This is a departure from the normal, as it's usually just Shinra that invites Shizuo along to movies, but it's one of Celty's rare free afternoons, and tickets are cheap for matinees. Which is good, because Shizuo is perpetually cash-strapped.
What isn't so good, however, is being subjected to Shinra's taste in movies. Shinra chooses to watch some of the sickest shit, but he started going to watch that on his own after he subjected Shizuo to a movie about abducted girls that got stitched together, which resulted in Shizuo quietly puking into the empty popcorn bucket. But Shinra's one of the few people who actually hangs around Shizuo for reasons that are all his own, so Shizuo can't bring himself to complain about his taste in movies when he's just happy to have someone to talk to. Unless Shinra is talking about dissections. That's when he covers his ears and pretends that he can't hear anything.
Celty's presence means that Shinra's been forced to tone down his movie choices. Not that she's squeamish, but Shinra has very strict ideas about how to treat "his honey". They have the glow of a new relationship around them, both besotted with each other, but they aren't doing anything couple-y like holding hands in the cinema, or kissing Celty's helmet, or groping each other like the couple in the back row. Shizuo vaguely hopes that the couple back there isn't having sex in the cinema, and struggles to tune out the breathy moans they're making, so that the movie outing doesn't end in him uprooting a row of seats and flinging it at them.
It's good that Shinra isn't as touchy-feely as that, because if Celty happened to be dating a groping asshole, Shizuo would make sure that the asshole couldn't grope her anymore. Forcibly. Shinra's pretty intolerable a lot of the time, but he treats Celty right, and he can get along with Shizuo without being punched into a wall. So his relationship with Celty has Shizuo's grudging approval.
Celty passes the popcorn from Shinra to Shizuo, and he gratefully takes it. The popcorn is sweet despite Shinra's love for weird-tasting salty popcorn, as Shinra had bought the wrong box at the counter and insisted on sharing it with Shizuo. Shizuo doesn't quite know how the mix-up happened, since the cinema's sweet popcorn has a crispy, shiny sugar coating, while the salty kind looks and tastes like cardboard. Probably incompetent employees, or Shinra being absent-minded, but he doesn't think about it too much. The sweet kind's better, anyway, and without the mixup he wouldn't even have popcorn.
The alien in the movie bursts out of its cage, and Celty can't shriek, but she flails and knocks the popcorn over. Her hand finds Shizuo's, and clutches it in a deathgrip. Shinra's patting her back and trying to soothe her. Popcorn crunches under his shoes as he moves closer to rub her back. He glances down and notices that Celty's gripping Shizuo's hand, and Shizuo feels uncomfortable, his palms grow sweaty, and he doesn't know if he should ease away from her. He doesn't want to do anything inappropriate, especially since his two friends are in a new relationship. The screen is reflected off Shinra's glasses, but his lips curl in a smile, and Shizuo doesn't even know what that signifies and doesn't really want to ask. The priority is calming Celty down, anyway. The shadows on the cinema walls look like they're roiling with panic.
Celty's trembling, but it stops eventually, as the background music shifts from jarring screeches to something more placid. The shadows around them calm down.
Shizuo squeezes Celty's hand whenever the music gets louder, careful not to harm, reassuring her that he still exists, he's still there.
He doesn't know if it's appropriate, but no one seems to mind.
Shizuo's in a restaurant, eating cheap sushi with Shinra and Celty. Well, to be precise, he's eating cheap sushi with Shinra, and Celty is fidgeting with the chopsticks. He's kind of cash-strapped this week due to job issues, so it's good that he can split the bill with somebody. Shinra likes all that gross shit that Shizuo doesn't, which is why both of them are ordering the mixed platters to split. Shinra can have the natto and all that weird bitter slimy stuff, and Shizuo can have the rolls with the little crunchy tempura bits on top. He suspects that the tempura rolls aren't really authentically Japanese, they're probably something that Russia Sushi made up because they had extra tempura batter or something, but they're so good that he isn't pissed off by their inauthenticity. He'd ask Simon how the chef makes it, but he doesn't have the patience to actually cook and his rice cooker has a fist-shaped dent in it, so he decides that it'll have to wait for his next paycheck anyway.
