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August in Rapture

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Did the weight and all the pressure bleed you out?

You got away, but I still carry you around.

 


 

"Shizuo!"

I roll my eyes, responding to my name as if it were the very bane of my existence; salt rubbed into a gaping wound; poison burning down my throat. A sound which I could momentarily compare to that cliché nails-on-a-chalkboard sensation.

I fucking love when I’m minding my own, trying to clear my head during my walk home from work, only to be annoyed after an already annoying day. Seriously.

It’s wonderful.

Nothing more than a short “what” is my response through gritted teeth.

Catching up to me from wherever the hell he popped out of, Shinra catches my irritation along with a cloud of smoke as I blow it out through my nostrils. His smile falters just slightly as he hesitates to come closer. For all of the years that the young doctor has been my friend, he still forgets that my internal programming came with a short fuse. ThoughI can’t say I blame him for it.

Throughout my twenty-four (going on twenty-five, and damn, I feel old) years, only two people have been able to work their way around a temper that I can’t control. Only two people to make me feel some semblance of normal in this seriously fucked up world – my brother, Kasuka – and the very last person I want to talk about.

“Whoa. Sorry,” my bespectacled friend puts his hands up as if to admit defeat. “You’re on edge today.”

“Whatever,” I roll my eyes, taking another long drag from my cigarette.

“Those things are going to kill you one day, Shizuo,” he points out for the billionth time since I’ve started smoking. “You should quit.”

Generally, I tune him out at this, but today is different. Today, I feel like giving him something to shut him up.

“Can’t kill what’s dead,” I snort.

“Shizuo…” he sighs my name, indicating that I’ve failed to keep him quiet, “Maybe the good news I have will cheer you up.”

As if.

I haven’t heard good news for six years. I doubt he’s going to change that now.

“Tch… Right,” I scoff.

We’ve been here too damn many times for him to still try. There’s no point, really. It’s just going to get me more aggravated – which neither of us wants.

“I’m serious. It’s big news!”

“Fine… Spill.”

“Guess!”

Shinra!” I bark, having little patience for games.

“Fine, fine! Take the fun out of everything!” he laughs nervously as I contemplate putting my smoke out on his face. “Guess who is back in Tokyo.”

“…………”

For all of the infinite things crashing through my mind right now, I can’t manage to utter a single one as I stare at the dork. Surprise has my feet forgetting where they’re supposed to be taking me and I’m not sure if my blood is boiling or has reached absolute zero.

Of course. Of course after a day like today he would bring up the one thing I couldn’t want to think or talk about less. The one thing I try over and over to make myself forget.

And at the same time…

DAMN IT!

“Well…? Thoughts?” he asks after an uncomfortable staring contest.

Allowing myself to relax a little, I roll my eyes yet again, stubbornly attempting to will away the knots in my stomach and the racing of my heart. “Whatever.”

“You don’t care?!” he asks, incredulous.

“Tokyo is a huge prefecture,” I shrug. “What difference does it make?”

“Wow… So does that mean –“

“Means I’m over it, Shinra,” I cut him short. “Izaya can do what he wants. I don't give a fuck. S’not my business anymore.”

“That’s good to hear. I’m glad. In all honesty, Shizuo, I was expecting you to tell me you’d talked to him already. I guess not…”

“Right. So what does it have to do with me?” I wonder, hoping I can lower my heart rate before it fucking explodes.

“Celty and I thought it might be a good idea if we all got together to catch up. You know? Nothing fancy, just dinner or something.”

My balls.

If there’s anything I doubt, it’s that Celty and Shinra would agree about… that.

“And you’re inviting me?” I ask him.

“Of course. If anyone should –“

“Yeah… fine,” I grunt, immediately turning around and walking away before I end up buried deeper into details than I ever want to be.

Fuck my life.

 


 

What makes a man want to break a heart with ease?
I think I know.

 


 

Six years.

That’s how long it has been.

Six horrible fucking years. Miserable. Alone. Terrified. Drowning in regret. Six years anxiously pacing back and forth while I resisted the overwhelming desire to use the cellphone clenched in my fist as I failed to let go.

Six years of torment, and now I’m supposed to just accept that he’s back?

For fucking what?!

He left with this stupid ideology that there was nothing for him here; that he was better than everything he dared to leave behind. Better than Japan. Better than Ikebukuro. Better than his friends, his family.

Better than everyone.

Better than me.

Too good.

And shit. I don’t know! Maybe he is! Probably!

But if he’s going to leave, he should stay gone. He should stay away from this place – away from me. Forever.

If there was nothing here when he left, then there’s nothing to come back to. If anything, things have only become worse. More desolate. More like…

Asphyxiation.

Like the very second it ended, I forgot how to breathe. Like an anvil has been pushing down on my chest, forcing the air from my lungs all this time. Killing me slowly.

And now that he’s back… it feels a lot like drowning. So when I’m ready to catch my breath after holding it for so long, I can’t. Not because I don’t want to. Not because I don’t know how. I just fucking can’t.

The anvil has been removed and, despite it all, there’s still this swell of pressure making my stomach and lungs feel like they’re going to implode. Perhaps it’s tied to my ankle now; dragging me down, down, down to the very depths of the ocean where the pressure is too high for anything to survive.

And that’s what is happening now… but not because of him.

No.

Because of me.

Because I’m the idiot who didn’t see the failed logic in all of the things I did. All of the things that didn’t have to happen. I’m the moron who went against everything I believed in and did exactly what I didn’t want.

I created Hell for myself. Hell for him. Hell… for everybody.

And now, I’ve agreed to this stupid dinner, unable to remember how exactly I got myself tangled up in it anyway.

Regardless, it has been three horrible days since Shinra dropped the bomb, and he has asked me every six hours since then if I really was coming, because apparently, Izaya is excited to see me. And not that it matters or anything, but during these past three days, that damn flea hasn’t called, emailed, text messaged, or written to me once. Not like he used to.

Not like he did every fucking day for two of those six horrible years.

So you would think that if it were really true, I’d have heard something by now.

But no. Of course not.

Do I even deserve to? Not in the least.

Ugh. That isn’t even the point.

Now, here I am, worried while I wonder if he has finally given up; knowing that in six years, if he’s still holding on, he’s as pathetic as I am. Yet, for all of the unworldly strength contained in my body, he was always so much stronger.

Sucking in a deep breath, I reach for the door, feeling my hands begin to shake. I haven’t felt this nervous since a stupid play I got dragged into in high school.

Stage fright.

Yeah.

That’s the feeling.

Stepping into Russia Sushi, I look around for a moment, absorbing the familiar faces filling it. People who have been my friends and acquaintances for years I’ve lost track of. It’s funny how as time goes by, you forget certain things. Despite it all, I’ve kept every minusule fucking detail about one damn louse locked in my head. Six years to contemplate the three that I let go to waste. Were they a blessing or a curse? A swelling pit in my stomach tells me I may never know.

“Shizu-chan…?”

And this time, the voice which flows through my ears somehow hits me in the chest.

Closing my eyes, I turn around slowly, fearful for what I may see. Fearful that what I might see is something I’ll have to add to my long list of regrets.

What if I’ve hurt him beyond recognition? What happens if my cruelty has turned him into someone else?

Mustering what I can of my intestinal fortitude, I open my eyes on him, immediately taken aback by all that is laid out before me. Unsure and convinced that I may make a fool out of myself, I take a cautious step back toward the door, keeping my eyes on a familiar pair of ruby irises.

I could still run.

“Problem, officer?” he smirks, reaching out with his drink-free hand to flirtatiously tug at my tie.

Fuck it all. I knew I had a reason to worry.

I just didn’t know…

I didn’t expect…

“I-Izaya… You…”

He was always cute, but goddamn…

I’ve heard we, men, get better with age, but this is…

It’s like meeting him all over again.

A proud smirk has graced his soft lips, and reaches into those bloodlust eyes. Even in the dim light of the restaurant, his pale skin glows like the full moon while raven hair – just as soft as the bird’s feathers – bring out his best features as it falls around his face in just the right way.

The difference between now and the past is that there’s an aged elegance which wasn’t there before. A maturity brought on by newfound wisdom through time of life and education.

He is still the same, slim Izaya I saw six years ago. Still smooth down to his very last breath, with clothing – while much more grown up than when we were eighteen – that fits well to his almost exotic form.

He has traded in his school uniform for a creamy white denim coat, trimmed in sandy fur, a crimson v-neck, and black jeans which show off the shape of his slender legs. Isn't he fucking hot in these clothes? Does he know what time of year it is?

It all takes me back to the day we met…

The first time I was captivated.

I remember the look in his eyes when I approached him on the soccer field. Narrow, deadly, ready to go in for the kill. Nothing frightened him, and it was fucking adorable that someone so small could be so fearless.

We were fifteen at the time. He was new to the school, but gaining popularity faster than a snake strikes its prey.

Shinra had told me there was something about the guy – some charm that had everyone wrapped around his finger. I didn’t believe it at first, but when I saw him, and later that day when I chased him around Ikebukuro for a chance to kick his puny ass, I knew I was another victim just trying to fight the confusing urges bursting to life inside of me.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how that predatory gleam had only ever focused on me. It wasn’t until I spent long nights, unable to sleep, that I delved into the past to make such a realization.

I’m an idiot.

I really am.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says smoothly, “I was worried you might not come.”

But his eyes show no such emotions.

“Y-yeah… well… Shinra invited me, and uh…”

He chuckles. God, does it feel good to hear that laugh again. “You don’t need to make up an excuse, Shizu-chan. It’s okay.”

“You mean… you’re not mad?” I blurt, unable to catch the words before they run off my tongue.

He raises a thin black brow. “Mad… about what?”

Immediately, my eyes drop to the floor in shame. I can feel various pairs of eyes watching us intently; however, I can’t bring myself to care about anything other than the man standing in front of me.

“Oh!” he is struck with realization. “That…”

Is this some kind of act? What are you doing…?

“Yeah… that…” I mutter.

“Truthfully? I hadn’t thought much of it. No. Of course I’m not mad.”

Unable to believe what I am hearing, my eyes shoot back to his. “What?!”

“Man’s destiny is within himself,” he says, as if speaking out of a book.

“Elaborate,” I grumble.

He merely laughs again, placing his hand on my shoulder, “A lot has changed. Sit down and eat with us!”

Izaya cocks his head to the left, and glances at the table where Celty, Shinra, and a couple of other friends are enjoying a large variety of sushi.

“O-okay,” I mutter, realizing I’ll have to forfeit this round of mind games – a trait of his which I should have figured would never go away.

I follow him to the table, taking a seat across from him, watching in sick awe as he plops down in his seat and smiling brightly at a plate of ootoro. “You just can’t get this stuff in the states. Not like this!” he muses, popping one into his mouth. “I’ve missed Tokyo so much!”

