My deepest apologies to everyone who has been waiting for me to update this story or STLF. It has been a crazy, exhausting, beautiful, and heartbreaking five years since I last posted on . To those who were with me five years ago… thank you for waiting. To any new reviewers… welcome to my literary art. My writing style may have changed over the years… so forgive any lapses and I will try to get myself together. Thank you reviewers for inspiring me to get back on my literary horse! –xoxo Rei
Disclaimer: Gravitation is the property of Maki Murakami, however, this original fan fiction is the creative property of Reiannah.
Chapter VII: Safer in the Dark
Hiro-kun never liked me.
I knew that. I wasn't stupid. And to be honest, that feeling was mutual.
He was the best friend and confidant of my former lover. The one that Shuichi ran to when I turned him away. The one who listened to Shuichi's fears and doubts, held him while he cried, praised him when he excelled.
The one who did all the things for Shuichi that I never cared enough to do myself.
It was for all those reasons I hated Hiroshi.
In all reality, he was probably a decent guy. I mean, he had to be, otherwise why else would he have stuck with Shuichi as long as he had?
I guess it was just jealousy that made me loathe Shuichi's best friend.
Plus, that all-knowing smirk of his pissed me off every time I saw it. Like he could see right through me. As if he knew who or what I really was on the inside.
So I avoided him most of the time. Or at least as much as I possibly could without being obvious.
But at this moment, he was the only one I had access to that had the information I needed.
Information about Shuichi.
"What the hell is going on?"
Hiroshi narrowed his eyes at me. He clenched his jaws.
I shook him. Hard.
Then in a move so fast that it surprised me, he shoved me hard enough to push me back and make me stumble for balance.
"Listen… Yuki-san…" He spat the name out as though it was some vile poison. "You obviously didn't care all that much about his welfare five years ago. Don't you think it's a little too late to start caring now? What makes you think you have the right to be asking about Shuichi?"
I glared at him. He was right of course. I had no right to even be there. But that wasn't the point.
What was the point?
I shook my head slowly. It doesn't matter. I had to be here. I had to know.
"I have to know. Tell me..." I hesitated before adding one final word to my request. "… onegai."
Hiroshi looked at me for a moment. I don't know what he saw, but he seemed to change his mind. He lowered his eyes.
"Shuichi is… Shu is… he's sick. Very sick."
I froze. The world froze. Time stopped.
I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. This wasn't right. Shuichi was sick. And from the reaction of everyone who cared about him, it wasn't something so simple like a cold, overexertion, or ever something moderately serious like a broken bone or pneumonia.
No. This was bad.
"H-how bad is it? W-what is it?" I could hardly form the words and barely breathed them out above a whisper.
"It's… he's… he's messed up. Physically. And mentally. He's changed. He isn't the same Shuichi you knew." Hiroshi raised his eyes to meet mine. Something flashed in them for just a split second. Something that was a mixture of pain and desperation. Then it was gone, and there was only a cold accusation.
An accusation meant for me.
"It's your fault you know. You did this to him. He wouldn't be like this if it weren't for you."
I stared at him. I didn't understand.
Hiroshi closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. It seemed like an eternity before his reply came.
"Shuichi… he's hurting himself. Physically. And he's suffering… mentally. The doctors… they told us he's… barely hanging on. And now it's to the point that he's suffering from panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. He's a mess."
I took a step toward the guitarist with my hands clenched at my sides. For the first time in many years, I was scared.
"How? How is he… hurting himself? How is he suffering mentally?"
Hiroshi's shoulders slumped forward, as if a huge weight burdened them. His head hung with his hair falling in messy strands around his face. The voice that answered sounded hollow.
"He's cutting himself. He's gotten into some hardcore drinking, and some bad drugs. He's tried to commit suicide twice in the past five years. He's suffering from major depressive disorder and anxiety. Half the time he's punishing himself, and the other half he's trying to escape reality."
I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was being pulled further and further under water with each description that fell from Hiroshi's lips. I covered my face with my hands and turned my back to him. I couldn't look at him anymore. And I was sure he couldn't stand the sight of me either. I had thought I knew why had hated me so much. But now I realized that I deserved far worse that the angry and hateful glares from everyone who cared about Shuichi.
I struggled to catch my breath. Then I struggled to regain my composure. Without turning, I asked one last question.
"Will he… be okay?"
I heard Hiroshi sigh heavily behind me.
"We… don't know. We brought him back to Japan so he could be near his family and friends." The emphasis on 'family' and 'friends' clearly drove the unspoken message to me that Shuichi hadn't been brought here to see me. "Tohma has arranged several appointments for Shu with some specialists. He needs help. And he doesn't need any more stress in his life."
Translation: Stay the hell out of Shuichi's life because you're just going to make him worse.
Okay, I could take a hint. Even though I wanted to barrel past this asshole and any other person standing between me and Shuichi just to see his face… I got the message. And I knew Hiroshi was right. I wasn't wanted or needed here. In fact, I was the cause of all these problems; not the solution to them. I was in the way.
Without another word, I stuffed my hands into my coat and marched out of the room like a good little soldier. I kept walking down the halls, past the doors, and through the crowds. I ignored the stares of the people I passed and shut my ears to the murmurs around me.
And all the while, my chest seemed to squeeze my lungs to the point of impairing breathing.
