Actions

Work Header

And How the Years Affect Us

Chapter Text

Dullahan are mysterious creatures. Rarely encountered by the living, they are regarded as harbingers of death. Their legends are founded on vague rumor and the superstition of old. Who knows how much of that can be taken seriously?

For example, it’s been said that there are only female dullahan. But that brings quite a dilemma to mind, does it not? If there exists only one gender within a species, how can that species reproduce? Perhaps the dullahan utilize some sort of asexual reproduction – almost like a certain type of toad!

But there is one more distinct possibility, and that is that these beings are impervious to death. They exist completely beyond the flow of mortality. Outside observers who are allegedly able to interfere with that stream – does it not also stand to reason that if they can bring death to humans, they must also be able to prolong life?

There must be unreported incidents here and there in which a dullahan toyed with a human’s lifespan. Younger, older, beginning and end. It’s an interesting concept.

Don’t you think so?

 

~

 

“Come on, Shizu-chan! You’re so slow today!” Izaya was the one running, but taunts like these were what drew Shizuo after him – like a leash, perhaps – so that he had far more control over the situation than did his pursuer. He hadn’t tired, either, and his smile didn’t fade by even a fraction as his agile feet lifted him from one vertical surface to the next.

And an enraged Shizuo followed him at a feverish pace despite knowing that he was probably playing right into a bored flea’s hands, called the other’s name so that it carried across the city and down to the streets below, and didn’t bother to consider giving up – sure, that would have been the best way to get back at the bastard, but he didn’t have the self-restraint to hold himself back.

Uninvolved citizens traversing the same path as the two – though several stories lower – paused in the midst of evening errands to marvel at the energy of Ikebukuro’s infamous pair. The city was ever ablaze with lights and sound, but their clashes always managed to make themselves heard despite that.

Those long-winded chases weren’t the only action that the city saw on nights like this. The popular young actor Hanejima Yuuhei had just finished his work – a new romantic comedy to air starting the following week – for the day. Tanaka Tom was preparing to meet his kohai for work. Customers, beckoned by an oddly outgoing Russian man, were trickling into the eccentric Russian Sushi, and Kyohei Kadota was returning to the van he shared with three companions as the cat-and-mouse pair passed overhead.

“What, back alleys weren’t enough for you guys tonight?” the bandana-clad man muttered under his breath as a disturbingly excited Karisawa Erika launched into another of her fujoshi rants.

Celty Sturluson, too, had her hands full – in her case, it was with a group of yakuza or some such that were quite intent on interfering with tonight’s job. And, as fate would have it that night, Shizuo and Izaya – for the most part unaware of the others’ activities – had carried their fight to the dullahan’s exact location just as she was forced to condense her shadows into the familiar form of a large scythe.

Izaya saw it materialize and, with a triumphant grin on his face, paused just long enough mid-stride to place his pursuer in the path of the dullahan’s swing as soon as he leaped clear of it.

The unsuspecting blonde was hit hard in the left side and sent sprawling. The men that Celty had intended to threaten from the get-go realized the situation quite clearly, then, and they did not hesitate to make a quick getaway to escape the fallout. Alarmed and caught very much off guard, Celty let her blade disintegrate after a drawn-out moment of confusion. She reached her friend’s side at the same time as Izaya.

Are you alright?! I’m sorry I didn’t see you in time!

“Man… that hurt,” Shizuo grumbled as he pushed himself into a sitting position. He noticed Celty’s PDA and nodded unconcernedly after reading the message. “Don’t worry about it.” When he tried to stand up, however, he swayed unsteadily and immediately fell backward again.

Izaya laughed. “How about that? Totally shaken up by just that one little impact, Shizu-chan?”

Shizuo glared back at the informant with a dangerous look shining in his eyes. “The fuck are you still hanging around for, flea? Didn’t I tell you to get out of Ikebukuro?!”

“I can’t do that and miss the chance to see Shizu-chan falling all over himself, can I?” Izaya retorted, and Celty decided that she would have to step in before the argument escalated any further.

With one hand on Shizuo’s shoulder and the other pushing back against Izaya’s chest, she came between them and then quickly wrote, Do you feel at all strange right now? The message was obviously intended for Shizuo alone, but Izaya managed to catch a glimpse of it despite the dullahan’s best efforts to hide it from him.

The blonde nodded, looking pensive. “Yeah, now that you mention it, I guess – just a little dizzy, though. Why? Is – ”

“Is something fun going to happen to Shizu-chan?” Izaya cut in with a look of intense excitement about him.

Celty turned the visor of her helmet on Izaya, apparently so that she could scrutinize him for a moment. Distrust was plain in the way she hesitated. You should get going, she typed at length, and Izaya smirked. She might as well have just answered yes, and of course that meant that the informant wouldn’t be going anywhere just yet.

“Do you really have time to worry about me, carrier?” he said by way of distraction, and the dullahan visibly hesitated once again before shaking her yellow helmet back and forth in brief gesture of disgust and turning back to Shizuo.

Her next message was more carefully guarded, so Izaya wasn’t able to read it. He watched as Shizuo’s eyes widened in response to whatever Celty had to say, though, and he yearned to satisfy his curiosity. The blonde’s full attention was on her, now, and his chocolate gaze was one of incredulity. She nodded as if to assure him that what he had been told was true.

“Hah… No way…” The blonde climbed slowly to his feet and glanced down at Izaya. If the informant hadn’t known better, he might have labeled this new expression ‘concern’ – ‘fear,’ even. “Flea,” the blonde snapped, and Izaya cocked his head to one side playfully.

“What might the problem be, Shizu-chan?”

“Get out of here.”

That was it. No added threat or insult – just a simple order, and it came off as more of a request. Shizuo obviously wasn’t in a position to force Izaya into anything, after all; his breath was coming noticeably faster, and a cold sweat had sprung up along his brow.

Well, no problem, then. Izaya stood, too, and Celty looked indignantly on as the informant smiled and said, “I might consider it, Shizu-chan, but I’ll need a little more than that from you first.”

Shizuo’s face flushed slightly and he shook his head. “Fuck you, louse. This is your fault, anyway – just get lost.”

“Why so cold all of a sudden?”

Can’t you two just let it go this time? Celty demanded – too late, though, because it was at that precise moment that Shizuo gasped and found himself knees-on-the-pavement below the other two.

“Damn,” he hissed softly, and Izaya blinked confusedly. Celty shoved him to the side when he moved as if to check on the blonde, though, and her message to the informant was very to-the-point.

Get back.

No sooner had Izaya complied, putting a few feet’s distance between himself and the other two, than a silky cocoon of shadow materialized around the blonde, obscuring him from view. “What – Are you doing this?” Izaya asked, surprised, and Celty again shook her ‘head.’

‘Damn. Just how badly was he hit?’ the dullahan wondered to herself as she waited desperately for the black substance to disappear. Her knowledge of this was just too incomplete; she couldn’t stop it, and she wasn’t entirely certain of how much damage could be done with just one blow. She was so focused on the time that she barely noticed Izaya move back to her side to get a better look at the strange cloud.

“Oh~! This is really interesting, after all!” Izaya declared cheerfully as he extended a hand out to touch it.

Celty was about to warn him not to when, to her intense relief, the shadows cleared as suddenly as they had convened.

A small figure was left huddled in their wake, and a sudden breeze ruffled the blonde hair of this figure as he straightened up and looked around at the two people who sat stunned before him. He – Shizuo, Izaya realized disbelievingly – noticed the informant’s hand extended toward him and narrowed his chocolate brown eyes angrily.

No one said anything. Shizuo looked down at his hands, away from Izaya. His clothes were hanging off of him in great waves of fabric, and he had to struggle to free the small digits from the sleeves of his dress shirt. He carefully avoided looking back up at the other two – although his cheeks were flushed a deep red as if to acknowledge their presence – as he dug around in the right side of his pants for something.

He finally produced an orange cell phone from one of the pockets. Powering it off, he gazed into the clear black surface for a moment before clearing his throat – an oddly high-pitched sound coming from him – and flipped it shut with a soft click.

“Um,” he mumbled, sighing softly at the sound of his own voice. “So, how long is this supposed to last?”

Izaya wrapped his arms around himself as his entire body shook with laughter that helped shatter the previous silence. “Oh, wow,” he gasped at length. “Shizu-chan, that’s a great look for you!”

“Shut up,” Shizuo snapped immediately.

Celty offered her PDA to the still-angry blonde after taking a moment to finish her earlier explanation. Shizuo accepted it with both hands and, this time, he took the liberty of reading it aloud. “Like I said, it’s old magic. I don’t remember many details, but I think I can at least guarantee that it won’t last more than a week… or so…” Shizuo raised his eyes pleadingly to the dullahan. “Doesn’t it work both ways?”

The dullahan took the PDA back and wrote, I’m sorry. I don’t think so, and trying something like that out on you now would be way too risky.

Shizuo breathed another sigh. “Alright, then. A week’s not… terrible, anyway.” He paused, and then seemed to realize something. “Or… you could try it on this flea, right?” He nodded in Izaya’s direction, and the dullahan seemed to seriously consider the suggestion.

“Hang on, hang on,” Izaya interrupted quickly, “how about showing a little respect for my human rights?”

“Fleas don’t need human rights,” Shizuo muttered, but the effectiveness of his belligerent attitude was halved by the sound of his own voice – higher in pitch, just a little too cute to be considered threatening.

Izaya grinned and moved a little closer to his enemy. “That won’t do, you know~! You have to respect your elders, and besides” – he let his hand fall on Shizuo’s head so that he could ruffle the other’s hair – “you look like more of a flea than I do, right?”

Shizuo blushed and tried to swat the informant’s hand away, but his arms got tangled up in his clothes and he managed only to embarrass himself further. Izaya grinned. “Shizu-chan, you should come and stay with me for the next week,” he offered, and the blonde looked at him incredulously.

“Why the fuck should I?!”

“It can be my contribution – instead of letting that monster cut me.” Izaya nodded at Celty, who conveyed her indignation at the insult with her body language alone.

She calmed down quickly, though, and decided to add her own opinion to the conversation. He does have a point, even if he can’t seem to make it any more pleasantly than that.

Shizuo looked confused, so Celty added, Would you rather stay with Shinra and I? It’s probably better if you don’t spend the rest of the week alone, after all.

“Oh,” Shizuo said, shivering a little as another gust of wind swept the top of the building on which the group was huddled. It was a frigid night in the middle of winter, and a heavy snow was starting to fall – big, light flakes hitting the ground with little taps that somehow reminded Shizuo of a cat’s paws. “No thanks,” he decided after a moment, and there was a little tremor starting in his voice. “I’ll be fine, really, but… well, I guess I could use a ride back to my place.”

Of course. But Celty clearly wasn’t terribly confident in her friend’s decision.

“Shouldn’t you be more concerned about something else at the moment?” Izaya asked, then, indicating the mess of clothes that surrounded Shizuo. “Shizu-chan won’t make it very far without clothes and a coat that fit him, right?”

“You’re the one who brought the other thing up, flea,” Shizuo muttered, his voice shaking even more now that he had realized just how cold he actually was.

“Obviously,” Izaya said impatiently. “You can’t live alone for a week if you’re not even tall enough to open a door without help. What will you do for food?”

“None of your business,” Shizuo huffed.

Izaya frowned, too, and turned to leave. “Whatever, then.” He took a few steps toward the edge of the rooftop and called back to Celty, “Ne, do me a favor and keep Shizu-chan here warm until I get back.”

“Oi, where do you think you’re going?!”

Thought you wanted me to leave, Shizu-chan? “I’m going to buy some clothes for the little Shizu-chan! I’ll be back in an hour, so don’t go anywhere. Also, try to avoid freezing to death~!” Izaya ignored Shizuo’s attempts to call him back, then, and made his way easily down to the sidewalk and toward a more crowded portion of Ikebukuro.

Chapter Text

Izaya did return – exactly one hour later, the punctual bastard – and when he did he was carrying several bags of varying sizes with him. They were just bulky enough to prevent him from scaling the side of the building to reach the waiting pair, and so he was forced to make his way up the stairs from the inside. Shizuo and Celty both had to wonder how he had managed to deal with whoever owned the building – and what sort of business it was, exactly.

Shizuo was curled up at Celty’s side at that point, his clothes wrapped all around him like a cocoon – obviously too thin, though, for his nose was bright pink and he was shivering pretty badly. He didn’t even try to struggle to his feet when he noticed Izaya’s presence, but he did manage to glare and stutter, “I-I didn’t a-ask for th-that, jerk.” He looked pointedly at the bags that the informant had with him.

