» Title: a tale of (a glass-fragile) love
» Summary: It started with a pair of eyeglasses Byakuran-san bought for him. Shouichi hopes it will end with that. [university-era 10051 canon-AU] [4230 words]
» Dedication: Laptop Newbie! You are very sweet and very enjoyable to talk to and our names rhyme so well (LOL) and I hope I gave your idea? justice! :)
» Notes: So I did some ~*research*~ about the clothes Shou-chan has been wearing and I ended up surfing through the internet (fanart sites and TVTropes, damn it!) and fangirling over him The researching wasn't productive, but at least the fangirling prevails? XD;
» Notes Part II: This fic is the 6th out of the 'a tale of love' series of 10051 oneshots I'm writing. If you want to see the others, I'd like to invite you to visit my livejournal and/or my dreamwidth account (both are linked in my profile) :D This site removes a lot of formatting and symbols (like hearts, musical notes and stars) which I use a lot, especially with Byakuran's speech, so I don't post my 10051 fics here often ;w;

That said, I hope you enjoy reading this! I definitely had fun writing their university-era love(?) life XD;

They bump into each other in a clash of awkward limbs, paperback books and throaty laughter. Their eyes meet, one pair of curious violet and one pair of unfocused green.

One rimless eyeglasses lay squashed beneath their legs and their bags.

"Mmm, Japanese?" The taller, older one asks with unhidden curiosity, easily lending a hand to the shorter, more fragile one. He grabs the fallen ID and reads out a name in a strange accent. "I-Irie Shouichi, hm?"

Shouichi is looking about frantically, squinting at his surroundings. "I'm sorry," Shouichi repeats this profusely along with the bowing down motion the Japanese do. His accent doesn't belong to this place as well.

"I'll buy you a replacement, since I stepped on your glasses."

"You don't have to—"

"I insist, Shouichi—kun, is it?, mmm, Shouichi-kun." He grabs the redhead by the arm, eager to skip his class to go shopping with his newest acquaintance. Shouichi is swept away by the blur of energy and cheer the other exudes.

By the end of the day, Shouichi has skipped all of his afternoon classes (against his will), has a lot of foreign food settling on his ulcer-prone stomach, has a pair of half-rimmed eyeglasses setting atop his nosebridge.

And has become Gesso-san's acquaintance.

Shouichi learns that his new acquaintance is an international student like him, currently a second-year Ph.D. student. Shouichi flushes when Gesso-san whistles appreciatively when he reveals his young age and the course he's pursuing.

Shouichi doesn't know how the other found out—if it involved hacking or stalking, he really doesn't want to know—but on December 3, Gesso-san ambushes him on his way to his dorm. He gets promptly dragged to accompany the bizzare man to his favorite place to study (though Gesso-san mostly eats his snacks and talk to him about a thousand different topics, rather than actually study).

Shouichi scrunches his nose when they enter the part of the park surrounded by countless flowers showing off their colorful bloom. He likes looking at the flowers, really—but he gets a runny nose and strange allergies whenever they study here. (Though that could also be due to being allergic to Gesso-san's eccentricity.)

"Shouichi-kun looks like a rabbit like that," Shouichi tries not to cringe at the 'kun' and at the rabbit comment. He can't help it if he gets weird allergies from being surrounded by too many flowers!

"Shouichi-kun," Gesso-san starts, pulling something out of his bag, before placing it on Shouichi's side of the stone table, "Happy Birthday~ "

Shouichi blushes at that, opening the package carefully, twitching a bit when he uncovers a white handkerchief with red lines running through it. He's not an expert on fashion or anything, but judging from the softness and the details woven in the design, this is an expensive handkerchief.

Shouichi decides that maybe he is too harsh in judging Gesso-san. Sure he may be insufferable and selfish and childish at times, but— "Now, Shouichi-kun won't protest when we study here~"

Shouichi twitches again. So the handkerchief was just because Gesso-san wanted him to keep coming to study here. "You're so selfish, Gesso-san," he murmurs, but he's tucking in the handkerchief inside his pocket and a grateful smile is on his face.

