Title: Slow Drag
Author: Hawk Clowd
Disclaimer: Gravitation belongs to Maki Murakami. The song, "Slow Drag", belongs to Fastball and is copyright 1998. It's a great song. Really, the whole CD--"All The Pain Money Can Buy"--is fantastic. And it's filled with lots of songs that, in my opinion, make for good Gravitation songfics.
Blood Type: Chamomile tea. Because chamomile can do anything.
Warnings: Songfic. The rest are fairly obvious ones--namely, four letter words, shonen ai, etcetera. There are some flashback scenes. Well, one, really, but it lasts for a while. Honestly, it's the story itself. Whatever.
Author's Notes: This story is dedicated to and written for Joan, who introduced me to Fastball, came up with the basic idea for the story, and then coddled me when I lost all my work due to a computer glitch. You rock, Joan.
slow drag off a cigaretteYuki Eiri woke with a start, his pulse racing and his entire body covered in a cold, clammy sheen of sweat. He took a few moments to gather his bearings and muster up some semblance of calm. A nightmare. That's what it must have been. Eiri couldn't remember it at all, nor could he remember the last time he had actually had a nightmare, but really, what else could it have been?
As his pulse slowed and the sweat dried on his body, Eiri fervently wished he could make himself get out of bed and change clothes, perhaps take a quick bath... Anything to make him feel more like a person. But it was two-something in the morning and getting out of bed for such a trivial task was a touch ridiculous. He settled back into bed to go back to sleep... but a sliver of moonlight filtered into the room through the window and got into his eyes. Well. That certainly wouldn't do.
slow drag and i'm lying in my bed
He had closed those curtains
before going to bed, hadn't he? Normally Eiri was very careful about such
things; he always shut the curtains and locked the doors before he retired for
the night. Yes, he occasionally forgot to do these things, and oftentimes
he would spend the next morning trying to get rid of some member of his family
or another; they all took open curtains for an invitation to come inside.
It drove Eiri crazy.
The window was right over Eiri's bed, so the writer sat up, turned around, started to close the curtains... and stopped.
Sometime between the point when Eiri had gone to bed and when he had woken up, snow had fallen, blanketing Tokyo in an... unusual white covering. The moonlight reflected off of the stuff and gleamed. The streetlights made the silver glow even brighter. It reminded Eiri of...
No, not that. Eiri reached to his nightstand and grabbed his cigarettes. He lit one with a steady hand and mused, moving the ashtray that normally sat on his nightstand to the windowsill.
all the world is sleeping like a baby tonightEiri had started smoking at an early age, although, at the time, his cigarettes had been few and far between. He must have spent two years, perhaps a little less, snitching cigarettes from his father and his sister before the two of them just started giving him boxes of cigarettes. Really, they hadn't seemed to mind his stealing their cigarettes; it was probably the most interaction they ever had with him. Giving him cigarettes, though, that was different; it made him feel as though he owed them--something both his father and Mika used against him later on.
At nineteen, Eiri had established himself as an expert chain smoker. It had been something to do to numb his thoughts in the quiet times.
The quiet times...
i wanna lay you down in the ground
That's how it had started out,
anyway. As something to keep him from thinking. It was better then
pills, at least. But then it had started to become 'something to do with
his hands'. Then it had been something to help him think. Something
to help ebb his appetite. Something to help his reputation... A
vice, to help him remember who he was...
That's what the habit was now, Eiri thought. Maybe.
He stared out his window, watching the patterns the lights made on the snow. It was different now, of course. After all, it hadn't been snowing then.
Sixteen year-old Uesugi Eiri
sat up in his hospital bed and watched the scene outside. It looked
almost peaceful out there, and that bothered the teenager just a little.
He had always liked New York City because it was so... so noisy, alive.
There were always horns honking and people shouting and tires squealing as they
raced away to get from point A to point B. New York never had a quiet moment,
but right now...
The room was probably sound proofed or something, just a little, because even at the busiest hours of the day, Eiri could only barely hear the world outside his hospital room. Even then he had to strain to hear it all. The quiet reminded him far too much of his home in Kyoto, but for the beeping.
