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Breathe.

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Nine days ago, somewhere in Shinjuku…



The sun had only just started to set by the time Namie approached her block. It wasn’t late- in fact, it was earlier than she’d ever returned home when she’d been working at Yagiri Pharmaceuticals- but she already felt tired. Working with (and sometimes as) Izaya could be exhausting, and today had been no different.

 

He’d been almost manic (though he hadn’t put any of that energy to good use), and she’d truly felt more like a babysitter than a secretary. How he’d managed to go so long without Namie’s careful organisation was beyond her, but he’d somehow survived. It was possible that he was just faking this ineptitude so that she’d have something to do, but that might be giving him too much credit.

 

As she approached her building, Namie reached her hand into her bag and fished for her keys. Usually they’d be in the small pocket on the left hand side of her purse, but after throwing her bag at Izaya’s face, they seemed to have dislodged.

 

“Excuse me,” An unfamiliar male voice asked, “do you have a moment?”



**



For the last eight days, Namie had entered the apartment differently to how she usually did.

 

Rather than slam the door and sigh, she closed it quickly and quietly.

 

Rather than leave her shoes on the mat, she brought them to her desk and moved them beneath it.

 

Rather than standing with her back to the room as she clocked in, she turned to the side so she could view the lounge area.

 

Rather than walk confidently, she hid a limp.

 

Rather than sit in her chair, she sat on a discreetly placed pillow.

 

She arrived an hour earlier, and left an hour earlier. Instead of walking the entire way, she caught taxi’s to and from the corner near Izaya’s block. The only thing that seemed to remain the same was her attitude, but even then, there were cracks; small fractures that most people wouldn’t notice.

 

There was no real change in her work, though her desk did accumulate a small pile. It was unlike her to have anything left at the end of the day, and yet, that small pile seemed to be there every day. It wasn’t anything too important, but the fact it was there bothered her.

 

But there was no point worrying about it now. Once she’d found what she was looking for, she’d have plenty of time for filing.

 

Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe-

 

Unusually, Izaya was sitting at his desk. Apart from the small greeting he’d given her, he’d been totally silent. It was strange seeing him so focused on anything work related. Did he know something? He was an information broker, but if he knew something, then surely he would have mentioned it.

 

No, he didn’t know. No one did, which was fine because no one could know. Everything was normal, and that’s the way it would stay.

 

Namie’s gaze drifted back to her computer where she examined her emails. She’d only received two responses, both of which were negative. Despite the fact that Namie had once been the head of Yagiri Pharmaceutical, it seemed that any respect she might have received from her former subordinates had been lost.

 

‘Stop asking. I don’t. I’m not. Stop asking!’

 

What an ungrateful group. Hadn’t Namie been a decent and fair employer? She’d paid them according to how well they worked and was often generous. As long as they’d reached their goals, she hadn’t cared how they spent their time. She’d been fair, if not benevolent. How could they just ignore her so easily?

 

With no other option, she opened a web browser and searched for the same things she’d been looking for all week. It would have been easier to ask Izaya for help (or even that idiot who Izaya got his information from), but then they’d know. It wouldn’t take long for them to put the pieces together, especially if there was a pattern of behaviour.

 

These stockings are replaceable, so it isn’t too much of a loss.

 

The search yielded no fresh results. Each link that had looked to be a lead turned out to be a dead end. Every link that hadn’t looked like a lead turned out to be worse. There was nothing anywhere.

 

But there had to be others. Namie was strong and intelligent, and to be caught so easily must have meant that he was a professional. There was no way that an amateur could have gotten the upper hand- not with her. She was different, so they must have been different, too.

 

Concealer should cover any marks. Colour correcting will help.

 

Wait- if they were special and different and a professional (which they must have been. Namie was all of those things, so there was no way an amateur could beat her. No way, not when she was working so closely with Orihara Izaya. She was different- tough . She was tough and fierce and a force to be reckoned with and no one so unworthy could have-), then Izaya must know. Is that why he was working so much?

 

Was he quietly gloating? Would he lull her into a false sense of security and then use it against her? When was he planning on doing it? Now? A week from now? Would he fire her as well? Would it be because of the pile of filing in the corner of her desk?

 

Her mouth tastes like copper.

 

What a pig.

 

“Say it.” Her voice cracks near the end, and she realises she hasn’t spoken to a single soul for the last eight days. She coughs a little but passes it off as clearing her throat, which suddenly feels raw and small. “Spit it out.”

 

Hold it in.

 

The tapping from Izaya’s desk slows but doesn’t stop. She has his attention, even if he’s refusing to acknowledge her properly.

 

“Get it over with.” There is a very slight change in her pitch, but again, it isn’t too noticeable. “Laugh.”

 

Don’t say a thing. Don’t make a noise.

 

There’s no reply from Izaya- no words, no change of posture, and no change of expression. She knows he’s listening, but he continues to ignore her. Was he still insisting on building suspense?

 

“I know you know.”

 

His typing halts, then restarts more slowly.

 

“Did you laugh when you found out?”

 

Her eyes feel dry, which is the only reason why she closes them.