"Shouichi-kun, this looks interesting, ne?"
"Ooh, this is nice!"
"Let's go there, Shouichi-kun!"

Shouichi ruefully smiles down at his feet, feeling extremely tired from all the shops they went through today. Whoever said that guys hated shopping haven't met Gesso—kun. He looks at displays, at the colors, the designs, pointing out interesting things, all done with an enthusiastic commentary. Shouichi agreed to accompany Gesso-kun for his Christmas shopping (never mind that their families and friends are not in the same country as them, and that they don't really have people to send gifts to)—but that was only because he didn't have anything to do and because he didn't know how energetic Gesso-kun is.

He lost track of how many stores they entered and by the time he recovered his wits, they're already on another mall, one where there are a lot of elaborate floor designs and crystal chandeliers and a lot of people staying outside glass doors. The shops here are branded—names he remembers from his sister's (extremely long) wish list and from some of his classmates' dreamy chatter.

Gesso-kun pulls him inside one of the shops. Shouichi feels a twinge of nervousness, because he recalls that his sister said something about being a disgrace if he didn't buy anything if he went inside such a shop.

Shouichi wanders around, marvelling at the deep red carpet and the gold-colored wallpaper. He winces when he sees the price of one of the ties on display. Who in their right mind would buy a piece of tie that costs nearly as much as a laptop, he'd never know—

"Shouichi-kun, try this, try this!" Gesso-kun is a whirlwind of white clothes and pale limbs, leaving Shouichi dazed. He flushes when Gesso-kun moves close, too close for comfort, to tie something around his neck. A necktie, Shouichi realizes, in a rich emerald green. A necktie that costs as much as his laptop.

Gesso-kun talks in rapid English and before he can react, they're already walking out of the store, a brand-new (extremely expensive) tie on his neck.

"Gesso-kun," Shouichi protests, bewildered and flustered. "Wh-what is this?"

"It's your Christmas present~" Gesso-kun replies as though it's the most obvious thing in the world.

"But you just gave me a present a few weeks ago—"

"That's a birthday present," Gesso-kun smiles at him, lips slanted in a way that causes Shouichi to question his heart's health, "this one's different."

Shouichi opens his mouth to protest again, but the other waves a finger teasingly. "Uh-oh. It's a present! So Shouichi-kun should accept it~ Especially since it matches the color of your eyes so well~"

Something about his tone renders Shouichi into a blushing, speechless mess. Something about the way they continued shopping—now with shoulders occasionally brushing, now with Gesso-kun leaning much closer to his personal space, now with Shouichi blushing each time Gesso-kun grabs his hands to tug him closer—something about it tells Shouichi that they're not just 'Gesso-kun' and 'Shouichi-kun' anymore.

"Byakuran-san?" Shouichi wakes up from his slumped position on his desk.

He feels something warm on his back and when he retrieves it, it's an unfamiliar jacket from an unfamiliar brand. There's a post-it note stuck on the side of the library desk.

Shou-chan drools in his sleep~ (*・∀・)/

Shouichi feels his cheeks heating up and he crumples the note hastily. He stands up and gathers his study materials, knowing that he can't stay in this cold library forever if he's just going to keep sleeping (and drooling).

He barely notices something fall out of the jacket he intends to return to Byakuran-san. It's another post-it note, but this one is not taunting Shouichi about his sleeping habits.

To keep Shou-chan warm while he's studying for the exams! *heart*

Shouichi knows that his face is redder than before. He tries to convince himself that he's not flustered because of that 'heart' at the end of the message.

They spend the first part of their flight to Europe playing Choice, a game Shouichi devised to keep Byakuran from becoming too bored (bad things happened to Shouichi and his stress levels when Byakuran is bored, after all). Byakuran suggested a few things to improve the game to keep it interesting and Shouichi is only too happy to add those customizations. He's thinking of making a computer-version of the game—for times when their board is not with them.

