• 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: Raise the Stakes
Summary: All Shouichi wanted to do was finish his research and get to the elite Pandora Organization. Everything else was fine, really. That is, until Byakuran entered his life.
Classification: • 10051 • General/Romance/Humor • PG-15/mild R • 4181 words
Contents: Actor/Model!Byakuran + Nerd!Shouichi + AU • snapshot style + nerd talk + lots of references and such 8D
As always, the post with better formatting can be found in my livejournal XD;
"So I had this bet with Mukuro-kun~"
"...Excuse me?" Adjusting his glasses, Irie Shouichi looks at the strange man that just waltzed in front of him, at the stranger blocking his way.
"Ahaha, you sound mad already!"
"Please move." Shouichi takes five minutes to walk from his class to the library, which leaves one hour and forty minutes to finish his extra reading before his next class, and now, those five minutes are becoming five minutes and one-two-ten seconds already because of this disturbance. Shouichi doesn't like it.
"Anyway, as I was saying~ I had this bet with Mukuro-kun and he told me that I wouldn't be able to get you to be my boyfriend, so here I am to prove him wrong!"
Ah. The strange man seems familiar. And dangerous. Really dangerous. "While I share the popular opinion that Rokudo Mukuro-san is a sly person at best—" and a manipulative scum of a bastard most of the time "—I'm inclined to agree with his stand."
"Fufufu~ it's okay to admit that he's a manipulative bastard~"
"...Well, please excuse me." Shouichi bows down respectfully, before he not-so-respectfully marches onward, not bothering with any apologies when their shoulders bump forcefully, walking briskly and hurriedly since he can't waste time with crazy strangers and immature pranks.
It's not until he's in his next class—writing down notes on the differences between the Bosonic and Type I and Type HO String Theories—that he realizes why the man is so familiar.
"I have no interest in the 'flower language' or anything of the sort," Shouichi says as politely as he can through gritted teeth.
There's a flood of brilliant yellow sunflowers laid out at his doorstep. There's the strange man leaning against the wall, obviously waiting for him.
"Sunflower means 'love and respect'."
Shouichi twitches, crossing his arms over his chest impatiently. He's really not in the mood for any of this juvenile betting. He still has to finish his presentation for the next Pandora Selection Panel. He is working really hard so his application will stand out. So that he can be included in the next intake for the special track. He can't do that with influential airhead model-actors lurking at every corner, harassing him constantly.
"But that's not why I want Shou-chan to have them~!" The other man doesn't even miss a beat when he literally skips towards Shouichi. "I just feel that Shou-chan will appreciate sunflowers more—"
"I saw a room bursting with flowers yesterday," Shouichi cuts in snidely. Thankfully, it didn't happen to his room. Shouichi can't help but feel annoyed though.
"Ahahaha~ Is Shou-chan jealous? That's just my warning to Mukuro-kun~" Shouichi's frown deepens. He starts clearing out the sunflower pots blocking his doorway. "Does Shou-chan like white flowers better then?"
"I don't like flowers. And I don't like you disturbing me, Byakuran-san." Saying the actor's name always flusters him a little bit. It's a strange feeling.
"Hmm, just as I thought, 'Byakuran-san' sounds so formal..."
"Please leave." Shouichi shoves one sunflower pot into the other man's pale hands. He suppresses the childish urge to stomp his feet in frustration.
"But I thought Shou-chan would like sunflowers~" There's a whine in the other's voice. "Since they, literally, have the golden ratio and all. And its petals have that Fibonacci number, ne? You're studying that, right? I saw it in your notes!"
Shouichi gathers his iciest glare and his most biting tone and slams the door on the model's face. "Stop stalking me!"
But he knows better. He's actually already dreading their next encounter, because while Byakuran is a stranger to him, he knows that the other will not give up so easily.
"If cycloids are the 'Helen of Mathematicians'—"
"...it's 'Helen of Geometers', Byakuran-san." Shouichi resolved not to reply to this person, didn't he? Today marks the twenty-sixth time he has failed to keep his resolution.
