Knowledge

Chapter 5

Failing to explore an opportunity was a true sin as far as Izaya was concerned. He chose a high end jewelry store to assess how much Shizuo's funds increased. His rings were all for effect and considerably cheap. Whether Shizuo was aware of this or not was a point to later consider. Either way Shizuo had tagged along and thus landed himself on very foreign territory.

Izaya picked up a silvery ring from a soft dark blue case and studied it with care. Spotlessly clean windows opened up the store to the crowd of onlookers. A very eager female employee was engaged in the laudable duty of persuading Izaya to buy something insanely expensive while hoping to get his phone number.

"What do you think? Pretty, isn't it?"

"They all look the same to me."

Izaya shrugged.

"Please pardon my friend, he lacks manners. By the way, you should drop your boyfriend for someone better."

The girl jumped behind the counter. Izaya pretended to become even more interested in the assorted rings. This was his moment. A practical demonstration of his powers.

"Sir…?"

He finally looked up to establish direct eye contact.

"That necklace is a trinket. And I don't think you're the kind of girl to wear such an unstylish thing. It's a gift, isn't it?"

"Yes, but-"

"You must ask yourself now how much he cares for you. Shouldn't he give you something equivalent to his feelings for you? Please reconsider this relationship. Oh, and I'll be taking this one. Is that alright, Heiwajima-san?"

Shizuo did not answer right away.

"Sure."

"Excellent."

Izaya left with a brilliant smile and a wave. The girl stood grounded on the spot.

"What was that all about?"

"Ah, all in due time. Let us wait and you shall see."

Izaya parked them conveniently in an alley that ran parallel to the personnel room. Fifteen minutes later they overheard a one-sided telephone conversation in which the girl firmly broke up with whoever was on the other side.

"And there you have it."

"You tricked her."

"Did I now."

"I dunno just how you did it but you tricked her. Sounds like a lame reason to dump someone."

Izaya giggled.

"People always want to believe that they deserve more than what they have. It was obvious that the necklace was a gift since it did not at all match her style."

"Doesn't mean it's the guy's fault."

Izaya beamed.

"Indeed. But she was already half-convinced before I even said anything. No one who is actually happy in their relationship will goggle up people the way she was doing. And not everyone is lucky enough to have a hunk buying them pretty rings."

He let the implications hang. Triumph hyped his twisted joy.

"I guess it worked 'cause you kissed her ass so much."

"Precisely. Compliment someone and they'll be so much more likely to hear you out."

They had drifted to a small café and Shizuo was silently brooding.

"So what, people are like chess pieces that you move around?"

Izaya's eyes flashed brightly.

"That is just what they are. Do you know what the difference between a king and a pawn is? None. It does not matter how important you may be in the board, it only matters who is playing. 'Hate the player', the game is a byproduct only. A true player designs the game."

Shizuo mulled it over.

"So that's your plan. It won't work."

"So you say."

Shizuo shook his head. Izaya could not decipher the long stare that displaced him. There was something uncanny in sitting at a small table like this, the normality of it all did not add up.

"It can't work. You're not god, you're Orihara Izaya. Sure, you're real clever and know what makes people tick but you're a person yourself. I know for a fact that you get afraid, sad and even angry."

Izaya shrugged.

"There are plenty of god conceptions in which such traits do not conflict."

"Doesn't change the fact that to do what you want, you'd have to be beyond human, well, everything. It'll never work."

"We'll just have to wait and see."

Shizuo shook his head again and Izaya froze to the spot as a large hand cupped his face.

"There's no way you'll give up and it will kill you. Probably in a short while."

"What, I'm an endangered species?"

"More like a doomed one."

Shizuo trailed the hint of a caress as he removed his hand, lightly touching his hair. Izaya pulled himself together with an effort.

"My, why so serious and fatalistic all of a sudden? I am sorry to disappoint you but I have no intention of dying any time soon. Granted, a lot of people would rejoice at that but I very invested in my individual survival."

"Just not enough to let go of your crazy ambitions."

Izaya laughed, almost shakily.

"I think I'll call you 'Cassandra' from now on. Got any more prophecies of gloom and doom?"

Shizuo leaned closer. It was rare for Izaya to dislike being the center of attention but it was so now.

"This time we're spending together is probably the last time I'll get of ever figuring you out."

"Isn't that wonderful! You can dance on my grave then. Or drop a vending machine on it."

A curt nod on Shizuo's part.

"That's what I thought at first. But now…I'm just not too sure."

"Could it be that my amazing charm is having its effect on you?"

Izaya sounded chirpy and offhand. He was anything but.

"It's not like that."

"What is it then?"

Snappy now.

"I'm sorry for you."

"Sorry? What on Earth for?"

Izaya was too surprised to even be angry.

"Because you're pitiful."

Izaya forced a chuckle.

"Says the guy who lives in a square meter apartment and that everyone is afraid of."

"You're alone in the world. For all your contacts you're completely alone, aren't you?"

"Are you honestly pitying me?"

"I guess. But I can't help being sorry for you."

Izaya laced his hands and placed his chin on them. The new platinum ring stood out from the rest by its purer silver glimmer.

