When Shizuo was eight years old, Kasuka brought home a butterfly in the cage of his palms. He was silent as he set it down on the kitchen table between them, brown eyes light and expressive as Shizuo noticed its broken wing. Kasuka whispered something about how everyone has broken wings, but they just hide them; how everyone is scratched somewhere, even if it's not on a knee or elbow, even if it's somewhere no bandage can reach.
Shizuo wondered if that was the kind of thing you learned in third grade, if he just hadn't been paying close enough attention.
Kasuka pulled some leaves from the patio plant, flicking small droplets of water over them in the bottom of an old jam jar before coaxing the fidgeting creature into its confines. Their mother had once called his younger brother a gentle soul. She hadn't said the same about him.
He was asked if he wanted to hold the jar. "It probably won't be alive in the morning," Kasuka said.
But he refused. He could imagine the glass cracking beneath his fingers. He could feel the life dying in his hands.
Butterflies were beautiful, that much he had retained from third grade and childhood in general, and beautiful things had no place in the possession of monsters.
Kasuka slept with the jar next to his bed, and the next day they stopped off at the park on their way to school so he could bury the corpse beneath a blossoming sakura tree.
It was nothing fancy, no black suits or swan songs, no goodbyes or fluttering of soaked tissues, but in Kasuka's eyes, he was positive that he saw a funeral. Or maybe it was a death march, or the realization that nothing could live with broken wings for long.
When Shizuo was fourteen, twitching irritably from his seated position atop the closed toilet lid, Kasuka must have been holding back laughter as he hovered over him with a half-empty bottle of peroxide in his hands.
"Who is Tom-san?" he'd asked only briefly, and as if Shizuo's nervous shrug had been enough, he hadn't brought it up again.
Shinra was different, as everything beyond the mysterious Celty was only looked at with clinical interest, so at the mention of a real friend, his younger brother's attention had been piqued.
Pins and needles prickled along his scalp as Kasuka set the bottle on the lip of the bathroom sink and pulled the sizable gloves just a little further down his arms. They were far too large, but he hadn't cared to mention it.
Shizuo was growing like a weed, already a good head taller than all the other boys in his middle school class, and he was sure his hands would have fit just fine inside of them.
And he felt like a weed among roses, even more so than the ugliest kid, the boy who spit when he talked or the girl who still cried when she failed a test. Even the worst student wasn't the student who threw desks or broke lamp posts over his knee, dented lockers under his fingertips and left indentations of his sneakers in the pavement when he ran.
Kasuka's fingers were scratching through the itchy tingling between his roots, massaging the peroxide into each individual hair with such shocking gentleness that Shizuo almost didn't feel him at all.
He knew that his older brother was the type to yell and toss bicycles like they were made out of cardboard, to tear wood like it was paper, to rave and rage and destroy. He also knew, however, that his older brother was the type to stay away from fragile things like dying butterflies for fear of tearing their wings, the type that bleached his hair because of a new friend's suggestion, who took whispered jeers like "monster" to heart.
He'd asked Kasuka what his least favorite word was one balmy summer afternoon as they'd sat sweaty, sharing a single fan's breeze on the miraculously cold tile of the kitchen floor. He'd made some lame joke about how his was "homework", while the younger Heiwajima had contemplated it for a moment, before pulling the pins from his hair that held his bangs out of his face and answering blandly, "Monster."
He'd been so flustered by that single statement that he'd stomped off to his stuffy room and roughed it in the heat until his mother called him in for dinner.
Kasuka smelled of cologne. It tickled his nose as the younger teen leaned over him and he wondered in amusement when his brother had snuck into his room and tried it on. It was too heavy, too much, and he could imagine the bottle sitting half-empty on his shelf after Kasuka was done with it.
He had to be back at school by five, to audition for the Fall play, and a quick glance at the bathroom clock reassured Shizuo that it was only a little after four.
He'd volunteered to escort his younger brother to the auditorium, to sit among the many empty rows and silently cheer him on, and though Kasuka had nodded mutely at the suggestion, he'd simply chuckled, running a shaking hand through his hair as his mind chalked up all of the possible accidents and muttered, "Ah, never mind. You'll be better off without me."