“No, you didn’t, but it looks like you wouldn’t try to refuse a coat at the moment,” Izaya said dispassionately as he produced a small red coat from one of the bags. Shizuo was pleasantly surprised, actually, that the informant had managed to find him something fairly normal to wear. No silly patterns, no ridiculous colors – a little too bright for Shizuo, maybe, but obviously not an intentional attempt at insulting or angering the blonde.

Still. “D-don’t want it,” he insisted, his body too stiff for him to do much more than that.

Celty, reluctant to support Izaya but concerned about the shivering body that couldn’t help but seek out the warmth she didn’t really have to offer, finally typed a message in her PDA and lowered it to Shizuo’s eye level. I think you should accept it. You’re cold, aren’t you?

Shizuo frowned – more of a pout on the face of a toddler – and said nothing. However, he didn’t struggle when Izaya pulled his clothes away from his upper body and slipped a smaller shirt over his head.

“It’s a nice fit,” Izaya said, almost pleasantly, and Shizuo refused to so much as look at what he was now wearing. He didn’t fail to take notice of the flea’s uncharacteristic behavior, though, and it bothered him intensely.

“I c-can do the rest m-myself,” he decided when Izaya extended the coat toward him. His fingers closed on it, and he just managed to jam his numbing arms into the sleeves before Izaya could decide to help him yet again.

“Here,” Izaya said after a moment, holding one hand out to Shizuo. The blonde hesitated, wide-eyed and confused. He glanced briefly at Celty and then slowly placed his tiny hand in the informant’s open palm. He wasn’t sure why he did it, even, but there it was. Izaya’s hand was warm and gentle underneath his, and Shizuo was struck first by the thought that he had rarely had any occasion to touch the flea directly – always vending machines, guard rails, metal trash cans, but never skin on skin.

“What?” he demanded when Izaya suppressed a laugh.

“Nothing, Shizu-chan,” the informant replied with totally false innocence. The blonde was so preoccupied by this, then, that he barely noticed Izaya doing anything until he felt the warmth of dry wool embracing his freezing fingers. “Other hand,” Izaya said simply, and Shizuo glanced down at a baby-blue mitten on his right hand.

He pulled it back toward himself immediately. He didn’t have to say anything for Izaya to understand his irritation, but the informant simply sighed and said, “I don’t have all night to wait for you to get over yourself, Shizu-chan.”

“F-fancy h-hearing that from you, l-louse,” Shizuo responded – and regretted it immediately, because the words and his voice simply didn’t match up; all of the intended effect was lost in the vocalization. It was going to be a long week of things like that, Shizuo realized. Nothing he could think of to say would come out right, and this creep would be mercilessly amused by all of it. He felt his stomach churning with little butterflies of embarrassment at the thought, and he didn’t have the heart to resist when Izaya took him by the hand and helped him into the second mitten.

The informant didn’t laugh, though, and Shizuo blinked up at him after a moment. Izaya noticed him staring as he searched in another bag for boxers, pants, and socks, and he smiled. “I can’t have too much fun at your expense just yet, can I? Or you’ll never agree to what I said before.”

“I-I’m not s-staying with you,” Shizuo retorted at once.

Wait, Celty cautioned, and the blonde looked at her with an expression of ever-greater confusion. You should thank him, at least. He really bought a lot for you.

Shizuo struggled for a moment to think of a suitable response to this. Izaya hadn’t seen the note, thank goodness, and Shizuo realized that he did have to give the bastard some credit – he’d have to pay him back for it all, somehow, because he couldn’t stand the thought of being indebted to a flea. So he took a deep breath, nodded, and mumbled, “For this…”

“Hm?” Izaya had turned to face him already, his amber eyes all alight with curiosity.

Shizuo squeezed his own eyes shut, willing himself to forget who he was talking to, and whispered, “Thanks… for doing all this…”

There – that sounded right for him at the moment. He didn’t want to have to say anything like it again, but it helped him relax a little – seeing Izaya’s eyes widen in surprise, knowing that the informant hadn’t really anticipated those few words, either.

And then Izaya laughed, softly – not mocking, really, but content somehow. “Sure,” he responded courteously, “so how about staying with me after all? Consider it payback, if you want.”

Celty half-wondered if she would regret her next advice, but the situation seemed to favor it right then, and a thought had just occurred to her. I hate to say it, but that might be your best option. You know how Shinra gets.

“…I hadn’t thought of that,” Shizuo mumbled, reading Celty’s message. He wasn’t eager to act as Shinra’s lab rat in exchange for a week’s worth of free meals, and he wasn’t so thickheaded that he hadn’t been able to finally come to the same conclusion as the other two. He couldn’t stay alone, much as he wanted to, and he didn’t particularly want to trouble Kasuka, either.

He turned to Izaya, then, and took another deep breath to steady himself. “Izaya, I… guess I’ll t-take you up on that…”

Chapter Text

And that was how it went down, so to speak, for Celty left shortly after those words fell from Shizuo’s lips. Izaya didn’t try to hide his immense satisfaction with Shizuo’s reluctant agreement, but he did refrain from running his mouth too far as he handed his rival the pants and boxers that he had selected for him. He had no way of knowing – although there had been some hints – whether or not the blonde still had his usual destructive capacity, after all, and he’d rather not have a reason to keep his guard up until he could find out.

Shizuo, however, had already had the chance to gauge his current condition. He figured – sort of felt like – he still had above-average strength for his size, but it nevertheless wasn’t up to his normal standards – in short, he wouldn’t be winning any fights for the next week. Nor would he be able to protect himself – or Tom, he realized as his phone rang suddenly.

Dammit, he thought, because that had completely slipped his mind in the midst of all the eccentricity. He and Tom had been planning on meeting for just a few late-night jobs, but the time they’d agreed upon had passed almost an hour ago. Shizuo was never late, so he could surely count on Tom being worried – not to mention pissed off.

“T-Tom-san?” he called into the receiver as soon as he was able to drag his cell out of his pocket. His voice sounded even higher in his distress.

“…Uh, sorry – isn’t this Shizuo’s number…?”

Izaya, who had moved in close enough to Shizuo that he was just able to make out Tom’s words, smirked. Couldn’t blame Tom for being confused, given that a small child – high-pitched voice and all – had just answered his kohai’s phone.

Shizuo took next to no notice of the informant, instead focusing on his next words. “Yeah. Um, this might sound kinda crazy, but… I’m Shizuo. Just, you know, younger… sort of…”

Silence on the other end of the line. Then, “Right. Well, just tell him I’m still waiting here, okay? He should know what you mean.”

Shizuo’s eyes widened slightly. “U-um, I’m sorry about that… I-I mean... um… I’ll tell him…” He said the last part with a defeated look on his face as he glanced helplessly down at the snow by his feet.

Tom thanked him briefly before ending the call with an exasperated sigh, and Shizuo let his phone fall shut with a click. He glanced back up at Izaya with his brown eyes narrowed in a forced look of irritation. “Hear anything interesting, flea?”

Izaya grinned. “It’s nice to know that you’re less shy around me than you are with your boss.”

The blonde’s face flushed a dark red yet again as he quickly explained, “He was mad, so of course I… I mean, it was my fault for not calling, so… of course he didn’t believe what I said. It’s just, I thought I should…” He cleared his throat and shook his head, realizing that his feeble attempt at a retort had already seriously backfired.

But it really wasn’t as if he was more relaxed around Izaya now; it was just a different kind of anxiety – the dangerous-scheming-bastard kind of fear that anyone in Shizuo’s position might feel. He knew what the flea was like, after all, and he had some serious misgivings about staying with him for any stretch of time. He could, however, relax somewhat due to the entirely simple fact that he didn’t have to worry as much about what the bastard thought of him. It was too late for that, anyway – the situation couldn’t possibly get much worse than it already was.

Izaya chuckled softly. “Or not,” he teased, and the blonde glared at the hand that was offered to him. “Come on, then. You want to go meet him as soon as possible, right?”

“Eh? A-are you really okay with that…?” Izaya, uncomplainingly offering to take him out to some meeting? Not a chance, right?

But the informant only grinned ever more jovially. “Why not? Sounds like fun.”

“I-in exchange for what?” the blonde muttered suspiciously.

Izaya grabbed Shizuo’s forearm and dragged him to his feet. “Relax a little,” he sighed. “I’m not plotting anything in particular.”

“The hell you’re not,” Shizuo mumbled, but he didn’t retrieve his arm from Izaya’s grip. He was still cold, though he was warming up thanks to the new clothes, and Izaya’s hand was just another something standing between him and the frigid air. “How are we getting down from here?”

“The same way we came up,” the informant responded casually as he raised Shizuo off the ground and into his arms. He held him to his chest, and Shizuo found himself staring into Izaya’s scarlet eyes. They’re actually kind of a nice color, he mused. Warm, but with a coolly apathetic look about them that must have been cultivated over several years. There was a barrier, somewhere in there, between Izaya and the rest of the world. Shizuo wondered if it had ever been breached in the past.

That was where his thoughts stopped, though, as the informant then maneuvered himself and Shizuo all the way down the side of the building at a sickening speed and with only one hand free to slow the fall.

Shizuo was too stunned to say much of anything when Izaya left him on the ground – obscured by the shadows of a narrow alley – and then went back up to retrieve the bags of clothing. “A little forewarning would’ve been nice,” he finally managed when the informant returned to his side.

Izaya ignored the comment, though, and reached out for Shizuo as if he intended to carry him the same way again. Shizuo shied away. “I can walk on my own,” he insisted, and the informant only shrugged.

“Fine. Let’s see how far those stubby legs can carry you, Shizu-chan.” He grinned mischievously, then, and set out walking at quite the prodigious pace for someone not in any real hurry. Shizuo was forced to run to keep up, and it only took a minute or two for him to completely run out of energy. He simply couldn’t make his body move as fast as he wanted it to, and Izaya was just barely visible far ahead of him.

“Wait,” he finally called, “slow down.” He was uncomfortably aware of the prying looks he was earning from various passersby, so he felt a rush of something verging on gratitude when Izaya finally decided to stop so that the blonde to catch up.

“Sure you wouldn’t rather hitch a ride on my back?” the informant prompted Shizuo as he struggled to keep up with a slightly slower pace.

“Yeah, I am,” Shizuo hissed. “You do know that everyone’s staring at you, right? They probably think you’re some sort of child abuser.”

Izaya laughed and reached down to ruffle Shizuo’s hair. “I’m not worried.”

Of course he wasn’t. Why would the great Orihara Izaya concern himself with the opinions of a few humans? “Jerk,” Shizuo muttered. He stumbled suddenly mid-stride and made a little sound of surprise when Izaya caught him and held him upright.

“Pick up your feet,” Izaya cautioned him gently, his voice just as patronizing as Shizuo would have expected it to be.

“I-I am! You’re still walking too fast!” Shizuo stated belligerently.

“I’m walking so slow that we’ll probably never make it all the way to Russian Sushi before midnight.”

“Fine!” Shizuo growled as he tugged sharply on Izaya’s arm.

It was the informant’s turn to stumble, then, and he barely managed to stay standing on both his feet. “That was unfair, Shizu-chan! I wasn’t expecting it!”

“If letting me walk is such a problem for you, then you can just carry me already!” Shizuo blurted without thinking. He realized too late that he had just made a request completely out of left field, and his face turned a deeper shade of crimson than ever before. He glanced cautiously up at Izaya to gauge his reaction, and then turned to stare at the ground in front of him. “…I didn’t mean that,” he tried, but when he raised his gaze again, he was at once confronted by the sight of Izaya crouched directly in front of the blonde, his back to him.

“It’d be more comfortable for both of us this way,” Izaya explained, and Shizuo felt that the best way to preserve his pride right then was to simply comply. So, he wrapped his arms around Izaya’s neck and let the informant lift him off of the ground with one smooth motion. The proximity was uncomfortable for the simple reality that it was Izaya who was carrying him in that undignified position. But it was warm, too, and Shizuo managed to relax a little more with his head resting on his enemy’s shoulder.

~

With the informant thus setting a much quicker pace, the two arrived at Russian Sushi within fifteen minutes.

Simon was hovering about his usual place out front, and he waved congenially when he saw the pair approaching. “Iz-aa-yaaa!” he called, his voice booming impressively as he pronounced the other’s name, “who is your little friend there?”

“F-friend?” Shizuo stiffened angrily. “Like I’d ever call this bastard a friend!”

“Watch it, Shizu-chan. I’ll seriously drop you,” Izaya retorted. The smile that accompanied these words was vaguely threatening, and Shizuo attempted to match it with a glare of his own.

