumes from those toxic chemicals, ne?"

Chuckling, Shizuo picked up his towel, drying off, only in a bit of a hurry to follow. "Does that mean you're not gonna help me next time?"

"Of course not." A voice drifted from somewhere in the apartment. "Shizu-chan will expect favours now. I'll pay for someone to come and do it." A pause. "Someone old. And unattractive."

"Tch…" He laughed, feeling kind of dumb for wrapping the towel around his waist as he left the bathroom but knowing the flea wouldn't be mad just because Shizuo wasn't at the point of comfortable where he could saunter around other people's houses ass-naked. "Idiot."

Izaya, he figured, would probably feel comfortable sauntering naked around anywhere. He'd left the towel on the chair, and was sitting on the edge of his bed, one knee bent beneath him. The only light came from that ugly chrome lamp on the nightstand and the skyline outside the window.

It was cooler in the bedroom after the stifling heat of the bathroom, but that wasn't why Shizuo was shivering. It wasn't all fear, either. Anticipation skittered through him as he stared at Izaya's bed, and for a second all he wanted to do was wrap himself up in that feeling.

How bad could it be, anyway, if it had made Izaya look like that? If it had made Izaya come like that.

Walking closer, he stopped just within arm's length, because he'd known Izaya would reach out, untucking the edge of the towel, letting it fall.

He'd had himself braced for a lot of things. Izaya's arms wrapping around his waist, cheek pressed against his stomach, wasn't one of them. Because it made the idiot look so damn innocent, he decided. The Izaya he'd thought he knew before all this would never have done something like that. Even more incongruous was the smile he felt against his skin when he awkwardly stroked damp black hair, and the fingers that swirled random patterns at the base of his spine.

After indulging himself for a while, the butterfly kisses and sharp nips that made his stomach flip-flop moved outwards. Izaya's tongue traced over the jut of his hipbone, following the helpful 'v' of muscle down to the base of Shizuo's cock.

"Flea…" The sigh wasn't 'stop', or even 'the hell are you doing?' He just wanted to say it. He just wanted to remind himself who was doing this for him.

His fingers wound in Izaya's hair as that dark gaze flicked up to watch him. One arm still wrapped around him, the flea brought the other hand around to stroke him, cool fingers on one side of his cock, hot wet tongue on the other. He was already hard enough again by the time one long, lazy lick worked its way from the base of his shaft to the head. He hissed as the tip of Izaya's tongue pressed deliberately into the slit, lips pursing tight around the crown and surrounding him in a heat that made his disjointed thoughts line up wrong, made him think he was pounding into that vise-tight body in other ways all over again.

Maybe that was the point.

"O-oi… you don't have to do that…"

A shudder stroked down his spine as Izaya drew back, pumping his cock deliberately as he looked up.

"Why not?" Twisting his fingers in a grip that slid with enough rough friction to make Shizuo grit his teeth, his hips trembling, Izaya licked his lips. "I like the way you taste."

A groan rumbled through his chest as the flea showed him just how much, tongue greeting the head of Shizuo's cock in delicate little licks every time it emerged from the circle of Izaya's fingers. And every damn time he watched the dark, aroused tip of his dick bumping the flea's lips, every time he felt that soft wet muscle rubbing against him, every time he heard Izaya made those satisfied sounds, a look of intense concentration on his face…

"How can it?" He mumbled gruffly, breath scraping past his throat on a low gasp.

'Cause all he remembered was the bitterness, and choking so hard he couldn't breathe, and if he was inadvertently making the flea feel that way too, then—

"Because it's you," Izaya said, shrugging easily, looking up at him. "Because I'm doing it because I want to." The half-smile – maybe a little disappointed, Shizuo couldn't tell – said that the flea knew what he'd really meant. "A lot of things feel different with that little caveat, ne? Was it awful when you did this for me?"

Shizuo shook his head. "No."



'Cause it was you.

He felt the laugh fall apart on a groan as the flea smiled smugly.

Sliding a hand from Izaya's hair, he curved his fingers against that fine-boned jaw, feeling it work as the flea took him deeper again, lips stretched taut. Mahogany eyes widened in surprise, a startled little hum vibrating around him when Shizuo couldn't help but drag his thumb gently across Izaya's lower lip.