During the second half of the flight, Shouichi dozes off, sinking against the comfortable cushion of a first-class seat. The last thing he remembers is Byakuran-san playing some game on the built-in mini entertainment system on their seats.

He wakes up when the pilot announces that they're landing in twenty minutes. Byakuran-san is now reading a book, but he knows that rather than reading, Byakuran-san is watching him (not-so-stealthily, if he might add). His neck feels stuffier and when he looks down, he sees a scarf wrapped around him.

"It's a match, see?" As though it's enough of an explanation, Byakuran motions to the scarf wrapped around his neck, smiling a smile that outshines all the airplane's lights.

Shouichi blushes and resolves to finish making the computer-version of Choice before they finish their Christmas trip.

They stay with Shouichi's family when they reach Japan.

Shouichi is more than a little relieved when Byakuran-san is charming and gentlemanly and not-at-all tactless and whiny when they meet his family. After Shouichi shows Byakuran-san his room, he finds himself being pulled aside by his mother and sister.

"Explain yourself, Shou-chan!"
"You're wearing such nice clothes, don't tell me you bought them all?!"
"I didn't think you're the type to wear—oh my god it's that brand!"

Shouichi feels a little awkward and tries to explain, as briefly as possible, that Byakuran-san is his friend with strange tastes. His sister asks if she can borrow his scarf and Shouichi agrees—well, he is about to agree, but his sister is already unraveling the loose knot and taking the scarf away.

The family dinner passes by quickly, with Byakuran-san answering all the questions pleasantly, that smile remaining on his face the entire time. Their whole stay in Japan pass by in that manner—Shouichi dazed and Byakuran charming his family and their neighbors and especially his sister.

That last part surprised (and worried, extremely worried) Shouichi, but it appears that he doesn't have to worry anymore because Byakuran-san already turned her down.

"Ne, Shou-chan," she says conversationally, watching him pack his stuff to his suitcases filled with souvenirs (mostly clothes) from their entire Christmas trip. They're going to leave for America tomorrow—back to their university life.

"Hmm?"

"Gesso-san said that he already has someone else."

"He has?" Shouichi asks, hands busy folding and refolding the clothes because they somehow don't fit inside now. "I don't remember him mentioning—"

His sister lets out an exasperated sigh. "He paid for this trip, didn't he?"

"He says he won it in a lucky draw," Shouichi replies though he doesn't sound like he believes it.

"As if there's such a nice lucky draw prize," she grumbles, crossing her arms over her chest, squinting at her naive little brother, "first-class tickets, Europe trip and then Japan? And all those presents too!"

"I'm thankful to Byakuran-san," Shouichi says, lifting his eyes from his packing. His sister still looks upset. He wants to ask what Byakuran-san told her to make her like this, but he doesn't.

"Just—just be careful," she tells him with downcast eyes.

Shouichi nods and tries to ignore the way his heart jumps when he remembers his sister's words.

He already has someone else.

"Omiai," Byakuran-san repeats, intrigued, accent better after taking a yearlong course in Japanese.

Shouichi shrugs, feeling rather embarrassed. He's only on his third year in the university and his parents are already planning on showing him off at an omiai. He wonders if that's why his family was all weird before he and Byakuran-san left Japan—they were asking strange questions and giving him cryptic messages.

"Our fathers know each other, that's why we're matched," Shouichi's expression shows how much he disagrees with that, "...I think."

"It's interesting." Byakuran-san flips a page on his book, before clicking his mouse to make his next move on Choice. "Do you have criteria for matching?"

"Yes." Shouichi replies a tad too tightly. He's not really interested in marrying someone or even being someone's boyfriend—he's oceans away from her, he's loaded with his research internship and his studies, he's busy with handling Byakuran-san's strange tastes and impulsive suggestions. Plus, he needs to book a roundtrip ticket and he was planning on saving up to buy that new drive...

But it's not like he ever disobeys his family's wishes.

"Do you have her picture?" Byakuran-san asks him after he makes his next move on Choice.

