notes: Rereading Ao Haru Ride 14 has made me so flaily it's impossible not to write a fic on this pairing. For example, did anyone notice that Youichi said to Kominato the exact same thing Shuuko said to him? Just, asdfghjkl.

Set somewhere in the future, canon for as long as the manga agrees. Otherwise, here be my head-canon!

mercy on this
keep your butterflies in a jar, darling


Youichi does not regret a lot of things.

It's just the kind of person that he is. He sees no point in dwelling on the past, no point in thinking about the things he could and would have done differently, no point in feeling sorry about what he has no way of changing.

Most of his regrets are small things, easily remedied or overlooked. He regrets days when the canteen runs out of melon bread. He regrets not saving his work more often every time his computer overheats. He regrets mornings when he wakes up on his desk, letters imprinted on his cheek because he's fallen asleep grading papers.

More often than not, he also regrets the times when he catches himself teasing Murao.

He doesn't do it on purpose, really. When he called her by her first name that time on the stairwell, he didn't do it on purpose. He'd just walked out of the teacher's lounge when he heard Makita and Kou's 'Futaba-chan' telling her they'd wait for her by the entrance. There was a rare smile on her lips and the next thing he knew he caught up to her already, calling her Shuuko, and then Shuu-chan, the 's's that slid past his lips way too familiarto be, well, appropriate. For a teacher. Which he sometimes has to remind himself is what he is.

It's terrible, Youichi knows. He'd have capitalised and italicised the word, too, but TERRIBLE doesn't exactly look pretty scribbled all over the paper he's grading. Especially when it's not at all close to such scale of terribleness and he doesn't actually have the heart to call anyone's work terrible.

His only consolation is that he's about ninety percent sure that he doesn't like her. He won't swear this, of course, just because there's always karma at work, but no, Youichi does not like Shuuko. (It's Murao, he corrects himself. Murao. Murao-san, even.) He's just… concerned, like any teacher will be if one of his students pays more attention to him more than she does boys her age. He's not curious and he's definitely not at all interested. At least not that way.

It's just that he enjoys teasing her (a little more than he enjoys teasing everybody else). It's just that he wants to make sure that she's making the most out of her high school life (a little more than he wants to make sure everybody else is). It's just that, well, damn, does she really have to be everywhere he goes?

"Are you buying anything, sensei?" Murao asks, in her hands several cans of soft drinks, no doubt for her and her friends. It's lunchtime and having given up on grading right now, he's chanced upon her in front of the vending machines. "You've been staring."

"Oh no, I mean yes, I'm buying something," answers Youichi. His slur is completely accidental and also completely embarrassing, but she doesn't seem to notice and this fuels him with a new tank of confidence. "Are you having lunch with your friends, Murao?"


"That's good," he replies, smiling as brightly as he can. "You seem to be having fun."

"I am," she says, and there it is, that rare smile that makes him abandon moral compass like he doesn't desperately need it already. "It's all because of your encouragement, Tanaka-sensei."

He takes an automatic step forward. "Oh, no, I didn't do—"

But Murao is bowing down to him already, her black hair falling from her shoulders like silk and swaying with the breeze. She's standing too close to him that some unfaithful strands tickle his wrist, and he has to stop shuffling the coins inside his pocket when a faint whiff of perfume catches his nose. It's sweet and not too strong, surprisingly but pleasantly adult with an innocent floral overture rather than the fruity one he (rather foolishly) assumes all teenage girls are wearing. Yet nothing disarms his more than the smile on her face when she raises her head, her pink lips curved so winningly that he almost misses her uttered "thank you".

As she turns to leave, this is what passes through Youichi's head: Oh, shit, and then Is this a crime? I think this is a crime, and then Ah, fuck, this is a crime and I should just handcuff myself in my room and never go anywhere, ever.

"I'm going to jail, aren't I?" he moans, but neither the machines nor the coins, suitably warm and just a little bit slick in his hands, offer any mercy.



notes: Because they are cute, okay. Because we have no idea if they're gonna end up together or not. Because I'm about as pessimistic as a jellyfish, and yet I STILL SHIP THEM.