Ah, right. The beepings. At last count, Eiri had heard six different tones of beeping in the room with him. That meant, he thought, that he was currently hooked up to six different machines--maybe more, although he hoped not. The beeping never stopped. Eiri had spent a good while trying to figure out how to at least control the beeps--maybe play a song with them--but had failed.
That seemed to be a running theme for him lately.
slow drag and i can't get up now
The door to the room opened and
Eiri tensed. It slammed shut, a result of the magnets meant to hold the
door shut and the push the intruder gave it when he entered. Eiri jumped
just slightly, which made a machine beep a little faster and then slow again,
before he turned to face the man who dared to disturb his boredom.
"It's long past visiting hours, isn't it, Mister Seguchi?" Eiri questioned in his almost-perfect English.
Tohma winced. "You may still call me Tohma, Eiri. Nothing has changed between us, has it?" Tohma also spoke in the local vernacular, but his words were heavily accented. The older man had learned English late in life; as a result, his words seemed much more forced than Eiri's. Imperfect. Flawed.
"Isn't it past visiting hours, Mister Seguchi?" Eiri asked again, his gaze level as he watched Tohma step forward and pull up a chair next to the bed.
"It is," Tohma agreed at last. "But the administration here was kind enough to let me in once I had explained the situation to them in full. They were more than happy to show me in."
Of course they were, Eiri thought resignedly. Tohma was used to getting his own way, after all, and if he wanted to visit his young... what? Hostage came close, but the connotation was too negative for Eiri's tastes. Ward, maybe. Anyway, if he wanted to come in and see Eiri, who were they to stand in his way?
"Anyway, is wanting to see
you so wrong?" Tohma asked. Eiri could tell that Tohma would not
appreciate it if Eiri shared his opinion on that one, so the boy stayed
quiet. "I'm worried about you, Eiri. You've been here for two
weeks already and you still aren't acting at all like yourself. The last
time I saw you smile was quite some time ago."
Eiri didn't say a word.
Tohma sighed. "Why won't you smile, Eiri?"
The teenager considered staying quiet for a while longer, or at least lying to the man who, for all intents and purposes, was his guardian, but Eiri had never been much of a liar before and he didn't plan to start, even now. And Tohma... he wouldn't allow Eiri to stay quiet for too long. So the boy sighed.
"It hurts to smile," he answered, as honestly as he could. He wondered, for a brief moment, if his room was several stories up or no. If it was higher up, how hard would it be to open the window without setting off any of the machines attached to him? And could he get out on that ledge without anyone noticing? Could he--
No. Bad thoughts. Bad, bad thoughts.
Eiri's head began to ache.
you've been messing with my mind
"It hurts you to
smile?" Tohma repeated. A concerned look passed over his face and
settled somewhere behind his eyes. "Your doctor didn't say a thing
about your face being hurt. Does he know?" Tohma leaned forward,
turning Eiri's head this way and that, examining the boy. "I don't
see any bruises or cuts..."
Eiri pulled out of Tohma's grasp; one of the machines beeped and the beep was shriller than any of the other beeps Eiri had heard so far. He looked at the wires and tubes in his arms suspiciously and then glared at the row of machines by his bed. Seven machines, then? That shrill beep hadn't been familiar at all; it had to be a new one. Damn it.
"It isn't that sort of hurt," Eiri informed Tohma coldly. His hand drifted of its own accord upward, toward his chest, and it got about halfway there before Eiri noticed the movement. He glared at the hand and it hovered for a moment in the air, trying to decide what to do, before it dropped back to his side. Eiri was going to have problems with that hand in the future, no doubt about it. Maybe if he took a very sharp knife and cut--NO. Bad thoughts.
and all the world is sleeping like a baby tonight
Tohma waited for Eiri to
continue talking, but, when the boy showed no signs of continuing his last
voiced thought, Tohma took it in stride. "Eiri, I obviously have no
idea just how terrible an experience this was for you, but I would like to
think that I could be here to help you make your way through this."
He reached across to take Eiri's hand but the boy moved out of his reach.