"Ahahaha, my bad~ Then, then! Shou-chan must be the 'Helen of Ashford Academy'?"
There are so many things wrong with that. Shouichi wants to protest, but protesting is just giving in to Byakuran's provocation and that won't do. And besides! "I think Tsunayoshi-kun fits that title better."
Byakuran hums contemplatively, most probably thinking about the scene in the open field last week, where the academy's biggest (and most violent) personalities clashed over the freshman.
"But Shou-chan also has people fighting over him, ne?"
"T-That's not true!" Shouichi retorts hotly, slamming his palms on the table. The students from the nearby table titter and gossip amongst themselves, not bothering to disguise the topic of their conversation. Shouichi can clearly hear the words 'Byakuran-sama' and 'lovers' quarrel' after all.
"Aha~ But I heard from Kikyo, who learned from Zakuro, who heard from Daisy, who heard from Bluebell, who heard from I-forgot-the-name~ , that Spanner-kun and Gamma-kun were fighting over you yesterday!"
"The story's distorted." Shouichi sighs, not liking the way Byakuran's tone sounds when he mentions Spanner and Gamma's names. "It was simply a misunderstanding."
Byakuran leans in close, forcibly bursting his bubble of personal space—like always. Shouichi wonders if it's a good thing that he's so used to it, to the point that his blood pressure doesn't spike anymore from the purple eyes blinking up at him from only a few centimeters away.
"Well," Byakuran drawls slowly after a minute of staring that Shouichi meets head-on, "I believe Shou-chan~ "
Why should you, Shouichi almost asks, but he doesn't. We don't know each other, Shouichi almost adds, but he doesn't. So he keeps his mouth shut and proceeds to ignore the actor's presence for the rest of his free period. It's surprisingly easy to do and Shouichi stops himself from wondering why.
"You're not going to win your bet with Mukuro-san, you know."
Shouichi reminds Byakuran of this every time. Even though Byakuran showed up to rescue Shouichi's application papers from a group of jealous students who wanted to compromise his chances of being admitted to Pandora Organization's special track. Even though Shouichi feels his shoulders slumping forward in relief when he sees his application folder in Byakuran's hands. Even though—
Byakuran ignores his words as usual. He ushers Shouichi to his private room, much larger than Shouichi's, much larger than anyone else's. "This is why I don't like you calling me 'Byakuran-san', hmm?" Pale hands help Shouichi drink a glass of water. "Because you call a lot of people with '-san' too."
There's a pout in Byakuran's lips. Even for someone Byakuran's age, it somehow fits.
"I don't like you calling me 'Shou-chan' either." It's not really true. His mother was the only one who called him that affectionate name. But she stopped calling him that years ago, when he first packed his luggage and got admitted to Ashford Academy's program. It's a good thing, since he doesn't ever want to associate thoughts of his mother with thoughts of Byakuran.
"Haha, so cold, so cold~" The words are disappointed, but the smile is anything but. "But I'd like it if you call me 'Byakkun' instead? Or maybe even 'dear Byakkun'—"
"Ahaha, Shou-chan is always so serious!" Byakuran simply pushes Shouichi back down on his seat on the bed. Byakuran is unexpectedly strong, so Shouichi allows himself to be pushed down without much protest.
"Bluebell calls you that, doesn't she?"
Byakuran's smiles have always been sunny—be it while simply walking down the high-ceilinged hallways, be it while procrastinating from his studies and training, be it while he's wearing down Shouichi's defenses in crashing waves—but his current smile is something that robs Shouichi of his breath. It's not even that radiant, but there's a pleased curve in it, like Byakuran got something he absolutely wanted, like he's really, really satisfied.
"I guess she does," Byakuran says in the quietest voice Shouichi has heard from him. "Then I just have to make sure only Shou-chan calls me 'Byakuran-san', huh?"
Shouichi doesn't blush, because he's not a hormonal teenager who gets excited at every possibly romantic statement. Instead, Shouichi turns his head away from Byakuran's earnest gaze, but he also vows to not let anyone else call him 'Shou-chan'.
