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The Apple Thief

Chapter Text

Aomori is a rural prefecture with forested mountains and long, winding roads that stretch out endlessly under a pale blue sky.

Standing at the train station, Shizuo breathes in deeply. It's so different from Ikebukuro. The air is clean and humid. There is a steady breeze across his bare arms, which makes the temperature feel pleasant instead of oppressive. In the distance, he smells livestock, but it's faint, and he doesn't dislike it. In fact, Shizuo likes it here. And he has found very, very few things in his seventeen years of life that he has liked instantly. He can't help but smile.

It's the second summer of high school, which for his classmates means freedom and beach trips and hanging out with friends, enjoying the last stress-free summer before students need to worry about entrance exams. However, Shizuo wants to spend this summer with something more worthwhile.

He's still a little surprised that it had all worked out so well. At first, his plan had been to apply for a part time job at a grocery store. But then a small annotation in the newspaper's job section had caught his eye. It was a small posting, nestled between the larger advertisements from bigger companies. It was incredibly simple - no pictures, no color, only a few lines, and a phone number to call.

He had called right that evening.

The job advertisement had been for a farm during the main apple harvesting season, posted by a local farming family, the Niigotas. They were an elderly couple, and their children had gone off to college in the city and were too busy to come back for the summer. So, they had offered a nice sum, plus food and lodging for the summer, to hire someone to help out for the six weeks that school was out.

The phone interview had gone surprisingly smoothly, and the job offer had pretty much been made on the spot. Shizuo suspects that part of the reason why he got this job in the first place was because he had been the only person to call. But either way, Shizuo is excited about it.

"Are you sure about this?" His mother had asked when he had first pitched the idea. "It's on the other end of the country. And it's such a rural area. You'll be doing hard labor."

That's the point, Shizuo had wanted to say. Hard labor appealed to him much more than working behind the counter at a convenience store, smiling at strangers and taking their money. So, he had just shown her the train connection that he had looked up and printed out from their computer. It was really only three hours away by bullet train. At that, his mother had come around quickly and had pinched his cheek fondly for being so well prepared. Maybe she had also just read on his face that he was serious, that he wanted to do this.

After that, his parents had been surprisingly on board. Shizuo still remembers the glow of approval in his father's eyes, proud that his son has started to think about the future and plan for life after graduation. Kasuka had even cracked a smile, at the way Shizuo had blushed under his father's enthusiastic praise. It had felt good to take a first step into adulthood.

"It's good to think ahead," his father beamed. "And besides, I hear Aomori is beautiful in the summer."

.

Mr. Niigota picks him up at the bus stop. They drive 3 miles from the town to their family house at the edge of the apple orchard. The entire time, Shizuo is painfully polite, but Mr. Niigota has an informal air about him, and talks easily for the entire car ride.

When they get to the house, Shizuo meets Ms. Niigota, who greets him with a warm smile and a large amount of apple candy. She is just as informal as her husband, and seems delighted to finally have more people to feed. She shows him around the farm house and the surrounding orchard. Shizuo nearly gets dizzy at the sight of all those miles and miles of apple trees, loaded with red fruit on every branch.

"Don't worry about it," Mr. Niigota reassures him, seeing his expression. "I'll show you how it works. I bet you'll get the hang of it immediately."

"Yes sir," Shizuo manages to say, with a polite bow that makes Mr. Niigota laugh.

That evening, Shizuo goes to bed underneath an unfamiliar ceiling. He feels jittery, anxious, unable to sleep. He's so far away from home, so far away from everything he has ever known. What was he thinking? What if he totally messed this up? Wanting to try hard wasn't enough. He had always wanted to try hard in school as well, but a string of incidents had made that incredibly difficult.

Shizuo forces himself to shut his eyes and try to sleep. I'll take each day as it comes, he tells himself. And that's his last thought before sleep drags him under.

.

Aomori is a wasteland.

Izaya presses his cheek against the window of the car, gazing at the endless trees zooming by and the complete lack of civilization. It's been silent in the car for over an hour after the last conversation had ended with Mairu and Kururi falling asleep mid-sentence. His parents gave each other an amused look, chuckled, and then turned back to the road with an unspoken agreement to let them rest undisturbed.

The air inside the car is warm and stifling. The car rattles slightly as it travels over the pitted asphalt roads. The hum of the engines is a constant, underlying sound. Izaya doesn't ever get carsick, and he considers himself pretty good at being patient. But even he has his limits. He's brought his MP3 player, loaded full with songs that he's listened to over a dozen times already. It sits uselessly in his backpack, because he's too listless to pull out his headphones and try to listen any more.

This was supposed to be their long-awaited family vacation. Izaya had been surprised when his parents had announced that they had taken two months of leave from work at the same time, using up all of their vacation days in one go. They had been saving up, they explained, ever since the twins were born. The plan was to go on a long shared family vacation the summer before Izaya would be too busy with college preparations next year.

Izaya isn't opposed to vacations on principle. He's sure that he would have loved relaxing on a white beach somewhere, or on some scenic mountain villa. It's just that, with both of his parents working, and their family reasonably well off, he had expected some luxurious vacation resort or overseas trip where he could practice his English or Russian or Chinese, where the drinking age was lower and the rules were more lax, where he could sit in tourists traps and people watch for a while.

The reality turned out to not be so kind.

For his parents, a relaxing family vacation apparently meant escaping any human settlements exceeding a population of 5.000, traveling 7 hours by car four prefectures over to a rural settlement in the countryside with nothing to do. Sure, they both remembered it fondly from their own childhoods. Sure, Aomori was renowned for its beautiful apple orchards and scenic views. But in the end, what it all meant was that now Izaya was left with nothing to do during the long car ride - possibly the whole vacation - but fiddle around with his thumbs, stare at the unchanging scenery outside, and slowly go insane from boredom.

.

Before Izaya knows it, he's followed his sisters into dreamland, probably because it was the better of the few options he had left - sleep, or go mad.

He dreams, strangely, of living in a house made out of a massive apple. The interior is white and damp, but firm enough to hang pictures frames on and build doorways out of. The whole room smells faintly sweet, and the carpets and the chairs all sink a little into the fleshy white floor.

In this dream, he keeps getting visitors that he doesn't want. There are no doors to the outside, but they knock on the apple skin and make full thudding sounds. Their voices are muffled and unclear, and they disturb his sleep.

Go away, he wants to tell them, but he isn't able to.

But as if the thought had been a shout, all of the voices suddenly disappear. Instead, there's a sudden feeling of warmth and safety, and relief, as if the entire apple house has been suffused with bright sunlight. It shines through the skin of the apple, makes the white walls glow softly.

Then he is falling, in an odd floating sort of way, without the jolt of panic that usually accompanies such an action. The entire building shakes, tilts, and tumbles toward the ground, rolling over and over in the air.

When Izaya wakes up, he realizes that the reason for his dream is all around him - they are passing next to an apple orchard, the sweet smell drifting into the car from the cracked open windows.

Despite himself, Izaya can't help but stare. The trees are almost all fully ripe, with branches that spread out in graceful arches, and bear countless apples like red gems at every point possible. They are shockingly vivid and round, and reflecting the sun from above. Izaya's mouth waters, either from the dream or the sight of all this, he doesn't know.

.

They arrive at their destination in the afternoon. When the car stops, Izaya is too high-strung with restless energy from the long drive to remain still. He bounds out of his seat as his parents move to unload their suitcases and bags from the trunk. He doesn't care about their chosen lodging right now, he just wants to move. "I'm going to have a look around, okay?"

"Okay," his father obliges him, sympathizing with Izaya's need to go out and stretch his legs. "Be back here by nightfall, alright?" His mother is gently waking up the twins and is too preoccupied to counter that decision.

"Alright!" Izaya calls back, already jogging down the road toward that tempting grove of apple trees.

.

Shizuo is starting to get the hang of picking apples without breaking the stem when he hears the soft rustle of footsteps on dry undergrowth. He pauses and looks around for one of his host parents to approach him. But no one is there.

After a moment, he goes back to work. The apple tree he's working on is heavy with fruit, and the apples are almost all perfectly ripe, with little flecks of yellow going across their red skin like freckles. He has nearly filled his entire wheelbarrow - a large wooden thing, with two wheels and two handles that jut out for easy levering. This has been his fifth round, and it's only early morning. Shizuo usually doesn't feel like he's good at things, but he's pretty sure that he's going at a really good pace.

He's on the very top of the ladder, which he has used in order to reach the crown of the apple tree, where the apples are hardest to reach. He plucks them with as much care as he can, and then places them into the wheelbarrow below. The leaves tickle his skin, and the scent of warm tree bark fills his nose.

He's taken off his shirt, because the sun is high up in the sky now, and beating down insistently. It's not unpleasantly hot, but Shizuo doesn't want to sweat through all the shirts that he brought with him, and he dislikes the way the cloth sticks to his skin. It's easier this way, and besides, no one is here.

Except, all of a sudden, there is.

Shizuo catches sight of him in the corner of his eye, sitting on one of the thicker branches of an apple tree, nearly completely hidden by its leaves. He seems to be a young boy, or teenager at least, dressed in light summer clothes over pale skin. He's facing away from Shizuo, swinging his bare legs in the free air, wearing running shoes, and clearly preoccupied with whatever he's doing.

Shizuo stops with his hand in midair. How hasn't he noticed this kid before? Then, he gets a better look, and stares.

He's incredibly eye-catching. For a moment, Shizuo can't help looking at him, just looking, for no purpose other than to see the way his thin shirt slides off of his shoulder and hints at more skin. There's a leaf that has gotten into his hair, probably from when he climbed up the tree, and it sticks out at an odd angle from the coal-black fall of his hair.

There is something distinctly urban about him, about the angle of his wrist and the tilt to his shoulders. Instead of sitting lazily, reclining or relaxing, he's almost elegant in the way he leans a hand against the support of the tree branch beneath him. His fingers flick something away, delicate, a motion more suited for art than for hard labor. He is definitely not from around here. Shizuo can tell.

He is also munching on an apple.

Shizuo stops staring and immediately converts it to an angry glare. "Hey," he shouts. That was one of the apple trees he hadn't gotten to yet, and this kid just tossed away a finished apple core and is taking yet another one from within arms reach.

Of course. He knows who this guy is now - a city brat who thought that everything was theirs for the taking, with no proper manners and no sense of shame. He's not supposed to be here. He's trespassing. He is stealing, and from the way the boy looks up at him and gives him a sly smirk, he doesn't feel even a tiny bit of guilt.

It makes Shizuo angry immediately. "You little thief," he growls and jumps off the ladder.

He wants to chase the boy down, collar him, and bring him to Mr. and Ms. Niigota to apologize, and possibly pay. They probably don't actually care about the value of a single apple, but this brat needs to learn some manners. Really. Smiling at him like that. What nerve.

.

Oh shit, Izaya thinks. I didn't think he'd see me.

He blames it on the lack of cover. In the city, or at school, Izaya is extremely good at hiding out of sight. There is nothing of the kind here. Other than the leafy apple trees and the thin tree trunks, there is just the open field and the empty sky. He has tried to be quiet, but it's hard when the apples here are so delicious and crunchy, with just the right amount of sweetness.

The field hand is a boy his age, with blonde hair and tanned skin, shirtless but wearing gloves for picking apples. He is glaring at Izaya, defensive and affronted at finding a trespasser and a thief.

Izaya smiles at him, sweet and friendly. Just a harmless passerby, he thinks. Don't bother me and I won't bother you.

He had hoped to be able to sit here and relax, to observe this field hand working through his apple picking duties for the rest of the day. There was precious little else to do in this godforsaken town, and he enjoyed the sight of all those rippling muscles moving underneath the tanned skin.

"You little thief," the boy yells. Then he jumps off the ladder.

Izaya starts, What the heck? Who just jumps off a ladder like that? and quickly climbs down to the ground himself. His blood is crackling with excitement as if that boy's sudden yell had woken him up from a daze, and all of a sudden he has found himself in the midst of a fight. Or a chase.

If it's a chase, then no one can catch me, he thinks and grins with vicious amusement at the prospect of having one here, in the wide-open fields with nothing to hide him, with a snarling, wild beast on his heels.

He's just about to turn and run when he sees the blonde-haired boy grasp the two handles on the large wheelbarrow. Oh? Is he giving up the chase already? But then the wheelbarrow, which is full of apples, which means it must weigh a ton, lifts up off of the ground.

It goes over the boy's head, like, like a car.

Oh shit, Izaya realizes. He's going to throw that at me.

He barely dodges it in time, and as it is, the whole pile of apples splay out in the air in an arc as they spill out of the flying wheelbarrow. The huge wooden wheelbarrow crashes off to one side with a massive sound that reverberates through the apple grove. Izaya is skipping backward, both delighted and shocked and feeling more alive than he ever has in his life. The apples roll across the ground like a massive wave of fruit crashing onto shore, a red tide that has fallen at Izaya's feet.

Izaya can't help it. He laughs in pure delight.

"What the hell are you laughing about?" the boy yells, and Izaya grins at him, inviting him, challenging him.

Finally, I've found something interesting.

Then, he turns and runs, because this is going to take all of his skill and all of his stamina, and because he knows that the other boy will be right on his heels.

.

Shizuo is usually the strongest person in the vicinity, but he has never once thought that he would actually lose a contest of speed.

The dark-haired boy is fast, and agile, sprinting across the grove of trees and dodging out of Shizuo's grasp with ease. He doesn't keep to a straight path, which forces Shizuo to change directions often. And the entire time, he is laughing his head off, a sound that is high and clear and filled with exhilaration and no hint of fear. Shizuo growls at him to stop laughing, which just makes the boy laugh even harder.

They reach the fence, and just when Shizuo thinks he's won, that he's got him, the other boy simply takes two running steps and vaults over the fence. His legs swing over the high wooden stakes, and he's gone.

Shizuo comes to a stop and is so shocked that he nearly forgets that he's angry.

He's lost him. He can't get up that fence himself, and he can't knock it down - that wouldn't make sense. In that brief moment of hesitation, Shizuo knows that he has waited too long and that it is too late now. With that extra head start, and with that boy's speed, there is no way Shizuo will be able to catch up.

Shizuo paces around in tight circles, trying to burn off that excess energy that is now roaring in his veins, trying to calm down.

That pest. What was he doing here? Why was he stealing? Where had he come from? And why was he so fast? At least he only seemed to be stealing a bite or two for himself, and not more.

For a moment, Shizuo debates telling the owners of this farm. They never mentioned the possibility of any of the village children being troublemakers or any apple thieves.

After calming down a little, Shizuo makes it back to the overturned wheelbarrow. He sets it upright, back on its two wheels, and is surprised to find it completely intact. It's a sturdy thing.

Then, he sets about putting all of the spilled apples back in, one at a time, checking carefully to see which ones have been bruised. Most are fine, which he is grateful for. He doesn't want to screw up this job because he lost his temper. This is the opportunity he has chosen himself. It's such a nice place. He wants to keep it that way, peaceful and quiet, no drama, and no fighting.

Hopefully, it seems like he has scared the apple thief off. He won't be back.

.

After he's vaulted over the fence, Izaya doesn't stop running.

The sound of his breathing is loud in his ears. His legs burn pleasantly with the exertion like they haven't in a long time. He doesn't look back.

When he reaches the village Izaya catches himself against a wall, breathing hard. The texture is gritty and cool against his fingertips, and the red brick marks the boundary of this apple orchard. Izaya takes a moment to check his surroundings quickly, but there's no loud cracking of feet against the earth, and no sound of any living creature nearby except for him. He's safe, or he should be, now that he is no longer trespassing.

Izaya closes his eyes. His blood is still thrumming with the adrenaline of that chase. He's pretty sure he's never run so hard in his life.

He is used to narrow alleyways and high-rise buildings, with easy ledges to reach and metal railings to slip through. Running through apple trees with their thin branches barely forming any shade, with the shadows of their leaves creating dapples of light on the ground, had been a different experience entirely. Izaya remembers the feeling of exhilaration that had filled him at the sensation of wind across his face, the scent of leaves and grass in the air, the sun shining fiercely overhead and his shadow falling across all those spots of light on the ground. Just remembering it makes him shiver again, at the memory of being chased by that beast in human form, the way his presence had felt like a storm gathering behind Izaya's back, full of lightning and thunder and rage.

His blood is humming pleasantly in his veins. His heart is hammering in his chest. The sun is scorching hot. Izaya can feel it on his skin like a physical force, pressing against the back of his neck. It feels like fingers against his skin, his fingers, catching him and holding him down.

Izaya shudders at how real it all feels. It's as if that blonde-haired boy is right behind him. He can feel that overwhelming presence tingle down his spine. It shocks him with its intensity, makes his breath catch with some combination of fear and anticipation.

No, that boy wouldn't just be satisfied with grabbing him by the collar. If Izaya had been just a bit slower or had made just taken one wrong step, it would be all over, he'd be chased down, torn to the ground in a tangle of limbs, held down and -

With a gasp, Izaya presses his palms hard against the brick wall. There's a sharp sensation in his veins, spiking higher and higher as he gasps for breath and tries to stop imagining hands holding him down, pressing against his skin and sending every last drop of that storm raging into his blood.

His body is so flushed with heady arousal that for a moment, Izaya is paralyzed with it. If anyone came upon him now, he'd be completely helpless. If that boy saw him now, what would he think?

Izaya swallows and grins viciously. This is going to be a good summer after all.

Chapter Text

It’s the next day, and the freaking apple thief is back.

Shizuo barely finishes wheeling his second empty wheelbarrow out into the grove before a voice comes out of nowhere, filled with suppressed glee.

“You know, I never got the chance to give you my name before you tried to kill me with a wheelbarrow.”

Shizuo stops, and then wheels around to see the dark-haired boy leaning against a nearby apple tree, a safe distance away, enough to duck behind sufficient cover should he decide to throw the wheelbarrow again.

He’s fucking smirking, which is incredibly irritating, with those knowing dark eyes and those haughty features, like he’s looking down at Shizuo, or mocking him without having to say anything, like he’s not the least bit afraid of what he had seen Shizuo do yesterday. And he’s still wearing that thin shirt, which is either too large for him or cut in a way that Shizuo’s isn’t familiar with. It slides down his shoulder and leaves it bare in a way that is far more distracting than Shizuo wants to think about.

“I’m Izaya,” the boy says. “And you must be the farmhand that the Niigotas hired this summer.”

“How do you know that?” Shizuo asks, alarmed. He hadn’t actually thought that this boy was a local. If he’s local, then perhaps he wasn’t trespassing.

“I asked around the village a bit,” Izaya says, and Shizuo relaxes. So he is new here, just like Shizuo had guessed. “It seems like we’re from the same city. You got a name? Or should I just call you apple boy?”

A burst of anger makes Shizuo’s jaw clench, and he knows that he looks dangerously angry now. This brat. What kind of -

The brat already knows he’s in trouble. He’s already laughing and skipping backward to begin running away. He suddenly has an apple in his hands, picked up from god-knows-where. Shizuo sincerely hopes - for the brat’s sake! - it was not from the branches of a nearby tree.

“Shizuo Heiwajima,” he growls and watches the boy commit his name to memory. He takes a deep breath, and reminds himself to be calm: “Alright, now that you know my name, you’ve got no problem with me catching you, right?”

As Shizuo starts towards him, Izaya chucks the apple at him.

“Hey, Shizu-chan, don’t be like that.” He has a delighted gleam in his eyes, and Shizuo suspects that the anger on his own face may have something to do with that. “Let’s be friends. I’m here with my family, we’re on vacation, same as you.”

Shizuo glares at him. “What did you just call me, you pest?”

“Shizu-chan,” Izaya both replies and scolds at the same time. He grins unrepentantly, even as Shizuo’s anger reaches new, dangerous levels. “I think I’m doing better than you at being polite. You have yet to call me by my name. I’m not a pest, I’m I-za-ya. Try it.”

“III-ZAA-YAAAA,” the name is easy to yell, easy to increase the volume of his voice until Shizuo is roaring with it. “Stay RIGHT THERE so I can KILL YOU.”

But of course, Izaya is anything but still. He has turned to run now and is already making his way further into the denser cluster of the apple orchard.

Shizuo gives chase immediately.

Izaya is a slippery target to catch. He swerves in between trees and changes direction so suddenly that even Shizuo has a hard time keeping him in sight. As Shizuo watches, Izaya grabs a branch in order to swing himself into going the opposite direction, while Shizuo blunders past him, his fingers grasping at nothing.

