The quiet clacking of computer keys filled the little room. No one spoke; no one so much as sighed. It had been that way for several hours now. Only the occasional crescendo of music from someone’s headphones would raise its tinny voice in the air and change the atmosphere at all. As one such moment faded back into nothingness, your eyelids drooped.
That was slightly dangerous. The truth was that you were not so much in room as you were in an alcove in a cliff face. Your continuous cycle of lying down, sitting up, pacing, and beginning again had driven you much closer to the edge of the remains of silvery floor than was safe. Nevertheless, for a moment you allowed your eyes to rest there, heavy with the promise of sleep. Your breathing slowed and flickers of dreams began to prickle the edge of your mind. Once you realized what was happening, though, you rocketed upward, panting heavily as you looked about the area.
“[Name]? You okay?”
You shot a sheepish smile in Spanner’s direction. His expression hadn’t changed, but you could tell he was worried. Your insides squirmed with guilt. “I’m fine. Awake, now. Sorry.” Apparently satisfied, he nodded and bent back over his computer. Just as he did this, you felt sleep overtake you once more. It was a risky endeavor, but you went back to lying on the cold metal floor. At least that way you would be a bit more comfortable. Once settled, you felt a yawn coming on, but as hard as you fought against it, it was an inevitable loss. Finally, you gave in and allowed it to take over your face.
As you yawned, you stretched to your fullest extent. Your fist bumped into another solid object. Distracted, you opened your eyes and saw that, rather than any sort of furniture, you had hit someone’s leg.
“Sorry, Shou-chan.” You ducked your head as you struggled back into a seated position. The young man barely glanced at you before he went back to his frantic typing at the keyboard.
“It’s getting late,” he said, eyes focused on the screen. “You don’t have to stay with us. Go get some sleep.”
“But I always stay up while you’re working on a project. It’s tradition!” That time, he paused long enough to really look at you. You felt the blush blooming across your cheeks as you looked down and drew your legs to your chest. “Well…it used to be.”
“No, it still is, but…” Shouichi trailed off. You watched his eyes dart around the room as if something inside it would find him some inspiration.
“There’s really no need for you to stay up so late,” Spanner said as he lifted his head from his own mess of wires. “This is going to take several days. You can’t function for that long without sleep.”
“You’re going to.”
“We’re not fifteen.” When your scowl only became more pronounced, Spanner chuckled. “Shouichi is just looking out for your best interests.”
You blinked. Shouichi had his bright red face buried in his computer. “Really?”
“Really,” Spanner mumbled, having already turned his attention back to the task at hand. You sighed and went back to counting your toes—still ten, just like the last three times. The silence in the room was almost deafening. Back at home, in your own time, you and Shouichi never stopped talking while he was working but here…here he didn’t even want to look at you. Maybe it would be better if you just walked back to the Vongola Base. The last thing you wanted to do was irritate him.
With that thought in mind, you got to your feet. For a few moments, you just watched your old friend work with that familiar, frantic glint in his eyes. You knew how Shouichi was when he really got into something and you wondered if he would even miss you if you left without saying goodbye. Still, you hoped that there was something there in him that remembered the past you. Hadn’t you been friends, best friends, for years now? You shook your head. It was not the time to worry about such things. A quick, deep breath steeled you and then you reached forward to shake his shoulder.
That was the Shouichi you knew and loved, so startled whenever he was brought out of his deep thinking reverie. This not being your Shouichi however, you didn’t know if it was appropriate to laugh. You withdrew your hand as if bitten and then stared at your feet. “S-Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” he said and the warmth in his voice made you look back up. “Did you need something?”
“Oh, I was just going to tell you I’m leaving. I don’t want to be in your hair so…I’ll go sleep I guess.”
“You’re not,” he said quickly as he took your wrist, “in my hair. I’m sorry.”
“Y—You don’t have to be sorry.” You blushed. The Shouichi in your time had never so much as accidentally stepped on your foot, much less grabbed you like that. “I—I’m sorry. For everything she—I did.”
“Don’t be,” he said weakly. You felt your stomach churn. If you ever got hold of you traitorous older self you were going to beat her until she went back and fixed everything. “It’s not your fault.”
“Not yet, anyway.”
An awkward silence fell between the two of you. Only Spanner seemed oblivious as he continued to fiddle with one of the many remotes strewn about his legs. You could only assume that you and Shouichi were both thinking about the same thing. The details were lost on you, but you knew. That day he asked you for help, you’d picked Byakuran over your best friend. Finally, without looking at you, Shouichi spoke:
“I’ll walk you back.”