"4 : 1 : 2.5."
Before, Shouichi used to scold Byakuran's random nonsensical outbursts, accompanied by a light thwack to the other's arm and the rise of an unimpressed eyebrow. By now, Shouichi has learned to just let Byakuran be. He usually ends up explaining whatever caught his interest anyway.
"It's interesting, isn't it, Shou-chan?" Byakuran swings his legs from his spot at the edge of his bed. "The golden ratio, that is."
Shouichi turns to his guest—a visitor whose presence in his room is as constant as his bed—carefully hanging the costume for tomorrow's fund-raising festival. Shouichi's role is more of a supervisor's, though they figured that even the supervisor must wear the cafe's uniform to create a better, more unified atmosphere.
"The golden ratio is 1.6180339." Shouichi then goes to double-check his planner for any flaws, keeping an eye trained on Byakuran, because dangerous things happened whenever the other is near his bed (which is quite often, really).
"Oh, I wasn't referring to that golden ratio~"
Shouichi's gaze lifts up from the planner's filled pages to give Byakuran a 'what the hell are you talking about, then?' look.
Byakuran reads the look easily and grins. "I was thinking about the 'absolute territory'~ "
The planner snaps shut forcefully. "If it's thigh-highs and miniskirts you want, I'm sure you'll find those in the maid cafe tomorrow."
"But I'm not interested in Sasagawa-chan's 'absolute territory', though I admit that would be fun to see~"
Feeling a little more tense than usual, Shouichi braces himself to kick Byakuran out of his room. He hadn't been successful in preventing the other's impromptu sleepovers the first 99 times, but he's hoping that Attempt #100 will do the trick.
"Byakuran-san, thank you for coming over today, but I'm—"
"—So what I'm saying is, I want to see Shou-chan do that tantalizing grade A 'absolute territory'~ "
"...You want me to cross-dress."
Shouichi takes a deep breath to calm himself down. He adds a counting of the first twenty numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.
"Hmm, on second thought, maybe not~"
Shouichi feels the tension slowly easing out of his fists. Ahh, maybe there's still hope for his sanity—
"I mean, I wouldn't want anyone else seeing Shou-chan in a mini-skirt and thigh-highs! So a private showing is better, ne?"
Dangerous things really do happen whenever Byakuran is near his bed. Actually, scratch that. Dangerous things happen whenever Byakuran is nearby, period.
Shouichi isn't really fond of fist-fights or shouting matches. Instead, he opts for throwing Byakuran's sleeping bag (...the guy actually brought a sleeping bag with him, ugh) square at his face.
"They say that reason, observation and experience are the holy trinity of science, don't they?"
This has to be a dream.
Not just because Byakuran-san is murmuring things in his ear, tongue occasionally flicking out to lick the shell of his ear, teeth occasionally nipping his earlobe as though to give him an earring. Not just because Byakuran-san is crawling on top of him, fingers occasionally tickling his sides, nails occasionally digging into his skin to leave crescent marks.
It's definitely not just because Byakuran-san is practically humping him, clothed erections rubbing closecloseclose despite the jeans separating them, unstable knees buckling-bumping-bending with each mix of thrust-and-friction.
This has to be a dream.
Because he, Irie Shouichi, is not so irresponsible that he'll allow such things to happen while he's working in his laboratory, finishing up an important extra-credit experiment. Certainly not while machines are still calibrating at the other end of the room, not while fragile and expensive samples are still waiting to be loaded on the adjacent table, not while tests are still running on his laptop just a couple of centimeters away from their frantic fingers.
So this has to be a dream. Right? Right?
"Observation," Byakuran mumbles breathily against his throat, "Shou-chan feels jealous."
Shouichi wants to protest that 'feel' is a completely subjective term and observations need to be objective—but his thoughts and protests are derailed by the scrape of teeth against his Adam's Apple, pain and pleasure blurring even further with each mark Byakuran leaves behind.
"Reason," one hand splays on top of his frantically beating heart, while one hand snakes down to completely unbutton his lab coat, "it's because Shou-chan likes me."