"Not hot," he said, feeling the quick rise and fall of his chest as he stared down into those eyes. "Beautiful."

He wasn't totally sure how they got from 'beautiful' to Izaya's fingers biting into his hips and the flea's mouth, hot and wet and tight and killing him with every needy moan, sucking him in deeper. The urge to just tangle his fingers in that black hair, hold on, and fuck that tormenting mouth relentlessly until the flea milked him dry horrified and thrilled him at the same time. He never would, they both knew that, but that Izaya turned him on enough that he'd even think about it…


He thought he surprised himself more than the flea. Izaya barely even faltered, hands gripping Shizuo's ass, taking a deep breath through his nose just before the constricting heat around him went up a few dozen notches.

"Nngh… wai—"

The pressure loosened for a second, and in the vaguely irritated look Izaya sent him, he understood; it wasn't just him in control of this. The flea wasn't here out of obligation, or some ulterior motive, sure as hell wasn't here out of fear.

I trust you, that look said, protozoan idiot.

Just to keep his balance when Izaya did it again, Shizuo braced one knee up against the edge of the bed, not realizing at first how that pose would open him up to Izaya's touch.

He didn't think Izaya meant to do it either; it was just the movement, the sweat on his skin and how desperately the flea held him, but he jerked sharply at the brush of Izaya's fingers along the crease of his ass anyway.

"Ah…!" Gritting his teeth, he couldn't control the way his body tried to arch away from the touch, arch into the heat of Izaya's mouth, and the awkward lunge sent them both sprawling onto the bed.

Hands on the back of his spread thighs, Izaya didn't stop, not even when Shizuo tried to push himself up. Clutching the sheets, he leaned his forearms against this arm, burying his breathless grunts in the mattress as the flea's throat squeezed around the head of his cock, releasing him only to lap at the tip before swallowing him again. Over, and over, and over, until he could hear the slick wet sounds of those lips wrapped around him, silvery trails of saliva leaking from the corners to streak down the flea's cheeks.

"Fuck, Izaya, you gotta…"

No, not 'stop'. Never fucking stop.

Of all the stupid things that could have spooked him, it was the way he felt his back arch that scared him. For just a second, he could feel other hands yanking his hips up, other hands shoving his head down, other voices telling him exactly how he looked in this position. What he looked like he wanted.

When the haze cleared, he was folded up against Izaya's pillows, knees drawn to his chest. The flea had rolled over onto his stomach, watching him neutrally.

"I'm okay," he managed, throat dry. He felt a little better when he reminded himself that it was mostly that way as a result of the things the flea'd been doing to him, not the panic. "Just freaked myself out, that's all."

Izaya nodded. "Do you want to-?"

"No. No." Forcing his body to relax and unfurl, he scooted a little lower. His cock had reacted predictably to his fear, but it was still flushed and glistening, bearing the marks of Izaya's lips and tongue. "I don't wanna stop." He reached down as Izaya leaned up, and fear was the last thing on his mind as the flea's hips settled between his parted thighs. The heat of Izaya's cock nestling against his, rousing his, turned his voice into a low murmur. "I want you."

Izaya still looked sceptical – at the scared shitless part, Shizuo hoped, and not at the wanting – but a slight nod melted into a kiss that tasted like both of them.

He didn't have to say anything. If those humiliating fucking photographs were good for anything, at least they meant Izaya knew what not to do.

Their height difference might not have been as pronounced lying down, but it still felt a little stupid to be sprawled on his back on that plush mattress with the scrawny-assed flea sprawled all over him. Like last time, Izaya didn't feel scrawny. The body covering his didn't feel as lightweight as it had been in his arms on that rooftop; it felt like it could probably hold him down if it tried to.

Before the panic could dig in its hold, he reminded himself that it'd be okay even if Izaya did.

"You're doing it again." A ringed finger poked him between the eyebrows. "Me, Shizu-chan. All you have to think about is me."

"I was." He smiled a little, feeling the frown he hadn't noticed fading. "You're a scary fricking thought all by yourself."

