Knowledge

Chapter 16

Izaya became aware of a headache even before he knew himself to be awake. He unglued his eyelids as if they were made of lead and sighed.

"Gah…I had a horrible nightmare."

"Good morning."

Izaya rolled over to find Shizuo staring intently at him.

"Oh look, it's Heiwajima Shizuo."

"Hangover?"

"I'll be fine. So…did something happen?"

Izaya sat and looked around in something of a daze.

"Apart from you getting drunk and making an idiot of yourself? Nah, not really. Here, medicine."

Izaya drank it out of reflex. He felt a strange hollowness inside his head.

"Electricity back yet?"

"Nah. It's still raining, too."

"Isn't that great."

"What was your nightmare about?"

"A tuna fish was making Orihara Izaya sushi."

"Heh, that's what you get for drinking."

"So it would seem."

Izaya dragged himself to the bathroom but even after splashing his face with cold water he still felt very sleepy and weak.

"I got food, banana split, with extra whipped cream. And two spoons."

"How can you go on eating that kind of stuff."

Izaya looked miserable. He returned to bed and slipped under the covers.

"Desserts here are cool. Try it."

"Don't even talk about food."

"Dunno how a tuna could slice you up. I mean, fish don't have hands."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"You know, I have to wonder if you haven't been trolling me this whole time."

Shizuo dug into creamy sweetness. Izaya buried himself deeper in the cozy nest of blankets.

"Do you really think that your sisters hate you?"

"Say what?"

"It's what you said last night."

"Just apply your spooky Twilight Zone powers. Don't send me to a corn field, though."

"I can't tell if you're telling the truth when you're drunk."

Izaya leaped up and nearly fell immediately. But he did manage to stand on bed, arms folded, a smug smile on his lips.

"There you go, I should get drunk more often then."

Shizuo slowly got up- and nearly upset Izaya's precarious balance in the process- and offered him a bottle from the mini-bar.

"Want more vodka?"

"No. No, I don't. But you should know that there is no such thing as 'in vino veritas'."

"Italian now…?"

"Latin. But I'll cut you some slack, they are akin languages. Italian is a Neo-Latin language. At any rate, the idea that drunken people won't lie is just a misconception."

"That's why I asked."

Izaya shivered and sat.

"Why exactly am I naked?"

"So you don't remember. You kinda made a pass on me-"

"I did what?"

"And I figured you'd be uncomfortable sleeping with your pants on."

"I see."

Apparently Izaya had nothing further to add.

"What do you want to do today?"

"Nothing. I'm staying in bed. The weather is hellish, my head hurts and there is nothing to do anyway."

"I suppose."

"What time is it anyway?"

"Around noon."

For a while they were silent.

"I think that I understand this 'like' of yours."

"You do?"

"Yes. In fact, it explains almost everything."

Shizuo finished his sweet treat. He suspected that Izaya had it completely wrong but he was curious.

"So, let's hear about it."

"It is a classic case of sublimation."

"Sublimation?"

Izaya nodded.

"I don't expect you to be familiar with the word but allow me to explain. 'Sublimation' is the channeling of some socially unacceptable pulsion- that amounts to saying a 'desire that society deems to be wrong'- into behavior that will be accepted. In this case you realized at some point or another that you found me attractive but since same gender attraction is a social deviation you diverted sexual desire into violence. And that is why you have been running after me all these years and it is also why you enjoy having sex with me."

Shizuo blinked rapidly.

"Hey, maybe you kinda have a point there….but you're still a bit off."

"Merely because I am lacking information. For some reason you changed your usual tactics and decided to rationalize it into 'liking' me."

"Hmm…now you're more off than before. I do like you. Maybe I didn't realize I wanted to do this kind of stuff before but I never cared much for what society or whatnot."

"Not consciously, no. But subconsciously you have been informed by the societal ethos into which you were born and raised. It is of course very interesting how a society seems to look more favorably on violence than on desire."

"Ah…and you figured all that by getting drunk?"

"I have been giving it a lot of thought, of course."

Shizuo smiled broadly.

"So you have been thinking about me. A lot, even."

"Obviously."

"You're all about being in control, drinking isn't something you should do."

"I don't normally drink, obviously. An excessive intake of alcohol upsets one's reasoning skills."

"With you it just takes a glass or so. Cuz you're so small."

"I'm only small in comparison to you."

"Yeah, I guess. But it's good that you're small. Do you really hate California rolls?"

Izaya chuckled. He had not yet bothered to get dressed and felt no inclination to do so.

"Also from last night? I just think that sushi should be done using true Japanese ingredients in a Japanese way. I respect our culinary heritage. But it applies to all things, a good Peking duck should be cooked as it is in China. I am not too fond of fusion cuisine."

"I like this fried ice cream thing with banana that they serve on Chinese restaurants."

"Back to the subject at hand, you say that you 'like' me but not quite 'love'. At what point do you make the distinction?"

Shizuo thought about it.

"Hmm…I guess it's when it goes from, 'I want to be with this person' to 'I need to be with this person.'"

"That is surprisingly reasonable."

"You think?"

Izaya realized that it might be better to eat something after all and ordered a club sandwich and a milkshake.

"It's a least a way of knowing. And I'm amazed you didn't jump on me when you had the chance."

"Nah, you know by now I wouldn't do that. Like I said, I'm not into rape and there's really no point to doing stuff you wouldn't even remember."

"Because you 'like' me?"

Izaya sounded curious now.

"Yeah, pretty much."

"Eh, is that so. Do you know when a community begins to think that maybe a troll isn't trolling after all?"

"No idea."

"Persistence. Trolls tend to have a limited attention span, they'll do raids but usually not continuous attacks. Your conduct is not that of a troll."

"I told you already I'm serious."

"Unless, of course, you are a master troll of epic proportions such as the world and /b/ have never seen before."

"I think you're mistaking me for you now."

The food arrived and Izaya waltzed to the door wearing nothing but his underwear.

"Consider seeing someone as hot as me mostly naked as a tip already! Bye now!"

And with this he closed the door, chuckling happily.

"Behold, I got you banana milkshake with extra sugar. Make sure to drink it all!"

"Why so chirpy all of a sudden?"

"Because I'm literally feeding a troll! How about this, Shizuo-kun…I- like you…please let me make you bento boxes for lunch from now on! Puhlease!"

Izaya changed his voice into a falsetto.

"Ah…your idea of funny is really weird."

"Best way to handle a troll: troll him back tenfold!"