"I'm not jealous—" Shouichi manages to grit out, shuddering despite himself when Byakuran runs a teasing finger on top of his still-confined erection. "And I don't—shit, ah—"
"You don't like me?"
Despite the obviously disbelieving tone, Shouichi feels a spark of panic. He wrenches his eyes open, feeling the sting of sweat and the even greater sting of guilt.
"I don't believe Shou-chan, because he's such a liar sometimes~"
Shouichi blames their earlier conversation about the absolute territory, maid cafes and such things. More importantly, he blames his incredibly bad timing that caused him to accidentally see Byakuran hanging around his lackeys. Bluebell was, as usual, wrapped around Byakuran's midsection, clothes nearly falling off her shoulders. There were a lot of visitors that supported their fund-raiser—even though they came only to see the famous model-actor.
Not that it was the first time Shouichi saw Byakuran surrounded by his 'followers'. But the sight of the models' more outrageous fans all dolled up and all lined up to give him a kiss—that was new to him.
"Since the experience of jealousy isn't very nice," the playfulness returns to his voice, "I should give Shou-chan a better experience, ne?"
Instead of giving him teasing massages over his groin, the finger carefully unzips his pants, and Shouichi throws his head back, the pain from hitting the sturdy research table not even registering, because Byakuran is kneeling on the sterilized floor and—
Shouichi usually likes it when he's right.
He looks down in dismay at the tent in his pajamas, barely covered by the mess of blankets jumbled around his form.
Shouichi stares at the space below his bed and is relieved to find out that he managed to chase out Byakuran last night after all.
Shouichi usually likes it when he's right.
"...Just a dream."
He buries his head in his hands, hating Byakuran's existence a little more.
"We can talk about String Theory?" Byakuran offers, cheeks leaning against his left palm as he watches Shouichi go over his Pandora application for probably the thirtieth time today.
"It's fine, Byakuran-san." Shouichi's smile is strained at best. "You don't have to... try so hard."
"But I'm worried about Shou-chan~"
"...Thank you for your concern." Shouichi's smile widens the slightest bit. He places a hand over his stomach, feeling its bubbling protests.
"Well, we can talk about parallel worlds!" Byakuran suggests cheerfully, referring to topic discussed in great detail in the thick folders that will accompany Shouichi in his selection interview tomorrow.
Shouichi brightens at the mention of his research interest, though he isn't really expecting much. Byakuran might be many things, but a physicist or a mathematician is definitely not one of them.
"Shou-chan's really hard-working in his research," Byakuran says with a pout, right hand drawing imaginary lines in the tabletop, easily maneuvering around the stacks of papers, the various index cards, the empty coffee cups.
"That there might be a world out there where I'm not with Shou-chan..." Byakuran trails off, fingers stopping just short of touching Shouichi's hand. Shouichi waits for his next words with a bated breath. "I don't like it."
Shouichi exhales. He stares at the miniscule space separating their hands. He exhales again, feeling the tension slowly slipping out of his shoulders, his arms, his fingers.
"I'm not terribly fond of that idea either."
Byakuran looks like he's going to say something, anything, but he doesn't, so the two of them fall back to a comfortable silence. The space between their hands doesn't change and Shouichi wonders if he should have done something then. But the chance to do something disappears quickly, so Shouichi then thinks about the future of the parallel worlds born out of that moment and—
He wants to yell, What are you doing here?!, but he can't, so he instead bites his lips enough to taste blood.
Shouichi lived for this moment, left everything behind for this chance, did everything for this opportunity.
The Pandora Selection Panel has five interviewers, all experts in different fields, all looking at candidates with scrutinizing eyes to determine which students are suitable to join their elite program to serve the internationally known Organization.
Shouichi knows all five of his interviewers: Professor Verde, possibly the best weapons technology specialist; Professor Lamperouge, the head of the illustrious strategy department; Professor Hofstadter, the head of the experimental physics department he applied to join; Professor Reborn, probably the most famous member of Pandora's elite circle, if only for his hellish training methods and downright sadistic personality.
And of course, the fifth interviewer.