Celty's drawing little patterns in the soya sauce with her chopsticks. The red bottom of the sauce dish is momentarily revealed when her chopstick makes contact, and is subsequently engulfed by the dark liquid when she takes the chopstick away.
Shizuo asks, "Hey, Celty, are you bored?" He doesn't know what she's thinking sometimes, but, hell, he'd be bored, watching people eat if he couldn't eat anything. Actually he'd probably have torn the counter apart by now, but Celty has a lot of patience. She's kind of like a Buddha, or a Bodhisattva, if they had smoking hot bodies and no heads. He doesn't look at her body much, though, because she's taken, and he's her friend, and Kasuka once said that men shouldn't objectify women.
She drops the chopstick and takes out her handphone to reply to him.
[It's quite relaxing, actually. It's nice to sit down with people you know.]
Shinra grins impishly, and opens his mouth to say something, but he's halted by a stern jab from Celty's chopstick.
"But Celty, I didn't even say anything about you - ow ow ow that hurts, Celty!"
[I know you. Eat your sushi.]
Shizuo hates to think this, it seems like a betrayal of the strange friendship all three of them have, but he's jealous of their easy familiarity, of how they can read each other without speaking.
They call for the check, and Shizuo digs out the last few notes from his battered wallet. His wallet contains nothing but small change, lint, and his identification card, so he tries not to open it too wide in Shinra's presence. He might insist on paying for Shizuo's meal, but Shizuo doesn't want to owe anyone anything. Thankfully Shinra doesn't seem like he noticed.
As they're walking to the junction, Shizuo notices a stall selling taiyaki. They even have the vanilla custard flavour he loves, but it's a choice between taiyaki today and eating a meal tomorrow. Tom's been treating him to dinner lately, but he doesn't want to take advantage of Tom's kindness all the time, so he'll have to decline tomorrow. Sure, Tom claims he hates to eat alone, but Shizuo's starting to suspect that Tom just wants to make sure he doesn't starve to death. Dinner had cost more than he thought, even with splitting the bill, so he averts his gaze from the crispy pastries as he walks by.
Shinra's eyes light up, and he motions for Shizuo and Celty to pause in their footsteps. He runs back to the stall, gestures enthusiastically at the person manning it, and hauls out his wallet. While they bake a fresh batch of taiyaki, Shinra takes out his phone and types something quickly - probably a business matter - then puts it away so he can receive the paper bag.
Shizuo stands there, staring at Celty, with no idea what the hell Shinra is doing. Shinra doesn't even like taiyaki unless it has weird-ass fillings like sausage or minced meat, and this stall only has the sweet kind. What kind of bastard would look at a dessert pancake and think "hey, let's put minced pork and chives into it, everyone will love it"? According to Shinra it's avant-garde, which is a fancy word for "things that taste terrible that Shinra likes nonetheless". Celty seems less bemused by Shinra's sudden purchase, she's probably used to that guy's whims by now. Her phone vibrates with a message, and she glances at it, then at Shizuo, before hastily sliding the keypad shut. It's probably something from Dollars. Shizuo regrets joining Dollars, they send so much useless bullshit out to members and he can't be bothered to read it, but Celty's good at skimming text, so she gives him a summary of the administrator's messages every week or so. He's about to take out his phone just so he has something to do with his hands while waiting, when Shinra runs back to them.
"Ah, Celty, here's a dessert for you! They're shaped like fish, to symbolise the strength and determination of our relationship, like a sea bream swimming against the current! Sweets for the sweet, dearest!"
Celty peeks inside the bag, then slides her phone's keypad open again.
[Ah, thanks...I guess. They're very...brown.]
"They're golden! Like the light of our love!"
[It'll go to waste if I keep it. Do you want it back?]
"Celty, my honey! It's rude to return gifts to people! Especially when they are the hard-won gifts of love!"
She shrugs, and passes the paper bag of taiyaki to Shizuo. Their hands brush each other. Shizuo looks down at the brown paper bag. It's warm, and the scent of vanilla beans wafts out of it.