Izaya proceeded to skip around in what Shizuo assumed was a dance routine of sorts.

"New parkour moves?"

"Okinawa style! Useful for running around trees-"

"Why would you do that anyway…?"

"-also works as a rain dance-"

"Guess that's really working…"

"-and of course, it shows my unadulterated love!"

Shizuo had a feeling that Izaya, after being so close to break, just had to re-bounce with typical craziness.

"Big word there."

"Un-a-dul-te-rat-ed! Love!"

Shizuo watched him skip about a bit more.

"You know, you shouldn't go saying that kind of thing around me."

Izaya halted suddenly and batted his eyelashes in mock coyness.

"Whatever do you mean, Shizuo-kun."

"I might take you seriously."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that you can't expect me to just ignore it when you act like a tease. Keep in mind that I've got my needs too. And last night I had to hold back."

"That's so…manly."

Shizuo smoked a cigarette. Slowly, keeping Izaya hanging on. Then he sipped some milkshake.

"Hey, this is good stuff. Try it."

Izaya took a mere gulp and pretended to gag.

"Sugar overdose."

Shizuo seemed to consider something for a brief moment and then neatly placed Izaya in bed.

"Thought I'd try something."

"What the- that's cold!"

Shizuo eased Izaya on his back and poured milkshake on him. Izaya's voice hitched into a falsetto again but this time unintentionally.

"You'll get hot in no time."

"It's amazing that you can say that with a straight face. You fail at dirty talk."

Shizuo took a while to simply watch the sight of Izaya covered in frothy white stuff. Shizuo licked off some of it from Izaya's chest.

"Don't care for that."

Shizuo moved on to lick the sweetness from Izaya's nipples.

"You're not supposed to get all kinky."

"Why not?"

"Because you're the beastly kind."

"Doesn't mean I can't have fun playing with you."

"So I'm a toy now?"

Shizuo seemed to confirm this suspicion by shredding Izaya's boxers.

"You look better naked."

"So much dirty talk fail."

"It's not dirty talk, just the truth."

Izaya began to chuckle but faltered when Shizuo proceeded to lap at the milkshake, slowly, nipping a nipple along the way.

"Ah, are you picking up a thing or two…?"

Shizuo answered by tentatively trailing his tongue along Izaya's already hardening length. Izaya gasped despite himself.

"So you make noises every now and then."

"And?"

"And it's cute."

Izaya rolled then closed his eyes as Shizuo swallowed him. Delicious liquid warmth suffused his sensations and easily canceled out the partner in question. Izaya moaned very lowly and allowed for pleasure to fill the world. And then the tingling racing through his entire body was suddenly gone.

"Don't stop midway!"

Frustration and annoyance destroyed Izaya's typical defenses.

"Keep your eyes open."

"Ah?"

"You heard me, unless you're too horny to understand words."

"What does it even matter!"

"It matters to me. You seemed to like that so you might as well go ahead with what I say."

Izaya's glare became venomous.

"You're getting pretty pushy and conceited. Don't you 'like' me?"

"It's because I like you. And drop the air quotes."

"And if I close my eyes?"

Izaya could feel himself almost twitching in anticipation but he had to make a stand. Shizuo shrugged and made as if to leave.

"I'll just go do something else and let you take care of it yourself."

Izaya held him by the sleeve with surprising strength.

"Oy, oy, there's a limit to how much a cockblock you can be. And you say I'm a tease?"

"Aren't you supposed to be good at…what do you call it again, 'negotiating'."

"Ah. But I'm in a slump, you see. So. I'll keep my eyes peeled as you want."

"That's more like it."

Shizuo nodded and resumed his ministrations. Izaya realized almost immediately that watching was an extra kink in itself. He felt that he had scored a point and the high naturally slid into an explosive climax that had him writhing and gasping. With eyes wide open he could see a trickle of semen running down Shizuo's chin who looked curious.

"Ah…you even swallowed it? I'm impressed."

"No point being half assed about this kind of thing."

Izaya giggled. He felt very light and almost aglitter.

"Indeed."

"But you last even less this way."

Shizuo fully expected Izaya to get defensive or sarcastic. But Izaya was fully afloat on a sweet afterglow. Shizuo enjoyed seeing him so casually lying in bed, hair disheveled, eyes a heavier shade a red and a light smile on his lips.

"That's the advantage of bottoming. I don't have to actually perform but still get the payback. There's no 'too soon' because the act itself isn't much affected."

"I suppose. And the disadvantage? I'm sure there is one."

"Aye, indeed there is. Ironically it's the same thing: since orgasm does not technically interfere with the performance a top may very well just not even bother trying to make it good for the partner."

Izaya tasted a tang of salt as Shizuo kissed him.

"I'm not like that. It's more fun if you like it."

Almost gently, Shizuo rolled Izaya on his belly and traced his spine with kisses.

"Hmm…what next?"

"Like you said, I'm 'beastly'. So get on all fours."

"Yes, sir."

Shizuo stripped rapidly and reached for the remaining milkshake. Izaya raised an eyebrow.

"Milkshake froth as lube? So…inventive."

"It'll do the trick."

Izaya's giggle was cut short as Shizuo pushed into him.

"Tch, you sure are big."

"Just bear with it."

"Who said- I was complaining-"

Shizuo chuckled and remained completely still. Buried to the hilt.

"Good."

"Will you move already!"

"In due time."

Izaya was not a patient man and even less so when pressing needs reinforced his desire to establish the balance of power to his favor. Before he could do as much as touch his budding erection Shizuo slapped his hand. Izaya shot him a furious glare.

"What the hell! I thought I was supposed to enjoy this, hypocrite much?"

Shizuo nibbled Izaya's ear and brushed his sides very lightly, tracing the body currently in his possession but uncertain if he could reach the actual person.

"You'll like it more if you want it more."

"Horrible timing to be getting all philosophical."

"Nah. Best possible."

Shizuo adjusted himself slightly and Izaya let out a weak moan and arched his back. This was the cue Shizuo was waiting for. His thrusts were rapid, holding Izaya lest he collapsed. Shizuo tilted Izaya's chin to steal a kiss just as Izaya tensed up and came. Only shortly after Shizuo tided over and released deep inside him. Izaya sighed contently and almost immediately sneezed.

"Gah…that was good but cold milkshake on poor me is killing me."

With that said Izaya did not seem too troubled as he rolled away from the mess on the sheets.

"Sorry."

"Aye, it's fine. Good sex makes you forget about all that."