Tohma remained in that awkward position for a moment before he settled back
into his chair soon after. As he moved, Eiri sniffed and caught a smell.
Eiri furrowed his brow. Tohma smelled of cigarette smoke, but, to Eiri's knowledge, Tohma didn't smoke. Odd.
Apparently having noticed the slightly confused expression on Eiri's face, Tohma offered the boy a smile. "Your sister arrived about an hour ago," he said, as though that explained everything.
i wanna see you dead, laying in the muddy ground
Mika was here? Eiri
cringed. He had been living in New York since his twelfth birthday and
had seen his sister only once since then, at their mother's funeral almost
three years ago. They had exchanged a letter or two here and there and,
every once in a while--really, around twice a year--they spoke on the phone,
for about five or ten minutes at a time. Even if they had been close
once, they were not now. How could they have been?
"What is she doing here?" Eiri asked finally. How did she get the money? Eiri added silently. Is she alone? And why do you smell like smoke because of her? There was no way Mika was old enough to smoke. He did some quick mental math. Mika would be... Twenty now? No, twenty-one. She had just had a birthday. Damn.
"I would think that would be... what's the word? Obvious. That's it." Tohma smiled. "When she heard you were ill, she made plans to come and see you, of course. I helped where I could, but..."
"I'm not ill," Eiri interrupted. His voice was dull.
"Yes, I know," Tohma conceded. He shifted just slightly. "Should I let your sister in?"
"I don't want to see anyone," Eiri replied softly, lying down on his bed. He was getting to be fatigued rather suddenly.
"Mika is very determined," Tohma pointed out. "You may not get a choice in the matter." The blond man settled back in his chair. "I'll be sure to tell her of your wishes at the next available opportunity, however."
Eiri frowned, his gaze settling on Tohma for hardly a moment. "I don't want to see anyone," he repeated. He wanted Tohma to go away--he wanted the world to go away. Then he could sleep... except he wasn't particularly interested in sleeping. He wanted to find his tutor's room. Find Kitazawa and... And what? Let him finish the job? Shoot him a second--no, a third--time? No. Bad.
Eiri's headache got worse.
you're nothing to me, you're nothing to me
Tohma was talking again and he
looked, at first, to be rather sad, then angry, but Eiri tuned him out,
concentrating on trying to will his headache away. His shoulder hurt,
too, but at least he knew what all that was about--he had pulled a
muscle trying to... Well, it was easy to fix, at least. All he had
to do was call for a nurse and request more painkillers. He hoped he
would get Joyce as his nurse; she was his favorite of the lot. She was
pretty, if a little older than most of the other nurses, and she always took
the time to explain things to him. She had told him what each of the
medicines he was offered could do and what they were for. The two green
tablets were to assuage his temporary anemia. The blue tablet was to help
him sleep. The big, red pills were painkillers, mostly for his
shoulder. The big white and pink capsules...
Well, Eiri was still refusing to take those. Joyce called them stabilizers, but she hadn't been able to go into much detail when she tried telling him what they were supposed to do. She had just said that he needed to take them if his mind ever started to... Well, haze.
They probably tasted like cotton anyway.
you're nothing to me no more
"Eiri, are you listening to me?"
Eiri shrugged his shoulders in response. Why was Tohma still there? It was after visiting hours--Eiri had been told that they ended not too long after twilight and already it had been dark for several hours now. Granted, Tohma was a master at getting his way, but even this was...
"You're not listening to me, are you?" Tohma asked again.
"Very well. In that case, I will take your lack of interest as consent and go on with things as planned. That's all right, isn't it?" Tohma noted the expression of utter horror on Eiri's face and laughed. "It's nothing terrible, Eiri, I promise you."
"What are you going to do?" Eiri asked, curiosity overcoming his innate sense of dread. He quelled it quickly. No. Caring was bad; caring only brought about--
Eiri's headache doubled in intensity. He tried his best to ignore it, but one of the machines--the elusive seventh machine, perhaps--began to beep quickly.