Agh,” Shizuo growls, frustrated at being thwarted like this. Izaya just laughs, and the sound of his laughter is obnoxious, digging under Shizuo’s skin until he has no choice but to turn around and continue chasing.

He catches a glimpse of dark hair through the trees, lunges, and follows the sound of Izaya’s laughter. Until suddenly, he turns a corner, stumbles into a small hedge that marks the end of the apple orchard, and realizes that the laughter is gone, and Izaya is silent, and there is no trace of him anywhere.

The sun blazes white and yellow above him in the perfect blue sky, and the apples are a vibrant red against vivid green leaves and tangled tree branches. Shizuo tilts his head back and roars his frustration like a wild animal.

.

This goes on for a week.

A week.

It’s nonstop. It’s constant. Shizuo is starting to develop a sixth sense, an itch between his shoulder blades that warns him - oh, here comes the annoying apple thief. And sure enough, in the next moment, there’s the damn pest coming back to bother him again, usually with a smart quip and a teasing smile on his lips.

By this point, Shizuo is almost certain that he’s done something to this kid, he has no idea what but it seems to be something that has warranted all this harassment, because Izaya is certainly not coming here for the apples. He seems to enjoy them, sure, but not nearly as much as he enjoys the annoyance on Shizuo’s face when the apples are stolen right in front of him.

Shizuo has lost count of how many apples Izaya has stolen. At this point, he’d just be satisfied with catching him. He still hasn’t succeeded on that front, even though it’s become a closer contest than it was on the first day.

He also still hasn’t told his host family about Izaya. He’s not exactly sure what he’d say. Oh, there’s this dark-haired apple thief, around my age, alarmingly good looking, definitely not from around here. Do you know him? They’d probably think that he was looking for a friend or something, or imagining things. Or worse, shirking work.

Sometimes, Shizuo can’t even believe how fast Izaya can disappear. It’s not like there are that many places to hide, out in this flat terrain of singular trees. But Izaya always manages to evade him somehow.

There’s one set of buildings where he usually stores the wheelbarrow at the end of the day - actually, just two. One is a small shack for tools and benches, smaller than his room back home. The other is a large barn, two stories tall, a place to put the tractors in stalls and temporarily store massive crates of apples. Today, Shizuo has managed to chase Izaya here, and this is familiar territory. He has Izaya trapped for sure this time.

He’s at the entrance, which is two wide barnyard doors, and if he stays here, then there’s no way Izaya can get out.

He can hear Izaya tearing through the barn, going to the other end, only to stop and realize the same thing. He fails to suppress a smile.

“Just give up already,” Shizuo calls after him, unable to hide the smug satisfaction in his voice. “There’s no other way out.”

Izaya turns to look at him, and he doesn’t look worried at all. In fact, he just shoots Shizuo a wide grin, exhilarated, as if saying just watch me. With that flush painting his cheeks, it’s impossible to look away from him anyway.

Then, Izaya climbs up a pile of apple crates, balances for a moment at the top of the pile, nearly ten feet off the ground. Shizuo’s heart stutters for a moment as the whole thing shifts with Izaya’s added weight and threatens to fall.

“Careful,” he warns, but it’s too late. Izaya has lunged for the ladder and ends up slamming into it pretty hard. Shizuo winces, but Izaya doesn’t stop there. He balances again, jumps, and ends up on the balcony of the second floor. From there, he makes it over the railing easily and laughs at Shizuo’s startled expression before he disappears into a back room with a small wave of his hand.

Shit,” Shizuo curses, and because he doesn’t want to climb crates, he has to take the stairs.

By the time he’s reached the back room, he sees nothing but a pile of empty boxes on empty shelves on the wooden floor, littered with small broken twigs and dried leaves from last year’s harvest, and a window that is slightly ajar.

Shizuo barks a short laugh, impressed, before he can stop himself. The brat actually did it. He’s jumped out of a second-story window just to escape Shizuo. That… that takes some dedication. And it’s not like Shizuo forced him to. He just went for it.

He checks quickly to make sure there isn’t a broken body on the ground beneath the window, but as he expected, there isn’t. There’s actually a huge haystack right under that window, which has been disturbed by someone jumping into it. Izaya, no doubt. And of course, he’s long gone.

Shizuo closes the window, latches it.

In the silence of the back storeroom, he’s suddenly no longer filled with the adrenaline of the chase. It smells a little like cider in here, probably from the large barrels in the back corner. There’s a peaceful quality to the air here, much like the libraries back home. Shizuo makes his way down the stairs, suddenly feeling a little foolish.

He wonders if the rest of his summer vacation will be like this, chasing after someone he can’t ever seem to catch. Maybe he shouldn’t get worked up so easily. Maybe he should just leave Izaya be. It’s not like chasing after him is having any permanent effect. And he shouldn’t be wasting daylight hours like this. He should be focusing on work. That’s what he’s been hired for, not security, and not for chasing off little rats like Izaya.

There’s a strange hollowness in his chest when he returns to apple picking. It’s a beautiful day just like all the other days have been, but for some reason, the sky is a bit more faded blue, and Shizuo keeps waiting for the sound of laughter that never comes.

.

Living on a farm is very different from living in a city.

For one, everyone wakes up earlier than he is used to, usually at 6, a little after the sun rises. Breakfast is delicious, traditional with fish and rice and soup, but also with generous helpings of jam from one of the many rows of mason jars lining the kitchen shelves on large slices of bread.

The Niigotas don’t raise chickens themselves, but many of their neighbors do, and they get a steady supply of fresh eggs from one of the adorable little kids who makes a circuit to them and some other farms in the area once every week on their rickety bicycles. Shizuo has only seen the kid once, but he seems to be ten or eleven, with sun-tanned skin and dimples and a shy smile. When he came around, the kid goggled at him for a while, mostly at his yellow-bleached hair, clearly coming up with reports to his friends about the new city kid who has come to work at the farm for the summer.

Then, his host mother packs him a huge lunch, usually different sandwiches, and a large canteen of water sweetened with lemon slices. Shizuo goes out to the orchards afterward, takes out the wheelbarrow from the large barn, and goes apple picking. It’s a simple life, and an easy routine, but he likes it. Shizuo memorized it after the first day when Mr. Niigota had shown it to him. Most days he makes it down ten or twelve rows of apple trees, which isn’t too bad.

Shizuo takes a break to eat around noon after he’s brought his fifth or sixth wheelbarrow back to the barn and unloaded the apples into the crates. That way, he can keep his lunch in the shade, which also keeps the water deliciously cool. He typically leans against the side of the barn and eat on the steps, watching the way the wind blows through the apple trees, and enjoying the scenery and quiet.

After he’s done for the day, he feels worn out and tired, but in a good way. He’s not actually used to long days of constant labor, and even though he’s strong, stamina is a different matter entirely. He’s improving though. On the first day of real work, he had nearly fallen asleep as soon as he had gotten back. Now, though, Shizuo feels wide awake after his second helping at dinner, and his host mother is chuckling openly at his appetite.

“I refuse to allow you to go back home looking as scrawny as you were when you came to us,” she is saying. “You’re a growing boy! What were they feeding you?”

“I normally don’t eat packed lunches,” Shizuo explains to her, defending his parents a little. “I usually eat regulation school lunches. And I don’t think I’ve ever been called skinny before.”

He likes his host family. They’ve practically started to treat him like one of their own, ribbing him for his weight and his increasing stamina and the tan that has started to appear on his skin, all with a gentle glow of pride that makes him feel warm and accepted.

“Well, now that you’re picking through the apple trees at such an extraordinary pace, we will have to give you more work to do,” his host father says. “Otherwise, you’ll be done in another week! And we can’t let you go off to another farm, we’ve got to keep you here.” He laughs, a booming sound that fills the kitchen. A life of working in the sun has given him a wrinkled appearance, but there is an unmistakable kindness in his eyes.

Shizuo laughs, feeling a little bashful at the honest praise. It’s an exaggeration. There will be no end to the apples that he’s picked. The apple orchards on this farm are huge.

He’s started to do that more, recently - laugh. It’s easy to do that here, without the stress of classes or school putting pressure on him. And nobody seems to be afraid of him here. It’s something that he wasn’t sure he’d find anywhere in the world, but he has.

“In the meantime,” his host mother says, “It’s your summer vacation, you shouldn’t only be working! You should enjoy more of it! Have you been to town yet?”

“No ma’am,” Shizuo shakes his head. He knows that the town isn’t very big. He was told that it has everything that is needed for basic living - among other things a grocery store, clothes shop, and a small car and bike repair workshop. But for anything more special the townspeople need to drive into the surrounding larger cities.

“Why don’t you take a half-day tomorrow and go to town in the afternoon? It’s a Friday, so it should be a bit more lively there. We’re not really a tourist town, so we don’t have many exciting things. You shouldn’t be working through the weekend, either. You could go to the lake, or see some of the shrines. There’s also the village festival in a couple of weeks. You should definitely look forward to going to that!”

Shizuo finishes his plate, and she smiles indulgently at him. “Maybe you’ll find a friend in town,” she says, and immediately Shizuo’s mind flies to Izaya and the possibility of seeing him. Izaya did say that he was on vacation here after all. Where else would he be?

The next day, after he finishes his lunch and decides to head into town, he spends the rest of the day wandering around its streets and exploring its few shops, picking out souvenirs and gifts for Kasuka and the rest of his family. But it’s all done to kill time.

He realizes that he’s waiting for something, listening for the chime of silver laughter, chasing after a trail gone cold. The sun goes lower in the sky, and eventually the streetlamps all light up one by one, like little pops of color blooming yellow and white in the darkness. He stays out longer than he was planning to, longer than he should, but he doesn’t run into anybody that he knows.

.

People from the village are incredibly boring compared to people from the city.

Izaya realizes two things after wandering around the village square for a day: First, it is almost impossible for him to get into any trouble here. There is simply nothing for him to do. Second, he is incredibly lucky to have found Shizuo Heiwajima in the middle of those apple orchards, because the rest of the townsfolk are scintillating.

His mother has insisted that he follow along to the marketplace. They have settled into a simple lodge at the edge of town, which apparently used to belong to a larger farming family, who has since moved to the city and are now renting it out to tourists. It’s nicer than Izaya expected, with two stories and fully furnished in a modern style. It had clearly been meant for a large family of multiple generations, which meant that there were more than enough bedrooms for each of them.

As a result, Izaya hadn’t even needed to make any deals with Mairu and Kururi to be left alone. That morning, they had gone off immediately to make friends with the milkman’s son, who was right around their age and had promised to show them where to find wild foxes. They wouldn’t be back until nightfall. So after Izaya went off to introduce himself to the only other kid his age that he found interesting, and had been summarily chased off, he had intended to sit in his room and slowly die from boredom.

And instead, here he is, watching his mother haggle the prices of two huge watermelons as if it was the most fun in the world. She will probably get it at a decent markup, but Izaya doesn’t offer to help. She is having fun, chatting with the other women at the marketplace, and he doesn’t want to interfere with that.

So instead, Izaya wanders off to explore on his own. He does find a place where a crowd of old men is playing chess on a patio in front of the town bar, but it’s not too interesting, and he can tell at a glance that the game is basically over anyway.

He considers corrupting several of the younger kids into playing cards with him. But the few that he has seen are all too young to have any money on them anyway, and they seem more interested in running around chasing dogs and each other.

It’s the sound of their shrill voices calling out that alerts him to the fact that someone has just arrived.

From behind the crowd of old men, Izaya sees yellow hair, and instantly bolts for the nearest alleyway.

Since this is not a city, and there are no alleyways, he ends up behind the wall of the convenience store, pressed against its white cement walls, feeling a tiny bit foolish. It’s not like he’s stealing anything right now, and he wants to be friends, after all. It’s just that his heart is racing, as if the instant that Shizuo appeared, a game of hide-and-seek had started.

It erases all of Izaya’s boredom in a flash and replaces it with giddy excitement. He doesn’t think Shizuo saw him, or else that expression would have changed instantly with recognition.

Shizuo stands out from the rest of the townsfolk, and not just because he’s tall. It’s not his bleached hair either, even though it is incredibly eye-catching in the bright sunlight. He’s clearly changed out of his working shirt, and into a thin white shirt that has been unbuttoned at the very top. It’s flattering on him, flattering in its simplicity, doing nothing to hide his lean build and toned skin and handsome features, and doing nothing to showcase it either. So it’s not the height, or the hair, or his shirt. He’s just noticeable, more so than anyone else Izaya has ever seen.

More than a few eyes follow him as he makes his way across the street into the grocery store, and eventually, Izaya has to remind himself to hide from sight.

Alone, in the thin sliver of the shadow cast behind the building, Izaya shivers. He’s suddenly lost in a brief fantasy of hands on his hips, pushing him against the wall and pinning him in place, warm skin, and sunlight reflecting off of yellow hair. It’s so real that for an instant he has to bite down on his lip and force back a sound of involuntary want. When his vision clears, his skin is flushed with warmth.

What happens if he catches me?

Chapter Text

This time, when a shadow darts in between the apple trees and runs away laughing, Shizuo doesn't hesitate before chasing after him with every last ounce of his speed.

They tear through their usual route, through the haystacks piled on the open fields, through the fenced gates that surround the apple orchard. All the while, Izaya is laughing uncontrollably, in a way that surely must steal the breath from his lungs and make it impossible to run as quickly as he is. Shizuo remembers not to trip over the pitchfork lying across the road this time. Izaya takes a corner. But Shizuo knows this part too - and knows that it's a trick. He takes the shorter route, jumping up onto the ledge, and swinging through the open barn windows. He lands on both feet, the impact jarring his heels and up his spine, but it's okay, because he's made it. Izaya is right there in front of him, climbing up the ladder.

"Hey!" he yells, half in delight and half in warning. He's never gotten so close before, and the exhilaration grants him a final burst of speed. Shizuo lunges across the barn. His hand catches something - an ankle - and they both fall.

They land on a massive bale of hay, fresh from the last harvest, and still smelling like sweet cut grass and wild air.

"Got you," Shizuo growls with vicious triumph, so euphoric with it that he nearly misses the way Izaya cries out under him, shocked and wanting.

But he doesn't miss it. The sound goes through him as if it has physical force, recoloring all of his euphoria into heady arousal, leaving him gasping for breath. He realizes that Izaya's shirt has ridden up to expose the vulnerable skin of his stomach. Shizuo sees Izaya's face inches below his own and feels Izaya's smooth warm skin under his hands.

Shizuo goes dizzy with heat, and then he goes very, very still.

Izaya takes a moment longer to recover. His eyes refocus on the present, and he realizes the position they're in. The bastard giggles, as if this is funny, as if the sound didn't put him in even more danger than he already was, as if he didn't care about that danger at all.

"Hey, Shizu-chan, you finally caught me," Izaya laughs and tips his head further back into the hay, and Shizuo can't help but marvel at the exposed lines of his collarbone, the hollow at the base of his throat. "What are you going to do now?"

His shirt slides even further off his skin - that fucking shirt - until it reveals more skin than it hides.

But Shizuo remains frozen until Izaya lifts a hand out of the hay and traces it up Shizuo's arm. His fingers send shudders of sensation through Shizuo's body, hot and cold all at once, until his skin feels flushed and his chest feels tight. Izaya runs his fingers along the grooves formed by Shizuo's muscles, tense and corded with the effort of not moving, of not allowing himself to fall. Izaya reaches up further still and presses his palm against the side of Shizuo's face.

His palm is burning hot, even though his face is deceptively calm, the coal-dark locks of his hair splayed out against the golden strands of the haystack underneath him. His eyes are dark and endless. Shizuo feels as if he will never find his way out again, not until the end of the world. He's beautiful, and clever and daring and irritating and hard as hell to catch, but Shizuo's got him now, and nothing is ever going to be the same again, not after feeling this. As Shizuo makes a small sound of appreciation, of want, and Izaya shuts his eyes in surrender and shudders.

Shizuo feels it as if the shudder went through his body instead of Izaya's. He swallows, and the euphoria returns, even more powerful than before, at the thought that - he's mine. I caught him, so he's mine. He wants me. He wants me, and there's nothing else I want more than him.

The shudder makes him suddenly aware of the fact that their legs are tangled together. One of Izaya's legs is between his, and Shizuo can feel him. He's never felt this before. He's never been so close to someone before, not like this. And Izaya is smiling up at him now, sly and knowing, lazy with the knowledge that Shizuo wants him too, must want him, with that expression of open want on his face and that pressure between his legs. Izaya's leg tenses around his waist, pulling him closer, demanding even more proximity than what they've achieved already. The look of invitation in his half-lidded eyes is devastating, irresistible.

Before he realizes what he's doing, Shizuo pushes Izaya further back into the hay, presses him down into the dry give of the bedding and the sweet scent of summer rising up all around them. He captures Izaya's lips in between his own, closing his eyes and falling into that endless pleasure of Izaya's skin against hands, and his warmth against Shizuo's skin.

And oh, it feels good. It's so much better than anything he's ever experienced before. So much better than the lazy stroke of his hand, impatient and hurried with the only goal of getting himself off quickly. Better than what he imagined, from snippets of conversations from his classmates, crude and joking. This is something he wants to last forever, wants to savor.

He wants to run his fingers across every inch of Izaya's skin, just to feel the way that it burns underneath him. He wants to feel every breath that Izaya takes as a rise and fall against the cage that his hands make around Izaya's ribs. He needs this, the way Izaya moves underneath him, the way he feels, the way his breath catches, the way he sounds.

Unable to stop himself, he rolls his hips against Izaya's body, allows himself to go insane for a moment from the gratification of finally, finally having Izaya underneath him, just like he's wanted all this time.

Then Izaya's arms come around his shoulders, pulling him in even more. He's angling his head a little to the side - his lips part - and Shizuo goes dizzy with a rush of blood through his head, with the discovery that Izaya tastes like apples.

.

He pushes Izaya's shirt away from his skin with so much haste that the thin fabric almost rips, but at the last second, Shizuo remembers to be careful. Izaya complies readily, sitting up and lifting his arms, allowing Shizuo to undress him. He has an amused grin on his face as he does so, but Shizuo doesn't care. He's too lost in the pale, soft skin that has been revealed to him. Izaya is surprisingly untanned after a summer spent running around in the sun. It's like the black fabric of his shirt has absorbed all light before it reaches his skin, leaving it pristine and unmarked by the sun.

Shizuo makes a mark on it immediately, placing his mouth on the sharp line of Izaya's collarbone, the one that always jutted out at an angle from Izaya's loose shirt, that line of bone under skin that he had never been able to tear his eyes away from. He goes delirious from the way Izaya trembles underneath him. He runs his tongue along the soft skin, bites until it is red and glistening with saliva. Then, because Izaya's reaction is nothing if not encouraging, Shizuo leans in a bit lower, and does the same to one of Izaya's nipples, running his tongue over it and sucking gently.

Izaya's head tilts back even further as he arches his back, inadvertently this time, and he cries out. The sound he makes is sweeter than anything Shizuo's heard before in his life. He wants to hear it again, so Shizuo bites down again, makes a game out of it, trying to figure out what he can do to make Izaya cry out louder, or gasp in that incredibly satisfying way.

When he comes back to himself, Izaya's hands are scrabbling desperately at Shizuo's sides. His chest is heaving against Shizuo's body, he's gasping, and he pushes violently at the hem of Shizuo's pants, trying to push them off of narrow hips.

"Wait," Shizuo stops Izaya by the simple expedient of pressing his body down against him, hard. Izaya gasps and one arm comes free, flailing. Shizuo catches it in midair and pins it down above Izaya's head. His fingers are against Izaya's wrist. He can feel the fast drum-like beat of Izaya's pulse underneath his fingertips. They're both breathing heavily, and Shizuo feels jittery with panic and aflame with desire. "Wait," he blurts again. "How does this even work?"

He actually hadn't thought that they would get this far. That he would ever get this far, not during this summer, perhaps not ever. Not that he minds, and definitely not that he wants to stop. He just isn't exactly sure where to go from here. So, Shizuo looks at Izaya earnestly, hoping for a quick answer that would satisfy them both.

"Ah," Izaya says, sounding both breathless and sarcastic. "You actually have enough wits about you to speak. And here I was thinking that you had become a mindless beast in heat."

With a snarl of impatience, of course he'd be annoying right now, Shizuo presses Izaya's arm down a bit harder, enough so that it would just barely begin to hurt.

