Sorry about dragging you along, Celty signs, barely turning around enough for Shizuo to see the flicker of pale fingers in the moonlit darkness. I know parties aren’t really your thing.
“I don’t mind,” he says aloud, though she’s turning away already, running a hand through her hair again even though it’s fine, it looks just as good as it did when they left. She spent an hour in the bathroom, too, uncharacteristically fussy with her hair while Shizuo alternately held the curling iron or the hairspray for her. She does look nice, though Shizuo can’t completely point to what is different; he supposes that’s the point, though, to still be yourself just...more so, somehow.
“You don’t need to worry about it,” he says as Celty takes the stairs to the second-floor apartment one at a time, bracing herself with the handrail. She shows no sign of listening to him, but Shizuo’s pretty sure she’s in no state to pay attention to anything but her adrenaline anyway. “I’m pretty sure he’ll just be glad to see you.”
Celty’s not paying him any attention. She’s made it to the top of the stairs, is reaching to knock as Shizuo joins her at the landing. There’s the faint sound of music from inside, a burst of laughter right as Celty lifts her hand, and Shizuo can see her flinch into stillness, nerves freezing her with her hand halfway to the door.
Shizuo sighs over her shoulder and leans in to knock himself, a loud clear sound to cut through the hum of noise inside. There’s a pause, enough time for Shizuo to straighten and Celty to offer a thank you as she flushes crimson, and then the door flies open and Shinra’s standing there, chirping “Celty!” very nearly before he’s had the chance to see them. He reaches out, fingers landing at the edge of Celty’s shoulder, and he’s leaning in for what looks like a kiss before Celty gets her hand up to shove him away. Shizuo glances sideways at her, but she’s smiling in spite of the force of her motion, and Shinra is still gesticulating welcome as Celty pushes him back inside the doorway.
“Come in, come in!” He gives up on the attempted affection, turning to wave them both inside instead, and Celty ducks her head and takes the offer, leaving Shizuo to trail in her wake. “I wasn’t sure you’d come, I’m so glad you made it!” It’s warmer inside, the air hot and heavy with more people and insufficient ventilation, and there’s a babble of sound, noise overwhelming enough to remind Shizuo of why, exactly, he tends to avoid parties when he’s not offering moral support to his best friend. Shinra’s maneuvering down the hall, waving his hand to a crowd of people while turning in to face Celty completely, and Shizuo is ready to step in if needed but Celty’s still smiling, lifting a hand in a careful wave when Shinra announces her name like she’s an expected guest of honor. He waves Shizuo forward, clearly ready to do the same for him, but Shizuo shakes his head and ducks sideways to hide himself in the relative safety of the kitchen. Better to do introductions later, when he can stick to his first name and avoid the assumptions that come with his last.
The kitchen is all but empty; there’s a couple sitting in the corner, a boy with his arm around a girl’s shoulders while she leans in against him. It would be sweet, if he weren’t staring blankly into space like he’s almost unaware of her existence; as it is it’s just a little unsettling, keeps Shizuo moving past them and into the array of half-empty bottles and forgotten plastic cups littering the counter.
There’s only one other person here, a dark head bowed over the splash of liquid into a pitcher of something nearly neon green, the drink alarming enough in color that Shizuo is frowning at it before the other even lifts his head. There’s a flash of teeth, too quick and too sharp to be quite called a smile, and then “Can I help you?” in a voice so syrupy-smooth it grates on Shizuo’s ears.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he asks, crossing his arms over his chest as his frown climbs into his eyes and turns his gaze into a glare.
“Making drinks,” the other says, holding up the pitcher like it’s an explanation and drawling condescension into his tone. “Want one?”
“Not of that,” Shizuo scoffs. “That looks like fucking battery acid.”
The other tips his head, considers the pitcher critically. “It doesn’t, actually.” He sets the weight down, leans back to rest his elbows on the counter and slouch down against the support. “Battery acid’s a lot darker than this.”
Shizuo can feel his eyes narrow. “You know what I fucking mean. What is that, you’re not going to give that to people to drink, are you?”
“Caffeine and tequila,” the other answers easily. “And yeah, I am. Do you not know how parties work?”
“I prefer to make better use of my time,” Shizuo snaps.
“Setting a good example for your baby brother?”
It comes out slow, slippery like the words are coated in oil, but they hit like ice, lancing through Shizuo’s blood and dropping his stomach out from under him. He doesn’t think about moving; he just does, lunges across the width of the kitchen and is suddenly there, growling fury directly into the stranger’s face. His eyes are a weird color, dark and faintly red, like long-dried blood collected into his irises, and his smile isn’t slipping, even when Shizuo hisses and leans in close enough for his chest to bump the other’s skinny frame.
“Don’t talk about my brother,” he snaps. “Don’t ever.”
The white slash of that grin goes wider, there’s a catch of laugh so sharp it sounds like glass shattering. “You are his brother, then. I thought I recognized that jawline, even with the bleached hair. Are you trying to be incognito?” His eyes cut up to Shizuo’s pale hair, drag against the ends of it like a touch. “They do say you get tetchy on that subject.”
“A lot fucking more than tetchy,” Shizuo spits. “Don’t--”
The voice is from behind him, loud enough to startle Shizuo out of his half-formed sentence. He jerks back, stumbling back over the linoleum underfoot, and it’s only after he’s moved that he recognizes Shinra smiling at him, Celty standing just at his shoulder with her fingers careful hooked into his. She’s flushed but she’s still smiling, nearly glowing from the pleased color in her cheeks, and some knot of protective rage in Shizuo’s chest unwinds a little, breathes itself into more calm.
“I was just coming to bring you back out to the party,” Shinra says, looking between the two occupants of the kitchen without a flicker in his smile. “I thought I’d introduce you to everyone but it looks like you two are already getting along great!”
“We’re not,” Shizuo growls at exactly the same moment as the other purrs, “Swimmingly.”
Shizuo grits his teeth, avoids the urge to lash out with a retort or a fist or ideally both, doesn’t even look sideways when he grates, “We hadn’t made it to introductions.”
“Izaya,” Shinra protests. “You’re supposed to be helping me host.”
“Ah, sorry,” the other drawls from over Shizuo’s shoulder. The sound scrapes along Shizuo’s spine like it has teeth, winding every nerve he has into irritation. “I didn’t realize he was an invited guest. I thought he must have just wandered in off the street.”
Shizuo does look, then, baring his teeth in a growl as he meets the steady consideration of the other’s eyes and the immoveable bite of his smile.
“This is Izaya Orihara,” Shinra is saying, though Shizuo doesn’t turn to look at him. “My roommate. I’m sure you two will be seeing a lot of each other!”
“Nice to meet you, Shizuo,” Izaya says, somehow slurring the words into the shape of an insult behind his teeth. Shizuo’s eyes narrow, his exhale turns into a growl, and he doesn’t even try to form the words of a polite lie on his tongue.
He’s never before disliked someone so much, so fast.