Tohma didn't seem to notice, as he went on. "Would you like to get out of here, Eiri?"
nothing to me, nothing to me
That was certainly a stupid question; of course he didn't want to leave. Here in the hospital, Eiri didn't have to deal with... well, with much of anything. The nurses gave him pills when he needed them. The doctors, in exchange for a few sufferable indignities, made sure he stayed well and healthy. He didn't have to see anyone much if he didn't want to. There were no major decisions to make. No one here could hurt him--and he couldn't hurt anyone else, in return. If he had only had a little more to do here, Eiri would have liked to stay indefinitely... But that wasn't the answer Tohma was looking for. Eiri knew that.
And so the teenager shrugged his shoulders in response. "I don't know."
"Of course you want to leave," Tohma replied, waving his young ward's indecision away. "And that's good; I've spoken to the staff here and arranged it all. Many of them wanted you to stay here for a while longer, yes, but I convinced them that you would be much better off if you were allowed to recover at home."
At home? Eiri wondered. And where, exactly, was that? He had a room here, in America--his school had arranged it so that he could stay in a local college dormitory and commute to high school each day via the bus--but he didn't want to go back there. Tohma's house? Is that what the man meant? Eiri liked it there, yes, but he wasn't sure he would really want to go there just yet, while he was still vulnerable. Eiri had once counted his tutor's old apartment as home, but now... Well, Eiri was positive that Tohma was not referring to that place.
Thinking for a moment longer, Eiri jerked back up into a sitting position, alarmed. "They're not going to make me go back to Japan, are they? I won't go! I won't!" This was probably the largest display of emotion Eiri had made since he had first been ushered into the hospital. Tohma's uneasy look only made it worse.
nothing to me no more
Eiri could hear several machines beeping faster--and that frightened him a little, heightening the energy and the anxious feelings behind his tantrum. He was almost relieved to see a tall woman burst through the doors towards his bed. Joyce. Joyce was here. That was good; Eiri's vision was beginning to grow fuzzy at the edges and blur. The lights seemed brighter. And was the room getting warmer? That's almost what it felt like, but--
The world exploded in a sea of white.
When the colors began to fade back into view--slowly, at first, and then more rapidly--Eiri was no longer in his hospital room. He was sitting on a red plastic chair in what looked like the hospital cafeteria, fully clothed... and Tohma was nowhere in sight. Eiri looked around. How had he gotten here?
A brunette woman stepped into his line of vision, standing with her hands on her hips and her lips pursed. "I don't understand you, Eiri," she told him in Japanese. "I'm so concerned that I fly all the way out to America and then you refuse to talk to me! Don't you care at all about--"
"Let's be fair, Mika-san," Tohma interrupted carefully, coming up behind the woman and standing at her elbow. He was speaking in flawless Japanese now; it took Eiri's brain a moment to adjust to the language shift. "Eiri-kun hasn't spoken to anyone since last night. He's been through a great deal, however, so some oddities in his behavior must be--"
The woman--Mika. Eiri's sister?--scowled, leaning over Eiri and hugging the boy around his neck. She cut Tohma off quickly. "He's my brother. I'll--"
"Don't touch me," Eiri growled, in English still. All of a sudden his voice sounded very cold, and he rather liked it. He translated the statement into Japanese, more because he wanted to hear the sound than he wanted Mika to understand him. It was much less impressive in his native tongue. Disappointing. "Just don't touch me."
and all the world is sleeping like a baby tonight
Both Tohma and Mika looked surprised at the words and they drew back. Eiri simply glared at them. He didn't like this; he couldn't remember what he had done since his tantrum... the night before? That meant Eiri was missing several hours from his memory. That frightened him; but it would frighten anyone, he reasoned, so he didn't have to be ashamed of that fear. He was glad the beeping gone now to give his alarm away.
"Eiri..." Mika began, but the teenager interrupted her.
"Why am I out here?" he demanded. "I don't want to go anywhere."
A look of concern touched Tohma's face in the form of one of those smiles. "Eiri-san, you said you wanted to leave here."