 


 

And you talk like someone else...

 


 

“So you’re a cop now, Shizu-chan?” he asks about halfway through the meal.

I’m a little startled by the question. I’ve been awkwardly picking at my food since we sat down, telling myself over and over that I shouldn’t be here. All this time, I’ve been trying to tune out his many stories of what life is like overseas, in the United States. Each one reminds me of something I ruined… time I wasted… moments I can’t get back.

The only parts I managed to catch were the basics.

Apparently, he’s just landed a job as a psychoanalyst – perfect for his hobby of human observation. He speaks flawless, unaccented English on top of the Russian he learned in high school. And he graduated from some big university called Stanford in the top ten percentile – a big surprise considering his curiosity and knack for partying six nights a week.

Beyond that, I don’t care about his first time in Las Vegas, or what it was like to spend a summer in New York City. Stories of the original Disneyland do not hold my interests, and I don’t laugh like the others do when he complains about Americans and their wretched habit for fast food and shopping at Wal-Mart. I don’t want to know about what cowboys and Indians are really like. And I couldn’t care less about Izaya’s American driver’s license or that he’s developed a taste for redheaded girls and blue eyes.

All I can think about is that he shouldn’t have come back. If he missed Japan that much, he never should have left.

Then again, I can’t blame him.

None of it is really his fault.

There’s a long pause between his question and my answer.

Still struggling to form words, I scratch the back of my neck, avoiding eye contact with anybody.

“Uh… yeah,” I answer, keeping my words limited before I make an ass out of myself.

“Officer Heiwajima. I never would have expected it from you,” I can feel his smile, “But hey, things change. What inspired you to take on the protection of this dangerous city?”

“Dunno,” I shrug, deciding not to entirely tell it like it is. “Tom-san likes it. Said it might be a good thing if I can take out my rage on scummy criminals.”

“Is it working?”

“I guess. Kinda.”

He laughs a little, making me wish he’d never stop. I don’t show any sign of enjoying it, though. I can’t.

“Ah, but you aren’t the purest of policemen are you,” he leers.

“What do you mean?” I snap, instantly jumping on the defense as I shoot him a special scowl.

Insulting my career choice already!? That’s bullshit!

“Shinra’s illegal operations are still underway, are they not?” he states with pride, barely shifting his glance back at the bespectacled man.

Shinra nearly chokes on a piece of octopus. “I told you I need the extra money!”

“And cleaning bullet holes in your apartment is really worth your license?!” Izaya chides playfully.

“It’s not really my business,” I say indifferently, “Not until I get a call. So…”

“There’s one way of looking at it. So what’s it like? Any big stories you’d like to share? Proud moments of protecting Ikebukuro? Shoot anybody?”

I know he’s trying to make friendly conversation. I get it. I do. In fact, he’s doing nothing wrong. It’s me. It’s always me. No matter how hard he tries, it always will be me… So why bother? Why am I even here?

Looking toward the door, I determine my options for a second. It isn’t too late to leave. I’m a free man. I can walk out of here at any time. I can pretend this night never happened. I can pretend this shit doesn’t hurt.

Rather than answer his question, I make an abrupt move to stand, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of my uniform’s pocket. I knew I should have gone home and changed first. I probably look extremely stupid…

“I need a smoke,” I announce, moving toward the door.

Simon passes me a glance from behind the sushi bar before his eyes flick back to Izaya, who watches me leave. I could have sat at our table and lit the thing, but I need some air.

Tch.

It’s just one excuse after the other with me.

 


  

Oh, can you tell I haven't slept very well since the last time that we spoke?

 


 

The nicotine hits me hard after a deep, full drag. Still, it fails to eliminate the stress I feel from being in his presence. After all that we’ve been through, I can’t determine how the guy can even look at me, much less start a casual conversation as if our relationship was as simple as two old acquaintances.

Shinra was wrong to invite me.

I don’t belong here. I don’t mesh well with these other people…

I don’t fit in with anyone.

Not since I destroyed everything.

That nerdy doctor thinks it’s unhealthy, constantly telling me that it has been too long, and I need to start exploring the possibility of a love life again.

Love? There’s none of that in this crooked heart of mine. If there were, I would have known what to do with it, instead of shattering the thing like I do with everything else I touch.

No matter what I say, his words are usually the same. His lectures always make the same point.

“Really, Shizuo,” he’ll tell me, pushing his thick-framed glasses up the bridge of his nose, “You’re the one who called it off. You should have been prepared to move on the moment it happened.”

But that’s the thing. I didn’t want it to happen. I failed. I failed to control it, even though I knew the destruction it would cause.

“Izaya is gone. It’s time you let somebody new into your life!”

But he doesn’t know that the first time he mentioned this fact, Izaya wasn’t gone at all. And I’m sure neither of us had the heart to tell our friend that I was actually trying to make myself invisible.

I was the one who wanted to be gone.

“You know what I mean, Shizuo. You’re a man in uniform now! Girls love that kind of thing!”

I’m not interested in girls. Not interested in guys either. I’m interested in Izaya and Izaya alone.

“That look on your face. It’s the same one you always wear. Like you’re thinking about him again, aren’t you? Shizuo, move on.”

Yes. I’m always thinking about him. Always. No. I will not move on. I know it was my fault, but I refuse.

Celty, even understanding me from start to finish as though she were reading a children's book, sided with her lover. Even without a head, that woman’s mind produces a logic that is hard to compete with.

I wonder if it’s a curse to be this stubborn…

[Shizuo, you’re worrying us. I know it’s difficult, but you need to try to be happy.]

I’m sorry, Celty. I am. Happiness isn’t something I deserve. I don’t even know how I made it this far…

Despite their words echoing in my mind with a desire to be of help, I feel like I can only rely on this cigarette, and all the tobacco to follow. I don’t want to trust myself to get attached to anyone.

I don’t want to break another heart.

What gave me the right to act as I did? Six years have passed, and the question still haunts me.

You gave me everything you could have. Then, when it came down to your dreams and the things you wanted most, I viciously threw it in your face. An apology could never be enough to make amends for the things I did to hurt you.

Bringing the cigarette up to my lips one more time, it takes me about five seconds, being that I’m lost in my own little world, to realize that it never makes it to my mouth before my eyes shoot open, and I find myself glaring at the raven-haired culprit responsible.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I growl, honing in on Izaya as he takes a drag. “And since when do you smoke?!”

He sighs as if I’m supposed to think it’s normal. Like he’s irritated that I don’t understand him. In fact, I think there’s a bit of a grimace on his face as I ask the question.

“I usually don’t,” he scoffs, “I just thought you could use the company. Are you alright?”

“Fine,” I break down into a sigh, “Just needed air…”

“Ne? In my opinion, you look like you need a couple of shots and a Xanax, but that’s just me.”

“Good thing nobody asked you.”

“Aye, Shizu-chan. That’s cold.”

With my cigarette now between his lips, I watch him lean up against the opposite wall as I light up a fresh one. I wish I had the heart to tell him that when he’s near me, the air evaporates from my surroundings. This is almost too much. I don’t want to suffocate anymore.

Life was bad enough with him gone. Now, he’s only a couple meters away from me, and the pain has intensified tenfold.

Once again, I don’t apologize for my harsh words. Like always, he wouldn’t expect it from me.

“So how have you been?” he asks after a long, uncomfortable staring contest.

“Fine.”

“You look tired.”

“That a problem?”

Izaya doesn’t need to know about all the sleep I’ve lost since Shinra dropped the bomb directly over my head. He doesn’t need to know that my mind has been plagued with thoughts of him for so long, always wondering why I did what I did to him.

“Of course not,” he smiles halfheartedly.

And in a matter of seconds, I’m faced with more overwhelming feelings beyond my control.

“Why did you come back?”

He’s almost incredulous, dropping the dying cigarette on the pavement, tensing at my sudden choice of words. “Tokyo is my home. I wanted to.”

“But why?!”

“What’s it to you?!” he snaps, managing to keep cool at the same time, “I just wanted to, alright? I was born here. It’s my fucking choice where I live, Shizuo.”

My name on his lips makes my blood run cold. It’s the only surefire way to know I’ve upset him until he actually begins to cry. That’s how it is. I guess that’s how it always will be.

He covers it up until he realizes he doesn’t have to.

I’ll never forget voicemail after voicemail, or all of the text messages I pretended to ignore. I’ll never forget hearing him on the other end of the line, struggling to keep it together; often failing miserably the minute words like “love” rolled off his tongue. Sometimes, he would beg for an answer of any sort, just something to know he was heard.

On top of that, I couldn’t begin to count the times he called drunk, leaving me to wake up to a message that only burned in every way words possibly could.

The sentiments I left him with were verging on bipolar… hating me one night, begging for me the next… Never faltering in the desire to keep holding on to me, and all of the pain I abandoned him with…

Knowing that it isn’t an excuse, or worth his forgiveness, he has no idea how many times I forced myself not to call. Be it for my pride, or the sake of making this the real thing, I made an unbreakable vow that I wouldn’t. I was going to let go for good.

Still, I could never erase the thoughts from my imagination… an image in my head of what it must be like to be halfway around the world, and all alone.

“If I’m being completely honest, I came back partially because I was worried about you,” the trail of words catches me off guard.

“What the fuck!?” is all I know to say – to shout.

Izaya chews on his bottom lip for a minute before going into an explanation. “Shinra called me about a month ago, telling me you were still having trouble getting past it…”

“So what?” I grumble, “Shit happens.”

“Shit happens, and we move on, Shizu-chan,” he scolds me, “But you haven’t moved on.”

I roll my eyes, being in no mood to be lectured. There’s no sense in denying it. I know he can see the truth.

“Why not?”

Desperation rings in his voice, only this one is much different than all of those I’ve heard before. It’s finding its way past all of my coldhearted defenses; absorbing into me and breaking me down. I have no reason to be bitter. If anyone should be crass right now, it’s Izaya.

My shoulders slump as I realize I don’t have much choice.

“Are you going to leave again?” I ask him.

He shakes his head. “I’m here to stay.”

“You never came back. In six years, you never came home. That’s my fault, isn’t it?”

He severs our eye contact and his eyes wander to the streets, looking all around before he turns back to me. He seems to be... afraid of something. “Would you mind if we went somewhere more private to have this talk?”

I watch the streetlights change the hue of his eyes from crimson to fiery orange as he turns back toward the street.

“And leave your own party?” I ask.

He smiles softly, keeping his eyes on the infinite city lights towering above us. A replacement of the stars we can’t see from the Tokyo skyline. Now is the part where the real Izaya exposes himself, letting the thoughts he keeps hidden behind elaborate stories and jokes reveal themselves to me… and me alone.