He didn't look Kasuka in the eyes after that. He was too afraid of what he might find.
But that was yesterday, and Shizuo was suddenly worried that even without overturning a few tables, he might ruin Kasuka's audition simply by making him late.
"It has to sit for fifteen to twenty minutes. Then you have to wash it out," the younger boy drew out almost as if bored, and Shizuo wished he was.
He wished he was the type of younger brother who scoffed at the idea of helping someone else at his own expense, because that's what Shizuo deserved. He'd heard the girls' whispers, the rumors that circulated through their separate classes like blood through the school's veins:
"I hear he's just as violent as his older brother."
"I heard that he beats up his girlfriends!"
"Stay away from the Heiwajima brothers. They're dangerous."
And when Shizuo was fifteen, he folded a piece of notebook paper like it was a dying leaf, like it would crumble in his grasp like metal and crack like cement because the words that paper held were fragile like glass:
"I like you. Please go out with me."
He didn't have any male friends to discourage him from slipping it into some terrified girl's palm, to force him to man-up and tell her to her face because that's what men do and Shizuo had definitely distinguished himself above everyone else as a man.
He had Shinra, but Shinra's beliefs were so far from normal that Shizuo was sure that even with all his massive strength, he would never be able to pull him down from his temple of "Celty". He could never break him from his love-struck stupor long enough to debate the pros and cons of love letters at fifteen when many girls were carrying portable phones and sending notes with computers. As the world moved forward into the future, Shizuo wondered if there was even still a place for romance anymore.
And there was Tom, who still laughed sometimes when he saw him between classes—who was more frugal with his suggestions since Shizuo admitted that his mother had grounded him for a week for bleaching his hair—but he and Tom didn't really talk, and they definitely didn't talk about things like that.
So, with nothing more than his own limited knowledge of what type of wooing won over a modern girl, he'd thrust his written confession into her arms and sprinted around the corner, where he'd hidden behind the door of an empty classroom and listened to the crinkling of paper and her friends' hushed whispers.
Then, there was laughter, and a high-pitched squeak of terror.
"He can't be serious, can he?"
"Isn't he afraid that he'll crush you if you two ever have sex?"
And he had worried about hurting her, but sex had never crossed his mind.
Sure, he was a teenage boy. He had needs and he had urges, but he absolutely refused to think of a woman as a sex-object, especially one as pretty and sweet as she was.
He may have been a monster, but he liked to believe that he had his better, more human, traits as well.
There was chatter after that, as the bell rang and he waited for their footsteps to get lost in the emerging noise of the halls before coming out of hiding.
He noticed then, with a familiar heavy aching in the deepest part of his chest, that his note was left in a crumbled ball on the floor.
Later that day, as he made his way toward the middle school to meet up with Kasuka, Shinra struggling to keep up with his frazzled, hurried pace, the bespectacled teen huffed something about a friend of his who was interested in meeting the famed "Heiwajima Shizuo".
And, thinking of those girls' laughter that seemed to have been branded on the inside of his brain and heart, he answered, gruffly, "I don't care."
Shinra shrugged as if cutting his losses, but that didn't mean that he had given up. He was so filled with hidden motives and contradictions that Shizuo wondered why he even bothered to keep him around, despite the tiny voice that echoed through his mind that he was lucky to have him.
"What if I told you that they find you very attractive?"
"—still don't care."
"That they've wanted to meet you for a while?"
Sighing heavily, Shinra hopped forward to catch up, readjusting his glasses as he attempted to breathe normally, despite nearly jogging to match Shizuo's pace.
"Okay, well, I wasn't really supposed to tell you this—"
He was fixed with an uncharacteristically stern look, before the shorter teen continued, "but I sort of kind of think they have a bit of a crush on you, even though they won't admit it."
And when Shizuo stopped, Shinra bumped into him. Scratching the back of his head, chin extended to the sky as he bared his throat to the busy street,he whispered, "Why?"
And Shinra didn't answer; only laughed, because he thought it was a joke.
In the evening, Shizuo would lock himself away in the bathroom under the ruse of showering, and as the water beat an easy rhythm against the white tile of the walls and steam rose to cloud the mirror and his warped reflection, he would realize just how much he hated the face that stared sulkily back at him.