No, Tohma had said that. Hadn't he? Eiri couldn't remember. "I want to see Kitazawa," he demanded in English. Mika obviously did not understand, although she did, perhaps, recognize Kitazawa's name; she flinched at the sound.
"You can't," Tohma countered, his concerned smile turning into a frown. "I told you this morning that Kitazawa was officially declared dead last night. He never came out of his coma."
i wanna see you dead, laying in the muddy ground
A cold sweat broke on Eiri's
brow as a much-dreaded certainty slipped over him. He opened his mouth to
speak and then shut it again. If Kitazawa was dead at last, that meant
that Eiri... He had...
"I killed him," Eiri whispered hoarsely.
Mika, whose English skills were obviously inferior, looked to Tohma for a translation. She was not given one, however, as Tohma was too busy trying to reassure the boy that it was not his fault. Eiri would have preferred it if his guardian had done those, at least, the other way around; he wished Tohma would just leave him alone.
"Eiri... It was self-defense," Tohma tried to assure him, but the man's reasoning fell on deaf ears. Uesugi Eiri, age sixteen... was a murderer. Nothing Tohma could say or do would change anything about that.
"I want to see him," Eiri said again after a long, tense moment. He said it in Japanese so that even his sister could not misunderstand him. He had the bad feeling that he would be speaking in his native tongue more and more frequently as the days went on, rather than the English he preferred.
Tohma hesitated, then looked to Mika. She, in turn, looked to him. Then the man nodded. "All right," he said at last. "We'll go see him."
you're nothing to me, you're nothing to me
A few hours passed before the
three of them could do anything. Tohma spent much of it ushering Eiri
through the hospital's release process, whispering encouragement to the
teenager as he was given instructions and passed bottles of pills. Mika
was on the phone for a great deal of time, conversing in rapid Japanese to
someone who was apparently quite angry with her. Her box of cigarettes
was always at hand, lending credence to Tohma's earlier reasons for smelling of
smoke. Mika didn't smell of cigarette smoke, though, as Eiri had noted
earlier. She smelled of strong, cheap perfume.
Eiri almost preferred the cigarette smell. Almost.
In any case, there was a long span of time between the point where Tohma agreed to let Eiri see the body of his old tutor and the time that the three actually left the hospital. Tohma called a taxi to take them to the funeral home, and when Mika began to smoke inside the taxi, the driver complained. Although his sister did not know the words, she got the gist of the complaint easily and told him to fuck off. At that moment, Eiri almost admired her.
nothing to me no moreThe taxi ride was an unusual one. Eiri was jumpy and overly alert, jumping at nearly every car horn or every angry shout from outside the cab. When a window-washer came up to squeegee the windows, Eiri nearly bolted out of his skin. Even when he was not acting anxious, his hands would twitch or his muscles would tense. Mika, who was in the backseat with him, must have noticed and grew irritated with the boy. She eventually pulled out her cigarettes and handed one to Eiri.
"Here. It'll calm you down," she murmured. "You're like some sort of ferret."
Eiri hesitated, then took the offering. Mika lit it for him.
Tohma swiveled in his place in the front seat. "Mika-san!" he protested. "You can't give--"
"You be quiet," Mika interrupted. "He's my brother, and I'll decide if I'm screwing him up or not, you got that?"
"Aa... Yes," Tohma said eventually, unable to argue with the woman. He turned and kept his mouth for the rest of the ride. The rest of the cab ride was silent but for Eiri's occasional cough and one satisfied chuckle from Mika as she stopped Tohma's only other attempt at protest with just a glare.
you're nothing to me
The funeral home was nearly
empty that day, except for one old couple, a young woman, and an older
gentleman who was holding a little boy by the hand. Eiri was almost
positive that he recognized the boy, although he couldn't place him right
away. When he did, though, he shrank back. The boy... That
was Kitazawa's little...
Suddenly Eiri felt like he had been dropped on an alien planet and stranded there, left to make his own way. Why was he here? Kitazawa... The man didn't need--or want, really--Eiri to pay the grave his respects. Who would want their murderer to visit them after death? Who would want the child they-- Eiri bit his lower lip until he tasted blood. He had to leave. He couldn't stay in this place one more second. And now... Eiri held his head in his hands. It was starting again...