Though judging from the special-issued uniform he's wearing, from the badges pinned on his collar, from his mere presence in this panel... Shouichi can't really say that he knows him anymore.
"Is there a problem, Irie-kun?" Byakuran asks him, tone still as cheerful as ever, but to Shouichi, it only feels as though a sheet of ice is between the two of them.
Shouichi wants to yell, You're only here to harass me!, but he can't. He can't say what he's really thinking, so he opts for adjusting his eyeglasses and folding his hands back on his lap, meeting the stares of his future superiors dead-on.
"You looked a lot like my friend and it surprised me," Shouichi replies sweetly, "but I guess I was wrong." To the rest of the panel, he smiles the smile that Spanner and Tsunayoshi joked about as a prelude to his 'super scientist mode'.
As the interview progresses, Shouichi only thinks about a deep, encompassing darkness, with the only lights coming from the figures in his research paper, with the only facts coming from the resume he memorized over and over again.
"I'm willing to lie to Mukuro-san about us," Shouichi says as soon as he hears familiar footsteps follow him out of the interview room into the private lounge. He refuses to even look at Byakuran's face. "So, you can win your bet already and please just stop bothering me."
"Shou-chan, I'm sor—"
"You're already in Pandora's advanced track." Shouichi's shoulders are shaking with suppressed anger. "So what is an elite soldier like you doing in a training school like Ashford Academy?"
"Never mind." Shouichi takes a deep breath to control his composure. There's no point losing his cool here, when his entire future is being discussed in a room just a few doors down. "You'll probably only lie to me again, Gesso-sama."
There is stony silence for a few moments.
"...There wasn't any bet to begin with."
Shouichi grits his teeth at the thought of breaking his resolution yet again, but he whirls around to march up to the person who he thought was his friend, to take hold of lithe shoulders that are apparently shouldering the weight of being an elite Pandora leader. Words come out in a dangerous hiss, "What are you saying, Byakuran-san?"
Byakuran places his hands above Shouichi's shaking ones. "If there are countless parallel worlds," he starts, referencing the conversation they had just yesterday when their hands still had that space in-between, when their hearts weren't as distanced as right now. "I'll make sure that in all those worlds, I'll meet Shou-chan, and I'll make sure that we'll be together."
Shouichi usually hesitates, usually thinks things through, usually considers every possible angle. But this time, when he forcibly pulls his hands back, he doesn't even pause for a moment before he delivers a punch square to Byakuran's jaw.
"They say that reason, observation and experience are the Holy Trinity of Science, don't they?"
Shouichi looks up from his table at the corner of the private lounge for Pandora members.
He just finished handing in all the papers needed before he can start his research and training to benefit the largest military-and-research organization in the world. He just finished retrieving the rule book, along with the list of commanding officers and superiors he would have to report to.
As of today, he's with the newest batch of Pandora recruits. As of today, his rank is 'Squad Captain', a position that garnered a lot of outrage and envy. As of today, he is the right-hand man of Pandora's elite combat division.
Shouichi spares a look at his surroundings, satisfied that there's nobody nearby.
"So why don't I give Shou-chan a better exp—"
Shouichi cuts him off with a kiss.
"Mukuro-kun told you?" Byakuran asks, obviously unhappy with the fact that Shouichi made contact with the other man. "He really likes to meddle with things, ne~ I should go and have a chat with him about it~"
"There's no need for that." Shouichi's long-suffering tone is enough to make Byakuran pout. "At the very least, he was more honest to me than a certain person here."
"I'm hurt, Shou-chan! You trust Mukuro-kun more than me?"
"Neither of you are particularly trustworthy people," Shouichi deadpans, placing the stack of paperwork that his boss must finish on the table filled with unhealthy snacks and teeth-rotting sweets.
Byakuran laughs giddily when he manages to catch his second-in-command off-guard and pull him to his lap. Ignoring the protests and the painful jabs at his muscles, Byakuran whispers to Shouichi's ear: "I needed to seduce my perfect right-hand man first, you see~"
"It didn't work," Shouichi retorts, trying and failing to escape from what felt like eight of Byakuran's clingy limbs.