"Shizu-chan's so mean…"

But apparently not mean enough to stop Izaya sliding down his body, pausing arbitrarily to taste him. One lick fluttered its way from the crook of his elbow up to his shoulder, feathering along the juncture of his shoulder until the ticklish pleasure made him laugh. The flea looked especially smug at that part, the bastard. Another lingering kiss drew first one nipple to an over-sensitized peak, then the other, until Shizuo was shivering hard enough that he almost did say 'stop', because the fucking idiot was going to break him before they even got that far.

He couldn't watch anymore, couldn't look at the heave of his chest or the twitch of his cock, or the sweat that mingled with the shining wet patterns the flea's mouth left on his chest and stomach. Closing his eyes, he felt fingers brushing back and forth across the inside of his thighs, avoiding his cock but leaving trails of static everywhere else.

It was like that first time, when those fingers and tongue had worshipped his legs until every nerve was raw, laid open, and he couldn't tell whether he'd been more mortified at the fact that it made him hard, or the knowledge that if Izaya'd carried on he could have come with just that. Even more, the kisses that soothed old, forgotten scars made his chest tight with an emotion he could barely name.

His body went still as thumbs stroked lower, brushing along the tender skin between his cheeks, the line where warm turned to hot, where just touching him turned to something frighteningly unguarded and exposed.

Even more exposed when Izaya spread him, bared him to that intent red gaze, and the barest dab of a tongue whispered against his hole.

"No…" He tried to scramble to sit up, but his body felt heavy and numb, the shock of that pleasure still washing over him. "Flea, wait…"

Izaya paused, for all the good that did when every breath rolled hotly against Shizuo's skin. "Are you saying 'stop', Shizu-chan? Because whatever stupid thing you're thinking right now, it's not true, ne? It's not dirty, or embarrassing—"

"Shit…" Shizuo grimaced, pressing one arm over his eyes. "Shut up…"

The purr of laughter made his cock jerk. "Shizu-chan's pretty here, ne…? And the only thing I'm thinking about is that it'll look even prettier when it's coming for me. So if this is really 'stop', then you need to say it clearly."

The damn flea was already down there; he could see Shizuo wasn't saying 'no'. But his chest still felt light at the fact Izaya asked anyway.

His arm muffling his voice instead, Shizuo shook his head. "Don't sto—hnng!"

The flick of Izaya's tongue against him was a hot lash of lightning that made his hips tremble.

The desire to touch himself, to jerk off to the wet thrusts and licks, was suddenly a bewildering thing. He couldn't think clearly enough past the way that tongue kept on gently prising him open, soothing even as the adrenaline rushed like wildfire through his blood. His free hand gripped at the sheets instead, feeling the fibres protest under his fingers, his breath coming in rough gasps against his arm.

He had no fucking idea what to do with it. The force of the pleasure, the intensity of the things Izaya did to him… his own body's craving for it. The fear had almost been a safety net, something to keep him from drowning in it.

A voice cried out at the first touch of cool, slick fingertips, but it couldn't have been him because that deep, ragged moan sounded pleased.

"Relax, Shizu-chan…" Izaya sounded a little bit pleased, too. The flea's voice was breathless and low as those fingertips pushed at him in a quiet request.

"I can't…" He shook his head, desperate with things he couldn't define. "Shit, Izaya, I…"

"Tell me the rules, Shizu-chan." Thin fingers intertwined with his, releasing his death-grip on the sheets. The other set still stroked coolly along the cleft of his ass, making his body jerk instinctively every time they grazed his hole, the still-new memory of doing the exact same thing to Izaya echoing through the sensation.

"I say…" Fuck the rules, he was having a hard enough time breathing. "I say 'stop' and we stop."

But he didn't want to. He could still remember the way Izaya's body had sucked at his fingers, and the thought that the flea was feeling the same thing as Shizuo's body gave in at the touch…

"Is it okay?" He heard Izaya ask, more a plea than a question.

Tell me it's okay.

"Yeah…" The word left him on a breath, because it was. "Doesn't hurt."

"It's not supposed to." Izaya worked his fingers deeper, and even then it just felt like the slow burn of a stretch, weird as hell but not uncomfortable. "It's supposed to feel good, ne? Just like you made me feel good."

