Five hundred yen total for laundry, Shizuo feels, is a little bit excessive.
He grunts as he takes out three hundred. The total is composed of coins of varying denominations, metal cool in his palm and clinking together as he makes sure they're the right ones. It's only once every two weeks that he does laundry; Shizuo wears his clothes until they smell or look so awful that even he can't bear to anymore.
By this time, he's usually walking around naked in his tiny studio flat.
He likes doing it on Wednesday nights. Most people don't do it then and with his odd hours for work, Shizuo can afford to be up at two in the morning, sometimes still on the rinse cycle. It's empty and it's soothing, a reprieve from hearing the streets in his apartment and dealing with angry customers at his workplaces. He has one job at a convenience store and another at a bar. Neither can offer fulltime employment, so Shizuo picks up as many shifts as he can. His free time is spent on his art and then sitting in the park, hoping that someone takes interest.
Shizuo is what one calls a starving artist: he is an artist who has barely enough money to make rent, so his stomach pays the consequence. He has a little brother but he hates borrowing money from him, doesn't want to be a burden, more of a disappointment than he already feels he is. He lives off of rice and convenience store foods, sometimes splurges on nice milk. Usually it's just the cartons next to the bento, the cheap kind, preferably the ones that are almost at their expiration date so he can get them for cheaper.
Shizuo chose to pursue his passion and has to work odd little jobs to survive. He doesn't expect to make a big, doesn't expect a miracle, knows that to pursue the arts is extremely risky in itself. He doesn't have the faith in himself to believe that he'll be one in a thousand, but he's okay with that. He doesn't want to be in the spotlight all the time, feels that if he gets caught up in money, he'll forget why he loves art so much:
Shizuo's fine, for now. What he does wish is that he could pick up some more shifts, be able to live just a bit more luxuriously. An acquaintance from college, name of Tanaka Tom, has said that he might have something for Shizuo, a possible third job, probably hours that are more regular, perhaps a replacement for his two current ones. So he's waiting to hear back on that. But until then, he can pay rent, stay fed, keep his clothes clean, and even find time to paint and read. Shizuo's all right for now.
Kasuka tries to visit at least once every two weeks and brings with him milk and pastries, which Shizuo appreciates. They talk in quiet murmurs that fall into silence pretty soon. Neither minds; they like the silence. It's each other's company they crave, it's each other's company that's enough.
But, like he said:
For now, Shizuo's all right.
Anyway, Shizuo does laundry on Wednesday nights, technically Thursday mornings. But he feels that until he goes to sleep, it isn't over. So two a.m. is still Wednesday night. Six a.m. of Thursday morning could still be Wednesday night if Shizuo hasn't slept yet.
Time is a social construct that Shizuo only sometimes abides by.
Slamming the door of the machine closed, he puts in the coins and then takes a seat on the floor. The little panel is flashing, blinking, until it settles on displaying forty, like Shizuo expects. The water begins to run after a moment and then the hum fills the previous silence. It's soothing, like rain, except Shizuo had to pay three hundred yen.
Three hundred yen for fake rain.
He starts reading after he takes out his book; it's a forty-minute wash cycle, but Shizuo can't afford someone stealing his clothes. This is his entire wardrobe, basically. He's dirt poor, barely managing to pay rent every month. If he has to buy more clothes for work, then he'd probably get evicted.
Even though Shizuo's all right for now, money is definitely an issue and he has to spend one thousand yen just on laundry every month.
Unless he skips drying. But Shizuo always puts laundry off until he has nothing to wear and he can't risk trying to air dry everything and it still being wet when he has work on Thursday. Sometimes he can, so he saves about two hundred yen. But most of the time, it seems, he can't.
So one thousand yen on laundry along every month.
It really is very excessive.
He grunts when he hears clanking. Weary eyes flicker to the machine and stare. He finished an eight-hour shift at the convenience store and then a three hour one at the bar; Wednesdays are his worst, so he chooses Wednesdays to do laundry. The activity can be soothing; it gives Shizuo almost two full hours of silence, time to read and just be by himself quietly.
"Fuck, did I leave a belt in? …Whatever."
He flips a page aggressively as his gaze drops, scowls when there's a slight tear. Today's not his day.
There's another clank, and he ignores it.
There's silence, and he ignores it.
There's the sound of clanking again, and he ignores it.
There's a drawl, and he pays attention.
"My, someone else who does laundry so late?"
Shizuo peers over his shoulder. He sees a man of stature slighter than his, shorter than his. He's got black hair, a bit wispy and long, but a smirk that Shizuo thinks oozes betrayal and malice. His sweatpants hang low on his hips, his shirt loose on his body. He waltzes towards him and Shizuo stares as he takes the machine a few away from his. They're the only two and on one hand, Shizuo's relieved he didn't take the one adjacent, but on the other hand, Shizuo feels insulted.
"How much is the wash cycle?" the stranger asks.
Shizuo answers, "Three hundred yen."
"And how long does it take?" he poses another question.
Shizuo looks back to his book. "Forty minutes."
"Two hundred. An hour, usually."
"Mm… and so you stay here and wait?"
The crisp sound of a page flipping. "Yeah."
Shizuo hears the door creaking opening after a few tries; these machines are old. And then the sound of fabric being transferred, a lot of dark colors, he notes as he catches sight from the corner of his eyes. By the time Shizuo's done with two pages, the other machine begins its wash cycle. The man's plastic hamper is left on top of the device and he takes a seat and his phone out.
"Orihara Izaya," he says after a bit of silent tapping. "I just moved in."
A siren wails, a car honks, the clanking continues, and two strangers just peacefully wait for the wash cycle to end.
It's weird to see someone else down there.
After all, it's two a.m. on a weeknight.
So Shizuo decides this guy's probably unemployed. Or like him: two jobs with odd hours. Or maybe he's an insomniac or he's a night guard. There are actually many reasons, so Shizuo can't settle on a single one.
He sees him there again, though this time Shizuo's just finishing his drying cycle. He's waiting in front of the machine when the other comes in and can't recall his name. Shizuo's always been bad with names, it's not surprising.
"Izaya," he drawls, gives a smirk. "You finished early today."
"Uh. Yeah. Had nothin' to do," he says and gives a short nod.