"You have some sort of agenda. Were you hired by someone to see if you could get under my skin?

An odd choice all around but who can tell-"

"Is it that difficult for you to accept that I'm sorry for you? You're…such a waste of potential."

Izaya had a pointed remark ready but he never got around to it. Because Shizuo cut him off with a kiss. Brief but unmistakable real. Izaya flung himself back brusquely, nearly knocking down his chair.

He trembled slightly in dismay. His inner balance collapsed beneath him.

"Heiwajima-san, if you think that you can rile me, I must tell you-"

"Nah, I just felt like doing it."

Izaya forced himself to hold his ground, going against every single ounce of instinct that instructed him to make a run for it and keep running.

"What a shame, I'm afraid you're simply not at all my type."

"What is your type, by the way?"

Izaya was not in the mood for answering but leaving at this point was accepting a loss. Their table was conveniently screened by a lush plant and placed in a corner, tucked away from the rest of the tables, and the café was practically empty as it was. It was also clearly understaffed since no one had bothered to check what the commotion was all about. So no one had seen Shizuo break the laws of sanity. Izaya sat back and adopted a flippant attitude.

"I am into slim built people with a pretty face. Red eyes and a flair for the sardonic are a bonus. Gender is not very relevant."

Shizuo nodded as if he expected exactly this.

"You just described yourself, you know. So basically your ideal partner is yourself. And your best friend, probably only, is yourself. And the only person that laughs at your jokes is…yourself. I'm not too smart like you'd say but I see a pattern here."

"Poor me, I am so lonely that I need free hugs now."

Izaya's smile grew wider and thin. His anger simmered just underneath the surface of detached sarcasm. He touched the handle of his switchblade in his pocket.

"Your place is real big. And you live there on your own."

Izaya leaned forward.

"Tell you what, next time you visit, I'll make sure to have a live-in girlfriend just to shut you up. How does that sound?"

Shizuo blinked.

"What do you mean, that I'd be jealous?"

Izaya had not at all considered this. But everything was already a few degrees of insane as it was. He could taste overly sweet latte on his lips. Unpleased.

"Would you?"

Shizuo added more sugar to his cup.

"You're the one answering. That's our deal."

"Our deal, Heiwajima-san, was over the moment you kissed me."

"Don't you do that kind of thing with employers?"

"Work-related, not answering."

Shizuo turned a spoon. It hit the china with each full circle on sugary foamy liquid. Izaya felt a bit queasy.

"I don't think jealous is the right word…but it'd be weird."

"Weird, you say. And you and I having a cup of coffee like this as if we were about to fade into the sunset hand in hand isn't weird?"

"It kinda feels normal…being here with you, I mean. I thought you'd be a better kisser."

"I don't normally lock lips with people who have tried to kill me. Repeatedly, even. So do excuse if my technique was lacking."

Shizuo kept on drinking his latte.

"If I wanted to kill you, I'd had dropped you back at the rooftop."

"Did you forget all the times I escaped by a hair's breath from your bouts of senseless violence? Throwing vending machines at someone is hardly 'nice'."

Izaya allowed for pent up resentment to become overt.

"You know, for someone who is so smart and stuff, you sure can be dim every now and then."

"Be very careful of what you say and do at this point, Heiwajima-san."

"You really think that I always missed hitting you with those vending machines?"

Izaya started violently.

"Do you expect me to believe that you missed on purpose?"

"Believe what you want but I don't like violence."

"Ah yes, the 'I love peace' idiotic argument. The only peace related thing about you is your name. Irony at its finest."

Shizuo's nod annoyed Izaya in a way that he could not comprehend.

"Yeah, I know how it sounds but I just lose my temper at times and I never wanted to kill anyone. Not even you."

"Remind me to nominate you for the next Nobel Peace Prize."

"I had plenty of opportunities for crushing you and you are a pain in the ass more often than not, but I tried not to hurt you too much. I'd be fine if you just left me alone and didn't bother me in my turf."

Here was completely new and jarring information.

"Oh really. Then how come you dropped by my apartment with this ridiculous proposal of yours?"

Shizuo took some time to answer.

"I've been thinking about it for a while, if there was something not completely bad about you. Turns out you're not entirely fucked up."

"Is that supposed to be a compliment?"

"Nah, just the truth."

Izaya glared then reeled himself in.

"You're not being very consistent. I thought you were A-Okay with letting me fall to my death but you want me to believe that you've been looking out for my well-being all this time."

"Same goes for you. You said that you were flattered that I finally needed you and now you're on freak out mode or something. And I never said I had some special interest in you or anything like that."

Izaya rolled his eyes.

"Heiwajima-san, could it be that you've been reading manga of dubious repute in which this kind of awkwardly unlikely situation ends up in hate sex and then 'eternal love' then I must tell you that fiction and reality are ontologically distinct realms."

"Bet you never lose at Scrabble."

"I never lose at anything."

Izaya had reached a tentative conclusion. A scenario in which Shizuo was deliberately out to sabotage Izaya's street credit. It made sense except for the nearly deserted café. But Izaya's cunning was always sharp when it was at its most suspicious and he was almost sure he could spot hidden cameras. Or perhaps the glimmer on a window two stories high across the street was in fact from a telescopic device.