 

“You did, didn’t you? Disgusting.” She pushes away from her desk but stays in her seat. Nine days ago, Namie would have marched over to his desk and loomed over him. She would have used her entire body in an effort to intimidate and threaten him.

 

Today, she folds her arms across her chest and uses her desk as a makeshift shield. It isn’t that she’s hiding herself- that’s only a coincidence.

 

“Say what you’ve been wanting to say. I’m not a girl anymore, so get it over with. I can take it.”

 

It feels different.

 

Izaya ceases his typing and looks at Namie from across his desk. His expression is unreadable, but it makes her shrink away regardless. The barest flicker of something moves behind his eyes, but at this distance, Namie is sure it’s a trick of the light.

 

“Aren’t you going to ask me if I was thinking about Seiji?” Namie asks with what she hopes is a laugh. “Or that you’re surprised anyone would be interested in an incestuous slut like me?”

 

She hadn’t meant to call herself a slut. She’d never thought of herself as one, and had never used the word on anyone but that idiot girl who crawled all over her brother. Something sharp stabbed at her chest when she started to think of why she might call herself that, but she quickly snuffed out any thoughts headed into such an unpleasant direction.

 

‘Seiji wouldn’t. Seiji wouldn’t. Seiji wouldn’t. Don’t-’

 

The room was too quiet. It wasn’t that Namie was raising her voice, it’s just that the room was quiet. Any outside noise had disappeared, and the world stopped. Nothing else was happening, which is why it was so quiet.

 

‘You should be flattered that someone wanted to buy a Christmas Cake like you,’ is what you want to say, isn’t it? You’re disgusting! Abhorrent!”

 

She wasn’t yelling. That wouldn’t be like her at all.

 

“Do you want to ask if I engineered it? So I could practice? ‘ You want to be good for him, ’? Do you think I wanted it?”

 

That Man is going to laugh at me.

 

“Is it because I dress like this? I’m not indecent!”

 

When had she stood? How long had she been standing? Izaya’s eyes remained firmly on hers and didn’t inspect her body, but it felt far too uncomfortable. She collapsed in her seat and folded herself as much as possible.

 

“Is it because I’m not bruised and bleeding? Just because it doesn’t look like I am?” For the first time in eight days, Namie’s eyes connected with Izaya’s. “ You don’t know anything.

 

I hate him. He’s disgusting. He’ll laugh at me.

 

Her chest heaved, and she felt out of breath. Reminding herself to breathe was too awful, so she decided to try and think of anything else but those words. The stinging in her eyes returned, making them feel dry. She closed them quickly and attempted to make it look like a long, drawn out blink.

 

...does he know already? Would he… save me?

 

“I can’t...”

 

What would be the point in that now?

 

“...there’s… I can’t… find...”

 

It’s hopeless now.

 

“I need to… and-”

 

I’m alone.

 

She laughed in the same way she had before. How utterly stupid all of this was.

 

“I hate you.”

 

‘I can’t do anything.’

 

“Why aren’t you saying anything?”

 

Why aren’t you helping me?

 

‘I don’t want this.’

 

“I can’t fin-”

 

The sound of Izaya’s chair rolling backward across the floor cut her off, and she looked up despite herself. Izaya’s expression was still unreadable, and it felt strange to look at it.

 

She’d never seen an expression like that. It was such a bizarre way to frown.

 

“I’m going to kill you.”

 

His feet moved almost soundlessly as he walked toward the door, though he seemed heavier somehow. He paused once he reached her desk, his eyebrows furrowing further as she shrunk away from him.

 

“It’s already been taken care of.”

 

He’d spoken quietly and clearly, his tone ending the conversation entirely. Namie’s lips parted slightly as if she were wanting to ask him something, but he was out the door before she could remember how to speak.

 

I hate you.



**



Eight days ago, somewhere in Shinjuku…



The sun had only just started to set by the time He approached his block. It wasn’t late- in fact, it was still quite early. The rumbling in his stomach had directed him home, but it was only a pitstop. With the night so young, there were still so many wonderful opportunities.

 

He was still on a high from the night before. After three long weeks of waiting and following, his patience had really paid off. The scratches and bruises that littered his arms and neck felt more like medals, and a part of him hoped that the neat bite mark on his hand wouldn’t heal.

 

Just thinking about the experience made him giddy, and he wondered if he could find her again. A woman like that probably wouldn’t change her schedule, and it would be so satisfying to see the hopelessness in her eyes as she realised it was happening again.

 

As He approached his building, He reached into his pocket fished for his keys.

 

“Eh?”

 

He stopped where he was and used both hands, but came up empty. He hadn’t left them anywhere, so… had he been the victim of a pickpocket? He’d been shoved on the train but some guy, but wouldn’t they have taken his wallet as well?

 

“Excuse me!”

 

An amused male voice asked, accompanied by a familiar jingling. He turned around, relief flooding over him as he recognised his keys between the man’s hands, but was quickly replaced with something akin to confusion. Wasn’t he the guy from the train? That coat wouldn’t be too common, right?

 

“Do you have a moment?”