Izaya continues without the barest hint of strain in his voice. "Well, the general idea is to get both of us off. You know how that part works, right? I'm sure you've done it by yourself before. It's not that different for me, I've got the same thing down there."

"Idiot," Shizuo hisses, mortified. Izaya was not making this easy on him. "That's not what I meant. I know how it works between - between a guy and a girl anyway. You - you um - the guy sticks, uh. Anyway. But we're both guys." And he should have thought harder about this, instead of getting carried away. But here he is. And he's determined to see this through properly.

"How eloquent," Izaya drawls, and he seems to have no trouble breathing, so Shizuo growls and presses harder into him, and is rewarded by a flicker of heat in Izaya's eyes and a hitch in his breath. "But then again, I guess our public school system doesn't exactly put gay sex on the curriculum."

Shizuo gives him a flat look. Of course not.

Izaya sighs heavily. "You could also stick it in me, as you put it, but that's - that's probably not gonna happen this time. I really don't like pain, and we don't have any lube or condoms right now, so no thanks."

Shizuo goes still. He doesn't want to hurt Izaya, not even if it means more pleasure for him. He is also beginning to feel horribly inadequate and unprepared and inexperienced compared to Izaya.

"Have you done this before?" he asks.

"No," Izaya replies immediately, too fast to be a lie. Then he admits: "I did some research on the internet. It seemed like a good idea to be prepared. But don't you worry, Shizu-chan." His smile comes back, sugary sweet and slightly teasing. "I'm as much of a virgin as you are."

This whole conversation has Shizuo flushed red. He's sure that his face must be the same color as the apples littered about on the fields outside. He can feel the burn in his cheeks as he clears his throat and nods. Oh god, we're really gonna do this.

This was not what he had pictured when imagining his idyllic summer vacation. He barely knows this kid, even though he feels as if he's known him forever. His family had always called him impulsive. What would his parents think if they knew what he was about to do? Would he ever be able to look Kasuka in the eyes again?

He's really going to - they're really going to -

Then Izaya gets a determined, set look on his face, and makes one final, desperate push to get his pants off. He succeeds partially, and then loses the rest of his patience. He grabs Shizuo's ass, rolls his hips upwards, and Shizuo's mind fractures at how good that feels, how much he wants more. He forgets everything else, all his doubts, all his hesitation, and grinds back, feeling wild and unconstrained and incredibly turned on.

"This will go a lot better if you take these off," Izaya pants, and then follows it with a smirk to show that he's still in control and that he's still the one giving the orders. Shizuo forgives him, though, because in the next instant his expression goes hazy with pleasure, and he shivers at the way Shizuo aligns their hips and moves against him.

The next few moments are a blur of fumbling hands and clothes and skin and gasps. The hay makes for a soft landing but doesn't give a lot of purchase for actually finding your footing again. Izaya tries to push himself up, tries to get up enough to take off his own pants, while Shizuo is busy trying to do the same. They fall against each other and get completely distracted from their task by the sensation of their cocks grinding against each other. Izaya breathes in sharply, sounding tense, but his body immediately goes weak and his head falls back into the hay, like surrender, like he's finally been overwhelmed. Shizuo follows immediately after, chasing after the hollow of Izaya's throat, chasing the friction of his body.

Izaya has managed to free one leg from his pants - his flexibility has come in useful for Shizuo, for once - and he has one leg wrapped around Shizuo's waist. He's trying to pull Shizuo closer, trying to do something, but Shizuo is too far gone to know anything but this: he has Izaya right where he wants him.

His own pants are only around his thighs, and not off completely, but Shizuo couldn't care less. It's enough for him, and he can't spare any attention to anything other than Izaya's body underneath him, and Izaya's cock curving up, hard, in between them. He grinds their cocks together in ceaseless, insistent, rocking motions. They're already beginning to slip against each other with the slick layer of sweat from their bodies, making it easier for Shizuo to bear down on Izaya with all of his weight and all of his pent-up desire, and to press all of it into the pale of Izaya's skin, and the sweet taste of his mouth, and the endless heat in his eyes.

Izaya starts to moan underneath him, begging him to stop, begging him to go faster, and Shizuo happily complies with the latter. But he doesn't kiss him - he doesn't want Izaya to stop making those noises. Instead, he kisses the side of Izaya's neck, the hollow of his throat, pale and trembling with the force of Izaya's moans. He keeps grinding against Izaya, even after Izaya cuts off and his eyes squeeze shut, even after Shizuo can feel Izaya shudder through his orgasm. Then he keeps going all the way through it, not stopping until he's seen and memorized the way that Izaya's lashes flutter, and the way his mouth goes slack with heat and opens willingly to the insistent press of Shizuo's mouth, and the way his body arches away from the haystack underneath them.

Then Izaya moans, a drawn-out sound lower than anything that he's made before, and it's too much. Shizuo feels as if the sound of it had poured warm liquid honey down his spine and into his veins. He gasps as well, clutches desperately for an anchor and finds it in the warmth in Izaya's eyes, convulses against the warm mess that they've made in between them, and comes.

.

They end up lying side by side, recovering their breath under the bright sunlight that made its way into the barn through its large windows, on the haystack that shone like gold and smelled like sweet caramel.

Shizuo turns to Izaya, huffs a breath of startled laughter, and picks out a strand of hay from Izaya's dark hair. Izaya's lashes flutter with satisfaction, but before he can do anything else, Shizuo speaks.

"Was this why you came back every day?" For me, and not for the apples?

Izaya pauses. His gaze softens. "Yeah," he says. "Pretty much." He grins ruefully at Shizuo. "I wasn't expecting much out of this vacation, to be honest. But even this town was way too boring for me. I thought I would go mad with boredom before summer ended. Then I saw you, and -"

He cuts off. Shizuo is grinning at him, perhaps a little too pleased by the tufts of hay sticking out from Izaya's hair, the imprints they have left on his cheek. Izaya swats at his hands as Shizuo tries to take out more strands of hay.

"Keep going," Shizuo says. "You saw me, and?"

"I thought you could save me from my boring summer vacation," Izaya says slowly, and there's just a wild, mischievous grin on his face now. Shizuo knows this means trouble, so he braces himself. In the next instant, Izaya has lunged out of the haystack with fistfuls of hay in his hands and is stuffing them all into Shizuo's hair like his head is a pincushion. Shizuo laughs at the mad glee on Izaya's face, as if this would really be enough to spoil his mood after he's just been sent to cloud nine.

Izaya pouts at him, and it's adorable, until Izaya huffs and tries to stick a piece of hay up Shizuo's nose. That's when Shizuo decides to sit up and get serious. He grabs Izaya's shoulders and flips them both over. Izaya laughs at him, clear and bright, like a lark under a cloudless blue sky. Then, Shizuo rolls them around in the hay until it has turned into a nest, and they are both completely covered in dust and bits of broken straw.

Chapter Text

The next day, when Izaya shows up at the apple orchard in the morning, he’s leaning shyly against a trunk, and he doesn’t run away.

Shizuo doesn’t chase him either. They smile at each other, a little warily, a little uncertain, and then Izaya says, “I hope you don’t mind me coming here. If I don’t steal any more apples, can I stay here and watch you?”

“Sure,” Shizuo replies, and then he’s able to come closer, gently to avoid scaring Izaya away, and kisses him against the apple tree. Izaya tastes like midsummer morning, like sunlight on warm tree bark. When the wind picks up a little, it shivers through the trees and rustles through the leaves, until it sounds like a waterfall has started up nearby. Izaya pulls Shizuo a little closer to hide from the wind, and Shizuo obliges.

When they’ve managed to stop kissing, even though it’s all Shizuo wants to do now, Izaya grins at him and says, “Or we could do this. I don’t know. My schedule is pretty open. Do you have a lot to do today?” He changes his tone to something suave, like a pickup artist. “When do you get off work?”

Shizuo laughs. “I usually don’t stop working until 5 PM. It’s not like I have a quota to fill, but because you’ve been so distracting all this time, I’ve gotten a little behind schedule.”

He hasn’t actually gotten behind schedule. But it’s gratifying to see Izaya look just the tiniest bit guilty.

“How about I help?” Izaya asks.

Shizuo can’t hide his pleased surprise. “Sure,” he says, and feels a sudden glow of warmth at the prospect of spending the rest of his day like this, with Izaya at his side, picking apples and chatting.

He leans in to kiss Izaya again, but Izaya laughs and swats him away. “Get back to work,” he scolds. “You’ve taken too much of a break already. Let’s hurry up and finish, so you can get off work earlier.”

It doesn’t actually work like that, but Shizuo doesn’t bother correcting him.

“Here,” he shows Izaya how to tell which apples are ripe, and how to break them off, with the stem still intact. He shows Izaya how to place them in the wheelbarrow, to avoid bruising their skin. After a moment, he decides to strip off his gloves and give them to Izaya instead. They don’t do much for him, but they’ll help prevent Izaya’s hands from getting all scraped up from the rough tree bark and the sharp edges of the leaves.

.

They actually get a lot done.

It shouldn’t be surprising. There are two people instead of one, now. And apple picking isn’t exactly the hardest job in the world. Izaya doesn’t steal any more apples, and he doesn’t distract Shizuo with anything more than his looks and the graceful way his fingers snap off stems and toss the fruit. He’s actually concentrating, doing honest work for once, and Shizuo finds himself glancing over at him more times than he can count.

Izaya glances at him too and grins every time their eyes meet.

He takes the ladder because of course Izaya would like high places, and Shizuo stays on the ground to pick the apples on the lower branches. They go through the rest of the rows of trees at an incredibly fast pace. At one point, Shizuo works up the courage to run his fingers along the back of Izaya’s leg as he passes by. Izaya nearly falls off, and his gasp sounds so offended that Shizuo burst out into laughter.

.

When they are done, instead of bringing the wheelbarrow back into the barn, Shizuo just decides to trap Izaya in between his arms.

“Got you,” he says, and Izaya’s expression instantly goes from pleased to affronted.

“I let you catch me,” he says. His eyelashes are incredibly long up close. Their noses touch, and when Izaya huffs a breath of laughter Shizuo can feel it on his lips. “Both this time and last time. You wouldn’t actually be able to outrun me in a race.”

Shizuo considers displaying some of the strength that he is so famous for back home, but it’s not that important. They’re talking about speed. “On an open field?” he asks. “I definitely would have caught you way earlier if there weren’t all these trees around.”

Izaya laughs in his face, and there’s an arrogant tilt to his smile. “Just admit it, Shizu-chan. I’m the faster one. What, are you embarrassed that a scrawny kid from the city outran you?”

“I’m from the city too,” Shizuo protests. Then, curious about how much Izaya weighs, he picks him up.

Izaya wasn’t expecting it. He lets out an undignified yelp and scrambles for purchase against Shizuo’s shoulders and accidentally kicks him in the shin. “Whoa, wait, Shizu-chan, put me down! Put me down!”

He is lighter than Shizuo expected. It takes almost no effort at all to pick him up. He sets Izaya down hastily. “Sorry,” he says. “Should have given you some warning.”

Izaya makes a show of brushing himself off and rearranging his clothing. Shizuo realizes that he’s not wearing that shirt, the one that shows so much skin. He’s almost sorry that it’s gone, even though he had cursed that shirt to hell and back before, for being so damned distracting. Izaya’s wearing a normal white t-shirt now, which has little smudges of dirt on the hems and doesn’t show anything more than the hollow of his throat.

Shizuo forces himself to look away. He takes that back. This shirt is plenty distracting too.

“Does this mean you’re done with work?” Izaya asks, and there’s an earnest quality to his question that almost makes him seem innocent despite the way he’s looking at Shizuo right now. “Can you come play with me now? I’ve even helped you out. We’re done with this row of trees, and you’ve set the wheelbarrows all off to one side.”

“Yeah I’m done,” Shizuo grins, and can’t resist the urge to cage Izaya in between his arms again. This time, Izaya holds still long enough for Shizuo to kiss him.

.

When they make it back to the barn, and Shizuo sits down to eat his lunch, he realizes that Izaya hadn’t actually brought any food.

“I could eat an apple for lunch,” Izaya suggests, and Shizuo growls at him don’t even think about it.

“Here,” he says at last and gives Izaya half of his sandwich. Ms. Niigota always gives him a massive amount of food. He usually is able to finish all of it by himself, but he doesn’t mind just eating half today.

As they sit there, talking and eating, they both suddenly discover that the barn actually has inhabitants. Two, in fact. One is a large tawny cat with long whiskers and a puffy tail. The other is a sleek grey cat that looks entirely too well-groomed to be living in a barn. They poke their heads out of a second-floor balcony, and Izaya is the one who catches sight of them.

“Look,” he hisses, suddenly dropping his voice and pointing. Shizuo looks up just in time to see them draw their heads back and hide again. A sleek gray tail curls just out of sight at the edge of the second level.

Oh,” Shizuo is so surprised that he nearly forgets that he has a sandwich in his hands. He stands up, tries to get a better look, but they have disappeared. “I had no idea there were cats here.”

He had eaten here nearly every day for the past week. He hadn’t noticed them at all. Shizuo considers taking a piece of his sandwich and luring them out, but he doesn’t know where they’ve gone.

“It’s pretty common around here, to keep the mice population down.” Izaya grins at him. He hasn’t made any move to get up. After a moment, Shizuo sits back down across from him, kicking out his legs on top of Izaya’s and weighing them down. “Do you have pets at home?”

Shizuo shakes his head. He had wanted a dog, once, but it’s hard to keep a dog in the city and a small family apartment. “You?”

“No,” Izaya replies. “Cat person or dog person? I’m pretty sure I’m a cat person, but my family doesn’t have any pets.”

“Dog person,” Shizuo isn’t surprised that Izaya likes cats.

“Of course,” Izaya sighs, and then pats the wooden planks next to him. “Come here,” he calls, false and encouraging, like he would call a dog.

Shizuo sticks a tongue out at him and tries not to laugh. “Just because I like dogs doesn’t mean I am a dog.”

“Really? But you’ve got all the right coloring for it. And all the right instincts too.” Izaya beckons him, a bit more insistently. There’s a seductive grin on his face, and as Shizuo watches, Izaya tilts his head back a bit, inviting.

Shizuo goes over to him, cages him in between his arms as Izaya leans against the barn doors. The wood creaks under Shizuo’s weight, and the air goes strangely silent as the wind outside dies down. Izaya bites his lip as Shizuo comes closer, and the action draws all of Shizuo’s attention.

Then, Shizuo licks him on the nose.

He watches in fascination as Izaya’s face goes from smug to shocked, and then to affronted, and then finally, struggling not to laugh, struggling to stay angry as Shizuo beams at him. “Wha - what,” Izaya splutters, and tries to push Shizuo away. Shizuo doesn’t even budge.

“What’s the matter?” Shizuo asks, trying to sound as innocent as he can. “It’s all in character for me, right? Why are you so surprised?”

“You -” Izaya seems to have finally discovered how impossible it is to make Shizuo move. His shoves get a little more insistent. He is blushing hard, and his facade of anger is starting to crack as he laughs. “That’s disgusting. Ew, Shizu-chan. What did you just -”

Shizuo pounces on him, delighted by the way Izaya squirms away from him and yells, “No, no, AAAAAAAHHHH. Get away from me, you brute. Who does that? What are you? Were you raised by wolves?” Izaya doesn’t even get the chance to wipe the saliva off his nose. He’s too busy trying to fend off Shizuo’s face, and for a moment they are just a tangle of flying hands. In the end, they both break down into a fit of giggles and laugh until they can’t breathe.

.

“Did something good happen today?”

Izaya looks up from the dinner table, where he has been smiling at his bowl of cold soba noodles for the past five minutes without taking a bite. He realizes too late that his giddiness is apparent for all to see, and now both of his parents are looking at him in curiosity.

“Not much,” he replies automatically. Mairu and Kururi have their heads bent together, absorbed in playing with their food. They’ve cut their soba noodles into tiny pieces, and they’ve started to arrange them into neat little characters on the dining table. Their parents are too preoccupied to notice.

His mother studies him. “Did you find someone your age around here?” she asks, surprisingly perceptive.

The game is up. Izaya puts down his chopsticks. “Yeah,” he replies. Neither Mairu nor Kururi are paying attention to anything outside of their little game. His parents, however, have all of their attention fixed on him now. “The Niigota farm hired a kid from our city to be a farmhand for the summer. His name is Shizuo Heiwajima.”

“Heiwajima...” his mother thinks for a little bit, but she doesn’t know anyone by that name. “That’s a rather unusual last name, isn’t it?”

This, coming from parents who had named their child Izaya, after a prophet in the bible. But both of them seem oblivious to this delicious bit of irony.

“What’s he like?” his father asks, dipping his noodles in his sauce, and looking at Izaya questioningly.

Dangerous probably isn’t the answer that they want to hear. Sexy probably isn’t a good answer either. Izaya smiles at the memory of Shizuo lifting a full crate of apples like it was nothing, piling it on top of a whole stack of crates as tall as he was. And he had done it like it was nothing, even though Izaya had never seen such a feat of strength before in his entire life.

“Interesting,” is what he says. “I think he’s possibly the most interesting person I’ve ever met.”

Chapter Text

Aomori is a northern prefecture, chilly in the winter with an unbelievable amount of snow, but temperate and humid in the summer. When there are no clouds in the sky, and no shade in the open fields, and no entertainment to be found in the apple orchards nearby, Izaya sits on the floor of his family's rented lodge and is grateful for the AC unit puttering away by the window.

There's a puzzle on the low coffee table in the main room that serves as both the family dining room and living room. Dinnertime is approaching soon, and the puzzle is nearly finished. Both Mairu and Kururi have their heads bent over the table, silent with concentration. His mother is still in the kitchen, and when she pokes her head out to assess the situation, they both speak in unison before she's even opened her mouth.

"Five more minutes," Mairu says quickly. "We're really close, really, really close. Don't disturb us for five minutes and we'll be done and the table will be cleared. I promise!"

"Wait," is all Kururi says, and goes right back to work, organizing the remaining puzzle pieces into neat little rows based on shape.

Izaya leans on his hand, and says teasingly, "But I'm hungry. What do we have for dinner?"

"If you're hungry, then come over here and help us," Mairu whines at him, even though she's not looking at him. She's taking Kururi's carefully organized pieces and matching them one by one to the missing holes in the puzzle.

"Help," Kururi says, and there's a slight edge to her voice. She's getting hungry too, and with every passing minute, there's the danger of their mother coming in and demanding that they take the puzzle off the table, ruining all the work they've done so far.

Izaya smiles and swings around to face the table. "You asked for it," he reminded them. Then he begins to match puzzle pieces to missing sections just as Mairu had.

He gets three in a row, pieces which had been hard to match due to being a solid blue color. The puzzle starts to take shape underneath his fingers - a crystalline lake, clear and cold, with an unearthly blue quality to its water. Most of the edges are done. It's just the center of that lake, an endless, beautiful blue, that needs to be filled in.

"Oohhh, that's Lake Aoike, isn't it?" His mother has come to stand over them, sounding fond and reminiscent. "That's pretty close to here. Where did you get this puzzle?"

"One more minute," the Orihara siblings all chime in unison. Their mother puts her hands up and backs away from the table to give them space.

"Okay, okay," she says, laughing. "One minute."

Now that the loose pieces were steadily shrinking in size, the pace of the puzzle's completion speeds up drastically. Kururi abandons her task of sorting the loose pieces and joins in on the job of matching them to the shrinking edges of the gaps in the puzzle. They all work in silence, hands flitting over the small rectangular picture that has started to form on the table, the little blue lake.

At last, there's only one piece left. Izaya hands it to Mairu, and Mairu hands it to Kururi. Izaya rolls his eyes and takes it from them, aligns it over the final missing hole in the puzzle.

"On three," he says, and they all push it in together. It's a little silly, and it's a little awkward with three fingers over a tiny puzzle piece, but there's a little moment of anticipation as they all take their hands away and marvel over the completed picture.

"Pretty," Kururi says at last, and she and Mairu smile at each other.

Izaya stares at it too. It is a pretty place. He has already explored the village center, the farms, and the entirety of this little cottage. He hasn't even thought of going further, exploring the lakes around the area.

He's suddenly lost in a daydream, imagining water on tanned skin, soaking through a white shirt and dripping down from bleached strands of hair. Izaya blinks and shakes himself back to reality, a little embarrassed, but neither of his sisters noticed.

