Title: The Consequences of Failure

Author: Hawk Clowd

Disclaimer: Gravitation belongs to Tokyopop and whoever else owns the rights to the show and/or manga.  I don't begrudge them that at all.  Honest.

Blood Type: sugar-free ketchup.

Warnings: few, if any.  Some spoilers, I suppose, and one or two four-letter words.  Also: this story takes place long before Gravitation begins, before Nittle Grasper broke up, and before the pink haired mongoose met the blond-haired lemming.  I may have messed up the time line.

Archived: just the usual places.  The Fish Pond.  FanFiction.Net.  Maybe on live journal or something, if I ever get around to posting it there.

Author's Notes: I wrote this story while vacationing in Kentucky (which contains some of the worst hiking trails I've ever been on in my life) and, in the middle of writing it, was attacked by a horrible little black and yellow insect which had decided to take a nap in my sleeping bag.  If the story seems to trail off somewhere in the middle, you can blame it on that horrid little bee.

---

Tohma shook his head, frowning.  "This will never work, Noriko.  You know that, don't you?"

"That's what you think.  Trust me for a change, all right, Tohma?  I won't let you down this time, I promise."  She grinned widely, showing off a row of perfect white teeth.  "Personally, I can't wait to get started."

"You realize that what you're helping me do could have dire consequences?  If we fail..."

"Aw, Tohma," she interrupted, looking up at him and sighing dramatically.  Noriko was obviously extremely amused by his worries and troubles.  "That's the problem with all of you over-achievers these days.  You're always looking at the glass as though it's half-empty, and that's really a pity."

In a rare moment of immaturity, Tohma stuck his tongue out at her.  Noriko reached over and flicked her blond friend on the tip of his noise.  The two of them giggled nervously, but Tohma quickly sobered his attitude.

"If Ryuichi had any idea what we were planning to do tonight, he would..."

"He'd grab his pink bunny friend and join us in a heartbeat," Noriko answered without thinking about it for more than a moment.  Tohma shrugged, deciding not to argue; being the only female in Nittle Grasper, Noriko had a tendency to believe she knew more about the other two than they did themselves.  Their manager, whom Noriko justly despised, called it the 'mother hen' factor.  Tohma and Ryuichi privately called it 'Noriko's way of trying to be a goddess'.

After a moment, Noriko pulled something out of the bag laying at her feet and handed it to Tohma.  It was a long, thin strip of metal with a bent notch on the end.  Tohma examined it carefully, circling it in his hands.

"What is this?" he asked, already certain that he already knew the answer and seriously wanting to be wrong.

"A crowbar."

He stared at the metal instrument, his suspicions confirmed, and then at her.  "How did you…?  No, why do you have a crowbar, Noriko?"

She shrugged.  "It's a handy thing to keep in the tool-kit, along with a tire pump, a nail file, and a mallet.  You really should look into getting one of your own, Tohma."

"I'd rather be a touch more civilized about it all," he said reluctantly.

She shot him a disdainful look.  "What would you rather use, then?"

He considered the question carefully before answering.  "Rocks," he said finally.  "They can not only be used to open windows and weapons, but they are also very handy table decorations.  All you need to do is add a few sprigs of leaves and flowers and voila!  You have an ornament suitable for any home."

The two of them exchanged looks and then erupted into nervous giggling yet again.  The giggling turned into laugher but Tohma quickly lapsed into silence, indicating for her to do the same.

"We're going to wake up Ryuichi," he warned.

"Mm," she agreed, digging through her bag again.  "Tell me one more time why we aren't taking him along with us?  He could be a big help, you know."

"He could also be a big drawback.  He would probably make too much noise and we would end up waking up the old bastard inside the house.  I don't want to wake him up."

Noriko snorted.  "Or any of his precious children, hm?"

Tohma flushed slightly.  "Well, I only want to wake up one of his children..."

Noriko smiled.  "Well, you came to the right violet-haired vixen," she said with a toss of her hair.  She had just re-dyed it that afternoon, so the purple stood out.  "I bet we can get out of this stupid hotel, to the old bastard's place, and back here without making our favorite asshole manager and his team of burly bodyguards even the slightest bit suspicious.  Kyoto lays waiting just outside our window, my friend."

"In that case," Tohma suggested, "we should be on our way."

"Agreed."  Noriko smiled and opened the door for him.  "After you, Tohma Seguchi.  Let your awful twenty-year-old boy hormones lead the way.  I swear, you're worse than my last boyfriend, and he was as horny as a rabbit on Viagra."

The analogy made Tohma smile.  "If you say so, Noriko."