His machine falls silent so he takes his clothes out. Izaya's humming and Shizuo recognizes the tune; it's a pretty old song, more the last generation's, but he knows it and he likes it. He starts humming along before he realizes it and clears his throat, feels embarrassed.
Hands grab his clothes and shove them into his hamper as quickly as he can, feels the warmth beneath his skin and the dryer's hot air slips beneath his loose shirt. The other hasn't said anything and Shizuo wishes he could believe he didn't hear, but it's just the two of them. He definitely heard.
Standing once his clothes are out, Shizuo turns to leave. But just before he can scurry out of the room:
"Shizu-chan can carry a tune, huh?"
He doesn't see Izaya. Not that he's trying to, but yeah. Shizuo doesn't see Izaya for a bit.
It's got to be around two months, he thinks, because it's four laundry trips. He finds himself looking over his shoulder when he's there. He finds himself keeping his ears alert when he's there. He finds himself humming when he's there.
It only takes two times for Shizuo to remember Izaya's name, which is pretty rare.
Shizuo's there on Wednesdays, from between ten to three. He figures that since he's there for almost two hours every time, it should overlap with Izaya, even if only a few minutes.
Shizuo isn't interested in him or anything, but it's the first time he's met someone his age who also does laundry at that odd time. He realizes that he doesn't see him around the building either. Shizuo's made friends with the old lady across the hall from him because he helps her with packages and general chores and she bakes him cookies. So he asks her about Izaya.
"Orihara-kun?" she echoes in her frail voice.
Shizuo nods, eating a cookie.
"Ah… I never caught his name, but I do remember seeing a young man! He's very good looking. Black hair?"
"I've only seen him once, but he's very nice. He picked up my mail for me!"
"I see. Thanks for the cookies."
Shizuo's all but given up hope. He's got no way to find Izaya's apartment and, like he said, it doesn't matter. He doesn't even know why he's paying so much attention to him. So he's there on his typical Wednesday night, loading the washing machine, when he hears footsteps.
Shizuo has no idea where that nickname even came from.
He glances over his shoulder and gives a nod. A cigarette's hanging from his lips; the habit is both harmful and expensive, so he tried to quit, but once in a while he can't help but buy a carton. He hates it about himself. Shizuo hates a lot about himself, but he doesn't like to think about it.
It's unlit, at least. The building doesn't allow smoking and Shizuo can't risk getting evicted. Also, Kasuka might visit tomorrow. Shizuo can't risk him knowing he's still smoking. And the possible medical bills from health problems resulting would definitely mean that he'd have to miss a few rent payments. Shizuo has a million reasons to not smoke but one outweighs them all:
Addiction's a bitch.
Izaya takes the machine one away from Shizuo's and Shizuo sees bruises, eyes them while Izaya eyes his cigarette. He sees a busted lip and a black eye, a stiffness in Izaya's movements. He frowns; the injuries don't look fresh, but they're certainly pretty recent.
"Oi, what happened to you?" Shizuo asks gruffly.
Izaya smirks, winces because his lips curve in a way that pull at his injury. "Ahh… it's nothing. Just some… friends."
"…Pretty shitty friends you got," Shizuo mumbles. He adds in detergent.
"Friends aren't everything they're cracked out to be," Izaya answers airily. "Does Shizu-chan have any?"
Shizuo doesn't miss a beat. "Not really."
One, two, three. Shizuo hears the clinks of Izaya's three one-hundred yen coins being put into the machine.
Izaya starts showing up almost every time Shizuo's there. During their bimonthly meeting, they talk. Shizuo's not big on talking, but Izaya is. Shizuo's fine listening.
Izaya talks about a lot of things.
He talks about the book Shizuo's reading (seems like he's read everything.)
He talks about the most recent news (reminds Shizuo he should read the newspaper.)
He talks about the current top hit songs (tells Shizuo that they're all shallow and they all suck.)
He talks about airing dramas (and criticizes their predictable storylines.)
Once, Shizuo mentions that his little brother is in one of them.
"Yeah, Kasuka. He's the lead in that one. It's the only one I watch."
"Ahh, I see. Family loyalty, mm?"
"Guess so. You have siblings?"
And that's the first time Izaya clams up. He's silent for a beat and then starts talking about the government and some conspiracy theory that Shizuo can't follow along with.
Shizuo never brings up family again.
"Orihara Izaya? Yeah, yeah I know him!"
Shizuo is currently talking to Kishitani Shinra, boyfriend of Celty Sturluson, his one and only "friend."
It's in quotation marks because Shizuo doesn't really know if he can call him her friend. She insists he can, but Shizuo still isn't sure. So he's sort of her friend and vice versa (from his point of view, at least.)
So he only sort of lied when he told Izaya he didn't have any.
"We met in middle school! He's a pretty terrible person, but smart. Really smart… almost as smart as I am! Ouch, Celty…!"
A minute in and Shizuo remembers he hates talking to Shinra.
"Anyway… what's he doing now? Aah, who knows, we don't talk as much anymore. Oh, but I remember that after college, he tried his own start up. And it worked well at first but… Nakura? Someone named Nakura, yeah… well, things happened and basically it's all gone to hell now. Izaya's lost everything, meaning all the money he invested. You know, he was always a control freak… man, he was a pain to deal with when it was taking off. Wonder what he's like now…"
Shizuo's still thinking about this when he carries his laundry hamper to the basement that night. It's a bit earlier than normal, so he doesn't expect to see Izaya. But then he does: he's there and leaning against the machine. One palm is flat against the metal to support himself and the other is holding his phone. He's humming while tapping, but turns and looks at Shizuo when he hears plastic to the machine next to his.
He hasn't started doing his laundry yet.
Izaya's thinner, Shizuo notices. True, he sees him once every two weeks. It's really a miracle that Shizuo even remembers what Izaya looks like.
But he's definitely thinner. Shizuo can say this for sure because Izaya already was slender when he first met him. This time his clothes hang more loosely and his skin looks more ghastly. He loads his machine after a rough 'hey' and closes the door.
"Hey," he says suddenly, "what do you say we get lunch?"
"Lunch?" Izaya echoes and looks at him. "Isn't Shizu-chan a starving artist?"
Shizuo had told him about his profession a few trips ago. Explained his late night laundry adventures. Explained how he could afford to stay up. Izaya didn't explain much, but Shizuo didn't prod.