"I guess giving it to Shizuo is fine...as long as he remembers to savour every bite! It should taste as good as our love!"
[Enjoy, Shizuo. Shinra, I didn't know our love had a taste...wait, don't answer that. In fact, let's talk about something else. Right now.]
Shizuo nods, and carries on a conversation with Shinra about his clinic and his job, with Celty occasionally offering anecdotes from her courier work. There's a considerable overlap between Shizuo's clientele and Shinra's patients this week as compared to the last. He'll have to remember to be less violent, but it's not like reminding himself does any good once they start babbling their stupid excuses about why they're five million in debt, and it's all because of their love for their stupid mistresses or enjo-kosai girls or hostesses. If that's love, he hopes he never encounters it. Maybe Tom can remind him not to wound them too badly next week...if Tom isn't busy running away.
He parts ways with Shinra and Celty at the junction and heads back to his cramped apartment and a night of watching reruns of Vampire Ninja Carmilla Saizou. The couple waves at his retreating figure. Celty and Shinra go off to where her motorcycle is parked, and head back to a night of doing whatever couples do at night - not that Shizuo knows what that is, or has a hope of experiencing it. Maybe it's better that he's single, that way he can't hurt anyone with his lack of emotional and physical control. Although he hopes that Carmilla Saizou doesn't meet a love interest in tonight's episode, because he might put a fist through the screen.
He eats the vanilla custard taiyaki slowly, and the sweet filling tastes better than usual.
He doesn't know why Shinra bought Celty something she couldn't eat as a gift, but he supposes he'll never understand love.
Shizuo's sitting on a plastic stool in Shinra's bathroom, and Shinra and Celty are helping him to bleach his hair. He's wearing a faded T-shirt from his old school, there are some occasions where the bartender's outfit isn't appropriate. There's a pink fluffy towel around his shoulders. Celty's formed a comb out of her shadows so she can separate Shizuo's hair. Shinra's sitting cross-legged on the floor, holding the plastic bowl of bleach and developer, reading the instructions on the box, and interpreting Celty's body language for Shizuo since she's left her phone on the table.
Celty neatly divides his hair into sections, she's consulting a printout from a hair forum about the best way to go about doing this. He didn't even know there were hair forums, but Celty knows a lot of shit he doesn't. He kind of likes it because he has someone he can ask about random stuff, and she doesn't treat him like a complete moron and ask why he didn't know that in the first place. It probably comes from having to learn the language from scratch, or from all the educational shows she watches. Celty begins to slather the bleach on his hair, staying away from the roots.
He would have done this himself, but his apartment's bathroom is so poorly ventilated that he'd probably end up killing himself with the fumes, and he can't go back to his usual salon after it got shut down by the health authorities. He has no idea what the hell their problem was, not like the presence of rats in a salon was a big deal. No one even ate in there, and whatever the rats did in the storeroom couldn't possibly get any more toxic than the chemicals that the salon used. Thanks to that, he's had to go to a hair supply store, painstakingly figure out which developer to use, and choose between brands, then ask Shinra if he could use his apartment's bathroom while they were out. In the meantime, he's had to deal with smart-aleck comments about his hair from people who think they're funny. Shinra's bathroom is pretty fancy, with things like a ventilation fan and a reasonable amount of space, which are completely foreign concepts to Shizuo. He's lucky his apartment has walls, given the rough treatment it endures on a daily basis.
When Shinra and Celty found out what he needed the bathroom for, they both insisted on helping with the bleaching process. Shinra claimed that he was suffering from "medical curiosity about the bleaching process", and Celty was very firm about helping. They've also ignored all his warnings since the initial request. It's almost like they don't realise the hazards of bleaching Heiwajima Shizuo's hair. He'd told them about the time he'd broken the metal arms of the salon chair the last time he went to get a touch-up. Or maybe they realise the hazards, and just don't mind, which is probably even stupider.