Shizuo ran a hot bath and deposited Izaya in the warm water, carefully.

"You okay?"

"Amazing, just amazing."

Izaya smiled lazily. Shizuo petted his head.

"It's a good thing you're really into it."

"You mean sex?"

"Yeah. You're not thinking too much when that happens."

"Are you intimidated by intelligence?"

"Nah, but you overthink."

Shizuo wrapped him a fluffy towel.

"Hey! I was comfy back there."

"You'll get light headed if you stay in hot water."

Izaya blinked as Shizuo replaced the sheets with new ones, handed him one of his oversized shirts and placed an extra warm blanked in bed. Izaya happily got under the covers.

"You know, you say that I don't mellow after sex but I don't think you do either. Unless this being all nice counts."

"Don't want you to get sick again. And don't forget your food."

"Hmm…maid Shizuo…heh…"

Shizuo poked him.

"No sleeping. I want to talk to you."

"Question time again?"

"Yeah."

"Fine. After all, that's what I'm getting paid for. Just drop the poking."

As much as Izaya disliked this entire assignment, it was by far the worst he had ever undertaken, he did not want to involve sex in the trade. And Shizuo seemed to be thinking along the same lines:

"Yeah, I'm not paying to sleep with you. That's more like a bonus."

"Ah. This makes us 'enemies with benefits'."

Izaya propped himself to properly eat the sandwich.

"Except I'm not your enemy."

"So you say."

"I've been wondering for a while…don't you shave?"

Izaya blinked rapidly.

"Say what?"

"We've been sharing the same room and all and I don't think I've ever seen you shave…"

"Now that was random. If you must know, I don't shave. I don't have to."

"Ah…isn't that real weird?"

Izaya shrugged.

"Not everyone is a testosterone freak like you."

"Still, guys are supposed to shave."

"Guess I am just that special. Don't tell Shinra or he'll want to dissect me."

"I think he'd rather dissect me."

"To find the source of your crazy strength?"

"Yeah, that."

"Vivisection might be better for that."

"What's your happiest memory?"

"Back to serious business, huh. Sorry but I can't answer that. I told you from the start that I wouldn't answer all of your questions."

Shizuo nodded.

"Fair enough. What's the happiest memory you can talk about, then?"

Izaya beamed beautifully.

"Ah, it's got to be that time I slashed you. My coolness was at its highest back then."

"You sound like an old guy now."

"Just you wait, next thing you know I'll be running after high school girls with a camera to get panty shots."

"It's kinda funny how you have a happy memory that includes me."

"Not at all, it includes you bleeding. That was of course the highlight of it all."

"So you're a…what do you call it, sadist?"

"Not normally. But I make an exception for you."

"I guess that makes sense. But you're more vocal about it now."

Izaya narrowed his eyes slightly and nibbled on a bit of lettuce.

"Oh? What do you mean?"

"That you're getting more honest with me. Usually you try to act like you don't hate me all that much cuz you're above that kind of thing."

"No comment."

Shizuo took the liberty to gobbling one of the triangular bits of bread stuffed with food. He took some time smoking and tapping the smoke into a napkin for lack of a proper ashtray.

"Dunno if I can change your mind since you're…well, you. But I can tell you that I'll protect you."

Izaya laughed and winced almost immediately.

"Gah, the pain, the pain. Have you been reading too much manga or something? This 'I'll protect you' speeches are utterly lame and have no place in real life. Reality isn't that accommodating."

"I know all that. Don't forget that I've been making a living out in the streets for a long time-"

Izaya burst into a fit of giggles and ended up wincing even harder.

"You make it sound like you've been turning tricks! Actually…maybe…you have!"

"You know what I mean. I don't live in some fantasy land. And I am serious. Doesn't matter who is after you, I'll protect you."

Izaya blinked once. Then smiled slowly with a hint of sharpness.

"Oh? Really now. Would you protect me against Shiki-san."

"Yes."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"Right…"

"Wouldn't you go against him if he's the one out to kill you?"

Izaya chewed meditatively on a tasty slice of beef.

"Realistically? If Shiki-san is the one behind the attempt on my life I'd move."

Shizuo started.

"Move?"

"Move. Hong Kong."

"You like him that much?"

Izaya jabbed a finger.

"Wrong. I don't spare people because of my feelings. But killing Shiki-san is stirring a wasp nest of the worst kind. He is the kind of man that compels loyalty. His goons would get even. And even if I killed them all off – which would be logistically impossible – their families would take up arms. Shiki-san actually has a private army. I'd dump Mikado in Tokyo Bay and his goons might actually not even notice, I do as much as look at Shiki-san funny and his little bros will torture me to death."

"You'd give up Tokyo to save your own ass?"

"Hey, Hong Kong isn't exactly the countryside. As long as it's a city with a vast human sample I will do just fine. Sure, reestablishing contacts would be difficult. The Triads are not exactly nice and being Japanese would not gain me any favors. But I'd risk it."

"But you love Tokyo…"

"Sure. But from a purely pragmatic point of view it might actually be smarter to jump ship to China anyway. Chinese economy just topped ours, very recently they created the fastest train and the skyscraper industry is booming. This century will belong to China, whether we like it or not. In fact, aligning with Chinese interests may be the best move in the grand scheme of things."

"Doesn't matter. You said it yourself, Tokyo is your turf."

Izaya was silent for a while.

"Will it ever stop raining-"

"Don't change the subject."

"It's a matter of adaptability. It does no good to get overly attached."

"So that's the problem…"

Izaya raised an eyebrow.

"What are you talking about?"

"You'd had to leave your sisters behind."

"Mairu and Kururi don't need me. They're independent girls. Actually, as long as Kasuka is around they'd be happy as can be."

"I know they're fans of his. I wonder why."

"It's very obvious given how popular he is with their age bracket."

"Hmm…and you think that's it?"

"Yes."

Shizuo smoked some.

"I was thinking the other day, Kasuka is cute, small, real slim, kinda doll-like. And you're that way as well."

Izaya started.

"Your point?"

"I dunno if your sisters talk to you about it but I got the idea that they like Kasuka so much because he reminds them of you."

"That's preposterous. You're just making it up."

"Not really. I could be wrong but that's what I think."

"A case of transfer? It can't be. There's no way I wouldn't notice since-"

Izaya forced himself into abrupt silence.

"At times the people closest to you are the ones you can't really wrap your mind around."

"Shut up."

"Why are you so angry?"

Izaya tsked and bit his lower lip.

