Part four: Bet you've been wondering why this qualified as a CCS adventure. Finally...it justifies its inclusion! We have snow. We have fluff. We have cuddles...what more can you ask?

FF drives me nuts. What's it done to all my scene spacers...in all my old stories! ARGH!

Big news! My cover is done, the edits are done and the free sample is up. My vamp book is finally going to see publication! (Snoopy dance!)

This is a work of fanfiction based on Gravitation by Maki Murakami. Any similar between it and any future work by her is purely coincidental. (Duh.) 2M owns all the rights to stories and characters, I'm just thankful she lets us play with them.

Snow Fort: Part Four

Home Again

by Vindaloo

"Gomen. The magnificent Shindou-san cannot come to the phone. The snow awaits his shovel. A message left might be answered... after the spring thaws."

"Shu? Shu, please pick up the phone."

Dammit, Yuki Eiri did not beg. But somehow, he needed, needed to hear the brat's voice. That parting exchange with Jesse had shaken him. Badly.

"C'mon, Shu. You said to read, to listen. I'll do that. All the way home, but I need to talk to you, now. It's important."

So his writing had changed? He supposed it had. He rarely killed off a major player these days, let alone his primary protagonist. Some endings were almost happy. But dying wasn't as attractive an answer as it had been in the years Before Shuuichi. Shu had given him... hope. A lust for life beyond sex and booze and tobacco. He needed to tell the brat he understood that now. Had to tell Shu what had happened between him and Jesse.

He really felt Shu deserved to know that, and wouldn't rest until he'd told him, but he couldn't say it in an email or to the damned answering machine!

"Shu... Call me back. No matter what time you get this. Wake me up. It's okay."

He set the phone down, opened his computer and brought up his newest manuscript. Found his "Shu-chan" music folder and set it to play in the background.

He didn't get beyond the first few paragraphs, before he was lost... in, of all things, Shu's lyrics.

###

Show blanketed Japan.

He'd never seen anything like it. The whole place, even the skyscrapers, seemed buried in the white drifts.

Eiri put his computer away as the stews came down the aisle in a final prep for landing, and stared out the window in awe.

He'd had no idea. There'd been nothing on the American news about what had to be a record snowfall. And that blanket raised a new concern over Shu's continued silence. The answering machine had worked, so he must have power. Surely he had power. But their home was, in it's own way, out a private road on a steep hillside, quite isolated.

The snow shovel awaits...

He'd left that damned note. Could Shuuichi really be out shoveling this shit? What if he'd been hurt? Outside. Alone. Unable to call for help.

God...

The instant the hatch opened, he was out and running toward the terminal, cell phone in hand, the speed dial tones pinging in his ear.

"Gomen. The magnifi—"

Dammit. He punched the bypass key and the leave message ping sounded. "Dammit, Shu, pick up the phone! I'm home. I'm at the airport. I see the snow. Are you fucking all right? What the hell has been going on? Dammit, I don't care how mad you are at me, pick up the damn phone!"

Nothing. Not a fucking thing.

"Shu, I'm coming. Dammit, I'm on my way. I understand, Shu. I do understand."

He called for a cab, gave him the address and got a "Sorry. That area is out of reach at this time."

Screw that. He called his brother-in-law, who was delighted to hear from him, shared none of his concerns about Shu and advised him to stay in town until the roads could be cleared.

Fuck that. He called Nakano, Shu's best friend and co-musician. He had a motorcycle. Maybe he'd lend it to him.

"Wow, Yuki-san." Hiro, at least, understood his concern. "You're welcome to try, but you can't get within two miles of the place. But don't worry too much. I talked to Shu yesterday and he seemed fine. I really think—"

"I've got to get there."

A short pause, then. "Important, is it?"

How much had Shu told him? Nakano was his best friend. Had been since they were kids.

"Yes."

Another pause. Then: "Let me call my parents. They've got a Subaru. Better chance of getting through in that. I'll come pick you up."

He sighed. "Thanks, Nakano. I owe you one."

"No, Yuki-san. I don't think you do. I'm... glad to help."

Oh, wasn't there a world of innuendo in that.

"I'll meet you outside baggage claim."

###

The snow was, if anything, worse than he'd imagined. Nakano proved a surprisingly careful and experienced driver.

It was, Eiri decided, a very good thing the younger man was driving. He'd have lead-footed it, never minding the road conditions.