His eyes alone tell so much more than his mouth does.

The masks he wears to make a good impression are completely put away for now. No matter how much fun he may have been having in that restaurant, more important matters weigh on his mind.

“You don’t get a picture like this anywhere else,” he speaks somberly. “From Los Angeles to New York City, nothing compares. This is home.”

“Izaya…”

So much has changed. I can feel it. We’re entirely different people, but at the same time, standing so close like this, I feel like nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

But the change that is here… the one that does exist - it’s a broken change.

And that hurts… more than I could ever put into words.

His attention cycles back to my question. “The only reason I agreed to let Shinra have a party was because I knew if he did, you would show up, whether or not you wanted to.”

I step toward him before I can tell my feet to stop; however, I catch myself before I can reach out to touch him. “How did –“

“I just knew…”

I hate how a smile can be sad and real at the same time.

“I…”

“Don’t worry about it, Shizu-chan. I didn’t want to go either… for that same reason.”

“Where are you staying?” I ask abruptly. I don't want to start talking about these things right here.

“With Shiki-san.”

“Your old boss?”

“You’re the only one who didn’t keep in touch when I left…” he mutters, averting his crimson gaze. “He visited me on my birthday.”

“Oh…” Don't go getting jealous now, moron. You broke up with him.

“I’m renting an apartment in Shinjuku,” he explains, “But they’re repainting, and putting new tile in the bathrooms. It won’t be ready for a couple of weeks.”

“I see…” This is a bad idea. Of course, I’m going to do it anyway. “Then we can go to my place… It’s only a couple blocks from here.”

“That will be fine,” he accepts.

I lead the way, unsure if I should regret this or not. Given the shit storm I started, I probably should. Hell, I won’t be surprised if I do before we even get there. But I figure I should at least make an attempt at optimism… for both our sakes.

As we slip away down the alley, I wonder if he had any difficulty putting on that show inside Russia Sushi. Was it difficult for him to wear that perfect smile for everybody else? Or did it break him down even further to look at me without remorse?

It’s not that I think what he showed me in there was fake.

I don’t think it was…

However, I can’t stop myself from thinking that maybe he was burying everything he felt for me under what he feels for everything else. Maybe he wants to be mad… he just doesn’t want our friends to see it. It wouldn’t be the first time we left out pieces of the truth due to shame or embarrassment.

I couldn’t see it in his eyes… if he felt anything close to what he so obviously used to, I was blind to it back there.

For two years he tried every day to get so much as a single word out of me. I never gave it to him. I never gave him that which was the very least of what he deserved.

He has every right to hate me ten times more than I hate myself.

And I know. I can see it in his face… the hypocrisy.

“Shit happens. We move on.”

He hasn’t moved on either.

 


 

If you knew I was dying, would it change you?

 


 

“You’re right,” he says, the minute we’re inside my apartment and our shoes are off.

He doesn’t even regard my living space. No comments about the building, or the interior as I flip the light switch. No questions of why I chose this apartment, or when I moved out of my parents’ house. He doesn’t even regard the picture frames filled with memories upon memories. All of them excluding his existence. It’s as if he hasn’t seen it at all. He just… exists, here, in my living room. This doesn’t matter.

The walk here was cruelly silent, leaving me to only guess what he was thinking about along the way. Probably something along the lines of the infinite ways he wishes to murder me for breaking his heart. It’s probably something vindictive like that… It would be so Izaya.

First he’d use some fancy words and metaphors to gain a trust he hasn’t lost, and manipulate me into something dangerous. Then, right as I get comfortable, he would stab me in the throat, finally putting his switchblade fetish to good use.

Just for that… I hope I’m right.

“Uh…?”

“You’re the reason I never came back. Not even for a visit.”

How does he stay so calm?

Guilt bubbles in my stomach, making me nauseous beyond words. I really could throw up right now. But I know I had better hold it back. A part of me has been waiting for this for six, long years.

Following me into the kitchen, I can feel that his eyes never leave my back as I prepare some tea. I know I should stop avoiding his gaze; yet, I’m terrified to see all that those crimson gems have to say. Instead, I wait for the rest of his story.

Realizing the symbolism behind his silence after I pass him a cup of green tea, I sigh for the millionth time tonight. “Izaya… I didn’t – I mean… You could have come home.”

To which he hums his enigmantic response, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”

“Stop. Stop doing that,” I warn him against quoting more existentialistic lines that just rub salt into a festering wound.

“I could have come home,” he breathes, staring at his reflection in the green liquid, “If I had anything to come back to…”

His words burn worse than anything he has ever said to me before. Thinking that it might be a good idea to play stupid, I keep the conversation going. “What about your family…? Your sisters…?”

“Where have you been for six years?” the raven grimaces, setting the full cup on the counter. “My sisters have spent all of their holidays with me, and fully supported my decision to go. My parents work overseas. I saw them more in America than I ever saw them growing up here. I left nothing behind!”

The regret is tearing me up inside. Everything he doesn’t say is all that I can hear. “Did you even plan on coming back?”

He scoffs. “I was eighteen when I left, Shizuo. I went to school. I got my degree.”

“That doesn’t answer the question.”

“Yes it does. It means I wasn’t sure what I planned on. Toward the end, three months ago? Yes. I planned to return to Tokyo. Before then, I had no idea what was next. I was simply living in the now, if only to fight past much stronger, terrifying urges.”

Unable to think of a proper reply, I lean against the counter and speak the first words that come to mind. “Wanna know why I became a cop?”

The look on his face is cross. Even he – as brilliant as he is – does not understand the sudden subject change. “Shizu-chan, I really…”

“I did it because I go to work every day, hoping that I can do something worthy enough that I can make amends for what I did to you…”

It soaks in for a moment, until the way he takes a step back tells me I said something I shouldn’t have. Again.

“That… Damn it! You can’t just fix your mistakes with one person by making yourself a hero to another.”

He’s right. But…

“I’m no hero,” I shake my head. “And I don’t wanna be.”

Turning his back to me, he stalks into the living room, putting one foot in front of the other without hesitation until his small body finds my couch. He makes himself comfortable as he looks around.

The look on his face is completely unreadable once again.

“I loved you more than I could stand…” he says, devoid of emotion. An expression that only I know the meaning of.

“I know…” I mumble, plopping down next to him – probably much too close.

“And you…”

“I still love you more than I can stand…”

“You what…?”

“………”

“Shizuo…”

“I know it was wrong.”

“You left me.”

“I’m sorry.”

 


 

I thought I heard a plane crashing

But now I think it was your passion snapping

Izaya's POV


 

The letter in my hands tingled on my fingertips as my heart rocketed to precarious speeds. Each word was a dream come true, pulling me deeper and deeper into divine ecstasy. Once through it, word for word, my eyes rapidly scanned over the two sheets of pristine, white paper again and again, just making sure I had read it precisely. Even the gold trim around each page, and the crest imprinted at the top of the first page seemed entirely unreal to me.

It felt like flying.

As high as my confidence had always been, I had feared the worst as weeks turned to months. I never thought I’d get a response… But the words on the pages!

‘After a careful review of your edification, we have decided that you, Orihara Izaya, have been selected to be a part of an exclusive exchange program. Beginning on August 25, 2007, you will attend the University of your choosing from the list below.’

The most imperative words of the letter echoed in my mind repeatedly as I carefully stuffed the envelope in my school bag before making a mad dash down the street.

There was one person I wanted to share the news with. One person I couldn’t be more thrilled to tell.

 

***

 

Horror was probably the expression that painted my face as I let him see for himself. The truth.

“Really, Izaya?” Shizuo glanced up at me briefly, before going back to read the letter all over again.

“What do you mean?” I nearly fumbled my words, heart plummeting into my stomach when it hit me.

He wasn’t happy for me.

“You’re really gonna leave?”

I smiled nervously, dancing on the edge of my sanity as I tried to process what he was saying. He knew I wanted this. He knew it was my vision! So why? Why wasn’t he smiling with me? Why was he giving me such a cold look with those eyes, which were usually so warm and inviting?

Did he need the reminder?

“Shizu-chan,” the weak smile vanished, “This program has been my dream.”

He scoffed, rolling those caramel eyes. “Your dream, eh?”

“Don’t you remember? I told you –“

“Doesn’t mean I thought it would actually happen!”

I couldn’t believe it.

Snatching the letter out of his hands before he crumpled its perfection, I slid it back into my bag. “What? So you think all of those hours of cram school, and acing every test was a waste?”

“No. But apparently I am.”

My heart sunk even further, burning with anxiety. “W-what are you saying?”

He was being irrational. The beastly rage which I thought had finally dwindled down – at least toward me – was revealing itself for the first time in three years.

“What do you think, Izaya!?” he barked, “You’re just gonna pack up and go to America for four years, and then come back and have everything be completely normal?!”

“Six,” I foolishly corrected him, never being one to be dominated by his temper. “And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“US! I’m talking about us.”

“What about us?!”

“If you leave, it’s over,” he breathed, clenching his fists at his sides. Small trembles rippled over his sturdy form. “If you leave… these past three years will have been a waste.”

“These past three years?” I echoed, “Shizuo… this doesn’t have to end just because –“

“Do you really fucking believe that?!” he started, causing chills to race up my spine and down my arms. “You wanna be a fucking ocean apart and call it a relationship?!”

Sinking back a little, I found myself terrified of the complete seriousness in his fiery saffron eyes. I’d never seen a look so hopeless… so drained. So wildly furious and terrified, like a hunter suddenly becoming prey.

“Shizu-chan –“

“Don’t…” he closed his eyes and pressed his hands to his temples, “Don’t call me that right now.”

“Don’t think that I want to leave you.”

“Don’t then!” he hissed with a bite that sunk into my heart.

My chest was on fire with growing anxiety. My high had crashed like a jet out of fuel in midflight.

“But… I…” I sucked in a deep breath, averse to let everything I had worked for go. As much as I loved him, I knew in the depths of my heart that if we were meant to be together, we’d somehow find away. “I’m going. I’ve wanted this for far too long to give it up now.”

“Not even for me?” his voice trembled.

I couldn’t answer. For once, I had no words to back myself up. The desperate inquiry shook me harder than an earthquake, striking me down to the bone. By no means was I breaking up with him. By no means did I want to. By no means was I ready to lose the key component of my fucking happiness.

Shizuo didn’t see it that way.

Without another word to offer, he pulled a cigarette – a habit that I’d never appreciated – from his pocket. I watched in silence as he lit the thing, never expecting that after a single deep drag, he would literally walk out of my life for the next six years.

 


 

I've been trying hard to be rational.