It was hard to imagine how Izaya'd felt when Shizuo couldn't even tell what he felt. The body he'd spent so much time loathing for the things it did without his permission burned from the inside out, every muscle aching in a way that just made 'good' feel fucking amazing. His skin felt too tight, too hot, and the sounds coming from his lips weren't his own, even as he heard his own voice saying, "Please…"

He saw the faint smile just a split second before Izaya crooked his fingers, and the sudden surge of sensation made Shizuo's brain whiteout.

"See?" the flea murmured, kissing the inside of a knee Shizuo bent up as his body tried to curl in on itself to hang onto that sensation. "Feels good, ne?"

No. Good was vanilla milkshakes, and sunsets in the park, and days where he wasn't reminded that he was a screwed up, messed up monster. Good had been the days when he managed to hold himself back from beating some dumbass senseless, and the way Tom would look at him, relieved.

This wasn't good. This was everything he'd ever wanted. The body he hated, the body those things had happened to, damn near melted at Izaya's touch, feeling as though finally, maybe, it belonged to him again. That it could do other stuff besides hurt.

"Yeah…" he nodded. "You do."

When he noticed Shizuo wouldn't - couldn't - let go of his hand, he heard the flea sigh softly. Narrow shoulders worked their way between his thighs, keeping his legs spread, and the only warning he had was the hot puff of "Shizu-chan…" across the head of his cock before Izaya's lips closed around him.

It wasn't as intense as before, which was just as well. It was hard enough to keep from coming the first time the sly fricking bastard swept his tongue just beneath the head of Shizuo's cock at the same time as his fingertips bumped his prostate.

"Not yet, Shizu-chan." The flea lifted his head, grinning wickedly as he wiped his chin on his shoulder. "This is just the warm-up, ne?"

"Shitty… fucking louse…"


He had no idea how long Izaya just kept that up. Long enough that he couldn't even separate each slow, careful thrust of the flea's fingers from the constant hum of tension. Every now and then, another slow lick along the length of his shaft kept him on edge, the faintest hint of teeth that kept him tethered to himself. The sheets beneath him were damp and clingy with sweat; his skin prickled as the fabric peeled away in a satiny suck every time he moved.

When Izaya finally withdrew his fingers with a sloppy wet sound, Shizuo's body flinching more at the loss than it had when they'd entered him, all he could do was watch as the flea slicked himself up with hands that looked as though they trembled more than Shizuo's.

He focused on keeping his body relaxed, his limbs loose, when Izaya's hand tucked beneath his knee, spreading his legs wider. He couldn't do much about the sliver of fear that squeezed his spine at the touch of something hotter and wider than fingers against his hole, just as gentle and just as insistent. Izaya looked up at him, brows drawing in a helpless frown.

"You don't have to do this, Shizu-chan."

"I know," he offered Izaya a lopsided smile, "that's why I'm doing it."

He'd thought Izaya might stroke him again to distract him, but instead the flea arched over him, leaning down to kiss him even as those fingertips guided the tip of his cock inside. He felt himself yielding to the hard, constant pressure, muscles stretching to accommodate the slow, unrelenting penetration, his body helpless to do anything but take Izaya inside. His throat tightened at the inevitability of it as he felt the flared ridge of Izaya's cock piercing him, his body closing around it with a soft popping sensation like it wanted to keep it there, like it wanted this.

Like he might have wanted it then.


Despite Izaya's painstaking efforts in preparing him, Shizuo still tensed and stiffened at the intrusion, panicked at the way it just kept on opening up around Izaya's cock and forgetting for a terrifying second who was touching him and just recalling the way this had hurt. How it had broken everything he'd ever thought he'd known. How it'd scared him, scarred him, shamed him.

"It's okay, ne…" The kisses were everywhere – brushing against the frown tugging his brows, against the grimace drawing his lips into a snarl, licking away the sweat that trickled from his temple to his jaw. "It's okay. It's me. Just look at me."

Breathing so hard that the room spun, Shizuo tried. Izaya wasn't quite in focus, but the flea was wrong anyway.

He didn't need to look. It had never been about looking

Izaya got the message when Shizuo wrapped his arms around that slender chest, holding on tight enough that it had to hurt. One hand at the nape of his neck, Izaya swept the other down his back, warm and familiar, flooding his memory with all those other touches.