"Well, even I have to eat. Unlike you; you look like you haven't eaten in days."
"Saving money, Shizu-chan," Izaya answers, waves his hand.
"…Right. Anyway, lunch?"
"No thanks. I'll be busy."
"I haven't even said what day."
"I'll make up an excuse for any day you choose."
Shizuo growls and glares at him. "Oi! What's your problem?!"
Izaya smirks and looks over. "What, Shizu-chan thinks we do laundry together and then we'll get lunch and go back to Shizu-chan's place? If it's anything like mine, and I'm willing to bet it is, I bet it's rather sad."
"Oh, fuck you!"
Shizuo kicks the machine so hard there's a dent and he ignores Izaya for the rest of the night. He doesn't know why he asks Izaya for lunch anyway. Probably because of Shinra. It didn't make Shizuo feel bad for him, but, in a weird way, a bit connected.
He lost everything and is at rock bottom, conveniently where Shizuo also feels he is.
"He's living where you are? ...That's pretty surprising. Heh, why? Well, I mean, Shizuo, your place kind of sucks and you live there because it's cheap. Izaya always had money. You know, I hear he was an informant for a bit. Made a ton of money from that. Guess he really did lose everything because of that start-up. Can't be in a good place mentally. He's got a huge ego. Arrogant narcissist. The absolute worst."
Shizuo flips a page angrily. A new book this time, because he finished the first.
Izaya hums. Izaya takes his time. Izaya eventually sits.
Shizuo feels annoyed just by his presence. He tries to do one nice thing, and that's how he reacts?
Izaya is very private.
Shizuo doesn't ask, but he does occasionally tell anecdotes. But Izaya never does. He listens, he hums, he comments, and he keeps talking.
Izaya talks a lot, but never about himself personally. He references himself, but never talks about himself.
Shizuo thinks it's weird, but doesn't ask or poke his nose in his business.
He just thinks it's weird.
"Humans feel so hopeless and it's ludicrous!"
Izaya's talking again.
"Honestly, why are they afflicted with such things? They beat themselves up mercilessly, punish themselves! And for what? What does it change? Do they think being punished will fix everything? It's silly! Their actions are so strange, really, and yet they keep doing so. Why?"
Shizuo shrugs. "Probably makes them feel better."
Izaya frowns and shakes his head a bit fervently.
"No, no… it's strange. It's pointless. Why feel hopeless? Doing that does nothing. Humans need to keep trying, keep working, keep living! That's the only way to overcome hardships! Time doesn't stop, the world doesn't stop for them; while they're wallowing in their self-hatred and misery, the world keeps turning and they'll be left behind!"
"See, if only humans could just… move on. Stop thinking about it. Don't let past failures define them. They'd be so much more productive and in the end, happier!"
"Now, what does it mean to be happy?"
Shizuo kind of feels like he's sitting in a college lecture hall listening to an eccentric professor.
He sighs and turns a page. Izaya's fallen silent and when Shizuo looks up, he's pacing, arms crossed and looking pensive.
Izaya never talks about himself, but Shizuo feels like when he says humans he's including himself, but doesn't want to admit it.
Izaya talks a lot and even in the most chastising speeches, Shizuo feels, he just has a gut feeling, that Izaya's trying to give himself a pep talk.
Izaya talks to himself but pretends he isn't.
Izaya drops a sock on the floor one day.
A freshly washed one, to be precise.
Shizuo's just coming in when it happens. The man has finished his laundry for the night, as he started early that night, but a single sock escapes the pile of clothes he holds in his arms, transferring from the machine to the laundry hamper. Shizuo stares at Izaya; he's just standing at the doorway.
Shizuo's done that before. He's dropped socks, shirts, pants, boxers, everything onto the floor. But, like food, he adopts the five second rule; if it hasn't been more than five seconds, it's fine. He's not paying another five hundred yen to wash it and, chances are, he'll need to wear that piece of garment.
Besides, it's just a sock.
So Shizuo takes a step in, but he freezes again. He looks at Izaya's back incredulously; is what he's seeing real?
Is Izaya really walking over to the washer again?
Dropping in his sock?
Fishing for loose change in his pocket?
For a sock?
"Oi, it's a sock!"
Shizuo hurries over before Izaya can get even one hundred yen in. Izaya turns and looks at him, watches with a small purse of his lips as Shizuo takes Izaya's sock out. He stares at it and then at him.
"It's a sock!"
"It's dirty," Izaya explains calmly, patiently, gesturing towards the black item in Shizuo's grasp. "I'm washing it again."
"It was on the ground for, like, a second!"
"It was still on the ground."
"The only thing this is touching is the inside of your shoe! Or your floor!"
"Not even your foot!"
Shizuo stares at him. He can't believe him, can't believe Izaya was going to spend at least three hundred yen just for a sock. He might as well buy a new pair, Shizuo thinks.
"If you can wait," Shizuo finally sighs, "I can wash it with my stuff."
Izaya blinks at him and Shizuo almost expects him to say no. While it's true that their bimonthly rendezvous make the two hour period pass by faster, Shizuo thinks that there's no way Izaya's going to stick around for two hours, just for his sock. Or go back and then come down again, just for his sock.
Just for his sock.
Shizuo's surprised but it's pleasantly so. He nods and that night, washes Izaya's sock along with his batch.
The next time it happens, Shizuo picks it up and tosses it into his hamper without Izaya even having to bend down.
To put it nicely.
Izaya gives a chilling smile.
"Thank you, Shizu-chan."
There's one night where Izaya doesn't say anything except two lines and Shizuo knows to not try to strike up conversation.
Izaya looks angry.
He looks pissed and it's terrifying. His eyes are narrowed, his movements are quiet but angry. Shizuo feels a bit uncomfortable from his aura, knows that if he does anything wrong, Izaya's probably going to bite his head off.
He walks in, drops his hamper on the floor, and says:
"We are the only ones with the true power to entirely, utterly, completely destroy ourselves."
"And we do."
And then silence.
Shizuo's had sex with two girls and two guys, taken it once and it was good but he prefers to be the one on top. Luckily, Izaya likes bottom.
"We're so compatible," he nearly purrs and Shizuo snaps at him to shut up.