“Shi-zu-o? It’s not good to disrespect your elders. Come, eat sushi and get along!”

Shizuo had to laugh at that. He didn’t particularly like the prospect of showing himself to many people while he looked like this, but – “Simon, you’re way too calm about something that ridiculous.”

“Nothing is impossible in Ikebukuro!” Simon stated grandly as he ushered the odd pair on into the restaurant. “Now – sushi!”

“There’re some things that should be impossible anywhere,” Shizuo sighed, and Izaya laughed along with him.

“Simon’s an odd one,” the informant agreed, for the towering man had already departed to gather more customers. Izaya lowered the blonde to the floor, then, and nodded in Tom’s general direction. Shizuo spotted him, too, and they approached him together.

Tom glanced up from a steaming mug of coffee as soon as the informant took a seat next to him at the counter. “Orihara Izaya-kun, right? To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Izaya grinned and raised Shizuo onto his lap. “This,” he answered simply, and Tom’s gaze briefly swept across the small form.

“The kid I talked to earlier?” he guessed, one eyebrow raised in a marked gesture of skepticism.

“Correct!” Izaya said cheerfully as Shizuo wrestled himself free of the other’s grip.

Back on the floor, the blonde had to tilt his head quite far back to meet Tom’s gaze. “Like I said earlier,” he mumbled, eyes wide and brimming with timidity, “it’s me…”

“You?” Tom questioned, frowning. He looked Shizuo up and down once more before a look of recognition dawned on his face. “You mean – Shizuo?” The blonde nodded, then, and the older man shook his head disbelievingly. “Alright, then... I guess. Mind explaining what’s going on?”

It didn’t take long for Shizuo – helped along by an impatient Izaya – to more or less break the situation down for Tom. When they had finished, Tom was quiet for a time. Then, he sighed and held a hand up to his forehead. “I can’t believe this. Why didn’t you call me earlier?”

Shizuo stared morosely down at his feet as he shifted his weight uncomfortably from one side to another. “I’m sorry. I was kinda preoccupied, and… I guess I was thinking that I could still do something to help out… or that it might just go back to normal…” His voice quivered a little as he continued to speak, though, and he finally found himself biting back tears.

“N-no, I guess I really did just… forget about it,” he decided at last, and Tom didn’t miss the little hint of panic in his voice.

“Hey, it’s fine,” he murmured placatingly as he reached down to rest a comforting hand on his kohai’s shoulder. “I was worried, sure, but it’s not that big a deal. We didn’t have a lot to do tonight, anyway.”

Shizuo, forced to reach up and rub tears from his eyes, shook his head slowly. “I know. S-sorry, I just… I don’t know what’s wrong with me all of a sudden.”

Tom smiled and withdrew his hand. “Must be some kind of side effect, huh? Really, though – sorry for getting irritated. It can’t be helped, so I’ll talk to the boss about getting you a week off of work.”

Shizuo nodded, took a deep breath, and then responded, “Thanks. I’ll make it up to you as soon as I can, okay?”

“Sure,” Tom said as he stood to leave. He set some cash down on the counter and then paused briefly. “Did you want to order something?”

Shizuo smiled, and Izaya was struck by the sincerity of it. He’d never seen Shizuo wearing an expression like that, child or no. “Thanks, but I think I’m fine.” And the blonde waved a shy good-bye to his sempai as he gathered up his coat and left the restaurant.

“That was a heartwarming scene,” Izaya teased after a moment or two had passed in relative silence.

“Shut up,” Shizuo sighed, and he glanced up at the informant as he stifled a yawn. “Can we just go home already…?” he mumbled.

Izaya didn’t bother to comment on the blonde’s word choice, but he was nonetheless tickled by it. Of course Shizuo didn’t think of Izaya’s place as a home, not really, but it was somehow satisfying to know that that was the one destination which promised his rival warmth and a good night’s sleep for the time being. With or without the reasons he truly had for inviting Shizuo along to begin with, it was a nice thought. He couldn’t quite place his finger on the right word, but – well, if he had been able to, it might have been something that was the opposite of loneliness.

Chapter Text

Neither of the two exchanged more than another handful of words until after they had ascended the stairs to Izaya’s apartment. The informant had barely managed to convince Shizuo to accept another ride on his back, and the blonde’s ensuing bad mood had persisted up until the point at which he had fallen asleep there. Izaya'd known right away, of course; the other’s muscles had finally lost all of their stubborn tension, and he’d had no retort to offer when Izaya tried to tease him about it. Now, Izaya could feel warm, slow breaths gusting across the back of his neck and soft blonde hair tickling at his skin.

He reached the door of his apartment and found his keys in the pocket of his jacket. As the door clicked open and swung inward, Izaya sighed and called, “Shizu-chan, time to wake up~!”

The blonde stirred groggily and reached up to rub at his eyes with the back of his forearm. “…wasn’t sleeping…”

“Right,” the informant teased, and Shizuo frowned at him when he turned to flash a grin at the blonde.

“Lemme down,” he insisted as Izaya flicked the light on and slipped his own shoes off.

“Ah, but Shizu-chan is like a portable space heater!” Izaya laughed, earning himself a weak smack to the back of the head.

“Stop,” Shizuo mumbled, obviously just a little too exhausted to do much more than that. Izaya decided that he may as well take pity on Shizuo, then, and knelt to let him climb down.

Heading further into the apartment, he called back to Shizuo, “You can leave the coat and boots there. Sorry, but I don’t have any slippers in your size.”

“’S fine…” Shizuo quietly removed the aforementioned articles of clothing and followed Izaya into the kitchen, where he found the informant apparently busy with something – running water, taking down a little box of something, and digging around in a drawer of silverware. Neither said anything to acknowledge the other’s presence; they were both just a little too preoccupied with the unfamiliarity of the situation. Together, not fighting or even arguing, in the same room of Izaya’s apartment. It was such a domestic scene, too, and Shizuo soon sough to divert his attention from the strangeness of it by meandering his way into the nearby living room.

He came across a TV there, and, finding nothing else of particular interest, started surfing through the channels. “Damn… He has so many,” he muttered under his breath.

“That’s obviously because I can afford it,” came the unexpected response as Izaya entered the room behind Shizuo. The blonde jumped a little and turned to see his enemy towering over him.

The effect was unnerving, but not so much so that Shizuo missed the implied insult. “I get plenty at my place, too!”

Izaya laughed softly. “Like it matters, Shizu-chan.” He held out a mug to the blonde, who accepted it hesitantly.

“…What is this?” He sniffed at it suspiciously as Izaya casually sat down beside him on the carpet.

“Can’t you tell? It’s hot chocolate.” Shizuo realized then that the informant also had a mug and was blowing into the steam that curled up from the smooth surface of the dark brown liquid.

He imitated this, ignoring Izaya’s muted chuckle, and then took a small sip. “It’s good,” he stated with a hint of surprise. “But why’d you bother?”

Izaya seemed to consider this for a moment, then shrugged and grinned down at him. “Just felt like it.”

Shizuo glared at him. “I don’t buy that for a second.”

The informant set his drink down beside him, then laid back. He folded his arms behind his head to form a sort of pillow and sighed contentedly. “Whatever you want to ‘buy’ is fine by me.”

Shizuo glanced down at the informant, who met his gaze unwaveringly.

He looked away after a moment, eyes wide. What was that? That little flutter… He didn’t know, but it had come with a thought, too: Isn’t something different? No, nothing was – of course not, and how could it be? This was a fluke of destiny or some shit like that, and damned if it wasn’t the craziest thing that had ever happened to either of them, but that didn’t mean that anything had changed. Izaya’s eyes were the same as they’d been before – shielded from everyone, even himself, full of lies and absolutely not to be trusted.

“Cat got your tongue?”

Shizuo turned back to the informant, then, and the doubt was gone just like that. “I hate you, you know,” he said – out of the blue, but he felt that he had to say it in order to reaffirm what he had always believed to be true.

“Oh? Well, isn’t that petty of you. And here I was going to offer to prepare a futon for you.”

“Really, now – isn’t that nice of you?” Shizuo retorted sarcastically.

Izaya sat up and teased Shizuo’s hair with one hand. “Careful, Shizu-chan. You just might start to sound like me.”

Shizuo shook himself free of the informant’s touch and turned back to the TV, fuming silently. Izaya, too, was satisfied to watch the screen for a short while; he stood and, carrying his hot chocolate, made himself comfortable on the couch. He didn’t miss Shizuo’s small look of regret upon seeing this, and it amused him greatly.

A few minutes passed, and at last Izaya could resist no longer. “You know, the couch isn’t actually off-limits.”

“L-like I’d sit next to you anyway!” Shizuo snapped, his face flushing in his agitation.

“There’s room for you to sit at the other end. Or is it just that you’re too short to climb up here yourself?”

Izaya had chosen his words perfectly, and he won the very response that he’d been looking for; Shizuo stormed to his feet and, leaving his half-finished hot chocolate on the floor, raised himself onto the far end of the couch. The informant smirked condescendingly at him, savoring his small victory, while the blonde still refused to take his eyes off of the TV screen.

The channel happened to be one of many dedicated to local news, which somewhat surprised Izaya. Perhaps it made sense for Shizuo to want to keep track of the city that he, too, claimed as his own, but the informant might have guessed that he’d choose to occupy himself with something less… intelligent, perhaps?

The broadcast cut to commercials just then, and Izaya watched Shizuo’s eyes widen slightly as a series of photographs flashed across the screen.  Cats – kittens, to be exact – and all of them apparently in need of adopted families. A cheery young woman offered a brief introduction to each of the animals, and her statements were incessantly underscored by videos that were surely intended to be unspeakably cute. “Ah, things like this are – how should I put it? Disgusting? Ridiculous?”

Izaya received no indication of having been heard, though, and when he looked over at Shizuo, he was astonished to see the blonde leaning forward with his eyes fixed intently on the screen. He remained completely oblivious to Izaya.

Oh-ho. “So, Shizu-chan actually likes things like this? How cute,” the informant cooed, his voice dripping with patronization.

That got the blonde’s attention. A sudden blush colored his cheeks a deep red, and he had to force himself to shift his gaze toward Izaya. “N-no, I just. Um. Y-you can change it, if you want…”

Izaya laughed. “It’s over already, anyway. Too bad – I was having fun watching your reactions.”

“I wasn’t even that interested,” Shizuo muttered grumpily.

“You were practically falling off of the couch to see it!” Izaya exclaimed cheerfully, and Shizuo tried to hide his embarrassment with a heavy sigh.

“D-doesn’t matter. They’re just cute – that’s all.” Not a big deal. Nope. He hadn’t just let Izaya see that side of him, no way. Anyone, save for a freak like Izaya, would consider kittens to be adorable. The effect wouldn’t have been as pronounced if he hadn’t happened to look like a little kid right then, and that was all.

“Oh? Then, Shizu-chan, do you like other cute things, too?”

“O-other? I guess, but – wait.” The blonde crawled just a little closer to Izaya, the better to glare combatively up at him. “What are you trying to make me say?”

Cue the innocent smile. “I’m only trying to have a civil conversation with my honored guest.”

“Then come up with something normal to talk about. No – better yet, just stop trying. I don’t wanna have a conversation with you, anyway.”

Izaya hugged Shizuo to him, ignoring his little cry of protest. “That’s what you’re doing now, isn’t it?”

“I’m… I’m arguing with you,” Shizuo mumbled lamely. “…Let go.”

“You sure? I might make a nice pillow,” Izaya responded nonchalantly, and he managed to hold on to Shizuo despite the blonde’s earnest efforts to move away.

“Wh-what the hell, Izaya-kun…” Lacking the energy to offer up any further resistance, though, Shizuo could only do his best to make himself comfortable next to the informant. His breathing gradually slowed, and he soon found that he cared less about his pride and more about the heaviness of his own body. It was the kind of weight that tugs at your eyes, at your ability to process words and information. The voices emanating from the TV gradually faded to a distant echo. He felt warm and comfortable and now his awareness, too, felt weighted down by fatigue. And still he felt Izaya’s eyes on him.

He wouldn’t admit it, of course, but the informant’s body really was warm and solid beneath him – a nice pillow, just as he’d said, just as it had been when they’d been out walking in the cold. The rise and fall of his breathing, the barely-felt beat of his heart. It was reassuring, somehow, and Shizuo wondered, as he drifted into unconsciousness, why he had always felt the need to extinguish those little signs of life. 

Chapter Text

Shizuo would have preferred to wake up to a smooth wave of chocolate sunlight – something warm and quiet and decidedly different from what did greet him – as it happened, an all-too-familiar nickname and a close view of his nemesis’s face.