The first time Izaya'd touched his hand. The careful fingers working the bleach toner through his hair. The tongue that licked the milkshake from his wrist. The body that had felt so real, so solid in his arms when he'd kept the flea from head-butting those steps back in Ueno because he didn't want to see Izaya hurt anymore.

Nothing else. Just this. And whatever else, he wanted this more than anything.

It was still hard to breathe, feeling that hard cock inching into him, gaining a little more ground every time Shizuo's body relaxed enough to permit it. Izaya was bigger than his fingers. Izaya was bigger than he looked; Shizuo refused to call the way it felt 'pain', but it sure as fuck didn't feel good anymore. And that was his fault, right? If he just relaxed, if he just—

"Shizu-chan…" Izaya's hands were either side of his face, the flea's mouth slanting over his. Apparently, telling him what he ought to focus on had progressed to showing him. "Shizu-chan…"

Neither of them acknowledged the hot tears streaking from the corners of his eyes as he kissed back, ashamed of every pained grunt that Izaya licked away, frightened of every groan that had nothing to do with pain at all, and knowing that both those things were still okay. He was still okay.

Izaya shuddered as he sank in the last couple of inches, buried inside him to the point he could feel the flea's thighs flush against the back of his own. It still wasn't doing much for him, but the pain was giving way to the strange awareness of someone else inside him. He swore he could feel the rapid fire of Izaya's heartbeat in every pulse of his cock, and he didn't know if it was really true but he felt stretched so wide around the shaft that penetrated him that he could feel every minute back-and-forth drag of the flea's skin.

Leaning back a little, Izaya looked down at him, face flushed, shoulders trembling.

"Can I move, Shizu-chan…?"

He didn't answer; his body did that of its own accord, flexing as he drew his knees up higher to bracket Izaya's hips. The movement pushed the flea out a little, before taking him back in again.

It didn't feel bad, that tug of taut skin and the sensation of his muscles clamping down around the flea the way Izaya's body had done to him. It kinda made him want to do it again, tempted by the ghost of something the might have been a crackle of pleasure that spread out from the place Izaya opened him. Grunting softly, he let his hands trail down Izaya's back, settling at the top of his ass.


"Do it." He leaned up, licking the base of Izaya's throat, breathing in the familiar scent of his skin. "I want to feel you."

Izaya kissed him again, hard and hungry, before drawing back just enough for the leverage to thrust.

And it really was; he hadn't wanted the flea to go easy on him or hold back, but the sudden withdrawal and shove almost brought him clean off the mattress. He could feel Izaya's ass flexing beneath his hands as he held on tighter, instinct telling him that if the flea just stayed still, just ground his hips right there then…


"We are." Izaya leaned down to kiss him again, a droplet of sweat falling from the ends of his hair to splash against Shizuo's cheek. "Shizu-chan… Shizuo……I…"

He still didn't know if he felt good, but he wanted to spread himself wider, wanted to pull Izaya deeper, wanted an extra hand to slide between their bodies and touch himself, feel whether he really was getting hard again just at the way Izaya's cock grazed his prostate knowingly on every slow, claiming thrust.

And he really wanted the flea to finish that fricking sentence.

"Oi, Izaya…?"

Above him, Izaya paused, and Shizuo did the same just to drink in the way the flea looked. His drying hair clumped in unruly black tufts, the ends sticking to sweat-damp skin. His lips were parted, dry from his ragged breathing, and as Shizuo watched a pink tongue darted out to wet them. And those eyes…

He thought maybe they'd been the first thing he'd noticed. Cocky and confident and challenging, that dark slyness had seen through him from day one, tore him down every day since.

"What?" Izaya turned his head, teeth scoring one of the old scars along the side of Shizuo's knee. Mahogany eyes slitted in pleasure as they watched him, Izaya's cock easing in and out of him in a lazy, possessive rhythm, and the fingers linked with his own again squeezed in counterpoint. The whole fricking thing was so contrarily Izaya that he'd have burned the image into his brain if he could.

So he did.

"I love you, too."