"I'm not angry."

"Sure looks like it to me."

"Have they told you any of this?"

"Not exactly. But that's what I think."

Izaya rolled his eyes in an even more exaggerated way than usual.

"There you go, it's just a crazy idea of yours."

Shizuo said nothing in return. Letting Izaya pick up the conversation again. And as he expected, it worked.

"Do they even talk about me at all…?"

"Not too much. They know that you and me didn't use to get along."

"Excuse me? 'Didn't use to get along'? We <i>don't</i> get along."

"We're having a nice chat, though."

"Maybe it's nice for you."

"You don't like it that other people may know something about your sisters that you don't."

"Oh please, this is reality. I don't spend 24/7 on nii-chan mode and I let them be as free as possible."

"Right but they're important to you-"

"According to this genius theory of yours you subconsciously have a thing for your dear kid brother."

Shizuo paused.

"Nah, it's different, about me and Kasuka I mean."

Izaya's eyes glittered.

"Seems like you can't follow up your own logic. Hypocrisy is a dreadful thing."

"I bet but it is different."

"Pray, do tell how according to your reasoning you are not borderline incestuous?"

Shizuo blinked as if surprised.

"Thought you'd pick it up right away. What's the most important thing to you? Knowledge, right? I know Kasuka. And I know you. And so I know that you look the same but aren't at all the same. But your sisters don't really know Kasuka apart from his image…and it's easy to…what's that word again, 'project' when you don't know the person behind the image."

Izaya's jaw dropped.

"You. You're not an idiot."

"Why thanks, Izaya."

"Spare me the fucking sarcasm."

"Have you ever lost a game? The kind you play against someone else, that is."

Izaya folded his arms and smiled a very thin smile that was razor sharp.

"And this is the part I say 'I never lose at anything' and you go and prove me wrong."

"Didn't say any of that."

"It's heavily implied."

"If you say so. But have you or not."

"Not up to this point, no."

"So you admit that you may lose eventually?"

"I admit that the possibility exists."

"This means that you don't play unless you're certain you'll win."

"Gee, who do you think I am, Kaiji? I don't go for hopeless odds and I don't believe in luck."

"But you think you've been unlucky recently."

"So it would seem."

Izaya was on edge.

"Would you be going on about 'aligning with Chinese interests' last month?"

"Is there a point to this?"

Shizuo nodded.

"There is and you know it. You've realized that you can lose so you came up with an escape plan and then thought yourself into believing that you wanted to live in China all along."

"Not at all. I simply see the positive points to a solution."

"But you changed your tune. You went from 'I'll have to move to Hong Kong' to 'Hong Kong is the best thing ever and it's even better for me to move'. Forgetting the part about Shiki kicking you out of the territory that you conquered with your own efforts."

"Again, I see no point in dwelling in negativity-"

"Bullshit. You've done nothing other than that since we got here. You're just trying to be 'the hand' moving the pieces without admitting that this plan of yours is what being a pawn is all about."

Izaya jumped to his feet. It caused some pain but it barely registered.

"That's it. I won't let you manipulate me."

"You can't laugh it off, huh. That means I am right on the money."

"All of this speculation hinges on the very unlikely possibility that Shiki-san tried to kill me."

"Doesn't even matter if he did or not. It's your attitude that's wrong here. This giving up and then acting all puffed up to cover it up."

"Shouldn't you be glad if I moved? Given how many times you've told me to stay away from 'bukuro."

"Yeah, and we all know what good that did. None at all. I realized early on that the moment I forbid you to even enter 'bukuro you were bound to make it your main turf. You couldn't help yourself any more than you could turn down my offer to ask you stuff about yourself."

"You're overestimating your importance far too much. There are many people in Ikebukuro apart

from you."

"Sure. But it's like a kid and a garden with a 'no stepping on the grass' sign. If the sign is there the kid will step on the grass. In your case stomp on it madly and doing that weird dance of yours."

Izaya crawled back to bed.

"Isn't it amazing how well you know me."

"I bet that you never spent this much time with someone else before. You prefer to make an entrance – usually appearing when least expected – and after doing your thing you disappear. That way you can keep the image of the super clever informant that-"

"I am very good at what I do."

Izaya's tone was ice cold.

"Yeah but there's more to you than that. You can't be on cutthroat mode all the time. Spending so much time with you let me see other sides to you. Like, the cute side."

"'Cute'? Don't even dare go there. It's looking more and more like you're on a revenge campaign of the protracted kind-"

"The what kind?"

"You're just having a blast seeing me squirm."

"That's kinda fun in bed, yeah."

"Shut the fuck up."

"Have you noticed that you only use swear words when you're about to flip out?"

"Duly noted."

Shizuo sighed. Izaya's antagonism was almost a force field isolating him from proper communication.

"Look, you got the wrong idea here. Sorry if I poked fun at you but it's not like I'm having fun when you get all bothered. I just think that you need to bounce back."

"Oh really. And you have some great advice to offer on that?"

"That's up to you."

"So you're not even useful!"

"Do you want me to help you?"

"Can you?"

Izaya slid into calculating mode.

"It depends on how much you'd let me, I guess."

"Say what?"

"I'll protect you no matter what you say but more than that I can't do. I can't help you if you don't want. Kinda like you said, you can't make anyone like you."

"Alright, let us assume that I was willing to accept this aid you speak of. What would that consist of and what would it entail?"

"You're getting all complicated again."

"I see, it's the 'I won't answer your questions' card?"

Shizuo rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"Izaya, when you like someone you don't need all this complicated stuff about 'entails' and whatnot. You only need to like someone to help him out. It's real simple."

"You're giving me a headache."

"That was all the drinking you did."

The sound Izaya's grumbling stomach interrupted whatever snappy retort he had in mind.

"Let's leave this talk for later and get you some proper food first."

Izaya wanted to hide under the blankets and simply will his problems away. But he did not need Shizuo to tell him that this was an abdication he did not truly want.

"Fine. As long as I get to pick both of our meals."

"Sure."

Izaya put on some nondescript clothes but he slid into his trademark fur fringed jacket since it was cold enough for it and he felt a boost of confidence wearing it. He made sure to arrange his array of silver rings and combed his hair. Shizuo watched this preparations and nodded.

"We'll be having carpaccio. And black pasta for starters."

Izaya put down the glossy menu. He had just picked the restaurant and true to his word selected the food.

"Car…pa…what?"

"Heh, you will have to trust me on this."

