As a child, Izaya had this obsession with the idea of soulmates. He is not one to reminisce, but he still has a clear memory of the first time he felt his own: the burn of a scraped knee while his skin remained unmarked. He had been sitting on the living room's floor and suddenly started bawling, startling his mother enough to make her forget about the daily news on the TV. Don't be scared of a little pain, she had said, rubbing his back. Especially this one, the good type of pain.
(And Izaya is yet to understand how any pain can be good.)
That was enough to pique his interest, though. There he was, feeling things that weren't his because somewhere out there this person had scratched their elbow or hit their forehead, and somewhere out there this person was feeling things that weren't theirs because Izaya had stubbed his toe on the wardrobe or burnt his tongue drinking tea. He had read so many books and had asked his parents so many questions that it seemed impossible that he'd simply never meet the other half of him.
His fascination kept going until, of course, things turned sour.
Izaya's soulmate seemed to be the clumsy type — reckless even, always getting hurt and making Izaya hurt just as bad. At first, Izaya tried to think of it as a good mechanism for narrowing down his options (what are the chances of splitting your chin open thrice? Certainly lower than only once) but the pain just kept increasing, increasing, and increasing, both in frequency and intensity. Izaya remembers because there is no way he could forget: falling down screaming and feeling as if his spine was being twisted and snapped in two, breaking glasses and plates and anything because his arms hurt so much he couldn't move them, holding his leg to his chest at night and trying his best not to cry and wake his parents up again. Izaya remembers thinking and thinking why would his soulmate do this, why would his soulmate hurt themself and Izaya over and over, uncaring and heartless and cruel and—
At the age of ten, Izaya decided maybe he didn't want to meet such a person at all.
To this day, he finds comfort in the numbers. Those that, detached from his childish intuition, tell him the facts he wants to see as a teen: the odds of meeting your soulmate are low, and if you meet, there is no guarantee you will get along. After all, in a full-fledged individual, there is more than just the soul to match.
(The ancient Egyptians believed the soul itself had at least five parts, so this mate is mating which? The spirit, the heart, the shadow? Plato says that people initially had four legs, four arms, and one two-faced head, Judaism says that you have bashert to marry and havruta to challenge, and Bhagavad Gita says we are all Brahma in the end — and Izaya is supposed to believe in whom?)
With a solid base of knowledge, his walls are built resistant. They give him the safety of intellect to hide behind. Izaya hates, and he hates what fate tells him he should love, so he will laugh at its face and do whatever he wants — if God is dead, everything is permitted, said somebody sometime somewhere, and Izaya makes sure to bask in this peace for as long as he can.
Which ends up being not as long as he would like.
It's a sunny day — a skip class day — in Raijin Academy, and just as Izaya's knuckles begin to mysteriously ache, Shinra drags him to meet his soulmate.
"It's him," Shinra whispers as if it is a dirty secret. "You told me about all the pain you used to feel when you were younger — this guy probably broke every bone in his body twice when he was a kid. What are the odds?"
Practically? Izaya feels throbs of forceful impact all over his body and a pang in his chest that he doesn't want to acknowledge.
He rolls his eyes at Shinra's excitement. "Yeah," he says, "what are the odds."
The scene that greets him is high-quality bloodshed. The school courtyard is being littered with students in various degrees of consciousness and Izaya sits there, enjoying the show. Its protagonist is a beast, a hurricane wiping out everything that comes his way with his bare hands — Izaya can see the blows as much as he feels them, each collision of punches and kicks sends shocks over his own body and Izaya has to put a lot of effort into not flinching or wincing or curling into a fetal position to cry out in pain.
Shinra stands by his side. His eyes are boring into him, clinical and detached even as he smiles — Shinra watches Izaya watch the beast as if he is performing a surgery. As if he is taking Izaya's ribs apart to twist his heart.
When the bleached-blond monstrosity deems his work finished, he turns to look at them.
And then Izaya's heart twists.
It is as painful as realigning broken bones. His chest aches and he sucks in a breath as if he hasn't been breathing for a long time. He reminds himself of the statistics, of the facts, but in the end, the truth is that he has a monster for a soulmate — and while his mind is bitter with dread, his body shakes with the thrill as soon as their eyes meet.
"This is Orihara Izaya," announces Shinra. "We went to middle school together."
His voice is distant, muffled, buried under the resounding realization — it's him it's him it's him and Izaya's lips curl in a wicked smile.
"He is not a good guy," Shinra continues, and Izaya at last notices he is still being introduced. "Actually, he is kind of an asshole…"
Izaya chuckles. "That's awful, Shinra."
"No, no, I didn't mean it in a bad way…"
Meanwhile, Shizuo Heiwajima is glaring at him as if he is a target to hit with a spike. He clenches his fists and Izaya feels the prick of nails sinking into his palms.
"You piss me off."
Well, that makes two of us, but Izaya is not about to surrender. From his smile drips poison, and he lets it broaden into a grin. "Oh, too bad," he says nonchalantly. "I thought you and I could have some fun."
He doesn't specify the type of fun they could have — sometimes it's better to keep your options open. Plus, he needs to confirm that this guy is stupid enough not to figure it out.
The flirtatious tone does have an effect, though. Shizuo flushes and Izaya wants to tear him to shreds.
"Shut up," Shizuo says. Eloquent.
Izaya snorts a dry laugh that couldn't be faker but fits his goal well enough. "Don't be like that, Shizuo."
He can't tell what does it — could be his voice, the over-familiar manner of speaking, the smug tilt of his chin — but something about him prompts Shizuo to snap into unrivalled fury. He lunges at Izaya and in that second, Izaya feels a flicker of hope.
Maybe his intuition is wrong. Maybe the facts are right.
His hand searches his pocket for a knife, and he is ready for the last, ultimate test. After swiftly dodging the blow, he brings the blade down on Shizuo's chest and cuts through cloth to pierce the skin.
Shinra must be watching them still, with those scrutinizing eyes of his that see more than they should. Izaya can only hope that he takes his stumbling as putting distance between himself and an adversary, that he doesn't notice the way Izaya's grin falters as he feels a searing line of pain on his own chest like it's his.
"See?" He waves the blade at Shizuo, taunting. Poking the beast. "It's fun, isn't it?"
In that instant, Izaya understands: he is the seven per cent that meets their fated half. In that instant, he sees the sparks of rage behind Shizuo's eyes and he knows he won't be in the three per cent that also gets the happily ever after.
In that instant, Izaya decides that if Shizuo wants to hurt him, then it will be by his rules.