He would think of how that face had seen so many bones fractured, so many hospital visits and fear, so much fear. He would think about his ears and how they'd heard so much laughter and all those whispers, but never, once, kindness.
And the blood on his knuckles would be washed clean under the spray of the showerhead, the broken shards that once made up the bathroom mirror would be replaced with three weeks' worth of his allowance, but his reflection, he mused, never did look quite the same after that day.
Shizuo was also fifteen when he met what would soon become the bane of his existence. He liked to think of the other teen as more of a "what" than a "who" really, because regardless of what the raven haired headache may have claimed, he was more of a monster than Shizuo and Shinra's headless goddess combined.
It was those eyes, he presumed, that alerted him first—even before the condescending applause or that shit-eating smile, even before the way he walked and talked and carried himself as if he was constantly tiptoeing just out of the whole world's reach.
He couldn't honestly say that he had hated this Orihara Izaya, no, because he'd been told that monsters only felt emotions more carnal, like hunger and the need for dominance, but something about the way the flea of a boy had winked at him sent a hot coiling straight through his gut.
Before he could stop himself, he was already breaking the courtyard's last intact table into splinters.
Then, there was pain.
It wasn't the gnawing at the bottom of his heart, or the constricting of his lungs that he was used to. It wasn't like breaking bones or tearing muscles. No, it was more of a scratching— a tingling like peroxide, like claws raking across his flesh— and it took him a moment to realize that there was a knife slicing through his shirt and the untouched skin of his chest.
No one had ever injured him before. Shinra looked absolutely ecstatic. He wondered vaguely if by showing him just what exactly he was capable of, if that would convince him that his curious friend was better off without him.
But he looked like he'd just won some kind of bet, like his hand was all Kings and Queens and Shizuo had lost somehow. He didn't have long to contemplate that, however, because Izaya was taking off and he wasn't going to let the little eyesore get away.
His lungs expanded until they ached. His muscles twitched and throbbed beneath his flesh as he dashed after his prey, fingers extended like claws to strangle the life out of him. He wasn't quite sure why he despised him so much, but he was absolutely positive about one thing:
He'd never felt more alive.
Kasuka didn't question why he never showed up at the middle school that day, and when Shizuo finally did arrive home, he was waiting at the front gates with two slowly-melting ice cream cones. As they stood together, eating in silence, he found that he was acutely appreciative of the dairy and the way his younger brother's eyes never traveled to his wounds.
Shizuo was twenty-one when he first spotted Kasuka's face on a billboard.
It had been an average day. He'd lost his job at as a convenience store janitor for snapping his mop over some poor soul's head, but the man had deserved it. Men weren't supposed to be rough with women, especially ones that they loved, and the way that man had jerked his young daughter around had grated on his nerves worse than any amount of jeering or idiocy ever could.
Of course, his boss hadn't been quite as impressed by his act of heroism as the other customers, and while he still had his second job as a bellhop for some fancy hotel to rely on, money was going to be rather tight that week.
Right as he was caught in a rather intense mental debate of 'electricity vs. food', he'd spotted it, or rather, him.
He hadn't been expecting to see his younger brother while he was jumping from interview to interview for his newest film, and while it wasn't nearly as good as being able to talk to him or just sit by his side, something about looking up into those familiar, hooded eyes made him forget about his troubles—the bills that were due, his rumbling stomach and empty refrigerator—and he found himself whistling all the way home.
When Shizuo was twenty-four, he kissed a man for the very first time.
If someone had asked him how he ended up in that position—lips locked with his former worst enemy as if enemies did things like that, as if he and Izaya did things like that—he honestly wouldn't have known how to answer, but...
Somehow Izaya's back was flat against the grimy brick wall of some random alley, breath hot and heavy against his cheeks as the flea's fingers played silent songs through his hair.
The louse hummed nonsensically against his lips, and he was suddenly aware that the informant's mouth was good for more than just ruining lives. The realization caused small explosions of heat to sweep over his skin, a light weight resting in the pit of his stomach. He wondered what exactly he was feeling, aside from pleasure, aside from vague arousal and the other man's lips against his.