His hips meet the machine, body bent over from being thrown and grunts with pain. But his eyes open and he's smirking over his shoulder, hips wiggling suggestively. Shizuo just glares as he pushes down his sweatpants and boxers, frees his cock. Izaya whistles. "Shizu-chan's big."
Shizuo doesn't say anything to that but watches as Izaya takes a step back. He's wearing actual pants, the kind with a zipper and button, so he takes a moment longer. But they're dropped down to his ankles and he kicks them off.
Shizuo realizes he isn't wearing boxers but he doesn't think much about it. Maybe Izaya ran out of boxers. It's certainly happened to him before.
Turning Izaya around, Shizuo hoists him easily, sets him down on top. His entire slender frame vibrates with the machine; Izaya's leg lifts, heel to the edge to allow Shizuo better access as his long fingers press into him, lube procured from his pocket. Loud moans immediately mewl from his lips. His own hand reaches between their bodies to stroke Shizuo; his hand sweeps from base to tip, thumb teases his head. Shizuo growls at the feeling and bucks his hips, obviously wanting more, but Izaya pulls his hand back and smirks.
"Can't let Shizu-chan come too early, now can we?"
Shizuo pulls his hand back and then it's a simple and hard roll of his hips after the condom's on. Izaya's eyes flutter close and his lips are parted with his quiet gasps, corners curled and eyes half lidded as he watches Shizuo. The sound of their flesh meeting is more or less covered by the hum of the laundry; Shizuo hears something clanging against metal and hopes he hasn't left one of his belts in the loops of his pants. Again.
It's when Izaya's leg shifts that he sees them: bruises, some fresh and some old. He immediately thinks back to one of their early meetings, when Izaya had those injuries; there's no way these are from then, right? Shizuo doesn't know the timeline of healing bruises, but it's been a long time.
Shinra had said Izaya's involved with the yakuza.
This guy… is he still doin' business with them?
He's going to get himself killed…
He wonders briefly but ignores it; it's not his business and he doesn't care. But he pulls out and a hand grabs Izaya's slight thighs. Pulled off of the white surface, he's turned around and Shizuo slams into him again, feels the thin frame stiffen, hears him moan, sees him jolt from the pleasure.
Izaya's warm and Shizuo almost can't breathe from the sheer pleasure. Between his jobs and the fact that he just hasn't had time to go out on a date, it's safe to say Shizuo hasn't gotten laid in a while. And back when he was getting some, it was always in a private place or at least behind the locked door of a bathroom stall.
Not in the laundry room in the basement of his apartment complex, door unlocked and window present.
But Shizuo doesn't care, not if Izaya does. He fucks him hard and he fucks him fast; he's had a rough day: couldn't sell any paintings, almost got fired, had to deal with some drunkards who were getting too noisy at the bar. One hand remains on Izaya's hip while the other slams onto the metal that Izaya's bent over. He gasps and swears; his thrusts are so hard that their bodies move in unison. Izaya's bony hips are slammed into the edge every time but he's moaning, mewling, swearing, gasping 'harder' and 'faster' so Shizuo thinks it's safe to say the pain isn't bad for him.
The machine's moving and not just because it's washing their clothes.
Shizuo thinks it's a little ironic: their act is dirty but their clothes are clean.
Izaya gasps with every thrust; he bites his lip until there's blood and even then he's still demanding that Shizuo go faster, harder, that it's not enough. His rough hand, calloused from holding brushes and hard labor, grasp his hips harshly, fucks him until the wash cycle is done and they both come.
Shizuo later reflects on this night and thinks about how he had sex with him because, well, he still doesn't know.
But he wonders if Izaya was using him, using sex to avoid something. Fill some gaping void in his soul.
Shizuo doesn't really mind being used.
It means he's good for something, right?
They move their wet clothes into the dryer, put in two hundred yen each and Izaya looks to Shizuo, a lopsided grin twisting his doll-like features. Shizuo's boxers are still pushed down and Izaya's pants are still on the ground. He takes a step forward, fingers dance along Shizuo's hips, dangerously close to the base of his cock and smirks.
"Time for a round two, Shizu-chan?"
Shizuo later realizes they didn't kiss even once that night.
Shizuo expects more sex the next time, but there's someone there with them. Luckily, she's just taking her clothes out of the dryer. She bids them farewell and leaves, her footsteps echoing into silence. Shizuo waits a good ten minutes into the cycle and turns to Izaya. "So…"
"Not today, Shizu-chan," he sighs and waves his hand. Shizuo notices that he's limping a bit as he goes to sit down. His legs cross, an ankle over a knee, and he looks to Shizuo. "Too tired."
Shizuo can't help but remember the bruises he saw on Izaya's thighs, wonders if he was running, leaving him sore legs to limp on today. Exactly what is he doing? Is he still with the yakuza? Would Shinra know?
And why does Shizuo even care?
Shizuo nods; he isn't terribly bothered. He takes a seat next to Izaya and stares at the opposing wall. Because he'd been assuming they'd have sex again, he didn't bring his book, so he now has nothing to do. His hands fold, fingers linked, and he looks around, starts humming to fill the silence. He's not very good at small talk. Usually Izaya's filling the silence.
"Isn't it funny, Shizu-chan?"
There he goes.
"How so much of our lives are built on coincidence… coincidence! We can never really plan for it! We get good grades, we go to good schools, we stay within the lines, that gets us nothing. So then we step over lines and, well, that bites us in the ass… nothing we do can guarantee happiness! The only thing that truly is certain is death and what awaits us then?"
"We do everything we can, but nothing is guaranteed! You get vaccinated, you still get sick. You don't break the law, you might still get thrown in jail if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. You research everything, some asshole comes along and ruins everything you have!"
…Is he talking about that Nakura guy?
"The only thing we really have control over… is ourselves," Izaya says with flourish. "What we feel… ah! That's not accurate. Perhaps not emotion; we may be able to train ourselves but as long as our reaction depends on another person's actions, we cannot control that. But pain… we can control self inflicted pain. We can exercise self-control… push ourselves towards the brink and then yank ourselves back. Adrenaline, that's it, adrenaline! We're actually in control of a lot. We're in control of ourselves. Isn't that grand, Shizu-chan? We do have control!"
Izaya looks over and gives a cold, practiced, icy smile that sends chills down Shizuo's spine.