"Must get real boring for the other people."

"I don't know what kind of game you think you're playing here but you will regret it."

Izaya was on his feet, placing a few bills on the table. He needed not a grand but a suave exit.

"You already lost, then. If you don't know. Since you're an informant. Not knowing is pretty much failing."

"And with this I conclude our business relationship, Heiwajima-san."

Izaya had had enough of this as it was.

"So it's personal from now on?"

"I don't think you understand. There won't be a 'now on'."

Shizuo attacked a strawberry parfait.

"You're real weird, Izaya. You get more scared by a kiss than by nearly dying."

There were times when Orihara Izaya trusted his gut feeling to bypass a crisis. He did so now by getting on the table with a feline's dexterous stealth and forcing a harsh kiss on Shizuo. Fueling deeply seated anger into it. With plenty of teeth. Izaya placed the edge of his blade on Shizuo's throat without even breaking the kiss. He was not even surprised that Shizuo kissed back. Beneath the light taste of overly sugared coffee was the darker undertone of nicotine. Izaya hated both equally. But the high of throwing things off kilter was intoxicating in its own right. And if he was being recorded then so much for that, blackmailers would be unable to have anything on him if he took action himself.

"Who is afraid, Heiwajima-san?"

"I take it back, you're a great kisser."

Izaya wiped a thread of saliva from his swollen lips. He was breathless and euphoric. A wicked smile matched the lurid light in his eyes. Shizuo thought that he looked like a skinny kitty, smooth black coat and all claws.

"Trying to play me is unwise. I'm the one calling the shots."

"Go easy on the biting, though. But I guess that's your style."

Shizuo patted his head. Izaya's triumph deflated immediately. He retracted the blade and bounced. They both ignored a horrified waitress.

"I'm out of here."

"Oh, I know. Next time let's get you a pretty silvery bell to go with the new ring."

Said ring came flying at Shizuo and Izaya was gone in a few strides, nearly elbowing the waitress on his way out.

Shizuo waited a few more moments. He remembered hearing this old-ish song that stuck to him and asking Kasuka to translate it for him. It went, 'Beware the bottled thoughts of angry young men'. The line had stayed with him. It described Izaya's present condition remarkably well. Shizuo was sorry for whoever crossed paths with Orihara Izaya in the next couple of hours.

With such considerations in mind he went back to the jewelry store to return the ring. He had to rinse his mouth of blood, there was a lot of bite to Izaya. Literally. But Shizuo was no stranger to injuries. A negative consequence of his brutal strength was that it turned against his body as much as on the world at large. Shizuo had seen more than his fair share of hospital time. Growing up was breaking bones. A great slice of the so called best years of his life had been wasted on his back, immobilized in casts, looking out a window and feeling discontent.

Which was not to say that the horrible pet knife that Izaya kept like some memento did not fill him with dread. Not because it was particularly sharp but because of what it represented. It figured that Izaya would use it in this latest chapter of their increasingly convoluted history.

"Your friend didn't like it?"

The store's girl peered at Shizuo.

"Nah, turns out he didn't."

"Say, is your friend single? I don't want to sound too forward but-"

"You want his phone number?"

"If you don't think he'd mind it."

Shizuo knew that he was probably about to sacrifice her but he wanted to see how Izaya would react. Once he started to push Izaya's buttons, he realized that he could not stop. Besides, Shizuo hated shallow people who cared for money like leeches for blood. He had reorganized his schedule for these meetings and since there was no predefined limit to these, he was now left with some free time. Shizuo roamed half-aimlessly for a while until he reached the usual park where he sat on the usual bench.

He could not smoke here either, Tokyo was indeed morphing into a disinfected maze inside which a multitude of rats struggled to find the providential cheese at the center. Shizuo produced a cigarette and inhaled deeply. Dealing with Izaya required he upped his nicotine intake. But it was undoubtedly worth it. For the very first time he felt that he had the upper hand. Izaya's sly tactics were ever throwing a smoke screen. Shizuo thought of Izaya as a novel with so many twists and turns that the reader was lost at every other chapter.

Shizuo puffed in contemplative silence. Kissing a man turned out not to be a traumatic experience. It was his first time, too. As far as irony went, few things fit the bill more than Izaya spinning his wheels over a kiss while Shizuo calmly sat here and thought things over. The problem with being too used to being in control was that failure hit doubly hard.

Shizuo had no issues with screwing things up because he knew all about it. A life-long habit of mastering destructive anger had given Shizuo a certain leverage. It often tottered and ended up imploding but Shizuo knew all about being angry while Izaya was clueless. If it was a battle of knowledge then Izaya was on the losing side for once.

Shizuo looked to his free hand. He could still feel a touch of Izaya's soft hair, it reminded him of cat fur. There was something weird in someone so dangerous being so kitty-like. Shizuo ignored the predatory undertones to this, instead the cat imagery led him to think of Izaya getting more and more entangled in a yarn of wool. It suited him as much as the standard puppet master image did. And Heiwajima Shizuo had a soft spot for kittens.


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