Note: This was written for the Zexal Flash Bingo challenge, for the prompt, "justify".


Dr. Faker, flat on his back beneath a mass of tangled wires and circuitry, reflected that the trouble with being a genius was that there was no one he could delegate things to. He was the one who had developed, tested, and built this piece of equipment, so he was the only one who understood how it worked. That meant that when it needed maintenance, he had no choice but to do it himself, no matter how much of a backache it gave him.

He squirmed, trying to reach the screwdriver. If he stretched as far as he could, he could barely graze it with the tips of his fingers. He shifted position a little more and tried again. This time, his fingers brushed the handle of the screwdriver and sent it rolling another foot away. He made a noise of frustration.

"Byron, could you hand me that..." he said, and stopped.

Of course, there was no more Byron Arclight. The man had been gone for weeks, and still Faker found himself expecting to see him, addressing remarks to him and waiting for a response that never came. He had invited the man to join his project because of his intelligence and resources, and because Faker hadn't wanted another woman on his team, not after the death of his wife. He'd naively believed he wouldn't develop personal feelings for a man. He hadn't seen the warning signs when their evening discussions of technical matters had turned into late-night sharing of life stories over drinks. He should have guessed that Byron would become his best friend.

He hadn't realized that he still had his hand outstretched until someone pressed the screwdriver into it.

"Here you go," said Chris.

Faker turned to look up at him. Small wonder he kept thinking that Byron was nearby, with this pale boy walking around the lab like the ghost of his own father and looking more like him every day. There were days when having him around made things seem less lonely, and days when every word he said cut like a knife. Faker might have sent him away, except that Chris had become Kaito's firm friend, and it seemed cruel to take that away.

Everything had been so simple when he'd planned it. He'd told himself that he could do anything for Haruto's sake, that he could cut all other ties cleanly and never look back.

Some genius I am.

Faker untangled himself from the mass of equipment and got to his feet.

"I think we could both use a break," he said. "Why don't you get us some tea?"

"Yes, of course," said Chris.

He gave Faker a soulful look before hurrying away. Faker tried not to cringe. Was the boy looking to him as some sort of surrogate father now? The thought was enough to make him queasy.

Did he still think his actions were justified? Absolutely. But oh, how he wished he had known what they were going to cost him.