"Really," Shouichi says as convincingly as he can, which is hard considering the state he's in.
"I'm so sad now~" Byakuran's grin is predatory. "I need Shou-chan to be my perfect ally and to stand by my side forever and ever and ever~ "
Shouichi stops struggling against the strange embrace. He speaks quietly, because it still feels surreal to say it out loud. "...You're really planning to rebel against Pandora?"
"Of course! Pandora members are so mean to Shou-chan after all~"
Shouichi knows that it's not the real reason, just like he knows that what Mukuro told him ("just stay by his side for now") is not the end of their conversation, just like he knows that Byakuran is keeping secrets from him even now. But he is the right-hand man now and it's his duty to support his boss.
Sensing the somber mood they're now in, Byakuran quickly moves to a new topic, hands moving deftly to shift Shouichi to a more comfortable position. "Do you know the Seven Bridges of Königsberg?"
"The graph theory problem?" Sometimes, Shouichi wonders how much Byakuran knows about mathematics and physics. It's really weird how he can easily jump from talking about world-changing rebellions to historical mathematical problems. Shouichi feels his cheeks grow mildly red; Byakuran is making an effort to learn about the world he belongs to.
"Yep, that~ Ahh, I want to go to that place~ It's in Prussia, right?"
"...It's now in Russia, Byakuran-san."
"It's just one letter," Byakuran complains childishly to his temples. Shouichi shivers from the brush of lips, trying not to think about the work still piled up, trying not to think about whether Byakuran is deliberately acting clueless again. "But I want to go there still!"
Shouichi decides to humor him. "And why is that?"
"They say that if couples walk across all seven bridges without repeating a bridge, they'd have eternal love and happiness, right? I want to cross the bridges with Shou-chan~ "
"Byakuran-san..." Shouichi doesn't know where to start criticizing the proposal. "That's for newlyweds. In the seventeenth century."
Before Byakuran can even reply, Shouichi continues. "And it's actually impossible to do that, you know."
"It's impossible?" Byakuran asks in a small voice that reminded him of a kicked puppy.
Shouichi knows it's an act, like always. But he still can't help but feel that strange twinge in his chest. "W-Well, with two bridges destroyed, it's now possible with the five left—"
"Oh well~!" Byakuran brightens immediately, tightening his hold around his favorite subordinate. "We don't need those bridges to get eternal love and happiness!"
Shouichi starts to open his mouth in protest, but then thinks better of it. This is a dangerous man who is not above using questionable methods and scrupulous means to get what he wants. And Shouichi will let him, support him even. That's his decision.
So instead of protesting or pointing out the flaw in Byakuran's logic, instead of struggling or scolding his boss about procrastination, he relaxes against the other's warm body, listening to a steady, reassuring heartbeat.
"I guess you won the bet after all."
"Of course I did ."
He fell for a dangerous man indeed.
...I fail at writing happy stuff D:
1) String Theory: Bosonic and Type I and Type HO ❖ 2) Hanakotoba: "Language of Flowers" ❖ 3) Fibonacci number + 4) its relation to sunflowers ❖ 5) Cycloids + 6) 'Helen of Geometers' :D ❖ 7) Zettai Ryouiki aka "absolute territory" + 8) golden ratio/golden mean ❖ 9) "Reason, Observation, and Experience - the Holy Trinity of Science." ~Robert G. Ingersoll ❖ 10) Seven Bridges of Königsberg + 11) Graph Theory
→ The idea of the Königsberg Bridges references (as well as the cycloids) © Abreaction ❤ ; she also scanned the reference about the 'newlyweds crossing the bridge for eternal happiness'.
→ "That there might be a world out there where I'm not with Shou-chan..." - inspired/edited from a scene from OUTRAGE?'s ByeBye and ThankYou (with much thanks to sunday and akuyuumei )
→ Professor Hofstadter © Big Bang Theory Pandora Academy © Pandora Hearts Ashford Academy / Professor (Lelouch) Lamperouge © Code Geass.