He raises an eyebrow at that, slightly surprised that Byakuran-san is showing interest in this. He hums in agreement and pulls up the file his sister sent him. It's custom to send something like a resume and a photo afterall. He frowns at her photo, not because she's not pretty or anything, but because she just seems so... plain. Like she doesn't stand out, or something like that.

Byakuran-san chuckles when he sees her picture and name. "Your names sound similar," he observes, before grabbing a piece of marshmallow from his stash. It's Byakuran's newest favorite food and Shouichi has long tired of chastising the other about the dangers of eating too many sweets.

Shouichi shrugs noncommitally at that observation. It's not like it matters; he'll just fly over to Japan, meet her, reject the proposal, return to America.

Byakuran-san suggests that they go and buy the dress shirt he's going to wear for that—well, it's not really a suggestion since the other wouldn't take no for an answer anyway.

Two weeks before his flight, Shouko sends him an email, apologizing and saying that he should have said something. He doesn't really understand, but he thinks she sounds upset and a little nervous in her email. He is glad that she called off the omiai, but when he asks her to explain that bit about 'he should have said something', she doesn't reply. She doesn't reply to all his emails after that.

He asks his parents about it, but they tell him in unnaturally-soft voices that they're not going to force him to any omiai anymore. It's a little strange, but he's grateful for that, so he doesn't push the issue.

When he tells Byakuran-san about it, cross-seated on the floor of the apartment he got roped into sharing with the other, Byakuran-san merely smiles at him, a crooked smile that makes his heart skip a couple of beats.

He should have known.

"Byakuran-san," he starts, hands massaging his temple to lessen the migraine raging in his head, "when I told you to stop that, I didn't mean for you to do this."

"Turtlenecks look nice on you though," Byakuran-san comments, smiling against his neck, cool hands moving up and down his back.

Shouichi pushes at the other's shoulders but it lacks strength and conviction and they both know it. Ever since Byakuran graduated, the time they spent together became less—Byakuran-san is now a part of some multinational research company, but he's very privy about the details, telling him that he'll know about it eventually and Shouichi is not really the clingy, possessive type.

The small time they have together are spent mostly on Byakuran disrupting Shouichi's work with sex—and Shouichi doesn't really appreciate being the receiving end of teasing smirks and catcalls whenever his hickeys are spotted despite his best efforts to cover them up with his collar.

Byakuran-san just arrived home after a week-long trip but he's as energetic as ever. He is already tugging Shouichi's shirt off and Shouichi resigns himself to a bout of teasing when goes to school tomorrow—wearing turtlenecks in the summer heat.

"Aww, why are there so many buckles and zippers?" Byakuran-san complains as he lounges lazily on his sofa, even though its only midday and he still has a huge stack of paperwork to do.

Shouichi holds back a smug retort, because it's Byakuran-san's loss that he left the design of the Millefiore uniforms to him.

Shouichi thinks that for a mafia boss that has so many accomplishments in such a short amount of time, Byakuran-san spends too much office hours on disrupting Shouichi's time-travel research—with some nonsense games ("Attention, Millefiore Family members! Whoever can bring me Shou-chan's boxers gets promoted two ranks! "), with some nonsense requests ("To my favorite Shou-chan, I want to eat lunch together so if you don't come up here in five minutes, I'm shutting off the power supply to your lab~ "), with some nonsense actions ("I want to watch Shou-chan work~ " "Please get off my lap, Byakuran-san!"), and mostly sex.

Hopefully all those buckles and zippers will deter Byakuran-san from engaging in too much procrastination.

"It's such a shame, but I won't let that stop me~" Byakuran's sing-song tone rings multiple alarm bells in Shouichi's mind, but before he can even start running away, the new Millefiore uniform is already being systematically ripped off from his frame.

Byakuran-san buys him a new pair of thick-rimmed glasses. He doesn't admit the true reason why he broke his other pair of glasses and Byakuran-san doesn't ask.

