EDIT: May 1 2010. Apparently this site screwed up my formatting yet again. I hope it's easier to read now. For the fully-formatted versions of my fics (and for more fics, in general), please visit my livejournal page, which is linked in my profile :D Thank you for reading!

Recipient: caffeinexsugar ❤ ; for the Valentines Exchange at the byakushou lj comm :D
Title: Perfect World
Classification: 10051 • Drama/General/Romance/Humor • PG-13 • 1689 words
Contents: Senpai!Shouichi + Kouhai!Byakuran + after-canon AU(?)
Notes: The better-formatted version is up in my livejournal :D

•••

Perfect World;
"It's Valentine's Day... so I'm going to take Byakuran-san out on a date."

•••

"I can't believe you're skipping practice..." One hand is on his hips, another is pinching the bridge of his nose in an attempt to assuage his incoming headache. "Again."

Not sounding sheepish or apologetic in the slightest, Byakuran chuckles, shoulders shaking with the motion. There's a radiant smile, despite the vein throbbing in Shouichi's temples. "Ahaha, I was caught?"

Shouichi knows that if Byakuran really wanted to, he could hide and never be caught by any of the officers sent to disrupt his perfect record of procrastination. Shouichi also knows that if Byakuran really put his mind into it, he could become an extremely formidable soldier—not that he isn't already the best recruit their institute managed to snag in the past decade.

Byakuran is an extraordinarily talented man—and as his supervising officer, it's up to Shouichi to make sure that the raw talent is 100% converted to refined power. Slacking off is definitely not on the 'to-do' list.

"I'll request a rescheduling of the shadow technique training." Sighing, Shouichi is already dreading the lectures he'll surely get from the instructors. They wouldn't dare punish their golden child, so the punishments will go to Shouichi instead. But then again, it's not like they'd dare to make the punishments that painful, because—

"Aah, will it make Shou-chan happy if I go for training?" Byakuran asks with wide eyes, innocence radiating practically from every pore—from his violet eyes, down to his fidgeting fingers. Shouichi knows better, but he allows his face to flush pink anyway.

Shouichi squares his shoulders. "You should go for training." The no-nonsense tone doesn't really work on his charge as effectively as it does on his other subordinates, but he uses it anyway. "It's for your own good."

A blink—long lashes, piercing eyes, pleased glint—and the innocence is gone. "Hmm, if Shou-chan says so~ "

At times like this, Shouichi wonders why he puts up with being assigned to supervise the most problematic (and definitely the most powerful) soldier in the entire facility.

"Why did you skip this time?" Shouichi asks rather belatedly, already preparing to go out and start rearranging Byakuran's schedule to make up for his missed lessons.

Byakuran grins—(danger! echoes within the mess of thoughts in his brain; danger! sings within the ripple of blood in his veins; danger! throbs within the cacophony of beats in his ribcage)—like a mix of childish curiosity and devilish delight.

"I'm busy making our plans for Valentine's~❤"

At times like this, Shouichi wonders why he puts up with—
—and then his wondering screeches to a stop.

Professor Nakano scolds him—clipped words, terse notes, callous insults. Dismay about Byakuran's attendance records blurring with the frustration about his lack of response towards the drugs being administered daily.

Shouichi stands still—counting one, fifty, hundred in his head—hides his shaking fists with the shadows of his lab coat, hides his glaring eyes with the curtain of his fringes, hides his widening smirk with the tilt of his head.

He stalks back to his private office, where he knows Byakuran is waiting for him, folder containing the approved papers for the remedial lessons in one hand, syringe containing the trial drugs in one pocket.

As expected, Byakuran is there in his office; as expected, Byakuran is there spinning in his leather armchair. He doesn't waste time chastising his subordinate for playing with his seat.

Shouichi watches Byakuran watching him dispose of the syringe's contents.

"Another one today?" Byakuran always sounds impossibly cheerful. Shouichi envies it—despises it, even.

"Aah."

Shouichi's fingers don't tremble in the slightest when he writes 'NO RESPONSE' to the column under 'Observations' in today's date.

"You're actually letting me have a say in your plans?" Incredulous doesn't even begin to describe what Shouichi is feeling at the moment.

Byakuran laughs effortlessly, even though he just returned from a back-to-back lesson in close-quarters combat and zero-gravity training. "They're our plans, Shou-chan!"

Shouichi rolls his eyes, but he sits down on the two-seater couch beside Byakuran, knees brushing together. When it first happened, Shouichi practically flew out of the couch—pupils dilated, face reddened, throat clogged. Now, it's almost second-nature, for them to be this close whenever they're not within range of the security cameras, whenever the fellow soldiers' prying eyes are turned to another direction.

"You made it into a game?" Shouichi feels a strange twist in his heart. "Is that why you keep on missing the training?"

"Well, a date with Shou-chan is much more important than training!"

His heart leaps into his throat at those words. Shouichi coughs a little, as he regains his composure. "W-Well, how does this game go?"