Shizuo's POV


 

“You walked away from me…” Izaya speaks, curling into himself a little, as if he is cold.

I swear he even shivers. He’s more pale than he was moments ago – like there’s a ghost breathing down his neck. And maybe, just maybe, that ghost is the relationship I murdered.

“I know…”

Just as well as I know that I fucking deserve to live with my guilt.

“Nobody else abandoned me. I still had five months before I left. We could have worked it out… if you had just given us the chance… Why, Shizu-chan? Why did you walk away?”

Staring out the window, I try to distract myself with the clouds rolling in from the east. I want to focus on the approaching storm outside, rather than the one in this room.

From the look in Izaya’s eyes, I can tell that if I hurt him again – if I screw up – it may kill him.

The explanation doesn’t even make sense to me anymore… How much is he going to hate me when I tell him? How much would he hate me if I don’t?

“I couldn’t stand the thought of losing you,” I confess.

“So you dumped me?! If you could even call it that!” I should have known he’d be quick to throw this at me. “That is the most illogical excuse I have ever fucking heard.”

I agree.

“It was stupid… But for some reason, when you told me you were leaving, it made more sense to just break up with you then and there, than try to make it work.”

“Explain.”

“What if we failed? I don’t think I could have survived watching our relationship slowly fall apart; so I thought, maybe if I ended it then, I could just get over it before you were even gone…”

Suddenly, he uncurls himself, and stands up, pacing over to the window. In its reflection, I can see his crimson eyes burning with anger… and dare I say… tears.

“I’ve never felt so alone in my life,” he hisses, “You damn near killed me.”

I already knew that… but hearing the words from his mouth is an entirely new experience. Despite the friends we keep around us, I can tell that none of them could ease his suffering. I know because none of them could ease mine either. However badly I think I fell apart, he was handling it so much worse.

“I didn’t want to love what I couldn’t keep,” I try to explain myself better.

It’s not enough. And I know it never will be.

Turning back to face me, he scoffs, smiling somewhat sadistically. “But you do. Don’t you? Your crappy plan failed, ne?”

“Yes…”

“Tch…”

“What?”

“Nothing,” he shakes his head, beginning a slow pace up and down my living room, “I spent two years relying on your fucking voicemail message for the tiniest taste of the sound of your voice. Two years either crying myself to sleep over how much I missed you, or wishing I could just die so that I could be sucked into oblivion and never have to think of you again.”

By this time, tears are streaking his cheeks, rolling down his neck, and soaking into his shirt as he tries to wipe them away with the backs of his hands. I don’t know how he’s managing to keep that threatening calm and a level voice. I don’t even know how he hasn’t tried to kill me yet.

“Izaya –“

“I’m not finished,” he snaps, “Two years, Shizuo. Alone. In a country I’d never been to before. No friends. No family. And the only thing I wanted – the only one I needed – was so bent on forgetting me that he didn’t care how much pain I was in. Hell. What do I know? If he did, he did a phenomenal job of hiding it!”

“It wasn’t what I wanted,” is all I can say, feeling at my very smallest.

“I always thought that if we weren’t meant to be together, and we broke up, I’d be fine,” he speaks, more to himself than to me. “I’d get the fuck over it and find somebody better. Then, you left me with not even a hint of solace. So I got thinking… and it began to eat me alive. The questions of whether or not there really is anyone better than you.”

I feel like the scum of the earth… he shouldn’t be saying these things. I know I deserve to hear them, but...

“Then again… look how it all turned out. I spent six years learning how to read people to come home and learn that I can’t at all read you.”

“You do deserve better, Izaya,” I stand up, carefully stepping over to him. He seems a little startled by my movements.

He leans against the window, trying to stop his tears as he squeezes his ruby spheres tightly shut. “I do. But that’s the problem, Shizu-chan. I don’t want better.”

I think about Shiki. I think about how infatuated with Izaya that man has always been and how he visited him and made an effort to see him. I think about how well Izaya would live with a man like that; how he'd be much better off. He'd never have to worry about money and he would know, without a shadow of a doubt, that someone was there for him who would never give him up the way I did.

“So you want…”

“Someone I shouldn’t.” Tears re-line his eyes the very second he wipes the old layer away with his sleeve. “I’ve wanted this… for so long. But… it’s wrong, Shizuo.”

He shakes his head, burying his face in his hands.

Reaching out my hand, I aim to touch him, to feel his lithe form between my fingertips once again. Maybe, if nothing else, I can get him to stop all this crying. Of all things in the world… I feel like his tears are my biggest weakness. Instead, he’s much faster than I expected, immediately jerking away. It’s almost magnetic – the way he can feel me so close, like the electric currents ebbing and flowing between us are a million invisible threads holding us together.

It hurts to have these feelings, which keep us so close; yet so far away.

I don’t want to sever these ties. Neither does he.

So is this us holding onto something we can’t have? Or is it…

“Izaya…”

“I can’t…” he puts his arms up in defeat, avoiding my eyes, “I can’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“This! With you!” he says as if I’m an idiot.

I am.

Slipping past me, he rushes for the door. He wants out of here, and he couldn’t make it more obvious when a crash of thunder has him tripping over his shoes as he tries to put them on. His hand even glides over his heart, clutching the fabric of his shirt with long, trembling fingers.

He’s leaving again. Maybe not Tokyo… but… does it matter?

Seeing him like this puts me at a loss.

I can see by the look on his face that every second he spends near me is killing him just as it kills me, and I can’t stop myself from thinking that this could be a second chance to put right what I got wrong.

I didn’t prevent the fallout when I should have. Instead, I caused it. So maybe…

“Izaya,” trying my hardest, I speak his name one more time, but as I look from the window to the door, I’m met with a loud slam that shakes the walls. “Shit.”

Conflicting thoughts clash in my head. What the hell am I supposed to do?

In six years, I haven’t given him so much as a word. Now that I’ve finally been given that chance, I fucking blow it.

Time passes, but I can’t feel it moving while my eyes keep trained to the door. The sound of the slam still shudders through me as heavy raindrops begin to patter against the window.

Can I really afford more regret?

“No…”

Because…

“IZAYA!”

 


 

Come back to me. You know this is home.

 


 

Before I can seize control of my actions, I’m running out the door like a drunken lunatic (and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of drunken lunatics), stumbling down the hall in an attempt to get my shoes on, but much more concerned to get to him before it’s too late.

Hitting the streets, I can barely figure out which way as up as I begin to scan the surrounding area for fur, or any traces of that inky black hair.

Fuck. Who the hell am I kidding? This is Japan. Half of Tokyo has black hair.

Left. Right. Up. Down.

What the hell kind of difference does it make, especially in this maze of human bodies which form barriers around every damn corner? I hesitated too fucking long. There’s no way I’m going to find him in this mess of weather. Everywhere I look, I see umbrellas and rushed people struggling to find shelter for the night. And the way the rain catches the golden glow of the streetlights in each drop makes the water feel like a thick curtain of hopelessness.

Would he have gone back to Shiki’s place? I don’t even know the guy, let alone where he lives.

Shinra’s is too far from here to walk in this weather.

But Izaya could have gotten a cab.

No.

He wouldn’t do that. He’d never run to someone else and let them see him hurting. No matter how many years have passed, I know he hasn’t changed that much. Izaya is the kind of character who holds strong to his pride, even when the flame is nothing but a dull blue glow.

I know you, don’t I? Please, tell me I do. I know you.

Picking a direction based on chance alone, I go left, not exactly confident of what I might find… or not find. How far could he have gotten in the time I wasted? It’s hard to say when I don’t even know how long I stood there.

“IZAYA!!!” I call through the streets, catching awkward glances from pedestrians, who – much to my luck – catch my uniform, and slide out of the way.

They’re probably curiously wondering what a cop is doing dashing down the streets; calling a name that hasn’t been called in years. Do they remember those days? That time when his name was a violent battle cry?

It doesn’t matter now. Let them stare. This has nothing to do with them, and if they’re looking for a show, well, this is between the two of us.

How many times do I have to let him go before I lose him for good…?

I will find that raven before this night is over.

“Damn it, Izaya,” I lean against a wall, using it as support while I catch my breath.

Glancing around, I’m beginning to get a sense of what it must be like to be in his place. To be left. To have everything you hold close to your heart disappear, taking the delicate key to your life with it.

No. That’s not right either.

Izaya is the key to my life. He’s my heart’s power source. Without him… I’m cold and alone. I am nothing. Just a bitter fool getting what he deserves.

I’m dead.

If this is any semblance of what it feels like… I don’t deserve to find him. I deserve for my mind to keep playing tricks on me; to get my hopes up every time a thin, dark haired creature passes before my line of sight, just so I can be devastated when my eyes aren’t met with a bright pair of garnets.

Love might not be fair, but at least it knows how to get even.

During my career, I’ve caught and arrested a decent share of criminals. Drug dealers. Rapists. Robbers. Abusive spouses and parents. Gang members. Murderers. Two or three of each, even. And I’ve walked these streets, which I grew up on, a thousand times protecting them.

Needless to say, I know this world. I know all there is to know about it. Where the cheapest cigarettes are. The best place for the groceries. The restaurants with the freshest sushi. What time of day is best for travel, be it by train, cab, or foot. However, what I don’t know, is how none of it had ever mattered to me until the creature I can’t find appeared in my life with his abstract view of the world, constructed specifically to go against the grain of my stubborn ways.

It’s because of Izaya that I know the things I know now. It’s because of him that I love Ikebukuro, along with all of its oddities. It’s just that, without him, none of these things matter to me anymore. The liveliness of the surrounding world has faded to gray.

By now, I’ve been searching for at least an hour without any clues.

“Izaya,” I push myself off the wall in order to begin a lonely trek back home, “I’m not over you yet.”

 


 

So try to stick to your master plan,

Cause anything is better than the worst.

Whatever works for you.

 


 


My hope has died with the rain and the August heat is already drying my clothes a little, despite the humidity.

If Izaya wanted to be found, I would have found him. He ran off because he couldn’t handle the pressure, I’m sure. So why would he come back? Isn’t Ikebukuro just an old nightmare now?

Finally stopping to give myself a break, I fish around in my wet pockets for a cigarette, relieved to find that I left my pack and lighter on me. Though, even as I smoke the white stick, I feel like I don’t even deserve this one, tiny pleasure. Somebody else – somebody I love – is suffering because of me. So what do I do? Make myself feel better, of course.

I guess that’s just typical human nature for you. Selfish like that…

Izaya would agree. I know he would. In fact, he would probably be the first to mention it, but –

My thought is cut short as my instincts kick in on turbo. Something in my gut tells me the raven is close by.