“Thought I might as well take a break from work to make sure that Shizu-chan was still alive in here.”

The blonde scrambled clumsily into a sitting position, barely able to register the informant’s insult as grogginess very gradually gave way to full awareness. Whatever dream he’d been having dissolved into half-remembered fragments, and he glanced away from the offending man to scan his surroundings – had to get his bearings, after all, if he was going to deal with the flea this early in the day. The room he was in – a guest room, most likely – was pretty sparsely furnished; a dresser, a single bookshelf, and the futon upon which Shizuo was lying just about accounted for everything there.

Glancing down at himself, Shizuo was surprised to see a set of fleece pajamas – patterned, this time, and he was almost amused by the variety of street signs that ran up and down his arms and legs. He had to admit that it kinda suited him, embarrassing or no.

He didn’t bother asking Izaya to tell him how long he’d been sleeping – it had been enough, obviously, and his stomach chose that moment to demand food with a voice that stood in place of Shizuo’s.

The informant chuckled and rose to his feet. “Do you want anything in particular? I can’t promise I’ll have it, though.”

Shizuo felt a quick burst of heat crawling up his neck and cheeks again, and he had to fix his eyes on his hands – cupped nervously in his lap – to hide that from his companion. “Whatever,” he muttered, but quickly reconsidered.

“Actually, milk would be nice,” he conceded, then, and he knew that Izaya must have been eyeing him curiously because the informant didn’t say anything, didn’t so much as move, for a few more beats of awkward silence.

Then – “Milk, huh? Could that be the secret behind Shizu-chan’s strength?”

Ridiculous. Shizuo laughed, briefly, before he realized that Izaya’s comment had been intended as a joke to begin with. Not content to allow his reactions to be directed by Izaya’s prompts, he quickly grew quiet again.

Hadn’t the bastard said something about work before? “What have you been up to?” Shizuo asked, blush still in place. He said it with as much apathy as he could muster – of course, because he really didn’t care what Izaya did, as long as Shizuo and his friends were left out of it, and also because he had to establish his lack of interest somehow. It was the best way to redeem himself at this point; he didn’t feel like starting the day off on the wrong foot, and letting Izaya poke fun at him was definitely the wrong foot.

“Dealing with a few missing persons cases,” Izaya explained casually. He was leaning into the frame of the bedroom door, now, sanguine eyes still fixed on the blonde. “And looking into old legends about dullahan. Didn’t find anything that would help you, though.”

“Help…?” It wasn’t a word that Orihara Izaya ever used out of the goodness of his heart. Shizuo would have demanded to know what his ulterior motives were, then, but he was caught just a little too off-guard to be able to manage that.

“Don’t know what the word means?”

Shizuo bristled. “I don’t want your help.”

“You’ve done a fine job of accepting it so far,” Izaya pointed out, and the little glint in his eyes silently mocked Shizuo for his complacency the night before.

The blonde’s face reddened again, but this time he managed to resist the urge to look back down at his hands. He climbed to his feet, instead; took a deep, calming breath; and then marched right on past Izaya and into the hallway beyond. Two could play at the informant’s game, he decided, and he wasn’t about to sit through more of the same. Putting an early end to the bastard’s fun was at least as good as coming up with a decent retort, anyway.

Izaya skipped past him and nodded in the direction of the television as soon as they’d reached the part of the apartment that Shizuo was reasonably familiar with. “If you’re lucky, you might even be able to catch a few more cats on one or two channels,” Izaya commented noncommittally, and Shizuo couldn’t help but shoot a glare in his direction.

He found no such thing, of course – didn’t even look for it, but instead watched the same channel as had been on last night – local news, again, and nothing of great moment. He was almost grateful when Izaya put an end to the boredom with a short call from the dining room.

Shizuo found a plate of food and a glass of milk waiting for him at a table – a table which, he couldn’t help but notice, had many more places than a single man could possibly need. Did Izaya often have guests over or something? It didn’t seem likely, given his personality.

“Is it good?” Izaya asked as Shizuo – still brooding over the informant knew not what – bit into a piece of jam-covered toast.

“Not like you actually cooked anything,” the blonde snapped back as soon as he had swallowed the morsel. That sounded a bit harsh, though, and he managed a little grunt of acknowledgment in the ensuing silence. “It’s the same strawberry stuff I buy,” he commented after another few bites, and Izaya laughed softly. Even Shizuo had to smile. It was too absurd, that they could have anything, however trivial, in common.

“Ne, Shizu-chan,” the informant asked suddenly, “do you still feel like fighting me right now?”

Shizuo blinked, surprised by the non sequitur, and then sighed. “Doesn’t matter, ‘s long as I can’t.”

Izaya – seated beside Shizuo as he sipped at a mug of what appeared to be black coffee – twisted in his chair so that he was facing the blonde directly. “Then, do you want to do something fun today?”

“Oi, flea, I said that it doesn’t matter, not that I don’t still want to crush you every time I look at you.” Shizuo set the glass of milk down on the table in front of him, licked some of the white liquid from just above his upper lip, and then added, “What is this all of a sudden? You that desperate for company?”

Izaya smirked. Shizuo wasn’t entirely wrong, even if he had misunderstood the main intent behind the informant’s actions. “You could say that. But, you know, taking care of a little Shizu-chan really is a pain. Don’t you think you ought to humor me at least this much? We do have a temporary truce going on, after all.”

“I don’t remember agreeing to anything like that,” Shizuo muttered, “and it’s a pain for me, too. It’s not like I asked you to go this far on my account – honestly, how the fuck am I supposed to react…?”

“You could start with a simple ‘thank you,’” Izaya offered. He considered for a moment, then added – “You could also try calling me ‘Orihara-sama’ to better express your gratitude.” This, of course, was followed by a gleeful smirk.

“Like hell am I going to do that!”

The informant sighed dramatically, then, put on his best look of disappointment, and nodded forlornly. “Well, if Shizu-chan doesn’t want to, then I guess there’s no helping it…”

Shizuo – gullible as ever, dammit, and sentimental to boot – hesitated. He was well-aware of the fact that Izaya was only putting on an act, but he was also concerned about all that he undeniably owed the man who was helping him. “…So, where do you want to go?” He said it coldly, because he wasn’t about to let Izaya make a big deal out of nothing.

The informant was nonetheless surprised, though. He hadn’t expected Shizuo to give in so easily to what had mainly been intended as simple teasing. “Well, we could just walk around.”

Shizuo snorted. “So you can go people-watching? Pass.”

“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, Shizu-chan!”

“No,” the blonde insisted, his wide brown eyes impatiently demanding a better answer to the question.

Izaya sighed. Offering to take the blonde to some kid place would only serve to piss him off, but what else could they do?

“What does Shizu-chan even like?” he wondered aloud.

Shizuo didn’t answer right away. He liked anything that didn’t involve the flea, probably, and he liked to spend his days off wandering around the city. Which was what Izaya had suggested, obviously – but he couldn’t go back on his impulsive criticism, now, and besides – traversing the city with Izaya would mean letting a good number of people see them together, and Shizuo in this state…

There had to be a better option…

The blonde made a little sound – that’s it, it implied, and Izaya’s expression mixed curiosity with expectation. “Don’t take this the wrong way, flea,” Shizuo said, “but we could just… agh, you know…”

“I don’t,” Izaya said, arms crossed on his chest, and he had to fight back the smile that was tugging at the corners of his mouth. Must’ve sounded better in your head, huh, Shizu-chan?

Shizuo raised his hands, then, to make fists in his hair. He rested his elbows on the table in front of him, and his face reddened again. “We could – R-Russian Sushi… I mean, since you won’t tell me how much you paid for the clothes and stuff… I-I’ll pay, alright?”

Izaya clapped his hands together and grinned. “Oh, what an honor! Is Shizu-chan asking me out on a date?”

“That’s not – What the fuck, Izaya… I never took you for the pedophilic type.” Shizuo did his best to replace obvious embarrassment with a coldly judgmental expression – it didn’t work, of course, though it did manage to amuse Izaya further.

When the informant had finished laughing, he said, “I’m not sure it counts as pedophilia if the child in question is actually twenty-five years old, Shizu-chan.”

The blonde’s expression changed to one of startled confusion, then, and the informant added, “Too bad, though. I’m not into things like that, anyway; you’re just too sensitive.”

“You’re always jerking me around,” Shizuo complained, but his voice lacked much of its usual combativeness.

Izaya smirked. “It’s more fun that way.”

And – “All jokes aside, though, Shizu-chan, I do somewhat appreciate the sentiment. I’m not planning on doing anything troublesome this week, so try to relax a little. Thinking’s not your strong suit, anyway, so doing too much of it isn’t likely to get you anywhere fast.”

Because, as much as seeing Shizuo play the fish out of water entertained Izaya, he had more important goals in mind – not people-watching, this time, but monster-watching. In seven days and under these circumstances, even this beast might reveal or develop some important weaknesses, some holes in his seemingly-flawless defense. And for Izaya to learn anything of particular value, he’d need Shizuo to be unaware of the fact that he was being observed.

He’d need him comfortable – relaxed, even at Izaya’s side. Warm, happy – whatever it took to expose the secret that would help the informant put a stop to his meddling, to his violence and his incessant unpredictability.

Chapter Text

Dinner that night was anything but ordinary – of course, and why should anyone have expected anything but abnormalities where Shizuo and Izaya were concerned? They were together and not fighting, which was awkward enough for both of them – not that Izaya let it show nearly as much as Shizuo did – and then there was the added eccentricity of the blonde’s appearance.

Simon, too – “Shizuo, you come eat sushi, grow taller, no?” – and the always-creative meals offered by the restaurant for which he worked.

Because, really – only at Russian Sushi could one hope to find such… ingenuity, if it could indeed be called that.

Izaya, of course, opted for the safest – and most delicious – option, which meant ootoro and all the usual trappings of ‘normal’ sushi. Shizuo, on the other hand, insisted on ordering a less expensive dish, and a mix at that – probably looking to offset the price of Izaya’s, but he surprised the informant by not making a big deal of it.

Still, it was obvious that the blonde regretted his decision to chance the arbitrarily-assembled dish the moment he bit into a peanut-butter-and-jelly-smeared roll of uramaki. “Taste of West mixed with traditional Japan!” Simon explained proudly, but Shizuo grimaced and set the offending morsel back down on the plate. He was clearly annoyed, but he refrained from throwing anything.

Instead – “Simon, y’know – you’d probably be better off sticking with the basics…”

“No, no – creativity is delicious! Russian Sushi is original sushi!”

“It doesn’t need to be that original!”

Izaya laughed. “Relax, Shizu-chan. We can just share mine.”

Shizuo turned back to the informant, eyes wide. “That okay?” He hesitated, then narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t do something weird to it, did you?”

Izaya shook his head and grinned but was prevented from saying anything more than that – “Ah, sharing is good! Good to see you both get along!”

The protests that followed Simon’s thunderous statement were oddly halfhearted, given the implications, and they seemed all the more trivial in the face of such impressive volume. Something that wasn’t quite a conversation followed, and it ended only when Simon – still as amiable as ever – abruptly meandered off to draw more customers into the restaurant.

The remaining two had to take a quick breather – no words spoken in the vacuum of the huge man’s absence, and still they could hear him outside, probably scaring away more people than he attracted.

“What the hell,” Shizuo finally sighed, and Izaya grinned.

“No one quite like Simon,” he agreed as he divided up what remained of his own food. Shizuo accepted it without comment, but there was something in the way he glanced up at Izaya then that felt really different – another deviation from the norm, and this one perhaps even stranger than all the rest.

It didn’t stop there, either, for it was only moments later that Simon provided Shizuo and Izaya with an early warning that another customer was coming – “This time, take off helmet – share sushi with good doctor, yes?”

Shizuo turned to the informant, brown eyes wide and face paling as he put two and two together. “Shinra, huh?” It wasn’t fear, really, that Izaya read in the blonde’s expression – more like dread or irritation that preceded the doctor’s actual appearance.

Izaya knew what the problem was, of course – Shinra was as tactless as he was inquisitive, and a de-aged Heiwajima Shizuo was sure to spark his interest. Who knew when he might go from asking for a blood sample to wanting to perform actual surgery? (Or worse.) Never mind that he’d certainly have plenty of smart-ass comments to make – none of which Shizuo would be likely to put up with for long, and the informant honestly couldn’t blame him. Shinra could exhaust even the most tolerant of individuals on a bad day.

“Ah, Shizuo-kun, Orihara-kun! Celty told me you two were staying together, but to think you’re even sharing a meal!”