He wanted to laugh at the outrageousness of it all: the way that hate was suddenly sounding a lot like love, how contempt must have tasted sweet because Izaya's tongue was sugar as it glided against his, his teeth candied as they nipped at his lower lip. He wanted to chide himself for letting his guard down, wanted to pummel the louse for keeping those kisses to himself after all that time.
Mostly, he just wanted that mouth against his, and so, he kissed back.
When Shizuo was twenty-five, he wondered if maybe he and Kasuka were suddenly part of two separate worlds. Maybe it was the lavish apartment in which he currently sat, or the way his humble birthday gift for his younger brother suddenly looked so small and horribly-wrapped while resting on the glossy wood of the coffee table… or maybe it was because he knew that the most expensive thing he owned was the bartender's uniform currently hugging his figure and, dammit, Kasuka had even bought that!
It was embarrassing, he decided, being an unsuccessful older brother, while Kasuka continued to wow audiences and rake in billions of yen simply for being on camera.
Sure, he was boundlessly proud of the younger man, but… He felt that it was his duty as the older Heiwajima to be someone his younger brother could look up to, and so far, he'd been setting the worst example possible.
Something about the icy edges of Kasuka's stare told him that his brother was very aware of where his thoughts had ventured and just how terribly he opposed them.
Izaya could say it was creepy all he wanted, but with a bond like the one between him and Kasuka, that look was all it took to reassure him that he'd done just fine.
Kasuka hadn't made a move to fetch his gift. He didn't have to. They both knew it was a book and they both knew Kasuka would never have the time to read it.
The cat purred somewhere off to his left, surely waddling clumsily into the room in a very un-feline-like manner. Kasuka had always had a soft spot for animals, especially helplessly fat and fluffy ones, and Shizuo ventured a guess that it was probably due to his allegedly "gentle soul".
"Uh," he drew out shortly, and for a moment just let the noise hang there, craning his neck to watch as Kasuka's cat became too tired only halfway through the room and plopped down on the shaggy living room rug, "H-happy birthday, Kasuka."
The younger man simply nodded, eying the gift in a way that made Shizuo want to grab it and walk it over to him.
"Is your girlfriend going to come over to celebrate?"
Kasuka looked at him for a moment, brows low as if he was considering asking a question of his own, but instead shook his head, "She has an interview. We'll celebrate tomorrow."
Shizuo wondered if he was in the way. He wondered if he was stealing Kasuka away from some gigantic party in his favor, but pushed the thoughts aside. Kasuka had invited him. That meant that he wanted him there. It wasn't imposing if someone wanted you.
"You have something you want to tell me," the younger Heiwajima drew out, causing Shizuo to jump slightly. It was more of a statement than a question, and the way he spoke made Shizuo's skin crawl.
Was he that easy to read?
"Well, you see, it's not really appropriate—"
"You're seeing someone."
"I-I- "looking down, he realized that the collar of his uniform didn't really hide the love-marks beneath. It didn't even cover the scratches and brands that chained him to his enemy-turned-part-time lover, "uh, yeah. Can you believe it?"
And Kasuka nodded as if it were the most believable thing in the world, silent as his fat cat gargled a pitiful meow and the quiet enveloped them once more.
The rest of the evening passed peacefully and Shizuo found himself thinking that maybe, for once in his life, he'd done right by his brother.
A week or so later, however, when three enormous boxes of condoms arrived on his doorstep with a small note reading only 'take care', he began to regret his decision.
When Shizuo was twenty-six, Izaya sat at his kitchen table as if it were the most natural thing in the world, brows furrowed, mouth set in a distasteful grimace as he wrapped the last strip of gauze around his bloodied hand.
"You didn't have to be so rough, you know," the louse sighed, rolling his eyes as Shizuo finished off his milk and slammed the glass on the table.
Wordlessly, he glowered down at the dark haired man, wondering if two years together was really long enough for him to trust someone like Izaya in his home, wondering if maybe what meager silverware he owned would mysteriously end up lodged in some no-name gang member's skull later in the week.
Izaya may have been letting him fuck him two times a week for the last couple of years, but he still wasn't above ruining his day for the sake of a cheap laugh, that much he'd established.