"It suits you really well, Shou-chan," Byakuran-san croons to his hair, "you look like a very sexy scientist."

He shivers both from the teasing tone and from the tightening embrace and from his conscience warring inside him.

His previous glasses were broken when he faints after a few moments of staring in horror at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His memories have returned after five years. As though bringing a clearer vision, his new glasses now let him sees the mean curve of Byakuran-san's lips, the malevolence lurking beneath that gaze, the offhanded cruelty that curls around those long fingers.

He looks at Byakuran-san—the smiling man stepping over a huge pile of corpses, the outstanding boss standing on top of the entire world, the gifted human that controls countless futures—and wonders why -even with his newer, clearer sight- can't he unsee the man he fell in love with.

On the day of his departure for the Melone Base, Byakuran-san gives him so many gifts, as though those were all the gifts for forever, as though there wouldn't be a next time to give him all these purchases.

Shouichi doesn't know if he wants that to be true, doesn't want to think of any other implications, like the way he avoided thinking about the possibility of their relationship transcending mere friendship all those years ago.

"This is all for you." Byakuran-san pulls over a huge suitcase to the check-in counter, despite his protests that the boss shouldn't be carrying the subordinate's luggage.

Byakuran-san flashes him a chastising smile. "Shou-chan doesn't take care of himself or his clothes, so I'll just be the one to take care of him."

"You didn't have to—" There's a lump in his throat and an embarrassed flush on his cheeks and it's not just because of the check-in lady's interested expression, not just because his heart is thudding a hundred times a minute.

"This is also for Shou-chan," Byakuran-san slowly puts the black gloves on his hands, enjoying the way that pink blush give way to a deeper color.

"So that Shou-chan's fingers don't get hurt," he adds simply, putting back the Mare Ring (also another present—a much more important present) on Shouichi's finger.

Shouichi trembles from the touch, hoping against hope that his facial expression doesn't betray the chaotic thoughts swirling in his mind. Thoughts about how this would be the last time he'll ever touch Byakuran-san, about how Byakuran-san gave him a lot of things and the only thing he gave in return was the awakening of the ability that ruined his humanity, about how everything would end (if it even really started) the moment he leaves this country.

"Shou-chan's crying," Byakuran-san murmurs with a shade of gentleness that he hears for the first (and most likely the last) time, "I'm glad."

When Byakuran leans close, Shouichi savors the feeling—when Byakuran kisses him, Shouichi kisses back—when Byakuran hugs him goodbye, Shouichi hugs him tighter than ever.

When he reaches Melone Base, he is greeted by the unnerving twin faces of the Cervello, by the disgusted looks of the Black Spell, by the envious stares of the White Spell, by the unabashed murmurs that talked not-so-secretly about that scene in the airport. He ignores them all and hurries to his private quarters—ignores the paperwork already waiting for him—ignores the nagging voice in his mind to check up on his white device.

He collapses on the bed and removes the last present he received from Byakuran-san.

When he assumes command of his squad the next day, the Mare Ring is on an untouched box in his pocket and the gloves joined the other gifts, locked inside a suitcase that Shouichi will never open again.

If only he can blame those glasses Byakuran-san bought for him—for seeing Byakuran-san in a different light, for seeing Byakuran-san's good points more than the bad, for seeing Byakuran-san in a way that he never should have.

There were so many 'ifs', so many regrets, so many sins—but it's not yet too late to pay for them.

He met him, he fell in love with him, he stayed in love with him.

That's why, even with his vision blurred by sweat and blood, when Shouichi sees Byakuran injure three of the Vendicare guards that came for him, when Shouichi sees the remaining guards ready special bullets meant to kill, when Shouichi sees Tsunayoshi struggling to stop the guards from shooting—he pushes Byakuran-san out of the way and braces himself for the impact.

The next thing he knows is that Tsunayoshi's voice is worried and hysterical, and his consciousness is slipping away, slowly, slowly. All he sees is Byakuran's face but it's all blurry, a clash of white, purple and red. Their eyes meet, one pair of disbelieving violet and one pair of unfocused green.