Shizuo responded to this by lowering his head and burying his tiny fists in his lap. Izaya hypothesized that the blonde simply didn’t want to look directly at Shinra or Celty, and then – noticing that he was shaking slightly – decided that he was trying to hold his anger in check.

Still, the informant’s interpretations of his rival’s reactions were always quite error-prone, so he determined that he’d best gather more evidence. Grinning amiably, he raised a hand in greeting and agreed, “Yep! Thanks to Celty-san, we’ve been getting along very well!”

Shizuo finally looked up, then, and Izaya was genuinely surprised to see the blush that covered his entire face – ran all the way to the tips of his ears, even, and made him look every inch the child that he presently was. When he spoke, the words were so muted that the two newcomers had to come a bit closer just to make out what he was saying.

“N-no… we just – I was… I’m not getting along with the flea…!”

Shinra grinned. “Oh-ho, so the effects aren’t just physical, after all?”

Shizuo blinked – still blushing, still shaking enough that Izaya couldn’t help but wonder whether he might actually start crying like he had the day before – and mumbled, “‘S that s’posed to mean?”

Shinra helped himself to a seat across from Shizuo, and Celty hesitantly sat beside him. “Well, simply put – your personality and memories are mainly intact, but the rest of you is significantly younger – correct?” Shizuo nodded, furrowing his brow in confusion, and Shinra continued, “Your brain is a part of your body, but it’s also the center of everything that makes you who you are. The situation is incomprehensible enough as it is, of course, so it seems natural to assume that the magic Celty used would be able to maintain the neural pathways that you’ve built in twenty years.

“Here’s my theory, though – even a dullahan’s magic isn’t perfect. It could be that you’ve changed slightly to match your current appearance. Maybe more recent memories will feel fuzzier, and those that you’d thought you’d forgotten will resurface. Personality-wise…”

“…I might react differently to things,” Shizuo muttered.

The group quieted immediately – all surprised, all focused on Shizuo. The blonde’s gaze dropped again to the food in front of him, and he took to fiddling nervously with the front edge of his shirt. Izaya, in particular, was taken slightly aback – because he hadn’t considered that Shizuo’s responses might have been anything but typical, and because that begged so many questions. How much of it had been born of Shizuo’s real thoughts and feelings?

If it bothered Izaya, it had to have been driving Shizuo up the wall.

I’m really sorry about all this, Shizuo, Celty apologized, then – not really breaking the silence, of course, but it gave Shizuo the opportunity to relax a little.

“It’s fine,” he responded, his voice softening in tone and somehow managing to remain at an audible volume. “You don’t need to keep saying that…”

Shinra slid just a little closer to Celty, wrapped an arm around her waist, and grinned as he said, “He’s right, Celty! You didn’t mean to, and besides – now I can examine Shizuo-ku – ” A quick jab to his stomach silenced him rather abruptly.

But that, too, lightened the mood, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to return to something closely resembling normal – comfortable, anyway, with a decent amount of civility and laughter from all involved – something of a surprise, in itself, considering that Izaya was there, too.

Jokes, smiles, small talk, and lighthearted teasing – uproarious responses, too, but that was acceptable par for the course.

Shinra got around to ordering more food – a welcome gesture, as far as Shizuo was concerned, because it meant splitting the bill. Izaya guessed that that may have been the case and teased him for it. The response was predictable, if not up to Shizuo’s usual standards of violent retaliation.

At one point, Shinra climbed to his feet and discreetly indicated that Izaya should follow him. “We’ll be right back,” he reassured Celty and Shizuo – mostly occupied by a conversation of their own, anyway – and that was the last thing he said until he and Izaya were well out of earshot.

“So? What’s up?” Izaya asked – crossing his arms somewhat combatively on his chest, because he knew Shinra. The doctor didn’t get this serious for nothing. When he did, though – and when the cause involved Izaya – it was more likely than not a sign that he meant to actively argue a point.

Izaya didn’t like being argued with.

Shinra eyed his friend for a moment. He seemed to be looking for something in the other’s expression, and – sighing and letting his eyes fall shut briefly – he seemed to have found it. “You and Shizuo-kun really are getting along well,” he commented.

Izaya blinked. This wasn’t a debate. There wasn’t so much as a hint of animosity in the doctor’s words or stance. He was just talking, and that was… odd. It was the kind of odd that Shizuo might have expected of Shizuo.

Best to stay aloof. “Oh? Does it seem that way to you?”

Shinra nodded. “It does. Celty filled me in on what happened. It doesn’t sound like it took much convincing for him to go with you.”

True, perhaps. It probably should have been impossible – but why bring that up now? “Because the headless wonder’s scythe knocked some sense out of him, right? He didn’t have much to begin with, anyway.”

Shinra smirked – kind of alarming, coming from him – and apparently chose to ignore the informant’s harsh statements. “You never know – it may be because he’s a kid for now, or it might be because of… something else.”

Izaya’s eyes narrowed. “For example?”

“It’s not really my place to say, now, is it?” Shinra grinned. “But, you know – he just might choose to stick around after this week is up.”

“Oi,” a small voice interrupted, and there was Shizuo – arms crossed defiantly on his chest, a slight pout adorning his childish features – all of it unintentionally cute, of course, and Izaya decided then that the blonde must not have been keeping his current appearance in mind. The pose wouldn’t have seemed so out of place, after all, had he been his usual self.

“You’re not talking about me, are you?”

Izaya knew that his own face must still have been betraying much of his earlier surprise and confusion. He blinked once to clear that expression from his face, and then again to find in the other’s demeanor some indication as to whether or not Shinra’s words might have been true.

It was just too bad, then, that the informant wasn’t very good at reading Shizuo. He could search all he wanted – always did – but his observation didn’t yield half the results that it might have if he were to watch any other human.

“My,” he teased, “I wonder what gave you that idea.”

And even Izaya wasn’t entirely sure to whom, exactly, he was responding.

Chapter Text

It was raining the next morning – big, heavy drops of cold water that froze on the ground and then started falling as sleet as the day wore on – and Izaya insisted regardless that he had work to do outside. In his usual jacket, wearing his usual smirk and seeking information in the usual manner – warm smiles concealing curiosity and hidden motives and Shizuo too tired after waking up to do much more than wave goodbye from his seat at the table.

“Take your time comin’ back,” he suggested coldly, and in the next moment – alone in the silent vacuum created by the front door swinging shut – he leaned forward to take a quick bite of toast.

There might have been a little extra strawberry jam on it, this time, but Shizuo wasn’t entirely sure.

Probably just his imagination.

~

Izaya came back late. The sun was already down behind the buildings, and its light was nothing more than the vaguest glow in the sky – maybe not even sunlight, anymore, but the illumination of the city coming to life in the darkness.

Shizuo – stuck in the same place he’d been for the past several hours, in front of the TV and bored out of his mind – heard the door open first. The click and creak of it overlapped with Izaya’s voice, which rang out as soon as the informant could be sure that Shizuo would hear him calling his name.

“Where’ve you been?” Shizuo responded grumpily as he made his way down the hall and in Izaya’s direction.

“I told you, didn’t I? Besides, I seem to recall you asking me to come back late. Was that wrong?” Izaya smirked in satisfaction when Shizuo’s cheeks flushed in response. It was certainly a good point, and Izaya just loved pointing out the abundant flaws in Shizuo’s logic.

(Not realizing or caring, however, that his logic had been just as – if not more – flawed lately.)

But Shizuo couldn’t help it; he’d been bored. There was nothing to do in this excessively spacious apartment, and Shizuo wasn’t into rifling through other people’s stuff. “At least call,” he insisted – realizing, of course, just how odd that sounded coming from him and directed at Orihara Izaya, of all people.

“Aw,” Izaya teased, and Shizuo had to force himself to relax. Kid or not, he’d probably put a dent in the corner of the wall around which he was peering if he totally lost control. “Don’t tell me you were worried about my well-being, Shizu-chan?”

Deep breath. “Yeah? What if I was?”

Izaya’s surprise was evident on his face. “Oh? So that’s how it is.” He took several quick steps forward, then, and rested his hand on Shizuo’s head. Ruffled his hair again and smiled almost warmly as he added, “Thanks.”

Thanks?

“I was being sarcastic,” Shizuo warned, but his eyebrows were drawn up in an unintentional expression of concern – made all the more apparently sincere by his big eyes, round face, little hands clinging anxiously to the wall as he stared up at Izaya.

“Sure,” the informant said dismissively. He straightened up and turned back toward the kitchen. “I brought some sushi back for you.”

Shizuo made a little sound of disgust. “We just had sushi last night.”

“Well, if you don’t want it…”

“I’ll take it, I’ll take it. Jeez.” The blonde followed Izaya and tried to conceal the pout that had risen suddenly to replace his previous expression. Izaya noticed it anyway, and he laughed softly as he handed the little box to Shizuo.

That quiet expression of amusement, however, was cut short by a sudden, very forceful sneeze. A shiver ran up the informant’s spine, too, and his face paled slightly as his eyes widened in surprise. “My, my,” he said mildly before turning to retrieve a tissue for himself.

“The hell was that?” Shizuo questioned – now frowning in something like irritation, one hand curling into a fist at his side. The reaction didn’t make a lot of sense even to him; he might have been hiding his genuine concern behind a more comfortable screen of dislike, or he might have been worried about the germs. Not that Shizuo had ever been one to fear illness. “Get sick or something?”

“You’d better hope not,” Izaya sighed. “You’ll catch it, too. Not that that wouldn’t amuse me, of course.”

“Tch…”

The informant lifted a fuming-now-startled Shizuo into a seat at the table and then dropped tiredly into the chair beside him. “Relax, Shizu-chan. It’s cold outside.”

“Don’t complain, then. No one forced you to hang out in the rain for so long.” Because Izaya actually was noticeably damp, Shizuo now realized. He’d taken his jacket off after coming in, of course, but his shirt was pretty damn wet even under that. His hair, too, and his hands – almost alarmingly cold despite being felt through Shizuo’s own T-shirt.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice sometimes. Public relations, and all.” Izaya made a little wave with one hand, as if to say ‘what can you do?’ “My clients’ wishes are my command.”

“Right,” Shizuo snorted. “I bet you just wanted the chance to get in people’s way.”

“You’re the only one whose way I ever get in, Shizu-chan.” I just direct the others.

“You’re in the way no matter what you do! Besides, I doubt anyone really wants to be ‘watched over’ by a creep like you!”

“Now, that’s just rude,” Izaya said with a little smirk. Oh, he’d definitely made a point of going out just so that he could do a little so-called human observation. “How about eating your dinner instead of arguing with me, ne?”

“D-don’t tell me what to do!”

“Can’t I? After all, Shizu-chan is just like a misbehaving child.” The informant smiled patronizingly, and Shizuo bristled before pushing his food away. Izaya followed its path with his eyes, but his expression then was hard to read - probably amusement, probably not fondness, but it would have been difficult even for him to name it with any amount of real certainty. He was probably lucky that Shizuo didn't notice it, for the blonde would doubtless have noted its uncharacteristicness - probably commented on it, too, and that would've thrown the informant for an extra loop or two.

“Sitting next to you makes me lose my appetite,” Shizuo explained irritably. “Go drown yourself in the bathtub or something, idiot.”

Izaya laughed. “Is that your way of telling me to go warm up? You might want to be a bit gentler about it, though, or I might get confused and assume that you hate me.”

“I do hate you,” Shizuo muttered. He bowed his head and held his fisted hands in his lap – keep calm, don’t let him piss you off, don’t give him the satisfaction…

He jumped a little at the surprise tickle of Izaya’s hand on his head, then, and looked up at the informant. “I think I’ll do that,” the informant said, and Shizuo blinked confusedly.

“…Fine,” he mumbled. “Take your time…”

“Sure,” Izaya responded, and Shizuo was left to finally eat his sushi.

Which, oddly enough, consisted of every one of his favorite varieties – every one for which he had expressed a particular liking at dinner the night before.

But that, of course, had to be a simple coincidence.

Chapter Text

“Flea,” Shizuo began – late morning, bright-eyed and satisfied because breakfast this time hadn’t been toast, his manner could almost have been called cordial. For Shizuo, at least, and for something directed at Izaya, it certainly was.

The sun had long finished rising on the third day of his lodging with the informant – just three days, and already the blonde felt accustomed to the feeling of his stomach fluttering nervously with every request or acknowledgment that he felt the need to voice. His throat tightened even at the thought, and he couldn’t speak through it for fear of amusing the bastard with the sound of choked-up-and-at-a-loss-for-words. He raised his eyes instead to focus on Izaya’s (unusually pale?) face.