Shizuo was a bit apprehensive but the starter was good enough. But he still frowned when thin slices of red meat arrived.

"Ah…is this raw?"

"Don't be so judgmental. Just try it. And chew for a change, gobbling up food is disgusting."

Shizuo tasted it with some reservations.

"Hey, not bad. So you even eat meat sushi?"

"It's carpaccio, 'carpaccio'."

"Looks like sushi to me. And order a pizza next."

"The cliché of having pizza at an Italian restaurant. Tsk. But at least pizza in this place is not plastic food but the real thing."

"You need food in your belly. As in, cooked food."

Izaya laughed.

"Your palate really isn't refined."

"Who is Kaiji?"

"A great gambler who keeps running into some highly unlikely trouble and with a nose that can cut through steel bars."

"Ah…do you also suspect him?"

Izaya almost choked on a mushroom.

"Oh, you. Kaiji cannot possibly have done it since he is a fictional character. From the eponymous manga."

"Didn't know you were into manga."

"I'm no basement dwelling otaku but every now and then I'll pick up a volume. Remind me to show you the glory of Kaiji's nose one of these days. It's so pointy and crooked that I am sure it must be bad Feng Shui. No wonder he ends up losing all the money he makes more often than not. And adding more debts."

Shizuo said nothing but he noticed Izaya opening up even if only imperceptibly. But he wondered if Izaya noticed it himself.

"You say you don't like gambling but how come you hang out at pachinko parlors?"

"Why would a non-gambling man go such places? To observe people. There is of course no lack of human material for observation in Tokyo but if you think about it there are not so many possibilities of watching the same people for a fixed amount of time without it becoming suspicious. And even those places that do exist such as cafes and whatnot are useful for human interaction more than anything. Which I do find interesting but there is something about the chance of watching people as individuals in an environment that isolates them as such."

"I think I see your point."

Shizuo nodded.

"Pachinko players are usually utterly unaware of anything other than the game. There are a few who are paranoid of being spied lest someone finds their secret 'trick' but most of them don't even notice the guy sitting next to them. That makes them absolutely perfect."

"So that's it…I thought you rigged the machines or something."

"Heh, no. But I know that rigging is the only way of actually winning. And then it would all backfire because the house will not allow itself to be swindled. If you keep beating the odds then the house will find out. Not worth it."

"Yeah. I feel a bit sorry for those poor guys that keep losing money when there's no chance they'll even get it back."

Izaya blinked.

"I'm surprised that you would at all care. I have always wondered, why didn't you join some yakuza group? Your angry ways and crazy strength would be appreciated. You could climb up the ranks just by using your reputation."

Shizuo shrugged.

"I don't really like that kind of thing. It's dirty. And I hate violence."

Izaya giggled.

"No matter how many times you say that it never stops being amusing. Heiwajima Shizuo hates violence!"

"I mean it."

"Eh…do you now. I actually believe you. Maybe I'm losing my mind."

"Nah, being peaceful is better. That way we can talk like we're doing now. Having conversations is great."

"For once I agree with you."

"But actually talking can be complicated."

"You don't have the best people skills around."

"Yeah, I know. I suck at that."

"But you're getting better."

Shizuo blinked several times.

"Oh, thanks."

Izaya smiled candidly. He had decided to opt for a complete change of tactics but he needed to be subtle about it.

"At least I still have one of these."

Izaya hugged himself, the furry cuffs standing out.

"The jacket?"

"Yes. Apart from my luggage all of my belongings have been destroyed. So I'm glad I at least have this."

"It's kinda your trademark."

"Indeed. I had a closet full of these in my apartment but alas, they're all gone now."

"That's a lot. You could add cat ears to the hood."

"Say what?"

"Cat ears. And maybe say 'nya'."

Izaya chuckled. The pizza arrived.

"As you can see there are two kinds of slices and we're dividing them equitably – that means we both get the same – make sure to taste the tiny tomatoes. None of that gross greasy cheese that junk pizza joints dare call mozzarella."

"What's the green stuff?"

"Ruccula."

Shizuo glanced at the fork and knife.

"Don't bother with those, just use your hands. That's how pizza is supposed to be eaten anyway."

"But people will stare."

Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"Oh? And? Tch, want to give them something worth staring at?"

He answered his own question by using his lips to plant a tiny tomato on Shizuo's. And then cashing on the opening to go for a kiss.

"You're right, these veggies are tasty."

"And the kiss?"

"Was even better."

"Good. And just wait for dessert."

"You mean kinky stuff later?"

Izaya giggled and suddenly reminded Shizuo of Mairu.

"Don't be silly. I mean actual dessert. Namely, profiteroles and tiramisu."

Izaya ordered the items in question with something of a flourish.

"It's a pyramid of sweet things?"

"Exactly! They're arranged in such a wonderful way. And extra chocolate syrup is in order."

Izaya proceeded to pour it over the profiteroles, smiling and humming under his breath.

"And the other one?"

"Tiramisu. Try it, a sweets freak like you is bound to drool over this."

Shizuo tried the tiny spherical confections first.

"It's good!"

Izaya put on his smug face on.

"I told you as much."

Izaya ate a profiterole and offered a slice of tiramisu.

"It's softer than it looks. Kinda…fluffy?"

"Porous, too."

"Real good."

"Maybe your body processes sugar differently and turns it into pure fuel for your insane strength."

"You think?"

"I have no idea. But you sure can eat."

"Sweet stuff is good. Did you really have a nightmare about a tuna fish?"

"Indeed I did. It was rather disturbing. Especially since tuna have no hands but still it was about to slice me."

Shizuo wiped some syrup from his chin.

"Maybe it's your conscience talking. You feel guilty for chugging down tuna fish."

"Er, no."

"Tuna-san shows that down deep you feel sorry."

"-san? What the…"

"From Tuna-san's point of view you're the villain. He was just trying to save his friends and family. So I'm being respectful to Tuna-san."

Izaya burst out laughing.

"Oh dear. You have quite an imagination! Poor Tuna-san, how about poor Orihara-san? I was the one getting sliced! The humanity."

"Hmm…Tuna-san could forgive you if you apologized."

"Your scenarios went from unlikely to batshit crazy."

"It was your dream."

"And you just had to capitalize on the trauma. How shrewd of you."

"Hey, can you do an Osaka accent?"

"Maybe. Why?"

"It'd be funny if you went on with your a billion yen words in an Osaka accent."

"Ha so I'd finally be funny by your standards? That cannot be. I follow my own humor."