"She says that now she just needs to do the roots, and then we wait to rinse it out." Shinra stirs the mixture with a disposable chopstick, and passes it to Celty, who systematically applies the remainder of the bleach to Shizuo's roots. He bows his head so she can apply it to the nape of his neck too.
Shizuo starts to ask him how he figured that out, especially since Celty's hands were busy when Shizuo was speaking, but he barely gets the first syllable of the question out before Shinra interjects.
"The same way I figure your mood out."
Shizuo pauses, then replies, "What about that time last week?" He'd been watching TV with Celty when Shinra insisted on switching the channel from the documentary on pandas to some weird horror B-movie. That had ended in a broken remote control, a bruise on Shinra's forehead (from Shizuo and the remote control), and a jab in Shinra's gut (from Celty). Shizuo and Celty had ended up streaming their show on Celty's laptop while whispering and typing about how terrible Shinra's taste in media was.
Shinra smiles. "Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, with a love for dangerous people."
The timer beeps, it's time to wash the bleach out, and Shinra and Celty both take turns to massage the shampoo into Shizuo's scalp.
Shizuo doesn't know why they've taken time out of their lives to help him with this, but he's grateful nonetheless.
Shizuo's in the lift, heading to Shinra's apartment, and Celty's propping him up so he doesn't collapse. There was a fight gone wrong, and they knew just how to hurt him, so they were probably hired thugs with some connection to Izaya. It's been a long time since he's lost this much blood, and he feels sort of fuzzy and lightheaded. They'd found out where he lived, and ambushed him there. His apartment is completely trashed, and he doesn't look forward to settling accounts with the landlord. The lift jerks as the doors slide open, and it jostles his wounds. He cringes in pain. Celty adjusts his arm over her shoulder, and gently leads him to the door.
Shinra's clutching his handphone, white-knuckled, Celty's probably told him about the situation. He helps Celty get Shizuo on the couch, it's just a large gash in Shizuo's lower arm, but the idea of Shizuo being heavily wounded is so unfamiliar to all of them that Celty and Shinra seem scared on his behalf.
"This isn't right," Shinra says.
Shizuo tilts his head, questioning Shinra, because he's really too tired to talk, much less curse at him. Shinra will figure out what he's trying to say, anyway.
"I should be the only one to cut you open," Shinra murmurs, as he stitches up Shizuo's gashes with more care than he usually does.
Celty's hovering around both of them, and eventually sits down next to Shizuo, clutching his other hand. He grips her hand, wincing in pain as Shinra stitches his gashes back up, and she squeezes back. It's almost like Morse code. Shizuo realises that he's using something close to his full strength on her hand, and tries to hold back, but she strokes his hand with her thumb, saying it's okay, I can take it without speaking.
Shinra gives Shizuo a sedative so he won't go back out there and rip his wounds open on his desperate hunt for Izaya, and he hurts too much to object. Shizuo's eyelids are getting heavy, and he drifts off to sleep on Shinra's couch. He hears Shinra's hushed voice talking to Celty, as if he's talking about something incredibly important and secret, and Celty's typing slower than normal, carefully responding to him.
He doesn't know which one of them is rubbing his back as he's drifting off, but he hopes he's not imagining the touch.
Shizuo's on the couch when he wakes up, and he starts to get ready to leave - he doesn't want to disrupt Shinra and Celty's schedule. Celty's sitting next to him, looking at conspiracy websites, and she notices that he's awake. She presses a key on her laptop that makes a loud ringing noise, and Shinra rushes to the living room. She closes her laptop and sets it on the small table.
Shizuo gets off the couch and stretches, careful not to rip the stitches, and walks to the door.
"Don't go, Shizuo. The gang might still be out there. As your doctor, I'm -" Shinra's cut off by Celty's hand on his shoulder. "Fine. Here's the truth. Stay here, you stubborn bastard. We want you to."
He moves closer to the door. Like hell Shinra means that, he'll probably be delighted when Shizuo leaves so that he can have his alone-time with Celty.
"Look, if you have problems with the concept, you can just stay until you get better and we'll work things out from there. You can't go back there. You'll die."
Shizuo's hand is on the doorknob.
"Aren't you listening? Please stay here. At least for now. We don't want you to die."