“My, aren’t we looking serious,” Izaya commented blandly in response. He wasn’t even teasing the blonde, and Shizuo couldn’t help finding that a bit odd. Izaya always teased him at times like this. It had only been three days, but that had already become part of a well-established pattern.

The blonde chose to ignore it, though, because worried he was not, and he didn’t exactly enjoy being made fun of besides. “Take me shopping later,” he replied – glad to have found his voice suddenly and inexplicably accessible again. He braced himself to endure some amount of overdue teasing, now, and he was ready with his explanation.

Clothes. He needed clothes, and not the little ones that Izaya had bought for him before. Clothes that would fit him normally, because – because, he thought, he might wind up needing something more than just his bartender uniform. He didn’t know why the thought had occurred to him or why he was bothering to entertain it, but he preferred not to ruminate very much on that. It wasn’t worth the trouble, and really – he might as well, because there was nothing else to concern himself with in this boring, empty apartment. Nothing but books and TV and an annoying flea.

(Of course, he hadn’t bothered to look for alternatives to shopping with said flea. He could just as easily have asked Celty to pick something up from his own place. He could have had Izaya take him there, too, but… he hadn’t thought about it. He wasn’t going to think about it.)

It was then that Izaya – sprawled on the couch, one hand dangling down to barely touch the floor below – breathed a long sigh of what might have been exhaustion. “Not today, Shizu-chan.”

“Why not today? You’re not busy.” And why wasn’t the informant teasing him for asking something like that, anyway? Shouldn’t he have been commenting on his rival’s finances, on the way he seemed to be warming up to Izaya? Weird, and therefore annoying. Why couldn’t the creep just act like his usual – but what was that, anyway? – self?

“I am busy. Busy resting.” Izaya rolled leisurely over to emphasize his point – his face now turned away from the blonde and the temporarily muted television – before adding, “Duh.”

“The heck’s with you?” Shizuo grumbled with only a fraction of the combativeness he might’ve usually had to offer. “Get sick after all?”

“No,” Izaya muttered stubbornly. His voice was muffled by the back of the couch and something – his arm, a hand? – partially covering his mouth.

A moment passed in silence – then not-silence-no-speaking as Shizuo restored the volume on the television and resumed watching another of his news programs. Another moment, and another, and all the time Izaya’s breathing sounded incredibly loud to Shizuo’s ears.

Then – “Take you tomorrow, ‘kay? Shizu-chan…” Shizuo could hear every little shift of the informant’s tongue and lips behind every consonant, and all of it was barely above a whisper but he understood it plainly.

“Sure,” he agreed, because that voice was Izaya’s but the tone was not. The volume was not. The words were not. He didn’t know how else to respond to something so unguarded and yet so obviously spoken by his hated enemy. It was meek and gentle and not meant to put down. It was a promise made with no reservations or hesitation. It was just talking. Just talking wasn’t Izaya. It wasn’t right.

He couldn’t help it. When he turned to assess the informant’s condition directly, he found that the man was still facing in the opposite direction – breathing slow, unmoving and Shizuo rose slowly to his feet and then came near enough to place a hesitant hand on the other’s shoulder. He received no sign of acknowledgment; the slow rise and fall of the informant’s upper body continued at an even pace, and Shizuo realized it only then.

Izaya was sleeping, was warm almost to the point of being hot, and he had never been so absolutely genuine before now.

~

Shizuo thought for several long moments about whether or not he would be doing anyone – himself or Izaya – a favor by waking the informant up. He couldn’t see his face – didn’t even want to – but he could imagine the informant’s eyebrows drawn down in an expression of slight discomfort. His breathing was rough, his throat probably sore, and he didn’t move at all in his sleep. None of the little sounds that Shizuo made as he wandered about the apartment managed to elicit even the slightest stirring.

Which, the blonde decided, was fine by him. Let Izaya sleep – not because he deserved it, of course, but because Shizuo didn’t feel like putting up with his crap. Shizuo could see no problem with wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasted –

– except that it lasted far longer than he’d expected, and that gradually became sort of a problem as the dinner hour came around.

It couldn’t be helped. “Oi, Izaya…”

He shook the informant once, gently, and hoped that that would be enough. He didn’t know what the informant was normally like immediately after waking up, but he was sick – sort of sick, at least – and that didn’t bode well in itself. A pissed-off flea combined with extreme boredom and a growling stomach could only yield an equally pissed-off Shizuo.

“Nnn.”

“Don’t ‘nnn’ me, bastard,” Shizuo growled as his hand on the other’s shoulder shook out a steady rhythm.

“Shizu-chan, five more minutes,” Izaya whined, then, and Shizuo’s previously light frown deepened as the informant raised himself up on one hand and gazed dazedly down at him. The child refused to offer up a verbal response, and Izaya finally sighed and rose tentatively to his feet. “I don’t suppose you woke me up because you were worried, ne?”

“Dinner,” Shizuo responded shortly, and Izaya smiled amusedly.

No fighting, then. It didn’t make Shizuo happy, really, because Izaya was awake and that pissed him off almost as much as did the look that the informant was giving him. That look wondered how the blonde could stand to let Izaya see him as definitely dependent and maybe concerned. Amused was right, but his next words didn’t bother with pointing anything out.

(Maybe, Shizuo thought irritably, it was because Izaya assumed that it was simply obvious.)

“Such a slave-driver,” he murmured, but he nevertheless padded off in the direction of the kitchen – washed his hands pretty thoroughly first, grinned almost amiably back at Shizuo when the blonde shot him a curious look, and then found some rice and a pot and set to work. He measured a few cups of rice, a few more of water. Set the glinting metal and all its sloshing contents down on a hot ring of red at medium heat, and listened for a moment to the quiet hissing of water growing warm.

Shizuo stood just behind the informant and narrowed his eyes at him. After a moment – “You’re actually cooking this time?” – and Izaya turned halfway around to meet the child’s gaze.

“Is that a problem for you?” He obviously didn’t mean it seriously, but the tone of his derision wasn’t nearly as cold as it should have been.

“I don’t wanna get sick,” the blonde complained. He turned away with a sharp huff of irritation, and Izaya laughed quietly behind him.

Still facing the blonde, he bowed his head and said, “Unfortunately, I don’t think Shizu-chan needs to worry. It’s just a little cold, anyway.”

Shizuo paused, lowered his gaze and let his hands return to his sides. When he spoke again, his words were gentle – like Izaya’s in the moments before sleep, but more charming now for all that they so suited the voice of a child. “You said you weren’t sick,” he mumbled, and there was no mistaking the concern in his voice. He considered for a moment, then mumbled something about waking someone up.

Izaya went quiet at that. Shizuo was worried about him? The cold didn’t seem that serious even to the informant – annoying, sure, and he was convinced already that this slightest hint of a fever was more than enough on its own to have him acting in an incredibly irrational manner. He had no reason to be going to these lengths just to feed himself and his little roommate. He was tired, his head ached, and he didn’t feel particularly hungry besides.

The logical conclusion, then, would have been that – that he was doing this for Shizu-chan? The thought was pure insanity, and the realization that he couldn’t hope to glean a lot of information regarding the blonde – not in his condition, at least – didn’t help anything.

“I don’t know,” he said aloud. He didn’t. He didn’t know what else to say.

Shizuo whirled around, then, to face Izaya – too late, the informant realized. Too late to take it all back. He had never said anything like that before, not those three words and not to his enemy. It was like revealing a weakness of his own. It was allowing the blonde a glimpse of the dark things inside of him – the things of which even he wasn’t entirely aware, and nothing gave Shizuo the right to know about them.

All he could do was wait for Shizuo to say something back, though. To add anything else would have equaled an obvious cover-up, and he wasn’t about to give the blonde that satisfaction. He was always teasing Shizuo for things like this; he expected something resembling retribution – but that, as it turned out, was not what the blonde had for him.

“Move a chair or something.”

“A what?” But that was too bluntly foolish, Izaya decided, and so he sighed and tried again: “Don’t tell me you want to be my little helper, Shizu-chan. You’re too much, really…”

Shizuo’s face darkened to match the light flush of Izaya’s cheeks – and there was that tightening of his chest again, the fluttering and the little wave of dizziness that threatened to sweep him off of some shadowy precipice and into what could only be termed the unknown.

“I – I’m just gonna lend a hand. Go sit down or something.”

It wasn’t a big deal. They both refused to believe that it was.

For once, Izaya did as he was told.

Chapter Text

Shizuo wasn’t much of a cook, himself, but his onigiri somehow turned out alright – no complaints on Izaya’s part, anyway, and that was victory enough for the blonde. He knew, after all, that what looked like reasonably large servings to him probably weren’t exactly substantial in the eyes of – well, of most anyone else, and especially not of Izaya.

(Three days, he reminded himself. He should’ve been used to seeing the man as so much larger than life, yet still he couldn’t suppress the occasional wave of disoriented confusion that came with having to look up at someone who was supposed to have been shorter than him.)

Izaya, meanwhile, remained mercifully quiet – let his gaze wander while his lips deliberately molded themselves against the warmth of a soft ball of sticky, salty white – and Shizuo watched him suspiciously because the teasing and the complaints and the anger had to be coming soon or there was definitely something wrong with the world.

The informant knew, of course. That much, at least, he knew – that it was normal for him to piss Shizuo off, and that Shizuo both anticipated and dreaded it.

He also knew that he would have liked some sort of filling inside the onigiri – salmon, preferably – and that Shizuo had salted the little balls a bit more liberally than should have been strictly necessary.

And then he realized with a jarringly sudden thought that maybe, just maybe… “How kind of you, Shizu-chan,” he tried, and if his eyes were wide he hoped that Shizuo would fail to notice it for the irritating implication behind his words. Warming up to me, indeed.

The blonde’s mouth fell shut rather abruptly, and as his hand and the uneaten clump of rice in his little fingers fell back to the plate in front of him, he finally managed to organize his thoughts into a coherent sentence. “There’s… no special meaning behind it,” he muttered.

“Oh? So the extra salt wasn’t supposed to make it taste better?” Because people with bad colds sometimes couldn’t, right? Because he couldn’t breathe as well and thus couldn’t taste his food as well?

Shizuo blinked. “What are you talking about?”

The shadow of what might have been disappointment flitted past the periphery of Izaya’s emotional state. He bade it farewell with a soft sigh. “Ah, never mind. Maybe a protozoan like Shizu-chan can’t understand anything that complicated, after all.”

The blonde’s frown deepened in response to the dismissive wave of Izaya’s hand and the insult that accompanied it. “You can’t expect me to read your fucking mind, flea,” he grumbled.

The informant paused briefly to consider that. Then – “You know. Because it’s harder to taste things with a cold.”

Shizuo studied his companion for another long moment after that. Izaya fidgeted slightly in the vacuum of wordlessness, under the weight of his charge’s curious gaze. “You really are sick,” the blonde decided at last, and Izaya could only sit with his widening eyes fixed on the center of the table in front of him. What did that mean? Wasn’t it normal to clarify when communication failed? Was it really so impossible for Izaya to decide to do the same with Shizuo?

“Y’think…?” He wondered it abstractedly and aloud and bewildered, and Shizuo cocked his head to one side and didn’t return to his own meal.

Finally grunting his agreement, the blonde added, “You should go lie down or something after this.”

Izaya shook his head – to clear it? “Is this how you intend to repay me, Shizu-chan?” His head hurt. He wanted to understand the reason behind this, after all. It mattered more than he’d thought it would – meant something, now, but Shizuo had never made a terribly reasonable amount of sense to begin with. It was frustrating and impossible and necessary, and all Izaya could do was pose his questions up-front because the protozoan wouldn’t give him what he wanted any other way.

Shizuo sighed. “No…” He rolled the thoughts about on his tongue for a moment. “No, it’s just… because you’re sick. Even if it’s a creep like you, sick people should rest ‘till they’re better.” His eyelids dipped slightly, and he squirmed uncomfortably just as Izaya had done. Izaya knew that look, too – it meant embarrassment. It meant shyness and real sincerity.

He breathed a drawn-out ‘eh?’ of amused curiosity. He laughed. His head spun. “What, so you’d do this for anyone? Give me a break.”

Shizuo turned his face away to pout at an empty chair. “What’s wrong with that?”

Nothing, Izaya wanted to murmur. If it were anyone but you, Shizu-chan, I’d probably like it.

~

“So? What were we supposed to be looking for?”

Late the next day – day four, already, and now the whole ordeal was only half over – Shizuo was standing warily beside Izaya in the midst of a crowded sidewalk. He couldn’t rid himself of the uncomfortable sensation that he was being looked down on – and nearly crushed – by every last passersby, and Izaya’s hand curled about his own didn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.

