Knowledge

Chapter 17

Izaya shook off lethargy and busied himself buying cell phones that he proceeded to charge.

"What're you doing? Starting a collection?"

"The electricity may be back for the time being but I'm not taking any chances. Since it can go down at any time I might as well be prepared."

"Yeah, makes sense."

"And now…let's go for a walk. I'm sick and tired of staying cooped indoors and the weather report says that today there will be no heavy rain."

Izaya took a deep breath of fresh air still scented with rain. He walked slowly along the beach and under a low sky of leaden grey. His eyes were on the concrete until he lifted them to the nebulous sea. Izaya pulled over the hood. For a while there was only silence between them.

"Shizuo…if something happens to me, can I trust you to help Kururi and Mairu?"

"What's this all of a sudden? Weren't you going to live forever?"

"That is the ideal situation. But I can't exactly dismiss reality. I am asking you if you will be there for my sisters if need be."

Izaya ceased scanning the faded line of the gray horizon and Shizuo was surprised by his unfaltering gaze.

"You're serious about this."

"I've never been more serious. I know that you like them and they like you."

Cold wind carried specks of rainwater.

"I don't know how to feel about that. In a way, I don't like this attitude of yours. It's like you expect things to go wrong. On the other hand it tells me that you trust me a lot. And that's flattering."

"Will you do it or not?"

"I won't have to, nothing is going to happen to you."

Izaya sighed and looked away.

"Don't avoid the question."

Shizuo had to tilt Izaya's chin.

"Try listening to me until the end, okay? I'd watch over them. All I was saying is that it won't be needed. Because I won't let anything bad happen to you."

"Don't get me wrong me here. I have no plans of losing. And this says nothing about how I feel about you."

"Okay. How do you feel about me?"

Izaya chuckled with some effort.

"Is this the part I tell you how I love you ever so much?"

"It's the part where you tell me your feelings."

Izaya kicked a bit of gravel.

"This is hardly fair. You have a spooky way of telling when I'm lying."

"Why does that matter here?"

"It does."

Shizuo took a long drag and exhaled slowly. Palm trees rustled overhead in the not yet tamed winds.

"I'll take that as a confession."

"That is a complete non sequitur.."

"Dunno what that is. But what else could it be? Besides, who's being unfair here? I've told you how I feel. Plenty of times, too. You're the one not telling stuff."

"Fine. I think that you are an annoying person that intrudes in my personal space far too much."

Izaya was completely surprised by Shizuo's bright smile.

"Hey, that's not too bad. No talk about how I'm less than an animal. I'll take that. For the time being."

Izaya folded his arms.

"The time being?"

"Yeah."

Izaya dug his hands into his pockets and carried on walking. Shizuo followed a few steps behind.

"By the way, don't kiss me after sex."

"Why? You seem to like it."

"I only care for kissing as foreplay. To do it otherwise is something couples do."

"'kay. If you say so."

"Good."

Shizuo allowed Izaya to walk ahead of him in silence for a while longer.

"So, you don't dislike doing things that only couples do."

Izaya halted suddenly and spun around.

"Stop twisting my words. I just said I disliked it."

"But that's not true. You're fine with it. That seems to be the problem…"

"You are reading too much into it."

"I doubt you'd even bring it up if it didn't bother you."

Izaya flailed.

"I just said that it bothered me. Are you becoming thick again?"

"It bothers you but not because you don't like it. It bothers you because you do like it."

"Fine, keep your silly delusions if it makes you happy."

Izaya wanted to walk off angrily but he knew it would surely backfire.

"Izaya? If you liked me- and it's the 'hypothetical' thing again- if you liked me…would you tell me?"

It was unanswerable.

"What is this love talk all of a sudden?"

"Forget love for a sec. I mean like."

"This is just useless speculation."

"Then you should be fine with it. Answering 'if' questions is what you do. So what is your answer?"

"How am I supposed to even answer that?"

"Try the truth."

"What, for a change?"

"Not really. You tell the truth at times. More often than not as of late."

"And you figured you'd just use the favorable momentum."

"It's a simple question."

"It's a compromising question."

"Only if you make it that way. So, would you tell me?"

Izaya was silent for a while. Gathering himself.

"I wouldn't tell you, no."

"Why not?"

"If you can't figure it out then you have no right in even trying to mind screw me."

