Izaya removed the cast without taking his eyes off Shizuo's face. His gaze was a pained one, but Shizuo was too fixated on the limb he had broken to notice it. Slowly, the bandages came off, revealing the purplish lump of flesh criss-crossed with black abominable stitches, like a dozen millipedes feeding off Izaya's skin.

Something clenched painfully in Shizuo's chest.

"The human hand is such an amazing feat of nature's engineering, you know... A huge complicated system of joints and pulleys, controlled by millions of neurons."

Izaya looked down at his own right hand, his bangs covering his face.

"Neurons exquisitely sensitive to touch, so that we may feel with the bearest of fingertips."

Shizuo doesn't know what to think, how to think, anymore. And so he kept staring dumbly as Izaya lurched forward— close enough for their heights to make a difference— raising his broken hand and gently, so gently, laid it on Shizuo's cheek.

"Can you imagine, Shizu-chan, how those sensitive neurons would react, if the hand was being broken?"

Izaya's thin form shuddered involuntarily for a moment, before he steeled himself once again.

"Do you think anyone else could bear this for you, Shizu-chan?" Izaya said softly, looking into Shizuo's warm brown eyes. If his expression hadn't been this imploring, it would have been taken as a taunt or an accusation.

But there was no trace of fun or mockery in Izaya's black pupils, staring ever so openly into Shizuo's, as if to bear his broken soul for him to see— to witness.

And Heiwajima Shizuo couldn't take his eyes away.

"Do you think anyone else would bear it for you?"

There was a shimmering sheath of tears in the brunette's eyes.

"I could have... taken my hand away before it was broken, you know." Izaya admitted, "I was gripping the knife all the time, I could have plunged it in the very moment you started to squeeze."

"...But you didn't." Shizuo said, looking confused now.

Izaya shook his head slightly, "No, I didn't."

"It was a little symbolic, actually, for me anyway... I was telling you— was trying to tell you, that I'm not going to pull away, not even when you hurt me. Not even when you break me. Because I want you to hold my hand— I want to feel you touching me... even if it hurts— it hurts—"

At this the hand on Shizuo's cheek shifted slightly, tightening, and there was a little hitch in Izaya's breathing. A tear dripped from Izaya's chin onto the concrete platform.

"Because— because... Mine should be the only hand you could ask for, shouldn't it? I— I tried— I tried so hard, Shizu-chan—"

Izaya was crying now, sobbing into his other hand, the one on Shizuo's cheek, the broken one, held aloft just short of touching the Shizuo's burning skin.

Gently this time, Shizuo took that hand. Despite of everything, Izaya flinched a little, teeth assuming a clenched position as if bracing himself for pain.

Shizuo felt a pang in his heart at that movement.

He was such a monster, to have to break the only person he could love safely even before he realized the importance of that person for him.

So, he took that destroyed limb, ever so gently running his thumb over the purplish skin, the stitches.

Izaya's breath hitched from time to time, as Shizuo hit still sentitive spots, but the blond took exquisite care not to cause any sliver of pain.

"I'm sorry, Izaya."

Izaya nodded as he used the other hand to wipe away the tears. A silent acknowledgement. He doesn't seem too happy about it.

"I know you still hate me. You think I'm just guilt-tripping you. I know Shizu-chan. I know-

Izaya's voice broke.

"Just let go of me. I won't come back to Ikebukuro again. You can live your peaceful-

"Izaya." Shizuo interrupted firmly, still lightly caressing Izaya's hand.

Izaya opened his eyes, removed the hand covering his face, and blinked because Shizuo was not there.

Then his gaze fell to the ground and the blond was kneeling there, looking up at Izaya, his warm brown eyes like a sea of honey he could drown in forever.

"I don't hate you anymore, Izaya."

Izaya blinked again, uncomprehending.

"I... don't think I've ever hate you. I think I've just... misinterpreted my emotions, all this time."

"All this time." Shizuo repeated softly, as if talking to himself.

"What are you doing?" Izaya asked dumbly. His brain seems to be short-circuiting.

"What I'm saying is," Shizuo tugged gently on the hand he was holding, and bring his lips to touch on the back of it, right on the ugly stitch that went through the middle, "I want to ask... for your hand, Izaya. Will you marry me?"

Noises seem to dim in Izaya's ears, leaving him in the ringing echo of what Shizuo has just said.

I want to ask... for your hand, Izaya. Will you marry me?

Your hand, Izaya.

Will you marry me?

Then a giggle bursted from his lips, a giggle that evolved into a laugh and then degenerated into frame-wracking sobs as his knees gave out and he fell into Shizuo's arm, resting his head in the crook of Shizuo's neck.

He was laughing and sobbing at once and he didn't know how to stop. If anything, Shizuo must be regretting his sudden request right now.

In a moment, a fist would connect with his stomach and break his ribs and he didn't care.

He didn't care.

"Yes." He grasped. "Even if it's a cruel joke, my answer would always be yes."

And Shizuo lifted Izaya's tear-stained face, and kissed him.

"I'm completely serious. Your hand is mine, Izaya. I'll make sure never to break it again."

Author's Note: Aaaaand Happy Birthday, Izaya!