Scanning the surrounding area for that lithe, little thing, my cigarette falls from my lips while my eyes drink in the sight of a damp fur-trimmed hood framing a solemn looking face. From across the street, he stares at his feet as he walks, trying to hide his emotion from anyone who may be watching. He’s probably too burnt out to keep hiding behind a different mask.

What the hell am I standing here for? Now is my chance.

“Izaya!” I call out to him, feeling like time has slowed as he comes to a stop; scanning the area with paranoia.

He doesn’t see me until I’m halfway across the street, dodging around a few sleepily moving cars to get to him. All he does is stare at me with oversized eyes until we’re nearly face-to-face. He’s having trouble accepting that I’ve come after him.

“Why did you follow me?” he suddenly snaps, venomously glaring my way.

“Izaya,” I repeat his name to allow myself the belief that I’ve finally caught up to him, “This storm is on and off madness. Come back to my place.”

“Come back for what, Shizu-chan?” he scoffs, crossing his thin arms.

“I dunno! To finish talking! A change of clothes at the very least!”

There’s a pause in the conversation as he laughs a little. “Finish talking about what? We’re done. I have nothing left to say!”

“W-what!? You just take off like that and we call it over?!”

“No,” he shakes his head, “We’ve been over for years.”

I sigh. “But we haven’t been over each other. At all.”

“What does it matter? I have nothing left to say to you, and I’ve heard all that I need to hear.”

“And we’re still miserable.”

“What do you expect!? It doesn’t just go away! Whether I love you or not, this –“

“Don’t tell me it’s a mistake,” I cut him off with a plea. “Don’t tell me you came all this way for some kind of confirmation that this isn’t the worst fucking feeling you’ve ever experienced.”

“I came all this way to come home,” he emphasizes. “And yes, maybe you’re part of the reason, but you aren’t…”

He trails off, clenching his eyes shut like he’s fighting back a headache. When he stays so still, I can see, again, the shivers rippling through him.

“Please,” I say, reaching out for his hand, “Please come back and talk to me.”

“No!” he resists a bit too slowly, eyes snapping open as my fingers curl around his delicate wrist.

Please…”

“Let me go!”

“I can’t.”

The expression comes clean off his face at the words I’ve used to twist his own.

And then, in a much quieter, weaker tone, “Shizuo… Let me go. Now.”

“I can’t,” same answer, “Not like this… not like this, I can’t.”

“Fuck! Shizuo! Let me go!” he comes more desperate, struggling harder against my firm grasp.

Pull after pull is more incentive for me keep holding on. I have a second opportunity. I’m taking it this time. I’m going to use it to do whatever I can.

“Listen to me, Izaya,” I tug him closer, earning a malicious hiss out of him.

In just short of a full flash, a shining object glints beneath the nearest streetlight, before pressing against my throat.

“Don’t think I won’t,” he warns me.

“If you do, you could spend your life in prison.”

“That’s fine. I’ve already spent plenty of time in Hell.”

“Izaya… don’t…”

“And what? You don’t think I know this system, Shizu-chan? You attacked me. This is self-defense. You could lose your badge.”

“Izaya, drop your knife.”

The blade quivers against my throat. His hold is so shaky, and unsure, lacking all of the smooth grandeur that he held within his person the last time I saw him so close.

“Let me go,” he demands, ignoring the infinite pairs of eyes curiously watching the scene at a safe distance.

“Knife.”

“Not until you let me go.”

Sucking in a deep breath, I’ve realized I don’t have much choice here. Still, I refuse to let him escape again.

Dropping his wrist, the knife is retracted back into his sleeve. He turns to walk away, but he doesn’t expect to be forced against the wall and handcuffed before a single step is taken.

“Shizuo!” he is quick to growl my name, “What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”

He squirms between the wall and my body, wiggling in every way possible with no avail.

“Unhand me!”

No… I’m not proud of myself for this. It’s wrong. It’s so fucking wrong of me… Pinning my ex down with all of my weight while I bind him to my desperate will… I know this isn’t okay. And yeah, I could lose my job over this.

“I’m taking you home,” I tell him, attempting to keep my calm as I tighten the cuffs around his wrist. I want them tight enough that he can’t escape, but not so tight they hurt. I pull on him gently, “Come on.”

“Tch,” he has no choice but to give in for now, “This is barbaric! Even for you!”

I know it is… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…

It must be humiliating, having so many silent eyes on you, thinking of you as some sort of criminal when you’ve done nothing wrong…

I’m causing a scene just like we used to. I’m forcing him to be part of something he doesn’t want anymore.

“Stop struggling,” I tug on him slightly. “It’ll be a lot easier if you don’t.”

“Nonsense! Release me, you Neanderthal!”

“I need you to listen.”

“You’re too late,” he grimaces, staring back at the countless pairs of eyes with his own narrow slits, “I tried to give you that chance already. You didn’t take it.”

“Maybe,” I breathe, “Maybe it is too late. Just let me try…”

We walk in silence back toward my apartment after that, neither of us willing to exchange a word after bitterness for the other’s attitude on this entire reunion. Neither of us is getting out of this unscathed. We’re both way too confused.

The past was a picture of perfection. The two of us were something incredible. Something unforgettable. Something I want back. And I’m willing to give every second of the rest of my life to reclaim it. Even if it kills me.

I’m clinging to a fantasy that he’s trying to shake off. Being that I’m the one who broke both of our hearts, it should be the other way around. Why should I be allowed to have something that I walked away from? Why should I make him suffer like this?

Halfway through our walk, he stops suddenly. “Is this what love does to people? Is this what it’s supposed to do?”

The tone in his voice is sad beyond description. Like a black hole has swallowed his world. My mouth is dry. My eyes are wet. I’m out of things to say. It’s the sort of heartbreak you feel at a funeral, days after the death when you’re all out of tears, but still find yourself choked by the sobs.

“For all those years I spent alone, I never thought I would come home to find myself like this… Shizu-chan, what in the world are we doing?”

Again. No answer.

“For all the hurt… torment… wasted nights, and nights spent wasted… For all of the loneliness and guilt between us… I still love you just as much as I did the day you left me.”

His words make me cringe. I feel the exact same way, but it doesn’t make it any better. It’s not just some bandage we can use to patch a wound that refuses to heal.

Shit, I wish I could call it a scar. But it never went away… it never even tried to get better. It just keeps bleeding. Incessantly bleeding, affecting everything we touch. Preventing us from giving what little love we have left to anyone else.

Izaya’s knees suddenly buckle, causing him to unceremoniously fall into a small heap on the damp pavement. Thunder roars overhead, implying another set of rain to be an unpredictable number of moments away.

“I wish you didn’t,” I finally find it within myself to choke out, “I wish you didn’t love me.”

“So do I,” his voice just keeps getting weaker.

“Izaya…”

“I’ll go back with you if you uncuff me, Shizuo…” he breathes shakily.

“How can I trust that you won’t run…?”

“Because… I won’t. Because as much as I want to, I don’t want to. However, I am certainly opposed to such possessive, animalistic behavior. Perhaps you lost yourself for a minute there, but it makes me uncomfortable… It’s ugly. It’s a version of you I tried to save you from.”

Izaya is right. There is a hideous beast dwelling inside of me and I cannot let it win this time around.

“I’m sorry,” I can never say the words enough.

Bending down, I unlatch the handcuffs, hooking them back to my belt where they belong. I never should have let myself become so desperate. It’s a horrible way to be.

And I know it’s not an excuse… but I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t get him back.

What sort of person does this make me? Acting this way… Even the nastiest of criminals are better than I am… What kind of love do I have for a person if I’m willing to treat him like I treat those criminals? What has Izaya done wrong in this?

He steadies himself, pushing off the ground on unstable legs. But he doesn’t stay up very long. Once again, his knees buckle, and I find myself hooking my hands under his arms to catch him this time.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, genuinely worried about the brunet.

“Ngh… Nothing…” he whispers between clenched teeth, visibly uncomfortable with my touch, “Just tired…”

He looks torn apart by exhaustion. I wonder if he’s still jetlagged or if he even bothered to find any rest after his flight home.

“You sure you’re okay to walk?”

Sliding out of my grasp, he silently nods. “Fine,” he insists, if only to topple over again.

 


 

Call me an enemy, but I hope you linger.

Won't you wake up and see it all for the first time?

 


 

Despite all of the obvious discomfort, I know I couldn’t have left him in the streets. So now, I find myself carrying him the rest of the way, thankful that he didn’t put up much of an argument.

“I want to pretend none of this ever happened,” he speaks slowly, leaning his head against my chest. “I want to erase the last six years to make it seem like we were never apart – that we aren’t still apart now.”

“Why can’t we…?” I dare to wonder, frowning at his comment.

Izaya clings to the monster that just slammed him into a wall and arrested him for no reason. “Don’t be stupid. You know it’s never that simple.”

“D-do you wanna be with me, then? Like really?”

“Of course I do…”

My face heats up, even if it shouldn’t. I can’t control the way this raven makes me feel.

Besides, the things we want aren’t enough to restore hope when all we’ve done is want, and want, and want all these things we don’t have! His tone is anything but convincing, but I can understand why. I get it… more and more with each tear that beads in his eyes before slipping down his soft, pale cheek.

Silence passes us by after this revelation. The truth is out. Neither of us knows what to do with it. Fixing it is in a league of its own. We can’t just make up for all these lost years and hurt feelings through apologies and wanting to be together.

How is it that I’m just now realizing the gravity of this situation?!

Has my mind seriously been on autopilot this entire time?

Reaching my building, with Izaya still in my arms, I ignore the glances from the reception desk and head for the elevator. They must have seen us run out earlier, too. The ride up feels like an eternity. When I look down, the brunet is already dozing off in my arms.

The picture almost looks like one of our dates. A date between us had always consisted of long chases around the city, until we either couldn’t breathe, or couldn’t run anymore. Parkour, in particular, was one of those fun, bonding exercises. I can recount carrying him home so many times after he exhausted himself beyond consciousness. He would never see it coming. Just like tonight, his weariness would strike him down out of nowhere. We went to extremes back then. Going to dinner and a movie was just too cliché for a couple like us. Now, I would kill for a date like that. Just the two of us…

Anything to make me feel like we’re all that exists.

There are so many things I took for granted… Even the littlest things are getting to me. I keep looking at life, wondering about the alternatives. I keep seeing what could have been if I hadn’t been so stupid… if I’d just reached out and grabbed it.

When I get us back to my apartment, finding the front door carelessly left open, I notice with a few gentle nudges that Izaya has actually fallen asleep in my arms.

He shivers a little as the cool air conditioning of my apartment kicks in, immediately chilling him in his soaking wet clothes, just not enough to wake him up. So, I carry him to my bed, laying him down and removing the drenched articles one by one.