“I don’t know,” he retorted grumpily. “Something cheap.”

“What Shizu-chan might consider cheap probably doesn’t even exist in this city,” Izaya said cheerfully. The blonde shot him a dirty look and squeezed his fingers tight enough to hurt. “Ow, ow – Shizu-chan, that’s really not fair…!”

“Obviously you’re feeling better,” the child responded apathetically. “I just need a few things. For after this week.”

“Get them from home,” Izaya suggested. “Or wear your uniform.”

“Don’t wanna. Besides, you said we’d… Um, that is… You promised to come with me for this…” Shizuo cursed silently to himself. It didn’t matter how he phrased it, after all. You promised to take me shopping. I wanted to go shopping with you. That was what it would sound like, and Izaya wouldn’t hesitate to interpret it in the most unflattering manner.

The informant laughed. “Someone feels rather strongly about this, ne?”

“No, I – ”

Izaya silenced the blonde with a warm pat on the head. “Don’t worry about it. I said that a while ago, too, right? I’m not plotting anything.”

Shizuo didn’t bother swatting at Izaya’s hand. “Liar.”

“I’m not,” Izaya insisted, and they were already walking together in a direction of Izaya’s choosing. “I’m just curious.”

“About what?”

“About you, I suppose.” And what was he doing? “I want to see what Shizu-chan is like when he’s not pretending to be human.” Wasn’t he telling Shizuo about his actual motives? Not in so many words, but – ?

“I am human,” Shizuo murmured, and – it wasn’t fair, how did he always know what made sense and what didn’t? – he didn’t look even remotely surprised. “You’re the one who’s always faking everything. Not that I care if you’re lying about this.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?”

“What?”

“That I…” Izaya paused and realized that he was running his free hand through his soft black hair. He hesitated mid-stride and fixed his gaze on the blonde by his feet. “I’m just watching you. It doesn’t bother you at all?”

“You’re always doing shit like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were only looking for the perfect chance to kill me.”

“Why did you come to stay with me, then?” Why had he said yes, why had he asked Izaya to come on this completely unnecessary shopping trip with him, why had he bothered helping and worrying, and why did he seem so much more capable now of withstanding what few jabs Izaya chose to throw at him? Why, why, why? “I don’t get you at all,” he added, but those few words were directed more at himself than at the incomprehensible person whose hand was wrapped up in his own – cold, clammy – fingers.

“Dunno,” Shizuo sighed, and he probably had no idea just how infuriating it was to be told that now. “I guess I just don’t care if my being there is an inconvenience for you.” He paused – again, always a pause, always confusion born of unfamiliarity. “Maybe I don’t actually think you’d hurt me. Not like this, anyway,” and he indicated the rest of himself with one glove-clad hand.

“I might learn a thing or two about you. I might use them against you later.”

“You’re an informant,” Shizuo scoffed. “You probably know most things already.”

That really stopped Izaya’s thoughts in their proverbial tracks. It stopped them for far longer than it should have, and what? Wasn’t there anything that Izaya didn’t know – something really fundamental and important, something like a key that would fit within the lock of rationality? To explain everything that made Shizuo what he was?

How could Shizuo be so blasé about that? How could he just shrug it off, this thing that Izaya had been counting on for so long now?

And how did Izaya know what to show Shizuo long minutes later – this color, this size, this style and this cut and this price range? Not just the set-in-stone details of what his enemy could and couldn’t wear, but his preferences? When had he ever figured it out, and when had he decided to care?

That was when Izaya started to wonder in earnest – what his real reason was for everything he’d done so far. For the little hand in his own and the taller figure that he felt like he was chasing.

For the warmth and the closeness and the not wanting it to come crashing to an end in a mere three days.

Chapter Text

The trilling of his alarm clock had never pissed Izaya off as much as it did on the morning of the fifth day. He tried to groan as he let his palm fall heavily back onto the ‘sleep’ button, but nothing came out – nothing much, anyway, because the rasping whimper that did escape him certainly didn’t count for anything.

Great. That meant another mostly unproductive day, and there was still Shizu-chan to deal with. The kid would probably be annoyed, stuck in the house once again and more complaints about how there was never anything to do and what was Izaya’s problem, anyway?

“You look like shit,” the blonde observed in his characteristically tactful manner when the informant finally managed to drag himself out of bed and into a fresh set of pajamas. (He’d skipped the shower, and why not? He wouldn’t be meeting with any clients today, anyway.)

The informant decided against attempting a response – settling instead for a nonthreatening-half-playful glare and a quick shrug, he couldn’t help being bothered by the vacuum that his silence created.

Shizuo narrowed his eyes and turned to trace by sight the man’s path into the kitchen. “You feeling okay?” he asked at last.

Izaya pointedly ignored that question. He didn’t feel too bad, honestly – a little colder than he probably should have, maybe, and his throat didn’t exactly feel great, but the cold, though persistent, wasn’t all that much worse now than it had been two days ago. His head didn’t hurt so terribly that he couldn’t at least focus on heating up what little of the rice hadn’t been eaten the night before. He was just a little tired; it was early, so of course he’d get over it soon enough.

“Hey.”

Ah, but what should he do about Shizuo? Television was obviously losing its appeal rather quickly, and anything like a conversation was completely out of the question. They could try playing chess or something – Izaya’d probably be able to find the original board and whatever pieces he hadn’t been using in his improvised game – but then he wouldn’t be able to explain anything very well if he had to do so on paper. And Shizu-chan wasn’t exactly the patient type, anyway…

“Izaya – hey!”

The informant finally blinked down at the source of a sharp tug at the edge of his too-big nightshirt. “Sh – Shizu,” he rasped. Giving up on the honorific, he added, “What?”

Shizuo frowned at the other’s voice. “You sound like shit, too.”

“Thanks,” Izaya croaked sarcastically – wincing as he did, because never mind not feeling great; his throat felt like someone had lodged a big block of wood right there inside of it, right where it hurt the most.

The blonde’s eyes widened. “Stop,” he mumbled. He’d probably meant it as a demand, a well-meaning order, but it came out sounding more like the begging of a genuinely frightened child. “You should rest.”

‘This again?’ Izaya wanted to respond. ‘You really are too much, Shizu-chan.’ He couldn’t possibly hope to manage anything that lengthy, though, so he settled for removing a now-steaming bowl of rice from the microwave and then setting it down on the counter in front of and above Shizuo. “‘S okay,” he growled after a long pause. It was supposed to sound reassuring, but Shizuo didn’t relax his grip the informant’s clothes.

“You’re an idiot,” he insisted. “And I don’t want to get sick, either.”

That made sense. Of course, that was the real reason for Shizuo’s many overt expressions of concern. If there was anything else to it, it was surely just a side effect of Celty’s spell – something temporary, like a passing insanity or brainwashing or something. The blonde would get over it in no time – in two days and change, to be exact.

Shizuo must have thought Izaya’s expression somehow abnormal, then, for he sighed almost inaudibly and reached for the informant’s hand with both of his own. Giving him a gentle tug, he tried again, “Come on. You’re just standing there, anyway. I’ll finish.”

‘Doesn’t that completely defeat the purpose of your being here in the first place, though?’ God, what Izaya wouldn’t have given to ask that – because at this rate the whole thing would be for nothing, just a bad cold and a lot of hassle and then loneliness and no new knowledge regarding the blonde.

“You got it started and everything,” Shizuo sighed. “I can at least handle this much.” He noticed the dubious stare that Izaya had fixed on him, then, so he quickly added, “If you move a chair or something for me.”

Izaya was down on one knee and just about at Shizuo’s eye level before he even really understood what he was doing. “How,” he tried. “How?”

Shizuo flinched away from the informant’s hand on his shoulder. “What are you talking about?”

Izaya tried to take a deep breath. It didn’t work – hurt too much, all fiery pain and splintering wood. “W-what I’m thinking.”

It took the half-frightened child a moment to realize what the mangled phrase was intended to sound like. “What, you think I’m reading your mind or something?” He attempted a smirk. “You should get sick more often. Even I can read a face that obvious.”

Izaya blinked. Obvious? Him? That was impossible. Orihara Izaya  was not readable, not ever. No one understood him when he didn’t want them to, and he definitely didn’t want Shizuo seeing through his façade now, of all times. Glancing up, he caught a glimpse of himself in the glint of a tall mirror on the wall behind the blonde.

He stood abruptly. The figure in the mirror did the same, widened its eyes and looked thoroughly stunned. Panicked, even, and growing more so with every step closer that he came to the glossy surface. Its lips mouthed silent words – how, why, I can’t – and Izaya did the same. He was pale and tired-looking, his hair sticking out at odd angles because he’d neglected to do anything with it after waking up.

“Is it that surprising?” he heard Shizuo mutter. “Just go lie down or something, idiot.”

But Izaya didn’t move. He rested his hand lightly on the smooth surface of the glass, tried to catch his breath and extinguish the virtual bonfire of emotion in his eyes. The something else, the something soft and open and vulnerable. He looked young and scared himself – not like Shizuo, not really, but the effect was somehow much more unnerving. “Yeah,” he rasped. “It’s – ‘s not me.”

He barely had time to wonder if that had made any sense at all, though, because in the next moment he was staring up at a great expanse of white – the ceiling, he decided, and then it closed in on him and his vision blurred just as the chocolate brown of Shizuo’s eyes came into view.

Everything disappeared.

~

“Yeah. Yeah. Thanks, Shinra.”

Shinra? Was the doctor there, in the other room with Shizuo? What about the rice, the kitchen? Hadn’t Shizuo just been looking down at Izaya for the first time in what felt like a really long time?

“Shi – Shizu-chan,” Izaya whispered. It was the most he could manage, and he assumed that it had gone unheard until a tiny figure appeared in the doorway near his bed.

“You’re awake already?”

Izaya nodded and smiled tiredly as the blonde worked to haul himself up onto the bed beside him. The informant couldn’t help noticing that his companion’s cheeks were slightly flushed. With exertion, or with the same sickness he now felt worsening in himself?

“Okay?” he breathed.

“I’m fine,” Shizuo responded, and Izaya was struck again by how easily the blonde seemed to be able to figure him out. (Because he could have been talking about himself, he could have been prompting the blonde for more information, he could have been wondering about any number of things or he could have been babbling under the influence of a dawning fever.) “I sort of dragged you in here,” he explained sheepishly.

And into bed? Just how far was this protozoan willing to go for a temporary truce?

“I also called Shinra.”

“Ugh,” Izaya complained. No elaboration was needed there; it was bad enough with Shizuo, but Shinra? Interacting with the doctor tended to require far more energy than the informant currently had at his disposal. (Never mind, either, the great advantage that came with being able to string more than three words together to form a comprehensible sentence.)

Shizuo understood – understood everything, apparently – but nevertheless didn’t look terribly apologetic. He was sitting cross-legged beside Izaya, now, his eyes narrowed accusatively at the informant. “Your fault for walking around sick, moron. You’re more trouble than you’re worth, I swear.”

“Why bother,” Izaya muttered. His voice cracked, but the words sounded relatively clear otherwise. “It’ll get” – he cringed – “better alone.”

“Not like that, it won’t.”

Well, aren’t you just a little expert.

“Kasuka used to get sick a lot, too,” Shizuo muttered, and Izaya let his eyes slip shut for fear of letting his incredulity show any more than it already had. “Besides, Shinra’s just coming to drop off some fever reducers and stuff. He’ll check on your fever and everything…”

It won’t take long.

“Hey, Izaya.”

The informant opened his eyes again, tried to take a deep breath and failed again. Shifted his gaze to focus on Shizuo’s face again. “I’d still do it for anyone,” the child muttered softly. “But – y’know – it’d be a pain to move back with Shinra now, so.” He reached up to mess with some stray bits of blonde hair. “You don’t mind if I stick around, do you?”

Izaya grinned. “Cute,” he teased.

It was the same as saying yes, he supposed, but Orihara Izaya was never quite so direct.

Chapter Text

“Wow,” Shinra marveled when he arrived later. Izaya was curled in on himself, a breathless lump of shivering discomfort and exhaustion. “You’ve really got it bad this time, haven’t you?”

The informant turned his face away from the cool space between the edge of his pillow and the sheets below it, leveled a glare at his friend and said nothing.

“Like I said,” Shizuo volunteered. He was standing by the open doorway, behind Shinra – his hands on the frame, big brown eyes cautious, wary of the doctor’s affinity for pointing out changes in his acquaintances’ behavior. “Seems like it’s just his throat.”