Tohma as at his side almost immediately, handing Eiri a large, white and pink capsule. The stabilizer. "Take this," Tohma instructed. "You had one last night and now you're beginning to... get that look again."
Eiri took the pill and swallowed it dry without question. It tasted like cotton... but it did straighten his out just a little bit, almost immediately, and that was good.
They didn't stay for long. As soon as Eiri seemed willing, Tohma and Mika ushered him back into the taxi. As the cab raced away, Eiri broke down in tears. Never again, he resolved as he swiped at his cheeks. He would never ever let himself care for anyone like that... or let anyone care for him. Never again. He would be cold. He would be... anything he had to be in order to keep people from him.
Mika, obviously not sure what else to do, offered him another cigarette. Eiri took it and pocketed it.
"Yuki," he whispered between strangled sobs. "Yuki, Yuki, Yuki..."
ain't nothing to me no more
Twenty-three again and still staring out his window, Yuki Eiri tensed, startled by the voice, then settled back, turning around so that his back was to the window. "What is it?"
"You're not asleep? I'd have thought you'd have passed out or something long before now. Since you got your manuscript to Mizuki-san and all." The bedroom door creaked as Shuichi opened it and stepped inside the room, moving to stand by the bed. He had obviously just come inside; snow was still melting on his hair and on his skin. There was glitter on the singer's lips and touches of stage make-up still dotted his face. Shuichi must have been in a rush to get back after his concert.
"If you thought I was sleeping, why did you call out for me?" Eiri asked. "Idiot."
Shuichi flushed just slightly. "I thought I saw the light on," he explained. "I guess it was just a trick of the light or something, huh?"
"Do you want to hear about how the concert went?"
Eiri frowned just slightly. "No."
The singer didn't seem at all surprised or even taken aback. His lack of a reaction almost made Eiri feel guilty; once upon a time, Shuichi would have had a fit if Eiri had brushed him off like that, and now the younger man was just so used to it that he didn't seem at all bothered by such things.
Shuichi simply smiled and squeezed Eiri's hand very, very slightly. "All right. In that case, I'm going to go to bed." That said, he turned and started back toward the living room, where his pillow and blankets were neatly folded at the foot of the couch. He never seemed to mind sleeping on the couch anymore, so long as no one tried to throw him out of the apartment.
Eiri's memory flared again. His heart urged him to do... something--anything--to keep Shuichi from going away, to keep him from changing. To... Oh, fuck it.
nothing to me no more
The singer, standing at the door, twisted around to look back at Eiri, his eyes flashing in the moonlight. "What is it?"
Shuichi obeyed wordlessly, not even asking for a reason, and returned to stand next to the bed. He didn't protest when Eiri put his hands on the singer's hips and guided him so that he was sitting on the bed, next to the writer. Shuichi actually looked... concerned.
He was going to regret this, Eiri knew, but whatever. Sometimes the suffering was worth it in the long run. He lit another cigarette in preparation for what was to come; smoking that would either assuage his suffering or mean that his hands were busy and that he could not easily strangle Shuichi. Either way.
"Tell me about your concert."
Shuichi beamed; he didn't need to be told twice. "Do you really want to know?"
Eiri shrugged his response. No, not really. That was the answer. He was only asking because... because he didn't want the memory of Kitazawa to haunt him any longer. Eiri had changed so much of his life because of that man, and he was sick of it. It was time to force the late Kitazawa Yuki to loosen his hold and for Eiri to get on with his life. Yes. That's what Eiri would do--become his own person and begin thinking and feeling for himself, without worrying about who was going to hurt him or who he was going to hurt.
Well, maybe he would. Later.
As Shuichi rambled on about his concert--the lights, the fans, the music--Eiri felt himself drifting off again, but he smoked to keep himself awake. It almost worked, too, although Eiri's eyes slid shut on their own after a while. He heard Shuichi pause and chuckle, taking the still-lit cigarette out of Eiri's hand and then, after a moment, settling down next to Eiri.
There would be no more nightmares that night.