"Yeah that's why you're unfunny."

"Unless I'm falling on my face, you mean."

"Heh, yeah."

Izaya jabbed a finger in the air.

"Heiwajima Shizuo! I must tell you something. If you enjoy the suffering of your fellow human beings then you are a bad person by default. So there."

"But you admit you have fun when things get shitty for me."

"Aha! Yet I never said that I was a good person. Tuna-san agrees."

Shizuo was aware of a certain shift but he kept a tactful silence on it.

"You wouldn't make good sushi. Too thin."

"It's amazing that you can stuff yourself with desserts and still be so fit."

"Thanks? But I get plenty of exercise chasing you around."

"Maybe I should charge you for that."

"Ah…kinda like I end up paying for your cell phones? Not my fault you keep ruining them."

"Rejoice for this meal is on me."

"So this is like a date?"

"Hmm…maybe."

"You don't know?"

"It depends."

Izaya chewed on a profiterole.

"On what?"

"These things can't be decided unilaterally."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning that both parties have to agree."

"Ah…I'm fine with it, of course. Problem is you."

Izaya pretended to give it some thought.

"Alright, it's a date then."

"You sure?"

"Positive."

Shizuo nodded as if he was pleased.

"We got the order of things wrong."

"The order of what, exactly?"

"You know, first comes dating and then sex. Not the other way around."

Izaya shrugged. His new approach demanded him not to press matters too much lest it missed the target altogether. Above all he needed to act credibly.

"Oh well, so much for that. But don't get the wrong idea here. It's not like we're a couple."

"Didn't think we were. But you admit that I'd like us to be a couple?"

"If you say so I'll take your word for it."

"That's more than what you usually admit."

"What are you doing?"

Shizuo had been fidgeting with some napkins for a while.

"Making Teru teru bozu. To help with the weather."

Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"You do realize that such superstitions have no actual effect, right?"

"Won't do things worse either. At least it's not a rain dance in the middle of a typhoon."

Izaya had to laugh.

"At least draw some eyes, otherwise it looks like a ghost. A suicidal ghost at that once you hang it."

"There, he's smiling."

Shizuo dangled the recently made cloth doll. Izaya picked it up.

"Make a few more. It's raining so much that we'll need more than one measly magical bald amulet. Better make an army of these."

"Like those statue guys in the snow with the old man and the umbrellas?"

"You mean Kasajizou?"

"Yeah. Then they gave food for New Years to the old guy as thanks."

"Again, you do know that the whole story is a legend, right?"

"Sure but it's nice. Say, if you could have a superpower what would it be?"

Izaya twirled a spoon in the air.

"Hmm…good question. I suppose I should say reading minds but that would make life considerably less fun."

"How come?"

"Well, part of what I do is of course figuring people out. If I could just peek into their thoughts then it wouldn't be half as interesting. I wouldn't get that great feeling of reading someone because I'm just that good."

"Makes sense since it's you."

"I suppose that I'd pick something like time manipulation."

"Time…?"

"I don't mean it in a 1984 kind of way although who controls the past does control the future and who controls the present needs to be in control of the past. But I am talking more in terms of fast forwarding through bad times and making the good ones last. And even stop time altogether except for me."

"Interesting, how about being invisible?"

Izaya laced his hands together and smiled a sly smile.

"Oh? I already can become invisible whenever I want. Not literally, of course. But I can blend in such a way that people will utterly fail to notice me. In a city as Tokyo, with so much human fauna, I can easily nullify my presence. And that allows me to catch juicy bits of information here and there."

"That and you sneak up on people. Creepy."

"I am so sorry. On second thought, maybe I'd opt for something like prescience coupled with mental abilities as in the Dune universe."

"Say what?"

"It means seeing every single possible outcome in every situation and being able to process unlimited amounts of information. But without the emotional constrains attached in the storyline. Or perhaps omnipresence, actually."

"Ah…I'm confused."

Izaya chuckled. Reestablishing balance.

"It can be somewhat confusing, yes. But I think such abilities count as 'superpowers'."

"No, not that. Sure it's trippy but I get the gist of it. My problem is, if this is our first date…should I be expecting some sex afterwards."

"That's what you're confused about?"

"Yeah. I mean, we've done it before but it's different now. Dunno how this kind of thing works all that well."

Izaya closed his mouth.

"Are you serious?"

"Sure am. And it can't, how was it again, be decided…'unilaterally'."

"You're blowing this 'first date' deal way out of proportion."

"Normally it's a bit wrong to expect that kind of thing so I'm not sure."

"Why don't you try some panna cotta and see how things go."

Shizuo nodded as if he had reached some conclusion.

"It's best not to do it too much, your body is weak."

Izaya ordered the next dessert. Feeling vaguely puzzled.

"I'm beginning to think that you meant want to 'know' me in the biblical sense."

"What's that?"

"Having sex."

"I like that too, yeah."

"Anyway, what's so 'wrong' about doing it after the first date?"

"Nothing but it gives the idea that I'm just after your body."

Izaya chuckled.

"And let me guess, you want to conquer my 'heart.'"

"Without the air quotes, yeah."

Izaya had a moment of stunned surprise and then gestured toward the dessert.

"I bet you never tried this before. Panna cotta, made with cream, milk, sugar and gelatin."

"Looks like pudding."

"It isn't. Such a commoner you are."

"Ah…commoner? Does anyone actually say that in real life?"

"I do. So there."

Shizuo proceeded to try this unknown confection.

"Wow, it's real good too."

Izaya smiled. He found Shizuo's weird fascination with something as simple as dessert to be somewhat amusing. As Shizuo dug in, Izaya found himself reconstructing his table companion's daily life. Humdrum job, constant staring, little money.

"I suppose you can't afford these luxuries normally."

Shizuo noticed the change in tone.

"Nah, not really."

"It can't be easy. Living on minimum wage in Tokyo. It is one of the most expensive city in the world."

"I make do as I can."

Izaya drummed his fingers on the table. Suddenly annoyed at himself and without quite knowing why.

"Ah yes and now you are absurdly wealthy so I suppose all is well."

"You said you were paying…"

"And I am, worry not. And I still wonder if you robbed a bank."

"I didn't."

"Can I get access of a detailed description of your bank account, then?"

"Nah. You're all fussy about your finances so it wouldn't be fair anyway. Bet you don't even pay taxes."

"I am a law abiding citizen."

A waitress approached the table timidly.

"Sir? What are you doing with the napkins?"