He's pretty sure Shizuo hasn't been working here long enough to visit the lakes nearby. He's also pretty sure Shizuo doesn't have anything planned for the next weekend. Or at least, he hasn't mentioned anything, during their talks when Izaya helps him out in the apple orchards.

"Alright," their mom says from the doorway. "Put that on the floor now. We need the table cleared."

"Okay," his sisters say in unison, and they both carefully scoot the finished puzzle from the table onto the puzzle box, trying to keep it intact. Then, the whole thing is set on the floor, off to one side.

During dinner, Izaya can't help looking at it every now and again and feeling a shiver of anticipation.

.

They're sitting on the front steps of the large barn, side by side and leaning into each other a little when Izaya takes a deep breath and asks: "Are you free this weekend?"

"Yes," Shizuo says immediately. He looks at Izaya and then away, trying to hide the sudden flare of hope in his eyes.

Izaya's not looking at him, though. He's looking at the two cats sunning themselves in a little nest they've made in the haystack. They're fast asleep with their noses under their curled tails. He clears his throat, and that's when Shizuo realizes that he's nervous, as if Shizuo wouldn't follow him around at the smallest invitation, as if Shizuo wanted to do anything else this summer besides spending time with him.

"Want to explore the area a bit? Did you know that we're really close to one of the Juniko Lakes?"

"Yeah," Shizuo says, surprised. "The Niigotas mentioned something like that. They said it's really nice in the summer."

Izaya grins at him, all traces of his earlier nervousness gone. "It's decided then. Do you want me to meet you here, and we can walk over?"

Shizuo grins back. "Sure," he says, already looking forward to it. "Sounds like a plan."

.

They meet early in the morning, when the birds are still out and singing, and the temperature is still cool. Shizuo is wide awake and giddy with anticipation. He's packed a backpack with snacks, drinks, and blankets. By the time Izaya arrives, Shizuo has been waiting in the barn for a few minutes already and has managed to coax one of the cats to come close enough to inspect the laces on his shoes.

Izaya gets distracted by the cats too. He actually manages to make the larger cat start chasing at his fingers. Its yellow tail flicks, its butt wiggles, and then it pounces on Izaya's hand as soon as it moves on the barnyard floor. Shizuo tenses the first time that it happens, but it turns out that the cat had kept its claws sheathed. It was just playing.

Eventually, Izaya tries to pick the cat up, but it seemed to sense his intentions. Both cats sprint away into the recesses of the barn.

Izaya shrugs his shoulders, smiling a little ruefully. To distract him, Shizuo picks him up, swings him around a little, and then kisses him.

"Good morning," he says when he's done, and grins.

Izaya grins back at him. "Good morning."

.

They reach the lake after about 30 minutes of walking, getting distracted by the scenery and each other. It's an easy walk over flat terrain. With so few people nearby, they are able to talk freely about whatever comes to mind.

They talk about everything - likes, dislikes, favorite books, favorite movies. Shizuo is surprised to find that Izaya is considered a bit of an introvert at his school, always hiding in the library and not really talking much. Shizuo isn't surprised to find that Izaya is a bookworm, and names titles that sound like psychology textbooks as his favorite kind of literature.

"What the heck is a broken window theory?" Shizuo ends up asking, after Izaya has just rattled off too many strange words to make an understandable sentence.

Izaya's eyes light up. "Its something the police use to gauge which areas are more likely to have high rates of criminal activity," he says, and then goes on with so much enthusiasm that Shizuo gets caught up in it as well.

The time passes in the blink of an eye.

When the crystalline blue surface comes into view, they both stop in stunned amazement. It feels like time slows down, and the world goes quiet.

Izaya turns to grin widely at the expression on Shizuo's face. He looks delighted by the way Shizuo turns to gape at him, still too blown away to say anything. Then, he tugs a little at Shizuo to tell him to follow and turns to run down to the lake.

By the time Shizuo has caught up and is setting down his backpack and pulling out the blankets, Izaya is stripping off his clothes with fast, efficient motions. The sight of it makes Shizuo's mouth go dry, and for an instant, it's all he can do not to stare.

He wants to follow right after Izaya but somehow manages to reign himself back. He finishes setting out the blankets and then weighs them down with his backpack. It's mostly in the shade so that they'll have a place to sit once they're wet. But before he can pull out anything else, Izaya is calling out to him from the water.

Shizuo turns to see Izaya laughing as he wades further into the lake, his dark hair a stark contrast to the blue water. The sunlight reflects off the water onto his skin, makes patterns of ripples onto his back and chest. As Shizuo watches, Izaya runs his fingers across the surface of the lake and laughs as the ripples they form intersect and combine with the waves he is making with his body.

Before he knows it, Shizuo has taken off his shoes, is out of his clothes and is taking long, running strides in order to jump into the lake. He lands with a massive splash.

Izaya's laughter intensifies as Shizuo comes up for air, and shakes his head to get the water out of his hair.

The water is cold, but incredibly refreshing after a long walk in the sun. Shizuo dunks underwater again, to get used to the temperature faster. By the time he comes up again, his heart is hammering with excitement. This is his first time swimming in an actual lake. The endless blue sky above him and the wide water around him makes it feel completely different than the small school swimming pools he is used to.

Izaya still hasn't gotten much further than waist-deep in the water, and his top half is still dry. He looks amused when Shizuo beckons for him to come in deeper, but refuses to move. When Shizuo starts towards him, Izaya backs away quickly, laughing, and flicks some water into Shizuo's face.

At this, Shizuo grins and retaliates by sending a wave towards Izaya with his hands. Izaya sputters as the wave hits him, and when it is over he is still standing only waist-deep in the water, but now his hair sticks to his forehead and water drips from his shocked face.

Shizuo starts laughing so hard at his expression that he doesn't notice it when Izaya sends a wave his way as well, almost as large as the one that had hit him. It gets into his mouth and tastes faintly like minerals. Shizuo nearly chokes on the unexpected mouthful of water. But then he grins, and Izaya instantly turns to run.

It turns into a chase, one which Shizuo wins easily because he's willing to dive completely into the cold water and swim. Izaya barely makes it four steps towards the shore before Shizuo catches him around the waist and pulls him, laughing and screaming, completely underwater.

The water here is surprisingly clear. When Shizuo opens his eyes, he can easily see Izaya's face underwater, his hair floating around him like a halo, the light streaming in from above. Izaya has his cheeks blown out in a held-in breath, but he looks like he's also holding in laughter. As Shizuo gazes at him, entranced by the sight, Izaya opens his eyes too, one at a time.

.

When they come up for air, Izaya has his arms around Shizuo's shoulders. He's shivering slightly from the cold, but his skin is warm to the touch. He has his face buried in Shizuo's neck and is no longer laughing. But his fingers slide into Shizuo's hair, and his palm is warm against the back of Shizuo's head. Shizuo presses a reassuring kiss against Izaya's temple and then goes breathless at the way water slides off of Izaya's skin and drips from his dark hair onto his bare shoulders, the way he shivers and clings onto Shizuo a little tighter.

Shizuo traces his hands along Izaya's sides, along the dip of his spine, marveling at how smooth it feels to touch despite the slight goosebumps that have started to form on Izaya's skin. He wants to follow the soft skin underwater, but he doesn't dare. He feels slightly foolish about it, but it's difficult, even though they've already touched each other like that before. With Izaya like this, though, pressed tightly against his body, Shizuo doesn't know how long he can resist.

As if sensing his thoughts, Izaya presses closer to him, chest to chest, and hooks one leg around Shizuo's. He feels incredibly warm now, like the sun has started to glow inside of him, and has submerged itself halfway into the lake. Izaya makes a quiet keening noise, in the back of his throat, and the sound makes Shizuo grab hard at his waist. He gasps with shocked arousal.

Then, at last, Izaya leans up into him, and they kiss for a long time in the shallows of the lake, their legs tangled together, as if they had just discovered what it felt like, and wanted to drown in that feeling forever.

.

"Let's go back to shore," Izaya says quietly, and his breath hitches as Shizuo runs his fingers down the side of his neck. Shizuo's kisses have started to get deeper, warmer. They are beginning to go to Izaya's head.

Shizuo obliges him without a word. He picks Izaya up, he always does that incredibly easily, as if Izaya weighs nothing. Izaya wraps his legs around Shizuo's waist and doesn't stop kissing him. He feels each step jolt through him, and with his legs open around Shizuo's waist, there's no way Shizuo can miss the obvious signs of his arousal.

Finally, Shizuo kneels and puts him down gently on the blankets that they've brought with them and spread out on the ground.

When Shizuo pulls back, he asks, "Do you want anything to eat? It's a little before noon right now."

Izaya licks his lips, but he doesn't feel hungry. Instead, he swallows hard and watches the way water rolls off of Shizuo's skin, how they gather in the divots on his abs, and rolls down from his hips.

Izaya realizes he's staring, but he can't bring himself to care. He should be cold from the lake. Instead, he feels heat stirring in his stomach, filling him up with warmth and making everything seem to move around him with a dreamlike quality. There's a tightness to the back of his throat and each inhale feels strangely slow and deliberate.

When he looks up, Shizuo is staring at him too, and clearly thinking about the same thing. His eyes are dark and intense, and when Izaya sees the hunger in them he is sure that he's going to be devoured whole. Izaya swallows, and the motion seems to draw all of Shizuo's attention to his throat. Izaya feels a shiver go through him, and he's not sure if it's arousal or nervousness. "Some water would be nice."

Shizuo snaps out of it immediately, reaches into his bag, and hands Izaya a water bottle. The tension eases for a moment as they sit down next to each other, close enough to feel each other's body heat, but not close enough to touch.

Izaya now understands the term, a stomach filled with butterflies. They've touched each other before, but that had been after a week of longing looks and touches that seemed to be filled with electricity. When Shizuo had caught him, Izaya had been so overwhelmed by the heat of the moment that he had been ready to come at the slightest touch. They had responded to each other on pure instinct, reacting to that strange current that had formed between them on that first day, dragged under by it.

Now, there is nothing between them but a thin barrier of air. They are both strangely stiff, and it's clear in the tense lines of their body, and the way that the space between them seems to vibrate with unspoken longing.

All it takes is one touch, Izaya thinks. It should be easy. It should be simple. All he has to do is to acknowledge this, this thing between them, this feeling. All he has to do is fall, and trust that Shizuo will catch him.

Izaya caps the bottle decisively. "Shizu-chan," he says. "Can I try something?"

Shizuo puts his own bottle down hurriedly. "Su-" he coughs and clears his throat. "Sure."

Izaya looks at him. Slowly, carefully, he leans over Shizuo so that their shoulders are touching, and then their thighs. Shizuo feels incredibly warm even though they are both in the shade, and Izaya is already sure that his heart is going to pound its way out of his chest at the simple sensation of skin against skin.

He runs his hand down Shizuo's chest, down to Shizuo's stomach, and feels the way the muscles flex under his touch. Then, unable to look away from Shizuo's face, Izaya reaches down further and presses his palm against Shizuo's half-hard length.

Shizuo draws in a quiet breath, and the air around them seems to shiver with it. But Izaya is committed to this now, and he's not going to let anything like nerves get in the way. "I've never touched someone else like this before," he admits. "Tell me if it feels weird, okay?"

"It feels good," Shizuo blurts out, and he sounds completely honest and desperate for Izaya to believe what he's saying.

Oh, Izaya thinks. He relaxes suddenly at the way Shizuo stares at him, his pupils blown out, and his breathing coming fast. It is such a straightforward thing after all. It's really that simple.

He wraps his hand completely around Shizuo's cock, and a rush of heat goes through him as he feels it twitch against his palm. They're both breathing hard, now. Izaya vaguely realizes that Shizuo is bigger than him, and a jolt of panic and arousal shoots through him and sets his skin on fire. He strokes experimentally, a few times, from the base to the tip, watching with rapt attention at how his hand moves around a cock other than his own. They haven't dried off completely from the lake, and Izaya can still feel droplets of lake water underneath his palm. He's surprised they haven't evaporated already, based on the heat he can feel coming off of Shizuo's skin. Shizuo bites back a sound. He turns and presses his face into Izaya's hair, and he sounds like he is trying to hold his breath and failing.

After a while, Shizuo starts to shift his hips a little restlessly, bucking up into Izaya's grasp, searching for more friction. He's completely hard now, and Izaya looks up to see the expression on Shizuo's face. Shizuo's cheeks are flushed red, and he is biting at his bottom lip as if he is trying not to make a sound. The sight pools heat in Izaya's stomach.

Izaya tries some of the things he likes himself. Now that he's no longer nervous, he enjoys watching for Shizuo's reaction as he strokes up, increasing the pressure slightly, and twists his wrist so that his thumb brushes over the tip.

At this, Shizuo sucks in a sharp breath, and convulses under Izaya's touch, drawing in his leg and pulling his knee to his chest. Izaya stops for a moment, but he's grinning too. This was the reaction that he had been waiting for.

He presses his palm against the inside of Shizuo's thigh, lowers himself down, and licks the tip of Shizuo's cock experimentally. It tastes like the clean lake water, but there is also a warm saltiness that must belong to Shizuo himself.

"Wait," Shizuo gasps, sounding overheated and disoriented. When Izaya meets his eyes, he looks flushed with embarrassment. That only makes Izaya even more confident, and some of his old arrogance comes back.

"Don't worry," Izaya smirks at him. "You just taste like the water from the lake."

Shizuo looks away, and Izaya tries it again, taking Shizuo's cock into his mouth and pressing his lips together, applying pressure.

"Fuck," Shizuo gasps, and in the next instant Izaya realizes that Shizuo has pulled him up, he is shuddering as he comes, painting white stripes along his chest and stomach.

Shizuo collapses back onto the blanket, which has gone damp with sweat and water from the lake, breathing fast. The sun has moved up a little higher in the sky, and their feet are no longer in the shade, so at least that part of the blanket is dry. Izaya marvels at the white stripes painted across Shizuo's stomach, wants to draw a finger through it and bring it to his lips. Before he can do anything, however, Shizuo wraps his arms around Izaya's waist to presses a clumsy kiss against his hip, making him laugh.

Then Shizuo pushes him down, leaning over him, and Izaya abruptly stops laughing, his breath catching in his throat.

"Shizu-chan," he gasps. "W-wait, are you sure about this?"

Shizuo is too preoccupied to reply. The slide of his mouth down Izaya's cock completely drives all of Izaya's thoughts out of his head. He gasps and winds his fingers into Shizuo's hair. It gives him some semblance of control, but then Shizuo presses his tongue against the tip, and Izaya is completely at Shizuo's mercy.

He honestly doesn't last any longer than Shizuo did, but in his defense, he was already hard from the sight of Shizuo coming. And having Shizuo's mouth around him is unlike anything he's felt before, terrifying and new and exciting all at once, all sensations that Izaya is incredibly weak to. He cants his head back, and when he cries out and comes, Shizuo looks slightly dazed with disbelief, as if he can't believe that he's the one that caused such a reaction.

They end up lying side by side in the shade, filled with the sleepy kind of warmth that usually follows from doing this sort of thing. Izaya has his head pillowed on Shizuo's arm, and Shizuo keeps looking at him as if he doesn't quite believe that all of this is real. They fall asleep like that, enjoying the warm breeze across their skin and the sound of birds singing in the trees.

Chapter Text

Shizuo loves watching the sunrise.

Sometimes, on his way over to the apple orchards from the cottage where he and the Niigotas live, he gets to see it rising over the open fields. It turns the sky into a beautiful strata of all the colors of the rainbow. If there are clouds, the clouds divide the sky into even more beautiful colors, adding shade and depth and texture. It makes him stop and marvel, sometimes, that something so beautiful like this even existed, let alone was a sight he could see nearly every day. It was such a simple thing, a sunrise, and yet it took his breath away.

Izaya is not exactly an early bird, however. He usually shows up at the apple orchard sometime during mid-morning, waiting for Shizuo by the entrance to the barn, playing with the two cats that have started to associate him with gentle rubs and the occasional treat. He’s often a little sleepy when he arrives, which Shizuo discovers is because Izaya walks here as soon as he wakes up.

“You don’t eat breakfast?” Shizuo asks, concerned.

“I’m not hungry in the mornings,” Izaya says, and then yawns. To both of their surprises, the grey cat on his lap opens its mouth in a huge yawn as well, showing two rows of tiny sharp teeth, and then promptly shakes itself and jumps down with its tail straight up in the air.

“That,” Shizuo says after a moment, “is the first time I’ve ever seen a yawn so contagious that a cat caught it.”

“I’m sure it was just a coincidence,” Izaya says, but he looks slightly pleased as if he had just been praised.

.

After he’s seen Izaya yawn for the fifth time during lunch, Shizuo tells him to take a nap.

“Here?” Izaya says, but he is tired. He doesn’t even protest that he’s not sleepy.

“Yeah,” Shizuo says, and leans over to kiss him gently. He doesn’t want to say it out loud, but he loves it when Izaya’s sleepy. It’s adorable.

So Izaya bids him farewell and lets him go pick apples by himself for a while. It’s strange to be picking apples alone, without Izaya’s teasing banter, but Shizuo smiles at the thought of Izaya waiting for him in the barn.

.

When he comes back, Izaya is lying on his side on the haystack, fast asleep. The sunlight has slanted down through the windows to fill the entire barn with a soft golden light, and Izaya seems to have found the warmest spot in the entire place. Both cats have found him as well, with the grey one next to his head and the yellow one has curled up against his chest. Their tails are intertwined around his shoulder, and they are soundly asleep as well.

Shizuo stops at the doorway of the barn and wishes desperately for a camera or a way to capture this moment in his memory forever.

Then, gently, so that he doesn’t disturb any of them, he reaches out and brushes Izaya’s hair out of his face.

Izaya wakes slowly, shifts against the press of Shizuo’s palm against his face. After a moment, he moves the yellow cat away from his chest and sits up.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Izaya asks blearily.

Shizuo is indescribably pleased with the way Izaya looks when he’s just woken up, soft and warm and still hazy-eyed from sleep. His hair has pieces of straw in it, and is all messed up on one side. It’s adorable, and Shizuo can’t resist running his fingers through Izaya’s hair, picking out pieces of straw. He grins at the way Izaya pouts at him.

“I was going to help,” Izaya says.

“You should go back to sleep,” Shizuo replies, in a hushed voice, to avoid disturbing the cats. “I’m pretty much done for the day. This is my job, not yours.”

What?” Izaya looks up to gauge the amount of sunlight coming in through the windows. “You’re done already? What time is it?”

“Pretty close to 5,” Shizuo says.

“You let me sleep for that long?

“I didn’t want to disturb you.”

Izaya catches at his wrist. Shizuo has finished picking out the straw, and now he’s just stroking Izaya’s hair like he’s a cat. “Shizu-chan,” Izaya complains. “What are you doing?”

Shizuo grins at him. It seems like Izaya’s fully awake now. “You’re so cute when you’re sleepy,” he says, and it has the reaction that he expected. Izaya’s eyes open wide in shock and indignation.

“You -!” Izaya pounces on him, pressing against his shoulders. The cats hurry away, startled, as Shizuo falls back, laughing, into the soft cushion of the straw around them. Izaya’s mouth tickles against his collarbone, and then he bites.

“Take that back,” Izaya demands, but there’s a grin on his face that says he’s playing, and Shizuo has never been able to resist that smile.

“I can’t,” Shizuo protests, and pulls him down so that he can wrap his arms around Izaya’s waist. Izaya struggles against him. Shizuo lets him squirm around as much as he wants. “Really! I can’t, it’s true.”

Izaya shoves at him, and Shizuo retaliates by turning them around and pinning Izaya into the hay, kissing him and tasting laughter on his tongue. They end up play-fighting, with Izaya batting Shizuo’s hands away, and squirming away from Shizuo’s kisses.

When Shizuo’s hands happen to trace along Izaya’s waist, under his shirt, Izaya’s reaction is instantaneous. He gasps, loud and shocked, and curls into himself with an involuntary shriek. For a moment, they both stare at each other, shocked. Izaya’s mouth falls open in horror, and Shizuo’s mouth splits into a wicked grin.

“Wait, no,” Izaya starts. “It’s not like that. I’m not -”

But it’s too late. Shizuo attacks him relentlessly, tickling him along his ribs and stomach. Izaya shrieks with helpless laughter in between begging him to stop. He grabs at Shizuo’s hands, pulls at them with surprising strength now that he is truly desperate. The sound of his laughter is quickly becoming one of Shizuo’s favorite sounds.