"Isn't that grand?"
"Does Shizu-chan have a girlfriend?"
Shizuo stares at him incredulously as he pulls on his pants. They're quick that night; their wash cycle still isn't done. Izaya's smirking, sitting on the machine and in no hurry to redress.
"What the hell? No! Do you?!"
"Single," Izaya waves his hand. "Does Shizu-chan have a boyfriend?"
Shizuo is offended Izaya thinks that he's the type to cheat.
He neglects to answer and goes to sit down. Izaya hums for a bit before hopping off. Thin fingers pick up his boxers and Shizuo doesn't watch as he redresses. He's a little bonier than last time, but Shizuo wonders if he's just imagining it. He doesn't see Izaya often, after all, and he's already pretty thin.
There are more bruises.
"Does Shizu-chan have anyone to love him?"
The question catches Shizuo off guard and he looks up, genuinely surprised Izaya's smirking at him. He leans against the machine while facing Shizuo, hands supporting his weight. With the dim lighting and the moonlight, there's a certain shadow cast over Izaya's features, except he doesn't look angelic.
"…What's it to you?" Shizuo mutters gruffly.
Izaya laughs, murmurs 'right, right, sorry' and falls silent.
They don't say anything for the rest of the night. But when they're taking their clothes out from the dryer, Shizuo hears Izaya say three words:
"Lonely, isn't it?"
"Eh? Man, Shizuo, you have a crush on Izaya or something? You're asking so much about him."
"Ahh… well, his parents were always overseas when he was a kid. And by the time he was in elementary school, he had two baby sisters to take care of. They're not really close; they like each other a lot more. But yeah, his guardian was probably his nanny most of the time. Kind of a troublesome kid. Delinquent. Even got me into trouble! Isn't that hard to believe?"
"How mean, Shizuo!"
"What's his problem? Is it because of his childhood? He was lonely so now he's a dick?"
"If only it were that simple, Shizuo! Izaya… well, it's pretty hard to describe him. But if I had to in one word…"
"Hurry up, Shinra!"
"Cowardly. He's more afraid of himself than anyone and anything. He acts like a lion but he's really like a mouse."
Shizuo decides to ask Izaya to his apartment. Nothing big, nothing special. Just a beer or two, maybe watch a movie. Just talk. Hang out in a place that isn't their laundry room.
But Izaya doesn't show.
And, for the first time, Shizuo waits for him.
He waits long after his laundry is done, leaves the warm, fluffy garments in the hamper next to him. He sits in the chair, stands to walk when he needs to stretch, looks over his shoulder. He only leaves to grab a book and isn't gone even ten minutes. His clothes are in his apartment now too.
He waits, waits, waits.
He waits and must have dozed off because next thing he knows, he's groggy, his neck's sore, he sees the sun rising. Its rays pierce him through the single window and he grunts. A hand rises to shield his eyes and he looks around, sees only one other woman.
Standing, he feels really stupid as he goes to the elevator. He gets in, presses the button for the third floor, where he lives. From the basement level, it stops at the lobby and Shizuo's rubbing his eyes. He's still feeling stupid. Really stupid. He can't even be mad at Izaya. It's not like they agree to meet there every other Wednesday night. It's just Shizuo being stupid.
The doors open. He doesn't care.
He does care.
Shizuo drops his hand and stares at Izaya. His eyes are bloodshot, bags definite and all the fatigue that was making him decide on calling in sick to take a nap disappears. He sees Izaya and Izaya sees him; both parties look pretty surprised.
"…Hi," he says just as the doors close. "Uh…"
And then he sees:
Bandages encasing Izaya's thin arms. Hospital bracelets. His pale skin.
Did the yakuza do that to him?
I thought they'd just beat him up… slash his arms instead? Make it look like he tried to kill himself?
…What if it wasn't the yakuza?
"Mm… coming from the basement means Shizu-chan was still in the laundry room?" Izaya asks, breaks Shizuo's train of thought. He gives a smile. "Shizu-chan wasn't waiting for me, was he? Sorry, sorry! Something came up last night!"
Izaya presses the button for five, but Shizuo's just staring at his wrist. He clears his throat.
"Are you… are you okay?"
Izaya hums; it's that same tune from the first night and Shizuo's just staring. Izaya's got this habit of not talking when it's important and right now it's important. Shizuo thinks he knows why he's got bandages on his arms. He thinks he knows, but he doesn't want to be sure. Because he doesn't want to be right.
Shizuo wears his heart on his sleeve,
and it looks like Izaya tried to stop his.
"'Okay' is relative," Izaya sings as they arrive at Shizuo's floor.
He looks over.
"Goodbye, Shizu-chan. See you in two weeks!"
"You know, I consider us friends."
"That's nice for you, Shizu-chan."
Shizuo is hovering. He's hovering over Izaya as he loads his machine. Shizuo's machine is already rumbling away, as he got there about ten minutes earlier than Izaya did.
"Hey, what happened two weeks ago?"
"Shizu-chan, it's not nice to pry."
Izaya sounds tired from Shizuo's questions, not that he blames him (but that doesn't stop him from asking.) Izaya looks a little healthier, but only a little. Shizuo's been seeing a lot of Shinra recently, bumps into him in the elevator and lobby. Shizuo doesn't ask but he's pretty sure he's there to see Izaya. Shinra is a doctor—well, at least a resident—so of course Izaya looks a bit better. He doesn't look happier though.
The bandages are still on, but Shizuo only catches glimpses because Izaya's worn a long sleeve shirt that day. His words are sighed and his voice is a bit tight when he answers, but Shizuo keeps pressing for answers.
"Are you okay? Did somethin' happen?"
"Oi, you're my friend, so I care-!"
"You care for me?" Izaya snaps. The door slams shut and he whirls around to glare at Shizuo, surprise working to his advantage and the artist halts, takes a step back.
"Shizu-chan cares for me? Shizu-chan cares for me! Wonderful, truly wonderful! Shizu-chan cares for me, all my worries are gone, every single one, they're all, all gone! The man who's so lonely, who has no friends, who latches onto anyone who shows him a single sign of decency cares for me! Honestly, it would be easier to get out of a speeding ticket, hell, easier getting away with murder than to get you to care for me! Don't say that like it means anything!"