"I'm not trying to do that anyway. I just want you to answer."

"I wouldn't tell you because it'd place me in a highly disadvantageous situation."

"You see it as losing."

Shizuo mused over this.

"Obviously."

"I guess it's not something easy to say…that you like someone."

"It's a power struggle. The last thing you do in a power struggle is to flop over and concede defeat."

Shizuo patted his head much to Izaya's displeasure.

"That's a sad way of looking at things."

"It's the truth."

"How come I haven't 'lost' as you put it? I'll say it as many times as I have to, I like you."

Izaya made an attempt at chuckling. It sounded hollow.

"That's because you use this 'like' of yours to confuse me."

"There have been times when you've forgotten that you're supposed to hate me. And not just in bed either."

"Oh? Is this a case of very low expectations? In which 'not hate' equals 'liking'?"

"Kasuka told me the other day, that even if I had reasons for hating you there might be good things about you too. Things that I didn't know."

Izaya blinked.

"So you got the idea from Kasuka?"

"Kinda, yeah."

"How odd."

"With you and me, because of the all the bad blood between us, 'not hate' is pretty good."

"So very true. That still does not answer what you want of me."

"It's real simple. If you like someone then you want that person to like you back."

Izaya took a step forward, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

"You are trying to force me to admit to 'liking' you. I take offense with that."

"Nah. But you just said that you even if you liked me you wouldn't have the guts to say so."

Shizuo cupped his cheek.

"I see what you're doing. Should I get all offended at being called a coward and go off on some tirade?"

"You should just tell me how you feel. No matter what it is."

Izaya wanted to pursue this Kasuka angle further but he was in no position to do so.

"I am being truthful. I could just say that I'd tell you but in reality I wouldn't."

"I appreciate it. It's still sad. But it gives me some hope."

Izaya sighed deeply.

"Why do you have to do this. You are twisting my words completely."

"That's your fault. The moment you admit that you wouldn't tell me then I can't tell that you don't like me because you'd deny it either way."

"Join the local debate team if you like bickering so much."

"I get it, you have to lie a lot in your job and you wouldn't have picked it if you weren't good at lying but at some point it becomes too much."

"Says who?"

"You know I'm right about it. If you liked me would you even admit it to yourself? Never mind telling me, would you be honest with yourself? Or even, could you be honest with yourself."

"For someone who 'likes' me ever so much you sure can be a pain in the ass."

"I never said I'd put up with your bullshit."

Izaya zipped up his jacket. A defensive act.

"Whatever. I am going for a walk on my own. It's like you're the KGB with this 24/7 stalking."

"You're running away."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, aren't you?"

Izaya considering literally bolting down the street. After all, he could outrun Shizuo any day of the week.

"What the hell do you want me to say?"

"How you feel. That's all. You can say whatever you want but you would never entrust me with your sisters if you didn't like me at least one bit. Because people are connected."

"Brilliant, suddenly it's Lain."

"Dunno what that is. But Mairu and Kururi are too important to you for you not to choose someone you like to watch over them."

"Or they are important enough that I'd pick a person that really cares for them even if I personally don't like him."

"That could be it."

"But you don't sound at all convinced. What, I can't act selflessly?"

Shizuo shook his head. He had the feeling that he was fighting his way up a steep ravine.

"I know you can. You're the one who claims to be completely selfish."

"Why do you have to ruin everything? When I finally get to leave that prison of a hotel you simply have to ruin it for no good reason."

"Sorry about that but there's plenty of reason."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"Oh gee. Like what?"

"Like finding out what your feelings are."

"And now you know! Hurrah for that!"

Shizuo could tell that Izaya was strengthened in antagonism and one step from becoming unreachable.

"You wouldn't choose someone you hate to take care of your sisters. Because to you being with them is a privilege, isn't it? Selfless or not, you'd choose someone you like. Never someone you viewed as an enemy."

"I am not having this conversation."

"More than that, you wouldn't choose someone who would badmouth your memory if you're gone. So, Izaya…you know that I like you a lot."

"Good for you. Does this mean I'm getting chocolates next Valentine's? Or is it White Day, I'm not too sure how it works with same gender-"

"'Couples'. That's the word you're looking for."

"-'fuck buddies'. That's the expression I was looking for. Or do you read minds now? What am I thinking now, Shizu-chan?"