The air inside the barn is cool from the shade, but soon they are both covered in sweat so that the straw sticks to their skin. The cats have long since disappeared, flicking their tails disdainfully at these rambunctious humans who have apparently decided to start roughhousing.

Suddenly, Izaya’s eyes open wide and he draws in a startled breath. His eyes are fixed on the barnyard doors. When Shizuo turns around, he sees Ms. Niigota standing in the doorway, looking surprised. They both scramble to their feet.

Shizuo instantly tries to hide Izaya with his body, but it’s a little too late. His heart is hammering in his chest. They must have been too loud. He curses himself, starting to panic a little. Izaya is pressed against his back, suddenly very small and quiet.

“Ms. Niigota,” Shizuo starts, but she doesn’t look surprised anymore.

“Oh!” She exclaims and smiles at Shizuo with genuine delight. “This must be the Orihara’s oldest boy!”

Shizuo stops short, confused. She’s not mad? She doesn’t look angry. She comes a little closer, brushing her hands on her apron and settling them on her hips. There is such an air of ease about her that Shizuo can’t help but relax as well.

Feeling the tension leave Shizuo, Izaya comes out a little from behind him. Ms. Niigota smiles at him openly, warm and pleased. “I thought Shizuo had been looking so much happier recently. It must have been your doing! Nice to meet you! I meet your mother at the market sometimes. She tells me you’re always out and about as soon as you’re dressed in the morning. I’m so glad you two found each other, I was beginning to worry that Shizuo wouldn’t be able to find anyone close to his age around here. I’m glad he was able to find someone he liked!”

At this, Izaya comes out into view completely. “Pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” Izaya says back politely, still a little nervous.

“And from the look of things, you must have been helping Shizuo out, haven’t you?” Her smile is knowing, and kind, and says you have nothing to worry about, child. “You’re such a sweet kid! Your parents must be so proud of you.”

“Sweet?” Shizuo laughs, and then finally, all the tension eases away from Izaya. Shizuo bumps his shoulder into him, and says, “If you listen to him talk for more than five minutes, you’d say he was anything but sweet.”

“Well then, come over for dinner! Or after dinner, if your parents are expecting you.”

“They are,” Izaya says, but Shizuo looks at him so hopefully that he clears his throat and amends: “But I can ask to come over after dinner.”

“Wonderful!” Ms. Niigota claps her hands, and the two cats come out of nowhere, suddenly following at her heels. “We’ll see you then!”

.

Izaya goes over to the Niigotas place after dinner.

He finds Shizuo sitting on a cushion out on the porch, dangling his bare feet over the wooden ledge. There’s a fan, open and unused, lying next to his hands on the wooden deck. Shizuo is wearing a light summer shirt that nearly stops Izaya in his tracks - his eyes run across Shizuo’s collarbones and the open angle of his throat - and suddenly Izaya has to swallow in order to regain his composure.

The two cats have followed Ms. Niigota back home. This is when he finds out that the yellow cat is named Nezuko and the grey cat is named Shiori.

There’s a plate of watermelon slices next to Shizuo, and he’s got one in his hand already. They look deliciously cool, and Izaya goes over immediately, sliding over to sit next to Shizuo and bump against his shoulder.

“Give me a bite,” he says and opens his mouth. Shizuo smiles at him indulgently and lets Izaya take a huge bite out of the watermelon slice in his hand.

The sky is starting to turn just this shade of twilight, which means that the cats are wide awake now and ready to play. Ms. Niigota comes out with another plate of watermelons, and a bowl of treats for the cats as well. They lunge for her, circling around her feet and rubbing their heads against her legs, purring loudly.

“Don’t let them eat any watermelon,” she warns them as she sets down both the bowl and the plate. Shizuo snatches the plate away just as Shiori starts to stick his nose into it. Shiori instantly switches his focus over to the other bowl and begins lapping up the food there instead. Izaya laughs, reaches out, and discovers to his delight that both cats are too preoccupied with eating to move away from his hand. Their fur is surprisingly soft, for being barnyard cats.

He makes idle conversation with Ms. Niigota, chatting about how long his family is on vacation here, and where they are staying. Shizuo looks faintly surprised to hear that Izaya’s family is renting a place not too far away from here and that Izaya has already explored all of the village square already. He shoots Izaya and unreadable, slightly exasperated look. Izaya just smirks back at him and reaches over him to take another slice of watermelon.

Ms. Niigota has to go back eventually, to tend to her other duties, but she bids Izaya a fond farewell and tells him to come over anytime. “It’s been a while since we’ve had so many kids in the house,” she laughs. “And I love cooking for you city kids. None of you ever eat enough!”

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Izaya replies formally and is rewarded for it with a fond pat to his head. Shizuo grins sideways at him, pretending not to notice the way it makes Izaya blush.

“What do you think of them?” Shizuo asks after they are alone.

“They’re incredibly nice,” Izaya replies honestly. He feels slightly bad for thinking that all Aomori townsfolk were slow and uninteresting. They are just different from the sharp-eyed, tense-shouldered city dwellers that he is used to. They have no reason to be anything but what they are - normal people living a simple life, and enjoying it for no other reason than that they can.

Shizuo kisses him when no one is looking. He is braver than Izaya gave him credit for, or maybe he knows the Niigotas better and is less concerned with what they think. In any case, his kisses are cold, and Izaya wonders how many slices of watermelon Shizuo must have eaten, to make him taste so sweet.

.

“Show me your room?” Izaya suggests, and Shizuo pulls him up by the hand. The sky is steadily fading darker, but the rooms inside the farmhouse are bright and well-lit, inviting in the darkness.

Shizuo shows him the living room, which has a table and a couch in the middle and a small screen TV on one end. A ceiling light and fan hangs in the middle, with two long white strings dangling down from it. There are two floors to this place, and Shizuo has the entire upper floor to himself since Mr. and Ms. Niigota occupy a side bedroom on the first floor. There a few unoccupied guest rooms that used to belong to their children before they moved out, and Shizuo has the one on the farthest end.

“I didn’t bring much stuff with me from the city,” Shizuo says, opening the door. “I’m not really good at decorating anyway.”

The room opens up to a simple, bedroom with a wide window and a tall oak dresser, a desk with a lamp on it, and a chair. It’s surprisingly clean.

Izaya pretends to look around, briefly snoops into the closet which earns him a snicker and a soft Hey from Shizuo before he sits on the bed. A moment later, Shizuo grins and topples him over, and Izaya has to force himself to keep his laughter quiet as they start roughhousing just like they had back in the barn. With the door closed, and an entire floor to themselves, it feels like they are the only people here, but Izaya knows better than to be too obvious. He’s still a guest.

Instead, he keeps his touches light and teasing. He discovers, to his dismay, that Shizuo is not ticklish, or at least is very good at pretending not to be. But he does respond in interesting ways to kisses against his throat and collarbone, so Izaya focuses on that instead. Shizuo puts up with his teasing for as long as he can, until Izaya bites his ear, and then Shizuo decides that he’s had enough. He catches Izaya’s wrists and holds them together above his head on the bed in one hand. Then, Shizuo kisses him, slow and deep, until Izaya runs out of air.

When Shizuo pulls back, holding him down against the mattress and looking down on him, Izaya goes dizzy at the suggestion of what he is offering. They both stare at each other, breathing heavily, and tension fills the room as they both consider it. But then Izaya shakes his head, and the tension eases. He reaches out, traces the shell of Shizuo’s ear with his fingertips in an apology.

“I have to head back soon,” he says gently, and Shizuo turns his head to press a kiss against his fingers. A startling shiver goes up Izaya’s spine, and for a moment he considers staying after all. He feels so warm that he isn’t sure if he has a fever or not, and Shizuo is looking at him again with that dark hunger in his eyes. With a jolt, Izaya realizes that if Shizuo really doesn’t want to let him go, he will be trapped here. He isn’t sure the choice is his to make in the first place.

Finally, Shizuo gets off of him. Izaya can still feel the imprints of his fingers at his sides, where they burn and send heat sinking into his skin. For a moment, he’s so weak with pleasure that he can’t summon the strength to get up.

“I’ll walk you home.”

Izaya huffs a breath of laughter. “This area isn’t particularly dangerous, Shizu-chan. I’ll be just fine.”

Shizuo catches him as he hops off the bed. His thumb presses against the inside of Izaya’s wrist, against the pulse that is racing there. “Let me walk you home,” he insists.

And because Izaya doesn’t want to leave yet, because he’s still addicted to the way Shizuo looks at him, he relents. They tiptoe quietly down the stairs so that they don’t disturb the rest of the family, put on their shoes, and walk outside into the cool night air. With most of the lights in the farmhouse off, the only light source comes from the moon and the stars, and a smattering of fireflies flitting about a nearby pond. The chirping of cicadas the only sound around them. It is so incredibly different than the night scenery in the city that Izaya goes silent for a long time, just taking it all in.

Shizuo doesn’t let go of Izaya’s hand, which is perfectly fine by him. They speak in hushed whispers when they have to speak at all. But for the most part, it’s strangely peaceful, and strangely lonely - just the two of them walking on an old asphalt road under the night sky.

Chapter Text

Serizawa Shrine is a few kilometers walk away, but since the Niigotas have found a couple of bikes in their shed, and have fixed them up, Shizuo and Izaya bike along the wide path and make it there in a little over thirty minutes.

Shizuo hasn't ridden a bike in a few years, but true to the saying, it's not something you unlearn. It takes him a few starts and tries to get going properly, but throughout it all Izaya waits patiently, always next to him or a little ways ahead, sure that Shizuo will catch up.

It's a muggy day, but still warm. As soon as they arrive, Shizuo gently places his bike down next to a tree and goes straight for the well. Ignoring the wooden ladles on the stone basin he splashes water on his face. It's instantly refreshing.

Izaya laughs, "Are you sure you should be doing that?"

"Why not? It's a well." Shizuo shakes the water out of his hair, making Izaya laugh even harder.

"Here," Izaya takes one of the wooden ladles and splashes water all over him. "Better?"

"Yes," Shizuo answers, and then goes to pick him up, drying his face on Izaya's shirt. Izaya tries to back away, shrieking with laughter, but he's already caught and there's nowhere to go.

Eventually, they realize that they should probably pay some respect to the gods they've potentially offended, and they make their way deeper into the shrine. The cobblestone leading up to the main shrine is well worn. The tassels from the red arches sway in the breeze. Despite themselves, the two of them fall silent, gazing around at the peaceful scenery. The air here feels heavier somehow, dampening the sounds of their footsteps, and making it hard to talk loudly.

The shrine itself has clearly seen better days, but it is still well-maintained, with newly swept floors and polished wood. Standing there, the two of them clap their hands formally and bow.

I don't know what to wish for, Shizuo realizes. Everything I want is right next to me.

It's a solemn thought, one that he tries not to dwell on for too long. Izaya has already wandered off to explore the rest of the shrine, but there isn't much to see. Other than a small garden off to the side, which has several flowers and vines growing up the fenced sides, the shrine has no other buildings.

Standing in the middle of the courtyard, Izaya looks up at the sky. Shizuo's breath catches. He is struck by how gorgeous Izaya can be sometimes. Izaya is lost in thought, with a faraway look in his eyes. He's gone completely still, head tilted back to reveal the hollow of his throat, where Shizuo's gaze lingers for far too long. His sudden stillness and his delicate features all combine to make him look like a statue, a frozen work of art. If Shizuo had a camera and could take a picture of this moment, he was sure that art critics all over the world would be left just as speechless as he was.

"I think it's starting to rain," Izaya says.

.

Izaya feels the first drop of rain hit his cheek and the next on his shoulder. He looks back at Shizuo, who is leaning against one of the pillars inside the shrine. A shiver goes through him at the look in Shizuo's eyes, dark and intent on him.

Izaya goes to him just as it starts to rain in earnest. As soon as he is within arm's reach, Shizuo pulls him close.

Izaya leans into him, and distantly, the sound of the rain outside turns into a downpour.

There's something strangely heated about Shizuo's kisses. They fill Izaya up with a slow, simmering kind of warmth. The wet slide of Shizuo's tongue against his makes him weak. He makes a small sound, an encouraging one, he thinks, and Shizuo just pulls him closer.

Something, some combination of where they are, the rain, the sound it makes against the roof of the shrine, makes Izaya dizzy with want. He throws his arms around Shizuo's neck, presses against him until they are sharing body warmth. Shizuo's hands settle around his hips. Izaya leans into him harder, feeling some current raging under Shizuo's skin, pounding and insistent, just like the rain on the roof over their heads.

They are both getting wet from the rain. There isn't that much cover on the outside where Shizuo was standing, and the water is splashing up at them from the ground. When Izaya turns to look, he sees that the entire courtyard is quickly transforming into a small pond.

Eventually, the water rises so much that they have to go further inside. There are steps at the entrance where they can sit, safely covered under the roof so they won't get wet.

Izaya leans his head against Shizuo's shoulder and closes his eyes. They will have to wait out the rain before they head back, but Izaya doesn't mind. He feels lightheaded and spacey. When Shizuo's arm comes up around him, Izaya feels it as an anchoring weight amidst the echoing weightlessness of his thoughts. Shizuo is incredibly warm, and his touch sends shivers through Izaya's spine wherever skin meets skin.

They sit like that for a long time, listening to the sound of rain against the roof of the shrine.

.

.

.

After that, whenever it rains, the two of them make it a point to look for each other.

It's like a secret signal from the sky. It makes Shizuo think of that image of Izaya standing in the courtyard, looking like the loneliest thing in the world.

So the next time that the clouds break open, Shizuo goes straight to the apple orchard. He's not exactly sure what he's expecting, but he finds Izaya there, soaked to the skin. His shirt is so threadbare and thin that it goes transparent.

He looks surprised to see Shizuo there, blinking water out of his eyelashes like he's not sure if what he's seeing is real. Shizuo nearly runs the rest of the way over to him, picking him up and kissing him fiercely to let him know that yes, he was really there.

"I wasn't sure if I should come," Izaya whispers. "But I couldn't stop thinking about you."

.

Luckily, there are towels stored in the shed next to the barn. Shizuo insists, even though Izaya laughs and says he's fine, he's not going to catch a cold in the middle of summer. He stops protesting once Shizuo takes off his own shirt, and crowds in next to him in the nest they've made of blankets and hay. The rest of his clothes come off easily, with the persuasion of Shizuo's kisses against his bare skin.

The rain makes a constant drumming sound on the high wooden rooftop overhead. Inside the barn, there is a hushed silence broken only by the rustling of clothes and the shift of their bodies against the hay.

When Shizuo makes it clear that he intends to lick every raindrop from Izaya's skin, Izaya looks completely overwhelmed. He reacts helplessly to every touch, unusually sensitive, as if the rain has washed away everything except for the most vulnerable layer of his skin. It makes Shizuo dizzy with want, and when he has finished, Izaya is gasping and shaking underneath him. His hair is still wet from the rain, and his eyes are hazy with heat, but he looks like anything but a statue. He's constantly moving, trembling under Shizuo's hands, making small, pleading sounds in the back of his throat.

For a while, Shizuo can't move. He can't stop marvelling at the way Izaya's entire body has seemed to open up for him, desperate and wanting, the way he reacts to the slightest touch. He has never been trusted so completely, or given so much, so willingly.

Izaya makes an impatient sound, and slides his leg up to Shizuo's hip. He tries to pull Shizuo in closer, but Shizuo has a better idea. He wraps his fingers around Izaya's ankle, gently pulls it up to his shoulder, and lowers himself down to take Izaya in his mouth.

The sound Izaya makes, this time, is endlessly satisfying.

He ends up clinging to Shizuo's arms, crying out wordlessly with each motion. His head is canted back against the straw, his shoulders dig hard against the support behind him, and he gasps like he can't get enough air. It's all too much for him, Shizuo knows, but Izaya endures it anyway, digging his fingers into Shizuo's skin, begging for more, begging for him to stop. When he comes at last, he tastes a little like the raindrops that had been on his skin.

.

.

.

Sometimes, the rain outside is just a light drizzle, and makes little to no sound against the ground. All it does is sheet the air with a fine hazy mist, and make layers of condensation against the windows.

It's like that today. The light drizzle started up right as Shizuo and Izaya were heading back from the apple orchard. Instead of letting Izaya get soaked walking back to his place, Shizuo had insisted that they wait out the rain in his room.

They're shoulder to shoulder on Shizuo's bed. It's a little crowded, but neither of them mind. At times like these, when the rain isn't as strong, it's enough just to be next to each other.

Izaya has secured permission to come over on most weekdays, and it seems like his parents are the trusting type. As long as they know where he generally is, they don't worry about him too much. Today, Izaya has brought his mp3 player with him.

"You've seen these before, right?"

"Of course I have," Shizuo doesn't own one himself, but he's seen some of his classmates walking around with them. He's never thought of asking his parents for one. It just seemed like a bad idea to own something so expensive, when he could break things by accident sometimes.

Izaya takes out one headphones and hands it to Shizuo with a teasing grin. "Then you know what this is?"

Shizuo sticks his tongue out at him. "Stop acting like I came from the stone age, you brat. Of course I know what it is."

He takes it, trying to hold it gently between his thumb and forefinger, and tries to push it carefully into his right ear. It falls out immediately.

Izaya looks like he's trying hard not to laugh. He catches the earpiece as soon as it falls out.

"Here," he says, and puts it in Shizuo's other ear. His fingers brush against Shizuo's hair. Shizuo tries and fails to stop himself from blushing. He has started to realize how easy it is to get distracted by the delicate motions of Izaya's fingers, the way they handle objects with surprising care.

The other headpiece goes in Izaya's right ear, and now they are linked by a thin white cord. Shizuo can't help but feel a little more self-conscious and move with a little more consideration, now that any jerky movement on his part might pull Izaya's headphone out of place.

To Shizuo's immense relief, Izaya doesn't notice Shizuo's reaction to his touch. He turns his attention to his red mp3 player, and begins scrolling through his selection of songs.

"What do you want to listen to first?" Izaya asks, lying on his stomach. He's trying to sound nonchalant, but Shizuo can hear an undercurrent of excitement in his tone. He is kicking his legs back and forth in the air. "Any genre preferences? Favorite artists?"

"I don't know," Shizuo shifts a little further to the side to give Izaya more space. "Just play anything good."

Izaya scrolls through the songs so fast that Shizuo can barely make out any names, and makes his selection quickly. Shizuo lies down carefully on his back. The first song begins to play with Izaya watching for Shizuo's reaction, and Shizuo contemplating the wooden ceiling.

It's hard to concentrate on the music with Izaya watching him so intently.

"I didn't know you liked music that much," Shizuo tells him, in order to distract himself.

"Oh," Izaya stops swinging his legs. He looks away briefly, embarrassed. "Actually, I haven't listened to any of these songs ever since this summer started. I used to listen to music a lot in the library at school, but it got old after a while. The songs on this mp3 player - I've listened to them all so many times that I know the lyrics by heart now."

"Really?" Shizuo can't quite believe that. "How many songs are on there?"

"About fifty."

"That many?"

"It's not that much," Izaya says dismissively. "If you listen to the same songs on repeat, every day, it would be weird not to memorize all the words."

Just then, the song hits its chorus, and Shizuo goes silent, drawn in despite himself. It's catchy, incredibly upbeat, and cute. It is also in another language. He blinks in surprise and Izaya grins.

"This is really good!"

"I know," Izaya replies immediately. "I chose it."

Shizuo looks at him sideways, with growing incredulity. "Are you saying you've memorized the song by heart, even though it's in another language?"

Izaya rolls his eyes at him, and then as if to prove a point, begins to sing along with the lyrics.

Shizuo discovers two things instantly - one is that Izaya can apparently sing in another language, and the other is that his singing voice is clear and bright and adorable. It takes a long time for him to stop staring in complete shock.

He feels like he honestly shouldn't have been so caught off guard. Izaya has always seemed like the sort of person who was just effortlessly good at everything. Back home, Shizuo never would have approached someone like him, believing him to belong in a completely different world. But now he's here, with messed-up hair and a shirt that seems too big on his slender frame, lying next to Shizuo on a futon that's nearly too narrow for the both of them, singing along with a silly upbeat song with absolutely no shame.

When the verse finishes, Izaya grins at him as if to say, what do you think?

"Play the next one," is all Shizuo says. He can't take his eyes away from Izaya's face, and can't stop hoping that he'll hear more of Izaya's voice. Now that he's heard it, he's not sure he'll ever get enough of it.