"You live in a run down apartment doing laundry past midnight in the middle of the week! Why? Because you can afford to! And not in terms of money; you're more broke than I am and I currently don't even have a steady job! And it's not a good kind of affording! It's because your life is a mess and your jobs don't have normal hours! You can't even get a decent nine to five job at a convenience store! What do you think that says about you? Your credentials? Oh, it's because they don't need you for those hours? How long have you worked there? Why no promotion? And the bar? You can't even pick up more hours there?!"
"Your college degree's gone to waste, your self esteem is shit. An artist? An artist?! You really think you can make yourself a decent living, you think you're the one in a thousand who could make it as an artist? Ha! Ha! Your brother, that's right, your brother, Heiwajima Kasuka, was it? You're right, he is ashamed to have you as his older brother! He's the way he is because of you, he suppresses his emotions because of you! Ha! How does that feel?! Maybe he's worked so hard to compensate for your failures, figures he can mitigate that with his success so the family isn't worse off!"
"And your hair, your hair! Aside from the fact the dye is cheap and I have never not seen your roots, why do you dye it?! Ah, wait, Shizu-chan told me… Tom? Because of Tom-san? Someone tells you to do something and you do? Without thinking, without blinking? Have you no backbone? Of course you don't, not when you're bending over backwards to satisfy everyone around you so they don't leave you! You're a grown man and I've seen children say 'no' more than you have! You think that if you're just yourself, no one will love you? Well, perhaps you're right!"
"Am I the extent of your socializing? You mentioned Celty. So there's Celty and Kasuka… that's it, right? Oh, wait! Tom? He's more of a work acquaintance. Vorona, was it? Or does she only put up with you because she has to? Have she even been in contact since college? Has she ever reached out to you instead of the other way around? Think about it, Shizuo. Why do you think you've taken to me so easily, so quickly? Isn't it because you have no one else? Because you're lonely? You latch onto anything because you're so desperate. All we do is have sex. Did you fuck me as a way to keep me around? Think that if you offered something, then I'd have reason to say? You honestly think you have to do that?! No wonder you think so lowly of yourself and have no one. You're right."
Izaya breaks off, stares at him, panting. Shizuo is shocked; he can't even form a single though, much less say anything. What he can do, however, is take a step back. He feels humiliated, hurt, betrayed, all at once. It's everything at once and he can't react, so it feels like he's shut down.
Izaya looks at him, his gaze so cold, his eyes so cruel, and Shizuo can't help but feel that he's disappointed yet another person.
Izaya spits two more words:
Text from Celty Sturluson: Don't take it personally, Shizuo! Izaya lashes out at people when he gets angry; he's done it to Shinra too!
Text from Celty Sturluson: Shizuo? Shizuo, answer me, please.
Text from Celty Sturluson: I need to make sure you're okay.
Text from Heiwajima Shizuo: I'm fine.
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan, I'll be visiting tomorrow.
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan, I'm at the door.
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan, are you asleep?
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan, I have to go, but I'll leave everything here and come back tomorrow.
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan, everything is still here. Are you all right?
Text from Heiwajima Kasuka: Niisan?
Text from Heiwajima Shizuo: Sorry. I'll be out soon.
Text from Kishitani Shinra: Shizuo, are you alive?
Text from Heiwajima Shizuo: Fuck off.
Text from Kishitani Shinra: Okay!
Shizuo hates Izaya.
Ever since that night, he's started to do laundry on Saturdays at six, a much more normal time for laundry. It's more crowded so he sometimes has to wait, but it's worth it.
It's not even a week until Izaya finds him again.
Naturally, Shizuo ignores him with steely resolve. Izaya's hovering around him without any laundry. In fact, he was leaning against the wall when Shizuo came in. He wonders if Izaya's done this the entire week, just wait for him to show up. He pushed himself off the wall upon seeing Shizuo and walked over, gave a smile, raised a hand. "Hey, Shizu-chan."
Izaya follows him around. Shizuo really wants to go back to his apartment, but won't risk his stuff being stolen.
So he has to deal with Izaya.
Around eleven, everyone starts clearing out. Shizuo started his laundry late that night.
"Sorry, all right? Haa, I was under a lot of stress, I shouldn't have gone off on Shizu-chan like that."
Shizuo hasn't said anything for one and a half hours, isn't about to start now.
"Really, the silence treatment?"
Izaya gives a sigh, sits back in a chair, runs his hand through his hair. His cheeks puff with air, going back to normal as he exhales. He stares at the window for a bit before sitting up, sideways in his seat to be able to face Shizuo. He rolls a sleeve up and takes off the bandages, shows his arm to Shizuo.
Shizuo looks down, sees dark, angry scars.
"…I'm alone," Izaya says, his voice quiet, his voice calm. "I'm so alone that I could do something like this. I'm not proud of it. There are many things that I won't flaunt but this takes the top of the list. You talk to Shinra, right? He's my only friend."
Shizuo looks up, keeps ignoring him.
Izaya keeps saying alone but what Shizuo hears is lonely.
What he thinks Izaya means is lonely but Izaya's pride has him saying alone.
Izaya sighs, draws his arms back. He rebandages his arm silently and rolls his sleeves down.
"…Don't shut me out, Shizuo."
It's pretty terrible.
Izaya's pretty terrible.
No, scratch that.
Izaya is entirely terrible.
But Izaya is smart, and Izaya was right:
Shizuo is very, very lonely and that's why his heart is on his sleeve.
He looks over tiredly. He'll blame what he feels like is Izaya showing vulnerability that won him over; it's not like it's very hard to convince Shizuo otherwise.
Like Izaya said, maybe he really has no backbone.
"…Don't you ever fucking pull anything like that again," he snarls weakly. "I won't give you a third chance."
Izaya blinks and smiles; he smiles a real, genuine smile and Shizuo finds himself relaxing.
"…Shizu-chan's the kindest person I've ever met."
Shizuo brings a midnight snack for them one day, just some rice and leftover vegetable soup in a thermos. He sits after he puts his clothes in and Izaya's already there, reading a book. Izaya looks up. "Hello."
Shizuo nods. "Hey."
"It's one in the morning, Shizu-chan…"
Izaya falls silent but a thin eyebrow is quirked as he watches Shizuo produce two bowls and two cups. The rice is divided evenly and then soup is poured into the thermos. Shizuo adds chopsticks before handing everything to Izaya and he takes it with amusement; the soup is set on the ground and then he's holding the bowl and chopsticks, but doesn't take a bite.