Yeah, definitely those eyes. They were impossibly wide, impossibly bright as Izaya froze, staring at him, before laughing shakily.

"Well of course you do, ne? It took you long enough to realize."

"Yeah…" Leaning up awkwardly, he groaned at the way Izaya moved inside him as he drew the flea down into a kiss. "Sorry."

"New rule, ne…?" Izaya breathed against his mouth, hips snapping in a needy rhythm, a hand insinuating itself between his stomach and Shizuo's, seeking out his cock. "Never say that word when you're in bed with me. Actually, never say that word at all."

Shizuo nodded. "Understood."

He didn't care much anymore whether or not he could get hard again with Izaya inside him. His dick had probably given up trying to keep up with his mood-swings, tired of getting into it when Shizuo would only toss buckets of figurative ice water all over it again.

He hadn't accounted for Izaya. For the fingers that worked over him, the right pressure and friction in all the right places. For the kisses, the flea's tongue tangling and suckling at his in sync with his hand, in sync with the in-and-out drag of his cock that slowly began to made the base of his spine ache in ways he didn't want to stop at all.

He'd figured he'd never come like this, but the flea was intent on proving him wrong on that score too. Stroking him fiercely, Izaya's hips stilled, the head of his cock a constant pressure inside until Shizuo had to squirm to get him to move again just because it was too fucking much.

"No…" He shook his head. "No, fuck it, I… can't…"

"You don't have to." Izaya licked his jaw. "You just have to feel good."

A part of him still said he couldn't. If he felt good, if he let Izaya make him come, if he let himself believe that then and now were a million miles apart, then it'd be over, and the him that still couldn't stand the guy he saw in the mirror wouldn't stand for that.

But it's over. He'd have paid a fucked up price just to make it so that it was over for me. And if I'm not letting them have this too, then I won't let you have it either.

"Yeah…" Spreading his knees further apart, he hooked his ankles over Izaya's calves. The smile wouldn't quite come, but Izaya would understand anyway. "Make me feel good, Izaya."

One corner of the flea's mouth tugged up in a dangerous smile. "Ah."

Holding onto Izaya's shoulders as the flea began moving again, harder and rougher and deeper but never to the point where it hurt, never to the point where he was afraid, he began to take each memory and replace it with a new one.

Izaya's hands, warm and slick and careful even as they jerked him forcefully enough that Shizuo's thighs trembled. The soft, damp sheets beneath him, smelling of sweat and sweet musk and flea. His name, panted in a harsh, broken mantra as Izaya's body jerked, a perfect look of pissed-off surprise on his face as he came, a look that turned to a furious determination as he kept on fucking him anyway, less pressure than before but Shizuo's body was too far gone to care.

Izaya, making him come, no hurt, no shame, just pleasure.

Just him, coming for the guy who'd made him see he didn't have to feel those things anymore if he didn't want to. That maybe all the reasons he thought he should were bullshit anyway.

He still didn't believe in stupid crap like soul mates, or love at first sight, or how two people could be that dense and stupid for that long that they didn't even recognize what the fuck they were doing…

Well, okay, maybe that last part was plausible. He and Izaya were pretty damn good at dense and stupid. And he hated that it had taken everything breaking down for them to stop doing that, but wasn't there that line about living well being the best revenge? Maybe those bastards hadn't ever thought that far – maybe there really was no overarching reason for it, even though Shizuo knew he'd never quite come to terms with that. Who the fuck got themselves killed over just teaching a guy a lesson, huh? Maybe Takahashi hadn't been lying when he'd said no one gave him a second thought afterwards.

The only place that night existed now was in his head. And what he did with that, when he chose to just let it slip away, was completely in his control.

But the reason he had that control lay against his chest, pale body shimmering with sweat in the dim light.

Not for the reasons you think, though, flea. I'm gonna have to make you see someday that it's not over 'cause they're dead. It's over 'cause you made me understand I could be okay anyway.

The flea was a panting, shaking deadweight on him for a while, until they both felt the warm, slick moisture pooling on the sheets where their bodies had connected.

Izaya glanced at him dubiously when Shizuo gripped his wrist to stop him from getting up and snatching the towel from the chair and shook his head.

"It's fine. Told you, I want to feel you."