"Oh, this next one is pretty good too," Izaya skips to the next track, and turns to watch Shizuo's reaction again. He leans down briefly to kiss Shizuo on the cheek, and laughs when Shizuo tries to fix his dislodged headphones. The rain stops outside, but neither of them notice. They're too caught up in spending the entire evening like this, listening to all the songs on Izaya's playlist.

.

.

.

When it's not raining, their day in the orchards often ends with them sitting on the grass.

They're like that today, relaxing after a long day of harvesting, when all of a sudden Izaya pulls out a knife. It's a switchblade, short but absurdly sharp, glinting in the sunlight.

"Where did you get that?" Shizuo asks, startled. He doesn't move from his head from Izaya's lap, though. It's the only place where he can get any decent shade, and he's not willing to give that up just because a knife has suddenly shown up out of nowhere.

"I brought it with me," Izaya says. He picks up one of the apples from the basket next to them, and sticks the blade next to the stem, begins turning the apple in his hand.

Shizuo falls silent, watching him work. Izaya takes off the top part of the apple, with the stem, and tosses it aside. The knife makes a soft shhhk sound against the apple skin. It falls away in strips of red, like confetti strings. Shizuo opens his mouth, but Izaya just nudges his face away with his elbow.

"It's been on the ground," he scolds gently. "That's why I'm peeling it."

Shizuo turns his head back just in time to see him finish turning the apple over in his hands. The last of the red skin falls away, leaving only the pale white fruit beneath. Shizuo can't help but be impressed. As soon as he thinks that he's got Izaya figured out, that he won't be surprised anymore, Izaya always shows up with some new talent or skill. It's as frustrating as it is endearing.

"Open your mouth," Izaya commands. Shizuo grins at him.

"Are you going to feed me?"

"Of course I am," Izaya replies, and holds his blade with an apple slice in front of Shizuo's face.

Shizuo happily opens his mouth. It tastes deliciously cool and sweet, even though it must have been out in the sun for the whole morning. Izaya's fingers are delicate with the blade, keeping them well out of harm's way. Shizuo stares up at him, and isn't sure if he wants more apple slices, or if he just wants to keep watching Izaya's hands as they work above his head.

Either way, he says, "More", with a hint of a demand in it. Izaya complies, and Shizuo realizes he is warm all over, but not from the sun. He knows he's staring, but he can't bring himself to stop.

"Where did you learn how to do that?" he asks at last. Izaya glances at him in between peeling his second apple. His knife flicks away the part with the stem, and it flies off somewhere to land on the ground.

"I don't know," Izaya answers. "I guess I kinda watched how my mother did it, and copied her."

Shizuo feels the sudden, mad urge to kiss him, but he also wants more apple slices, so he just turns his head and presses a kiss against Izaya's thigh. Izaya squirms and laughs, "Hey, stay still!"

The next time he offers an apple slice to Shizuo's lips, Shizuo takes it, and then can't resist taking one of Izaya's fingers into his mouth and biting it gently. Izaya shivers at that, a tiny motion, but Shizuo could feel it. He licks experimentally, and tastes apple juices on Izaya's fingers. Izaya inhales slowly, but his knife is now forgotten by his side, and his eyes are wide and dark when they meet Shizuo's gaze.

Shizuo finishes licking all the apple juices from Izaya's fingers, then looks up at his face. Izaya looks slightly stunned, as if he isn't sure what just happened, and why it had turned him on so much.

"More," Shizuo says, and this time Izaya gets it right, and leans down to kiss him.

Chapter Text

“I have something to show you,” Shizuo tells him. Even standing on the ground, he’s tall enough to slide his fingers across Izaya’s waist, and the ticklish sensation almost makes Izaya drop the apple that he’s holding.

Hey,” Izaya hops down from the ladder. Shizuo grins at him, unrepentant.

Izaya considers, for the nth time, taking a bite out of the apple in his hands and watching Shizuo’s expression change. Instead, Izaya drops the apple into Shizuo’s palm. He makes a show of it, as if he’s giving Shizuo a present. Shizuo rewards him with a pat on the head, which makes Izaya feel like a kid being praised for doing something good.

Distantly, he wonders if Shizuo is applying psychology to him, conditioning him for good behavior and not causing trouble. He doesn’t think Shizuo would think that far. But still, Izaya wonders if it might be working regardless.

“What is it?” Izaya prompts. He can’t help his curiosity. Already, he’s guessing what Shizuo has possibly brought. “Food? A present? Something you bought? Something you found?” He gasps in mock horror, “Shizu-chan, did you steal something for me?”

“A place,” Shizuo answers, even as he lightly swats at Izaya for the last accusation. “I figured that since you showed me the lake, I should bring you to - ”

He cuts off with a sudden grin. Directed at Izaya, this close up, it has a devastating effect. He knows how much Izaya likes predicting things. “I’ll let you guess what it is.”

“A bar,” Izaya says immediately. “Tell me, Shizu-chan. Please tell me you found a bar that serves minors.”

“No,” Shizuo gives him a slightly scandalized look. Izaya presses on.

“An internet cafe then?” That was next on Izaya’s wishlist, even though he highly doubted there actually was one around here.

“No,” Shizuo laughs. “Keep guessing. You’ll see.”

.

“A graveyard,” Izaya says, as they’re walking together in the opposite direction of where they usually go, away from the direction of the lake. It’s a hot day, but there’s enough shade on the road to walk more or less comfortably.

Shizuo’s looks have gotten progressively more alarmed. “Why would I want to bring you to a graveyard?” he asks.

Izaya reconsiders his list of guesses, based on what he knows of Shizuo’s personality. “You’re right,” he says at last. “You’re not at all the morbid type. Then...”

They walk for nearly five minutes in silence before Izaya comes up with his next guess. “A monument,” he says. “I’d say a museum, but I doubt there are any museums around here. Maybe a war monument? Didn’t you say that history was your favorite class?”

“Why would - ” Shizuo shakes his head before he can repeat himself. “I don’t think there has ever been a battle here,” he laughs. “It’s way too peaceful.”

Izaya has to give him the point. They’re going up a small slope, and Shizuo waits for Izaya to catch up. “We’re getting pretty close,” he says. “If you don’t guess it by the time we get there, do I win?”

“I didn’t realize that this had become a competition,” Izaya replies loftily. “I didn’t make you guess a hundred different things. I just told you that it would be a lake. I was all upfront about it.”

“I thought you would guess it in an instant,” Shizuo admits. There’s a slow smile that is appearing at the corners of his mouth, like he is trying to suppress it and failing. He looks a little too pleased with himself. Izaya narrows his eyes.

“It’s that obvious?”

Shizuo shrugs. “You just seem like you know a lot of things. This is the most I’ve ever heard you guess something wrong.” He smiles in amusement to take the sting out of his statement. “It’s actually really refreshing.”

Izaya growls in frustration and scrubs a hand through his hair, messing it up a little. “I think I might have tunnel vision or something.”

“What’s that?”

“When you focus too hard on something specific, and fail to see the larger picture.”

“It’s alright,” Shizuo ruffles his hair, messing it up even more. “Happens to everyone, once in a while, even you.”

Izaya grabs at Shizuo’s hand, trying to stop him from doing whatever he wants with Izaya’s hair, but that’s right when they crest the hill and arrive at their destination. The landscapers had clearly understood the path that most people would take to get here, and had thus designed the view in a way that delivered the most impact. There was a long drop of land before them, which meant that they could see for miles around - miles of shocking yellows and magenta and pink, pale purples and chaotic mixes of white, orange, and red.

“A flower farm,” Izaya says finally, once he has gotten over his breathless awe.

“It doesn’t count if you’ve seen it already,” Shizuo reminds him, but Izaya has already forgotten his guessing game. He turns back to Shizuo with open amazement in his eyes.

Shizu-chan, you brought me to a flower farm?

Shizuo startles back, and blushes a little. “I - Ms. Niigota told me about it,” he admits. “I was - she said I should bring you here. There are actually a bunch of flower farms in this area, but she said that this one’s the prettiest. I didn’t know if you liked flowers, but - well -”

“It’s beautiful,” Izaya says honestly. He can’t get enough of this view. It reminds him of an ocean, but a multicolored one, with stripes of color instead of breaking waves. The breeze ripples through the flowers and makes them move like little currents. The whole farm is so vast that it stretches all the way to the horizon. He wants to throw himself into it, and lose himself in that dizzying array.

There are several trails through the flower farm, where they can stroll amongst that sea of color and feel like they are in an alien land. Izaya is surprised that he hadn’t guessed that they were going to a flower farm before. Only now does he notice the scent of rich greenery and blooming flowers, that had been curling through the hot summer air and filling his lungs even on the way here.

“I’d give you flowers,” Shizuo is watching him, and there’s a self-conscious grin on his face. “But I figured that this would be a better present.”

It’s his attempt at a pick-up line, and Izaya would mock him endlessly for it if it hadn’t melted his heart so thoroughly. Izaya makes a heroic attempt at not letting it show.

“Are these flowers even yours to give away?” he teases in as effort to compose himself.

“Don’t be a brat,” Shizuo pulls him along the path, down the hill. His ears are red. “Just come on.”

Izaya can’t help teasing him even more. “Who knew? Shizu-chan is a surprisingly romantic person. The tough-guy persona is just an act, isn’t it? What you really want is a flower crown and a fancy bouquet, right? I bet you like sweet things too, don’t you? What’s your favorite dessert? Heart-shaped chocolates?”

Shizuo blushes even harder. Izaya watches the way his cheeks go red, completely fascinated. The flowers around them are a vivid backdrop of orange and yellow petals on tall green stalks. The sunlight catches against Shizuo’s hair. He smiles, and the profile of his face is so captivating that Izaya can’t look away.

“It’s alright,” Izaya says. He feels slightly dizzy. He wants nothing more than to wrap his arms around Shizuo’s neck and kiss him senseless. He wants to give me a whole field of flowers, he thinks giddily. “There’s nothing wrong with being a romantic. Not everyone can be as cynical as me.”

“You’re not cynical,” Shizuo doesn’t look at him, but his grip relaxes on Izaya’s wrist. He takes Izaya’s hand. “You’re possibly the most optimistic person I’ve ever met.”

“What gives you that impression?”

“Most people would have written me off as aggressive and unfriendly after meeting me once,” Shizuo finally looks at him and gives him a brief smile. “But not you.”

Izaya has to look down in order to hide his blush.

They walk along the rows of planted flowers, hand in hand, until the sun gets dangerously low in the sky. Izaya thinks that the twins would probably love it here. They would probably end up running through the entire field, laughing and screaming their heads off, hands outstretched to feel the petals against their fingers.

He’ll keep this place a secret, though, just for now.

.

The next day, the weather is calm and fair. Shizuo knows he’s gotten lucky that it hasn’t rained so far on the weekends. Izaya loves coming to the lake whenever they have time, but even he would be hard pressed to travel over two kilometers in the rain.

They’re sitting in the shade, resting from an entire morning of swimming around in the lake. They’ve explored most of its shallow beaches, and found most of its most beautiful views. Now, Shizuo is far more preoccupied with the way Izaya hums contentedly against him as they kiss, the way his hands feel on the skin on Shizuo’s back. Their clothes are folded on top of their bags, next to an extra set of blankets, so that they won’t get wet. Izaya is always a little cold after swimming in the water, and Shizuo makes it his responsibility to warm Izaya back up again.

Izaya is definitely warm now, but Shizuo has no intention of pulling away. Izaya is responding to his every touch, and the sounds coming out of his throat are soft whimpers of pleasure. It’s addicting. Shizuo’s heart is pounding so hard that he can hear blood rushing in his ears.

“Iza-nii!!! So this is where you go every day!!!”

Izaya turns his head so fast that his hair whips water onto Shizuo’s face. He tenses in shock at the sight of two girls, aged around seven or eight, coming down the dirt path carrying small bags.

“Mairu, Kururi,” Izaya narrows his eyes. “Why did you follow me?”

“We were bored. We wanted to know where Iza-nii disappears to all the time.” Both of the girls look at Shizuo with open curiosity, and Shizuo blushes furiously. Neither he nor Izaya are wearing anything, and with Izaya sitting on his lap, it’s obvious what they’ve been up to. “Didn’t think Iza-nii was the type to hook up with a guy from a farming village. No wonder you’ve been so happy every time we actually see you.”

Then one of the girls gets distracted by the lake, and its shimmering surface. “Water...” she tugs at her sister’s sleeve and points.

“You’re right, Kuru-nee,” her sister exclaims. “It’s really hot! And the water is cool! And it’s not fair that only Iza-nii gets to enjoy it.”

They both start towards the water, stripping off clothing as they go. They are already wearing matching swimsuits under their sundresses, bright pink and pale green, unnatural colors in this wilderness. Shizuo stares at Izaya, shocked that those two had just dismissed the sight of them so easily, but Izaya just rolls his eyes and sighs heavily. “The loud one that talks a lot is Mairu,” he explains. “And the quiet one is Kururi. Don’t worry if you mix them up. I’ve done it more times than I can count.”

“I see,” Shizuo says in a slightly choked voice.

From the edge of the lake, Mairu squeals “Waterbomb!!!” and hurls herself into the water, making a huge splash.

Izaya gets up and goes over to them right as Mairu squeals, “AAAAAHH! It’s COLD!” She flails around wildly in the water, and ends up splashing Izaya as he wades into the water after her.

“Of course it’s cold,” Izaya tells her, and pulls her upright. Her glasses are skewed on her face, and splattered with water droplets. She sticks her tongue out at him cheekily.

Shizuo dives into his backpack, finding his shorts and pulling them on. God, this was his worst nightmare. He’s not sure he’ll ever live this down.

After that, he starts over towards the lake, but after a few steps into the water he realizes that there’s a strange weight around his legs. When he stops and looks down, he finds to his horror that there are two big eyes and a blank face attached to his leg, wrapped around it like a barnacle.

“Aaahh!” he yelps, and nearly jumps out of the water before he realizes that it’s just Kururi, the quieter one. Her hair is still dry, and she’s apparently latched on to him as a mode of transport instead of going into the water herself. She’s so small that he hardly felt her weight and she barely reaches up to his hip.

She stares up at him with avid interest, and then lowers her head to stare directly at his crotch.

Instantly, Shizuo drops down into the water, now looking at Kururi at eye level, mortified.

"Hah! It’s too late to hide, we already saw it earlier!" The voice is surprisingly loud, booming triumphantly from Mairu, who is now holding onto Izaya just like Kururi is holding onto Shizuo - wrapped around his leg like a koala. "No wonder Iza-nii likes you, you're well hung."

Shizuo is too horrified to say anything. In his desperation, he just looks at Izaya with a pleading gesture. Help me!!!!

“Ignore them,” Izaya says immediately. “Ignore everything they do and everything they say. They’re only doing this because of your reactions. And besides, they aren’t even supposed to be here.”

At this, he addresses his sister again. “And you. What are you doing here? You can’t just leave the village and go spelunking, you two!” She seems to want to use him as a climbing pole, wrapping her legs around his waist and trying to hoist herself up.

Izaya tries to grab her under her arms to pull her off, but doesn’t quite manage it. She just holds on tighter: “But Iza-nii does that too!”

“I’m older!” he shoots back, exasperated, like this is an often-repeated argument.

“Not by much!”, Mairu succeeded in getting one leg up Izaya’s shoulder by grabbing his hair and pulling herself up, using his narrow hip as a stepping stone for her other foot. She slips a little and Izaya catches her foot. But he doesn’t stop arguing.

“I’m more than twice your age!”

It’s obvious that Izaya has now accepted the fact that she is using him as a jungle gym. He actually holds onto her hip to steady her as she gets settled on his shoulders.

“Only barely! That means that Kuru-nee and I together are as old as you!”

What kind of backwards logic is that?” Izaya looks back at Shizuo as if to say, see what I have to deal with? But he’s smiling slightly, and hunched over with the added weight of his sister on his shoulders. Her small arms are wrapped around his head with easy familiarity, as if she’s gotten multiple rides like this before. It’s so freaking adorable that Shizuo completely forgets all of his earlier embarrassment, and just feels a rush of ridiculous affection. He’s never seen this side of Izaya before.

“...brother…”

It takes Shizuo a moment to place the voice. When he looks to his side, Kururi is still right next to him. She looks away from Izaya and her sister, who have started to play fight with Izaya splashing water on her and his sister yanking at his hair.

Mairu gets distracted by her sister’s voice. “Yeah, that’s right!” She exclaims, and points at him. Somehow, this does not make her lose her balance. “Village boy! Do you have a younger brother than you can introduce us to? It’s not fair that only Iza-nii gets to have fun!”

She folds her arms over Izaya’s head, and leans over them to study Shizuo’s face with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. It’s eerily similar to the look that her older brother sometimes wears.

Before Shizuo can answer, he feels arms around his neck and legs wrapping around his waist. They’re much smaller than Izaya’s limbs had been, and he startles at the fact that Kururi has already made it up to his back.

“..up,” Kururi commands him. Now there are two different eyes, but with the same mischievous gleam in them, peering at him from up close.

“It’s better to give in, Shizu-chan, otherwise they won’t stop.” Izaya has waded over to them, carefully balancing Mairu on his shoulder. He shoots Shizuo an apologetic look, but Shizuo doesn’t mind.

Shizuo hesitates for a moment, then gently lifts Kururi onto his shoulders, and stands up effortlessly.

.

They all walk home holding hands in a chain, the girls in the middle, Mairu chatting incessantly, Kururi interjecting the occasional word. It’s one of the strangest walks Shizuo has ever gone on in his entire life, and at the same time he finds it all incredibly endearing. Izaya is mostly silent, watching the road, but occasionally he and Shizuo share a smile at something the twins say. They both give up on teasing Shizuo once Shizuo starts taking Izaya’s advice, and manages to stop blushing at every comment they make. Then, they both turn their attention to talking about the lake, the village, the other kids they’ve met, and what they’ve been doing on their vacation.

Once they reached the village, Izaya puts his hands on his hips. “Well,” he says to his sisters, “You know the way back home from here, right?”

Without waiting for them to answer, he takes Shizuo’s hand away from Kururi. He sticks his tongue out at them, and as they begin squawking in protest, he starts to run, pulling Shizuo along behind him.

“Not fair!” Mairu yells behind them.

“Go home!” Izaya yells back.

.

When they come to a stop at the edge of the farm, where the brick walls have hidden them from sight, Shizuo is laughing so hard that he can’t breathe.

“I’m sorry about them,” Izaya heaves a sigh. “But you know what a pain siblings can be sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Shizuo says, and his amusement is a warm glow in his chest. He feels like he’s gotten incredibly lucky today, despite the awkward moment where they had been caught naked by the lake. He’s gotten to meet Izaya’s two sisters, his family, and they’re adorable, all of them. He feels like he understands Izaya better, now that he’s seen Izaya’s particular way of showing brotherly affection. “But Kasuka isn’t quite like that. He’s less energetic, quiet like Kururi.”

“Oh, don’t be fooled Shizu-chan. She may act quiet, but Kururi is actually the more devious one of the two,” Izaya laughs. “It may seem like Mairu is the troublesome one, but she is often simply carrying out Kururi’s ideas. Still waters, and all that.”

Shizuo thinks back to Kururi staring at him with an unreadable expression. He shakes his head. He never would have guessed.

“But good thing you didn’t tell them about Kasuka-kun. They would have pestered you endlessly for details, especially if he’s as good looking as Shizu-chan is.”

Shizuo thought they were past the blushing stage now, especially after he had been desensitized by Mairu and Kururi’s teasing remarks, but apparently he was wrong. Izaya winks at him, which makes it worse.

“I’m glad I could meet them,” he says. “I never knew you had sisters before.”

“Yeah,” Izaya sighs again, and looks out at the scenery. “Well, I can’t do anything about it. They’re family, after all.”

Shizuo thinks of his own family, back in Ikebukuro. He hasn’t really had the chance to get homesick, since he’s been so busy, but he does suddenly want to see their faces again. They would like Izaya, he’s sure of that. Izaya is a brat, sometimes, but he’s also incredibly smart and clever. He would be telling jokes in no time. They would adore him.

Suddenly, Shizuo freezes. He’s not sure where that mental image had come from - of Izaya, laughing around the dinner table back home. It had all just seemed so natural, as if it had been memory rather than fantasy. But he’s not even sure he’s even mentioned Izaya in any of the letters he has sent back home.