[Just...stay. We love you.]
Love? What the hell? Shizuo's ready to launch into one of the rants that he usually gives people before hurling them into lower earth orbit. Not that he'd hurl two of his closest friends into walls deliberately. It's practically scripted, the rant about how they don't know what love is, about how they can't possibly fall in love with someone they don't even know, and he's working up steam when Celty shows him the next line of her message. There wasn't any typing, she's obviously prepared this while he was sleeping.
[We know you, and we know what you're capable of. We trust you. Please stay.]
She puts away her phone, and extends her hand to Shizuo, and he takes it. It's a familiar thing in a changing landscape. She pulls him away from the door, into an embrace, and he bends down slightly so he can bury his head in the crook of her shoulder. The black mist billows onto his hair, and there's no pulse, there's no human warmth, but he doesn't mind at all. Shinra joins in the embrace, and Shizuo just knows that Shinra would have shouted something like "group hug of love" if Celty hadn't stepped on his foot. He feels himself relaxing, and Celty and Shinra gradually loosen their hold on him, satisfied that he won't bolt from them. Shinra strokes his upper arm, as if he's trying to comfort a skittish animal, and he doesn't mind.
Shizuo doesn't know what to do after that, but soon it doesn't matter, as all three of them are equally clueless, trying to figure it out. His ripped, blood-stained shirt and Shinra's lab coat end up lying on the floor, and Celty's catsuit dissolves into a cloud of shadows, and somehow they're all lying on Shinra's bed. Shizuo's desperate for them to just touch, he isn't any good with words and subtle meanings and all that bullshit, but it's difficult to lie through a touch. It's clumsy at first, there are a lot of elbows and a lot of fumbling, and it seems like it's Celty's reflex to jab Shinra in the gut whenever he tries to grope her, which makes the pace a bit awkward. But their hands on Shizuo's body are the best thing he's ever felt, gentle physical contact from people who want him around, who don't hate him, who know him and still want him to stay.
A web of shadows trails across his skin, holding him down to the bed, and he can't move, he can't lean into their eager hands, he can't thrust into Shinra's clever mouth, and he can't move away from Celty's hand, splayed wide on his chest, next to his heart. Celty's other hand maps his body, tracing the small nicks and cuts he's had over the years, before he learnt to be invulnerable.
Shinra curls his tongue, and pauses to say something to Celty, but Shizuo can't care, he's lost in the sensation. He hasn't been touched for so long that everything else is irrelevant. He's invulnerable to blunt impacts, but not to this sweeping motion of fingertips and palms across his body, this warm mouth mapping out his skin, and he falls apart.
He knows it's safe to let go, and he does, trusting that they'll catch him.
And they do.
Shizuo's in a bed with both of them. Little puffs of shadows are coming from Celty's neck, accompanied by tiny snores from Shinra. All three of them are tangled up in a puppy pile. Shinra's hair tickles Shizuo's bare chest, and Celty's cold body is pressed against him.
Shinra's alarm rings, and a pale arm reaches out from the pile to smack it off the bedside table. The gesture is foiled a moment later, when Shinra somehow wakes up despite the thwarted alarm clock, which is now lying in pieces on the floor. Shinra nuzzles Shizuo's chest for a moment, and Shizuo struggles not to wriggle away because that shit tickles, then Shinra sits up. He is way too perky for six-thirty in the morning.
"Ah, Celty, my honey! Trying to trick us into sleeping so you can get us all to yourself for a day?"
Shizuo mumbles something about shutting up, and rolls into the warm spot that Shinra's left in his bed. Shinra gently pushes Shizuo back to his original position, and lies back down, squirming to get comfortable.
"I suppose I can spare five more minutes for both of you! But it's a busy day, be warned! I might demand compensation for my time later tonight, when I'm in the mood for lovings!"
Shizuo jabs Shinra in the stomach with his index finger.
Celty waves her hand at Shizuo, and flashes him a thumbs-up, before rolling over to go back to sleep.
He doesn't know what will happen from here on out.
It doesn't matter.
They can figure it out together.