"I told you not to come to Ikebukuro," he deadpanned, flicking flame from his lighter as he held it to the fresh cigarette between his lips, "it's your fault for not listening."
And if it was actually because he hated the way the flea had been chatting up some random guy like they were chums when he'd arrived, he didn't say it, and he didn't have too either, because the realization was alight in Izaya's eyes.
"But Ikebukuro is where Shizu-chan lives," he countered, voice high and whiny like some kind of pissy teenage girl, "how am I supposed to visit if I'm not allowed in the district?"
It was a good point, but also one that Shizuo had been ignoring for the last year and a half—a point that he was determined to continue ignoring until the end of time.
Izaya seemed to sense that their current conversation was going nowhere, as he opted to whine about his remaining uncovered scratches and bruises instead.
"Shizu-chan is out of cheap bandages and I'm still bleeding all over my good clothes," the informant snapped, something akin to sick mirth floating in the auburn of his eyes as he wrapped his knuckles on the table, "this shirt probably costs more than your annual rent, you know."
At that, Shizuo considered putting out his slowly shrinking cigarette butt in the louse's hair, but refrained, instead tossing it in his empty glass (much to Izaya's obvious distain) and jerked a thumb in the direction of the bathroom.
"First-Aid kit's under the sink, flea," he breathed, voice low and gravelly as he watched the other man saunter down the hall. He really didn't understand why he kept him around sometimes.
Beneath the sink, there really was a small and rather banged-up First-Aid kit. It had been a while since he'd had the spare cash to refill it with the proper equipment, so he hoped there were at least enough Band-Aids for the flea, if only so he would shut the Hell up.
The reason for his sudden money shortage, he mused, was currently nestled inside of that very kit, a small velvet box that rested somewhere between the antiseptic spray and the aspirin. He couldn't say that the idea of it was very romantic, but he couldn't really say that the damn louse deserved romance anyway.
Nonetheless, when Izaya emerged from the bathroom, mysteriously still without the bandages that he'd been looking for, something small and silver glistened from his previously-bare ring finger and Shizuo felt his insides flutter.
The flea took the opportunity to steal a small kiss, mouth just as soft and sweet as the very first time they'd locked lips years ago, and whispered, low and amusedly,
"You could have just proposed, you know. You didn't have to go through all the trouble of throwing a vending machine at me."
He didn't say it, as he was sure his voice was lost somewhere between his Adam's apple and the utter weightlessness than was currently swimming through his chest, but if he'd taken the time to propose the normal way, well…
That just wouldn't be like them, would it?
When Shizuo was twenty-seven, he found Orihara Izaya leaning against his apartment door when he returned from work one evening.
The flea extended his hand, the plastic drug store bag in his grasp crinkling as he presented it like a peace offering.
Shizuo didn't say a word as he stepped passed him and unlocked the door.
The informant was rambling on about his day—something about mafia bosses that Shizuo was sure he wasn't supposed to know, and with a small laugh, he pulled out the contents of Izaya's gift and realized that the louse had bought him a magazine with Kasuka's face on the cover.
There was also candy and a small bottle of strawberry milk, but he ignored them for a moment in favor of thumbing through the magazine to find his brother's interview.
"Shizu-chan, we'd better hurry," Izaya sang, seeming to dance toward the couch before snatching up the remote and making himself comfortable on the worn cushions, patting the open spot beside him, "we're going to miss it!"
Shizuo nodded in agreement, making his way toward his seated lover and sliding in next to him. With the short click of the remote, the flea found the right channel, huddling against him and smiling like a child, like he was exactly where he wanted to be.
He chuckled at the thought, surprised at the realization that there was anyone in the universe who actually wanted him around.
It was a glamorous program—glitter and ball gowns, tuxedos and red carpets—the type of frou frou award show that he was sure thousands of teenage girls were tuning in to as well.
He wondered if maybe Izaya would have been happier watching something else, but with one look at the lazy smile that rested so naturally on the louse's face, he knew that he didn't really care.
"It'll be awhile until they announce best male actor, you know," Izaya added, voice sleepy as he laced their fingers together and stared, bored, at the crying actress onscreen.
Shizuo nodded. He wondered when they started acting so domestic.