"He's making Teru teru bozus. For the sake of sunny skies! Teru teru bozu hangs by the neck for our sake!"

She left with a confused smile and wondering if cabin fever was getting to the guests.

"Don't say that, it's not like he's dead or something."

"Aha, I know. Use the sheets to make giant Teru teru bozus. To upgrade."

"Hmm…can't do that. It's kinda wrong. Because of the things we do in bed. Teru teru bozu is sacred or something."

Izaya threw himself back in a fit of laughter. The chair nearly tipped over.

"Sacred! I don't, I don't even!"

"It might make the weather even worse."

"Blasphemy, blasphemy I say!"

Shizuo enjoyed Izaya's oddly timed hilarity. Izaya wiped some tears from his eyes.

"It'll be like your rain dance."

"Everyone knows that doing a rain dance when it is actually raining turns it into a counter rain dance."

"Everyone?"

"Just ask any shaman. By the way, you're not going into hyper mode from all that sugar, I hope?"

"That's more you."

"See that couple there? The guy's cheating on her."

Shizuo glanced at the people in question.

"How do you know?"

"See how he keeps smiling and being all nice but his eyes keep flitting away from hers? Telltale sign."

"Maybe they haven't known each other for a long time and are still nervous."

Izaya chuckled.

"Not a chance. You don't take someone you barely know to a high end hotel like this."

"Good point. We go back a long time too."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"That's hardly the same."

"I guess but if you stop and think about it we've known each other for ages now."

Izaya grew thoughtful.

"Of all the many people we meet in life only a very few will really at all matter. Most of the people we cross paths with we do not at all know nor do we seek to know. We only get to even learn the names of a couple and we will only bother to learn how to write a few of those."

"Yeah. I guess it depends on what you mean by knowing someone."

Shizuo fully expected Izaya to take the opportunity to make it clear how wide and impassable the gap in intellectual prowess between them was. Instead Izaya grew very focused.

"I'd say that knowledge of someone is predictability. In other words, being able to predict what a person will do in a given situation. It is a process that requires taking into consideration a lot of variables and is of course always subjected to a certain random element."

"People sure can do random stuff every now and then."

Izaya nodded.

"True. But even I who have studied people at length, I cannot say whether I truly know anyone. Ultimately it could be that the only kind of knowledge that is absolute is that of the self and we are back to Descartes all over again."

"Ah…"

Izaya lifted his eyes to the ceiling briefly.

"Human beings are highly complex creatures. It's almost a truism but it stands to reason. The human brain in particular is a marvel of biology that supports self-awareness and thought. And yet all that becomes nothing upon dying. Everything you've ever thought, felt, experienced, yearned for, hated, loved- everything you are is gone forever. Broken down to the bare chemical components and nothing more. Humans are aware that they will die. Isn't that too cruel? To know that your entire being is destined to utter oblivion. I cannot accept it. I won't accept it. If I have to live with the prospect of death then I would rather not live at all. That's why I won't die."

Shizuo was surprised by the sudden intensity.

"That's how you really feel."

As if realizing that he had gone too far, and unprompted at that, Izaya shrugged lightly and smiled.

"Let's see how things develop between the couple. With some luck the girl will find out and I'll get to do some comforting. You'd be surprised how easy it is to score with girls who've been cheated on."

"Hey, Izaya. No talking about having sex with other people on our dating time."

Izaya nearly sighed in relief at having dodged a bullet and made a mental note not to get too carried away with Shizuo around. Getting confidential was cracking an opening in his flexible armor of detached witticism.

"Fair enough. By the way, I like these."

Izaya produced a package of condoms.

"Flavored? Always had the idea that you were kinky."

"Heh, just for future reference."

"Great, means my chances of scoring with you are higher. If you're talking about this. You'd be surprised how easy it is to score with Orihara Izaya."

"Very funny."

"Do these thingies really taste like chocolate and whatnot?"

"Not as much as they should, unfortunately. The flavor does not last all that long."

"Oh, just like you."

"Haha."

Shizuo unwrapped a condom and proceeded to stretch it.

"Looks normal"

"What are you doing- oh hell."

The condom suddenly snapped from Shizuo's hold and flew across the dimly lit room, landing on the couple's table. For a while Izaya and Shizuo stared intently but there was no reaction.

"They didn't notice it…"

"Shizuo, I swear I'll blow you anywhere you want if you ask them for the condom back."

"Really?"

"Yes. Really."

Shizuo did not even hesitate. He walked over to the table and Izaya was on the edge of his seat, anticipating a scene with the same tingling feeling with which he approached interesting information.

"Sorry to interrupt your dinner but that's my condom there, next to the glass. I'll just take it back."

"What…?"

Shizuo picked it up and was about to leave the confused couple when he turned around.

"Oh yeah, my friend who's real smart says that he's cheating on you. My friend is usually right about this kind of stuff so…you might want to ask to go through his cell phone log or something."

Izaya was on the verge of stomping around the table by the time Shizuo returned.

"I think I'm falling in love with you. That was priceless!"

"Save that talk for when it's actually true."

Izaya was too amused to be angered at the semi-jab. He giggled and hid behind his hands like a coy teen as the girl threw the phone at the guy.

"See? I told you he was cheating! 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'!"

Izaya wrapped his arms around his belly as he laughed madly.

"Why do people cheat anyway?"

"Because they can, that's why."

In his amusement Izaya did not even realize that anything was happening until he saw Shizuo jumping off his seat. Then he noticed Shizuo holding the guy's fist in one hand without even batting an eyelash.

"Oy, cheater. Don't go taking it out on my friend, next time don't cheat. Got it?"

The guy apparently got it.

"Yes, sir- just let me go, please!"

"Sure thing."

Izaya whistled as the man scurried away.

"Who knew that this protective side of yours could be sexy."

"Don't forget our deal."

Izaya leaned over.

"You want it now?"

"Think I'll save it for later."

"How strategic. Waiting for when I am not at all in the mood to screw me over?"

"Not really. Just taking things at my own pace."

Izaya suspected that he had been following Shizuo's pace ever since he had been swindled into agreeing with this assignment.

"I see. If you're done eating let's go somewhere. Not a lot of choice, I'm afraid. And don't forget the Teru teru bozus."

"Wanna shoot some pool?"

"Fine by me."

They drifted to a game room that looked ghostly with its modern furniture seen by candlelight. Izaya tested a cue stick.

"You're kinda like a kid, you know."

Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"I am not at all naïve."