---

It took a few minutes to get out of the hotel without alerting anyone to their brilliant escape.  After they were a safe distance away from the hotel, Noriko hailed a taxicab, commanding the driver to take them to the street address she handed him on a slip of paper.  Tohma could only wonder how she had gotten a hold of the address.  The driver nodded and did as he was told, only looking back at them once the ride was over.  The vehicle had stopped at the end of a very long driveway; peering into the darkness, Tohma couldn't even see the house from where they were parked.  That was good; that meant the occupants of the house couldn't see them, either.

"That's 15000 yen," the driver said brusquely.  Noriko looked over at Tohma.

"Care to do the honors?"

He stared at the girl.  "I didn't bring any money," he hissed.  "I thought you did!"  Noriko scowled at him, silently scolding his lack of sense.  This was his scheme, after all.  She was only the accomplice and couldn't be expected to trifle with such things.

"Tohma, I'm going to skin you alive when we get back to Tokyo," she vowed.

"Sorry, Noriko."  Tohma sighed and leaned forward to speak to the driver.  "Gomen nasai, sir, but we don't have any money on us right now.  We'll be more than happy to pay you later on if you'll just wait here..."

The man wasn't listening to him, opting instead to stare at Noriko's purple hair and at Tohma's black hat, which went with him everywhere these days.  Tohma tried again.

"Sir?"

"You two are from Nittle Grasper," the driver said, clearly excited.  "I know who you are!  I've got three kids--two boys and a girl--and they're all obsessed with your group.  My oldest boy is really into you, Miss," he said, directing the last statement at Noriko, who smiled widely.

"I don't blame him.  Who can resist my womanly charms?" she asked, winking as though to prove she was joking.  Tohma wasn't entirely sure that she was, despite that.

"Not my son," the driver agreed.  "Hell, I can't charge you two for this.  If you agree to sign some autographs for my kids, though, I'd really appreciate it a whole lot."

"Maybe we should have brought Ryuichi along after all," Tohma murmured.  Noriko nodded her head thoughtfully.

"I can do one better than that," she declared.  "We've got a concert here in Kyoto tomorrow night; how does six tickets for your kids and some of their friends sound?  I'll even throw in some back-stage passes if you want.  All you'd have to do is wait here and then drive us back to the hotel where you picked us up.  Is that okay?"

"Sure," the man said gleefully.  "My kids are going to think their birthday's came early!"

"Neat."  Noriko pulled some paper slips--tickets, Tohma realized--out of her pocket, snatching a pen off of the floor.  She signed the back of the tickets and handed them to the driver.  "Just have your kids show the signature to the guards who hang around the back-stage gate and they'll get in with no trouble."

"Thanks, Miss!" the driver exclaimed, accepting the tickets eagerly.  Tohma smiled wryly but didn't comment.  "You two go on; I'll wait here for as long as you want me to!"

"Thank you," Noriko said demurely, yanking on Tohma's arm as she climbed out of the taxicab.  "We won't be too long."  Shutting the door quietly, she started to lead Tohma down the dark driveway, determined not to waste too much time.  Tohma took a moment to gape at her.

"You carry around extra concert tickets but you don't carry any money?"

Noriko shrugged, smiling.  "Money gets in the way.  The tickets are part of that handy tool-kit I was telling you about earlier; I never leave home without them."  She clapped him on the back.  "That will teach you to leave your home--or hotel--unprepared!"

---

Once they reached the house, it only took a quick jerk of the crowbar and a few of Noriko's hairpins to open one of the side windows.  Tohma was surprised with the simplicity of it all; Noriko, who had expected a bigger challenge, seemed disappointed.

"You're sure this room is empty?" she asked.

"Yes.  I'll only be a few minutes, Noriko.  You can head back to the taxi if you like; I'll catch up."

"Nah, I'll hang around for a few minutes in case something goes wrong and you need help."  She knelt on the ground, cupping her hands to help boost him up to and through the window.  Tohma accepted her help and was inside within moments.

"Thank you, Noriko.  I'll see you later," he whispered once he brushed himself off and had a look around.

Her reply was muffled and Tohma couldn't quite make it out, so he shrugged and went on with his business, opening the door of the empty room and heading down the hallway.  Once he found the door he was looking for, Tohma knocked softly.  After a moment, a young woman opened the door.  She started in surprise.

"Seguchi-san!" she whispered loudly, stunned.  Tohma hushed her and she quickly let him inside the room, shutting the door behind them.

"Hello, Mika.  I was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by and see you.  You don't mind at all, do you?" he asked politely.

Mika frowned.  "Do you always have to be such a smooth talker?  How did you get in here?  You know as well as I do that my father would do worse than castrate you if he had any idea you were on our property."

"I know.  I had help," Tohma admitted.  "Mika, I'm tired of all of this.  Why do we have to hide it from your family?"

"Because my father despises you, my youngest brother--who has not even hit puberty yet--wants to get into the pants of your group's singer, and my other brother is terrified of you when he used to worship the ground you walked on," she told him simply.  Spitefully, even.  Tohma already knew this, though; he nodded.