His breath catches. Suddenly, Shizuo starts counting the days. He’s been here for nearly five weeks already. How had time passed by so quickly?

With a sudden sinking feeling, Shizuo realizes that he’s in deeper than he ever could have imagined. He doesn’t think he can remember what his days had been like without Izaya by his side. He doesn’t want to remember. It would be like looking at a picture with no colors filled in, or at a puzzle with a missing piece in it.


Shit, he thinks. What will happen at the end of this summer?

Chapter Text

The village festival arrives on a humid summer day when the sky is a vivid blue and the temperature has dropped a little due to recent rains. It's a whole-day affair, with the entire village market transformed into a playground for kids who have the entire day off. Market stalls that used to sell food now have turned into dart-throwing games with little prizes.

The townsfolk in Aomori have gone all out for this festival, setting up electric lights around storefronts, and adding touches of paint over cracks and old sections to touch it up. The children are running about, flying huge kites that flutter and whip around in the wind.

All the adults have put aside their work for the day, and have come down to eat caramelized sunflower seeds and socialize in the shade around tables. Enough people bring out cards and mahjong tiles and chess boards that a sort of competition forms amongst the locals, with a bracket and single-elimination and everything.

Shizuo finds Izaya sitting at the mahjong table with three old ladies. From the small pile of coring sticks sitting next to him, he's not doing too poorly.

He puts his hands on the chair to lean over and look at Izaya's hand. Izaya's not wearing a yukata. It's both too early in the day for that, and neither of them had brought one. Instead, he's wearing that shirt again, the one that slides off of his shoulder and makes Shizuo do incredibly stupid things, like run his finger across the back of Izaya's neck in front of three old ladies.

"Are you winning?" he asks, a little panicked, hoping that none of them noticed. Izaya grins up at him.

"I am," he sighs, "But I'm not allowed to gamble, so this is just a round without any money involved." He takes out a tile and flicks it back into the center of the table. It's snatched up immediately by the lady to his left, and used to complete a set.

"You're going down now, young man," she cackles, and pulls another tile. She shuffles the tiles in her hand around a little bit, and amidst a flurry of groans around the table, wins the round.

Izaya passes her all of his coring sticks, and stands up. They all make fun of him for ditching the game to run around with his friend, but it's all done in a bantering tone.

"And don't come back, you rascal!" One of them calls after them, and they all break down into laughter.

"Bye!" Izaya calls back, and puts his hands into his pockets. He sighs. "They owed me almost a thousand yen by the end," he reveals mournfully.

"Did you bring any money?" Shizuo asks. He can't help but feel giddy with excitement, with Izaya by his side, and the whole day in front of them. "Ms. Niigota gave me a bonus this week, and told me I had to spend it all at the festival."

Izaya laughs, "Don't be an idiot. I brought my own money. Where do you want to go after this?"

"Nowhere in particular." I just wanted to spend time with you.

"Well then," Izaya claps his hands and points. "Why don't we get some ice cream?"

.

The ice cream shop has gone all out, arranging at least fifteen different flavors out in various tubs, all stuck into a trough filled with ice. It's half past noon, but this place has clearly been a popular destination. Most of the ice cream is more than half gone already, and there is a roving crowd of young kids that keep swinging by for more.

Izaya and Shizuo get their little cups of ice cream and get out of the way quickly. Mairu and Kururi run past them, following that gaggle of kids, stuck to each other as closely as ever.

"Did you want any more?" Izaya asks. "They'll probably run out in another hour or so, so if you want to try another flavor you should do it soon."

"It's alright," Shizuo laughs.

Mairu and Kururi run past again, only this time they stop in front of Izaya, holding their empty ice cream cups. Izaya instantly narrows his eyes at them.

"What now?" he asks.

"Hand," Kururi says. Izaya sighs and holds out his hand. The two of them place their cups in his palm, and dash off to join the rest of the kids that have swung by the ice cream place yet again.

Izaya makes a frustrated sound. "I'm not a trash can!" he yells after them.

"Yes you are!" Mairu yells back.

.

They get distracted, for a long time, by the row of carnival games that have been set up along the main road leading through the marketplace.

The end tally is this: Izaya wins at the ring toss. Shizuo wins at the gun shooting contest. Izaya wins the goldfish scooping game. Shizuo wins the arm wrestling contest. Izaya wins at darts. Shizuo wins the lottery game. Izaya insists that the last doesn't count because it's pure dumb luck, but Shizuo insists that it does count, because luck can be considered a sort of skill.

"Well then we're going to have to come up with a tiebreaker," Izaya says, and puts his hands on his hips, inspecting the pile various prizes they've collected.

"I don't really want to carry around any more stuff," Shizuo replies. "In fact, I don't think I can bring any of this stuff back with me."

He stops short.

He's been trying not to think about that part, the fact that he's leaving Aomori soon. But it sends a sudden, disorienting shock through his system to realize that it's real, and it's happening whether he likes it or not. His train ticket is on the table back home, printed with a date that is only a few days from today. Their summer is coming to an end.

"You don't have to lug all of it around with you, you know," Izaya says. He hasn't noticed Shizuo's sudden intake of breath, the way Shizuo is now staring at him as if trying to memorize the color of his hair and the sound of his voice. "You can give it away to the kids around here. Most of these prizes were designed for their age group anyway. The goldfish, too -"

He holds up his plastic bag, filled with goldfish, and looks at it a little blankly. "I have no idea what I'm going to do with this," he says.

"Izaya," Shizuo interrupts, and it's like their previous conversation screeches to a halt. Izaya looks up at him, concerned by the sudden change in his tone of voice. "I'm taking the train back to Ikebukuro in five days."

Izaya puts the goldfish down. "I know," he says slowly. That's when Shizuo realizes that he's been doing the same thing - trying to avoid thinking about it.

"Sorry," Shizuo feels foolish for bringing this up now. All of Izaya's amused warmth has dissipated, and with it, it feels like a cloud has hidden away the sun and brought a sudden chill into the air. "I wasn't sure if I had told you or not."

"Mr. Niigota mentioned it," Izaya stands up and brushes himself off. He looks up and gives Shizuo a small smile. "My family's here for another nine days, and then we're driving back."

"I see."

After a moment of silence, Izaya comes up to him and takes both of his hands. "Hey," he says gently. "Shizu-chan?"

Shizuo squeezes his hand gratefully. "It's fine," he doesn't want to ruin all the fun they're having right now. This is possibly the most fun he's had in his life, and he doesn't want to waste another second of it worrying pointlessly about the future. He smiles at Izaya, and Izaya grins back invitingly. His shirt slides another inch off of his shoulder, and -

"IZA-NII!"

"Iza…."

The two of them jump and turn around. Mairu and Kururi are both marching down the street toward them, looking determined. They have matching smudges of dirt on their face from running around all day.

"Not again," Izaya groans. "What is it now, you two?"

Mairu ignores him. "Is it true that you're good at the ring toss? We spent the last hour there and we couldn't win anything! Can you come over and help us? Aaaaggh, I'm so frustrated. An hour, Iza-nii! And we couldn't get anything, it's rigged I tell you."

"...prize..."

Izaya puts his hands on his hips and scowls at them. "You just want the prize, right?"

"...yes..."

"No! Well, yes, but we want to win too. We spent all of our money on it. Please, Iza-nii, help us out for once will you?"

"I've got no time to play stupid games with you," Izaya tells them, and then an idea hits him. "Hold out your hands."

They both do, and he plops the bag of goldfish, a stuffed fox, two children-sized masks and a bag of souvenirs and candy into their waiting hands. They were all prizes that he and Shizuo had won from earlier. Mairu and Kururi look at their new haul a little dubiously.

"If you don't want it, I'll give it to someone else," Izaya says.

They don't answer. They just clutch their new prizes and run away, giggling to each other and planning to share out the candy with their friends.

There. That's Mairu and Kururi dealt with. Izaya straightens with a satisfied grin only to find Shizuo looking at him with an amused smile on his lips.

"What?" Izaya asks, a little defensively.

"Nothing," Shizuo laughs, and then drags him over to a kabuki puppet show that's playing nearby.

.

The play is a little silly, but ultimately it is a love story about two star-crossed lovers that promise to meet once a year on a bridge that connects between the heaven and the sky. It has a surprisingly melancholy ending for a children's play, but Shizuo supposes that most of the children who watch it are more entertained by the funny accents and the colorful paper than the actual story.

When they leave the rows of benches that had served as a temporary theatre, Shizuo looks up to the sky, only to be surprised at how much time has passed. The moon is out already, pale and barely visible in the still-bright sky, and it makes him think about the story, about the two lovers who only get to see each other for one day out of a year. He can't even imagine how awful that must feel, to be separated from the one you love for that long.

"What are you thinking about?" Izaya prods him. He's got a popsicle stick in his mouth, bought from one of the nearby stalls. It's nearly finished, but has turned his lips into a vivid cherry red, and Shizuo is sure that they would taste cold and delicious if they kissed.

"Do you believe in soulmates?" Shizuo asks.

"No," Izaya replies.

This stops Shizuo short. "Why?"

"I just don't. Why? Do you?"

Shizuo avoids the question for a moment by looking around them at the decorative lanterns that have been placed on the streetlamps, red and festive, with gold lettering and red tassels swinging in the wind.

"I don't know," he says at last. "I've always wondered." Especially ever since I met you.

He doesn't want to say that, though, afraid that it might sound too childish. Instead, he looks at Izaya only to see him gazing back at Shizuo with a shy warmth in his eyes. His smile is soft instead of teasing, like it usually is. It makes Shizuo's heart skip a beat, and he feels an agonizing rush of emotion inside him too terrifying to name.

"Come on, Shizu-chan," Izaya tugs him into motion, heading towards the hill. He smiles softly and looks up at the sky, which is beginning to get dark. "Let's go see some fireworks."

.

They've brought blankets with them to spread out on the grass and sit on. Since they're one of the first few people there, they get to choose the best spot.

"Tell me a story," Shizuo says, once they've settled in against each other. "To pass the time."

Izaya quirks an eyebrow at him. "What makes you think I'm a good storyteller?"

Your voice, Shizuo thinks.

"A gut feeling," he says instead.

Izaya sighs at his vague answer and leans back on his elbows. The sky is still pretty bright, but Shizuo knows from experience that as the sun sets, it will get dark quickly. For now, though, people are still trickling into the fields slowly, bringing their blankets and baskets of food. There's an air of relaxed anticipation. The air smells wild and sweet, and there's a damp humidity to the air that promises the presence of fireflies once it gets dark.

"Okay," Izaya says. He gauges the position of the sun in the sky, and seems to come to the same conclusion that Shizuo has.

"There's a story my mother used to tell me," Izaya says. "It's about an emperor who owned groves and groves of apple trees, and wanted to find the best one. He had three advisors, each more clever than the last. One day, he summoned them all and said: 'I want to give you a challenge. Walk down this grove of apple trees, and pick out the best apple. However, to make things interesting, we'll set the following restrictions: You can only go down this path once, and you can only pick one apple.'"

"So, the first advisor walked down the path, and then saw a pretty red apple almost immediately. He picked it, and was delighted by his choice. But as he walked further down the row of apple trees, he saw more and more apples that were far larger and redder than the one he had chosen. But rules were rules, and he couldn't pick any more, and so he walked to the end of the path with his head hanging, ashamed and bitter."

"The second advisor saw what happened and laughed to himself, saying 'what a fool. I won't fall for the same mistake.' So, as he walked down the path, he refused to even look at the apples on the trees at first. But as he reached the end, and realized that he needed to choose one, he saw that all the apples at the end were small and withered and pale. At last he had to take one, so he took one that clearly wasn't the best, and he knew that he had failed the challenge."

"The third advisor just smiled and went down the path next. He took careful note of all the apples on the apple trees in the first half, studying their sizes and weights and their range of color. Then, as he went through the second half, he made his choice, and picked out an apple that was a vibrant shade of red, large and ripe, with a beautiful sheen to its skin. When he got to the end of the road, it was clear that he was the winner."

"But I know what you're about to ask - 'How could he really win? How could he tell that the one he picked was the best apple?' Well, the answer is - he didn't. There is no way to pick out the best apple, with that set of rules. What is possible, however, is to pick out a great one compared to the others, and to be satisfied with that choice. If you choose too early or wait too long, then you won't be able to be happy in the end. But if you pay attention to what you want, and know what's out there, then you'll be able to make an informed decision, and be happy with what you get."

In the pause that follows, Shizuo stares at Izaya and Izaya just smiles back. It's a mysterious smile, a little wry, a little hopeful. I hope you understand, it says, and Shizuo thinks he does.

He takes Izaya's hand. They sit together for a long time, quietly watching the stars.

.

The sky is dark now, and there is the faint murmur of a crowd around them as the entire population of this town has come out to sit on this particular hill. They form little clusters of lights, from lanterns or flashlights. The air is warm with just a touch of humidity, and is filled with the smell of damp earth, rich and complex. The moon is half-hidden behind the clouds, but the stars are more than bright enough to shine silver light on everything, from the grass on the hill to the shapes of the townsfolk on their blankets.

They are holding hands in the darkness, in the space hidden between their bodies so that no one else can see. It feels like a secret that only the two of them share. It makes Shizuo feel like the luckiest person in the world.

Izaya is beautiful in the moonlight. He is beautiful in any light, really, but there is just something fitting about the sight of his pale skin against the darkness, as if sunlight never quite reaches him the way moonlight does. He seems more ethereal too, like he's a mirage that might fade away if Shizuo gets too close, and the only thing keeping him here is the press of Shizuo's hand.

Shizuo beckons at Izaya to make him come closer, brings his mouth against Izaya's ear.

"I really want to kiss you right now," he whispers, like a confession.

When he pulls back to look at Izaya, there is moonlight on his skin and stars reflected in his eyes, and that's when the first firework explodes in the air.

A chorus of appreciative murmurs rises from the crowd. Izaya is still staring at him, so beautiful that Shizuo completely forgets to look at the colors blooming in the sky, he is so distracted by the blush blooming on Izaya's cheeks. Izaya's lips part over a small gasp of shock, and Shizuo feels the world shift, as if everything had suddenly become crystal clear, like he's forming a memory that will never fade.

He's finally found a name for this anxious feeling in his chest, this adoration and longing and exhilaration and desire. He pulls Izaya's hand to his lips, in the space between fireworks going off, and feels Izaya shiver at the brush of Shizuo's kiss against his fingers.

"I love you."

Then the fireworks start for real, exploding in the sky with booms so loud that it shakes the air and seems to rattle the hills for miles around.

"I love you," Izaya says back, as the illumination from the fireworks form halos on his face and tiny pinpricks of light in his eyes, and Shizuo's chest seizes on appreciation so strong that he feels as though he's looking at a sunrise.

Chapter Text

“I wish I had a camera,” Shizuo says. They’re walking back from the festival now, on a wide asphalt road under an inky black sky. The wind has picked up a little, which gives Izaya an excuse to move closer to Shizuo’s side. Shizuo is always incredibly warm no matter how many layers he is wearing, a fact Izaya is more than happy to take advantage of.

“Why?”

Shizuo goes strangely silent. “I keep wanting to take pictures of you.”

“I don’t want that,” Izaya laughs. “I look horrible in pictures.” But Shizuo doesn’t laugh. He’s deep in thought.

“I don’t want to forget this, any of this.” He looks up at the sky, and then he says: “I don’t want to go back home.”

Izaya stops smiling. He’s been trying to avoid thinking about this, but now that it’s out in the open, he feels like they have to talk about it now. They’ve already talked a little about exchanging phone numbers and email addresses. They really don’t live that far apart from each other. In fact, their houses are only a fifteen minute train ride away from each other. It’s just that there’s this nameless worry between the two of them: that after this summer ends, things just won’t be the same.

“Shizu-chan,” Izaya asks suddenly. “Do you want to run away with me?”

For a moment, Shizuo just looks at him like he’s crazy. Then he begins to laugh.

“Where would we run?” he asks. “Japan is an island country. We’d have to stow away on a boat.”

“Why is that a problem? Do you get seasick?”

“No,” Shizuo’s laughing harder now. “I could get a job as a sailor. And you said that you can speak Russian, right?”

“Only a little.”

“Then you can be the translator and I’ll do all the heavy lifting.”

Izaya’s starting to grin too. “And since we’re already stowaways, there’s no law preventing me from making money through gambling or selling state secrets.”

“You brat, do you even know any state secrets?”

Izaya thinks for a minute. As he keeps thinking, Shizuo starts ruffling a hand through his hair.

“Stop pretending you know any,” he sounds both exasperated and amused. “And I wouldn’t do that to you anyways. I couldn’t take you away from your two sisters, they adore you too much.”

That snaps Izaya right out of his thoughts. “Where in the world did you get that impression?”

“And I’m the same,” Shizuo continues. “My parents and Kasuka would never forgive me.”

They are both silent for a long moment, and then Shizuo says under his breath, “But you would look really good in a Russian parka.”

“Really,” Izaya deadpans. “Because as much as I love my family, I’d much rather see you in a sailor uniform.”

What?

“What do you mean, ‘what’? Those uniforms are freaking sexy!”

Izaya!” Shizuo hisses and looks for potential eavesdroppers, but there’s no one around them. They’ve nearly made it back to Izaya’s place. Shizuo has insisted on walking him back, and there’s no one else this far out on the edge of town.

He sighs and pulls Izaya in close.

“Sorry for being so weird,” he says quietly. “It’s just that, right now, I feel like I can remember everything that happened this summer, every moment we spent together. But when I get back, it’ll get harder to remember, and I just want to make sure I never forget about this.”

Izaya looks up at the sky, bright with stars, this far out in the countryside with no light pollution from the cities to blur out the sharp pinpricks of light. He thinks about how fickle memory can be sometimes, and the way it sometimes hazes out with time. But there are some things you can never forget.

“I have an idea,” he says. “A way to make sure that we never forget about each other, no matter what.”

Shizuo looks at him, and Izaya makes his decision. It’s something he’s given a lot of thought to, and so it’s an easy decision to make. “Did you know? Humans are very good at remembering their first time experiencing something new. First kisses, for example -”

- the two of them, surrounded in bright light and golden hay, the scent of sweet caramel, the adrenaline from the chase -

“- and your first time, too.”

Izaya looks at Shizuo, who has suddenly gone still. The wind ruffles his bleached hair, tangling the soft strands, and Izaya steps a little closer, drawn in by the heat radiating from Shizuo’s skin. He runs his fingers up Shizuo’s arm, shivering a little as he realizes how much muscle Shizuo has gained after an entire summer of working in the apple orchards. He reaches up farther still, and presses his palm against the side of Shizuo face.

“That is, if you want to.”

Shizuo’s eyes on him are endlessly dark, like an ocean that has swallowed up any reflection of the moon. Izaya shivers when Shizuo presses a kiss against the palm of his hand, and nods silently.

“Okay then,” Izaya clears his throat, trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice. He tries to think about logistics, to distract himself from the way Shizuo has gone intensely, dangerously silent, like there is a storm brewing under his skin, or a predator lying in wait. “Okay, tomorrow? Or should we wait for the weekend? Do you have work, or -?”

“Tomorrow,” Shizuo says. “I have the rest of the week off. There are no more trees in the orchard that need to be harvested this season, since I finished early.”

“Oh,” Izaya says, surprised. Then he grins. “All because of my help, no doubt.”

“Clearly,” Shizuo scoffs, and the tension is broken. He brushes a knuckle across Izaya’s cheek and laughs as Izaya swats him away. “All those hours you spent sleeping away in the barn while I worked. You were so much help. You definitely motivated me to work faster just so I could get back to you.”

“Hey,” Izaya growls at him dangerously. “That was one time.”

.

The next day, when Shizuo wakes up and sees the sun rise above the horizon into a cloudy sky, he thinks, I can’t wait to see him.

Izaya shows up at the barn a little afterwards, carrying a paper bag from the grocery store, and looking slightly nervous. The sight of Izaya, shifting uneasily and being tense, does absolutely nothing to calm Shizuo’s nerves.

Izaya wordlessly hands the paper bag to Shizuo. Shizuo looks inside, but it just looks like hand lotion and wrapped candy.

“What are these for?” he asks, fishing out one of the plastic squares and inspecting it more closely. Then, right before he’s about to unwrap it to see what’s inside, Shizuo realizes what it is.