"I don't mean that. But you're not afraid of being all happy at silly things. When you think something's funny you just laugh like a kid would."

"I'm a free spirit."

"Dunno about that but it's kinda cool when you're having fun."

"Ah, balls and big sticks. It's obvious what this game is actually all about."

Izaya made a rather lame attempt at hitting one of the balls.

"You think? And you're doing it wrong."

"Doesn't matter, it's too dark to even see anything properly."

"Yeah but still. Forget about keeping score, just hold it more like this."

Shizuo placed himself behind him and with almost gentle gestures placed Izaya's hands on the stick.

"Huh, I'm getting some weird vibes from this."

"That's cuz your mind's in the gutter."

Izaya caught the scent of aftershave just underneath Shizuo's.

"So, how should I do this?"

"Just slide it between your fingers. Like this, see?"

"Right."

Izaya followed the instructions and hit a ball that rebounded into obscurity. The noise resounded hollowly.

"Izaya?"

"What?"

He nearly jumped at his name.

"Don't think that you can just hop into someone else's bed as you please. Like it or not that's not how it works."

"Is that a threat?"

"A warning."

"And the difference is?"

"A threat is when you want to go ahead and punish the person. A warning is when you don't really want to do that but may have to."

Izaya tried not to let the slow pounding of his heartbeat distract him.

"So I can't cheat on you?"

"It'd make me angry. Just so you know."

"But we're not a couple."

"Doesn't matter."

Izaya could feel old fears freezing him anew. And then Shizuo took a step aside and as if on cue the lights leaped into life.

"It's about time!"

Izaya ran back to the room and he was already plugging the laptop by the time Shizuo got there.

"You have got to be joking! The internet's down? No matter."

He switched to the now plugged and new cell phone.

"Masaomi? I have a plan. Listen to it very carefully."

Izaya explained it rapidly and succinctly. Then he dialed another number.

"Ah…right…no, I already know what to do. No need to do that. No, that won't do. When you say 'in custody' you mean that you've captured him? Please release the poor guy. Yes, I'm sure. Don't call me, I'll call you."

"Was that the Goat Woman?"

"Seems like she suspected poor Dotachin and detained him. Let that teach him a lesson, that's what you get for not wanting to go to my nabe party."

"So that's what happened. Think your plan will work?"

"I wouldn't put it in motion if I didn't think so. It's very simple. If someone wants to kill me then 'they' will surely react if rumors start popping out about my appearing, very much alive, in some places. I will leak this information via Kida. And when this person or persons move to confirm my whereabouts Namie's men will act."

"That sounds like it'll work, yeah."

Izaya laced his fingers together and smiled widely.

"But of course."

"Glad to see you're bouncing back."

"Why thank you."

"Can I have that blowjob now?"

"I don't mind. Any particular reason for this timing?"

"Figured I'd try doing stuff with you when you're all happy."

"Interesting. I'll ask you to shower first."

"Then we can shower together."

Izaya hesitated very briefly. Then clicked with his tongue.

"Alright."

Despite having agreed Izaya still felt somewhat apprehensive. He tiptoed to the bathtub.

"Get naked already, I'll get the water going."

Izaya had merely thought of getting it done without even having to take off any clothes and then going back to business as usual. But he remained calm as he undressed. Shizuo was already filling the tub.

"I thought we were just showering?"

"This is nicer. Besides, we have time."

"Don't choke me."

"Only if you bite."

Izaya took great care in showering Shizuo. Watching the water flow.

"There you go, you're all sparkly clean."

Shizuo sat on the stairs that led into the massive tub. There was enough water to keep Izaya warm without hindering his movements. Shizuo patted his head as Izaya settled in position.

"You really are very pretty."

"Ah, you don't have to flatter me. I know what I'm doing. And I'm good at it, too."

"I don't have to but I wanted to. Because you are pretty."

Izaya did not particularly like these pleasantries. He applied himself to putting into practice all of his technique. Izaya licked, sucked and lapped. All according to a formula he had perfected over time. Using his hands only sparsely to squeeze a few drops of bitter fluid from the engorged tip. He could read Shizuo's reactions and knew exactly when to accommodate his ministrations and to swallow the salty load without a hitch. Izaya was on his feet and reaching for a towel in no time but Shizuo cut him short by holding him close. So close that Izaya could feel Shizuo's heartbeat.

"I told you I was good, didn't I."

"Yeah…but we're not done here yet."

Shizuo ran his hands over Izaya's body, trailing his skin with a gentleness that Izaya found disturbing without quite knowing why. Izaya was getting rather uncomfortable and decided that he had to change the strange mood.

"You want to do me? Aren't you a stud."

"It's because I like you."

Izaya had a snappy retort ready but it was swept from his mind as Shizuo slowly prepared him and lowered him unto a still unflagging erection.

"What's with this being all sweet…"

"Told you already. Cuz I like you."

Shizuo was very aware of Izaya trembling in exposed nakedness. He wondered briefly if it was possible to reach his emotions through his body. Izaya came almost silently, arching his back against Shizuo's strong chest. Shizuo released inside him in almost perfect synch. After a few moments of panting silence Izaya slid off. Shizuo filled the tub and joined him, scooping some semen from the surface.

"You came a lot this time around."

"I am a guy, I'm designed to reach orgasm easily enough. If I were a girl and you could pull this off all the time then it'd be impressive."

"If you were a girl I'd knock you up in no time."

Izaya lifted an eyebrow.

"I very much doubt it. Rest assured that I would be on the pill. So it wouldn't happen even if you break condoms."

"I guess."

"This is veering into creepy territory."

Shizuo patted his head again. Izaya did not at all care for the bemused smile. He could not quite place it. Izaya found himself cradling in Shizuo's arms. The warm water unloosened his preoccupations and made him rather lazy. There was only Shizuo as a solid point of reference in a liquid world of dissolving shapes.

"Nah, it's not creepy. Like you say, 'hypothetical'."

"Heh…imagine you using such fancy words."

"Imagine you cuddling with me like this."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"Must mean that I am falling for you."

"When you do, you'll know."

"Wheee…"

Shizuo said nothing but he wondered to what extent Izaya could delude himself without even realizing it. He kissed Izaya's forehead who giggled like it was all a big joke. Shizuo had found out that laughing at things was a clever defense mechanism for Izaya. Which meant that it was up to Shizuo to dismantle it.

To expose the truth underneath just as he had unpeeled Izaya of clothes. Except it was exceedingly more difficult and complicated.


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