"Well, then what do you plan on doing about it?" he asked.  "If I don't get an answer soon, Mika, I'll have to withdraw my proposal."

Mika looked away.  "Would that be such a terrible thing?"

Tohma could only shrug.  He had proposed marriage to the Uesegi daughter nearly three months before and had not received an answer, although she had implied several times that she was interested.  Having gone without a reply for so long, Tohma was growing increasingly impatient.  He had offered marriage to her because it was the appropriate thing to do; they had mutual respect for one another and both had enough titles and status to ensure the union would be profitable on both sides.  She wanted to get out of her house and away from her family; he wanted a wife who could act independently while he was away with the band but who could be loving and compassionate when he was home.  He wanted someone to take care of his affairs.  Tohma would even venture so far as to say that he cared for her, although he was too practical to let that affect him.  If Mika forced him to withdraw his proposal, it was really no loss to him.  With some effort, he could probably find another girl to accept.

"When I was a little girl," Mika told him, "I used to dream that a white knight on a golden steed would come and take me away to his castle in the sunset.  Then he would profess his undying love for me and we would live happily ever after."

Tohma shrugged.  "All I can offer you is a famous musician and businessman without a horse or a castle to present to you.  But he does care for you and your family.  And, Mika, remember that I did ask.  You may not get a better offer."

She considered him carefully, knowing that he spoke out of truth and not arrogance.  "Why did you offer, Seguchi-san?"

"It was the right thing to do," he said simply.  "After what I put your brother through in New York, I would like to apologize to him.  I'm sorry for the pain I've caused your family and the pain I've caused for you.  I offered because it would be sensible; we would both profit from it."

Mika was quiet.  "My brother threatened to run away again.  He's threatened such things many times before, of course, and he's actually done it a few times, but this time I think he means to do it for good.  He's gotten to be cold and cruel since he went to New York..." She looked at him imploringly.  "Do you think he'll ever be the sweet and adorable boy he used to be?"

"If you marry me, I'll do everything within my power to make it so.  Just say yes this one time and I can get you out of here by next week.  It's the only thing I can offer you, Mika."

She was quiet, looking at anything but him.

"Mika..."

"Yes.  I'll marry you, Seguchi-san.  As soon as possible.  Tonight, if you want me to.  But get me out of this place; it's killing me.  And try to make my brother forgive and forget; that's killing him just as quickly."

Tohma shook his head.  "Not tonight, but I'm glad.  Can you be ready in two days?  I can come for you at night and you can come to Tokyo with Nittle Grasper, on the tour bus.  Noriko will welcome the female companionship; I think that Ryuichi and I get on her nerves.  We'll be married in Tokyo."

"I'll be ready, Seguchi-san."

Tohma smiled.  "Please call me Tohma, Mika."

"All right."

"Thank you."  He smiled again, kissing her chastely on the mouth.  "I'll be back in two nights.  Until then, Mika."

She nodded.  "Until then."

---

The ride back to the hotel was full of the cabdriver's talk about his kids and how excited they would be to go to the concert.  Noriko and Tohma listened indulgently, willing to tolerate it in exchange for a free ride, but both were grateful to be out of the taxi and back at the hotel.  Noriko leaned against Tohma's arm.

"So how did it go?  Did you seduce the princess with your white armor and your golden steed?"

Tohma shot her an accusatory look.  "You were listening."

Giggling, Noriko, nodded.  "I sure was.  She's one piece of work; I think I'm going to like her.  But what happened to her brother in New York?"

"That's none of your business, Noriko."

"Aw..." She laughed and then prodded him in the ribs.  "Why do you look so dreary?  You should be happy!  You're getting married, after all."

Tohma frowned.  "I'm not sure Mika did the right thing by saying yes."

Noriko rolled her eyes.  "You are such a glass-half-empty sort of guy," she chided.  "Lighten up."

"You've said that before," Tohma said thoughtfully.  "What about you, then?  Is your glass half full or half empty, Noriko?"

"My glass?" Noriko repeated, smiling.  "Beats me.  I think I drank it all up a few years ago, but I keep on getting refills.  Which is absolutely fine with me so long as I don't have to pay the tab."

Tohma laughed in spite of himself.  "Fair enough."  He sighed as the elevator stopped at the top floor, the penthouse, which the members of Nittle Grasper were staying in while they were in Kyoto.  "I wish I knew what the results of tonight's little adventure will be," he said wistfully.

Noriko smirked.  "I wouldn't worry about it too much if I were you."

"Why not?" Tohma inquired, curiosity getting the better of him at last.

"Because," she pointed out, "the consequences of failure would be much, much worse."

Tohma silently agreed.

---owari---