When had Izaya's hand starting fitting so naturally in his? When had he grown accustomed to the flea's warmth against his shoulder, long lashes brushing soft butterfly kisses against the crisp material of his uniform and making him wish that they would run across his bare skin?
He wondered when 'flea' and 'louse' became pet names, when Izaya's name became more of a blessing on his lips than a curse.
He found that he didn't really mind the changes, as he pulled his hand from Izaya's and encased him in his arms.
There would be time for chasing and arguments in the streets of Ikebukuro tomorrow, he was sure, but for the time being, he was content simply holding the other man in his arms.
It had been twelve years since the day they'd met, and while he still wasn't able to fully decipher the tight heat that had wrapped about in the pit of his belly, he was astounded to realize it was gradually replaced with a more pleasant and easier explained kind of warmth.
He wondered if that was the feeling of love, but when Izaya suddenly sprung forward and squealed rather girlishly, "Hey, hey, there he is! They're announcing the winner!" he decided that, like many things that evening, it didn't really matter.
Izaya was in his arms, and no words—be them love or hate or anything else—could change that.
"Don't you ever get tired of acting like some type of deranged schoolgirl?" He asked dryly, barely concealing his excitement as the drum roll began to play and the host paused before opening the oversized envelope in his hands.
If Izaya answered, he didn't hear it. Honestly, he didn't hear much of anything after the name "Yuhei Hanejima".
His brother was graceful as he rose among the sea of applause, face placid as he wove through the crowd toward the stage. Shizuo was reminded of the day he brought home the butterfly with the broken wing, his stormy eyes during their miniature funeral, the melting ice cream in his hands…
Something tugged at his heartstrings. His eyes itched. His throat constricted, tongue suddenly feeling too fat for his mouth as his brother seemed to stare up at him through the television screen.
'I'm so proud of you.' He wanted to say, but he knew that Izaya would be the only one to hear it and Izaya already seemed to know just how proud of the younger man he really was.
"I'd like to thank my family," Kasuka spoke, words soft even as the microphone amplified them across the room, across the country, into the living rooms and bedrooms and kitchens of millions, "but mostly… I'd like to thank my older brother."
And if Shizuo thought the world had stopped before, well, he was absolutely mistaken, because even the warmth of Izaya's body next to his felt muted, the scratching of his aged couch cushions felt like feathers, like smoke—
"I want to thank him," Kasuka—"a gentle soul", it had never made more sense to him than it did in that moment—almost seemed to smile as he recited, like poetry, like a bashful confession, "for teaching me that you don't have to be normal to be happy, and you don't have to be conventional to be kind. I want to thank him for always being there for me."
The roar of applause seemed to sweep him into consciousness as Kasuka raised his trophy in the air, his mask remaining intact as he stepped from the stage and commercials began to air.
"Shizu-chan, don't cry—"
And, finally regaining his composure, he shoved the flea from the couch onto the floor.
Izaya complained and groaned about bullies, playing the victim role as if Shizuo believed him anymore—as if Shizuo had ever believed him to begin with—but still allowed himself to be pulled to his feet and tugged toward the bedroom.
Drums boomed on the TV as the program resumed, ignored by the two men as the bedroom door clicked closed and Izaya giggled something about greedy eyes and roaming hands.
When Shizuo was twenty-seven, he watched his brother win the most prestigious award of his career. He sat next to his worst enemy-turned lover. He worked with his long-time friend at a job he hated but couldn't get away from. He lived in a small apartment and slept on a bed barely big enough for one that somehow fit two—and he was happy.
Maybe everyone had broken wings, just like Kasuka had said. Maybe everyone was wounded where no one else could see, and maybe 'monster' was a horrible word that would never go away, but...
Somehow, after twenty-seven years, Shizuo was exactly where he wanted to be. Maybe it wasn't what he'd expected, but if everything had gone as planned, well…
That just wasn't like him, was it?
I wanted to write something kind of sad, but also kind of sweet about Shizuo, because I absolutely love his character. I sincerely apologize for any errors I've made with the plot. Reading the novels is sort of on my to-do list...
Anyway, thank you so much Chappy-the-Bunny for being my beta for this story! I definitely couldn't have pulled this off without your help!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and please feel free to leave a review and let me know what you thought!