In the end, they got within a mile before Nakano had to admit defeat. "I'm sorry, Yuki-san. We're just not going to make it."

"I'm going on."

"You can't!"

"Can I leave my stuff with you?"

Nakano blinked. "Even the computer?"

That pained him, but: "Yes, even the computer. Let anyone touch it and you'll answer to me, understand?"

Nakano smiled wryly. "I'm not an idiot. I'll guard it with my life."

"Good enough."

"Take your cell phone."

"Of course."

"And call me when you reach the house. I'm staying here until I hear from you."

Or if he ran into trouble. Nakano didn't say that, but he knew from the tone of voice it was on his mind. There were steep cliffs along the road.

"I'll do that." He pulled on his gloves, wrapped his scarf around his neck several times and reached for the door handle.

"Wait." Nakano twisted around and pulled something out of the back. A flashlight, which would be useful. And a furred hat. With cat ears. "Shu left it here the last time I took him out to get some food. You'll need it."

"Hell if." He eyed the thing with revulsion.

"You want to get there, don't you?"

He growled and snatched the offensive article from Nakano's fingers. Nakano stared at him, expectantly, laughter lurking behind those deceptively gentle eyes.

"Fuck you," he said, and pulled the ridiculous thing over his head and down to cover his ears.

Nakano choked. "Looks better on Shu."

"Most things do." He stretched out his hand. "Thanks, Nakano."

"Just... get home safely, okay? I don't want Shu's heartbreak on my conscience."

"Nothing... nothing is going to stop me."

A smile lit his thin face. "Wish Shu could hear that. Good luck, Eiri."

###

He had plenty of time, as he struggled through the drifts, to think about that last conversation with Shuuichi...and all that had happened since.

Clueless, am I? And selfish. I can't possibly comprehend what you're experiencing. God, Eiri, when was the last time you listened, really listened, to my songs? When was the last time you read, really read, your own work?

Well, he had listened. And he'd read. And Shu had had every right to be upset. There he'd been spouted the praises of a complete stranger, running on about how much he was learning by working with him...

And Shu, sweet, hyper, frequently delusional Shu, had been writing his heart out for years. And Shu had been reading his work and learning. Not copying, Shu fundamentally couldn't mimic anyone. Anything he touched became his own. Even back in the days when he tried to copy his hero, Sakuma Ryuuichi, it had come out... different. More heartfelt, at least to his admittedly prejudiced ears. And Shu's tone... that had been unique, right from the start.

Damn. He pushed harder through the snow, ignoring the ice building up on the edges of his pants and working its way into his shoes.

I don't want to risk ruining a true talent...

That... from a man who had done everything he could, when he'd first met Shindou Shuuichi, to destroy him and a talent he simply didn't understand, a talent that reeked of an innocence and honesty that was the antithesis of what he'd become.

He'd sensed the talent, and the innocence, damn right he had, and in his arrogance, had mocked it and actively sought to destroy it... because it threatened everything he believed about the world.

When had that changed? When had he begun to believe in Shu and everything Shu represented? He couldn't single out a time or a place, but the reason was clear. It was because Shu believed in him. Not to mention them. Wholeheartedly.

He'd had Shu's belief, right from the start. But that belief had never been reciprocated.

Damn. Shu had been upset from the first time he told him about Jesse, and who could blame him? He'd been thrown back, by Eiri's own words, to that daily struggle to believe in himself despite Eiri's mockery. Dammit, the only reason he'd been worried about it with Jesse was because he'd been witness to Shu's brave struggles, and didn't want to put someone else through that. He knew that now. Why, oh why hadn't he been able to tell Shu that?

Ever?

Shu had been upset. Shu had been alone, isolated in this freezing mess with nothing but a cat for company. Hiro said the last time he'd seen him had been five days ago...the last time they'd plowed the tertiary roads. All that time... and all he'd gotten from Eiri had been accolades about another writer, excitement about how rich the creative exchange was.

How could he have been so blind?

Shu's lyrics weren't the only thing that had changed. On the flight back, he'd gone over his entire backlist. Before Shu, there was a grim sameness to them all. After Shu, there was a burst of some of the worst shit he'd ever written. Damn...how could he have let it go out like that? And then... double damn... it had begun to... as Shu put it... sing. And the melody grew stronger and more confident with each book he wrote.