I didn't stop until I reached my BMW, stepped inside, and turned on the engine.
Then I released all of my suppressed emotions with a stomp of the gas pedal.
The tires squealed as I raced as fast as I could from the only person I ever truly ever loved.
And whom I had damaged irreparably.
It's late by the time I get home.
I enter my familiar apartment, slam the door shut, and snap the deadbolt in place.
I survey my living room with narrowed eyes.
It was the typical home of a bachelor. Bare walls, simple furniture, and sparse décor. Not even curtains to shroud the window. No flowers in a vase on the coffee table. No pictures of family and loved ones.
It was a cold, empty room. Perfectly suited to a cold, empty novelist such as myself.
Once upon a time, the apartment used to be cluttered with frivolous things such as photographs of a time at Disneyland, bright pink lacy curtains, a fuzzy Nittle Grasper blanket over the couch, and Bad Luck CDs scattered across the coffee table.
Random Post-It notes could be found stuck to various items… a reminder not to smoke too much attached to a pack of cigarettes… a suggestion to try the strawberry cheesecakes from the new bakery across the street… and a cheerful "I love Yuki!" stuck to the front door.
Those days were gone now.
If I closed my eyes and thought long and hard enough, I could faintly remember the smell of strawberry shampoo drifting from the bathroom. I could almost make out the sound of my name on from lips.
I sighed heavily and trudged over to my answering machine, dropping my keys on the kitchen counter. A glance at my answering machine indicted two messages waiting for me.
The first was the standard reminder from Mizuki-san about my upcoming deadline. I deleted it halfway through her pleading and immediately put the reminder out of my mind.
The second was Tohma.
"Yuki… are you home yet?" A long pause. "I guess not. Even if you were, you probably wouldn't answer."
"I wanted to apologize. For my behavior. I shouldn't take this out on you. If isn't your fault." His voice was soft and sad. He really was sorry. He felt really bad. And he was back in protective-brother-mode.
"I don't want you to blame yourself. You aren't responsible for these events. I'll take care of this… but…"
"I would… appreciate it… if you kept your distance from… him. I think that would be best… for both of you." He clears his throat before continuing.
"I'm sorry that you got involved in this. I will take care of this. I promise."
The message ended with the sound of the phone hanging up.
Leaning over the counter, I chuckle bitterly to myself.
What a mess. What a fantastic fucking mess.
More than anything, I wanted to pretend that this night had never happened. I could return to my own delusion that Shuichi was fine somewhere far away from here and nothing could ever touch me.
I wanted to pretend that I didn't know that Shuichi was slowly killing himself.
I wanted to pretend that I didn't care.
But for once in my life, I had to face the music… as well as the message on the answering machine.
I knew the truth. And I did care.
I cared more than I have ever cared about anything or anyone else.
I wanted… needed… to do… something. Anything.
To make this better. To forget all of it.
I didn't know which.
And though it killed me to admit it… it was eating me up inside to know that the brother-in-law that once despised my ex-lover now seemed so intent on protecting him.
It didn't make sense. Why? Why did Tohma care about Shuichi so much? What made him change his mind?
In his message, he seemed as though he was torn between protecting me and protecting Shuichi. When I saw him, just for a moment, it seemed as though he wanted to protect Shuichi more. Even worse, he wanted to protect Shuichi from me.
Why the change of heart?
There was something I wasn't getting. Something I was missing.
Something so obvious; just not obvious to me.
So… what was it?
NG Corps- Tohma's Office:
Sitting at his desk, Tohma picked up the phone, hesitated, then put it back down.
This indecisiveness was unnatural to him. It was out of character… a strange, unsettling feeling.
It was almost worse than the feeling of horror that occurred upon seeing Eiri at the concert. Almost worse than the knowledge that he was hiding something from his beloved little brother-in-law.
It was strange to be in such a position as he was in now.
Wasn't he the responsible one? The one that admonished others for risking their futures for things so insubstantial and fleeting?
The one that ensured that problems like this never occurred? And if they did, took care of them without a single doubt or apology?
The one with the simple, straightforward life? The one that privately handled everyone else's dirty laundry, but never had any of his own?
Well, he used to be.
Not so much anymore.
A soft knock at the door roused Tohma from his guilt-laden thoughts. He raised his eyes to meet the eyes of his wife.
"Mika…" He felt his face form a half-hearted grin. Mika smiled back sadly, and slowly approached him.
"Tohma." She touched his face gently, then ran her fingers through his blond hair. She continued to stroke his head in a gesture that was more motherly than wife-like.
"I called Eiri and left him a message."
"This is all my fault, isn't it?" Tohma sighed and leaned back to peer up at his wife. His eyes begged for her to blame him, to absolve him, to save him.
She shook her head.
"Iie… everyone played their part, even me."
"Gomen… gomen nasai." His voice choked as he whispered the words. Mika again shook her head, then touched his lips with a single finger to silence him.
"Shhh… don't apologize." She leaned forward and rested her chin atop of his head.
"You know… you know I love you, ne?"
"Mmm… hai, I know. That's why I'm still here."
So what is Tohma's deep dark secret? Any guesses?
Well, I am shocked that I was able to get this done as quickly as I did. I will try to update more frequently than I have been (every 5 yrs). Please leave a review and let me know what you think… arigato minna!