A pair of rimmed eyeglasses—glowing with a soft, pure orange light—lay crushed beside them.

• OMAKE/AFTER-STORY

He waits outside of the Vendicare gates, rubbing his arms anxiously. He's wearing three layers of clothing but it's still too cold. He could wait inside the car Tsunayoshi-kun left for him, but he wants to be here, in the biting cold of the December air, in the chilly surroundings of the most respected and feared prison in the entire mafia world.

It took two years of negotiations, just a few months more than Rokudo Mukuro's, but what matters is this moment.

His eyeglasses grow warm and he knows that the reason he's waiting here is near.

"Shou-chan." The voice is softer, lower than he remembered, but it still had that strange lilt of cheerfulness in it. "You're here."

He is thinner, much thinner, after surviving on nothing but the bare minimum of nutrients, after two years of being inside a tank that slowly crippled one's body, after two long years devoid of light. His white shirt is flimsy and looks like it's going to fall off those proud shoulders. His pants look loose and just not right.

"Byakuran-san," he murmurs, feeling the flicker of the protective sky flame that Byakuran-san placed on all the clothes he gave him.

He's glad that this time's Tsunayoshi-kun decided (and convinced Reborn-san and Gokudera-san) to let him meet Byakuran-san alone. He'll never be able to live this down—the way he almost tripped in his haste to reach the other, the way he sobbed openly with tears freely running down his face, the way he desperately clutched at the man in front of him (broken in so many places that will probably never heal—but he's here, he's alive, he's here with him and that's what matters), the way he kissed the other in hunger, in relief, in happiness.

"You're here," Byakuran-san repeats in slight wonder, a fatigued shadow under his eyes, "and you're wearing my presents."

He remembers the strange looks he received when they discovered the sky flame placed over the majority of his wardrobe (accompanied by incredulity and ten-years-past-Gokudera-san's gruff "So you can't even buy your own clothes!").

"Yes," he replies with a small smile, shivering not just because of the wind that whipped around them, not just because he's scared that this is all just a dream and when he wakes up, Byakuran-san is still inside Vendicare's cells, or worse, Byakuran-san is still not stopped.

Hands start to push him away, with a gentle but resigned, "Shou-chan, you—"

He shakes his head, burying it stubbornly against Byakuran's chest. "I'm crying," Shouichi mutters, feeling another wave of relief flood over him when he feels Byakuran's heart go a little faster. "So you should be happy."

Byakuran doesn't reply. He's not happy, Shouichi knows. But unlike before when his head was busy trying to ignore other complications, now he can see everything clearly. He's not happy—yet.

Shouichi knows that he has a lot of time to change that—and he knows that Byakuran-san will let him.

But first things first.

"I need to buy new clothes," Byakuran-san tells him with a small smile.

Shouichi smiles back and laces their hands together. Even through the black gloves, through the clothes that were given to protect him, he can feel that small warmth grow.

"I'll go with you."

And something about the way they walked towards the parked car—hand-in-hand, shoulders brushing, walking close to each other as though any sort of space between them is inexcusable—something about it tells Shouichi that with or without his so-called 'Byakuran-san-rigged-glasses', he knows that everything will be okay.

» END
The ending was supposed to be at the gloves scene, and supposed to be a sad ending for them, but. I can't do it ;____; I need them to stay together asdfghkjl

NEXT UP in the 'A Tale of Love' 10051 series:

[07] » Title: a tale of (a stolen heart's) love » Irie Shouichi is like the switch. Whenever the most famous detective in the world sees him, he turns into a total idiot. [10051 AU] [phantom thief!Shouichi + idiot detective!Byakuran AU] ; inspired by Kaito KID, who makes my heart go dokidokiii~ in admiration and anticipation with his latest heist in Detective Conan
[08] » Title: a tale of (an inseparable) love » The very first thing they do when they return to their time is to make sure Shouichi's path doesn't cross Byakuran's. They fail spectacularly. [10051 canon-AU]