He saw the lights of the house through the snow-heavy trees, and pushed on with renewed strength.

How could he have been so blind? How could he— He stopped, just short of their driveway. He'd been plowing through knee and sometimes higher drifts for the better part of a mile. Here, suddenly, the snow reached higher than his head. He made his way gingerly around the enormous drift, found one small break through which he squeezed... and on the far side...

...just keep the damn driveway clear.

Damned if the squirt hadn't done exactly that, clear to the concrete. Never mind a car would never get in or out, the driveway was clear... though he couldn't for the life of him see how Shuuichi had heaved the snow so high.

He broke into a staggering run, headed for the door with the beveled glass inserts on either side.

It was unlocked. He mumbled a prayer of thanks through lips gone numb. His fingers would never have found the keys in his pocket.

He practically fell through.

"Shu?" he shouted as he kicked off his shoes, then, "Shindou Shuuichi, answer me! Right now!"

Silence.

Then, suddenly, a yowl from the kitchen.

With visions of Shuuichi's corpse lying sprawled on the floor, he stumbled down the corridor on tingling feet, leaving damp footprints on the hardwood. He grabbed the wall at the corner and steadied himself, only to discover a (for Shu) clean kitchen, empty except for the black cat sitting beside his empty food bowl, golden eyes staring expectantly.

"Where is he, Yushu?" he demanded, but the cat simply looked from him to the bowl and back again. "Fuck." He filled the bowl with a scoop of dry food from the ginger jar on the counter, then headed for the bedroom.

Bed made, Shuuichi-style, which meant the covers were at least not scattered on the floor, a few articles of clothing... outdoor wear with water stains. But no Shuuichi.

Yuki changed hurriedly, tossing his dripping slacks into the tiled bathroom as he headed for the back door.

His cell phone blared... from the bedroom, where he'd tossed it on the dresser.

Damn. Hiro. He couldn't ignore it. If he didn't answer, the younger man would be following him into this mess.

He ran back to the room, caught it just before it went to voice mail.

"I'm sure he's fine, Yuki-san. Probably fell asleep somewhere. Did you try his cell?"

Why hadn't he thought of that. "I will. Thanks."

"Let me know when you find him, OK?"

"I will. Thanks." He hung up, called Shu's cell, and heard it ring elsewhere in the house. He let it ring until it went to voice mail, then hung up.

Damn. Where? He began a systematic search of the house. Maybe Hiro was right. The brat could sleep damnwell any—

Yushu shot through the door, bashing his ankles, full now and ready to play.

"Dammit, not now!" He shoved the cat aside with his foot. "I need to find Shu—"

An insulted yowl interrupted him and tail in the air, Yushu trotted pointedly for the front door, where he began scratching insistently.

"I was just out there. He's not—"

Another irritated yowl and the big cat stretched up, reaching for the door handle. He caught it with both paws and pulled it down. The door swung open and he flashed through.

"Dammit." Eiri chased after him, out into the freezing night. But Yushu was nowhere in sight, vanished in a sea of white mounds that would be plants in the spring. The only exit was that slim break in the wall of white.

God. If anything happened to that stupid cat—

Eiri headed for the opening, but as he passed an extremely large mound, he caught... surely that was... Only one person giggled like that: a very sleepy Shu.

"Shuuichi?" he shouted. "Dammit, you cursed brat, where are you!"

"Yuuuki?" The drowsy voice hung in the air, impossible to tell where it came from. "Phooey..." Suddenly, a part of the mound began to move, near the base a small section shifted outward, pushing a skiff of freshly fallen snow before it.

"Fuck!" Yuki began digging frantically, realized it was a hard block and began to pull it one way and another.

"Not so hard!" Shu's bodiless voice cried, and the block resisted his efforts.

"Dammit, what happened?" He began to dig around the edges of the block.

"Stop it. Yuki, wait! I'll get it."

The block moved again, and a small opening appeared behind it. Yushu flashed out, a black streak against the white, and darted back toward the house and the door he'd left hanging open. His job done.

The block moved further out, fur-booted feet pushing it well away from what he could now see was a square opening. The feet disappeared and a bemittened hand, followed by a furry head took its place, as Shuuichi wiggled through the hole. Halfway out, the furry hood tipped back revealing twinkling eyes and a wide grin.