He wanted to feel everything. Rewrite everything, 'normal' included.

This could be normal too, couldn't it? The flush of Izaya's skin, the scent of their sex, that look in the flea's eyes that was part 'are you okay' and part 'you're an idiot'.

Shizuo smiled. He was both, right? But so was Izaya, and since the flea was a hundred times smarter than he was and he was here too, then they had to be doing something right.

"Y'know…" His throat felt raw, voice husky, but it turned out that it was okay when it was for the right reasons. "I've been trying to figure it out."

"Figure what out?"

"When it started."

"Ah, well that's easy, ne…?" With a voice that was as timid as it was full of conviction, Izaya traced a fingertip across the fading scar on Shizuo's chest. "This is when it started."

Before the flea could pull his hand away, Shizuo overlapped it with his own, keeping it there.

"Pretty full of yourself, aren't you?"

"You knew that then, too."

Yeah, he had. But the truth was that Izaya turned out to be so much more fragile, and so much stronger, sometimes all at once, than either of them probably realized at the time.

"And you're hardly one to talk, ne, when you were just full of me too."

"Tch, dumbass…"

For a second he was watching from far away as Izaya's fingers traced patterns on his skin, loops and swirls and lines and dots.

It wasn't the idiot flea's schemes that'd saved him – it'd been this. The simple touch of skin on skin, without any of the stupid, frightened bullshit, without any of the fear. Izaya'd never been scared of him, and he'd never been scared of what the flea thought of him.

Shifting onto his side, he watched the curious look narrow those red eyes as Shizuo gripped the flea's wrist, moving it gently away from his chest. The puzzled gaze closed, satisfied as a cat, when he ran his fingers along one pale, slender arm, over the curve of Izaya's shoulder, down over his collarbone.

And beneath his fingertips, he felt the dumbass louse's heartbeat quicken as Izaya realized what he was spelling out.

Not 'I love you', true as it might have been, but the same damn thing the flea'd been branding invisibly on his skin for months in a mark of what he was only now realizing was staking a claim.

His name, right over that pounding proof of everything Izaya'd spent forever trying to deny he had at all.

His name, because fuck it, this was his, every bit as much as he'd become Izaya's, somewhere between dark Ikebukuro side-streets and wet Ueno rooftops. Somewhere between 'I'll fix you' and 'I love you', and if he was gonna end up collared and tagged then the flea could damn well return the favour.

He didn't know about red strings of fate or any of that bullshit, but he was pretty certain that he and Izaya'd been holding the other end of each others' leashes for a very long time.

When he'd drawn the last line of the last character, he splayed his hand over the warm skin, feeling the flea suck in a quiet breath.


The kiss was lazy, tired, their skin so hot that the damp sheet he tugged up awkwardly over them both felt comfortable. Izaya stretched against his side, one leg draped over Shizuo's, like they'd been doing this forever and fuck it if that wasn't comfortable too.

"You know it'll never work out, ne?"

Smiling up at the ceiling, where the glow of that ugly lamp cast endless circles, he held Izaya tighter. "Mm. You're still a lousy, no-good, scheming flea."

Warm lips smiled against his shoulder. "You're still an unpredictable protozoan with a disgusting nicotine habit."

"My friends hate your guts."

"You have awful taste in friends."

"You have shitty taste in jackets."

"I'd never ask you to move in because you'll break my apartment."

"Yeah, probably…" He grinned, tilting Izaya's face up to his. "But I won't ever break your heart. I know the fucked up shit you'd do to me if I did."

"I told you, ne?" Rolling heavy lidded eyes at that corny as hell remark – like he'd known Izaya would – the flea kissed him. "It's better to skip over all the tedious stuff in the middle."

"Nah, I kinda like the stuff in the middle."

Izaya settled against his chest again. "That's because Shizu-chan's a glutton for punishment. You should be grateful I'm good at it."

"I am." He pressed his lips against the flea's hair, seeking out the touch that he knew would always break him, one way or another. He'd just never expected it'd be the same on that put him back together.

Fingers linking with Izaya's beneath the sheets, he closed his eyes.

"But it's okay either way, right? 'Cause you'll be the one that fixes me."