"Tell me," Izaya says and Shizuo's already got a mouthful of rice. "Is Shizu-chan fixing me?"
Shizuo isn't a good liar.
Shizuo is not a good liar.
For one thing, he doesn't like to lie. He hates dishonesty. So he never lies, meaning he's never had practice to get good at it.
But he doesn't need to be good at lying because he never does.
"No," he says. "I'm just passing time with you. And I'm starvin'. But it's rude to eat by myself, so…"
Izaya nods slowly and Shizuo begins eating.
Shizuo isn't fixing him.
Shizuo knows it's not his place to fix Izaya, to decide he's broken. That's not Shizuo's place at all.
But Izaya begins eating and Shizuo's pretty damn happy.
Izaya gets Shizuo to stop smoking.
He sees Shizuo again with a cigarette and instantly frowns, clicks his tongue.
"Shizu-chan should stop!"
"Shizu-chan will die early!"
Shizuo frowns at him. "It's not like I do it often."
"Still," Izaya says. He walks over and plucks the cigarette from his lips, tosses it out and holds his hand out once he returns. He wants the carton.
Shizuo stares at him.
"Shizu-chan shouldn't be so careless with his life. After all, there are people who are glad to have met Shizu-chan, whether he believes so or not."
Shizuo huffs. "Right."
Izaya nods. "Right. Like me."
Shizuo's getting a little better at telling when Izaya lies. It's still hit or miss but somehow, somehow he knows Izaya isn't lying. He feels it in his gut and his gut has yet to be wrong.
Izaya's telling the truth.
Shizuo stares at him.
He fishes the carton out, puts it in Izaya's hand, watches as he throws away.
Shizuo stops buying cigarettes.
Shizuo doesn't hate Izaya.
He wishes he does but he doesn't, he can't. Because Izaya was right.
Shizuo is very, very lonely,
wears his heart on his sleeve,
hands it to anyone who takes his hand,
even if only for a moment.
There are times where Shizuo remembers everything Izaya had yelled at him. He hadn't even told him all that; clearly, Shizuo is easy to read.
Or Izaya is just very good at reading people.
Izaya hasn't apologized again.
He doesn't have to. His first apology seemed sincere; Izaya had seemed tired and vulnerable. His lies are very practiced and polished, Shizuo has figured out, so it wasn't a lie.
But he doesn't know if a single apology is enough.
He humiliated Shizuo. Embarrassed him. Took his weak points and turned them into daggers to dig into his skin, blades dipped with lemon and cuts shallow, so he could make as many as he wanted. Shizuo can't fathom how someone could be so cruel, so so cruel.
He can't fathom how someone could be stupid enough to continue talking to them, but here Shizuo is.
Shizuo might be too forgiving. His forgiveness often doesn't even originate from the belief that the other deserves a second change. It comes from him not wanting to be alone.
Izaya is awful, but Shizuo doesn't have many other people.
Maybe it's okay because we're both bad people.
Maybe it's okay because he won't toss me aside.
Maybe it's okay because I deserve it.
Izaya isn't doing great things for Shizuo's self esteem and these thoughts keep him from sleep early on, make him forget to press 'start' on the machine. Izaya notices. Izaya presses it for him.
"Is Shizu-chan okay?"
"…'Okay is relative,'" Shizuo echoes and Izaya cracks a smirk.
"Shizu-chan, sit down. Hey, I brought you a book from my own collection. I think Shizu-chan will like it. I certainly did."
Shizuo takes the book and runs his hands over it. It's in English, he realizes. Crime and Punishment. Shizuo stares. Shizuo stares at Izaya next.
"I also have the Russian copy, but I feel Shizu-chan doesn't know Russian."
"I prefer reading books in Japanese—"
"Challenge yourself, Shizu-chan."
Izaya sits next to him, pulls out his Russian copy and smirks.
"I know Shizu-chan can do it. Shizu-chan's smart."
Shizuo stares at him but gives a nod and begins reading. His English is a bit rusty from not being used, but he finds that most of it starts coming back. It's slow and it's frustrating, but the feeling of reading in another language and comprehending is rewarding. And for the parts Shizuo can't understand, he asks Izaya, who translates it from Russian, then checks with the English.
It is pretty rewarding.
There had been a time where Izaya tore Shizuo apart and was taken back only because of Shizuo's desperation.
But now, Shizuo thinks, Izaya is more of a glue than a blade.
Even a coward can be a good influence.
Almost a year and a half passes by the time Shizuo realizes:
"Why have I never been to your place?"
"Hmm? Oh, because I don't like inviting people over."
"…Why have you never been to my place?"
"Shizu-chan's never invited me over."
Shizuo nods. The dryer is running and the light keeps flickering, but he doesn't really care.
"Maybe some other time."
Izaya looks at him.
"It's not that I don't want to, it's just… mm…"
"Shizu-chan, you know how ice cream tastes better at the ice cream shop, where you sit down and enjoy it?"
"It's like that."
"…We're better in this shit laundry room?"
Izaya gives a breathy laugh, closes his eyes.
"I'm just saying, Shizu-chan… the things most worth hanging onto are often the most fragile too."
"Here you go."
Shizuo had stopped dying his hair and Izaya noticed. They both know why, but neither brings it up. Shizuo's sitting on the floor when Izaya hands him a box and Shizuo recognizes it: it's the dye that Kasuka would get.
Meaning, the expensive kind that Shizuo never would.
"…It's fine, I'm growing my hair out."
"No, I like Shizu-chan a blond."
Izaya bends down to crouch next to him. A hand raises and runs through Shizuo's brown hair, gives a smirk. The ends are still tinged, though the color has faded, but Izaya doesn't make a comment on it.
"Shizu-chan looks good like that. And, mm… maybe the first time was influenced by someone, but every time after was Shizu-chan's own choice, no?"
"It makes Shizu-chan stand out. It's brave."
Shizuo signs and takes the box, mumbles 'might as well, since you bought it and all.'
Izaya smiles, Izaya smiles, and Shizuo wonders why he still looks so sad.
Izaya doesn't do laundry for a month.