I peel the jacket from his shoulders, carefully maneuvering his thin frame out of it without disturbing him too much. His pants come off next, proving to be a bit more of a challenge as they attempt to stick to his legs. This only makes getting him out of these clothes more of a challenge once I realize he isn’t wearing underwear.

“Damn it, Izaya,” I grumble at the feeling of my face heating up.

Even though I’ve seen it all before, I don’t know that he’d be comfortable being exposed to me. I don’t know where our boundaries end and begin… So, quickly, I fetch a shirt and some boxers from a drawer, sliding the latter on to cover his exposed regions.

Lifting him up, he moans a little at the disruption. I can’t help but get a little scared that he’ll wake up and be mad at me. Still, if I leave him in wet clothes, he’ll catch a cold.

Pulling him out of the crimson shirt, my breath catches in both awe and misery.

Countering a trail of scars – thin needle-like scars – down his right upper arm, is a series of tattoos stretching from his left shoulder down the length of his back. Tattoos that only he and I would understand the meaning of.

Butterflies.

Yellow butterflies with wings of caution tape. Six in various sizes. However, as my eyes travel downward, there lies a seventh, pinned beneath a switchblade, and bleeding out. Understanding it… is painful.

Why did he do this? What has he done?

“Don’t do this to yourself…” I whisper through the dead silence. “Please…”

Don’t tell me this is the end of our story... Don’t show me how badly I’ve hurt you.

Please.

 


 

You must lie awake at night; let this eat you up inside.

 


 

Bothered by the markings on Izaya’s arm, and the permanent ink on his back, I can’t relax at all. Shit. Like that even matters! With him here, I can’t even consider calming down.

Not my dry clothes, or a fresh cigarette, can dull what I feel right now.

I feel like my heart is trying to claw its way out of my chest.

How long has he been hurting himself like that? How long has it been because of me? By the looks of it, I don’t think he’s still going. There were no fresh cuts in that creamy flesh. Only puffy pink and thin white scars left by an agony from the past.

I did it to him… didn’t I? I gave him the right amount of suffering to have him do something heinous.

Coming to the point where I feel like my mind is about to explode, I nearly fall off the couch when my phone rings.

“Shit!” I almost drop the device, struggling to answer before the caller hangs up. “Hello?!”

“Shizuo!” Shinra’s voice immediately has me grinding my teeth.

“I should hang up now,” I groan, a little too miserably.

“No!” he begs, “Please don’t! It’s important!”

“Alright then, spill. Cause I’ve got shit to do,” I growl, not bothering to tell him about Izaya being asleep in my bed for the first time since we were eighteen.

“Fine, fine! Sorry,” he says hastily, “It’s Izaya. He left about five minutes after you did. Is he with you?”

Well there goes that plan.

“He’s sleeping right now. Need to talk to him?”

“What!? Like at your place?!” the doctor can hardly believe his own ears. “Really?!

“Something wrong with that?” I hold back my growing irritation.

“N-no! Not at all! I just didn’t expect that. Have you two made up?”

“Do you honestly think it’s that simple?” I roll my eyes, hoping he can sense it even though he can’t see it at his end of the line. “I think I’m just making it worse… At least, I think I feel worse.”

I can’t bring myself to admit that each time Izaya looks at me, it feels like I’m being stabbed ten times in the chest. I can’t explain to Shinra the blatant agony I feel whenever that raven’s ruby irises become glassy with tears because of the memories, and pain I left him with. All the same, I can’t ignore what I saw.

I can’t ignore those scars.

Canceling out a growing silence, I have to say something. Now, it’s not such a bad thing Shinra called after all…

“Hey, Shinra…” I say, keeping my voice low for fear of waking my ex.

“Yes, Shizuo?”

“I… uh…” Damn, how do I put this? “Izaya… he…”

“Is he alright?” the doctor suddenly seems defensive.

“I think so… sorta.”

“Define ‘sorta,’ Shizuo. Come on. You’re worrying me.”

“There are some scars on his upper arm,” I suddenly find myself blurting. “A lot of them. Like –“

What seems like a sigh of relief comes from Shinra. I can just imagine him taking off his glasses to rub his eyes, just before replacing them with a smirk on his lips. It’s funny how you come to realize your friends’ mannerisms, knowing them even from far away. In a way, I think it says that I can trust him. It says that whatever comes next, I shouldn’t be so afraid.

“I know,” he tells me. “You needn’t worry. He’s better now.”

“W-what happened to him?”

“Ah…” my friend thinks his answer over carefully, and it’s a little irritating feeling like I’m out of the loop. I am, I just don’t want to feel like I am.

“Is it… something I did?”

“Shizuo, I think there are a lot of things you two need to talk about. This is one of them.”

I don’t like unclear responses. “But is it?!”

“N-no. Not exactly. Yes and no, if I’m being honest.”

“That doesn’t make any fucking sense. Come on, Shinra… I’m worried…”

“Talk to him. I don’t want to be your middleman in this. What happened is something that you two need to work out on your own. You can’t keep trying to have your friends do it for you. At that rate, you’ll never reconcile.”

Shinra is right. As much as I wish my bespectacled friend would just give me a straight fucking answer, the root cause of this situation is me, so I’ve got to do what I can to make amends. If there’s something I want to know, or do, or say, I shouldn’t be looking for somebody else to get it done for me. It’s not a good way to say that you love someone. I’ve already wasted six years. I don’t want to waste any more time.

But for now, I’ll let Izaya sleep.

There’s always tomorrow.

 


 

Our hearts are heavy burdens we shouldn't have to bear alone.

 


 

Apparently, a new synonym for “tomorrow” is four in the morning, which I guess makes sense. Technically it is “tomorrow,” but this has been a long, long fucking night, and by this time, I just want to go back to sleep.

Izaya doesn’t see it that way.

He’s awake. And he wants to talk now.

“What are you doing?” I grumble, plucking his hand away from my hair.

That melancholy sigh burns like poison. And just when I think he can’t take any more heartache…

“You don’t remember this?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say, letting go of his hand to lift myself up from the couch and face him.

I know I should. His eyes are screaming at me to know… Like he’s waiting for me to burst into laughter, and say it was all a joke.

“When you couldn’t sleep…” I can tell he’s ready to break again, “You used to run your fingers through my hair until I woke, because you didn’t want to be alone. You couldn’t face the nightmares by yourself, ne?”

Even with his explanation, the memory is still foggy. I remember being shaken awake by terrifying images, even late into my teens. Hell, they still haunt me today, on the rare occasions that my thoughts slip away from Izaya’s memory. But I can’t remember his ebony tresses beneath my fingertips.

I think about him like he’s dead… whether or not he’s right here.

What does that say about me? What is it, other than another example of how I’m unworthy? I’ve forgotten something important. Just like I forgot my heart…

“And what about you?” I ask, trying my best to hide it. “Did you have one?”

“A nightmare?” he raises a thin eyebrow, reminding me just how expressive he can be. “Yes. We can call it that.”

“What was it about?”

He chuckles dishonestly, “The nightmare itself has been these past six years.”

His words sting, creating a guilty fire in my chest. It has a vice grip on my heart, reminding me of just how horrible I am.

“I hate that I did this to you,” I breathe, leaning forward to rest my head on his shoulder. “I hate myself.”

I know I don’t need to say it again. By now, the words are long overused; so I’m just sounding more and more desperate. Still, it doesn’t stop me from meaning every fucking word of it.

Tentatively, as though he believes I might bite if he moves too quickly, his thin arms wrap under my arms, settling on my shoulders.

“You saw the scars…” he breathes heavily, “Didn’t you, Shizu-chan?”

My hand takes this moment to reach up, sliding my hand beneath the loose sleeve of the shirt I’ve leant him. The uneven patch of skin beneath my fingers makes me wince and tremble.

I did this to you… I did this…

“I-I’m so… I’m so sorry, Izaya,” I choke on the words, feeling overpowered by a sob that has been dormant for much too long.

He takes a deep breath, pushing me forward, before settling on top of me. With my head on the armrest of the couch the tears flow freely down my cheeks. I can’t even remember the last time we were like this. All I know is that it feels too good to give it up now. Too good in the most agonizing way.

I love being wrapped around each other like this. What I hate is that we’re not together like I want us to be.

“Nonsense,” he mutters, “Those were my choice. I did them to myself.”

“Because of me!” I argue, knowing they wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t abandoned him. “Why else would you hurt yourself like that?”

“Shut up, Shizuo,” he begins to sound irritated, “I have my reasons for the things I’ve done.”

“Then tell me why…”

“The tattoos are because of you – for you. The scars are because of me. Do not confuse the two.”

“Then explain it to me so that I don’t! Because I don’t understand any of this!” I say, feeling more and more frustrated.

Everything is a brand new discovery. Like when scientists dig up the bones of dinosaurs. I know what is and what was, but I have no fucking idea why.

“The cuts are a counting system…”

“A what…?”

“I gave myself a single slice for every person I was with during the first two years…” he explains in a hushed tone of voice, “I used each and every one – men and women – in hopes that at least one could make me forget about how much I love you. And I realized... in the midsts of using them all... that I had to face some sort of repentence for it.”

This all just became too much… too much pain to withstand.

“Why would you do that to yourself?” I desperately wonder. My hands begin to shake, “Are you fucking crazy?”

“I realize it wasn’t a good thing to do… It certainly was a period of insanity.”

No… Please don’t lie to me. It was a period of pain. Pain that I’m responsible for putting you through! Damn it. Stop trying to make it look like I’m not one-hundred percent to blame! STOP!

“I’m not proud of myself for what I’d done… I wasn’t as strong as I should have been, and that is something I have to live with.”

“What if I don’t want you to live with it?”

Could I do it? Could I erase the years? Could I make him forget the strangers he used to forget me? Could I obliterate their touches from his skin?

If I could just take that away… If he would only let me…

Please, Izaya. Let me. Let this be as simple as it once was.

Let me love you.

“What would I have to do?”

Sitting up to stare me down, the brunet knows by the look in my eyes what I’m asking for. There is no doubt in his mind, or mine. No doubt of the love we feel, scathed by the countless fuck ups we’ve made.

We are a pair of broken pieces, loose wires, and cracked shells.

“Make me forget,” he gives in, never once looking away as he lays out the instructions, “Make me forget how lonely I was without you…”

 


 

I know you're worried, but remember what I said. It's okay.
So don't sleep, don't sleep, don't sleep tonight.

 


 

My hands tremble as I reach for his perfect face; taking it in my hands I realize his skin is soft as it always has been beneath my fingertips. He closes his eyes, soaking in the sensation. I can tell his body is trying hard to remember mine. He moves closer until we're only a few centimeters apart.

We're both yearning for the same thing - both dying to know, without a doubt, who our hearts really belong to.