"Hi, Yuki! Welcome—"

He got no further as Eiri swept him out and up and crushed his lips to the very receptive mouth, only then realizing just how deeply he'd feared finding an empty house when he returned.

"Mmm..." Shuuichi murmured against his lips. "Does this mean we aren't arguing any more?"

He drew back enough to see Shu's face. "As I recall, you were the one not speaking."

A sleepy grin. "That was before you called."

"Dammit... why didn't you pick up?"

Shu's brow furrowed. "I didn't hear Yuki." He wiggled free. "Though I might not have picked up anyway."

"Why not!" He was freezing, shivering clear to his vocal chords. He'd run out with nothing but sweatpants and a sweater. Shu was in fur, and his cheeks were still rosy with the cold. "Dammit, come inside. Out of the cold."

Shu tipped his head toward the snow mound. "In here." And ducked down to wiggle back through the hole.

"You've got to be kidding me."

Silence. And the booted feet disappeared.

"What the hell?"

A bemittened hand reached out.

Eiri cursed softly, but he knew this attitude. Shu wasn't going in until he was good and ready. Normally, he'd just leave him... But not tonight. Hell, he was probably doomed to pneumonia anyway.

He knelt down and followed that mitten into darkness.

It was surprisingly snug inside, especially when an unseen blanket came around his shoulders as he twisted about to sit crosslegged, which he could do without his hair brushing the packed snow overhead.

Barely.

And under his hands and knees it wasn't packed snow, but something soft and dry. A bit of rustling in the darkness and the next thing he knew a warm body, sans coat, tucked in under the blanket with him.

"They say this is how to keep warm," Shu murmured and curled up against him, pulling the blanket around them.

A click and a beam from a big spot-flashlight reflected off the snow, lighting the entire, lopsided dome. An igloo. Shuuichi-style. Complete with lamp, blankets, pillows. The spiral notepad and magic marker he still used for writing his lyrics.

"Been spending some time out here, have you?" Eiri asked and Shuuichi nodded.

"It's been lonely inside."

"Yushu's not happy."

"He's been out here with me, most of the time."

"Not tonight."

"I was waiting for you."

"So you ignored that call, too."

Another shake of the head. "I was out here. I didn't expect you. You didn't say when you were coming home. I went in, heard the message..."

"And came out here to wait."

A nod.

"How the hell did you think I'd get here! The roads are—"

"You said you were coming home." Quiet confidence. Trust. Belief. Damn.

"Shu, I..." Where could he begin? Damned if it would be with an apology.

"You read. You listened."

"Yeah."

"You understand why I was upset."

"Yeah."

"It's okay, Yuki. I didn't realize either, until Hiro said something that day you left. It just kinda... happened."

"We both grew."

"Yup."

"Learned from each other."

"Yup."

"Creativity's weird."

"Yup."

"Shu?"

"Mmm-hmm?"

"Can we go in now?"

A little negative-sounding grunt.

"Yushu left the door open."

Shuuishi's smaller body dug in deeper.

"Dammit, brat, I'm really tired. And cold. Plowed through drifts higher than my head to get here."

"Liar."

"Embellisher."

"Whatever."

Another short silence, then, as the chill and aching muscles set in with a vengeance along with the stupidity of what he'd done to get here:

"You know that hot tub we talked about?" Eiri asked.

"Yeah?"

"I'm ordering it. Tomorrow."

"I don't think they'd deliver at the moment."

"I'll hire a snowplow."

With a little giggle, Shuuichi wiggled free and squirmed out the door, and, from the sound, began running for the house.

What the hell?

Eiri followed, stifling a groan as stiffening muscles protested...loudly.

Just inside the door, he found a trail of clothing, a trail that led, not to the bedroom, but to the back door, a sliding door that let out onto a deck with an incredible view of the city. A deck which was also meticulously shoveled, and in a new hole in that deck...just where they'd discussed...

Steam arose around slender, well-muscled shoulders, purple-tinged eyes gazed up at him through a shaggy fall of hair.

"Welcome home, Eiri."

END

Thanks to everyone for R&R! I've got one more long story that I'm going to be putting up. I actually wrote it several years ago, but it's based on another story that I was waiting to be finished. Unfortunately, that final chapter has never happened, so I'm going to go ahead and share my take on the premise.

I'm also working on a series based on holidays. Some of the CCS stories might work their way over into that anthology. Just letting you know. :D