“I thought I’d save you the embarrassment of coming along to buy it,” Izaya says, looking anywhere but at him. “Now the grocery lady is never going to look at my parents in the eyes again, but it’s okay. It doesn’t matter. She’s too polite to say anything anyway.”

“I see,” Shizuo says, drops the condom back into the bag, and tries not to die of embarrassment.

“My parents are driving out to a water park an hour away,” Izaya says. “They’ve brought Mairu and Kururi with them, and they’ll be gone until evening. I said I wasn’t feeling too well, so they left me behind.”

.

Izaya’s family has a massive lodge all to themselves. Shizuo tries not to stare at the huge kitchen, the puzzles scattered all across the large open floor of the living room, the ornate ceiling lamps. They walk down a long, empty hallway to reach Izaya’s room. They have the whole place to themselves.

Izaya’s room is large but undecorated. He has a few books piled onto a desk, under a large window with its shades drawn. The light is muted, coming from the curtains, but it is still bright enough outside that the room isn’t dim.

“Okay,” Shizuo says, determined to be a good student and do this right. He’s read all the instructions on the packets on the way here, and he has a general idea of what else to do. Izaya is undressing as soon as he has closed and locked the door. The sight of his bare skin makes it difficult to concentrate. “Okay, how do you want to do this?”

“What do you mean?” Izaya stops in the middle of taking off his shirt, and it pools around his elbows. He blushes when Shizuo holds up the lube.

“Who are we using this on?” Shizuo asks. “You or me?”

“Me,” Izaya says, and takes his shirt off completely. “I’ve prepared myself for it, and I don’t want your first time to be bad, so I’d prefer it if it was me.”

Shizuo realizes that Izaya is babbling. In one motion, he crosses the room and gathers Izaya up in his arms.

“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” he says.

Izaya laughs, and some of the tension eases from his shoulders. “I want this,” he says.

.

After that, it’s simple. They both climb into bed. Shizuo accidentally dumps out all of the lube into his palm. Izaya makes fun of him until the first cold touch in between his legs makes him gasp. Shizuo freezes, but Izaya is committed to this now. They’ve barely touched, and already Izaya’s heart is pounding hard in his chest. He pulls Shizuo closer, and the heat from Shizuo’s body helps him relax a little.

“Don’t stop,” he says, and Shizuo doesn’t.

Instead, he goes slow, does everything so carefully and gently that Izaya almost wishes for one quick, painful thrust to get everything over with. But Izaya grits his teeth, buries his forehead against Shizuo’s arm, and tries to hold back the whimpering sounds that are being forced out of his throat. Shizuo is breathing hard. Izaya can feel it in the air between them, as if each inhale and exhale are tides or ocean currents that are dragging his body underwater. He clings tighter to Shizuo’s arm, and tries not to let go.

But it’s inevitable.

When Shizuo finally pushes a finger completely inside him, Izaya’s head goes blank. He hadn’t been sure, exactly, what it would feel like. On some level, he hadn’t actually expected it to feel good. In any case, none of his research had prepared him for this.

“Are you okay?” Shizuo asks, and he’s leaning over Izaya, caging him in with his body as if he can’t bear to be away. But he would stop, and pull away, with just a word from Izaya.

“It’s good,” Izaya manages to get out, a little incoherently. He realizes that he’s shaking a little. He’s not sure when he had gone from nervous discomfort to full-blown arousal. “It feels good. Shizu-chan, please don’t stop.”

Shizuo presses his head against Izaya’s shoulder, hard. “Fuck,” he says, a little distantly. He draws his fingers back, adds another, and this time he thrusts two fingers in all the way, all at once.

For a moment, it’s all Izaya can do to shut his eyes and endure the blaze of heat that has just gone through his body, racing along his veins, under his skin, everywhere along his spine. His heel digs into the mattress, and he tries to pull Shizuo even closer. Shizuo is still moving into him, slow, even, deliberate thrusts that are meant to open him up gently. Izaya craves more, even as his words fail him, and all he can do is press his head back against the pillow and try to muffle the sounds that are coming out of his throat.

He realizes that Shizuo is kissing him, slow and deep. Izaya latches on to it, comforted by something so familiar. He’s kissed Shizuo at least a hundred times this summer, and every last kiss has felt good. Then this heat must surely feel good too, even if it threatens to overwhelm him, even if it threatens intensity that verges on pain.

“Shizu-chan,” he gasps, and he can feel Shizuo’s inhales go ragged with desire. “Shizu-chan, Shizu-chan, please -

Shizuo is surprised when Izaya comes, even though Izaya had tried to warn him about it. It makes him stop, finally, which Izaya is grateful for. He’s not sure he can handle any more heat pouring into his veins, or any more friction. He feels completely wiped out.

“Sorry,” Shizuo says.

Izaya looks at him, and manages to focus for long enough to give him an incredulous look. “Why are you sorry? That felt amazing. I didn’t even know it could feel that good.”

Shizuo grins ruefully at him. They’re both still warm and slightly sticky from sweat and come, but the way Shizuo looks, shirtless and relaxed, sends another burst of warmth into Izaya’s veins. “I guess we have to wait until next time, right?”

“Are you kidding me?” Izaya says. “We’ve come too far to quit here. We’re seventeen. Give me five minutes and I’ll be ready for another round.”

It gets a laugh out of Shizuo, just like he had intended. “And make sure you don’t come until you’re inside me,” Izaya warns, which makes Shizuo laugh even harder. “I stayed up all night thinking about you. So don’t you dare come early.”

“Like you just did?” Shizuo asks, and Izaya lunges at him.

.

They manage to clean themselves off in a bathroom that Izaya has all to himself, since this place is so large. They end up lying next to each other, on the bed, chatting about various things, what their favorite game at the festival had been, their favorite places in Ikebukuro, their upcoming classes once the school year starts.

Then, without warning, Shizuo rolls over and pins Izaya underneath him, kissing him playfully.

“Did I ever tell you?” Shizuo grins down at him, and Izaya goes breathless at the sight. “Whenever you wear that white shirt, the one that slides down one shoulder, I completely lose my mind. I swear I’ve almost fallen off the ladder at least twenty times because of that fucking shirt.”

“I guessed,” Izaya says teasingly. “Why do you think I wore it to the festival?”

Shizuo growls at him, but he’s also trying not to laugh. “I’m not kidding. When I saw you in it, I almost picked you up and kissed you in front of everybody.”

Izaya rolls his hips up so that they’re grinding against each other. Shizuo is hard, and has been, for the past few minutes. He buries his face in Izaya’s shoulder and groans as Izaya reaches down in between them, and curls his fingers around both of them. For a moment, Izaya just jerks them both off with lazy, even strokes, until Shizuo makes a pleading sound in the back of his throat.

“Condom?” Izaya breathes, already getting dizzy from the way Shizuo is making small, instinctive motions against his hip. Shizuo nods.

“Hurry,” is all he says.

They spend a couple panicked moments trying to figure out why the condom looks like it’s too small. Then they realize that it can stretch. And then they realize that it can unroll either way, and there are no sides to it.

“Why does this have to be so complicated?” Izaya complains loudly once they finally get it right, before Shizuo pushes him down on his back. “I swear they could have made it at least ten times easier by just drawing pictures instead.”

“Shush,” Shizuo laughs at him, but Izaya has already gotten distracted by the sensation of slick warmth against his entrance. He nods a little desperately, and tries to pull Shizuo into him with just the urging of his hips.

Shizuo drops a kiss against Izaya’s forehead. His own expression is tense with concentration. “Tell me if I need to stop,” he says. Izaya’s heart melts at the sincerity in his voice.

Shizuo ends up sinking into Izaya slowly, a centimeter at a time. Izaya knows what to expect now, even if Shizuo’s cock is much larger than his fingers had been. So he just stares up into Shizuo’s face, fascinated by the crease between his brows and the determined set of his mouth. He feels a dull, thudding warmth rushing through him, like the pounding of a heartbeat.

“Shizu-chan,” he whispers, feeling like the heat has weakened every muscle in his body until he is completely relaxed and compliant to the press of Shizuo’s cock into him. He wants to urge Shizuo further into him, but he knows that force will be ineffective, so he uses words instead. “Shizu-chan, I want you inside me. Please.”

At that, Shizuo inhales sharply, and stops moving. He trembles a little, and Izaya can feel it as if the shaking were in his own bones. “Izaya,” he whispers back, “I love you.”

“I love you,” Izaya replies immediately, and then a wave of white heat overwhelms him as Shizuo sinks into him completely. He cries out, and feels his entire body clench down around the intrusion, which burns into him and sends jolts of electricity up his spine. Shizuo is making a series of broken groans into his shoulder, and pressing him hard into the mattress. Just like that, the two of them react to each other in an endless loop of pleasure, until Shizuo bites off a curse and comes inside of Izaya, flooding him with warmth.

.

“I want more,” Izaya says immediately, as soon as his head has stopped spinning and Shizuo has pulled out of him. “Shizu-chan, don’t tell me you’re done. ”

“Let me clean you up first,” Shizuo laughs as he leaves the bed. But he doesn’t say no.

.

“More,” Izaya demands, as Shizuo thrusts into him slowly, deliberately, as if he is counting the seconds between each thrust, desperate to stay in control. Izaya gasps as he feels his release building inside him, unbreakable and inevitable. He doesn’t want to be the only one who loses control, so he arches his back and moans loudly, “More, Shizu-chan, please. I need you to - I need -

.

“More,” Izaya whispers, after he has woken up, and realized that they have slept through half the afternoon. The sunlight streams through the curtains. The covers are too warm with the two of them bundled up in it and wrapped around each other. Shizuo kisses him fondly and then rolls them both off of the bed for more.

Chapter Text

At the end of the summer, the Niigotas load him up with all the local goods that they can - jars of spiced peaches and apple jams, ciders and toffee candies manufactured in one of the nearby confectionaries.

(“Should we give him a bag of apples to bring back with him?” Ms. Niigota asks her husband. They both stare a little at the huge bag of things that Shizuo is already bringing back with him. It’s bulging to the point that it’s about to burst. Putting in a single coin more would probably make the whole thing explode.

“We can send a crate of apples in the winter,” Mr. Niigota promises. “After all, he’s probably sick of Aomori apples by now.” He assumes that Shizuo has been eating the apples whenever he’s gotten hungry. That’s what all his kids have done, after all. It’s what all farmers do. It never occurs to him that Shizuo is a city kid, and has actually never stolen a single bite.)

.

The train ride back is pretty uneventful, but Shizuo stares longingly at the countryside as the scenery whips by his window. He’s going to miss it. The sun is low in the sky, and it’s almost dark by the time he gets home.

When he gets home, his family is up and waiting for him. They greet him with warm welcomes and a flurry of hands that help him unload everything that he’s brought with him. There are many exclamations about the delicious foods that he’s brought back with him, and an appropriate amount of time is spent adoring the little gifts that the Niigotas have stuffed in at the last minute. There’s little souvenirs that have to be doled out, and clothes to shed. But at last it’s just them, standing in the warm kitchen, as a kettle is set on the stove with water for some late-night tea.

“Did you have fun?” Kasuka asks. He’s got a piece of candy rolling around in his mouth, and from the expression on his face, he’s finding it surprisingly good.

Shizuo reaches out, and pulls Kasuka into a hug.

“Yes,” Shizuo replies. He wants to tell them about Izaya. He wants to tell them about the apple orchards and the way the apples rattle in the trees when the wind picks up. He wants to show them the miles of beautiful scenery that you can sometimes see from the window of the second floor of the barn. But he can’t find the words. It’s all a bit too much. So instead he just hugs Kasuka tighter, and says: “I’d really like to show you Aomori sometime. It’s really pretty in the summer.”

Kasuka has stopped chewing his candy. His mouth is a little open. He’s a little stiff, and a little shocked. Even Shizuo’s parents are surprised.

Shizuo realizes that he hasn’t hugged Kasuka in - God, since forever ago - probably not since Kasuka was even old enough to remember.

Then, either from guilt, or because it feels good to be back home, Shizuo clings on a little longer, and suddenly feels like crying.

At this, his mom comes to him immediately, and wraps them both in her arms, pressing her cheek against Shizuo’s forehead, and stroking his hair just like she used to when he was a child. Shizuo buries his face in Kasuka’s shoulder. He never knew it was possible to feel this happy and sad at the same time. Another arm comes around him, from his father, Shizuo realizes. He’s in the middle of this big pile, wrapped so securely that he can hardly move. He hasn’t had this in - he doesn’t think he’s ever had this kind of hug before.

“It’s good to be home,” Shizuo chokes out.

“Welcome home,” Kasuka says back warmly.

.

I got back safely, the email reads, and that’s it, because Shizuo doesn’t really know what else to say, and he doesn’t want Mairu or Kururi to read anything potentially embarrassing.

Shizuo wonders if it’s too soon, if he should wait until Izaya is back before sending his email. He’s never really sent emails before. He’s not exactly sure how they work. Before they left, Izaya had given him instructions to message him as soon as he got home. Exchanging numbers and email addresses and home addresses had all been surprisingly formal. Shizuo hopes desperately that distance wouldn’t make things awkward between them, that the memories wouldn’t suddenly fade.

.

Izaya curls up on his bed in the lodge, his head under his pillow, ignoring the twins as they knock on his door.

He’s been here for most of the day. When his parents asked why he didn’t head out like he usually did, he just mumbled some reply about all the apple picking being done. After that, they had exchanged looks, and had left him alone.

The summer air feels stifling in the cottage. Izaya knows that he should open a window or something, to let in the breeze, but he feels too listless to move. He misses Shizuo already, and it’s only been a day. He hadn’t realized how much of his time during the summer had been spent in Shizuo’s company.

“IIIZAAAA-NIIIIII,” Mairu howls at the door. Their knocking has grown more insistent. “We’re worried about you! Are you crying from a broken heart? Has your summer romance ended? Are you okay?!?!?

Izaya sighs and rolls his eyes up to the ceiling. “I’m fine,” he yells back. “Just leave me alone.”

“No,” that’s Kururi, and she’s actually loud enough to be audible for once.

“We can’t just leave you like this! You haven’t left your room all day.

Izaya buries his face in his pillow. “I’ve got nothing to do!” He wonders where Shizuo is right now, if he’s made it back home safely. It’s only a three hour train ride back to Ikebukuro. He must have gotten home last night. Izaya’s family is still on vacation for another four days. They’re driving back early in the morning, and Izaya feels as if he’s going to be staring at the scenery as it passes by, and longing for the moment it turns into a city.

“Then come out and help us with our puzzle!”

“Help,” Kururi insists as well, and the knocking sound on the door becomes a constant drumming of fists against wood. Izaya is pretty sure that they will go on for at least five minutes without tiring, and that’s what finally does it for him.

He throws the blankets off of him, reaches the door in two strides, unlocks it, and opens it. “Why should I -” he starts.

But then they both throw themselves through the door, and into his arms. Izaya stumbles back, catching them both as they cling onto him fiercely.

“It’s okay,” Mairu tells him, and begins to talk so fast that Izaya is barely able to understand her. “Look, I’ve been dumped before so I know what it’s like. I know what -”

“...heartbreak...”

“ - is, so trust me, it’s not as bad as it seems. You just need to forget about it. You know what you need? You -”

“...distraction…”

“ - distract yourself, you know? And it’s not like there are any other fish in the sea there’s easily twenty thousand available men in Ikebukuro alone it’s not like you have to be stuck with this one, even if he’s really big and strong and -”

”...well hung...”

“- good looking and has really nice hair and -”

“Hold on a second,” Izaya puts up a hand to forestall the horrifying realization that his sisters might be attracted to Shizuo too. “Who said anything about being dumped? Mairu? When the hell did you get a boyfriend? Aren’t you too young for that sort of thing?”

“It wasn’t me,” Mairu steps aside. Kururi raises a hand slowly, and meets Izaya’s incredulous look with a blank, unremorseful stare.

Izaya’s head spins. “I don’t - ” he starts. “I wasn’t - When did this happen?

“At the festival,” Mairu says.

“...festival...” Kururi confirms.

“You know we’re leaving in three days, right?”

They both stare at him, uncomprehending. Izaya shakes his head. “You know what?” he says at the ceiling. “I don’t even care. Take me to your puzzle. Let’s never speak of this matter again.”

“Okay,” the twins grumble in unison, before Mairu adds: “Why couldn’t you just do that in the first place?”

.

A week later, Shizuo still hasn’t gotten an answer from Izaya.

He tries not to worry about it. It takes time to get settled after a long drive, and he has his own things to do - a backlog of summer assignments, helping Kasuka buy a pair of new shoes, catching up on assigned reading.

He’s so lost in thought, staring at the white mantle under the clock, that he doesn’t hear the doorbell ring at first.

His mother gets the door, and Shizuo snaps out of his haze when he hears a voice that he would recognize in his sleep, clear and polite and questioning from the doorway.

He’s out of his chair in a flash, and by the time he’s made it to the entrance, he’s almost afraid of what he might see. What if it isn’t Izaya? What if he’s gotten his hopes up for nothing?

But then his mother steps aside, and casts him a glance of sudden understanding. Izaya is just behind her, in the doorway, wearing a dark black jacket that goes down to his waist and is rimmed with white fur along the hems. It’s the same exact shade as his hair, and sets off the pale color of his skin and the clean lines of his throat. Shizuo’s breath catches for a moment, and in the next instant he’s crossed the threshold of the doorway to meet Izaya’s upraised arms in a hug.

“Hey,” he whispers.

“Hi,” Izaya says back.

Shizuo pulls away, and turns to his mother. “This is Izaya Orihara,” he explains. “My friend. He lives in Ikebukuro, too, and was with his family on vacation in Aomori. He helped me a lot during my summer job.”

He and Izaya share a small smile, but Izaya doesn’t add anything.

“Come in,” Shizuo’s mother invites, and there’s a warmth to her words that even Izaya can’t resist. “Come in, we’ve heard all about you. Why don’t you take a seat? Dinner will be right out.”

She smiles at Izaya, and he smiles back, surprisingly shy.

Shizuo still hasn’t let him go. He still hasn’t looked away. He isn’t sure if he’ll ever be able to look away from the bright red flush on Izaya’s cheeks, and the way he looks suddenly, heartbreakingly sincere.

“I’m sorry for not calling earlier,” he says, and his tone is low enough that only Shizuo can hear him. “I meant to, but our internet isn’t working until next week. My parents didn’t want to pay for a full month, you see. And - ”

Shizuo checks quickly to see that no one is around, that his mother has left the hallway, and then cuts off the rest of Izaya’s words with a kiss.

It’s a bit clumsier than normal. He’s a bit more emotional than he normally is. And Izaya is irresistible, with that shock in his eyes and that blush painting his features and making him seem so incredibly human and touchable, so Shizuo kisses him again. It’s deeper this time, and conveys everything Shizuo has wanted to say: I missed you. I love you. I’m glad you’re here.

“All ready?” Shizuo’s mother pokes her head back into the entrance hall, and Shizuo pulls back hastily. He gives her an unsteady smile, and a small sheepish nod. She rolls her eyes at him a little. She raised him. She knows what he’s been up to.

But instead of saying anything, she addresses Izaya: “Do you have any allergies? Any food preferences? We have sushi tonight, fresh from the market. We were going to celebrate Shizuo completing his first summer job.”

“No allergies, ma’am,” Izaya replies, sounding so painfully polite and well-mannered that Shizuo wants to kiss him again, wants to turn all that formality into gasping incoherence.

He settles for taking Izaya’s hand. “Let’s go,” he says.

But Izaya holds back for a bit. “I brought you a gift,” he says, and he actually sounds a little nervous. “I didn’t bring enough for your entire family, though. Here.”

And he pulls out two apples, out of nowhere, red and perfect, Aomori apples.

Shizuo gapes at him. “You stole more apples?” he asks.

Izaya giggles at him. There’s a mischievous gleam in his eye and he’s back to his normal self.

“Of course I did,” he says, and as if to add insult to injury, he takes a bite. It makes a satisfying crunch. Then, right in front of Shizuo, Izaya starts eating the apple, seeming to relish every bite.

Gimme that,” Shizuo grumbles, and takes the second apple from Izaya’s hand. “I can’t believe you.”

Then he takes a bite, and it’s perfect - sweet and juicy and just in season. He can taste the summer air in Aomori, fresh and clean and wild. He can smell the bales of hay there, sweet and golden and crunchy underneath his feet. It’s delicious, and if possible, he falls in love with Izaya all over again.