Mine is yours, Izaya, I swear it. I promise. I'll spend the rest of my life proving it to you day after day if I have to and I will ask nothing in return. Just stay.

Pressing my lips into his, I hold back my tongue. I'm going to take this slow. I'm gonna remember things one at a time. I'm gonna reel him back in carefully. This is my last chance - the only one I'll ever have. I don't need the line to snap now. I need him to know I mean this. Pulling back, I look deep into his crimson eyes. They're filled with a combination of pain and lust; begging me not to stop.

I kiss him again, this time running my tongue along his bottom lip until he grants me entrance into his perfect mouth. Our tongues meet shyly at first. I'm starting to get it all back now. The way he tastes and how he kisses haven't changed. He still tastes like oolong tea and apples as he engages in a subtle fight for dominance by sliding his tongue across the back of my teeth.

It's always been this way... at least, it had been when we were together. He would kiss me so feverishly and so intensely and when he couldn't take anymore mouth-to-mouth teasing, I'd cradle him in my arms and flip him onto his back.

With a moan escaping his lips, I do just that, taking us both back six years. The familiarity is overwhelming - nostalgic.

Izaya raises his hips and grinds into me as I break away from his lips to trail my tongue down his neck. His mewls are more sensual than they'd been in the past; much less cute and childlike. It's one change I certainly don't mind.

Running my hands under his shirt, I spare a few moments to feel his lithe body in my hands. He's more toned than he used to be. His abs are solid beneath my fingertips as he tenses at my touch. He hisses and I pause.

"What's wrong?" I ask, worried I may have forgotten how to control my strength for something like this. I haven't had sexual contact with another human being in six years. He's been my only one for my twenty-four years of life. Could I have forgotten how to be delicate?

"Your fingers are cold," he says with a flush on his cheeks.

Releasing a sigh, I can't help but give him a sheepish half-smile. He looks beautiful, especially in my clothes. Part of me fears that at any moment, I'm going to awaken from a dream that has been background noise in the back of my mind for six years.

"How much longer are you going to stare? Should I strip and give you something more to look at?" he teases, breaking me out of my momentary distraction.

It's my turn to blush, but this time, I'm ready with a comeback. "No. I'm going to strip you myself."

Not like I've never see it before...

Impressed, he licks his lips and I settle back over him, lifting his shirt up to his neck, determined to taste as much of him as I can as I suck and nibble on his hips.

"Unf... Shizuo... Shizuo, I-" he hisses again, writhing beneath me with gyrating hips.

His crotch rubs against my chest. I can both see and feel his erection through his boxers. But before I can slide them off with my teeth, he grabs me by the collar, pulling me back to his lips. Snaking his legs around my waist, he grinds into me again, this time bumping his cock against my own. The sensation echoes through my body, taking the two of us further down a path of need and ecstasy.

"I want you... so fucking bad..." I growl into his ear making him shudder.

"Then take me, idiot," he says, voice commanding and sultry.

It's driving me wild.

I break us apart, only long enough to slip us out of our shirts. I want to be skin against skin. I want to feel his heart beat with nothing but a thin layer of sweat between us. I want Izaya to feel the best he's felt since the first time our eyes met.

I might be undeserving, but he's not.

The raven in my arms holds me close, burying his face in my neck. Silky tresses of his inky hair tickle my skin as he sucks on a sensitive patch of skin. Working my hands down his back, I slide off the boxers barely clinging to his hips and he wriggles out of them easily. Completely naked he guides me to touch him. My fingers, how heated by the radiant warmth of his body, glide over his erection. He's so hard... so desperate for more. And his moans are making me crazy.

Stroking him while he continues suckling at my neck, his trembling hands fight to pull down my sweats until my own throbbing dick is freed. I release a moan, becoming more and more desperate to sink myself inside of him, but I don't stop yet.

I wouldn't consider it relieving when he begins to return the favor, wrapping his long fingers around me and offering me slow, unsteady strokes. He's shaking from head to toe. Knowing Izaya, I can tell it's nervousness, but at the same time, he knows not to feel ashamed. I want to make him feel so fucking good he'll never consider leaving again.

When jerking each other off is no longer enough for him, he trails kisses up my neck and bites at my ear. "I want you inside of me," he coos with a bit of a bite.

His hot breath sends shivers down my spine. I nod in compliance and release him from my grip before the pleasure takes over. Taking my wrist in his hand, he kisses my palm before enclosing his mouth around my fingers. He coats them generously. The sensation of his tongue wrapping around my fingers is damn near enough to make me cum.

I want to apologize to him for not having any condoms or lube, but at the same time, I'm not about to kill the mood and I don't think he cares one way or the other.

Keeping our eyes locked, I blindly find his hole, having memorized the mapwork of his body years ago. Yes. It's all coming back to me now.

I push my middle finger deep inside of him, moving it in and out for several moments before sliding my index in after it.

"Aaah... mm... P-please, Shizuo," he moans, losing control of his body when I push in and curl my fingers. "Th-there. That's- mmpf."

All I can do is grin while I stretch him and brush over his sweet spot with every other pump. Writhing beneath me, he finds my erection once again and offers it several strokes while using his thumb to coat my dick in my own precum.

Soon enough, I can't take anymore. I pull my fingers out of his loosened asshole, making damn sure I brush against his prostate as I do.

I let Izaya whine for a moment, muttering a string of curses until I press my head against his hole and slide it up and down his crack. Once I'm sure he's suffered enough in the best possible way, I slowly push into him, feeling guilty for just a moment as my cock fills his ass.

He winces, clearly in pain and I remain still, never letting the effect of his tight heat wrapped around me show on my face. He feels so fucking good and so damn tight... My head is already spinning off its axis.

"Are you okay?" I ask, burying my fingers in his hair and pressing our foreheads together.

He nods, shifting to adjust to the feeling. "I forgot how big you are," he chuckles.

"We can stop if it's too much," I sympathetically offer and accept his compliment with a smile. Though, I've never let him top me, I can imagine the pain. It's never stopped him before.

"No," he says adamantly, "I want this."

Want it or not, I'm sure he also wants to be able to walk out of here in the morning without feeling like he's been hit by a train. Even though I want to be able to keep him here for all eternity, never allowing him to get away from me again, I know I would be asking for trouble if I tried.

I want to give him a reason to come home to me everyday; not to go where I can't follow.

Desperate, I take a moment to scan over my available options by searching my living room for anything that could make this a little easier.

"Shizu-chan..." he mutters my name, What's wrong?

"Just a sec," I reassure him, planting a kiss on his forehead.

My eyes settle on a first-aid kit left out on the coffee table. I flip it open, sorting through various packets of ointments until I find a packet of vaseline. I'd really rather not... but our options are limited and I realize it's better than nothing. I don't want to kill him.

"Really?" he scoffs.

"Just this once. I promise."

"Fine... Just this once."

Ripping it open with my teeth, I watch Izaya give me a bemused look, like he wants to snark at me even more for my choices, but he won't because he's also more impressed than he'd like to admit. With our eyes locked on one another's, I pull out almost completely, leaving the head of my cock in his ass. In a matter of seconds, I'm half-way to jerking myself off while inside him as I coat my shaft in the petroleum gel. Though, I don't keep my raven waiting too long. Evenly lubricated, I slide myself back into him with ease and he writhes beneath me at the sensation.

"O-oh... mmmm. Oh god," he moans, carmine eyes rolling back in his head.

"Better?" I chuckle, moving my hips.

He bites down, hard, on his bottom lip and nods with a bit of a whimper.

Focus returns to the raven slowly as my ministrations continue. Half-lidded eyes, dark and lust-filled, stare back at me while I gyrate, working his body ways that have him melting in my arms. Carefully moving, I begin by taking him slowly, gradually pushing my cock deeper inside of him with every thrust. I want him to feel my full, hard length - every millimeter of it - filling him. I want him to feel me sinking all the way in and every so often I hold myself for a half a moment, stopping to make sure - to really, really make sure - he's still with me.

Picking up my pace after a chaste kiss on the lips, he gives me a devilish grin. This is the look that had me falling head over heels in the first place. This is the face. Sultry. Confident. Mischievous.

Izaya lifts himself from the couch, nails clawing into my back as he presses his cheek against mine. His hot breath ghosts over my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. It's nearly enough to finish me off. However... after six painful years of no physical contact, let alone conversation, I have a lot to make up for. Right now, I'm going to make better love to him than anyone ever has and I'm going to make sure he knows this isn't just a feel-good fuck, but a sincere apology; a promise that there will be more of these nights to come.

"Harder," he coos, moving a hand up to my head and tangling his fingers in my hair.

I do as I am told, content to be as compliant as demanded of me. I'll give him anything. Anything at all. For nothing in this entire fucking dimension would make me happier than living out the rest of my life as his slave if I had to.

At this point I'm pounding into him, giving him deep, hard thrusts that make him shake. He moans loudly. "Shi-Shizu-chan!" he moans that cursed nickname. "Nnn... There! Right there. Don't- FUCK... mm... don't you dare stop."

I can't wipe the grin from my face. I've probably never smiled so much in my life and the sensation of it all is surreal. I don't feel anything like the me I've been since he left. Instead, I feel like the person I've always wanted to be since the first time I saw him.

"W-what's with that?" he asks, voice trembling from the pleasure. He moans between words, making him that much more desirable. "Are you- aaahhn... making fun of me?"

"No, nothing like that," I reply, pressing my smiling lips into his yet again.

With each thrust, I make sure to angle myself just right so that I never miss Izaya's sweet spot. He holds me close, digging his fingernails into my skin to keep my from slipping away from him. His moans are the best music my ears have heard in too damn long. I never want to stop. I want to get lost in his scent and I want him to lose himself in me. I want to make up for years of heartache and fill his heart with to the brim with nothing but love and happiness from me. I want to make love to him like this everyday for the rest of our lives.

Beautiful mewls and breathy curses escape his lips for another several moments before he just can't take anymore of the pleasure. Moving his hands to my shoulders, I feel his body succumbing to mine. I'm close too.

"Shizuo..." he pants, tightening his grip on my shoulders.

"Me, too," I nod.

Taking his erection in my hand, I simultaneously pump and thrust another dozen or so times until tremors rack both of our bodies and we cum together, moaning the other's names amongst curses. I catch his seed in my hand for the most part and watch him try to catch his breath while my dick is still buried, throbbing, inside of him.

"I love you," I tell him, kissing up and down his jaw. "I love you so fucking much. Please... Please forgive me."

"I forgive you," Izaya whispers. "So long as you can forgive me, too."

"There is nothing to forgive..."

 


 

It's pretty but you hate yourself; I can hear it clear as day.