Byakuran looks pleased, unlike the way his expression darkens when his instructor praises his exponential growth in the simulators. "Mmm, it's like a 'choose your own adventure', only better!"

Choose your own adventure. Choice. "So it depends on my choices, huh?"

"Uh-huh. So answer the first question~!"

Shouichi looks at the computer screen. └ Will you go out with me on a date, Shou-chan? ┐

The screen then shows two options: └ YES ┐ or └ NO ┐.

"Can I have a trial run first?" Shouichi asks with a small smile on his face. Byakuran agrees without fuss. Byakuran always agrees with him, doesn't he?

Shouichi clicks on └ YES ┐, steadfastly ignoring Byakuran's little cheer beside him.

There's an animation of a miniature Byakuran dancing with marshmallow blocks, before the screen displays └ YAY! So, I'll pick you up on— ┐ in rainbow colors.

"...I see." Shouichi bites his lip to stop himself from laughing. For someone who despises computers and programming, Byakuran really put effort in this one. "What happens if I pick 'NO'?"

Byakuran grins at him—(and there's that danger! danger! danger! resounding again)—teeth practically glinting at his direction. "Why don't you try~?"

Shouichi returns to the first screen, then promptly clicks on the └ NO ┐ button.

Instead of a cheerful victory dance, the program freezes, before showing a blank white screen, with an electronic voice singing "Ran~ Ran~ Ran~ Byakuran~ Won't let you~ "

Shouichi stares at the screen in horror, his hands growing cold-colder-colder than ice. Byakuran looks at him curiously, nudging his shoulders a little.

└ AAH~ I'm so hurt, Shou-chan! But just so you know, I won't take 'no' for an answer! ┐

The next dialog box appears, but Shouichi's horrified expression doesn't change.

└ ...So, I'll pick you up on— ┐

"...Shou-chan?"

Shouichi blinks. Byakuran's face is set in an unfamiliar expression of worry and concern. Shouichi lets go of the hand he didn't know he started gripping. He forces out a wry smile and a dry tone. "No matter what I choose, I'd end up doing what you want, huh?"

The worry fades away (not completely, but—) and a more cheery look replaces it. "Oops~ Shou-chan found out~!"

Shouichi places a hand on Byakuran's shoulder to prevent him from getting too excited.

...And stops himself from thinking about how big his hand is, compared to Byakuran's smaller shoulder.

On the evening of February 13, Shouichi sleeps in his king-sized bed, hoping for some reprieve from the thoughts-nightmares-memories dragging vicious claws against every inch of his skin.

He turns to his side, and tries not to think about Byakuran sleeping while chained inside the triple-layered cylinders in the basement of Vendicare-affiliated International Abilities Research Institute.

On the morning of February 14, Shouichi looks at the box in his bedside table and thinks.

It's simply a small box, no ribbons, no designs, no engravings. It's just a plain box, though what it holds inside is something extraordinary.

Shouichi wonders about parallel universes and forks and decisions and choices.

He remembers about how his world ended five years ago—(or did it really end five years ago? Didn't it end when he first realized that the trust and affection he worked for during his entire college life was all for naught?)—and how he started rebuilding it, slowly-slowly-surely.

He recalls the decision(s) to let Byakuran live, to seal off his powers, to place him under Vendicare. Then there was Vendicare's change of authorities—then there was Vongola's decision not to interfere even though Shouichi begged them on his hands and knees—then there was the formation of the Research Institute that studied the effects of different technologies.

Then there was the Institute's move to use Shouichi's illegal research on Byakuran, turning the gears of time backwards-forwards-sideways until they had a Byakuran from more than ten years ago, with all the unaltered potential but without any of his memories.

And then.

There was Shouichi's decision to join the Institute.

He told them, many years ago, that it's because it's only here that his research will flourish. Only here can his talent be honed and be put to good use.

They were all lies.

And just like before, today is also another fork in the crossroads of choices-lives-parallel worlds.

So Shouichi grabs the small navy blue box—the stolen Sun Mare Ring inside—and waits.

February 14, Valentine's Day.

"W-W-What are you doing?!"

The professors and the guards supposed to keep an eye on Byakuran's rescheduled shadow technique training shriek, shriek, shriek.

Byakuran grins—(danger! roars the blood in his temples; danger! hisses the cut in his cheek; danger! pounds the muscle in his chest)—as though there aren't six different lightning-element-reinforced chains holding his body down.

"Professor Irie! Do you understand what this means?" The masked guards of Vendicare are already surrounding them like pillars of a dome. "You're going to be branded as a traitor and wanted internationally—"

"What am I doing?"

Five years ago, Shouichi's world ended when they took Byakuran away, took Byakuran's powers away, took Byakuran's memories away.

"It's Valentine's Day." His voice is dry and hoarse and resolved. Shouichi's ring burns with all the choices he made until this very moment.

"...So. I'm going to take Byakuran-san out on a date."

And he wouldn't take 'no' for an answer.

Today is the start of his perfect world.


END