Shinra hummed bemusedly before returning his attention to Izaya. “Is that right?”

“No,” Izaya rasped. He was determined not to look too pathetic in front of two people at once, so he added, “Shizu-chan’s – ngh – an idiot.”

Shizuo protested loudly and tried to say more, but he was cut off by Shinra – his just-washed hand raised to signal a stop, and the blonde grudgingly complied. “Okay. Do you need a notepad or something? You sound awful.”

Shizuo’s gaze dropped guiltily to the floor. He hadn’t so much as considered offering his rival another means of communicating, after all.

Izaya, on the other hand, was too distracted to really take notice of the blonde’s reaction. He frowned to himself because, yeah – he probably did need something like that, but Shizuo was watching him and the informant wasn’t about to resort to the easy way out. (He looked concerned, upset, like he thought it was his own fault and Izaya freely and silently admitted that it bothered him.) “Cold,” he explained instead – hoping that simply speaking aloud would be answer enough in itself. “Kinda… dizzy.”

And he wasn’t thinking straight – couldn’t control the emotion in his voice or on his face or the way his chest hurt every time he thought about the time passing and Shizuo’s inevitable departure.

“Your chest, too?”

Izaya stopped breathing, unfurled his fingers – clenched tight about his heart, the gray of his shirt balled up like another failed attempt at vivid poetry.

“No,” he panted. “N-not that.”

~

Shinra wore himself out eventually – measuring, re-measuring, checking up and checking down until Izaya couldn’t take any more, either – and he finally left his friends with a relatively disappointing diagnosis.

It’s worse than the average cold, I suppose, but don’t worry; this bug seems to have been going around lately. 

You just have bad luck, Izaya-kun.

He’d caught one of the worst strains, and all the doctor could really offer him was the standard advice – cool towel for his forehead, maybe a warm one to help the headache, plenty of liquids and don’t even think of getting out of bed – as well as some generic fever reducers. A little of that rice should be fine, but don’t overdo it. Have something with citrus in it, don’t forget to – and so on. It would go away within a few days, probably.

"Probably?" Shizuo looked on anxiously.

"Well," Shinra admitted. "If it doesn't get worse."

“What the hell does that mean?” the blonde growled under his breath, and Izaya stifled an amused chuckle.

He took immediate advantage of the medication, then, and was asleep almost before the door had even swung shut all the way – long before Shinra pulled Shizuo aside and started up a brief conversation with him, one that mirrored his days-ago discussion with Izaya himself.

Was Izaya acting weird?

He was. Even he apparently thought so.

Shinra sighed. “What will you do when this” – he indicated Shizuo with a sweeping gesture – “wears off?”

“What…?” Shizuo echoed, his brow furrowing. “I’ll leave, won’t I?”

He didn’t pause to wonder why it was a question.

Shinra, however, did; still knelt in front of Shizuo with one hand now resting on the blonde’s shoulder, he smiled benevolently and adjusted his glasses with his free hand. “That would make the most sense, wouldn’t it?”

Shizuo blinked. “Yeah,” he decided. It would. It did.

“Not to insinuate anything,” Shinra said, then, “but if that isn’t what you actually want – just don’t rush into anything, okay?”

“What are you – ?”

“Like I said,” the brunette explained, “I’m not suggesting anything special. It’s just a bit of friendly advice.”

Don’t stick to what makes sense, he meant. Don’t go the easy way out if what you want happens to be in. If you know what I mean.

Shizuo didn’t, but he nodded anyway. “Sure…”

Thanks for getting here so fast.

He’d been worried, was glad that Izaya would be fine soon, didn’t know what Shinra had been talking about but was starting to wonder in earnest nevertheless.

Chapter Text

“You still look like shit.”

Shizuo was sitting beside Izaya again – cross-legged, mouth turned down at the corners in something like a pout. He looked so incredibly small in the midst of just half of a bed that was maybe a queen size or maybe even  larger.

“Thanks,” Izaya managed. It was silly, of course, and he understood that well; there was no reason for him to worry so much about responding to Shizu-chan’s every comment. Not when his throat hurt as bad as it did, his voice coming out in mangled croaks and near-silent whispers – but he could speak, and maybe he could still learn something about the blonde.

And maybe Shizuo had already learned a thing or two about Izaya.

“It’s not a compliment, flea,” Shizuo growled, and his tiny hand on Izaya’s forehead felt impossibly cold. It felt cold, and Izaya sighed almost-contentedly.

“What?”

The informant shook his head slightly. “Feels – good.”

Shizuo blinked, retrieved his hand slowly and frowned to himself.

He was tempted to comment on that honesty – creeping me out, the hell’s wrong with you, or maybe even how cute – but instead he only frowned more deeply, crossed  his arms on his chest and muttered something about how little he actually cared.

Izaya turned to stare at the wall on his other side as what he imagined might have been a fond smile tugged at the corners of his lips.

It was the second-to-last day, the hours winding determinedly down to the deadline, and neither of them said a single word about that obvious inevitability.

~

And then it was the last day, it was the evening, and Izaya hadn’t been consistently aware of the time passing but it tugged at him like a starving puppy forlornly demanding his undivided attention. (His attention not focused on the pain in his throat and his head and the oppressive heat becoming a shuddery kind of frigidity every few hours. The long periods of not-really-awake drifting into close-eyed darkness, heavy limbs and persistent, exhausted dizziness. The rice and water and everything else he couldn’t keep down – but Shizu-chan didn’t know about that.

Because Izaya always managed to reign his stomach in long enough to send the blonde on some paltry errand, to drag himself out of bed and into the bathroom, his hands curling about smooth porcelain and his hair sweat-plastered to his forehead.)

The sun was cool blue light reflected off of ice and snow and a darkening city. Izaya rolled over in bed, felt something heavy and previously unnoticed – a damp towel? – slide off of his forehead and onto the pillow beside his head. Shizuo was nowhere to be seen, but Izaya was just able to make out the scrape of a too-heavy stool being dragged across the kitchen floor.

His stomach felt as if it were driving relentlessly upward – up to his throat, a sick feeling and the stinging, burning ache  of unspeakable words decaying in his throat.

~

Dinner was still more rice, but Izaya didn’t bother complaining about the incredible redundancy of it all. He’d seen the browsing history on his laptop when he’d briefly convinced Shizuo to bring it out to him; it’d been full of searches about food for upset stomachs, the dos and don’ts of boiling rice and how to flavor it without making anything worse. Rice was supposed to be easy to digest and everything, of course, and so Izaya always ate just enough that the blonde wouldn’t feel the need to complain.

(He had yet to keep any of it down for very long, either, but he disregarded that as something of a fluke.)

Shizuo ate beside Izaya just as he had the day and night and morning before. He looked strangely pensive this time, though, and his little hands were trembling just slightly as he finished his food and collected his and the informant’s plates to carry them back into the kitchen.

“‘Night,” he called over his shoulder. “‘M just gonna go to bed after I take care of this, so…”

Goodbye.

Izaya smiled wistfully behind the blonde, the half-light of the moon and a single lamp further obscuring the regret that settled like a fine layer of dust in his eyes. He would have called back to Shizuo – tried, even – but his voice failed him completely this time. He had to settle for listening quietly to the brief clatter of dishes and running water, the soft patter of little feet on wood and then the whisper of a door slipping shut.

“See-ya,” Izaya murmured at last.

And it hurt.

~

Shizuo woke up slowly the next morning to find that he was lying – completely naked, and fuck was it cold in Izaya’s apartment – amidst severely disheveled blankets and the too-small clothes he’d gone to bed in.

He didn’t remember waking in the middle of the night to remove them, but that was obviously what had happened. He didn’t remember going back to sleep, either, and yet here he was. He had been planning all along to leave as soon as he was back to his regular self, but now – now, he was awake and it was morning and everything was back to normal save for the informant lying sick in the other room.

And – maybe, just a little – the worry that tugged earnestly at the pit of Shizuo’s stomach when he thought of Izaya.

He’ll be fine, he rationalized as he gathered up various, scattered bits of bedding to fold them into a neat stack in the middle of the floor. He stood staring – sighing – at the small mountain of soft and warm fabric for a little while before he finally hefted it into the closet and turned to retrieve some of the clothes he’d bought with Izaya days prior.

“He’ll be fine…”

He’d be fine, but Shizuo was hungry and there was plenty of rice waiting in the kitchen. Rice again, but he didn’t mind. No, he actually loved rice. He had to have some right then, right there and maybe even with Izaya.

And, hell – as long as he was going to heat some up for himself, anyway…

~

Izaya’s eyes were closed when Shizuo found him. The blonde assumed that he was still sleeping, but that didn’t keep him from collapsing back onto the bed with enough force to send it shaking – probably enough that Izaya would be jarred into semi-awareness, Shizuo thought, but when he looked he was surprised to see the informant’s eyes still shut.

“Hey. Izaya…”

The informant didn’t move, and for one horrible moment he looked so still that – god, no, Izaya – he might not have been breathing at all, his chest frozen in place like so much weather-worn marble, snow-packed-into-ice.

Shizuo reached forward, let the bowl of rice in his hand almost-fall through his barely-trembling fingers, and whispered something incoherent. Something desperate. Please don’t no Izaya you were fine we were fine we were – we were –

And Izaya opened his eyes to reveal long lashes adorned with bright drops of already-cold tears and he was obviously beyond stunned, the bright garnet of his eyes wide and disbelieving. “Shizu-chan,” he mouthed – and, aloud, “You left…”

Shizuo didn’t know what to say to that – not to the words, because the answer to those was simple enough, but to the look in Izaya’s eyes. The look that had been fermenting for days – maybe for an entire week – and the longing. The not yet daring to be happy, to feel relieved.

“You okay?” It was weak – useless, even – but that was the first and most important question.

Izaya shook his head. “Don’t look it,” he croaked, “do I?”

Shizuo grinned in spite of himself. “You look like shit.”

“Thanks…”

Shizuo’s expression turned somber suddenly, and he took a deep breath before mumbling, “You don’t… want me to leave?”

The easy way out, not the easy way out – what he wanted, what felt best and less forced than everything else…

Izaya blinked once – Shizu-chan, you’re too blunt, you can’t ask me something like that and expect a straight answer – and then his face turned instantly red, his eyes zeroing in on his hands in his lap and remaining focused there as he thought.

And thought.

And then shook his head once.

~

And so Shizuo stayed. And then it was night again, and dinner was rice just as lunch and breakfast and every other meal had been. Shizuo tried to interest Izaya in a bit of apple – look, flea, I know you just keep throwing it all up anyway, but at least try this – but to no avail, for the informant was having none of it.

He was no longer interested in rushing his recovery, after all.

He’d spent most of the day alternating between sleep and typing messages to Shizuo on the laptop – saying nothing important, but none of it was planned and he knew that he wasn’t looking for data to be used against the blonde, not anymore. Not ever, not really. He was just talking, just learning new things because they were especially interesting in their own right.

In a way that was decidedly distinct from what he felt for humans, his humans. His Shizu-chan.

His Shizu-chan was special.

And Izaya dared to think that he had something new and good to look forward to even before his Shizu-chan opened his mouth to speak again.

“And… when you’re feeling better – ”

He stopped, cleared his throat. His gaze wandered briefly about the room – anywhere but at Izaya, Izaya and his clever eyes and soft lips hiding more words than he’d yet had the chance to speak – before coming to rest on the floor directly in front of him.

That was odd, Izaya thought – talking about the future, the things to come and not what was directly in front of them – and he voiced his surprise, confusion, and curiosity with the look in his eyes as he stared hard at his companion.

“Ah, no, I mean…” Shizuo glanced back and saw Izaya looking – reached up to mess with his hair, exhaled slowly, then tried again: “I mean, I haven’t had a decent meal in days, and I guess you’re probably sick of the rice, too. So, when you’re over your stupid cold, I’ll… I dunno, treat you to dinner again. Or something…”

Izaya tried not to laugh. “What an honor,” he teased.

He’d look forward to it.

 

~

 

Dullahan are mysterious creatures. Rarely encountered by the living, they are regarded as harbingers of death. Their legends are founded on vague rumor and the superstition of old. Who knows how much of that can be taken seriously?

Maybe not the death. Maybe not the buckets of blood and spirit of vengeance. Maybe not everything that makes them so decidedly terrifying to what few humans know of them.

This world, seen and unseen, is full of possibilities. It doesn’t hurt to keep an open mind, for one never knows when hatred might turn to love and normalcy to the extraordinary world of the supernatural, the just-glimpsed underbelly of places like Ikebukuro.

It’s far more interesting that way.

Don’t you think so?