 


 

“Why did you use our butterflies if you were just gonna kill one?” I ask, somewhere in the afterglow, tracing the black and yellow figures with my fingertips.

"Do you not like my tattoo?" he worries.

"No. It's not that... I just want to know..."

“Because they’re representative of my relationship to you. From the first gift you gave me to our last moments of happiness… and even the more agonizing memories to follow. They tell our story.”

"Our story kind of sucks," I cynically chuckle, remembering our second date where we'd crossed into a crime scene and tied scraps of caution tape into butterflies. It was so long ago. I can still feel the adrenaline rush I felt back then. It was a time when I believed that nothing in the world could tear us apart.

His body shakes from the trembles of silent laughter as he rolls over to face me. "Yeah," he agrees. "Pretty terrible."

“And who's gonna get it other than us,” I say, taking his face in my hands and kissing him. "Besides... it isn't over yet..."

Izaya frowns quizzically, staring deep into my eyes.

I didn't consider my words before I spoke them. A sudden nervousness takes hold of me, forcing me to wonder if I made a mistake in choosing to say something so assumptive. I hadn't seen him in years before this past evening. Several days ago, I didn't think I'd ever see him again. Dawn will soon be slowly breaking over the city and through the curtains, currently casting a periwinkle glow throughout the room and he continues to stare at me, giving my words time to steep.

Eventually, he decides he's satisfied and kisses me back with neediness and shifts his hips to grind himself against me. Releasing a soft groan, I know I could go again, but I hold off. We're both too exhausted. The sun is rising. And I'm not sure where we're supposed to go from here.

I was so stupid to fuck this up. This man means everything to me.

"No," he says in between pressing his lips into mine, "It's not over. It never was."

"But I-"

"I don't care... I don't care anymore," the raven cuts me off, staring at me with a sharp look in his eyes.

I can't help it. I sigh anyway. Loving him doesn't mean I deserve him. "Izaya..."

My fingertips brush over the scars he left himself and I'm finding it difficult to hold back tears. The pressure building up behind my eyes is about to escape when he takes my face in his hands.

"I'm going to demand that you stop beating yourself up over this," he says with a dominating tone. It's here that I'm reminded of who is truly in control of this relationship. If I'm not mistaken, there's some leftover bitterness there, too. "All the talk in the world won't change the past. What's done is done."

"Then how can I make up for all the suffering I put you through... Sex...? That feels like a cop-out, doesn't it?"

He thinks for a moment, putting genuine thought and consideration into my words. He's always been too fucking smart for both our mental health. So clever... intuitive... perfect... And I'm just a big idiot who was too blinded by my selfish feelings that I wound myself up in him until I snapped us apart. The fact that he can forgive me and then seek forgiveness for himself is...

It's more than I can process.

I don't want him to apologize for chasing his dream - a dream I was fully aware of before I ever realized I loved him. And all of that bullshit about how, "if you love someone, set them free" is exactly that. Bullshit.

I didn't set Izaya free. I condemned him to six years of misery before he came crawling back against his will. He never wanted me to let him go. I never wanted to let go. Morally speaking, I couldn't feel worse for what I've done. A thousand apologies, a thousand nights of love-making, a thousand years handcuffed together, couldn't take back his pain. I can still see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He has every reason to doubt and distrust me. Every fucking reason. But somehow... he's still here. Somehow, he was able to come back for me. For the person who put him through the absolute worst hell of his life during a time when he should have been living it up day in and day out.

I sapped the happiness from what should have been the best days of his life. Now we're older and I'm entitled to pay it all back.

He continued living for me. He kept living for the hope that I would be his again, when in reality, I've always been his. There hasn't been a moment since we met that every cell in my body didn't belong to him. My heart. My soul. My god damn mind. All of it. I gave it to Izaya and since then I've never given anyone else a chance because, no matter how far apart we were, I realize, now, in these tender moments, that he never gave me back to myself.

He had taken me away with him... whether he wanted to or not.

Without proper closure, we vanished from each other's lives, with him on the other end of the line, trying his damnedest to let me go, too. He couldn't shake me off.

"Not a day in the last six years passed where I truly believed that you no longer loved me," he says after a sufficient silence. "Seeing, now, that I was right... I..."

"Izaya...?"

"I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry for ever giving up on you."

"What are you going on about? None of this is your fault."

"No... it is... I shouldn't have left you like I did. I should have found a way... whether it was taking you with me or coming back... I should have fought harder and I didn't. I was a coward who refrained from trying anything better because I could hide behind the comfort of a cell phone..."

I had never really considered it. I can see his point, but who would try? Who would have put forth that effort for someone who treated them so cruelly? I wouldn't have deserved for him to fight for me after the heartache I caused him from the very first moment I found out he would be leaving me.

"I don't blame you for not trying," I assure him, sitting up with him in my lap to bury my face in the crook of his neck.

His arms twist around me and he traces straight lines up and down my back. The ministrations are enough to have me melting into him. I will never let this go again. I will never give him up now that he's here with me like this.

"Stay with me," I plea, allowing my tears to escape me. I tremble against him; crying is all I know how to do. "Stay with me forever and I swear, however I can make it up to you, I will. I will give you back the years of happiness I took away. I swear I will never allow you to suffer again. I fucking swear."

Izaya is silent, continuing his gentle caresses across my skin. One hand slides up into my hair, combing through the tresses until he seems satisfied with the texture. He calms me down, pour love into every gentle stroke.

"Likewise," he whispers softly.

It's all I can do to hold him tighter as his hot breath ghosts through my hair. He is mine. Mine forever and I won't be losing him again.

For all of our mistakes and all of our upset, I have been in love with this man for too long to give him up now. I believe with every fiber of my being that he is the only one there has ever been for me and I swear to hell and high heaven and everywhere in between that the earth splitting in half couldn't take him away from me a second time.

 


 

I've got your nights. I've got your days. I've got you all.

 


 

I've called out of work for the past two days, surprised to find that after all our anguish, Izaya is in no hurry to leave my apartment. He doesn't run away this time. I suppose after six years, he and I have plenty of time to make up for and, once I realize he's going to stay, I can't bear to leave his side just yet. I keep him pinned to my side, save for the occasional bathroom break or a trip down to the convenience store for milk, cigarettes, condoms, and lube. We ignore the rinigng of our phones until the batteries simply die and don't plug them in for a charge until I need to place a food order for delivery before we starve.

Currently, Izaya is sound asleep in my bed, nuzzling his beautiful face in the soft pillows. His naked body tucked between my sheets is tempting and pushing against my self-control. However, I keep myself in check. I've exhausted him enough as it is both physically and emotionally. I've been trying for two days now to kiss away his scars to no avail. He tells me to stop wrapping myself up in them every time, but I just can't... I need him to forget the pain I brought upon him.

I wonder if he finds it annoying. I wonder if he'd be okay with me watching him like this.

The storm has come and gone. The rain has passed for now. For the first time, I feel cleansed. Refreshed. New.

Does he feel the same, I wonder?

"Mm... Shizu-chan. Get back in bed."

"Huh? You're awake?"

Izaya slowly pushes himself off the matress with a slow, steady stretch. I can do nothing but stare helplessly at his beautiful body, lithe but toned in all the right places. His muscles shift delicately with his movements. His hair, a disheveled mess, falls around his face and his eyes are bursting with mischief and life. He stares at me with sleepy carmine eyes before his gaze flickers to the digital clock on the bedside table.

"Is it really eleven already?" he pouts.

"Yeah. Thought I'd let you sleep in."

"Ne? Why?"

"C'mon. You've gotta be tired from the last couple days," I offer him a smirk.

"Heh... tired? No," he shakes his head assuredly. "Maybe a little sore."

My face feels hot at these words. I'm sure I've overexerted him. "S-sorry..."

With a soft smile, he waves off my concern. "No, no. It's fine. It feels as though I've been reborn."

"Reborn?" I question.

He nods, running his fingers through his own silky hair. "Sit down, Shizuo," he tells me, gesturing at the bed.

Automatically, I do as told. I don't even need to think about it. I'm here. Ready and willing to offer whatever he may need. I'd do anything he told me to at this point. Anything at all.

Reaching over, he coils his arms around my waist from behind, burying his face in my shoulder. Izaya inhales slowly. "You smell so fucking good."

"Do I?"

"Yes. I want you to call out of work again. One more day."

"I want that too, but I'm gonna get chewed out as it is..." I let out a sigh. I am never going to let him spend six years away from me again; however, some things cannot be helped. A legitimate career is one of them. "Will you... uh..."

I stop myself, trailing off with the realization that it's probably a bad question to ask.

"Hmm?" he purs, leaving a trail of kisses down the back of my neck while his hands work at unbuttoning my uniform shirt - which I've only just put on.

"Nevermind... I- mm... I'm gonna need you to stop. Or I'm never gonna get to work."

"That's the plan," he laughs against my skin.

"I really do have to go, though..." I breathe, doing my best to keep it together. I can't give into him just now. No matter how much I'd love to. I can't. "Will you be here when I get back?"

"There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

"You really mean that?"

Releasing me from his arms, he nods reassuringly. "After all, I came back for you."

With all of my hope and trust poured into him, I finish getting myself ready for work and grab my cell phone. I know we still have such a long way to go before we can consider this a healthy relationship again, but damn it all, it's going to be well worth the fight.

"Text me, alright?" I ask, waving the orange device in my hand before I pocket it.

"All day," he smirks, "I'll be sure to send you a few things that will either make protecting the people of Ikebukuro exceedingly difficult, or have you rushing home to me so quickly you forget to take off your shoes at the door."

"You're already tempting me to stay here."

"Heh. That's the plan."

"Izaya...!"

"Hmm... I'm kidding," he laughs that beautiful, sultry laugh of his. "Now kiss me and get to work. As good as you look in uniform, I'm about three seconds from taking it off of you... with my teeth."

"Later," I promise, only mildly surprised when he grabs me by the tie and plants his lips firmly against mine.

"Good Shizu-chan," he releases me reluctantly, falling back into the mattress. "And bring home dinner."

"Christ, I haven't even had you back for a week and you're already demanding," I joke, heading out of the bedroom.

"Someone has to keep you on your toes," he calls after me.

I'd surely be lying to myself if I disagreed. I've needed this. For six years, I've spent my nights staring at the ceiling praying for it. My dreams have come true. We are exactly as we are meant to be.

No more than four seconds out the door, the first of many texts hits my phone.

[You are mine. And I am yours. Don't you dare forget it.]

"I won't," I mutter this oath to myself, feeling as though I've finally woken up from the nightmare where I lost myself.

Despite all of its many imperfections and cruelties, the world is bright and beautiful and I am grateful to be alive with something to live for.

We won't be giving up again. We are going to make this relationship work this time.