Shizuo's disappointed, but he accepts it. He just brings his book and reads. Sometimes he brings his sketchpad. He finds himself drawing the same person over and over again and it's pretty easy for him to realize he's drawing Izaya.
It's embarrassing, really, so Shizuo decides to never, ever tell Izaya that he draws him.
From day one, Shizuo's thought that Izaya's beautiful.
Not his words. God, no. Izaya's words are terribly. They're spoken beautifully, eloquently, but they're cruel and cold.
But his face, his features, his movements are graceful, elegant.
Shizuo keeps drawing him.
Izaya doesn't do laundry for two months.
Shizuo tries to keep his disappointment at bay.
Izaya has no obligation to always do laundry with him. He doesn't know if they're friends; this is different from what he has with Celty. Celty considers him a friend. Shizuo doesn't know if Izaya does. Shizuo doesn't know if Izaya wants friends, if Izaya does friends.
Shizuo's gone through several books and has taken to rereading some favorites now. Work is going a little better. He's picked up some more hours, more shifts, has a little bit of extra cash. Tom said that there is an opening after all, sorry it took so long, Shizuo could start within the month if he wants to. Shizuo's pretty excited. He's able to buy himself some new clothes, even treats Kasuka to a meal.
Shizuo's doing a little better now. What would be even better is if Izaya was here too. Shizuo would take him out for lunch too.
Shinra and Celty tell him to not get too close to Izaya, that he's a terrible person and doesn't deserve Shizuo.
Shizuo doesn't really know what they're talking about because he doesn't think he's a great person, but he ignores them. He likes talking to Izaya, hanging out with him.
Laundry's lonely without him.
Shizuo misses Izaya.
Izaya doesn't do laundry for three months.
No, Shizuo thinks. Maybe he does laundry, but on a different day. They've known each other for twenty one months and he still doesn't know where Izaya lives, except that it's on the fifth floor. Except it would feel creepy to go up and knock on every door until he finds Izaya. Or just sit and wait until he sees Izaya come in or go out.
Izaya wants space. Shizuo figured that out. Shizuo understands. Everyone needs space.
But Shizuo isn't just wearing his heart on his sleeve anymore; it feels like Izaya's wearing Shizuo's heart.
He didn't want to admit it, but he probably began liking Izaya at some point. As more than a friend. More than a laundry buddy.
Shizuo likes Izaya and he decides that he's going to invite him over and they're going to have some cup ramen together.
Next time I see him, I'll ask him.
Shizuo feels like a teenage boy asking someone out for the first time.
Izaya doesn't do laundry for four months.
Shizuo's confused and he decides to just go up to the damn fifth floor himself. After all, Izaya's bound to come out at some point, he figures. He stops by his own apartment to drop his clothes off before going up two more floors. His palms begin to sweat and his heart races; he even jolts when the elevator dings and the doors open.
During the ride, he wondered about Izaya's birthday. They've known each other for almost two years now; surely Izaya's birthday had come and passed, much like Shizuo's own. He wonders if the second is coming up soon. They should celebrate.
Shizuo would like to celebrate Izaya's birthday with him.
He gets out of the elevator and turns; every floor is laid out similarly. There's a little lounge area, so Shizuo was just going to sit in one of the chairs, wait until he sees Izaya.
But when he rounds the corner, he smells an awful stench.
Nose wrinkling, he almost gags, but he keeps walking, sees a bunch of people. Eyes scan for Izaya; surely Izaya's out here too. Izaya's the type to make some extremely long complaint about this terrible smell. He has no idea what it is, wonders why the atmosphere is so tense. There's a single door open, wonders if maybe it's a mold infestation. Can mold smell this bad? Who knows.
"Excuse me… excuse me, yeah, sorry, I'm looking for someone, sorry…"
Shizuo's very tall, so it's hard to squeeze through people, but he does so anyway. He hears people mumbling.
"I've been smelling it for days!"
"Glad someone finally called the manager…"
"They broke the door down and everything!"
"Hey, who was even living in 505?"
"Oh, god… it's a body!"
Shizuo's blood runs cold. He's made it to the very edge of the crowd and is stopped only by yellow police tape. The door to apartment 505 is open and the police are there. The stench is stronger but Shizuo ignores it. His stomach lurches when he sees a cart wheeled out, hears it squeaking.
A black body bag. He can't tell anything about the body in it, but his world feels like it's spinning.
He didn't see Izaya in the crowd.
Maybe he was in his apartment. Maybe he was out. Shizuo hopes he was out, he hopes—
"The deceased," he hears a detective say, "died by asphyxiation. He was hanging from a self-constructed noose. Neighbor called to complain about the smell. He's probably been dead for a few days. We'll have a more precise time of death after autopsy results."
"Move out of the way, please!"
The coroner's voice is crisp and sharp and Shizuo, along with everyone else, makes him a path. Shizuo's tongue is dry, his throat hurts. He can't breathe. He feels like he can't breathe as he watches the body being wheeled away.
"I'm just saying, Shizu-chan… the things most worth hanging onto are often the most fragile too."
"…Shizu-chan's the kindest person I've ever met."
"Friends aren't everything they're cracked out to be. Does Shizu-chan have any?"
"We're in control of ourselves. Isn't that grand, Shizu-chan? We do have control!"
"Now, what does it mean to be happy?"
"We are the only ones with the true power to entirely, utterly, completely destroy ourselves."
Shizuo can barely hear the detective's voice, but he does make out a heavy sigh. He stumbles back, ignores the protests as he steps on a few people's shoes. He manages an apology.
But he feels like he can't breathe, like his world is crashing down.
Just a few days ago…
So those months, he was still…
Why didn't he reach out to me?
Weren't we friends?
Was I not enough?
He remembers the sirens he heard on the first night when he met Izaya, how they just sat there as strangers, listened to the washing machine and police cars. How Shizuo had thought that they were so distant. Those sirens always sounded distant. They were even annoying, constantly wailing and pissing him off.
Shizuo would always get really mad.
He used to wish them away.
Now he really wished them away.
He wished they never sounded, that they never came to this building.
Shizuo feels like his world is crashing down.
"Yeah. Found a wallet. He was young… only twenty-six. Name… Orihara Izaya."
Shizuo wears his heart on Izaya's sleeve,
and it looks like Izaya took it to the grave.