“No! That’s—I mean—Byakuran—” You winced. Surely that was not the way to start. “—I mean, well…he said he cleared out. I can walk myself.”
“No, I’ll walk you.” He got to his feet. “We can’t trust Byakuran to keep his word.”
“Oh…okay…” You could not help but feel that what he was really saying was that he couldn’t trust you. Once Shouichi started moving, you followed. It was difficult to move through the tangled mess of Shouichi and Spanner’s various inventions and so you were forced to skirt the edge of the cliff. As you did, Shouichi took your elbow. He still didn’t look at you, but the simple touch made you feel that maybe he didn’t hate you too much. It was also something of a relief to have him beside you. Not that you wanted to admit it, but you had no idea how to get out of the remains of the Millifiore Base, let alone to the base you belonged to. With his hand still cupping your elbow, you were able to find your way through the dark, now entirely rock hallways and to the surface.
The air changed with the appearance of the city. You took a deep breath and then, as was habit now, glanced sharply around the area. It was so late at night that even that street was nearly vacant. The only movement was a blinking yellow streetlight that did nothing to hinder the single car that whooshed beneath it.
“Um, well…thanks for walking me here.” You glanced back at Shouichi. He was still lingering in the doorway, looking wary…or maybe that was just your heightened imagination talking. “I can make it the rest of the way myself. I promise I won’t try to contact anyone I shouldn't or anything.”
“I trust you, all right?”
“But…why?” You shifted uncomfortably as he took the final step out of the base and began to walk beside you. “I picked the wrong side.”
“That was the you of this time. I know you as are now wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Aren’t we best friends?”
“…You mean it?”
“Yes.” He nodded and actually smiled at you. For the first time since Shouichi’s reveal in this dismal future, you felt the weight on your shoulders disappear. “Besides, the you of this time period could have told Byakuran what I was planning. She didn’t.”
“What does that mean?”
He shrugged. “I wish I knew.”
“Me, too…” For a few minutes, the pair of you walked without speaking. The dark shop fronts changed very little as you made your way through the empty little city. “But Shouichi?”
“I’m glad you don’t hate me.”
“I could never hate you, [Name]. Like I said, you’re my best friend.”
You stopped and let him get ahead. A warm feeling spread throughout your entire body and you were so relieved that everything was going to be okay that you had to stop to make sure you didn’t start crying. Once the feeling past, however, you ran after him and, as soon as you made it, grabbed his hand.
"You’re my best friend, too.” You didn’t let go. Instead, you kept a firm grip as you swung your arm back and forth. This seemed to throw him off. You kept moving, but Shouichi simply stared at the top of your head as you went. Soon the town faded away into grassy fields and those eventually into the forest you knew that, somewhere, held the entrance to the base you were looking for. You squinted through the trees, but you couldn’t see anything that looked familiar. Heck, you couldn’t identify anything at all.
Or so you thought. Somewhere ahead, though, there was something glittering. You could not tell what it was from this distance, but it had to be something important. Your first thought was that maybe, what with the immediate Millifiore threat being gone, your friends had thought to light the entrance so you could find your way. Then again, you didn’t really know any of the boys very well and you hadn’t shown any interest in going to the base before. You made a beeline for the spot anyway. Now that you and Shouichi were on speaking terms again, you didn’t really feel quite like hurrying 'home.'
“Look, Sho-chan! Fireflies!” Startled, he looked up. They were there, in every crevice of the forest. It was as if the sun had decided to rise only exactly where you were. Hundreds of little spheres bobbed and weaved through the tree branches, so many that the entire clearing was lit up. In one area stood a little lake and all across its surface the lights continued to dance almost endlessly.
“I’ve never seen so many in one place,” Shouichi said, without taking his eyes off the sight.
“I haven’t either!” As you spoke, one of the lightning bugs flew toward your face. It seemed to consider you for a moment before it settled itself upon your nose. You laughed.
“It looks like that one likes you., Shouichi said. After you shook your head and the bug still refused to move, he laughed, too. “Maybe it wants to go back with you.”
Its little wings buzzed ones, twice, and then it lifted itself into the air. It did not go far before it made itself comfortable on his forehead.
“Now it likes you! Maybe it can help you and Spanner with setting up Choice.”
“If it’s got a head for chess and robots, we’d be happy to have it.”
Apparently well rested now, the firefly finally flew up into the air. For a few moments, it flew in lazy circles around you and Shouichi. Then off it went into the surrounding forest. Your eyes met Shouichi’s. You lips twitched. Then his did. The next second was completely silent, but the very next both of you burst out laughing.