"Maybe something like, 'If I piss him off enough he'll let the matter slide.'"

Izaya took a step back.

"You're just butt hurt that I won't like you or whatever."

"No matter how you look at it, you're the one who is very angry here."

"Only because you are constructing faulty arguments about me and turning this into a semantic bog."

"Haven't you thought that you could get used to being with me?"

"The sex is good but you're not the only good fuck out there."

"But I'm the only person you actually sleep with."

Izaya clenched his hands into fists.

"So what? We're staying in the same room, it's more practical that way."

"Practical? In such a large suite? There's a lot of space and an extra bed is a phone call away."

"Will you be telling your brother about this 'like' of yours?"

"I'm not afraid of admitting how I feel so sure, why not. It's not like I have to hide it."

"Good for you."

Izaya produced one of his cell phones and punched the keys furiously. But stopped suddenly. He returned it to his pocket.

"Look, can't you just let this go? Isn't it fine talking and rolling around some every now and then? Just…just don't try to spin this into something more."

"It's no enough because that's just a part of it. Izaya, I guess I'm asking for a lot here-"

"You're asking for the impossible."

"-but I can't help it."

"Sucks being you, then."

Izaya was aware that he was coming across as sullen but it matched his mood.

"Okay. How would it be if we were a couple, then?"

"How?"

"Yeah. What would change?"

"I'd be all 'kya, love you so much!'?"

"Be serious about it."

"I'm not too sure, actually."

Shizuo stepped on a cigarette.

"Want to try and find out?"

"Obviously not."

"So you want us to just get along?"

"I am fine with that."

"Is it the label that bothers you? Stuff like 'couple'."

"I dislike it."

"With someone like you it must take a lot to admit your real feelings."

Izaya sighed.

"I don't need this now. Tonight I have something very important to do and you're distracting me. I can't function properly if you keep messing with me. So give me a break here."

"Sorry. Didn't think of that. We can talk about this later."

Izaya smiled. It was very reassuring to be able to call a truce on these terms.

"Thanks."

He heard a step on the wet pavement.

"Orihara, glad I could find you."

Izaya recognized the voice without even turning around. He tried to steel himself.

"Hello, Shiki-san. Has the airport reopened already?"

"First flight in."

"I see! Well, welcome to Okinawa! Gorgeous island all around."

Izaya was a bit at a loss as how to gel with this sudden new situation so he tried to settle the flow by being upbeat. Shiki studied him without as much as blinking.

"I see. I have a meeting so I'll catch you later."

"Indeed."

Izaya kept a smooth smile until Shiki was no longer within sight.

"I wasn't expecting this. Shizuo, from this moment on we are assuming that our interaction in the hotel is super-visioned by Shiki-san."

"Reading you loud and clear."

Shizuo wrapped an arm around Izaya's waist. Izaya took a deep breath, inhaling rain weighted air. Fresh and clean. Then he tossed out his shoes and hopped onto the beach.

"See if you can catch me! For old time's sake."

Shizuo watched him smile in invitation and joined him in the sand.

"I'll count to ten, then. Give you a head start."

Izaya laughed.

"Heh, can you count all the way to ten!"

"One, two,"

"Oh no, the boy can count! I must flee!"

Izaya skipped away, giggling as he flapped his arms about, hood swishing as he pretended to run.

"-ten. Got you."

"Tch, can't parkour when the ground is so unstable."

Shizuo held him from behind, gently.

"Liar…you let me catch you."

"I thought you wanted that? Make up your mind, Shizuo."

"How about you do some 'human body' celebration and get naked again?"

Izaya giggled.

"It's too cold."

"And not enough of an audience?"

"Heh, I don't care about that."

"Look, your friend is back. Tiny crab."

Izaya disentangled himself from the loose embrace and spun around in mock horror.

"No! It will claw out my soul! Tiny crab! Is…tiny!"

Izaya burst out laughing and nearly fell. Then he stumbled backwards and Shizuo had to catch him.

"Is it that funny?"

"Hilarious!"

Izaya kissed him amidst giggles.

"You really are weird."

"Ah, nothing like a good laugh."

A cell phone ringtone interrupted the moment. Izaya picked it up.

"Saki? Really? Do tell."

Izaya listened for a while.

"I believe that I have a lead."

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