“You two are funny.”
You looked up. Leaning against one of the trees, an amused smile on her face, was Bianchi. Shouichi had stopped laughing as soon as she spoke, but you grinned back at her. “Glad we could amuse you.”
“Bianchi? What are you doing here?”
“Giannini was monitoring outside and saw you guys coming. He asked me to pick [Name] up.”
“Oh.” He sounded slightly disappointed. “Right.”
“Was I…interrupting something?” She lifted an eyebrow, but still looked pleased at the situation. You and Shouichi blushed in unison and quickly shouted:
“Well, all right.” Bianchi chuckled. “Tsuna told me to invite you to dinner, Shouichi. Would you like to come?”
“N-No. I really must be getting back. Spanner will be wondering where I got to. Tell Tsunayoshi-kun I said thank you, though.”
“I will. Ready to go, [Name]?”
“Right. Well…bye, Shou-chan.”
"Good bye, [Name].”
“See you for Choice?”
He nodded his head. “Yeah.”
“Okay.” You took a step, paused, and then turned around and threw your arms around him. He stiffened. Then, slowly, he hugged you back. You lifted your head to beam at him, then released his body to skip off after Bianchi. “Bye, Shou-chan! Stay safe!”
“Good morning, [Name].”
“Good morning, Spanner!” The sun was bright against the metal floor as you arrived back at the 'Choice Station' the next day. You had to squint as you made your away across the floor. “I came with breakfast.”
“Oh, good.” He took the plate of food you offered him and sat it down next to him. “Did you get some sleep?”
“Yes! Actually, Reborn wants me to stay for training today, so I can’t spend it with you guys.”
“That’s all right.”
“Er…” You looked over at Shouichi’s computer. He was there, but not moving. “Is Shou-chan dead?”
“No…he just fell asleep. I thought I’d give him a bit of a break.”
“Sounds like Shouichi. He’s a hard worker.”
“He is. If you leave his breakfast, I’ll make sure to get it to him when he wakes up.”
“Thanks. Oh, could you give him something else for me?”
You blushed but dug a small jar out of your pocket. Wordlessly, you handed it to Spanner. He brought it to eye level and frowned.
“Just a few,” you answered. “We just saw them last night…and it’s the happiest I’ve seen him since I got here. I just thought maybe…” You ducked your head and played self-consciously with a strand of hair. “…Maybe it would make him smile.”
Spanner watched you for a moment, then placed the jar down next to his food. “I’m sure it will. I’ll give it to him later.”
“Thank you. Bye, Spanner.”
“Good bye, [Name].”
You looked up. It had been nearly three months since all the future nonsense and you had been quite relieved to find your own, normal Shouichi waiting for you at home. Well, as normal as he could be, really. Reborn said he should have received all of the memories of the future and for weeks you had been terrified of your own Shouichi abandoning you for what you did. But if he ever did get the memories, he never said. Your friendship had never changed.
“What’s up, Shou-chan?”
“Um, can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” You put down the magazine you were reading and looked at him. “Shoot.”
“Well…” He turned red. “You know everything that happened with Tsuna in the future?”
“Were you…mad at me?”
“What?” That got your attention. “No, no! Not at all! I thought you were mad at me…what I did…”
“But you haven’t even done that!”
“But what if I’m still the exact same person that I was?” Shouichi didn’t say anything. You blinked down at the table. “I wasn’t mad at you Shou-chan. But I wouldn’t blame you if you’re mad at me now.”
“I’m not!” he protested. You did not look up at him. A split second later and you felt him slide onto the bench next to you. “I’m really not. And I wasn’t then either. I just wanted to know because…I sort of have something to give you.”
“Eh? Give me?” That time you did look at him. “But what does that have to do with…?”
“Well, I think he wanted to make it for you, but I sort of did, too. C-Can I give it to you?”
“Of course!” You smiled and Shouichi’s blush became more prominent. Nevertheless, he reached backward and into his bag. After a few moments of rummaging, he withdrew a tiny a jar.
“H-Here,” he said as he held it out to you.
You felt your heart beating somewhat wildly as you took it. When you looked inside, it was just as you expected. Six tiny dots, each a bright glowing light, floated lazily through it. “Fireflies?”
“You don’t have to release them. I—They’re robotic.”
“Really?” He nodded. “That’s so cool!”
“It’s…no big deal.”
You stopped staring at your gift to stare at him. He looked away. Then you grinned and embraced him. “Thank you so much. But…why?”
Shouichi was blushing even more heavily than before, but as he adjusted his glasses, he smiled. “Because he wanted you to smile, too.”